NATIONAL BESTSELLER • NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST • An "extraordinary ... profoundly moving" history of the American Civil War that reveals the ways that death on such a scale changed not only individual lives but the life of the nation. More than 600,000 soldiers lost their lives in the American Civil War. An equivalent proportion of today's population would be six million. In This Republic of Suffering, Drew Gilpin Faust describes how the survivors managed on a practical level and how a deeply religious culture struggled to reconcile the unprecedented carnage with its belief in a benevolent God. Throughout, the voices of soldiers and their families, of statesmen, generals, preachers, poets, surgeons, nurses, northerners and southerners come together to give us a vivid understanding of the Civil War's most fundamental and widely shared reality.
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More than 600,000 soldiers lost their lives in the American Civil War. An equivalent proportion of today's population would be six million. In This Republic of Suffering, Drew Gilpin Faust reveals the ways that death on such a scale changed not only individual lives but the life of the nation, describing how the survivors managed on a practical level and how a deeply religious culture struggled to reconcile the unprecedented carnage with its belief in a benevolent God. Throughout, the voices of soldiers and their families, of statesmen, generals, preachers, poets, surgeons, nurses, northerners and southerners come together to give us a vivid understanding of the Civil War's most fundamental and widely shared reality.
Exploring privileged Confederate women's wartime experiences, this book chronicles the clash of the old and the new within a group that was at once the beneficiary and the victim of the social order of the Old South.
"Americans came to fight the Civil War in the midst of a wider cultural world that sent them messages about death that made it easier to kill and to be killed. They understood that death awaited all who were born and prized the ability to face death with a spirit of calm resignation. They believed that a heavenly eternity of transcendent beauty awaited them beyond the grave. They knew that their heroic achievements would be cherished forever by posterity. They grasped that death itself might be seen as artistically fascinating and even beautiful."-from Awaiting the Heavenly Country How much loss can a nation bear? An America in which 620,000 men die at each other's hands in a war at home is almost inconceivable to us now, yet in 1861 American mothers proudly watched their sons, husbands, and fathers go off to war, knowing they would likely be killed. Today, the death of a soldier in Iraq can become headline news; during the Civil War, sometimes families did not learn of their loved ones' deaths until long after the fact. Did antebellum Americans hold their lives so lightly, or was death so familiar to them that it did not bear avoiding? In Awaiting the Heavenly Country, Mark S. Schantz argues that American attitudes and ideas about death helped facilitate the war's tremendous carnage. Asserting that nineteenth-century attitudes toward death were firmly in place before the war began rather than arising from a sense of resignation after the losses became apparent, Schantz has written a fascinating and chilling narrative of how a society understood death and reckoned the magnitude of destruction it was willing to tolerate. Schantz addresses topics such as the pervasiveness of death in the culture of antebellum America; theological discourse and debate on the nature of heaven and the afterlife; the rural cemetery movement and the inheritance of the Greek revival; death as a major topic in American poetry; African American notions of death, slavery, and citizenship; and a treatment of the art of death-including memorial lithographs, postmortem photography and Rembrandt Peale's major exhibition painting The Court of Death. Awaiting the Heavenly Country is essential reading for anyone wanting a deeper understanding of the Civil War and the ways in which antebellum Americans comprehended death and the unimaginable bloodshed on the horizon.
Stories were collective, as in the case of the antebellum proslavery argument or Confederate discourses about women. Sometimes they were personal, as in the private writings of figures such as Lizzie Neblett, Mary Chesnut, Thornton Stringfellow, or James Henry Hammond. These men and women regularly employed their pens to create coherence and order amid the tangled circumstances of their particular lives and within a context of social prescriptions and expectations.
This “layered, nuanced, and focused study” of Civil War era writings reveals a popular sense of patriotism and hope in the midst of loss (Journal of American History). The American Civil War is often seen as the first modern war, not least because of the immense suffering it inflicted. Yet unlike later conflicts, it did not produce an outpouring of disillusionment or cynicism in public or private discourse. In fact, most people portrayed the war in highly sentimental and patriotic terms. While scholars typically dismiss this everyday writing as simplistic or naïve, Frances M. Clarke argues that we need to reconsider the letters, diaries, songs, and journalism penned by Union soldiers and their caregivers to fully understand the war’s impact and meaning. In War Stories, Clarke revisits the most common stories that average Northerners told in hopes of redeeming their suffering and hardship—stories that enabled people to express their beliefs about religion, community, and personal character. From tales of Union soldiers who died heroically to stories of tireless volunteers who exemplified the Republic’s virtues, War Stories sheds new light on this transitional moment in the history of war, emotional culture, and American civic life.
From admired historian—and coiner of one of feminism's most popular slogans—Laurel Thatcher Ulrich comes an exploration of what it means for women to make history. In 1976, in an obscure scholarly article, Ulrich wrote, "Well behaved women seldom make history." Today these words appear on t-shirts, mugs, bumper stickers, greeting cards, and all sorts of Web sites and blogs. Ulrich explains how that happened and what it means by looking back at women of the past who challenged the way history was written. She ranges from the fifteenth-century writer Christine de Pizan, who wrote The Book of the City of Ladies, to the twentieth century’s Virginia Woolf, author of A Room of One's Own. Ulrich updates their attempts to reimagine female possibilities and looks at the women who didn't try to make history but did. And she concludes by showing how the 1970s activists who created "second-wave feminism" also created a renaissance in the study of history.
The Civil War placed the U.S. Constitution under unprecedented--and, to this day, still unmatched--strain. Neely examines for the first time in one book the U.S. Constitution and its often overlooked cousin, the Confederate Constitution, and the ways the documents shaped the struggle for national survival.
In this spellbinding new history, David Goldfield offers the first major new interpretation of the Civil War era since James M. McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom. Where past scholars have limned the war as a triumph of freedom, Goldfield sees it as America's greatest failure: the result of a breakdown caused by the infusion of evangelical religion into the public sphere. As the Second GreatAwakening surged through America, political questions became matters of good and evil to be fought to the death. The price of that failure was horrific, but the carnage accomplished what statesmen could not: It made the United States one nation and eliminated slavery as a divisive force in the Union. The victorious North became synonymous with America as a land of innovation and industrialization, whose teeming cities offered squalor and opportunity in equal measure. Religion was supplanted by science and a gospel of progress, and the South was left behind. Goldfield's panoramic narrative, sweeping from the 1840s to the end of Reconstruction, is studded with memorable details and luminaries such as HarrietBeecher Stowe, Frederick Douglass, and Walt Whitman. There are lesser known yet equally compelling characters, too, including Carl Schurz-a German immigrant, warhero, and postwar reformer-and Alexander Stephens, the urbane and intellectual vice president of the Confederacy. America Aflame is a vivid portrait of the "fiery trial"that transformed the country we live in.