“Extraordinary . . . profoundly moving.” —Geoffrey C. Ward, The New York Times Book Review
“This Republic of Suffering is one of those groundbreaking histories in which a crucial piece of the past, previously overlooked or misunderstood, suddenly clicks into focus.” —Newsweek
“A shattering history of the war, focusing exclusively on death and dying-how Americans prepared for death, imagined it, risked it, endured it and worked to understand it.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review
“Faust yanks aside the usual veil of history to look narrowly at life's intimate level for new perspectives from the past. She focuses on ordinary lives under extreme duress, which makes for compelling reading.” —USA Today
“Faust is particularly qualified to identify and explain the complex social and political implications of the changing nature of death as America’s internecine conflict attained its full dimensions.” —Ian Garrick Mason, San Francisco Chronicle
“Faust excels in explaining the era’s violent rhetoric and what went on in people’s heads.” —David Waldstreicher, The Boston Globe
“The beauty and originality of Faust’s book is that it shows how thoroughly the work of mourning became the business of capitalism, merchandised throughout a society.” —Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker
“Fascinating, innovative . . . Faust returns to the task of stripping from war any lingering romanticism, nobility or social purpose.” —Eric Foner, The Nation
“Eloquent and imaginative, Ms. Faust’s book takes a grim topic–how America coped with the massive death toll from the Civil War–and makes it fresh and exciting. . . . [A] widely and justly praised scholarly history.” —Adam Begley, New York Observer
“This Republic of Suffering is a harrowing but fascinating read.” —Marjorie Kehe, The Christian Science Monitor
“If you read only one book on the Civil War this year, make it this one.” –Kevin M. Levin, American History
“Having always kept the war in her own scholarly sights, Faust offers a compelling reassertion of its basic importance in society and politics alike.” —Richard Wrightman Fox, Slate
“[An] astonishing new book.” —Adam Kirsch, The New York Sun
“A moving work of social history, detailing how the Civil War changed perceptions and behaviors about death. . . . An illuminating study.” —Kirkus
“Penetrating . . . Faust exhumes a wealth of material . . . to flesh out her lucid account. The result is an insightful, often moving portrait of a people torn by grief.” —Publishers Weekly
“No other generation of Americans has encountered death on the scale of the Civil War generation. This Republic of Suffering is the first study of how people in both North and South coped with this uniquely devastating experience. How did they mourn the dead, honor their sacrifice, commemorate their memory, and help their families? Drew Gilpin Faust’s powerful and moving answers to these questions provide an important new dimension to our understanding of the Civil War.”
—James M. McPherson, author of This Mighty Scourge: Perspectives on the Civil War
“During the Civil War, death reached into the world of the living in ways unknown to Americans before or since. Drew Gilpin Faust follows the carnage in all its aspects, on and off the battlefield. Timely, poignant, and profound, This Republic of Suffering does the real work of history, taking us beyond the statistics until we see the faces of the fallen and understand what it was to live amid such loss and pain.”
—Tony Horowitz, Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War
“Drew Gilpin Faust has used her analytical and descriptive gifts to explore how men and women of the Civil War generation came to terms with the conflict’s staggering human toll. Everyone who reads this book will come away with a far better understanding of why the war profoundly affected those who lived through it.”
—Gary W. Gallagher, author of The Confederate War
“Drew Faust’s brilliant new book, This Republic of Suffering, builds profoundly from the opening discussion of the Christian ideal of the good death to the last harrowing chapters on the exhumation, partial identification, reburial and counting of the Union dead. In the end one can only conclude, as the author does, that the meaning of the Civil War lies in death itself: in its scale, relentlessness, and enduring cultural effects. This is a powerful and moving book about our nation’s defining historical encounter with the universal human experience of death.”
—Stephanie McCurry, author of Masters of Small Worlds: Yeoman Households, Gender Relations, and the political culture of the Antebellum South Carolina Low Country
“Whitman was wrong; the real war did get into the books. This is a wise, informed, troubling book. This Republic of Suffering demolishes sentimentalism for the Civil War in a masterpiece of research, realism, and originality.”
—David W. Blight, author of Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory
Drew Gilpin Faust's extraordinary new book, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War …is too richly detailed and covers too much ground to be summarized easily. She overlooks nothingfrom the unsettling enthusiasm some men showed for killing to the near-universal struggle for an answer to the question posed by the Confederate poet Sidney Lanier: "How does God have the heart to allow it?"
The New York Times
The American Civil War was the first "war of peoples," and as Drew Gilpin Faust vividly demonstrates, the unprecedented carnage of this first modern war overwhelmed society's traditional ways of dealing with death. The customs, religion, rhetoric, logisticseven statistical methodsof mid-19th century America were unequal to slaughter on such a scale. How American society attempted to come to terms with death that broke all the rules about dying, and how the nation ultimately didand did notface up to this new reality of war are Faust's haunting and powerful themes. If nothing else, this finely written book is a powerful corrective to all the romantic claptrap that still envelops a war that took as many American lives, 620,000, as all other wars from the Revolution to Korea combined.
The Washington Post
Renowned historian and new president of Harvard University Faust grapples with the meaning of death in the Civil War as no scholar has done before. The reality of death defined the Civil War for most Americans more than the promise of freedom, she says. Death touched many aspects of life then, including assurances that loved ones died "the good death," with faith that would bring them to God's embrace, new ideas of heaven as a place of reunion, campaigns to recover bodies for burial, new methods of embalming, means of statistically tracking numbers of deaths, and the creation of cemeteries. Faust follows the bodies from battlefield to grave, backing up her claims with prodigious research. Beautifully written, honest, and penetrating, Faust's book about "the work of death" in fact brings death to life. Anyone wanting to understand the "real war" and its transcendent meaning must face the facts Faust arrays before us. Only then is it possible to know how the republic that suffered so much death gained the means of civic and even psychic renewal through remembrance. Essential.
Randall M. Miller
A moving work of social history, detailing how the Civil War changed perceptions and behaviors about death. Harvard president and historian Faust (Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War, 1996, etc.) begins with a recitation of some telling facts: The number of soldiers who died in the Civil War, about 620,000, equals those felled from the American Revolution to the Korean War; if it occurred today, proportionally, six million Americans would die. "Confederate men," she adds, "died at a rate three times that of their Yankee counterparts; one of five white southern men of military age did not survive the Civil War." Faust demonstrates that the war brought about a small industrial revolution of remembrance involving statues, memorials and national cemeteries. The last were undertaken, so to speak, soon after the war's end, for throughout the South a stiff rainstorm would disinter the corpses of the fallen. As Faust recounts, at Shiloh "there were even reports of coffins floating like little boats down the Mississippi toward the sea." Embodying old notions of honor and duty, the war also brought the notion of the "good death" to the forefront, even as Americans on both sides, confronted with appalling casualties, began to doubt that their sacrifices had any meaning. They also became inured to the sight of corpse-covered fields, and some even delighted in them. There are war-lovers in every war, of course, but this revelation was new: As one Vermont private wrote, "The more we get used to being killed, the better we like it." Grief came privately, of course, but more profoundly in mass displays such as followed the deaths of Stonewall Jackson andAbraham Lincoln. An illuminating study, well deserving of a place alongside Michael Kammen's Mystic Chords of Memory: The Transformation of Tradition in American Culture (1991).