The Civil War In Faust
Through many years, the Civil War has been considered one of the “bloodiest” wars in all of American history. In Drew Gilpin Faust’s book, This Republic of Suffering, the book explains how the Civil War completely changed the way American’s perceive death and understand how dying can change an entire nation. This made it difficult for American’s to cope with the massive amount of death which affected nearly every family. By explaining this massive ordeal, Faust reveals the main argument of death throughout the entirety of the book, which shapes any readers perspective on the scope of death.
During the Civil War, nearly 620,000 soldiers lost their life. This is equivalent to fatalities in the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, World War I, and World War II all combined. That’s almost two percent of the American population, or about six million people in today’s world. This is a number that Faust wanted to stress to every reader. Many of the soldiers, whom died, were buried as an “unknown soldier.” This meant that the soldier was unmarked, was completely stripped of every belonging, and thrown into a mass grave with hundreds of other dead soldiers. Faust explains, in the book, that as Robert E. Lee’s forces retreated, some of the 6,000 African-American soldiers would retrieve their master’s body and carry it most of the way home. This shows that Faust was implying that all Americans, regardless of their background, had high expectations when it came to death, burial, and the after-life.
During the book, Faust gives the reader a better understanding of how society can deal with epidemics like this, while keeping politics in the mix. While politics were a major part of the aftermath of the Civil War, the government was much like a friend to every citizen across the nation. The Civil War helped to create better support from larger organizations of all affairs. Having this support gave each and every American more unity in the sacrifice that each soldier made. Faust writes that the “Friends of the Missing Men of the United States Army” was perhaps, “the most elaborate federal program undertaken in nearly a century of American nationhood.” This program was implemented by the government which was an initiative to identify and rebury the dead soldiers in a national cemetery.
Even after the Civil War had ended, the Northerners and Southerners came together to honor their fallen soldiers. Each of these regions started to reshape their culture to balance more with each other. Although the Civil War did end slavery, Faust makes it clear that the nation had to endure the vast amount of tragedy and death for either side to come to a consensus of how damaging this war was.
I believe this book to be a very big eye opener for myself. Over the years of my education, I have been made aware of the intensity of the Civil War across the nation, but it was never brought to my attention of how such a death toll can completely reshape an entire nation and even, in turn, combine two sides of a nation into one. I believe that Faust did a very good job of explaining the details of the war in a way that could easily catch the reader’s attention. Faust had a very in-depth way of including specific facts that could relate to any of the situations within the war itself. I think that Faust explained how killing became so easy for the soldiers in the war. He wrote that killing “required the more significant departure from soldiers’ understanding of themselves as humans and, in mid-nineteenth century America, as Christians.” I learned that many sermons included that of the “just war” doctrine which argued that killing was not tolerated but in the eyes God, only tolerated by war. Therefore, this did not conflict with the spiritual duties of that of a Christian, so any soldier should consider themselves “exempt” from the commandment when putting themselves within the war. To me, I had difficulty understanding how killing became so easy, but with this way of thinking, Faust gave me a better grasp of why soldiers did what they did, and for what they believed.
Faust did a fantastic job describing the amount of tragedy and death that happened within the Civil War. He showed how death can tear a nation apart, only to bring it back together in remembrance and burial for fallen loved ones. The book being entitled This Republic of Suffering, I believe that the republic, being the nation, all suffered a great amount. This great amount being the vast amount of death that swept over the entire nation. No matter the disagreement within the nation, at this time, all men were created equal and with the entire republic being within that equality, meant that republic had to suffer too, in order to gain freedom.
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