Drew Gilpin Faust: "Missing in Action: Naming the Dead in the American Civil War"

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Bliss Carnochan Visitor

Historian Drew Gilpin Faust of Harvard University outlined the terrible strains placed upon Civil War Soldiers and their families by a kind of warfare that generated mass casualties and often prevented the fulfillment of a perceived cultural need for individuals to experience a "Good Death" in the intimacy of their own homes. Instead many surviving family members were haunted by the idea that their loved ones died as "stranger[s] in a strange land" and dying soldiers were often found holding pictures or family momentos that stood in place of this intimate witnessing of death. Faust argued that we need to attend to this "Ars Moriendi" and its resonant effects in the aftermath of the war if we are to fully understand the nation's attempt to materialize Union and Confederate dead and our own deeply-rooted perception of the War as an "elegiac" moment in American history.