Preface and Numbering: “How Man? How Many?” Chapter 8
Death is not just a word that defines the extinction of life. Drew Gilpin Faust not only describes death in "This Republic of Suffering" but the magnitude in which death occurred during the Civil War era. She gives the meaning of death a whole new meaning in that it is something that we all do, just differently from one generation to the next. From 1861 to 1865, approximately 620,000 soldiers' lives were cut short, not to mention the 50,000 civilian lives that were also claimed. Soldiers lost during that time exceeded the combination of soldiers lost from the Revolutionary War, both World Wars, the Korean War, the Mexican War, and even the Spanish-American War. In comparison to today's population, six million people would die in four years or two percent of our population.
The impact of death on the human capital grew in importance. It became familiar in fact, a part of daily life for Americans at that time. It was sad to say that younger Americans were more prone to casualties that that of the older generation. The war claimed the lives of young, healthy men through battle, disease, and/or injury. Francis W. Palfrey recalled in a memorial written for Union Soldiers, "the blow seems heaviest when it strikes down those who are in the morning of life.” (Faust xii) In the army, a man was five times more likely to die than if he had remained home.
As mentioned earlier, death grew to be common. Every family, every household, mourned the loss of a loved one, making it the most widely shared experience of the war. The loss reflected through the American nation, thus a "republic of suffering" according to Frederick Law Olmsted. The numbers of fatalities accumulated with the arrival of Union hospital ships. The government developed national cemeteries and the Civil War pension system to reinforce the responsibility that they owed in response to soldiers lost or...