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 Posted: Mon Jan 21st, 2008 03:10 am
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booklover
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I picked up Drew Gilpin Faust's new book on death and the Civil War but haven't started reading it yet. Just wonder if anyone has or if anyone has any impressions of it. This seems like an unexplored phenomon which seems odd given that war is nothing if not about killing and death.

Best
Rob



 Posted: Mon Jan 21st, 2008 03:14 pm
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ole
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Know of no one who has read the book.  I have heard some very unfavorable comments on an NPR interview featuring her, and mixed professional reviews. Let us know how you like it.

ole



 Posted: Mon Jan 21st, 2008 04:35 pm
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Marie
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I recived it in the mail on Friday.  Have not started it, yet.

Been a little distracted with things like  -15 wind chills and the furnace going out  :(

Regards from the frozen tundra of NW Ohio.

 

Jana

Last edited on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 04:48 pm by Marie



 Posted: Mon Jan 28th, 2008 07:05 pm
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David White
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She wrote the cover article for CWT and it was based on her new work, I found the article mildly interesting and learned some things that pointed to why the letters home were written certain ways when describing the death of a loved one.  I thought her prose didn't flow as easily as some other writers, maybe it's that Harvard thing and the penchant to use big words when little ones would suffice (how's that for throwing in a few big words ;)).

Last edited on Mon Jan 28th, 2008 07:08 pm by David White



 Posted: Mon Jan 28th, 2008 08:59 pm
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ole
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That's the academic historian in Ms Faust.

Penchant is only two syllables. So is suffice. Gotta get to three before you get into college words.

'Spect part of the commitment to Harvard was to publish. Ain't that many academic historians (or engineers) that can put together an interesting paragraph, let alone a book.

ole

Last edited on Mon Jan 28th, 2008 09:02 pm by ole



 Posted: Mon Jan 28th, 2008 11:27 pm
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PvtClewell
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Ole wrote: 'Gotta get to three before you get into college words."

Not sure about that, Ole. I swear my wife's southern accent makes 'dog' sound like it has three syllables. More like, "Da-oww-ggg." Don't even get me started on 'oil.'

But it is endearing. It's why I married her.



 Posted: Tue Jan 29th, 2008 01:56 am
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booklover
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Well, I certainly concur that often times those mired in academia have a certain propensity toward grandiose verbiage in their written communication, but vis-a-vis my own writing skills, I prefer to use less jargon and more proletarian thoughts in expressing my intellectual offerings. (How many 25 cent words do I get credit for here?)

Best
Rob



 Posted: Tue Jan 29th, 2008 04:45 am
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susansweet
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Having been  a first grade teacher for too many years. I tend to lean toward , oh look, see the blue men, see the gray men. See them fight.  Oh! Oh! Oh!

Miss Susan



 Posted: Tue Jan 29th, 2008 08:58 pm
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ole
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Booklover, them are dollar words. (Pogo might have said 50 cents, but times have changed.)

Enlisted man Clewell (I still think you deserve one star.): The quaint ability to make many syllables out of a three-letter word doesn't count. Nor does "cuber." Nor "ayuh."

As my physics and chemistry teacher (we called him "coach") used to say: put the EmPHASis on the wrong sylLABle.

We're wildly off topic, here; but ain't we got fun?

ole



 Posted: Wed Feb 20th, 2008 12:36 am
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Doc C
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Great book. Not only deals with death during the cw but is timely in our attitudes on the subject in our modern time. Good discussions on the "good death" which most soldiers of that period wished. Also, the question of why death and the presence or absence of an afterlife which Dickenson, Melville agonized about. An interesting portion of her book is the north and souths concern with the burying of their dead with the norths/congresses expenditure of millions for the internment of their dead (establishment of national cemeteries) and none for the south's as a possible reason for continuation of the conflicts between the 2 regions. In conclusion, a very interesting and thought provoking read.

Doc C



 Posted: Wed Feb 20th, 2008 01:51 am
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Dixie Girl
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havent even heard of it. i guess i better check it out at the library



____________________
War Means Fighting And Fighting Means Killing - N. B. Forrest When war does come, my advice is to draw the sword and throw away the scabbard." Stonewall Jackson


 Posted: Wed Feb 20th, 2008 02:05 am
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Doc C
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Was just published, so it will be awhile before it hits the libraries.



 Posted: Sat Mar 15th, 2008 04:12 am
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This is not a successful book.
Save your money and your time... just read a review.
Republic of Suffering has been garnering lots of excessively fawning reviews everywhere, though deserving of none of it.

Like the Civil War itself, there was certainly an air of inevitability about “This Republic of Suffering” by Drew Gilpin Faust. The almost universally shocking devastation and death wrought by the Civil War fundamentally changed the character of American society and how Americans (and former Rebels) understood their relationship with government and with one another. Dr. Faust has undertaken this ambitious project of documenting “death” in the Civil War. Interested readers and students of the War can applaud the attempt while mourning her myriad failures.

Please click below for the rest of the review.

http://booksfilmandmusic.com/2008/03/10/this-republic-of-suffering-by-drew-gilpin-faust-reviewed-must-history-hurt-so/

formerYank



 Posted: Tue Mar 18th, 2008 01:54 am
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CleburneFan
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At the risk of sounding "excessively fawning", I just finished the book yesterday and did not find that it has either excess verbiage or fancy words that require frequent checks of the dictionary. I had actually expected both from the President of Harvard University, but was pleasantly surprised at how well she handled a very difficult subject.

In fact, death not only is a difficult subject to write about, it is a difficult subject to read about. When I think of the exhaustive research Faust must have had to have done on all the facets of death in pre- and post- Civil War and during the war itself, I don't know how she managed to study death for such a long period of time. In truth, I felt quite depressed reading parts of this book.

What I take away from Faust's book is how death in massive numbers impacted every part of American life in the war, but the South suffered the most because so much of the war was fought on Southern soil. Not only did Southerners have to cope with burying and identifying their own dead, they were often tasked with the onerous and thoroughly burdensome challenge of burying enemy dead, often men they hated and blamed for all the suffering the Confederacy was experiencing.

Maybe the book has not been a financial blockbuster or best seller, but I wouldn't say it wasn't successful. For scholars of the sociology and culture of those times, this book adds  important new material for consideration. It also definitely puts battles and war into a different perspective. Once the "glory" of a battle is over, one is left with the battlefield littered with dead and wounded men and animals. (Over a million horses and mules died in the Civil War!) What happened to the war dead had tremendous cultural implications for those times that remain with us still today. 

 

Last edited on Tue Mar 18th, 2008 01:57 am by CleburneFan



 Posted: Tue Mar 18th, 2008 02:35 am
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I wish I had read that vitriolic review before I answered with some of my own comments on the Faust Book. Faust does not just discuss the Good Death. She also discusses the Decent Burial. She also discusses how much effort went into trying to identify the fallen and documents the herculean efforts made to return as many soldiers home as possible.

 Because the task became impractical  because of the numbers of dead, national cemeteries usually located near major battlefields were created to bury many of the dead.  Southerners were excluded from this process paid for with everyone's taxes. In response, they set about creating their own cemeteries for Confederate dead and also labored to identify as many as possible.

The reviewer took umbrage at Faust's having made much of the stench of decaying animals and human cadavers after Gettysburg. Yet I have read about this very thing in other books. I have also read about the same thing after other battles. I took her description of the infamous stench as attemting to show how daunting post-battle work was for local citizenry because armies often left the scene in pusuit of the enemy or fleeing from the enemy. 

The reviewer really did not like Faust's book with what he calls her  false premises , especially Faust's notions of the Good Death, but I found much more in Faust's work than what was criticized. I was impressed with  much of what she said about how losing loved ones impacted and complicated thesurvivors' lives, often for the rest of their lives. Even some bereaved fathers are described, such as one who carried the bullet who killed his son all the rest of his life.

I really don't think the book was as bad as what reviewer claims, but I haven't read any of the reviews that make overly much of the book either. I suspect the real worth of the book is somewhere between both opinions.

 



 Posted: Tue Mar 18th, 2008 03:36 pm
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booklover
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Cleburne Fan,

Have to agree with you on the review referenced here. I haven't read it completely (hope to today) but what I have read hasn't impressed me. The author seems to have a real bias against not only academicians but female ones at that. Will post more after reading the review in full.

Best
Rob



 Posted: Tue Mar 18th, 2008 08:15 pm
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booklover
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This review is both confusing and rambling. The author contradicts himself on several occasions, calling Faust’s theory of the Good Death “completely convoluted” and “artificially constructed” yet in the next paragraph arguing that it existed, but as “nothing more than the pre-war death and funeral rituals involving last words, and the comforting presence of friends and family around the dying person’s death bed.”

He also argues, unsuccessfully, that the war in “its sacrifices, privations, and sweeping changes that it brought” was the “most demanding undertaking” and not death itself, making one wonder what sacrifice, privation or other sweeping change had as much effect on the participants and their families as death?

Where the author really misses the mark is in describing Faust’s intentions and ascribing (falsely) to her the attempt to make death in war solely an “American causation” and to make it “an American event alone.” In describing the Good Death concept, Faust points out that its origins came from Europe, specifically from the author Jeremy Taylor’s The Rule and Exercise of Holy Dying which was published in 1651 in London. Faust’s book is about the American Civil War, so it only stands to reason that she is going to study how Americans viewed death before, during and after that event. She doesn’t make it a strictly American invention, but rather looks at it through American eyes. This is a difference the author seems to have missed.

In Lincoln at Gettysburg, historian Garry Wills argues persuasively that American attitudes toward death and burials, while taking from Greek tradition, were strictly American in nature. The “culture of death” in the nineteenth century that Wills discusses in the second chapter of his book was instinctively American. “The dedication of Gettysburg must, therefore, be seen in its cultural context, as part of the nineteenth century’s fascination with death in general and with cemeteries in particular. We tend to view it only in its connection with the Civil War and military ceremonies, which were indeed the most immediate and compelling associations. But these did not entirely obliterate the larger and longer-standing pattern of response to the recurrent rites of dedicating new parts of nature to the care of the dead.”

Throughout this review the author calls Faust’s book “highly disappointing and frustrating” and constantly berates her sources, although he never provides any sources of his own to contradict her statements. We are simply left with the idea that we should believe his points of view without any supporting evidence of his own. That is more disappointing and frustrating.

He insultingly terms Faust’s remarks about the tonnage of war dead in Gettysburg as “war porn.” This is nonsensical. It does no disservice to those who died there, but rather is a graphic and convincing way to discuss the horror of what happened. Look at how Wills handles the same subject:

        That debris [as referred to by General George Meade] was mainly
        a matter of rotting horseflesh and manflesh–thousands of fermenting
        bodies, with gas-distended bellies, deliquescing in the July heat.


Later Wills writes:
    
        Even after the bodies were lightly blanketed [under the ground], the
        scene was repellent. A nurse shuddered at the all-too-visible “rise
        and swell of human bodies” in these furrows war had plowed. A
        soldier noticed how earth “gave” as he walked over the shallow
        trenches. Householders had to plant around the bodies in their
        fields and gardens, or brace themselves to move the rotting corpses
        to another place. Soon these uneasy graves were being rifled by
        relatives looking for their dead–reburying other bodies they turned
        up, even more hastily (and less adequately) than had the first
        disposal crews. Three weeks after the battle, a prosperous Gettysburg
        banker, David Wills, reported to Pennsylvania’s Governor Curtin:
        “In many instances arms and legs and sometimes heads protrude and
        my attention has been directed to several places where the hogs were
        actually rooting out the bodies and devouring them”

Neither this, nor Faust’s description, qualify as “war porn”. It is reality, disturbing though it may be. It is the reality the author accuses Faust of missing.
    
The author makes what I believe to be his main argument against Faust's work in the following statement: “The Civil War was fought between two Christian countries having very similar societies, cultures, and understanding of God and man. The relationship between God and man is at the center of Faust’s concept of the ‘Good Death’. But like Christians today, believers then accepted their fate and placed no blame on God. They continued to believe and understand their role in the God/Human dichotomy as one of endless mystery with sufficient answers never arriving.”

Where to start? First, the Civil War was not fought between two countries. It was fought between the United States of America and a group of rebels who seceded in order to fight against what they saw as a northern attempt to violate their right to hold slaves. As to the concept of a “Christian country” I can’t believe the author truly means that, simply because I would read it as calling the United States a theocracy. I don’t intend to get into an argument as to the religious views of the founding fathers, but suffice it to say, there are scores of authors who would question this view.

He's on slippery intellectual ground in the idea that people humbly accepted the death and carnage of the war without blaming God or losing their faith in him. Faust’s arguments are far more persuasive, as is the evidence she presents, than some sing-song belief in God and his goodness (and yes, I admit to my well-known bias in this). Anyone who is intellectually honest with his or herself must admit that such a wrenching inhuman event as the Civil War just might (and often did) cause some to question the existence and kindness of any God. Oliver Wendell Holmes questioned God's existence after being wounded at Balls Bluff, and Ambrose Bierce wrote about this extensively in his work. Faust quotes Bierce, and his views, correctly.

The author has an obvious and strong bias against academic history, and for some reason against Faust. What that bias is, I cannot hazard a guess, although I have my suspicions. All I can say is that instead of bringing light to this subject, the author keeps it in darkness.

I'm not convinced.

Best
Rob



 Posted: Tue Mar 18th, 2008 11:42 pm
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CleburneFan
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BookLover, I have read your comments with great enthusiasm. The reviewer appeared to me so angry, so disgusted with Faust's book that I was reminded of Shakespeare's quote, "Me thinks thou dost protest too much."

He was particularly incensed at Faust's "false ideas" about how soldiers greeted death. He wrote as if he felt she had no right to comment on how soldiers felt about death, though her comments are based on letter soldiers wrote home or condolence letters written by friends, officer or hospital personnel about a deceased soldier they knew however briefly.

Yet the reviewer does not say why he is better qualified to judge how soldiers die or how they feel about death when they know they are soon to die or before a battle when they suspect they have a high probability of being killed. Is he ex-military with combat experience in Viet Nam, Kosovo, Irag, or elsewhere? If he is, why doesn't he just say so? Faust certainly takes pains to show where her information and theories come from...letters, diaries, newspaper accounts, officers' reports, etc....good primary research material.

Plus there is much more to Faust's book that the reviewer does not discuss. Is it because he agrees with those parts or is it because he didn't or couldn't make himslef read it because he was so angry with her entire presentation?

I'm not being "fawning" of Faust. If someone can write a reasoned, unemotional criticism of her research techniques or show examples of where she misinterpreted information or was outright wrong about why, for example, national cemeteries were created and why US Colored Troops were buried in segregated sections of those cemeteries then I will be very interested to read it.



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