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Death and the Civil War


Drawing heavily on historian and Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust’s acclaimed book This Republic of Suffering, this film explores a critical but largely overlooked aspect of the Civil War experience: the immense and varied implications of the war’s staggering and unprecedented death toll. The war created a veritable “republic of suffering,” as landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted described the wounded and dying arriving at Union hospital ships on the Virginia Peninsula. The shattering Civil War death toll transformed hundreds of thousands of individual lives and the life of the nation as well. From its understanding of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship to the profound struggle of a deeply religious culture, America struggled to reconcile these events with a belief in a benevolent God.