An almost unbearably distressing book about death in the Civil War. Faust titles her chapters “Dying,” “Killing,” “Burying,” “Naming,” “Realizing,” “Believing and Doubting,” “Accounting,” and “Numbering.” Each chapter investigates a different topic, such as how soldiers were trained to kill, and the difficulties involved in burying the bodies, of determining their identities, and even of counting all the dead. I have rarely read anything as soul-shakingly dark as this first chapter, which discusses the way soldiers came to terms with the strong likelihood of their own deaths. Each of the individual soldier’s stories Faust relates is heartbreaking, and when the reader begins to understand that there are 600,000 or so more stories of that type… well, I’ve read a lot about the Civil War, but even I felt an almost overwhelming sense of emotional terror. This is a great book, but I find it hard to recommend.
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