10 July 2017

"Death and the Civil War"

To paraphrase Will Rogers, I haven't seen an American Experience episode I didn't like.  I have to admit I had low expectations for this one, thinking it would be rehash of the horrors of wartime medicine and the conditions in Andersonville etc., but instead it's a broader view of how a society copes (or doesn't cope) with massive numbers of largely unexpected casualties.

Before the war began neither the Union or the Confederacy had in place any mechanism for dealing with death and injury on the battlefield.  No ambulances, no burial crews (and no designated cemeteries), no dogtags for ID, and not even a perceived responsibility to notify next-of-kin of a death.  Bodies were left unburied and unidentified.  IIRC, fully half of the casualties in the war who were eventually buried were labeled "Unknown."

This is a brief trailer for the 2012 program.  The PBS link for the full-length program shows it to be "unavailable in my area" (I got the DVD from the library).  At 2 hours run-time, it's a bit overlong (I did some fast-forwarding), but overall it was well worth viewing.  

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