Drew Faust On The 'Shared Suffering' Of The Civil War

This interview was originally broadcast on Jan. 9, 2008. Gilpin is featured in PBS's American Experience called Death and the Civil War. It premiered Sept. 18, the day after the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, the deadliest day in American military history.

Historian Drew Gilpin Faust writes that Civil War deaths — both their number and their manner — transformed America. Her book is This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War.

The Civil War death rate was six times that of World War II, when adjusted against the size of the American population, Faust points out.

"For those Americans who lived in and through the Civil War, the texture of the experience ... was the presence of death," she writes. "At war's end this shared suffering would override persisting differences about the meanings of race, citizenship, and nationhood to establish sacrifice and its memorialization as the ground on which North and South would ultimately reunite."

Faust is the president of Harvard University, where she also holds the Lincoln Professorship in History.

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