PBS aired a fascinating show about the Civil War last month. I recorded it while I was out of town and finally got around to watching it. My mother-in-law is visiting this week. She and I watched “Death and the Civil War” after lunch yesterday. When my wife got home from work, my mother-in-law told her we were learning about history.
The enormous number of casualties forced the people and the government to redefine the way they looked at death. Instead of dying at home surrounded by family, soldiers were dying alone on the battlefield. There were no dog tags, so many of the bodies were unidentified. Clara Barton was instrumental in the effort to identify as many of the bodies as possible.
The Civil War also changed the funeral industry. The desire to transport bodies home from battlefields made embalming far more common than before the war. There were no national cemeteries before the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was delivered at the dedication of a new cemetery for soldiers.