Dating for intellectuals
Victors had the luxury of attending to their own dead with more care and attention, if time permitted.On the other hand, the losing side had to retreat from the battlefield, which meant leaving the fate of the dead and wounded to the winning side, who treated them as most enemies are treated, with indifference and disrespect.The federal government and Union soldiers themselves tried to ensure that bodies were identified with at least a name, a desire that led some soldiers to go into battle with their names and positions pinned onto their uniform (foreshadowing the popular use of dog tags in subsequent wars).Again, when time allowed and when burial units were available, Union forces made an effort to avoid anonymous burial, identify graves, and keep records of who died during a battle, an effort that grew increasingly more sophisticated as the war dragged on.As the war progressed, the Union forces worked especially hard to improve the living conditions of soldiers and patients—death became an urgent public health issue that could be combated with sound, rational decisions about such simple things as clean water, healthy food, and adequate sanitation.Under wartime conditions, Americans in general, and soldiers in particular, acquired a unique familiarity with human mortality.CRRC-Armenia and ARISC invite to a public presentation on “Home country engagement: some early results from the Armenian Diaspora Survey” to be delivered by Aleksandr V.
More demographic information is available for the Northern armies than for the Confederacy, which did not have the resources to keep accurate records on soldiers.If the Union forces controlled the field after a fight, for example, the dead were often buried without ceremony somewhere on or near the site, either individually in separate graves or collectively in common graves.In many cases, those assigned to burial duty—often African Americans, who performed a variety of noxious duties for the Union army—left the dead in their uniforms or placed a blanket around them before interment.If such resources as pine coffins or burial containers were available, and time permitted, soldiers would be placed in them before being put in the ground, a procedure that rarely occurred in the early years of the war.Many soldiers on both sides expressed a great deal of fear that their bodies would be left to the enemy, which was understood as a fate worse than death.
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The incredible numbers of young men who died during the war, the problems associated with disposal of their bodies, and the rhetorical and symbolic efforts to make sense of the lives lost had profound consequences for American sensibilities and institutional structures.