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“The Dread Void of Uncertainty”: Naming the Dead in the American Civil War

From Southern Cultures
  • Drew Gilpin Faust

Abstract

We take for granted the obligation of our government to account for the war dead. We expect the military to do everything possible to gather information about our war casualties, to notify their families promptly and respectfully, and to provide the bereaved with the opportunity to reclaim and bury their kin. Eighteen months after the inauguration of combat in Iraq, the Pentagon takes satisfaction that even though more than twelve hundred American soldiers have died, none is missing or unidentified. The contrasting failure to find every American who fought in Vietnam—an estimated 1,950 remain unaccounted for—continues not just as a burden for their grieving families, but as a political force in a POW/MIA movement now more than three decades old.

Keywords

Charitable Organization American Soldier Christian Commission Prison Camp Union Army 
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Notes

  1. 12.
    Gregory Coco, Killed in Action: Eyewitness Accounts of the Last Moments of 100 Union Soldiers Who Died at Gettysburg (Gettysburg, PA: Thomas Publications, 1992), 76Google Scholar
  2. 13.
    Katharine Prescott Wormeley, The Other Side of War: With the Army of the Potomac. Letters from the Headquarters of the United States Sanitary Commission During the Peninsular Campaign in Virginia in 1862 (Boston: Ticknor and Company, 1889), 145Google Scholar
  3. 15.
    Oliver Wendell Holmes, “My Hunt after ‘The Captain,’” Atlantic 10 (December 1862): 743Google Scholar
  4. 16.
    Gregory Coco, A Strange and Blighted Land: Gettysburg, the Aftermath of a Battle (Thomas Publications, 1995), 48; Robert G. Carter, Four Brothers in Blue (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1978), 324–25.Google Scholar
  5. 20.
    Garry Wills, Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992).Google Scholar
  6. 26.
    Thomas W Laqueur, “Names, Bodies, and the Anxiety of Erasure,” The Social and Political Body, ed. Theodore R. Schatzki and Wolfgang Natter (New York: Guilford Press, 1996), 123Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Organization of American Historians 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Drew Gilpin Faust

There are no affiliations available

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