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

From Southern Cultures
  • Drew Gilpin Faust


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.


Charitable Organization American Soldier Christian Commission Prison Camp Union Army 
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Copyright information

© Organization of American Historians 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Drew Gilpin Faust

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