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WEJ at 21: Death and the Civil War

From a sketch by Edwin Forbes.
Library of Congress/ Illustration from: Frank Leslie's illustrated newspaper, 1863 Nov. 14, p. 120
The War in Virginia--officers and men of Meade's army discovering unburied Union dead on the battlefield of Bull Run

In celebration of Walter Edgar’s Journal at 21, this week's episode is an encore from 2012. In Ric Burns’ American Experience documentary, Death and the Civil War, he explores the 19th century idealization of a “good death,” and how that concept was brutally changed by battles like that at Gettysburg.

With the coming of the Civil War, and the staggering casualties it ushered in, death entered the experience of the American people as it never had before -- permanently altering the character of the republic and the psyche of the American people.

Burns joins Dr. Edgar to talk about the film, and the ways in which the Civil War forever changed the way Americans deal with death. Also taking part in the discussion are David W. Blight, Professor of American History at Yale University, and the Director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale; and Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust, the Lincoln Professor of History in Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Her Pulitzer-Prize-winning book, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War (Alfred A. Knopf, 2008) forms the basis for Burn’s documentary.

- Originally broadcast 09/14/12 -

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Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his B.A. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.