How American Views and Rituals Regarding Dying, Death, and Burial Changed As A Result of the Civil War

Because of the Civil War, Americans' attitudes and traditions about dying, death, and burial altered dramatically. The change could not be regarded as voluntary or necessary, but rather as imposed. Prior to the war, the concept of death, burial, and dying was considered to be a family concern (Faust 154). The family believed that dying meant the spirit went to heaven to rest with God. Planning of burials occurred and the bodies could be placed in plots of the family or cemeteries (Faust 324). However, the huge numbers of people who died during the war and the trouble of disposing their bodies as well as the challenge of trying to understand the losses had huge consequences for the Americans.

The Civil War changed all this. Firstly, there was an increased rate of deaths as well as the number of people dying as opposed to before the war (Faust 189). The war made the Americans change their attitude towards how they treated their dead and their disposal. This is due to the fact that with the slaughtered masses of corpses and the manner of death, it became impossible for appropriate ushering of the dead from the conscious world. The burial of the soldiers depended on which side won the war and the time they had for that particular activity (Faust 315). Some soldiers could not even be identified and could be buried without their names engraved, especially those found on the side of the enemy.

This made the Americans change their views regarding death and the respect granted to the dead (Faust 298). The soldiers who died were viewed as heroes and the families that were able could try to locate their dead and bring them home for a proper burial. It was common for people to die in the hands of their beloved families but the war made many Americans to die away from their homes. Their description of a good death and how the conditions of their bodies ought to be changed as they realized that after death, all is finished and it does not matter how well the body was buried.

Continuing Change in Our Dying, Death, And Burial Rituals since the Civil War

The Civil War has gradually brought changes in dying, death and burial rituals to the Americans. The mourning that was done before the war was fundamental and depended on the relationship the dead had with the family (Faust 305). After the war, morning became less significant as they embraced the concept of heaven. Heaven was believed to be a warmer place that reunites the dead with their family.

In addition, a science for preserving dead bodies was developed and the dead, after the war, could for a longer period await a proper burial. Creation of cemeteries for the military took place. This was to accord the dead soldiers a sacred place and to maintain a symbol of sacrifice. The soldiers could be buried with national respect, flags and gun shots marking the ceremony before they could rest. Consequently, many individuals believed that death can be taken as a sacrifice for a greater good to fight evil. Many Americans continued to give their lives to war and the living would be viewed as debtors to the dead for their sacrifice (Faust 325).

The concept of death changed in many Americans as the view of who should die changed in their minds because of the huge number of young people involved (Faust 300). They started to prepare for death, imagine and wait for it to happen. The Christians started to have a deeper explanation of death as the scientists tried to understand what it entailed. Beliefs about resurrection started to emanate. Questions about uniting of the body and the spirit got into people’s minds. Death became part of life and many continue to die in hospitals unlike the past when people used to die at home in their beds surrounded by family members.

Works Cited

Faust, Drew Gilpin. This republic of suffering: death and the American Civil War. New York, Vintage Books, 2009.

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