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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.
In the midst of war, unorthodox views on death and the dead body emerged out of the entirely unparalleled experience with human violence, suffering, and mortality in U. The Civil War forced Americans to reconsider what counts as appropriate treatment of the dead, as well as to reconceptualize the symbolic meanings of the dead body.
The confrontation, with brutally slaughtered masses of bodies or hopelessly diseased soldiers dying in hospitals or camps, upset conventional patterns of disposal, as well as established attitudes about communal duties, religious rituals, and personal respect in the face of death.
What counted as proper and appropriate action to usher the dead from the land of the living in an earlier time often proved impossible during the conflict, though in some cases efforts were made to treat the dead with a dignity that evoked prewar sensibilities.
In both the Union and Confederate armies, soldiers attempted to provide some kind of burial for fallen comrades who perished during a battle, even if this meant simply covering bodies with dirt, or placing the dead in common graves.
Under wartime conditions, Americans in general, and soldiers in particular, acquired a unique familiarity with human mortality.
Regardless of the formidable presence of death in life during the antebellum years, the Civil War posed a series of new challenges for those affected by the carnage— which is to say nearly every American at the time— and produced new attitudes that reflected distinct modifications in how these Americans made sense of death and disposed of their dead. On the other hand, some perspectives demonstrated a degree of continuity with more traditional views on the meaning of death, and reinforced deeply rooted religious sensibilities circulating before the onset of the conflict.The deadly power of disease swept through the ranks because of the incredibly poor conditions in camps, resulting from inadequate shelter, contaminated water supplies, unhealthy diet, and a limited knowledge about proper sanitation and safe hygienic practices.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.Despite this close and personal awareness of human mortality, Americans during the Civil War had a radically different set of experiences with death than previously. The total number of deaths for both the North and the South, in the four-year period, was over 600,000.First and foremost, this conflict produced more deaths than any other war in U. World War II is the only other major conflict that comes close to this number, when over 400,000 individuals died in battles across the ocean.Chances of dying in childhood were also quite high, according to many studies.