I recently had the chance to preview Death and the Civil War, which will air on PBS on September 18 at 8 a.m. The two-hour documentary is nicely produced and explores how the Civil War and its mass killing changed how our culture views death and how the military deals with the death of its servicemen.
Estimates now place the number of people killed in the Civil War at around 750,000 or about 2.5 percent of the U.S. population. The number of deaths at large battles like Antietam overwhelmed the communities near where the battles were fought.
I’m not quite sure how I came to be asked to review the show, but I’m guessing that it has to do with my writing about the war. The bulk of my writing has been related to my book, Battlefield Angels: The Daughters of Charity Work as Civil War Nurses. Therefore, I expected the sisters to be mentioned. The sanitary commissions and Clara Barton were both discussed concerning their work in trying to help the soldiers. No mention of the hundreds of Catholic sister who were the most-experienced nurses in the war, though. I was disappointed with that.
I would have liked to have seen a bit more variety in the experts who were interviewed in the movie. I thought there were too many professors interviewed. The best of the lot was Drew Gilpin Faust, who wrote an excellent book on the subject called The Republic of Suffering.
Otherwise, I found the documentary interesting. It touched on another subject I’ve been interested in lately, which is identifying the Civil War dead. Death and the Civil War will definitely educate you with a view of the Civil War that is not often explored.
If you like the music in the documentary, which I thought fit quite well, Valley Entertainment will be releasing the original soundtrack. Brian Keane composed the score. You learn more about the soundtrack at www.valley-entertainment.com/death-and-the-civil-war-1.html.