Cover

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pp. 1-2

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 3-8

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-xii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xiii-xvi

Many people have made this book a pleasure to write. At the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts, I thank especially John Hench, Nancy Burkett, and the extraordinary services rendered by Joanne D. Chaison and her staff. ...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-5

Living under the shadow of postmodernity, where all historical “facts” are dimly perceived, at least one reality appears horribly luminous: that 620,000 men lost their lives in the American Civil War. Whether we think of the American Civil War as a “total war,” a “destructive war,” or simply as a “hard war,” students of it agree on its singularly bloody impact.1 ...

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1. “Emblems of Mortality”

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pp. 6-37

The generation of Americans who fought the Civil War understood that they could not escape the embrace of death. Nor did they particularly wish to. They knew that death was the inevitable portion of all who live. In 1846, readers from New Haven, Connecticut, to Charleston, South Carolina, could examine the pages of the latest reminder of their own certain mortality. ...

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2. “The Heavenly Country”

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pp. 38-69

Antebellum Americans could face death with resignation and even joy because they carried in their hearts and heads a comforting and compelling vision of eternal life. For them heaven was not an ethereal, dreamy state of the soul or a billowy universe of unspecified dimension. ...

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3. “Melancholy Pleasure”

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pp. 70-96

On September 24, 1831, Judge Joseph Story pronounced the dedicatory address for Boston’s freshly created Mount Auburn Cemetery. He was the man for the job. An associate U.S. Supreme Court justice and a professor of law at Harvard, Story possessed a brilliant legal mind as well as rhetorical flair. ...

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4. “A Voice from the Ruins”

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pp. 97-125

In February 1847, the poet known as Susan published a premonition of destruction and war entitled “A Voice from the Ruins.” Although we know little about Susan as an author, we do know that she had at least a small following in antebellum America. ...

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5. “Better to Die Free, Than to Live Slaves”

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pp. 126-162

George E. Stephens was one of the men who followed Col. Robert Gould Shaw in the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry’s 1863 assault on Fort Wagner, South Carolina. A resident of Philadelphia’s free black community, Stephens’s family had moved to Pennsylvania from Virginia in the wake of Nat Turner’s rebellion. ...

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6. “The Court of Death”

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pp. 163-206

Sometime during the middle of the 1840s, the firm of James Baillie, headquartered in New York City, published a memorial lithograph (fig. 14). In a variety of ways, this small scene offers a “thick description” of the cul ture of death in antebellum America.1 The image depicts a trio of figures— a man, a woman, and a young girl—standing ...

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Epilogue

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pp. 207-210

It is tempting for us to see ourselves as being very much like the generation of people who fought the American Civil War. Part of this impulse may be attributed to the pervasive egotism of contemporary society; of course, we imagine, those who fought in the past must share much with those of us living in the present. We are all Americans. ...

Notes

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pp. 211-236

Index

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pp. 237-246