Savas Beatie, 174 pages + 18 pages introduction, $14.95, 2015
Image courtesy of amazon.com
One of the most cited numbers of the American Civil War is the amount of casualties which occurred in the entirety of the conflict. While the number of casualties throughout the war is important, one of more unanswered questions in people’s minds are “what happened to all of the bodies after the numerous battles?” While there are some answers to those questions, there are many opportunities to understand the process and location of some of the Civil War dead. In The Aftermath of Battle, Meg Groeling helps us to understand the sometimes complicated process which took place in order to bury the soldiers who sacrificed everything for their country.
Meg Groeling is one of the many contributing writers to the Emerging Civil War blog. Along with being a writer, she is also a teacher and a curriculum developer since 1987. She has taught at both elementary and middle school levels for over thirty years and she graduated from California State University in Long Beach with a B.A. in Liberal Studies. She is also currently a master’s candidate at American Public University majoring in Military History with a Civil War specialization. The Aftermath of Battle is part of the ever growing Emerging Civil War Series published by Savas Beatie.
In The Aftermath of Battle, not only does Groeling discuss the process of the burial of the dead, but the creation of some of the most famous graveyards at Civil War battlefields. While certain battlefields, such as Gettysburg and Antietam, have well documented burials of the dead, there are many other cases of questions which come up in Civil War discussion. One of the highlights of the book for myself was the chapter on the burial of the horses. Some of the images in this chapter were both strange and heartbreaking. One in particular was an Alexander Gardner photograph of a horse which looks to be resting, but is actually one of the many dead on the Antietam battlefield. It was also interesting to discover how some of the horse’s remains were dealt with after the battle; one of the many ways was to burn the carcass since they were too large to move. Another chapter was about moving the bodies from the battlefield to home bringing up certain methods such as embalming and ice coffins. The amount of information within the pages of this book handling the eerie subject matter are handled with a great amount of grace that while this information may make some queasy, the writing tends to lessen it. This book, like all others in the Emerging Civil War Series, is also filled with appendices from other contributors to the “Emerging Civil War Blog.” The short articles written by other contributors only add to the great narrative which Groeling has written here.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the American Civil War, especially when questions rise about how they handled the Civil War dead. The book is filled with maps and images which aid in the reading of the work and the subject, though morbid to some, is handled with the greatest professionalism and ease that anyone can find this book interesting. This is one of the many works which offered something different and exciting to offer the realm of Civil War writing.