• Photo of cannon at Antietam National Battlefield

    The Civil War

Death and Dying

Photo of skeletal remains from the Battle of Gaines’ Mill awaiting burial.

The somber aftermath of Civil War battles introduced Americans to death on an unprecedented scale. Neither individuals, nor institutions, nor governments were prepared to deal with such devastating loss of human life, for never before or since have we killed so many of our own.

The Civil War revolutionized the American military's approach to caring for the dead, leading to our modern culture of reverence for military death, including the National Cemetery system.

Stories from Death and Dying

Showing results 1-5 of 13

  • Manassas National Battlefield Park

    "My Very Dear Wife" - The Last Letter of Major Sullivan Ballou

    Kurz & Allison print of the First Battle of Manassas

    Like many soldiers on the eve of the first major battle of the Civil War, Sullivan Ballou feared he might not survive the conflict. The letter he wrote to his wife, expressing his anxiety, remains on the the most famous, and poignent, written during the war. Read more

  • A Most Horrid Picture

    Modern photograph of a medicine kit from the Civil War

    When the war began, medical practitioners were only beginning to understand the benefits of cleanliness and good sanitation. As a result, two out of every three deaths in the Civil War were caused by disease rather than injury. Caregivers like Clara Barton, the "Angel of the Battlefield" brought food and supplies to the soldiers and inspired new hope and life to the injured and dying. Read more

  • Petersburg National Battlefield

    A Nation's Need - Poplar Grove National Cemetery

    Photo of Poplar Grove National Cemetery, with flags decorating graves for Memorial Day

    After the Battle of Petersburg the dead were buried in shallow graves, most without grave markers. One year after the war ends a National Cemetery was established so that those Union soldiers who fell in the battle may be properly honored. Read more

  • Antietam National Battlefield

    A Short Overview of the Battle of Antietam

    Photograph of dead by Dunker Church after the Battle of Antietam

    A brief overview of the Battle of Antietam Read more

  • Antietam National Battlefield

    Antietam National Cemetery

    Photo of Antietam National Cemetery in the fall

    Following the Battle of Antietam in 1862, there were few cemeteries to inter the dead. Shallow graves were dug to quickly bury the remains of the battle, yet a permanent solution was needed. The result was Antietam National Cemetery, the final resting place for United States troops that had fallen during the Maryland Campaign. Read more