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During the war years, death was a pervasive element of social life in both the northern and southern sections of the country.Up until the war, Americans were quite familiar with the presence of death, intimate with its consequences in their own homes and local communities.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.The details of burial depended on a variety of circumstances, including which side won a particular battle, and which unit was assigned burial duty.Victors had the luxury of attending to their own dead with more care and attention, if time permitted.More demographic information is available for the Northern armies than for the Confederacy, which did not have the resources to keep accurate records on soldiers.According to some historians, roughly one out of sixteen white males in the North between the ages of sixteen and forty-three lost his life during the war.
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.More threatening to American soldiers during the war than mortal wounds on the battlefield was the presence of disease and infection, which had the potential to seriously reduce the number of fighters on both sides.Nearly twice as many men died as a result of poor health in camps and hospitals than from wounds inflicted during combat. Afflictions such as diarrhea, malaria, smallpox, typhoid fever, pneumonia, and measles wiped out large numbers of men on both sides of the conflict.It also made lasting cultural impressions across imaginative and material American landscapes, including the gradual growth of a complex tourist industry built upon memory, patriotism, and consumerism, and the immediate expression of a deeply rooted, though politically sensitive, religious attachment to a distinctly southern way of life.The Civil War, however, was a major turning point in American history for another reason as well: it transformed attitudes toward death and practices surrounding the corpse in the United States.