Date of Award

9-9-2016

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

First Advisor

Dr. Morag Martin

First Reader

Dr. John Daly

Second Reader

Dr. W. Bruce Leslie

Abstract

The American Civil War brought about death on an unmatched scale. While scholarly estimates vary and range from 620,000-850,000 wartime male deaths, the understanding of the significance of these deaths and how they impacted society varies as well. Civil War deaths destroyed the antebellum concept of the “good death” and created new societal norms and practices. This thesis studies these changes by examining periodicals from the city of Rochester and noting how the newspapers report about the death, carnage, and sickness during the war. How frequently graphic accounts of the battlefield deaths occur and how prevalent calls for aid for sick, wounded, and dying soldiers appear in these papers suggest the immense importance and significance the increased number of deaths had on the city. The antebellum version of the “good death” had to change as the Civil War made it impossible for most soldiers to depart in that manner. As Rochesterians sought to understand this new form of death and dying, they created aid societies, periodicals dedicated to helping the sick and wounded, and published elaborate accounts of how the fallen died so as to help the bereaved better cope with not only the loss of their loved ones but also the loss of their conceptions of a good death. They struggled to build a new idea of what a good death was as the casualty reports poured in. Finally, by the conclusion of the war and with time for the nation to heal, monuments and memorialization of the fallen could try to make up for the aspects of the antebellum “good death” that had proved impossible to adhere by during the conflict.

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