The Aftermath of Battle

The Burial of the Civil War Dead

Book Cover: The Aftermath of Battle
Part of the Emerging Civil War series:
  • The Aftermath of Battle
Editions:Kindle: $ 7.55
Pages: 192
Paperback - Paperback: $ 12.38
ISBN: 978-1611211894
Size: 6.00 x 8.90 in
Pages: 192

The clash of armies in the American Civil War left hundreds of thousands of men dead, wounded, or permanently damaged. Skirmishes and battles could result in casualty numbers as low as one or two and as high as tens of thousands. The carnage of the battlefield left a lasting impression on those who experienced or viewed it, but in most cases the armies quickly moved on to meet again at another time and place. When the dust settled and the living armies moved on, what happened to the dead left behind?

Unlike battle narratives, The Aftermath of Battle: The Burial of the Civil War Dead picks up the story as the battle ends.

The burial of the dead was an overwhelming experience for the armies or communities forced to clean up after the destruction of battle. In the short-term action, bodies were hastily buried to avoid the stench and the horrific health concerns of massive death; in the long-term, families struggled to reclaim loved ones and properly reinter them in established cemeteries.

Visitors to a battlefield often wonder what happened to the dead once the battle was over. In this easy-to-read overview that will complement any Civil War library, author Meg Thompson provides a look at the aftermath of battle and the process of burying the Civil War dead.

The Aftermath of Battle is part of the Emerging Civil War Series offering compelling, easy-to-read overviews of some of the Civil War’s most important stories. The masterful storytelling is richly enhanced with hundreds of photos and illustrations.

Publisher: Savas Beatie

Mr. Ellsworth sat, waiting. The telegraph whirred and clicked throughout the early morning, then one of the operators suddenly gasped and burst into tears. He looked up at Mr. Ellsworth, rose, and walked to him, holding a piece of paper. The operator's hand shook as he handed the Western Union onionskin to the waiting father. Mr. Ellsworth looked at the words, not trusting himself to read or understand their message. By the second reading, however, the communication was clear: their son, Elmer, was dead.

Shocken and shaken, Ephraim Ellsworth walked slowly back to the low-browed cottage. Now what? First h must tell Phebe that their handsome, charismatic 24-year-old son was gone--forever gone--from their lives. His merry hazel eyes and authoritative voice were stilled, his idealistic letters silenced. His highflown dreams of a career commanding men would never be a reality. A shotgun shell extinguished much of the happiness of their lives. How? Where? Why?

Reviews:Douglas L. Beste on wrote:

This book covers so much more the just the dead. It covers what happened to the wound, the towns people near the battles and families far away at home. Groeling covers many aspics of what people did not want to know about wars, the true aftermath. Many of the people who after the battle and the war stepped up to find and count the dead and help look for the missing. This is a short book but has lots of good info about the national parks and other place to visit. This book is very good as a teaching tool for young readers and others who wants to know more the just battles and leaders.

William Garrison Jr. on wrote:

"The Aftermath of Battle: The Burial of the (U.S.) Civil War Dead" by Meg Groeling, (Nov. 2015); no index; 300+ small b/w photographs within this medium-size paperback (174 pgs) .

At the time of this review, no "See Inside" viewing option is available. Normally, I would post the chapter titles, but here, listing the titles would be of little value -- as they don't readily identify the contents of the book.

The author is a budding military historian, but without prior military service. Hence, I believe the author misstated that "Soldiers got to sleep in dog tents on the ground" (p. 21). I believe she is confused with quaint military terminology: soldiers sleep in "pup" tents and wear "dog tags" identification tags.

More of a civil war "trivia"-like book. Not a detailed medical "how to amputate a limb" book -- just a picture or two of severed limbs.

Lists website addresses for some of the battlefields and the houses that were used as make-shift hospitals and are now museums. Contains excerpts from diaries kept by grave diggers. Discusses some of the photographers and their working conditions of working amongst spoiling corpses.

Discussion of process how public funding was used in establishing national war cemeteries -- oftentimes several years after the battle, when the dead were disinterred, and reburied in more identifiable unit-cemeteries.

Some discussion regarding the difficulty in burying the 1.5 million heavy horses and mules killed in combat (p. 36-39), or letting them simply rot in place, or burning them.

Other "mini topics" discussed very briefly: Camp hygiene (p. 44)... limited battleifield medical practices ... creation of the Ambulance Corps ... mass casualties... amputations (photo of severed legs) ... [author noted: "The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion" and an on-line site] ... embalming (only for 6%) ... development of undertaking industry ... how Charity Relief groups provided some limited help after battles ... looting of the dead .... how Pres. Lincoln acknowledged the dead during his Gettysburg speech... dead German WWI POWs buried at Chattanooga Nat. Cemetery... the dead from the Confederate submersible Hunley crew ... brief notes about Arlington Nat. Cemetery ... abandoned casualties during "The Battle of the Wilderness" ... attempts to identify the dead ... mixing of Union & Confederate graves ... treatment of the dead at Andersonville prison ... Richmond, Virginia's "Hollywood" Confederate cemetery ... the "Last Civil War Veteran" ... recounting the Civil War dead ... and five short "appendices" accounts written by other contributors regarding some cemetery.

Brief highlights, not complexities. Not a list of all C.W. graveyards. No footnotes, no endnotes, no bibliography. Not really a "book", but a strong "paperback" that contains many interesting "factoids" about seldom-discussed topics of what to do with the battlefield dead. Will undoubtedly become a mainstay paperback at many U.S. Civil War battlefield museums.

Thomas E. Moore on wrote:

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the American Civil War, The book 's overview of what happened after the battles and the impact each made on various levels from how burials were managed on such a massive scales , to the prisons and hospitals. Each chapter was very informative and well researched. The maps and images contained within the book aids the reader of the work by offering to them a closer view into the topics covered. The added recommendations by the author of additional research websites and local museums provide the reader with an additional bonus. Meg Groeling's professionalism and style is one in which anyone can find this book interesting, from the longtime Civil War scholar to the novice reader. This is one of those rare studies which offers something different and exciting in the realm of Civil War writing.