Download This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War Audiobook

This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War Audiobook, by Drew Gilpin Faust Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: Drew Gilpin Faust Narrator: Lorna Raver Publisher: Blackstone Publishing Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 2009 ISBN: 9781483051451
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (2,030 ratings) (rate this audio book)
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During the Civil War, 620,000 soldiers lost their lives—equivalent to six million in today’s population. This Republic of Suffering explores the impact of the enormous death toll from material, political, intellectual, and spiritual angles.

Drew Gilpin Faust delineates the ways death changed not only individual lives, but the life of the nation, and describes how a deeply religious culture reconciled the slaughter with its belief in a benevolent God. Throughout, the viewpoints of soldiers, families, statesmen, generals, preachers, poets, surgeons, and nurses, Northerners and Southerners, slaveholders and freed people, the most exalted, and the most humble are brought together to give a vivid understanding of the Civil War’s widely shared reality.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Extraordinary…overlooks nothing—from the unsettling enthusiasm some men showed for killing to the near-universal struggle for an answer to the question posed by the Confederate poet Sidney Lanier: ‘How does God have the heart to allow it?’”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Faust...yanks aside the usual veil of history to look narrowly at life’s intimate level for new perspectives from the past. She focuses on ordinary lives under extreme duress, which makes for compelling reading.” 

    USA Today

  • This Republic of Suffering is one of those groundbreaking histories in which a crucial piece of the past, previously overlooked or misunderstood, suddenly clicks into focus.”


  • “The beauty and originality of Faust’s book is that it shows how thoroughly the work of mourning became the business of capitalism, merchandised throughout a society.” 

    New Yorker

  • “Eloquent and imaginative, Ms. Faust’s book takes a grim topic—how America coped with the massive death toll from the Civil War—and makes it fresh and exciting…[A] widely and justly praised scholarly history.”

    New York Observer

  • This Republic of Suffering is a harrowing but fascinating read.” 

    Christian Science Monitor

  • “If you read only one book on the Civil War this year, make it this one.”

    American History

  • “[A] penetrating study…Faust exhumes a wealth of material—condolence letters, funeral sermons, ads for mourning dresses, poems and stories from Civil War–era writers—to flesh out her lucid account. The result is an insightful, often moving portrait of a people torn by grief.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Lorna Raver’s…reserved manner fits the somber topic, and her unhurried pace allows listeners to assimilate every word. With great versatility she bounces from describing the mourning garments of nineteenth-century widows to reciting the contemporary poetry of Emily Dickinson. Raver’s best moments come as she reads the letters of worried relatives seeking knowledge of the status and whereabouts of soldiers they fear may be dead.”


  • “Beautifully written, honest, and penetrating…Anyone wanting to understand the ‘real war’ and its transcendent meaning must face the facts Faust arrays before us…Essential.”

    Library Journal

  • “A moving work of social history, detailing how the Civil War changed perceptions and behaviors about death…An illuminating study.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • A New York Times bestseller
  • Winner of the 2009 Bancroft Prize
  • A 2008 ALA Notable Book Finalist for Nonfiction
  • A 2008 San Francisco Chronicle Best Book
  • A 2008 New York Times Book Review Top 10 Book of the Year
  • A 2008 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Nominee for History
  • A 2008 National Book Award Finalist
  • A 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist
  • A 2009 Pulitzer Prize Finalist for History
  • A 2008 New York Times Book Review Notable Book

Listener Reviews

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  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Michael | 2/16/2014

    " Excellent book that explores how the trauma and death resulting from the American Civil War changed theological ideas of heaven, National Cemeteries and registry of the dead as the responsibility of National Government, and changes in poetic style. These are few of the changes brought on by the indescribable carnage brought on by the Civil War. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Annie | 2/15/2014

    " Nonfiction/Civil War: great book on the culture of death and dying during the American Civil War, easy to read "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tracey | 2/12/2014

    " Liked THE SACRED REMAINS much better. While this book is very informative, THE SACRED REMAINS does a much better job of contextualizing the topic of death in American religious and cultural life. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Julie | 2/6/2014

    " Though the topic is quite morbid, this was an amazing read. Fascinating, informative, and well-paced, this book is an interesting look at death in the American Civil War. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bridgid | 1/20/2014

    " This Republic of Suffering examines how the United States culturally processed the massive loss of life and brutality of the Civil War. Gilpin-Faust explains the belief of ars moriendi, the art of dying or the Good Death, and how the enormity of the Civil War left the government, armies, and private citizens unprepared for the realities of mass casualties and previous beliefs and practices around death. Previously I superficially understood Civil War era writing to be laden with religious themes and formality, but Gilpin-Faust used primary sources to illuminate the duty of fellow soldiers to assure family members that their loved ones died in ars moriendi and with their religious affairs in order. Indeed, Gilpin-Faust traces several figures, from private citizens to military leaders, medical personnel, and leading thinkers and illuminates their experiences. Armies were unprepared to account for the dead and wounded, bury bodies, and return bodies to the families. Hence, private citizens and relief groups met these crucial needs until the federal government was able to grapple with great administrative duties. Gilpin-Faust examines the rise of the evangelicalism in the South as well as the philosophical movements in the North. I look forward to the Burn's documentary as well as the Huntington Library exhibit. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Lauren | 1/18/2014

    " I rarely leave a book unfinished, but I gave up on this one with about 50 pages left. The morbid history nerd in me was really excited for this book, but this parade of statistics and anecdotes just couldn't hold my attention at all. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Iben | 1/7/2014

    " A fantastic book that examines the impact of the Civil War through the lens of death. Even though it is an academic account, the book's portrayal of the period is incredibly touching. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kurt | 1/4/2014

    " A sometimes startling history of an nation at war with itself deals with the bloody aftermath. Incredibly well-written and totally engaging. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ashton | 1/3/2014

    " This is one of the best books I have read in a while, I couldn't put it down! Faust does a wonderful job of putting names and true emotion back into the Civil War. I recommend it to anyone interested in the CW or the recollections of true Americans "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Andee | 12/25/2013

    " Very good informative book on how death was handled in the Civil War. Dry at times, but the author adds interesting details and facts you wouldn't normally get. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Beth | 12/7/2013

    " I listened to this book instead of reading it. It was, at times, hard to hear. It really brought home what the average American went through during the Civil War and what they delt with afterward. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lisa | 11/16/2013

    " New York Times 10 Best Books of 2008 "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Awesome | 6/26/2013

    " Fascinating stuff, but the lady could've made her point a lot more effectively in, say, a lengthy New Yorker article. As it is, the book relies way too heavily on endless strings of quotations from primary sources. Save it for the footnotes, Ms. President McHarvard! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jim | 11/1/2012

    " I really really enjoyed this book. I strongly recommended it to my wife as a pre-holiday read. Great examination of the construction of meaning of death. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Faith | 4/15/2012

    " A very interesting read, though a bit tedious at times with a lot of facts. Great focus on the psychology, sociology and anthropology around death and the Civil War. Thought about all sorts of thing I had never pondered before. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tina | 5/4/2011

    " Very good reading for somebody who is interested in the American Civil War and its sociology. ALong the way I was wondering how to relate what I was reading to the death of an ancestor who had been killed in the Civil War. It did explain some of the mystery. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sharon | 3/5/2011

    " Interesting read on the theory of death and the reactions of the living left and the soldiers left. Got a little long... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Cameron | 2/9/2011

    " It is difficult to grasp not only how many people died in the Civil War, but also how massive of an impact those deaths had on the entire country. This book maintains it focus on the specifics of those who died during the war and what their death meant to those who survived. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Megan | 1/23/2011

    " An interesting account of how the massive casualties of the Civil War changed Victorian-era America's views of death - religiously, scientifically, and militarily. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Tom | 1/3/2011

    " I feel like I suffered reading this. Not bad writing, just got bored with the concept of lots of people dying. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Niadwynwen | 12/22/2010

    " The book combined my interests in the Civil War and death. It made me think many interesting thoughts and understand what a sad time in history the 1960s was and how people changed because of it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Steve | 10/11/2010

    " Good treatment of a fascinating subject matter--how North and South dealt with the fact of death on a scale the country had never seen before. Slightly dry tone, but much fine content. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Joshua | 9/17/2010

    " What I learned from this book: How war strips illusions from humanity, destroys the bonds between men, and creates excellent photo opportunities. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lani | 9/8/2010

    " LOOOOVED IT! So so brutal. But most importantly, I learned a hell of a lot about the civil war and how it completely changed the way we dealt with death in america. "

About the Author

Drew Gilpin Faust is president of Harvard University, the first woman to serve in this role. She is the author of five previous books, including Mothers of Invention. She and her husband live in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

About the Narrator

Lorna Raver, named one of AudioFile magazine’s Best Voices of the Year, has received numerous Audie Award nominations and many AudioFile Earphones Awards. She has appeared on stage in New York, Los Angeles, and regional theaters around the country. Among her many television credits are NYPD Blue, Judging Amy, Boston Legal, ER, and Star Trek. She starred in director Sam Raimi’s film Drag Me to Hell.