Books, Journals, New Media Section Editor: Harriet
S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA; David H. Morse, MS, University
of Southern California, Norris Medical Library, Journal Review Editor.
More than 620 000 American soldiers died between 1861 and 1865,
a cost as great as all other US wars combined through Vietnam. One of four
soldiers died of disease, and another 500 000 men were left permanently
disabled. In Rehabilitating Bodies: Health, History, and
the American Civil War, Lisa A. Long analyzes the physical and psychological
significance of this human slaughter and carnage.
Long begins on July 21, 1861, when hundreds of District of Columbia
residents packed picnic lunches to view the first Civil War battle. Expecting
victory, these picnickers soon panicked as shells exploded around them and
the equally frightened Union soldiers retreated. Accounts of what happened
at Bull Run were intent on imposing some order on the panic and confusion.
However, because the war was "shockingly unreal, unpredictable, and ultimately
untellable," such accounts failed. This first scene becomes a symbol for the
war's destruction and chaos and the tens of thousands of books have tried
to recapture, reenact, and rehabilitate Civil War bodies since that time.
Cervetti N. Civil War, Illness. JAMA. 2004;292(10):1240-1241. doi:10.1001/jama.292.10.1240