Death and Research

I am going to take the liberty to be selfish once more on this blog. I’m wrestling with something extremely tough. It may not seem shocking to others that Civil War soldiers died. In fact, I’ve seen the statistics. But when they are “your” soldiers, when you read their letters and feel like you know their families, their deaths hurt.

I am reminded that we, as historians, need to remain humans. We need to connect with our subjects and preserve their humanity as well. Wars, though an obvious point, result in death. The Civil War was certainly no exception.

The larger question/problem/point, I suppose, is how does this awful feeling in the pit of my stomach translate itself into a meaningful analysis when I eventually write about this family in a dissertation? I am not quite sure. How can I convey the raw humanity that I’m experiencing?

I am not sure if there are neat and tidy answers to my questions. I suppose others have wrestled with these same ideas. Death is death, in the past or the present. It is with this type of discussion and reality, though, that I see the importance of this organization and the questions we ask. Faith, whether we like it or not, flavors our interpretation. When I look at the Brown family of Athens County, Ohio, and their experience during the Civil War, I cannot help but notice their faith. I have to reflect on it from my own faith perspective as well. Their sureness in their son and brother’s salvation, is at best a testimony, and at worst stunningly sad.

I hope I never lose the heart to feel for my subjects. I hope I can do them justice when I write. I hope that people see how war and death and politics and evil and ugliness and all of it make for a messy world; a world that needs a Savior, and One that brought life, redemption, and an eternity without this horror.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Life of the Mind, Reflecting on Faith, Research

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