October 13th, 2012
07:39 PM ET

"2.5% of Americans died during civil war"

Harvard historian Drew Faust discusses a new PBS documentary that shows how the deaths of more than 600,000 Americans  in the Civil War today explain an important part of America’s national identity.

Watch the full interview on "Fareed Zakaria GPS" on Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET.

The Civil War had a death toll that would be, even to us today, almost unimaginable.  Two-and-a-half percent of the population died in the war.  That would be the equivalent of seven million Americans today. And so when you think about those kinds of numbers, I think it - it reminds you of how people must have had to struggle in order to cope with those deaths.

And one part of that was simply the military deaths. What did you do with the bodies? How did you identify them when people didn't have dog tags? How did you tell next of kin when there was no system for notification?

And so there emerges from the war a reburial movement in which, after the fighting has ceased in 1865, Union troops moved through the South looking for every dead Union soldier in order to protect and honor them.  And what that finally yields is the national cemetery system, with 74 national cemeteries and a national commitment to the lives of those who are lost in the nation's behalf.

And so things we take for granted today only emerged in the course of the Civil War.  And the bureaucracy and commitment of the federal government to those principles is an essential part of the kind of nation that emerged from the Civil War conflict.

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Topics: GPS Show

soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. 100 % ETHIO

    Thank you!
    Thank you, for remembering those American heroes, who sacrificed their times, properties and lives for US to enjoy the full extents of FREEDOM. They were true Americans.

    They never trade American properties for personal gain.

    Thank Almighty God. At that time, no one Jewish person found to assist Americans, in that difficult times.
    If America had Jewish at that time, now, they will multiplied their numbers by Millions deaths and we all be in trouble.
    Compensations, compensations,$$$$$$$$€€€€€€€€££££££££.....
    Those American heroes never asked compensation.

    Let Almighty God bless their souls.

    October 13, 2012 at 9:37 pm | Reply
  2. jasc

    2,5 % is minimum compare to the loss of population of other nations in in war. Paraguay lost between 500.000 to 800.000 people in the war against the triple alliance,and was left with just a bit more than 250.000 inhabitants.

    October 13, 2012 at 11:45 pm | Reply
  3. Don

    Fareed is a plagiarist, so why is he still working for CNN?

    October 14, 2012 at 5:38 am | Reply
    • Suzie

      Don, you could be right, but are you wise? Fareed Zakaria is the most intelligent analyst on television. Please do not leave us without his critical insight, world class guests, courtesy and class. Our options are non-existant, in a world of propaganda (Fox). Our national journalism is enriched by Mr. Zakaria's program. Be forgiving.

      October 14, 2012 at 10:35 am | Reply
      • Alex

        Thanks Suzie for writing such nice words about Fareed. I too am a huge fan of him. He's a genius and a world-class analyst on world issues. Thanks again for the kind words you put in for him.


        October 15, 2012 at 9:14 am |
  4. j. von hettlingen

    The Civil war saw the abolition of slavery.

    October 14, 2012 at 6:57 am | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      Yet the growth of cities led to more contact between blacks and whites in the south.

      October 14, 2012 at 6:58 am | Reply
      • j. von hettlingen

        Southerners felt the need to introduce a system of racial control.

        October 14, 2012 at 6:59 am |
      • j. von hettlingen

        They introduced 'Jim Crow' laws on segregation.

        October 14, 2012 at 7:04 am |
  5. 100 % ETHIO

    ..."Jim Crow" Law, applied against anyone, who weren't established America by sacrificing bloods and Souls.

    According to American Literature written in the late 1600's.., with great respect, the Great Britain's were the only one, who fought tooth and nail, then brought anyone from around the World, to live peacefully in a Democratic Country called, America and Canada.

    Imagine the late 1600's environments and FREEZING weather in America and Canada.

    Can anyone currently, could stay for a day in Arctic place, with the material and transportation that was available in the year 1600???

    We all know, most Europeans immigrated to America, when life was worst in their birth places.
    Such examples are: Irish Famines, North-Italians kicked-out and discriminated Southern-Italians (that's why still now, there are no Italians from Milan region in America and Canada, with so much Italians are living), Jewish who runaway from persecutions and from Hitler,.....

    The bottom line is, the Great Britain WON!!! Everything against anyone. We are all witness.

    October 14, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Reply
  6. W.Benson

    The civil war was a case of the bad against the ugly. Lincoln was a supporter of slavery (see his Douglas debates and his first inauguaral address) and later on plotted the eugenic deportion of the freed slaves - Panama was his second choice after a dry run of sending African-Americans to Haiti did not work. All through the war the Republican administration built railroads in a socialist program for the rich. Railroads would allow the reduction or elimination of native Amerindians enough to permit whites to 'win' (a euphemism) the West. Protective tariffs were put in place to build up Northern industry on the shoulders of Southern slaves.
    The so-called valuing life and worthy death ideals are straight out of a horror show. I have ancestors who were a Lincoln security officer and a Confederate soldier. The latter died on a battlefield and the victors dumped his corpse in a hole for a mass burial. His body is still there. So much for Lincoln-inspired 19th century ideals and the valuing of the lives and sacrifices of native peoples, blacks and fallen fellow Americans.
    America should not fake an honorable past that it does not have. It must, however, dedicate itself to an honorable future, no matter how unlikely that possiblity may seem looking at past history.

    October 14, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Reply
  7. Our Hearts Weep !!!

    It is all relative !!! What is a few millions among billions !!!! Shame on women rights and human rights organisations for their apathy.

    In India, millions of girls are strangled, slowly starved or simply tossed in the trash. Moreover, in India, at least 1,370 girls are aborted every day. As a comparison, some 250 Indians die every day in road accidents. Terrorists killed about six people, on an average, every day in 2009. In the last two decades of economic progress, 10 million girls have died as such in India.
    Indians have killed more human beings (girls particularly) than Al Qaeda and Talibans put together.

    Shame on American politicians for turning a blind eye

    October 14, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Reply
    • Suzie

      Oh my goodness...where are you getting your facts?! What in the world gives you the right to make such a statement as : SHAME ON INDIA AND ITS BARBARIC AND MEDIEVAL CULTURE !!!That is an ancient culture, ancient, with laudable cultural provisions to our world. We certainly have our own social ills, but for some reason It seems there are more mouths than ears........In the parlance of today.......let's mind our own business, of which we have plenty.

      October 14, 2012 at 8:29 pm | Reply
      • Kate

        For you the death of millions of women and girls may not mean much but for us in the civilized world it means the world. As to the facts, I googled it and everything checks out. Ohhh, I also found the folllowing on google....shame on India and its barbaric culture. SHAME ON THOSE INDIANS WHO UNDER THE PRETEXT OF WESTERN NAMES SUPPORT THIS MEDIEVAL CULTURE.

        "A recent report by United Press trust of India (UPI) stated that during the past three years more than 2,500 young boys and girls were sacrificed to goddess Kali in India. Another of AFP's recent reports say: hundreds of young boys and virgin girls are sacrificed every month for the deity Kali. In one case Rama Sewak hacked his eight year old son to death in broad daylight in Delhi because goddess Kali had told him he would come back to life and bring him good fortune. Bloodthirsty Kali is worshipped openly the length and breadth of India. Kali's statue stands naked astride the inanimate body of the Hindu deity Shiva, tongue stuck out with blood dripping from fang-like teeth. She holds a noose, a skull-topped staff, a blood-encrusted sword and a severed head. She is also known as Durga, Devi, Shaktima, Uma and Parvathi in other manifestations. The priest of Delhi, Kali Bari, says that a child sacrificed to Kali ensures a man the birth of a son. Human sacrifices are also made to these gods or goddesses, either to appease them or to ask favours of them."

        October 15, 2012 at 9:59 am |
  8. joe anon 1

    fareed, thought it devilishly sly of you to attribute u.s. going from afgan iinto iraq to unfullfilled bloodlust for 9/11 – a jewish and inside op.

    was that the cfr in you?

    another diversion from jewry/israel.

    October 15, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Reply
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    October 19, 2012 at 6:30 am | Reply
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