In This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War, Drew Gilpin Faust examines how the astonishing number of lives lost in the American Civil War shaped the country for years to come. She describes how the deaths of soldiers and civilians "transformed society, culture, and politics in what became a broader republic of shared suffering." She also documents social changes (families were torn apart), political changes (African American soldiers fought in the war with the hope of winning citizenship and equal treatment), and philosophical or spiritual changes (religion and spirituality altered as devastated Americans tried to understand the conflict that had nearly destroyed their country).
The book focuses particularly on the years of the Civil War, but also examines the decades that came after to consider its long-term effects. As Faust writes,
"This is a book about the work of death in the American Civil War. It seeks to describe how between 1861 and 1865—and into the decades that followed—Americans undertook a kind of work that history has not adequately understood or recognized."