As explored in Drew Gilpin Faust’s book, This Republic of Suffering, the Civil War brought about a change in American funerary customs. This article puts a morbid little bow on the rise of embalming during the war.
Just as one Springfield citizen introduced the nation to embalming at the start of the Civil War, another Springfield citizen, Abraham Lincoln, became its highest-profile example at the war’s close. In between, approximately 40,000 soldiers underwent this process, which had been all but unknown just five years earlier. Holmes went on to be known as the “father of modern embalming,” and Elmer Ellsworth can rightly be remembered not only as the first Union casualty of the Civil War, but also the man who introduced the nation to embalming.