Yesterday, I mentioned Drew Gilpin Faust’s This Republic of Suffering for a deeper dive into Civil War death and mourning. The author of this article seems to have read it, and this article offers more info on the customs of the era for those without the time or inclination for the full book.
Until 1864, General Ulysses Grant was lenient about permitting civilians to enter battlefields to retrieve their dead to bring them home for burial. As long as this practice did not hinder troop movement, families were allowed to search for their lost loved ones. Connecticut newspapers often reported—along with locations—“Rolls of Missing Men,” long lists of the dead for family members. After the Battle of Antietam family members and undertakers from all over Connecticut met on the battlefield, where they conducted over 200 funerals for the Connecticut troops killed there. Likewise, Connecticut families traveled to the battlefields of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and the Wilderness to retrieve their dead. It can be difficult for noncombatants today to grasp the impact such direct encounters with the war’s carnage had upon the citizenry.