Sweet Auburn: The Magazine of the Friends of Mount Auburn President Bill Clendaniel Retires | Page 20

People and Happenings Drew Faust Speaks at Mount Auburn By Stephen H. Anable, Communications Coordinator & Writer The President of Harvard University, Drew Gilpin Faust, author of This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War, spoke about her book to an audience of Friends members and others in a packed Story Chapel on March 19. When introduc- ing President Faust, Mount Auburn President Bill Clendaniel noted that “there can be no more appropriate place to discuss death, burial and commemoration than at Mount Auburn, the cem- etery that changed the way Harvard President Drew Gilpin America dealt with these Faust (Photo by Michael Dwyer) ever-present concerns.” He added that President Faust is a neighbor of Mount Auburn, a visitor who enjoys the Cemetery, and a member of the Friends. Indeed President Faust mentioned that she had “walked through the Cem- etery many times” when writing This Republic of Suffering. Mount Auburn is, of course, the resting-place of many people associated with the Civil War and contains numerous elaborate monuments carved with sabers, uniforms, insignia, and caps in astonishingly detailed marble. President Faust described death as being at the center of women’s experi- ence of the war. She wrote her book to explore how the nation coped with the loss of more than 600,000 people. Half of the dead were never identified, leaving grieving families unable to “re- alize” their deaths and thus unable to fully mourn or move on. Instead, years after Appomattox, families fantasized and speculated about their loved one’s possible return, hoping he had somehow survived the carnage and was hospitalized, had gone west, or was alive but unable to communicate. This problem was exacerbated by the federal government’s failure to be required to officially notify families when a combatant was killed or wounded. It sometimes fell to private individuals to better the situ- ation. President Faust related how the story of the death of Henry Bowditch’s son, Nathaniel—buried here at Mount Auburn—caused his father to campaign to improve am- bulance service and thus cut the casualty rate among the wounded, an action he believed might have saved Nathaniel. “We are all Civil War survivors,” President Faust said, given the way the war changed the country. For example, the war dramatically increased powers of the federal government as Americans demanded it play a greater role in their lives, tending for instance to the needs of veterans. After wine and cheese following her talk, a long line of guests snaked through the chapel, waiting for President Faust to sign their copies of her book, a New York Times bestseller. Guests line up to have President Faust sign copies of This Republic of Suffering 18 | Sweet Auburn Above: The gravestone of Lt. Col. Waldo Merriam, killed in battle on May 12, 1865, is an example of the elaborate carving on the monuments of some Civil War soldiers. Left: (l to r) President Faust, HonoraryTrustee Robert A. Lawrence (in back), Bill Clen- daniel, and Cemetery Trustee Karen Weltchek Mueller.