Lewis Lapham: Dead Gettysburg Troops Eaten by Hungry Hogs

“The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it,” said Abraham Lincoln, referring to the hallowed ground at the new Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

It was just over four months since the Union armies defeated those of the Confederacy in the bloodiest battle -- and turning point -- of the Civil War.

There were 51,000 casualties and being wounded was often a death sentence. Mangled, screaming men were left on the field, some to be devoured by ravenous hogs. The only treatment for those with chest or abdominal injuries was the administration of opiates until they died.

Soldiers who made it to ad hoc field hospitals piled up by the acre, surrounded by huge stacks of arms and legs, groaning and pleading for help as they waited for their amputations.

Sometimes soldiers went insane, according to eyewitnesses, tearing at bandages and uttering “hideous laughing shrieks.”

I spoke with Allen Guelzo, author of “Gettysburg: The Last Invasion,” on the following topics:

1. Volunteer Armies

2. Smell Before Sight

3. Democracy Versus Aristocracy

4. Turning Points

5. Bloodiest Battle

To buy this book in North America, click here.

(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)

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