A few weeks ago, I spent an unseasonably warm and sunny Sunday afternoon hearing about Living Hell. That is, author Michael C.C. Adams, who wrote the book Living Hell: The Dark Side of the Civil War, in which he used memoirs, letters, and other eye witness testimony to talk about the horror they experienced. Yes, wonderful stuff for an afternoon discussion. One thing he found was the amount of candor and detail in these accounts, although some had to wait years before they could write of it. Death, rape, physical and mental wounds on both sides, affecting both military and civilians.
His book closes with a chapter on the legacy of it all--"where did the suffering take us?" No conclusive answer, but another interesting piece of information in the puzzle that was, and is, the Civil War.
One thing I asked him, thinking about JW's diary and assorted writings, was how he figured out what to include, and what to leave out. In his case, he had literally hundreds of accounts, rather than just the writing of one person. He replied that even now, people come up to him and say, "Why didn't you use the account of Capt. So-and-so?" and he finds that, yes, that would have been good. Or people tell him about other information that he said--it wasn't as if I decided not to use it, I didn't even know about it at the time. So that was actually somewhat comforting to me. You can't wait until you know absolutely everything because there is always something else to know.