I am Masud Olufani for the Atlanta History Center.
It is late September 1864.
More than five hundred thousand Union and Confederate soldiers have died.
Death and mourning overwhelm the nation.
Traditional customs – especially for women – regulate mourning for the dead, be they children, parents, or husbands.
In Georgia, Rhoda Mobley learns of the death of her husband, Francis, in far-away Virginia:
“Let it seem as a voice from the dead … that he bade me tell you he was … happy in the prospect of glorious immortality.”
This news normally meant wearing black, self-imposed seclusion, and other rituals.
But with the staggering number of deaths and the hardships of war, many Southern women cannot afford spending money on tradition.
Worse, Rhoda Mobley’s husband is buried hundreds of miles away.
Society emphasizes proper burial, funeral rites, and remembrance.
But now, men die in prison camps, hospitals, and battlefields where those customs can’t be observed . Some men are buried hastily in mass graves. Many are never identified.
Now, widows, including Rhoda Mobley, are lucky to receive mementos of their dead husbands as personal relics:
“Your brave and noble hearted husband. ... Requested me to send you the ball that killed him. …”
I’m Masud Olufani and this is week twenty-four.