I've studied, researched, & collected 19th Century mourning etiquette, death, funerals, memorabilia & grief for many years and lectured on it. Present day talk of sex and how we came to be has replaced Victorian attitudes toward death: children were told the stork brought babies but were involved in deaths at home, where it most commonly took place. It was expected, prepared for, and all details were handled at home, including the funeral. There was no such thing as an undertaker until the Civil War & embalming was not common until then but became necessary when the bodies of soldiers, most of whom died in the South, needed preservation in order to be shipped home for burial---thus the many industries created: the undertaker, "mourning houses" that supplied the proper attire & accesories, rules of etiquette & dress that grew ever more complicated until after WW1. We think of those people then as obsessive, yet they were allowed to grieve openly, publicly; today, we are expected to return to work and "get over it" in a short time---we avoid and deny death, leaving all the details to the funeral director. There are many reasons for this, which I cover in my lectures, but suffice it to say that The Victorians dealt with it because they expected it.
I saw this documentary and although I am a Civil War historian as well, I had never delved into the citizens left to deal with thousands of dead soldiers & animals when the warring armies lit out of town. This film is stunning, despite its subject matter, and I have the book that it is based on. The documentary is EXCELLENT! Today's citizens, mostly women & children, could never handle what these people had to do, yet they set about burying the dead as soon as possible with no resources but their own & it was a horrific & daunting task. The Civil War killed more men than ALL wars the U.S. has been involved in combined, and the only war fought on U.S. soil. It spawned changes & industries formerly unknown that we take for granted today. Yes, it's gruesome, unpleasant, and incredibly sad, but I highly recommend this to anyone interested in "how it really was back then" beyond the fairy tale of Scarlett O'Hara & "Gone With The Wind"---a fine & classic novel, my all time favorite movie---but it barely touches on the realities of life, especially in the South, at the time. There were many Heroes in the Civil War, but the women (and children)left to deal with the carnage and deprivation are rarely recognized. I highly recommend this documentary as one of American Experience's finest, and will no doubt say the same after I read the book it's based on. Death will come for us all---are you prepared?