The Culture of War

Almost all cultures that have ever existed have experienced war in one form or another. War, however, is not meant just to eliminate entire populations. War’s ultimate aim is to change a culture and a way of life, an ideology that is especially prevalent in the United States’ civil war. Civil wars occur when two central ideas of a culture become so polarized that simple negotiation is no longer effective in resolving the issue. During the US’ civil war, the Southern section of the country favored slavery while the Northern was against its practice. Although the two coexisted for a time, war was inevitable because of uncompromising differences between the free and slave states over the power of the national government to prohibit slavery in non-state territories. President Lincoln is often viewed as one of the main causes of the civil war, for he refused to recognize the legitimacy of the states that were receding from the union, fearing a broken-up and jeopardized democracy. Prior to his election, events such as John Brown’s raid and Nat Turner’s rebellion further increased the rift between the North and the South.

John Brown- An abolitionist who believed that armed rebellion was the only way to overthrow the institution of slavery in the United States.

The first real “battle” of the war, however, did not occur until the battle of Fort Sumter. With the secession of many Southern states, several federal forts, including Fort Sumter in South Carolina, suddenly became militia outposts in foreign land. Abraham Lincoln, sensing war, then made the decision to send fresh supplies to the outposts in an attempt to coerce the South into firing the first shot of the war. The strategy was successful, and Confederate warships turned back the supply ship to Fort Sumter to begin a 34-hour siege on the fort, leading to its surrender. After this battle, the war had officially begun between the free Northern and the slave Southern. What followed was one of the bloodiest wars on American soil, a total of about 620,000 deaths at its end- the bloodiest battles claiming 85,000 casualties between them. Despite the death and violence of the Civil War, it was never either side’s initial intention to completely eliminate the other. Instead, the aim of the war was to change the other side’s culture- in this case, the culture surrounding slavery. Due to the North’s victory, their view on slave culture prevailed, completely changing the overall culture of the US. The fate of the then-defeated confederate culture, however, can be observed in the burials of the soldiers. In the Soldiers’ National Cemetery there are markers of 3,500 Union soldiers. However, the confederate soldiers were left in unmarked graves and never properly buried. This reflects the fact that America now considered the slave culture eliminated, and all who believed in it were no longer Americans- only remnants of a past culture.

An example of quickly dug and shallow Civil War graves, meant to quickly dispose of bodies before the onset of decay.

Although war of any kind is a great tragedy, it can succeed in changing the entire culture of a nation.


“Civil War Facts.” Civil War Trust, Civil War Trust,  war-facts

Keegan, John. “The American Civil War: the Gruesome Suffering of Soldiers             Exposed.” The Telegraph,   the-gruesome-suffering-of-soldiers-exposed.html.


Further Reading:

What Happened to Gettysburg’s Confederate Dead?



What Bog Bodies Can Tell Us About Our Past

While what usually comes to mind at the term “mummies” are any of the Great Pyramid Pharaohs, there exist lesser known and better preserved ancient humans. Bog bodies, or “peat mummies,” are extremely well-preserved human remains found usually in Northern Europe. These bodies, located in a wetland that accumulates peat, are exposed to an extremely acidic yet stable environment for long periods of time. In addition to this acidity, the bogs possess low oxygen levels, low temperature, and low water levels. The presence of these conditions allows the remains to be well-preserved, the organs, skin, and hair often intact. However, prolonged exposure to such high acidic levels eventually dissolves the calcium in the bones, a feature which distinguishes bog bodies from other type of mummy.

An example of a bog where the bodies are commonly found.

Although bog bodies can be dated from B.C.E to as late at World War II, the bulk of bog bodies found falls within the time period of the Iron Age. The Iron Age, beginning in Europe around 300 B.C.E., is characterized by the widespread use of iron as the dominant tool making material. However, in Northern Europe this period was also characterized by extremely violent practices. Many of the bog bodies recovered from the iron age how signs of strangulation, bludgeoning, stabbing, disembowelment, asphyxiation, and poisoning. The bogs, it seemed, were reserved as dumping grounds for those who had either been brutally murdered or offered as a human sacrifice to the gods. While the demise of those in the bogs is often tragic, they leave behind many clues indicating how their people lived, what they worshiped, and how they died.

The Tollund Man, one of the most well-known bog bodies, was found in a peat bog close to Bjældskovdal, Denmark. Approximately 30-40 years old, he lived during the beginning of the Iron Age in Europe. While most of his entire body was free from decay, the degree of preservation in his face and facial features is remarkable. The expression the Tollund Man had at the time of his death is still visible- an expression that is eerily peaceful due to the violent nature of his death. Among the Tollund Man’s belongings was a cord tied around his neck, which indicateds he was most likely a victim of hanging. While the body itself is telling, much can be learned about how he lived from studying the “larger picture.” From excavating the area in and around where the Tollund man was found, many artifacts were recovered that outlined how people from ancient Europe functioned as a society. For example, an elaborate leather cap was found, boasting both a conical shape and a braided loop fastener. This cap indicates that his people were skilled artisans, capable of producing complex and robust items of clothing. In addition, by excavating the surrounding areas, it can be concluded that the Tollund man  was most likely a human sacrifice, due to similar nature of the deaths of nearby bog bodies and the absence of funeral urns- urns that were usually used for burying the dead during the iron age. This strongly indicates that his civilization possessed an element of religion. Finally, grain was found in his stomach, revealing that his people were semi-sedentary agriculturalists who lived off of a diet of cereal grains.

A view of the Tollund Man’s well preserved facial features.

By studying the Tollund man and other bog bodies, we are able to see how they once lived. However, we must be careful not to make assumptions based on our own experience of what it is to be “human” in order to fully understand ways of life other than our own. While the life of bog bodies like the Tollund man may seem barbaric, upon closer inspection their societies possessed many elements similar to our own ways of life today. The major difference between our civilization and the bog bodies’ civilizations is mainly the time in which they occurred.


Barclay, Shelly. “Bog Bodies Of Europe: The Most Famous Of The Peatland Mummies.” Historic Mysteries. N.p., 2017. Web. 25 Sept. 2017.

“Bog Bodies – Bog People – Crystalinks.” N.p., 2017. Web. 25 Sept. 2017.

“The Tollund Man – Death.” N.p., 2017. Web. 25 Sept. 2017.

Further Reading:

Image Sources:

15 Legendary Mummified Bodies & How They Got There