I just discovered this excellent article at the New Yorker. It's a topic I wrote on years ago, but, of course, this is much better written.
Two Wars and the Long Twentieth Century
BY DREW GILPIN FAUST
|Trenches, Petersburg, VA, 1864 (National Archives)
. . . A case can be made that the American Civil War anticipated, in important ways, the transformations that have so often been attributed to the years between 1914 and 1918. The Civil War might well be viewed as the beginning of a “long twentieth century”: in its introduction of a scale of death that came to be associated with a later era, in what Williamson Murray and MacGregor Knox, historians of the First World War, have called warfare’s new combination of “industrial firepower and logistics with the fighting power and staying power that nationalism could generate”; in its mobilization of mass armies through the novel introduction of conscription; in its associated reliance on citizens both in battle and on the home front to sustain the conflict; and in a resulting emergence of new conceptions of citizenship and its privileges, which affected both the living and the dead. The violence of the American Civil War interrupted an age that saw itself as one of growing benevolence and humanitarianism, introducing a startling awareness of man’s capacities for destruction that found its terrible fulfillment between 1914 and 1918. . .
Read the full article here: