Historian Mark Smith (Univ. of South Carolina) aims to provide "a sensory history" of the US Civil War; he explores not only the war’s smells (gunpowder, decomposing corpses, etc.) and tastes of (e.g., the cooked mules and rats in besieged Vicksburg, spoiled army rations), but also its horrific sights (wrecked homes and towns and broken bodies), sounds (booming cannons), and tactile sensations (e.g., the unwashed, lice-ridden bodies of the men turning the crankshaft in the cramped spaces of the CSS Hunley). Mid-nineteenth-century Americans had passed noise regulations, started to develop urban sewer systems, segregated certain offensive industries, and rushed to be photographed, eternalizing the sight. But how we in the era of jets and jackhammers and processed foods perceive loudness or freshness and taste differs from the nineteenth century’s experience of sensory data. Can one even aspire to write a history of the senses? Smith has explored this conundrum before, and the "sensory turn" has become a trendy methodology.
Lateiner's Review Continues at Michigan War Studies Volume 2014-127.