Historians are tasked with recreating days past, setting vivid scenes that bring the past to the present. Mark M. Smith, author of The Smell of Battle, the Taste of Siege: A Sensory History of the Civil War, engages all five senses to recall the roar of canon fire at Vicksburg, the stench of rotting corpses in Gettysburg, and many more of the sights and sounds of battle. In doing so, Smith creates a multi-dimensional vision of the Civil War and captures the human experience during wartime. Here, Smith speaks to how our senses work to inform our understanding of history and why the Civil War was a singular sensory event.
Sensory overload in the Civil War
Using sensory history to understand the past
How the Civil War transformed taste
Headline image credit: The Siege of Vicksburg. Litograph by Kurz and Allison, 1888. Public domain via the Library of Congress.