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Living by Inches

The Smells, Sounds, Tastes, and Feeling of Captivity in Civil War Prisons

By Evan A. Kutzler

208 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 8 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-5378-5
    Published: December 2019
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-5377-8
    Published: December 2019
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-5379-2
    Published: October 2019

Civil War America

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From battlefields, boxcars, and forgotten warehouses to notorious prison camps like Andersonville and Elmira, prisoners seemed to be everywhere during the American Civil War. Yet there is much we do not know about the soldiers and civilians whose very lives were in the hands of their enemies. Living by Inches is the first book to examine how imprisoned men in the Civil War perceived captivity through the basic building blocks of human experience--their five senses. From the first whiffs of a prison warehouse to the taste of cornbread and the feeling of lice, captivity assaulted prisoners’ perceptions of their environments and themselves. Evan A. Kutzler demonstrates that the sensory experience of imprisonment produced an inner struggle for men who sought to preserve their bodies, their minds, and their sense of self as distinct from the fundamentally uncivilized and filthy environments surrounding them. From the mundane to the horrific, these men survived the daily experiences of captivity by adjusting to their circumstances, even if these transformations worried prisoners about what type of men they were becoming.

About the Author

Evan A. Kutzler is assistant professor of history at Georgia Southwestern State University.
For more information about Evan A. Kutzler, visit the Author Page.


"Reading Living by Inches, we learn a great deal about the cultural assumptions soldiers brought with them to war--about health and cleanliness, day and night, what was edible, pleasurable, dangerous, degrading, or humiliating. Kutzler uses their sensory experiences to capture their confrontations with the limits of their knowledge. He gives us a deeply humane portrait of the past."--Ann Fabian, Rutgers University

"We learn so much from thinking about how people comprehended the meaning of a door swinging shut, the stench of a latrine, the taste of unbolted cornmeal, and the feel of scratchy wool against the skin. In Living by Inches, Kutzler offers new angles on the history and meaning of Civil War soldiers' experience as prisoners and the experiences of those who interacted with them."--Brian P. Luskey, West Virginia University