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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.


"[Civil War] soldiers wrote voluminously about what they smelled, heard, tasted, and felt. Kutzler has read deeply and empathetically into their letters, diaries, and memoirs to bring to light how imprisoned men perceived their environment through the basic human senses."--America's Civil War

“Dozens of books are published every year on the American Civil War; sometimes it seems as if every topic possible has been covered. Kutzler, however, offers a unique take on the conflict with his sensory history of the war as seen, heard, smelled, tasted, and felt by prisoners of war.”--Missouri Historical Review

“Kutzler has performed exhaustive research to put together his contribution to the relatively new field of the history of senses. . . . As part of a broader series on Civil War America put out by UNC Press, this work undoubtedly plays an irreplaceable role.”--The Annals of Iowa

“An empathetic analysis of life, and death, in prisoner-of-war camps. . . . Kutzler’s analysis of the sensory experience of imprisonment has enhanced our understanding of life for those soldiers and civilians (Kutzler does include a few civilians in his narrative) unfortunate enough to have spent time in military confinement during the Civil War.”--H-Net Reviews

"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