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  #1  
Old Apr 9, '12, 8:16 am
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didymus didymus is offline
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Default New Estimate Raises Civil War Death Toll

NY Times:
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New Estimate Raises Civil War Death Toll

For 110 years, the numbers stood as gospel: 618,222 men died in the Civil War, 360,222 from the North and 258,000 from the South — by far the greatest toll of any war in American history. But new research shows that the numbers were far too low.
By combing through newly digitized census data from the 19th century, J. David Hacker, a demographic historian from Binghamton University in New York, has recalculated the death toll and increased it by more than 20 percent — to 750,000.
The new figure is already winning acceptance from scholars. Civil War History, the journal that published Dr. Hacker’s paper, called it “among the most consequential pieces ever to appear” in its pages. And a pre-eminent authority on the era, Eric Foner, a historian at Columbia University, said:
“It even further elevates the significance of the Civil War and makes a dramatic statement about how the war is a central moment in American history. It helps you understand, particularly in the South with a much smaller population, what a devastating experience this was.”



The old figure dates back well over a century, the work of two Union Army veterans who were passionate amateur historians: William F. Fox and Thomas Leonard Livermore.
Fox, who had fought at Antietam, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, knew well the horrors of the Civil War. He did his research the hard way, reading every muster list, battlefield report and pension record he could find.



In his 1889 treatise “Regimental Losses in the American Civil War, 1861-1865,” Fox presented an immense mass of information. Besides the aggregate death count, researchers could learn that the Fifth New Hampshire lost more soldiers (295 killed) than any other Union regiment; that Gettysburg and Waterloo were almost equivalent battles, with each of the four combatant armies suffering about 23,000 casualties; that the Union Army had 166 regiments of black troops; and that the average Union soldier was 5 feet 8 1/4 inches tall and weighed 143 1/2 pounds.



Fox’s estimate of Confederate battlefield deaths was much rougher, however: a “round number” of 94,000, a figure compiled from after-action reports. In 1900, Livermore set out to make a more complete count. In his book, “Numbers and Losses in the Civil War in America, 1861-65,” he reasoned that if the Confederates had lost proportionally the same number of soldiers to disease as the Union had, the actual number of Confederate dead should rise to 258,000.


[snip]



Enter Dr. Hacker, a specialist in 19th-century demographics, who was accustomed to using a system called the two-census method to calculate mortality. That method compares the number of 20-to-30-year-olds in one census with the number of 30-to-40-year-olds in the next census, 10 years later. The difference in the two figures is the number of people who died in that age group.



Pretty simple — but, Dr. Hacker soon realized, too simple for counting Civil War dead. Published census data from the era did not differentiate between native-born Americans and immigrants; about 500,000 foreign-born soldiers served in the Union Army alone.
“If you have a lot of immigrants age 20 moving in during one decade, it looks like negative mortality 10 years later,” Dr. Hacker said. While the Census Bureau in 1860 asked people their birthplace, the information never made it into the printed report.
As for Livermore’s assumption that deaths from disease could be correlated with battlefield deaths, Dr. Hacker found that wanting too. The Union had better medical care, food and shelter, especially in the war’s final years, suggesting that Southern losses to disease were probably much higher. Also, research has shown that soldiers from rural areas were more susceptible to disease and died at a higher rate than city dwellers. The Confederate Army had a higher percentage of farm boys.


It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it.
Robert E. Lee
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Old Apr 9, '12, 11:40 am
Ridgerunner Ridgerunner is offline
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Default Re: New Estimate Raises Civil War Death Toll

This comes as no surprise to me, particularly on the Confederate side. It's reasonably easy to find someone known to have fought on the Union side in the records. Many, many people who fought on the Confederate side and are known to have done so, are not in any record, because Confederate records were not very good. The farther west, the worse. Many of the Confederate records were not centralized with the Confederate government. In my state, where there was a lot of off-and-on conflict and a lot of guerilla war, all kinds of fighters are not in any known combatant record.

Even on the Union side, it's sometimes hard to know who died in the war and who didn't, because there were a lot of immigrants in the Union army and sometimes their names were butchered beyond recognition. A man with a Bohemian name, for instance, might have been killed and his name entered on a regimental record. But it would not necessarily match the "official" rendering of his name on a more central record. As far as the government was concerned, he was still still thougt to be alive.
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Old Apr 9, '12, 11:56 am
ringil ringil is offline
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Default Re: New Estimate Raises Civil War Death Toll

Dysentary and other deseases took such a tremendous tool in the Civil War.

It must have been a hellish environment.
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