Historian Revises Estimate of Civil War Dead

Rachel Coker, PhysOrg, June 6, 2011

The Civil War–already considered the deadliest conflict in American history–in fact took a toll far more severe than previously estimated. That’s what a new analysis of census data by Binghamton University historian J. David Hacker reveals.

Hacker says the war’s dead numbered about 750,000, an estimate that’s 20 percent higher than the commonly cited figure of 620,000. His findings will be published in December in the journal Civil War History.

“The traditional estimate has become iconic,” Hacker says. “It’s been quoted for the last hundred years or more. If you go with that total for a minute–620,000–the number of men dying in the Civil War is more than in all other American wars from the American Revolution through the Korean War combined. And consider that the American population in 1860 was about 31 million people, about one-tenth the size it is today. If the war were fought today, the number of deaths would total 6.2 million.”

{snip}

Hacker looked at the ratio of male survival relative to female survival for each age group. He established a “normal” pattern in survival rates for men and women by looking at the numbers for 1850-1860 and 1870-1880. Then he compared the war decade, 1860-1870, relative to the pattern.

His new estimate of Civil War deaths contains a wide margin: 650,000 to 850,000, with 750,000 as the central figure.

{snip}

Like earlier estimates, Hacker’s includes men who died in battle as well as soldiers who died as a result of poor conditions in military camps. “Roughly two out of three men who died in the war died from disease,” Hacker says. “The war took men from all over the country and brought them all together into camps that became very filthy very quickly.” Deaths resulted from diarrhea, dysentery, measles, typhoid and malaria, among other illnesses.

{snip}

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  • Anonymous

    Although I can’t criticize them for doing it, I find CW reenactments a really sad thing. Most seem to just be enjoying playing with history, weaponry, caps, badges, flags, etc. I hope there is a growing realization that the CW was a white on white war, not a war about freeing black men. It was and still is, our traditional class resentments and petty differences like religion, that seems to make us, historically, our own worst enemies. We need to identify more by race as others do.

  • Anonymous

    And there’s the children north and south who died from malnutrition and disease who might have pulled through had not so much in resources been devoted to the fighting. And the demographic echo is worse. The old Yankees of New England unfortunately did a good job killing themselves off. The swamp of immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th century obscured the dramatic nature of the loss of future generations. It’s demoralizing to consider it . . . and I blame Lincoln.

  • TTownTony

    The worst prison camp with the highest death rate was at Elmira, NY. Confederates referred to it as “Hellmira”. Union troops charged an admission fee so the public could go inside to gawk at and ridicule the starving, emaciated Southerners.

    My great grandfather was only 16 when he and his company were captured in 1862. They spent a winter in the open at Camp Randall, Madison, Wisconsin. About 75% of his comrades died of disease and exposure.

    With death rates such as this and the attitude of northerners, I have no doubt that Hacker’s analysis is closer to the true number than previous estimates. So many of the dead were probably tossed into common graves and not even counted.

  • Anonymous

    And consider that the American population in 1860 was about 31 million people, about one-tenth the size it is today. If the war were fought today, the number of deaths would total 6.2 million.”

    ————————————————-

    I have always said that the overwhelming majority were WHITE men that died and we lost all those progeny they would have had and their children/grandchildren would have had by now. It would total in the 100’s of millions today! This is one reason the White race is losing in numbers alone, since it is we who have fought most wars for the wrong reasons and believed all the lies.

    I have a sneaking suspicion that all these wars were instigated and conducted by OUR enemies within/without, for the sole purpose to help the White race self-destruct even faster and thereby preventing all their offspring from ever being born.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t see the logic I’m afraid. To create a normative pattern you must do the same thing which a prior paragraph said was impossible to account for: namely the movement into and out of certain regions by certain population groups accounting for real vs. secondary attrition.

    What of Southerners who, like Germans in a later war, _could not_ opt out of service with a fee or ‘seconded’ replacement but had to fight the entire war, campaign after campaign, on home soil where attrition would be greater or lesser due to patriotism, familiarity with terrain and associated collaterals risk to infrastructure?

    What about differences in family sizes and occupational hazards between an increasingly urbanized if still pre-industrial North and the still largely agrarian South? And between the Settled East and Frontier West?

    Nor can you establish norms between male and female groups where gender roles increase risk to birthing mothers, again with further dangers between Northern and Southern differentiated (winners and losers) groups. If X comes home randy because ‘we won, whoohoo!’ and Y comes home, just plain tired, because his side lost not just the war but their way of life, will that not also reflect in birth ratios and attritive loss in young women?

    Unless there is a great deal more detail in the statistical models than ‘where born, age and race’ would suggest for the decade in question, you are comparing oranges and orangutans.

  • HH

    Interesting, though not altogether surprising(if in fact there is any truth to it). In my experience, war-time casualty estimates for various conflicts in the past several centuries are notoriously inaccurate.

  • Anonymous

    The true cost of war dead is very much higher then people realize. The full impact of population loss caused by war is influenced by many factors other then battle casualties.

    There is a drop in the birthrate during wars. The birthrate fell every year from 1861-65. More people would have been born had there been no war.

    There is an increase in the civilian deathrate as doctors and medical services are siphoned off into the military.

    Diseases increase and strike more vulnerable populations as people are moved about and populations are dislocated. For example from Oct 1914 to March 1915, a highland division was encamped in southeast England (about as far away from each other as you can be in Britain). Recruited from men in the remotest parts of the highlands they were suddenly brought into contact with illnesses and endemic infections they were unfamilar with. They experienced 529 cases of measles alone, with 65 deaths. Many Yankee troops exposed to the heat, humidity and diseases endemic in the deep south died.

    Finally wars cause a long term drop in the future birthrate as hundreds of thousands (or millions) of women are unable to find a suitor, their potential husbands having been killed off. It is a fact that 150 years ago families tended to be very much larger then they are today. How many descendents of these people were never born because of the war?

    I would estimate the true population loss of the civil war as several millions. Perhaps more.

  • Jeddermann.

    It has always been assumed that those casualty figures were mere estimates and not based upon good record keeping. The Confederate losses in particular were greater per capita but the documentation was lost during the surrender and various destructions that took place. So this revised estimate is more accurate? Hard to tell for sure other than whatever the count – – is was a lot!!

  • Jupiter7

    I can assure you, Asians,Hispanics and Muslims in America would never have sacrificed a large percentage of their young male populations to liberate Blacks from chattel slavery in the American South. Just do the thought experiment..what could be more obvious?

    I hate the institution of chattel slavery with every fiber of my being. But when I look how things have evolved since 1865, I would have never sacrificed the lives of thousands of young Native Born White American Males-Northern and Southern -for the Liberation of Blacks from Chattel slavery.It wasn’t worth it.

    Here is something to think about:If an when Native Born White Americans become an ever dwindling racial minority withn the borders of America, they will be surrounded by a very large,very hostile and heavily armed majority nonwhite population. Native Born White Americans should expect the worst…including chattel slavery. You are very naive if you think it couldn’t happen.

    The passage of the America destroying 1965 Immigration Reform Act has ruled out any possibility of peacefull coexistence between Native Born White Americans and Blacks. Black Americans understand very well that the election of Barack Obama could never have occured if it weren’t for the massive racial transformation set into motion by the passage of the America destroying 1965 Immigration Reform Act. Without the passage of the 1965 Immigration Reform Act, Barack Obama would probably be a used car salesman somewhere in America. The election of Barack Obama is a direct consequence of the American Civil War. Liberal race-replacement enthusiasts such as Eric Foner,Noam Chomsky and their left-liberal comrades, have done their best to make the race-replacement of the Native Born White American Majority a direct consequence of the American Civil War.

    Of course, if left-liberal race-replacement enthusiasts had been serious about racial-peace within the borders of America, they never would have been enthusiasts of the America destroying 1965 Immigration Reform Act. Their messianic drive to pass the 1965 Immigration Reform Act has resulted in the importation of Asian,Hispanic and Muslim interlopers to the American scence-interlopers who are making the same race-based civil rights demands that Blacks are making upon the Native Born White American Majority. Native Born White Americans will respond with a massive and radical increase in White racial conciousness. Left-Liberal types such as Eric Foner and Noam Chomsky should not be shocked when this happens,which it surely will-with 100 percent certainty.

  • Jupiter7

    As I wrote above, there is a direct line from the American Civil War and the passage of the nation destroying 1965 Immigration Reform Act. This long march towards cleansing America of Native Born White Americans has created thousands of White Victims. The “spiritual and moral” force behind the eventual passage of the 1965 Immigration Reform Act was John F Kennedy. Kennedy was agitating for an immigration policy that would change the demographic and racial composition of America since the mid 1950s. He made his case for demograhic shift through immigration in a book he wrote in th 1950s. The 1965 Immigration Reform Act was a direct consequence of the 1964 Civil Rights Act-a piece of legislation to promote Black racial interests.

    Mary Pichot Meyer the wife of Cold Warrior Cord Meyer was the mistress of JFK. She was sexually assaulted and murdered in a Washington DC by a Black Male named Dennis Crump(yes I know conpsiracy theorists , Crumb was acquitted-but went on to rape many other woman-and he was raping before he murdered Mary Pichot Meyer). I call this a bit of poetic justice. The mistress of the president who was repsonsible for the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and its offspring the 1965 Immigration Reform Act was murdered by a Black male-a member of the demographic group that was the “moral” inspiration for the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and its offspring, the 1965 Immigration Reform Act

  • Anonymous

    10 — Jupiter7 wrote at 10:51 AM on June 8:

    …” The “spiritual and moral” force behind the eventual passage of the 1965 Immigration Reform Act was John F Kennedy. Kennedy was agitating for an immigration policy that would change the demographic and racial composition of America since the mid 1950s. He made his case for demograhic shift through immigration in a book he wrote in th 1950s. The 1965 Immigration Reform Act was a direct consequence of the 1964 Civil Rights Act-a piece of legislation to promote Black racial interests.”

    Isn’t it interesting to note how the historical Irish Catholic hatred of Protestant English found its way into the White House and finally into our national policies? Joseph Kennedy was kept out of a few clubs for being Irish Catholic and taught his sons well. Those who thought that having a Catholic as a president was a huge risk were right. But how could they have expected any different? When you elect people from historically oppressed groups, you are going to get the natural product. People still group more by common experiences than by race. It is sad that the hatred of one white neighbor for another is so great. It exists far more than most Americans realize. Every European nationality that I have known of personally store resentments toward their neighboring national group, due to historical abuses, wars, religious belief, etc. I have an older senior cousin whose mother was Finnish and she hates her Swedish neighbor who always taunted her about Sweden’s dominance over Finland. This sort of personal stuff is still very rampant among whites, both in Europe and America (including Canada).

  • Anonymous

    And there was a lot of partisan and guerilla activity during the war, especially in the border states and some parts of Appalachia. Who knows how many were killed in clashes and skirmishes in these locations? It was probably never even recorded.

  • Anonymous

    Another thing is suicide. I doubt statistics were kept on this 150 years ago, but it seems reasonable to assume that a terrible war killing hundreds of thousands, maiming still more, and in which many southern homes and farms were plundered and burned would increase the suicide rate. Many veterans would have suffered with PTSD, which then would not have been understood. Some of them might have subsequently taken their own lives.

  • Je

    “I can assure you, Asians,Hispanics and Muslims in America would never have sacrificed a large percentage of their young male populations to liberate Blacks from chattel slavery in the American South. Just do the thought experiment..what could be more obvious?”

    Absolutely correct without question. Just returned from Santa Fe where the trolley car driver/historian describes the Long March of the Navajo, a settling of the American Indian in part to prevent slave catching raids of other American Indians and Spaniards from what was then U.S. territory and not a state. Whitey does a lot for others but not for himself it seems. In a way others would not for whitey.

  • Michigan Patriot

    Dishonest Abe was a mass murderer of his own kinsmen and a dictator / tyrant as coined by patriot John Wilkes Booth. Abe was a gentile but certainly was not a Christian, his immoral , unconstitutional actions speaks volumes over his insincere references to God in his corrupt political life. His D.C. monument should be modified into a memorial/ museum of Abe’s genocide against Americans and his dictatorship of tyranny be exposed. The South is long over due retributions for the Holocaust inflicted upon them from the federal government. After Generals Sherman & Sheridan practiced genocide against their fellow country men of the South; these generals did the same to the indigenous Indian tribes of the Western Plains ; practice makes perfect, I guess.

  • ChemE

    The new estimate is not very precise, witness the error estimate of +/- 13% (not to mention suspiciously rounded to +/- 100,000).

    The “Civil” War was unfortunate, to say the least. It is very likely that slavery would have ended in the South a lot more peacefully had the North allowed the South to go its separate way. Other western nations discarded slavery peacefully.

  • Anonymous

    One thing to consider is how many people didn’t actually die during the war, but subsequently had their lives end prematurely afterwards. This could be due to not being able to cope with the shock and trauma of the war and all its dislocations. Or veterans who died some years after the war from complications caused by their wounds or which left them to weak to fight off other illness or infection. Don’t forget medical technology 150 years ago was primitive, compared to today, at best. My uncle was 6’4″ and was a trim 250 pounds. He spent five years in a P.O.W. camp. He died in 1949 at the age of 37. His health was thouroughly undermined by his war experience, but technically he is not a war casualty.