Casualties in the American Civil War

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The Price in Blood!
Casualties in the American Civil War

At least 618,000 Americans died in the Civil War, and some experts say the toll reached 700,000. The number that is most often quoted is 620,000. At any rate, these casualties exceed the nation's loss in all its other wars, from the Revolution through Vietnam. (See also Civil War Casualties: Total Union and Confederate American Civil War Killed and Mortally Wounded (Dead), With Numbers for Each Northern and Southern State.)

        The Union armies had from 2,500,000 to 2,750,000 men. Their losses, by the best estimates:
 

Battle deaths:

110,070

Disease, etc.: 250,152
Total 360,222

        The Confederate strength, known less accurately because of missing records, was from 750,000 to 1,250,000. Its estimated losses:

Battle deaths: 94,000
Disease, etc.: 164,000
Total 258,000

        The leading authority on casualties of the war, Thomas L. Livermore, admitting the handicap of poor records in some cases, studied 48 of the war's battles and concluded:
        Of every 1,000 Federals in battle, 112 were wounded.
        Of every 1,000 Confederates, 150 were hit.
        Mortality was greater among Confederate wounded, because of inferior medical service. The great battles, in terms of their toll in dead, wounded, and missing is listed on this site:

Some of the great blood baths of the war came as Grant drove on Richmond in the spring of 1864- Confederate casualties are missing for this campaign, but were enormous. The Federal toll:
 
The Wilderness, May 5-7: 17,666
Spotsylvania, May 10 and 12: 10,920
Drewry's Bluff, May 12-16 4,160
Cold Harbor, June 1-3: 12,000
Petersburg, June 15-30 16,569

    These total 61,315, with rolls of the missing incomplete.
        The Appomattox campaign, about ten days of running battles ending April 9, 1865, cost the Union about 11,000 casualties, and ended in the surrender of Lee's remnant of 26,765. Confederate dead and wounded in the meantime were about 6,500.
        Lesser battles are famous for their casualties. At Franklin, Tennessee, November 30, 1864, General Hood's Confederates lost over 6,000 of 21,000 effectives -most of them in about two hours. Six Confederate generals died there.
        Hood lost about 8,000 men in his assault before Atlanta, July 22, 1864; Sherman's Union forces lost about 3,800.
        The small battle of Wilson's Creek, Missouri, August 10, 1861, was typical of the savagery of much of the war's fighting. The Union force Of 5,400 men lost over 1,200; the Confederates, over 11,000 strong, lost about the same number.
        The first battle of Manassas/Bull Run, though famous as the first large engagement, was relatively light in cost: 2,708 for the Union, 1,981 for the Confederates.
        The casualty rolls struck home to families and regiments.
        The Confederate General, John B. Gordon, cited the case of the Christian family, of Christiansburg, Virginia, which suffered eighteen dead in the war.
        The 1st Maine Heavy Artillery, in a charge at Petersburg, Virginia, 18 June, 1864, sustained a "record" loss of the war-635 of its 900 men within seven minutes.
        Another challenger is the 26th North Carolina, which lost 714, of its 800 men at Gettysburg-in numbers and percentage the war's greatest losses. On the first day this regiment lost 584 dead and wounded, and when roll was called the next morning for G Company, one man answered, and he had been knocked unconscious by a shell burst the day before. This roll was called by a sergeant who lay on a stretcher with a severe leg wound.
        The 24th Michigan, a gallant Federal regiment which was in front of the North Carolinians on the first day, lost 362 of its 496 men.
        More than 3,000 horses were killed at Gettysburg, and one artillery battalion, the 9th Massachusetts, lost 80 of its 88 animals in the Trostle farmyard.
        A brigade from Vermont lost 1,645 Of its 2,100 men during a week of fighting in the Wilderness.
        The Irish Brigade, Union, had a total muster Of 7,000 during the war, and returned to New York in '65 with 1,000. One company was down to seven men. The 69th New York of this brigade lost 16 of 19 officers, and had 75 per cent casualties among enlisted men.
        In the Irish Brigade, Confederate, from Louisiana, Company A dwindled from 90 men to 3 men and an officer in March, '65. Company B went from 100 men to 2.
        Experts have pointed out that the famed Light Brigade at Balaklava lost only 36.7 per cent of its men, and that at least 63 Union regiments lost as much as 50 per cent in single battles. At Gettysburg 23 Federal regiments suffered losses of more than half their strength, including the well-known Iron Brigade (886 of 1,538 engaged).
        Many terrible casualty tolls were incurred in single engagements, like that of the Polish Regiment of Louisiana at Frayser's Farm during the Seven Days, where the outfit was cut to pieces and had to be consolidated with the 20th Louisiana. In this action one company of the Poles lost 33 of 42 men.
        One authority reports that Of 3,530 Indians who fought for the Union, 1,018 were killed, a phenomenally high rate. Of 178,975 Negro Union troops, this expert says, over 36,000 died.
        Some regimental losses in battle:

Regiment Battle Strength Per Cent
1st Texas, CSA Antietam 226 82.3
1st Minnesota, US Gettysburg 262 82
21st Georgia, CSA Manassas 242 76
141st Pennsylvania, US Gettysburg 198 75.7
101st New York, US Manassas 168 73.8
6th Mississippi, CSA Shiloh 425 70.5
25th Massachusetts, US Cold Harbor 310 70
36th Wisconsin, US Bethesda Church 240 69
20th Massachusetts, US Fredericksburg 238 68.4
8th Tennessee, CSA Stone's River 444 68.7
10th Tennessee, CSA Chickamauga 328 68
8th Vermont, US Cedar Creek 156 67.9
Palmetto Sharpshooters, CSA Frayser's Farm 215 67.7
81st Pennsylvania, US Fredericksburg 261 67.4

        Scores of other regiments on both sides registered losses in single engagements of above 50 per cent.
        Confederate losses by states, in dead and wounded only, and with many records missing (especially those of Alabama):

North Carolina

20,602
Virginia 6,947
Mississippi 6,807
South Carolina 4,760
Arkansas 3,782
Georgia 3,702
Tennessee 3,425
Louisiana 3,059
Texas 1,260
Florida 1,047
Alabama 724

(Statisticians recognize these as fragmentary, from a report of 1866; they serve as a rough guide to relative losses by states).

        In addition to its dead and wounded from battle and disease, the Union listed:

Deaths in Prison 24,866
Drowning 4,944
Accidental deaths 4,144
Murdered 520
Suicides 391
Sunstroke 313
Military executions 267
Killed after capture 104
Executed by enemy 64
Unclassified 14,155

Source: The Civil War, Strange and Fascinating Facts, by Burke Davis
 
(Continued below.)

Recommended Reading: This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War. Editorial Review from Publishers Weekly: Battle is the dramatic centerpiece of Civil War history; this penetrating study looks instead at the somber aftermath. Historian Faust (Mothers of Invention) notes that the Civil War introduced America to death on an unprecedented scale and of an unnatural kind—grisly, random and often ending in an unmarked grave far from home. Continued below...

She surveys the many ways the Civil War generation coped with the trauma: the concept of the Good Death—conscious, composed and at peace with God; the rise of the embalming industry; the sad attempts of the bereaved to get confirmation of a soldier's death, sometimes years after war's end; the swelling national movement to recover soldiers' remains and give them decent burials; the intellectual quest to find meaning—or its absence—in the war's carnage. In the process, she contends, the nation invented the modern culture of reverence for military death and used the fallen to elaborate its new concern for individual rights. Faust exhumes a wealth of material—condolence letters, funeral sermons, ads for mourning dresses, poems and stories from Civil War–era writers—to flesh out her lucid account. The result is an insightful, often moving portrait of a people torn by grief. Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Recommended Reading: Fields of Honor: Pivotal Battles of the Civil War, by Edwin C. Bearss (Author), James Mcpherson (Introduction). Description: Bearss, a former chief historian of the National Parks Service and internationally recognized American Civil War historian, chronicles 14 crucial battles, including Fort Sumter, Shiloh, Antietam, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Chattanooga, Sherman's march through the Carolinas, and Appomattox--the battles ranging between 1861 and 1865; included is an introductory chapter describing John Brown's raid in October 1859. Bearss describes the terrain, tactics, strategies, personalities, the soldiers and the commanders. (He personalizes the generals and politicians, sergeants and privates.) Continued below...

The text is augmented by 80 black-and-white photographs and 19 maps. It is like touring the battlefields without leaving home. A must for every one of America's countless Civil War buffs, this major work will stand as an important reference and enduring legacy of a great historian for generations to come. Also available in hardcover: Fields of Honor: Pivotal Battles of the Civil War.
 

Recommended Reading: The Civil War Battlefield Guide: The Definitive Guide, Completely Revised, with New Maps and More Than 300 Additional Battles (Second Edition) (Hardcover). Description: This new edition of the definitive guide to Civil War battlefields is really a completely new book. While the first edition covered 60 major battlefields, from Fort Sumter to Appomattox, the second covers all of the 384 designated as the "principal battlefields" in the American Civil War Sites Advisory Commission Report. Continued below...

As in the first edition, the essays are authoritative and concise, written by such leading Civil War historians as James M. McPherson, Stephen W. Sears, Edwin C. Bearss, James I. Robinson, Jr., and Gary W. Gallager. The second edition also features 83 new four-color maps covering the most important battles. The Civil War Battlefield Guide is an essential reference for anyone interested in the Civil War. "Reading this book is like being at the bloodiest battles of the war..."

 

Recommended Reading: Gangrene and Glory: Medical Care during the American Civil War (University of Illinois Press). Description: Gangrene and Glory covers practically every aspect of the 'medical related issues' in the Civil War and it illuminates the key players in the development and advancement of medicine and medical treatment. Regarding the numerous diseases and surgical procedures, Author Frank Freemon discusses what transpired both on and off the battlefield. The Journal of the American Medical Association states: “In Freemon's vivid account, one almost sees the pus, putrefaction, blood, and maggots and . . . the unbearable pain and suffering.” Continued below...

Interesting historical accounts, statistical data, and pictures enhance this book. This research is not limited to the Civil War buff, it is a must read for the individual interested in medicine, medical procedures and surgery, as well as some of the pioneers--the surgeons that foreshadowed our modern medicine.
 

Recommended Reading: The Soldier's View: The Civil War Art of Keith Rocco (Hardcover). Description: A splendid collection of more than 100 paintings and sketches from one of the leading artists working in the Civil War field. The text features carefully selected eye-witness accounts that accompany the paintings, and the result is a moving ensemble of images and words that pays homage to the common soldier. Rocco's oils are reproduced here on acid-free, heavy art paper and placed in a finely sewn binding. "This art is more graphic than the most gripping Civil War photo or picture that I have ever viewed."

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