04 April 2012

Updated Civil War Death Toll Estimations

In September a Civil War historian, J. David Hacker of Binghamton University, published his work of updated estimates of American Civil War deaths. Using the previous research of Provost Marshall James B. Fry, Francis Amasa Walker, and others, Hacker comes to a much larger number than assumed. The original 1866 death report by Fry for the Union army was 279,689. This number continued to grow as widows and orphans came forward to apply for pensions and survivors' benefits. A census superintendent, Walker, found a discrepancy in the 1870 census record (the census was taken every 10 years and the Civil War was fought from 1861-1865). President Grant pushed Walker to recount the population, as he felt that the country should have grown. Previous 19th century records showed a population growth of about 34% and instead the 1870 census showed only a growth of 22.6%. Walker argued the war was to blame for the lack of growth.

Walker stated in his report that the growth rate was a result of the...
“notorious and palpable effects of the war, which hampered the growth of the black population, checked immigration, limited marriages and births and led to the direct loss of close to a million men.”
 At this time, the Surgeon Generals office had recorded approximately 304,000 Union deaths during the course of the war. They did not factor in those who died from disabilities or diseases as a result of the war. With this in mind, Walker estimated about 500,000 Union men died. When it came to estimating the Confederates deaths, Walker found it more difficult. Estimating using the total roster count and assuming the death tolls as a result of poorer nutrition, longer service, and lack of medical supplies and resources, close to 350,000 Confederates died.

Unfortunately for Walker, the census was put under investigation for fraud, and others took up the torch of research. Researchers did find that the Southern states were largely under-counted during the Reconstruction era of 1870 and was not fraudulent. A former Union private by the name of William F. Fox, took up the research, using battlefield death counts (which are inconclusive considering that many died from battle wounds after the 'official' count). These "incomplete" records proved at least 94,000 Confederates died as a result of the war.

In 1900 Thomas L. Livermore, who was also a Union army veteran, decided to compare the battlefield death tolls, calculating the compared risks of malnutrition and disease both armies would have faced during the war. With this estimate, he was able to conclude that 258,000 Confederate lives were lost.

Today popular belief, through years of research, brings the death toll to 618,222. But Hacker wanted to challenge this. By using the resources of new technology and the accessibility of the 1850, 1860, and 1870 census records, as well as demographics, and other research methods, he was able to estimate approximately 750,000 Union, Confederate, guerilla, and non-enlisted men who died as a result. This new estimate is huge, because it shows that 1 in 10 white men of military age died during the war (of course it leaves out the deaths of African Americans and Native Americans who fought during the war, as well as civilian deaths—this could result in about 100,000 more deaths).

To read the complete commentary of Hacker, go here.

Here he talks about how the new numbers show greater devastation of American lives.

The Anticipation of Anniversaries & Reveals

From the Williams Family Collection
This week has been full of big reveals and anniversary celebrations. April marks a big month for genealogists and amateur historians alike. The month dawned with the ever anticipated access to the 1940s US Federal Census. I immediately jumped onto Ancestry.com in hope that this was not an April Fools joke and I sighed in relief when it wasn't. I have not had much time to search through the records, but I hope I can soon reveal more information about my family. I am especially excited to see the census record for my great grandpa who passed away nearly a year ago now. You can read the eulogy I wrote here.

I found this and thought this was interesting; a comparison of the census in 1940 and the census in 2012.

The U.S. Census: Then & Now
In other news is the 100 year anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. I will follow up with another blog post closer to the anniversary of the sinking, explaining how the Titanic is in more than just two pieces—as is the popular belief. But since we are drawing near to the anniversary of the maiden voyage (we all know the story), I thought it would be fun to show the popular James Cameron trailer. All of us who were at least pre-teens and teens during the 1997 release, who be flocking movie theaters everywhere to see the film back on the big screen in 3D.

Stay tuned to blog posts on: Titanic myths & legends, 1912 news reports, and Titanic & what we know today.
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