Sunday, January 22, 2012

Recounting the Civil War Dead, Part 1

The gentleman to the left is Francis Amasa Walker, the man who may have just set Civil War scholarship on its ear. He was Superintendent of the 1870 Census.

Walker was an outside-the-box kinda guy--not exactly what you'd think for a census taker, but true. After the 1870 Census, it turned out the U. S. population was 38,558,371. This was weird, because it was only up 22.6%. The rest of the 19th century ten-year increments (called decennials) were between 32,7% and 36.4%.

Walker asked a lot of questions. Hey! Do the math! 3 million people are missing, FGS!!

War related losses are estimated by comparing gender differences in mortality in the ten years before a war, during a war, and after a war--that's a total of 30 years. If this is done to mortality figures in the 1850s, 1860s, and 1870s, in America, the results are at least 750,000 men.

If less conservative criteria are used, such as the violence before the War itself, and deaths which were war-related, but occurred after 1865, the number is closer to 850,000.

This suggests that more men died in the American Civil War than from all other American wars combined. 1 in 10 white men is a substantial increase over the previous ratio of 1 in 13. More widows, more orphans, less new families . . .

The Civil War has always been seen as a terrible tragedy. Just how great a tragedy it was may have to be reconsidered.

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