Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The War Between the States was deadlier than previously thought

The oft-agreed upon and repeated number of Americans - North and South - who were killed in the U.S. Civil War/War Between the States/War for Southern Independence is 620,000. That is the number I have always seen, and that is the number I have always taught my students.

However, historian J. David Hacker will soon release an article in which he pegs that number as at least 20% higher than previously thought. Hacker believes that the number of Americans killed during the War Between the States could be as high as 850,000, but is definitely about 750,000.

With the U.S. only containing a population of 31 million at the time, this number of dead is mindboggling. 620,000 was bad enough.

Hacker's numbers find most of the increase in the number of Confederate dead. Historians have always conceded that record keeping was never as complete on the Confederate side, and their casualties were notoriously undercounted.

If this new estimated number of 750,000 holds water, that would put the number of Americans killed in the War Between the States as about 50,000 more than the number killed in the American Revolution, War of 1812, Mexican War, Indian Wars, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Persian Gulf War, and the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Do the math yourself, and keep in mind that these numbers include deaths from all causes; not just combat. In fact, I will provide two numbers for each war, with the second number being the approximate number of actual combat deaths:

American Revolution: 25,000/4,400
War of 1812: 20,000/2,200
Mexican War: 13,000/1,700
Indian Wars: 2,000/1,000
Spanish-American War: 2,000/385
World War I: 116,000/53,000
World War II: 408,000/292,000
Korean War: 54,000/33,000
Vietnam War: 58,000/47,000
Persian Gulf War: 363/148
Iraq/Afghanistan: 5,000+/???

As if the War Between the States wasn't horrific enough...

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free... it expects what never was, and never will be." -Thomas Jefferson


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