Should the Civil War Death Toll be Reconsidered?

Written on:April 16, 2014
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Our understanding and interpretation of the American Civil War relies partially on the death toll. Indeed, with regard to most conflicts the death toll is usually one of the first facts (data) that is discussed.

The true death toll of the Civil War has been the subject of debate throughout the years; as well as on numerous blogs and websites including on here. Recent studies have determined that we probably have “undercounted the dead by as many as 130,000.” Still others say the true toll should be even higher if we count civilian deaths due to famine and disease as a direct result of the war. So how should we count the dead and should we reconsider the variables?

“The Civil War left a culture of death, a culture of mourning, beyond anything Americans had ever experienced or imagined,” says David Blight, a Civil War historian at Yale University.(BBC) Indeed, the assumption is that the war created this culture of death and cast a long shadow on future generations.

However, Nicholas Marshall yesterday discussed the Civil War death toll and had a little different take on it. Marshall wants us to “work from an assumption that deaths from disease were not viewed at the time as war casualties.” That disease was already a large factor and that death was already a part of the “culture of mourning,” if you will. That “Americans viewed disease — and the death that came with it — as a constant.”

dead-soldier-antietamSo if we take out disease, as Marshall suggests, “instead of 750,000 casualties faced by Civil War-era Americans, we are left with 250,000.” A significantly reduced number but more importantly it radically changes our perception of the war.

So regardless if you think the casualty rates have been miscounted or misinterpreted, there still is room for discussion and the death toll does still have an important place in our understand of the war.

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North Carolina Genealogical Society Journal & My “The Confederate Attack on Washington, N.C.” Article

Written on:April 14, 2014

Finally received my copies of the February 2014 North Carolina Genealogical Society Journal which published my article “The Confederate Attack on Washington, N.C.” In it I explore the nature of urban combat as the sacking of Washington, N.C. was one of the earliest known examples of fighting that involved citizens within a city who not only were victims, but took an active role in the engagement in some instances. The…


1,800-year-old letter from Egyptian soldier deciphered

Written on:March 20, 2014

According to news reports: “A newly deciphered 1,800-year-old letter from an Egyptian solider serving in a Roman legion in Europe to his family back home shows striking similarities to what some soldiers may be feeling here and now. Grant Adamson, a student at Rice University took up the task in 2011 when he was assigned the papyrus to work on during a summer institute hosted at Brigham Young University (BYU)….


The Gettysburg Story

Written on:December 5, 2013

‘The Gettysburg Story’ film dramatically tells the history of the greatest battle fought in the Western Hemisphere. Narrated by Stephen Lang (Avatar, Gettysburg) and directed by Jake Boritt, the stories of characters who experience the battle come alive through dynamic, innovative imagery that captures the historic battleground as you have never seen it before. Indeed, had a chance over the weekend to watch Jake Boritt’s stunning portrayal of that pivotal…


General Grant and the Rewriting of History

Written on:November 22, 2013
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This isn’t a full blown review of Dr. Frank P. Varney’s book, General Grant and the Rewriting of History, as I just started reading some of it yesterday. I’m jumping the gun here abit as after reading the Preface I could not put the book down. I believe it was Machiavelli who declared that you should judge a leader by those he keeps around him; his lieutenants, ect., the quote…


The Keeping Room… Historical Revisionism?

Written on:November 14, 2013

There’s a new Civil War movie in post-production (meaning its already filmed) that reminds me of Cold Mountain based on its storyline, it’s called, The Keeping Room. It’s by first time writer Julia Hart. The movie stars Sam Worthington who I really liked in Avatar! Here’s the synopsis from the Internet Movie Database: Three Southern women – two sisters and one African American slave – left without men in the…


BOOK REVIEW: Faces of the Civil War: An Album of Union Soldiers and Their Stories

Written on:November 9, 2013

Faces of the Civil War: An Album of Union Soldiers and Their Stories BY: Ronald S. Coddington Hardcover: 280 pages, 77 halftones Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press (August 3, 2004) ISBN-10: 0801878764 ISBN-13: 978-0801878763 This book has obviously been out for a while now and how I came to possess it had nothing to do with the book other than it had a snippet on a soldier in the…


Clara Barton’s Missing Soldiers Office

Written on:October 12, 2013

“What she did in nursing is incredibly important and we don’t want to diminish that at all. But to say that Clara Barton is a nurse is a gross understatement of her importance. The fact is that she was a relief organizer at a time when women didn’t do that. At a time when women found that they had to get men involved in order to be taken seriously, Clara…


Civil War Soldiers or Hipsters?

Written on:October 12, 2013

Recently stumbled upon this, very funny!