Thursday, January 1, 2015

Civil War Casualties


One must look hard at Civil War casualties to get the full realization of the devastating loss of human life over the course of the 4-year conflict. There were over 1,000,000. casualties (dead, wounded, missing) on both sides and this represented 8% of the population at the time.

Of the 620,000 men who perished in the war, more than two-thirds were by disease. The number of Civil War dead amounted to more American deaths than in all other American conflicts combined. Roughly 8% of the white population aged 13-43 died in the war.

It is hard to believe but over 400,000 men died in the war from disease alone. Diarrhea and dysentery were the worst two killers and along with typhoid, smallpox, measles, pneumonia, camp itch and malaria, the population of fighting men was decimated.

Men from all walks of life around the country were thrust together in crowded camps with poor sanitary conditions and this was a recipe for disaster. These men often had no prior exposure to certain diseases in their section of the country and they were highly-vulnerable to bouts of various diseases.

The strategies for fighting battles were clearly outdated in comparison with the devastatingly accurate weapons of the 1860’s. Men would march in neat columns to face the enemy and would suffer incredible loss of life due to outdated tactics vs modern weaponry.

The Minie Ball was a terrible advance in warfare that lead to many lost lives and countless shattered limbs. When the ball hit bone it would not only break, but shatter the bone into fragments often leaving surgeons no options beyond amputation.

Little was known about the spread of infection through blood and unsterilized instruments and it was not uncommon for doctors to work hours at a time using the same instrument on countless patients without once cleaning the device.

Battle of Gettysburg
The Gettysburg casualties were nothing short of catastrophic and it survives to this day as the bloodiest engagement ever fought by Americans.

51,000 would be dead, wounded or missing at the end of the 3-day battle and the devastation left behind in the small Pennsylvania town was almost too much to bear for the local population.

Thousands of men and horse carcasses lay roasting in the summer heat and the grisly job of burying the dead fell upon civilians and contractors hired for the grim task.

The Civil War casualties were devastating beyond comprehension and it would take many years for the country to recover from the loss of so many young lives.


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