Thursday, September 22, 2011

How Did They Figure Out How Many Died?-- Part 1

Thanks to the Civil War Interactive site for alerting me to this article from the Sept. 20th New York Times Opinionator "recounting the Dead" by J. David Hacker.

Civil War history has gone through several revisions, but since 1900, the number of dead has remained fixed at 618,222 on both sides. This is probably a significant undercount.

New estimates based on the 1870 census figure the number at 750,000 and possibly as high as 850,000.


THE PROBLEMS

Efforts to identify, rebury and count the dead began as soon as the war ended, but a precise count is impossible. Both armies lacked a systematic procedure to identify the dead, wounded and missing in action. There was also no official way to notify relatives. Some families inferred their loved ones were dead only when they failed to return home after the war.

Men went missing. Battle, hospital and prison reports were incomplete. Dead men were buried unidentified, especially enemy ones on a captured battlefield.

How Many? --Old B-Runner

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