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civilian deaths civil war

Discussion in 'Civil War History - General Discussion' started by elliswa, Apr 19, 2011.

  1. prroh

    prroh Captain

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    A decline in the growth rate can be matched to the quarter military deaths for white southerners as well as extended absences of soldiers. Immigration from Europe, never of the same proportions as the north, was also interrupted. White emigration to other parts of the US is another, largely unknown factor. It is a wonder that the southern white population grew at all.

    As for southern Blacks, there was a great migration within the south as former slave families reunited as well as movement out of the south. There is also a question as to the census count of former slaves. They were no longer neat units who were counted by the information provided by overseers.

    The information provided was very interesting but statistical analysis needs to take take into account non-statistical factors along with raw numbers.

    Remember also that 2/3 of the military deaths were non combat related and must have spread diseases throughout the regions in which they passed. It was also a time when outbreaks of disease were common, even striking the White House. Might disease in the overcrowded wartime cities be more prevalent than the high peacetime rates?

    An intriguing subject, nonetheless. At the end of the day, I suspect all that would left is an estimate as McPherson and and others have done.
     
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  3. TerryB

    TerryB Major

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    One of the very touching things one reads in newspapers from the Reconstruction era are the number of ads placed by newly freed blacks seeking information about loved ones and relatives who were "last seen" years earlier.
     
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  4. Rob9641

    Rob9641 Captain Civil War Photo Contest
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    I'm looking at a letter from one Samuel Michael of Sharpsburg MD to his brother, dated Nov. 27, 1862. He writes that "the disease of the hospital has affected three of our family." Their mother has died, but he thinks Kate and Caleb will get well "if I will be able to hold out in nursing them." "John Smith" was sick with the fever, and also "Mary and Little John." The doctor said "Sally" was coming down with it, too, leaving just Samuel and "the old man" to care for everybody.

    Jacob Miller on December 7, 1862 writes his children that his brother Daniel has died; that Mrs. Adam Michael and her daughter have both died, as has Henry Mumma's wife, all from "the fever." "Many other citizens and hundreds have soldiers have been taken with the same, and many died..."
     
  5. elliswa

    elliswa Cadet

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    Here is an interesting source of statistics relating to the problem of civilian deaths among Blacks: http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/haines.demography. What it shows is grimly surprising.

    Below are White and Black fertility rates from 1840-1880. These are averages for the decades, not the years. Whites are on the left, Blacks are on the Right. Unfortunately, the chart does not show Southern White fertility rates – and I have not been able to find figures for these, although the sources I have checked claim that they were much higher than the rates among Northern Whites, and perhaps as high as the Blacks’: for ex: Mintz and Kellog Domestic Revolutions (1989) p. 269.


    1840
    48.3
    No record
    1850
    43.3
    58.6g
    1860
    41.4
    55.0h
    1870
    38.3
    55.4i
    1880
    35.2
    51.9j


    And here again are the Black population figures in the South for that time.

    1840: 2,641,977; 1850: 3,352,198; 1860: 4,097,111; 1870: 4,420,811; 1880: 5,953,903.

    Notice that Black fertility does not decline much during these years, and indeed, the Civil War decade from 1860-1870 shows a slight increase in the rate.

    Now, from 1850 to 1860 the Black population increased over 13%, with a birth rate of 58.6-55.0. From 1870 to 1880 the Black population also increased over 13% with a birth rate of 55.4-51.9.

    Common sense suggests that, from 1860-1870, the rate of increase would therefore also be about 13%, since the birth rate is virtually the same: 55-55.4. But that is not the case. The increase is only 10.8%, a more than 2% drop. Had the Black population in that decade increased by 13%, it would have been about 5,400,000 – about a million more than it actually was.

    What happened? Some Blacks went North, but the sources I checked agree that Blacks did not leave the South in large numbers at that time. For example:
    http://kids.britannica.com/comptons/article-197668/Black-Americans-or-African-Americans:
    “In the years that followed [the Civil War]… Migration to the North was relatively small...”

    No can the decline be explained by a decline in Black immigration to the South: there had not been any Black immigration to the South since the abolition of the International Slave Trade in 1808. Nor were the 37,000 military deaths among Blacks (some from the North anyway) sufficient to make a difference.

    In my first post I expressed disbelief in the estimate made by General O. O. Howard, of the Freedmen's Bureau, in about 1870, when he estimated that 25% of African-Americans died in the war – which if true, would be about 875,000. http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/wars19c.htm.

    While I certainly hope that his estimate is wrong, I can now see why he made it. His numbers do fill the gap.

    As for Southern Whites, lacking firm numbers, but relying on the claims of the sources I found, I would guess that they would show similar demographic tendencies. That is, a great many people who one would think would be there in 1870 simply are not (see my earlier posts).

    I continue to guess that the civilian losses for Southern Whites would be less dramatic than for the Blacks, since the mass mobilization of White males and the large number of those who died might well have led to a decline in the birthrate among Whites in 1860-1870. Still, the population rate of increase dip for Whites is about the same as for Blacks – and I doubt that military deaths, a declining birthrate, or a decline in White immigration (there was never that much to the South anyway) can explain all of it.

    I am not claiming any new particular numbers here (for that, see my first post: I guessed 200,000-250,000). But whatever the real numbers may be, again I believe that these added statistics for the Black population strongly suggest a greater number of civilian dead than the estimate of either McPherson or Ransom/Sutch.
     
  6. elliswa

    elliswa Cadet

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    I see that the chart I sent on fertility rates did not come through as it should have. Here are figures in (I hope) readable form.

    White Birthrate, by decades:
    1840-50: 48.3-43.3; 1850-60: 43.3-41.4; 1860-70: 41.4-38.3; 1870-80: 38.3-35.2
    Black Birthrate, by decades:
    1840-50: no record; 1850-60: 58.6-55; 1860-70: 55-55.4; 1870-80: 55.4-51.9.
     
  7. prroh

    prroh Captain

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    I think a case can be made that the Black population in the Old CSA may have severely undercounted in the 1870 Census due to the White census takers avoidance of the new living areas of the newly freed Blacks.

    At the end of the day, we are left with a "My guess is better than your guess" situation. Although the very high death rates at USCT camps suggests that newly freed slaves did not fare well in new, crowded environments.
     
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  8. Green Hill Farm

    Green Hill Farm Cadet

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    I was researching our farm and stumbled onto this thread. We live on Green Hill Farm which is adjacent to the Antietam battlefield and directly N of the town of Sharpsburg. Samuel, Caleb, the sisters and "the old man" all lived here and I am familiar with their story. Those letters you mentioned were sent to my father back in the 1980's. I'll ask him to dig them up and I'll try to upload them.
     
  9. Rob9641

    Rob9641 Captain Civil War Photo Contest
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    Welcome. If you haven't visited the Antietam VC for help with your search, give it a try. I believe it's Christy Tew who is putting together a program about the effect of the battle on the locals = she might have some info for you.
     
  10. Green Hill Farm

    Green Hill Farm Cadet

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  11. 101combatvet

    101combatvet 1st Lieutenant Trivia Game Winner

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    My guess is that the civilian death toll was extremely low. Most civilians had common sense to get out of arms way. The highest death rates among the civilian population were probably in the Bleeding Kansas region, most of those deaths were outright murder. A total of 56 throughout the war? Myth busted.

    http://blog.mises.org/1559/bleeding-kansas-not-so-bloody-after-all/
     
  12. Rob9641

    Rob9641 Captain Civil War Photo Contest
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    Did you intend the pun?
     
  13. 101combatvet

    101combatvet 1st Lieutenant Trivia Game Winner

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    Zip.... right past me.
     
  14. Rob9641

    Rob9641 Captain Civil War Photo Contest
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    The best kind of pun is the one you didn't know you made.
     
  15. BillO

    BillO Captain

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    Hello 101combat vet, my guess is that your guess is wrong. In the key areas of the battleground states I suspect that civilian deaths from disease and starvation were pretty high. I know that after the war a large chunk of Virginia was almost depopulated. Some might have been to people leaving for a happier place but I've heard some of the old stories about people eating the plaster off the walls after the war. If someone dies as an indirect cause from the war it is still a civilian casulity.
     
  16. 101combatvet

    101combatvet 1st Lieutenant Trivia Game Winner

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    Any thoughts on those numbers that died as a result?
     
  17. Lazy Bayou

    Lazy Bayou 1st Lieutenant

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    Does anyone know about the number of sutlers that were killed during the ACW?
     
  18. TerryB

    TerryB Major

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    It would be very hard to speculate about "direct" causes. People in the South were always getting yellow fever, small pox and measles, all of which could kill. Now when armies come through and camp in your area, you run the risk of being infected. Starvation might result from having your crops destroyed and your livestock carried off, but the Union troops didn't carry off or destroy everything, and really, hardly strayed off the main roads due to guerrilla activity. So someone you know can help you out by sharing food. The oral history in my family is that the men who were sent to Northern prison camps had to eat rats to survive, but I've never heard anything about the civilians having that forced on them.
     
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  19. KeyserSoze

    KeyserSoze Captain

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  20. elliswa

    elliswa Cadet

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    A couple of new books have added weight to my suggestions that civilian deaths resulting from the Civil War were higher than the 50,000 estimated by James McPherson in "Battle Cry of Freedom": Megan Kate Wilson's "RuinNation"(2012) and James Down's "Sick From Freedom" (2012). Both books include the Reconstruction as well as the Civil War in their discussions (just as one might include the Spanish Flu epidemic in a discussion of deaths resulting from World War I). Here are two paragraphs from the NY Times review of Down's book (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/11/b...-downs-about-freed-slaves.html?pagewanted=all):

    "At least one quarter of the four million former slaves got sick or died between 1862 and 1870, Professor Downs writes, including at least 60,000 (the actual number is probably two or three times higher, he argues) who perished in a smallpox epidemic that began in Washington and spread through the South as former slaves traveled in search of work — an epidemic that Professor Downs says he is the first to reconstruct as a national event.

    "Historians of the Civil War have long acknowledged that two-thirds of all military casualties came from disease rather than heroic battle. But they have been more reluctant to dwell on the high number of newly emancipated slaves that fell prey to disease, dismissing earlier accounts as propaganda generated by racist 19th-century doctors and early-20th-century scholars bent on arguing that blacks were biologically inferior and unsuited to full political rights."

    And of course what was true for the slaves (actual and former) must also have been true, to a lesser degree, for the healthier white population as well.

    Again, I would like to insist that the issue of civilian deaths is empirical, not ideological. This is not to avoid the question of blame, of course - but, whatever the numbers are, one can imagine arguments attributing blame for about any perspective one might take.

    I suspect that (1) a residual patriotism and (2) a willingness to believe in the greater humanity of Americans led past historians of all persuasions not to inquire very deeply into the issue of civilian casualties. But this is just a supposition.
     
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  21. kevikens

    kevikens Sergeant Major

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    I think the number of civilian deaths were higher than McPherson's 50,000 but establishing what was a civilian death as a result of the war is tricky business. What I think we need to keep in mind is that in the 1860's record keeping was haphazard in rural regions and during the war approached the chaotic and non existent not just for the military but in countless crossroad hamlets and out of the way hollows where census takers and coroners were not likely to visit and the few and possibly antagonistic neighbors simply did not care to take note of or report (to whom) the deaths of that widow and her kids last winter.

    I don't think anyone can establish some kind of war of extermination on civilians, even Sherman's "hard war" did not authorize that sort of thing, no German holocaust policy or Japanese "loot all, burn all, kill all" policy. I think, though, what we have is countless, literally, cases of women, children, the elderly, in the South perishing from cold, malnutrition and vitamin deficiency diseases and sometimes outright murder by deserter brigands in remote areas. Who would have recorded these deaths? And known how to record the manner of death? Where would they have been recorded? In the court house that was burned down last summer? By the coroner who was killed at Franklin after he was finally drafted? An old village doctor swamped with cases now that the younger physicians were in the army?

    No, I think that these deaths, far too many of them, ought to be considered as certain casualties of war as much as those wrought by shrapnel and minie ball. I don't think we have one anywhere, but we ought to have a monument somewhere (maybe one like the statuary dedicated to the Irish famine ship deaths of the 1840's) to those forlorn families for whom the booming guns of battlefields would prove to be their own death knell, in a quieter, more obscure manner, but just as certain as those of their husbands, sons and brothers.
     
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