Discussion Question about CSA casualties

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#1
This is just something that I've never quite found a clear answer on. Admittedly I don't know a whole heck of a lot about how armies went about counting their losses in general, but this in particular makes me curious. It's pretty common knowledge among ACW buffs that when Richmond burned, many of their records went up in flames as well, including casualty reports. I thought I saw somewhere once that Confederate losses post-July 1863 are considered most incomplete. Considering 1864 in particular saw the most intense and constant combat of the entire war, I question whether or not they could have even kept up with counting their own losses during something like the Overland Campaign, especially in places like the Wilderness.

So I wanted to ask first, where exactly do the numbers for Confederate casualties in 1864-1865 come from? Post-war independent research? And how "complete" are those numbers considered to be? Or are they based only on the records that survived and should come with an asterisk? It's always seemed strange to me that we know that so many Confederate records were destroyed, yet precise numbers (not even vague estimates) are often thrown around for nearly every 1864-1865 battle as if they're considered accurate.
 

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#2
This is just something that I've never quite found a clear answer on. Admittedly I don't know a whole heck of a lot about how armies went about counting their losses in general, but this in particular makes me curious. It's pretty common knowledge among ACW buffs that when Richmond burned, many of their records went up in flames as well, including casualty reports. I thought I saw somewhere once that Confederate losses post-July 1863 are considered most incomplete. Considering 1864 in particular saw the most intense and constant combat of the entire war, I question whether or not they could have even kept up with counting their own losses during something like the Overland Campaign, especially in places like the Wilderness.

So I wanted to ask first, where exactly do the numbers for Confederate casualties in 1864-1865 come from? Post-war independent research? And how "complete" are those numbers considered to be? Or are they based only on the records that survived and should come with an asterisk? It's always seemed strange to me that we know that so many Confederate records were destroyed, yet precise numbers (not even vague estimates) are often thrown around for nearly every 1864-1865 battle as if they're considered accurate.
In total fairness, Confederate numbers are not entirely reliable throughout the war. Historians have a pretty good handle on the Army of Northern Virginia in the summer of 1862 (just before the Seven Days) but after that, the numbers begin to break down as the army's paperwork began to break down. Heck, we only have estimates for how many men Lee had at Antietam after 2+ months of marching and heavy fighting and some of those guesses cross a very wide range. When the armies were somewhat static, the Confederate paperwork generally caught up but when heavy fighting came, they just didn't have the staff infrastructure to keep up with it.

Now, add that to the fact that they counted casualties differently than the Union did and often didn't keep specific track of the missing, historians have had to rely on best guesses based on what we do have rather than the fairly precise numbers found in many of the Union armies. Some historians have published books on their studies of the numbers and they probably come closest but, as you said yourself, we just don't have a lot of the normal army paperwork that would solidify up a lot of these answers.

Ryan
 
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#3
In total fairness, Confederate numbers are not entirely reliable throughout the war. Historians have a pretty good handle on the Army of Northern Virginia in the summer of 1862 (just before the Seven Days) but after that, the numbers begin to break down as the army's paperwork began to break down. Heck, we only have estimates for how many men Lee had at Antietam after 2+ months of marching and heavy fighting and some of those guesses cross a very wide range. When the armies were somewhat static, the Confederate paperwork generally caught up but when heavy fighting came, they just didn't have the staff infrastructure to keep up with it.

Now, add that to the fact that they counted casualties differently than the Union did and often didn't keep specific track of the missing, historians have had to rely on best guesses based on what we do have rather than the fairly precise numbers found in many of the Union armies. Some historians have published books on their studies of the numbers and they probably come closest but, as you said yourself, we just don't have a lot of the normal army paperwork that would solidify up a lot of these answers.

Ryan
That's largely what I had assumed, and I'd heard that the figures for the ANV at Antietam (casualties as well) had been challenged in recent years, often presented at least in part as a defense of McClellan. How confident are we, exactly, in the figures for Union numbers/casualties by comparison throughout the war?

Another battle I've always been curious about is the Wilderness, and what exactly could be the reason for the disparity (about 5,000) in killed/wounded figures between the two armies there. It wasn't one of the battles involving Union assaults against Confederate entrenchments (Spotsylvania at least makes more sense), and even at Chancellorsville the k/w casualties are surprisingly close, yet there's a big difference at the Wilderness. When both armies attack and counterattack one another I'd expect their losses to both be pretty similarly high. The Union flanks got hammered so it makes sense that their losses are greater overall in that battle, but nearly 7,000 greater? (I could swear that I saw somewhere at one point years ago that Confederate losses were over 14,000 but I have no idea where I saw it or what the breakdown was) Does anyone have any more insight into the Wilderness figures, or could it also be just a case of missing reports?
 

DixieRifles

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#4
Some of it comes down to the nitty-gritty details as to How you count them and When you count them.

When I was studying the casualties of Fort Pillow(1864), I soon realized that I had to pick a specific point in time to, as they would say, take a roll call.
When did they take a roll call to count their dead and wounded? For a large and chaotic battle, they could not take a roll call at the end of the day. Units were still moving and there would be stragglers scattered everywhere. Okay, did they wait until the next morning to take a roll call which would allow time for stragglers to return and collect reports from hospitals? They couldn't wait too long because sometimes brigades or armies were immediately sent off to a follow-up skirmish or another engagement.

The "How" really refers to how did they classify a wounded. Some Confederate casualty reports will specify "slightly wounded" or "seriously wounded". Then how do you count one who is listed as "mortally wounded"? Again the time factor is relevant because if you wait a day, then a seriously wounded becomes a KIA or an MIA becomes a returned to unit and not a casualty. For one cavalry battle I tried to compare Union and Confederate casualty reports. The Union had a number for that 1-day battle but the Confederate cavalry had a report for their 10-day raid.

In order for casualty count to be accurate, the casualty report should be taken at the same time for both sides using the same methodology of classifying the count.
Maybe that is too much details to worry about.
 
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#5
A further complication in determining Confederate strength and losses was the following order issued by General Lee after the Battle of Chancellorsville.

General Order No. 63 was issued by the Headquarters of the Army of Northern Virginia, on May 14, 1863. It mandated that all officers were forbidden the inclusion in regimental battle reports, “the number of men taken into action”. The reason for this was “the impropriety of thus furnishing the enemy with the means of computing” their strength. This same order required “that in future the reports of the wounded shall only those whose injuries, in the opinion of the medical officers, render them unfit for duty,” and deprecated “the practice of including cases of slight injuries which do not incapacitate the recipient for duty.”[1]



[1] The Century, a popular quarterly, Volume 36, Issue 1, “The Chances of Being Hit” by Colonel William F. Fox, page 100


 
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#6
This is just something that I've never quite found a clear answer on. Admittedly I don't know a whole heck of a lot about how armies went about counting their losses in general, but this in particular makes me curious. It's pretty common knowledge among ACW buffs that when Richmond burned, many of their records went up in flames as well, including casualty reports. I thought I saw somewhere once that Confederate losses post-July 1863 are considered most incomplete. Considering 1864 in particular saw the most intense and constant combat of the entire war, I question whether or not they could have even kept up with counting their own losses during something like the Overland Campaign, especially in places like the Wilderness.

So I wanted to ask first, where exactly do the numbers for Confederate casualties in 1864-1865 come from? Post-war independent research? And how "complete" are those numbers considered to be? Or are they based only on the records that survived and should come with an asterisk? It's always seemed strange to me that we know that so many Confederate records were destroyed, yet precise numbers (not even vague estimates) are often thrown around for nearly every 1864-1865 battle as if they're considered accurate.
There definitely has been some historians disputing the accuracy of Confederate losses in the last few years. @Saphroneth and @67th Tigers are quite knowledgeable about number crunching and the disputes between the various contemporary historians on this subject.
Leftyhunter
 
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#7
That's largely what I had assumed, and I'd heard that the figures for the ANV at Antietam (casualties as well) had been challenged in recent years, often presented at least in part as a defense of McClellan. How confident are we, exactly, in the figures for Union numbers/casualties by comparison throughout the war?

Another battle I've always been curious about is the Wilderness, and what exactly could be the reason for the disparity (about 5,000) in killed/wounded figures between the two armies there. It wasn't one of the battles involving Union assaults against Confederate entrenchments (Spotsylvania at least makes more sense), and even at Chancellorsville the k/w casualties are surprisingly close, yet there's a big difference at the Wilderness. When both armies attack and counterattack one another I'd expect their losses to both be pretty similarly high. The Union flanks got hammered so it makes sense that their losses are greater overall in that battle, but nearly 7,000 greater? (I could swear that I saw somewhere at one point years ago that Confederate losses were over 14,000 but I have no idea where I saw it or what the breakdown was) Does anyone have any more insight into the Wilderness figures, or could it also be just a case of missing reports?
Union numbers are much more reliable, generally. The Federal armies had much more robust staffs which gave them the infrastructure to keep accurate counts of their men.

Ryan
 

Saphroneth

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#8
Also, a lot of Confederate records got set on fire.

There's at least one battle (Antietam) where we know the admitted Confederate casualties are an undercount simply because they don't report casualties for several regiments and one or two entire brigades, and we know some of those regiments were hard-hit so it's not just a fluke of statistics.

Antietam is confused because we're missing most of the interim data (the most recent previous report for Lee's army was 20 July(!) and it didn't include Jackson's Valley force or subsequent reinforcements to Lee), and it's quite possible Lee never knew himself how many troops he was moving around, but Thorp has found that evidence suggests that Confederate casualties were considerably higher than the CS claims.

Confederates claimed 1,674 killed and 2,292 missing, as well as 9,451 wounded, in the Antietam campaign.
Actual Confederate burials total 3,270 (which can be seen as not an overestimate since some Confederates fought in looted Union uniforms). Of these, 2,468 are known battlefield casualties (so would certainly be "killed or "missing" on the column) and 112 died of wounds in Union custody (so would also be "missing").

Additionally, after Antietam there were about 2,500 Confederate "captured wounded" in hospitals (of which 112 would be a double count) and about 3,000 Confederate "captured unwounded" at Fort Delaware (up from 60 before the campaign). There were also some 220 prisoners at Fort McHenry, and a total of about 2,500 were exchanged in October.

Using the lowest possible counts, then, Confederate unrecoverable casualties who did not make it back across the Potomac are:

2,468 (known battlefield casualties buried on the battlefield)
+ 2,500 (captured wounded)
+ 2,498 (captured unwounded and exchanged)

For 7,466.

Additional to this there were 690 Confederate burials south of the Potomac.



In the Maryland campaign the ratio of killed to wounded for the Union was about 1:4.3. This would imply that the total number of wounded for the Confederates was about 14,000, of which 2,500 would be "captured wounded". This suggests that the number of Confederate wounded not embraced in the above counts would be not less than the 9,451 claimed "wounded" in their post-battle report, but for the purposes of this enumeration I will assume that the 9,451 count includes their 690 post-battle burials south of the Potomac.

This means that the estimated casualties from the Maryland campaign as a whole for the CSA would be about 17,000 and could be more, though not all of these would be "battle casualties" (as many of the captured unwounded could be troops who fell out of line during the march from South Mountain and got swept up by the pursuing Union divisions).
 
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#9
A further complication in determining Confederate strength and losses was the following order issued by General Lee after the Battle of Chancellorsville.

General Order No. 63 was issued by the Headquarters of the Army of Northern Virginia, on May 14, 1863. It mandated that all officers were forbidden the inclusion in regimental battle reports, “the number of men taken into action”. The reason for this was “the impropriety of thus furnishing the enemy with the means of computing” their strength. This same order required “that in future the reports of the wounded shall only those whose injuries, in the opinion of the medical officers, render them unfit for duty,” and deprecated “the practice of including cases of slight injuries which do not incapacitate the recipient for duty.”[1]

[1] The Century, a popular quarterly, Volume 36, Issue 1, “The Chances of Being Hit” by Colonel William F. Fox, page 100
Now that's interesting to me, and it makes sense. Even though back then, a graze or a bullet passing through only meat (what I assume this is referring to) could still always get infected and turn into something much more serious and deadly later on. Do you know if the Union counted slight injuries along with the more serious ones, or did they similarly only count injuries that took men out of action?


Also, a lot of Confederate records got set on fire.

There's at least one battle (Antietam) where we know the admitted Confederate casualties are an undercount simply because they don't report casualties for several regiments and one or two entire brigades, and we know some of those regiments were hard-hit so it's not just a fluke of statistics.

Antietam is confused because we're missing most of the interim data (the most recent previous report for Lee's army was 20 July(!) and it didn't include Jackson's Valley force or subsequent reinforcements to Lee), and it's quite possible Lee never knew himself how many troops he was moving around, but Thorp has found that evidence suggests that Confederate casualties were considerably higher than the CS claims.

Confederates claimed 1,674 killed and 2,292 missing, as well as 9,451 wounded, in the Antietam campaign.
Actual Confederate burials total 3,270 (which can be seen as not an overestimate since some Confederates fought in looted Union uniforms). Of these, 2,468 are known battlefield casualties (so would certainly be "killed or "missing" on the column) and 112 died of wounds in Union custody (so would also be "missing").

Additionally, after Antietam there were about 2,500 Confederate "captured wounded" in hospitals (of which 112 would be a double count) and about 3,000 Confederate "captured unwounded" at Fort Delaware (up from 60 before the campaign). There were also some 220 prisoners at Fort McHenry, and a total of about 2,500 were exchanged in October.

Using the lowest possible counts, then, Confederate unrecoverable casualties who did not make it back across the Potomac are:

2,468 (known battlefield casualties buried on the battlefield)
+ 2,500 (captured wounded)
+ 2,498 (captured unwounded and exchanged)

For 7,466.

Additional to this there were 690 Confederate burials south of the Potomac.



In the Maryland campaign the ratio of killed to wounded for the Union was about 1:4.3. This would imply that the total number of wounded for the Confederates was about 14,000, of which 2,500 would be "captured wounded". This suggests that the number of Confederate wounded not embraced in the above counts would be not less than the 9,451 claimed "wounded" in their post-battle report, but for the purposes of this enumeration I will assume that the 9,451 count includes their 690 post-battle burials south of the Potomac.

This means that the estimated casualties from the Maryland campaign as a whole for the CSA would be about 17,000 and could be more, though not all of these would be "battle casualties" (as many of the captured unwounded could be troops who fell out of line during the march from South Mountain and got swept up by the pursuing Union divisions).
I think I've probably come across some of your Antietam posts before, these numbers look pretty familiar to me. It always seemed really strange to me that Lee supposedly had ~38,000 men at Antietam, but in virtually every other battle he tended to have 50-60,000+ until you get to the Appomattox campaign. Why would he go looking for a fight on Northern soil with an army that relatively small, I always wondered.

Shiloh's another battle that has intrigued me on this issue, since I read that Grant claimed his burial parties reported burying 4,000 Confederates (I know Grant challenged a lot of Confederate casualty claims in his memoirs, though he might have also underreported his own at Shiloh), and came across a report by a "Colonel E.T. Lee" claiming that both armies at Shiloh lost nearly 20,000 men each, I think, which would be nuts as Shiloh would suddenly become the second bloodiest battle of the war, if that's true. Then again, the "generally accepted" numbers for other battles might also be low. I haven't yet come across anything from any historians who might have looked into that, but I was always so perplexed by the idea that Beauregard, or anyone, could complete a report on his own casualties within days of the battle, having been forced from the field, and have those numbers remain largely unchallenged for 150+ years. In that situation, I would personally assume that a general would only know for sure how many of his men were wounded and how many were no longer present (killed and left on the field, captured or otherwise missing). Same thing with battles like Chickamauga (from the Union side) and Chattanooga, in fact.

On the issue of the Confederate records lost when Richmond burned, is it a safe assumption that most of their most recent records from the Overland and Petersburg campaigns were likely lost as well? I said before that I have a difficult time imagining the CSA being able to keep up with recording their own casualties in May-June 1864, and while I certainly think they had to have been lower than the Union's losses I can't help but think that between the intensity of the carnage and the loss of their records that any estimate, no matter how well-researched, has to be considered unreliable or conservative at best. Even without touching the issues of disease or desertion during that same time.
 

Tom Elmore

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#11
For a battle like Gettysburg, the process of figuring out casualties is not completely done yet! Letters, diaries, counts made for local newspapers, official reports, bi-monthly rolls (that may or may not be available or complete), Federal prisoner records, etc. all help to identify casualties. Even then, some who thought to be alive at the time could actually be dead, and some who were thought to be dead could actually be alive, which might not come to light until much later. I have even discovered a very few apparent errors in a recent outstandingly comprehensive published work like the four-volume Confederate Casualties at Gettysburg. For example, Private Mias A. Wilson of Company F, 16th North Carolina, who was assumed to have been killed. Mias actually deserted and was taken in by a local farmer's family, where he lived out a full and long life. So some error evidently exists in even seemingly "definitive" counts 156 years after the fact. The best we can hope for, even after exhaustive research, is "reasonably accurate" numbers.
 

Saphroneth

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#12
I think I've probably come across some of your Antietam posts before, these numbers look pretty familiar to me. It always seemed really strange to me that Lee supposedly had ~38,000 men at Antietam, but in virtually every other battle he tended to have 50-60,000+ until you get to the Appomattox campaign. Why would he go looking for a fight on Northern soil with an army that relatively small, I always wondered.
As far as we can tell the answer is straggling, plus definitions, plus some cases of dodgy counting.

The straggling one is easy enough to explain - the number of men actually in Lee's moving army in total was about 75,000 (PFD) which is reached from three independent metrics, but large numbers of men were sick or dropped out temporarily on a high speed march. Anyone who dropped out on the march from South Mountain to Antietam would have just been captured, but anyone who was in the wing that marched to Antietam south of the Potomac and who dropped out on the high speed march wouldn't have been. Antietam saw both armies straggle heavily, and the problem is that McClellan gave his strength before straggling (because it was the number he had) while Lee didn't have any such number to give.

The second problem is definitions.

Regulation methods of reporting strength at the time at a high level were PFD, AP and AP&A.

PFD is all men present for duty (reported separately for officers and men) where "present for duty" refers to those able to fight in the line of battle plus those with certain other duties.

AP is Aggregate Present and refers to all men actually with the army; this includes those on more types of duty than PFD, and (IIRC) it also includes men who are sick. This can also be thought of as "ration strength" or "pay strength".

And AP&A is Aggregate Present and Absent, which refers to Aggregate Present plus the total of men who are absent from the army with or without leave. Late in the war this distinction became huge - as of early 1865 a third of the entire Union army was absent with or without leave.

The Confederates (at least in the East) did something slightly different, possibly because a lot of their logistics duties were covered by (put delicately) black men, many of whom did not want to be there. They developed a tendency to report "effectives", and what they meant by this varies but it can be generally thought of as "the number of men actually able to fight in the line of battle"; it's less than PFD and can be much less.

Over time the extra-duty men in the Union army were shifted out of the PFD column, making the two armies more comparable in their strength measures, but this hadn't happened as of Antietam.


The third problem is that the Confederates often used somewhat dodgy counting methods and these are often the most widely reported values we have for Antietam. For example, Jackson's division is listed according to a certain strength it had pretty much exactly when it arrived on the battlefield; however, this was most of a day before they fought and there is positive evidence that many of the men who had fallen out on the forced-march came back up again and made up the numbers. (Jackson's division is given as 1,784 infantry and 310 artillery, which is the state on the afternoon of the 16th; the acting commander of Starkes' brigade said that his brigade alone had 1,400 to 1,500 men in action, and Starkes' brigade may have been the largest of Jackson's four brigades but not by that much...)

This played into a natural tendency for the CSA to try and emphasize how much they'd only been beaten by overwhelming force clumsily applied by idiot Union generals, which was to take a large measure of Union strength and match it against a small Confederate one so as to imply that Confederates were superhuman compared to Union troops.


So long as you're comparing numbers obtained by similar derivations for both sides, it's fine; the problem comes when you count troops by one method for one side and the other method for the other side. So Lee's force in the Maryland campaign was about 75,000 PFD before straggling, and McClellan's was about 87,000 PFD before straggling; after straggling and/or reducing to effectives the picture was probably about the same, with McClellan's force a little larger and stragglers littering the approach roads.

If nothing else, this does explain why exactly Lee thought it was worthwhile invading the North, and why Lee's October 10 returns give his strength somewhat north of 60,000 - which would have made invading when he did incredibly stupid if he'd really only taken 40,000 men across the Potomac. Why take 40,000 men north when you could wait and recieve an extra 35,000 reinforcements?




Interestingly, this point about different definitions also speaks to what casualties mean.
Short term, an army with 40,000 effectives which loses 15,000 casualties has suffered a body blow; long term, an army with 75,000 PFD which loses 15,000 casualties can recover quite substantially because it can shift men out of the logistics that supported the now-missing troops (which would show up on regimental returns as a reduction in the number of extra-duty men and an increase in the line strength), though of course caring for the wounded can also soak up a large number of men which is one reason why hospitals were so important.
 
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Saphroneth

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#13
An interesting case study is Hood's army. These are the returns for his infantry effectives:



30th June 1864: 39,397
31st July: 30,451
10th August: 29,923
20th September: 27,094
6th November: 25,889
10th December: 18,342
20th January 1865: 14,870

This shows that, in terms of his fighting strength, Nashville was not actually a very nasty defeat for him - either he didn't take many casualties there or he was able to shift men out of logistics or the sick list to make them up, but he suffered 3,500 casualties in forty days. It was however ca. 20% of his infantry strength, but he suffered more proportionally during the Atlanta campaign.
 
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#14
Now that's interesting to me, and it makes sense. Even though back then, a graze or a bullet passing through only meat (what I assume this is referring to) could still always get infected and turn into something much more serious and deadly later on. Do you know if the Union counted slight injuries along with the more serious ones, or did they similarly only count injuries that took men out of action?




I think I've probably come across some of your Antietam posts before, these numbers look pretty familiar to me. It always seemed really strange to me that Lee supposedly had ~38,000 men at Antietam, but in virtually every other battle he tended to have 50-60,000+ until you get to the Appomattox campaign. Why would he go looking for a fight on Northern soil with an army that relatively small, I always wondered.

Shiloh's another battle that has intrigued me on this issue, since I read that Grant claimed his burial parties reported burying 4,000 Confederates (I know Grant challenged a lot of Confederate casualty claims in his memoirs, though he might have also underreported his own at Shiloh), and came across a report by a "Colonel E.T. Lee" claiming that both armies at Shiloh lost nearly 20,000 men each, I think, which would be nuts as Shiloh would suddenly become the second bloodiest battle of the war, if that's true. Then again, the "generally accepted" numbers for other battles might also be low. I haven't yet come across anything from any historians who might have looked into that, but I was always so perplexed by the idea that Beauregard, or anyone, could complete a report on his own casualties within days of the battle, having been forced from the field, and have those numbers remain largely unchallenged for 150+ years. In that situation, I would personally assume that a general would only know for sure how many of his men were wounded and how many were no longer present (killed and left on the field, captured or otherwise missing). Same thing with battles like Chickamauga (from the Union side) and Chattanooga, in fact.

On the issue of the Confederate records lost when Richmond burned, is it a safe assumption that most of their most recent records from the Overland and Petersburg campaigns were likely lost as well? I said before that I have a difficult time imagining the CSA being able to keep up with recording their own casualties in May-June 1864, and while I certainly think they had to have been lower than the Union's losses I can't help but think that between the intensity of the carnage and the loss of their records that any estimate, no matter how well-researched, has to be considered unreliable or conservative at best. Even without touching the issues of disease or desertion during that same time.
This is not answering your questions, but I'll offer a comment on the practice of not reporting all wounded men after GO 63. I know of at least one case where the soldier's wound incapacitated him for line duty, but not for staff duty, so the wound wasn't reported. The man was transferred from line duty to commissary duty. Once he was fit for line duty again, he returned to the line.

So just because a man isn't "unfit for duty" that doesn't mean he's fit for duty on the line.

Btw there are other ways to try to identify the wounded who weren't rendered unfit for duty--pension applications, newspaper stories, letters home, etc. but even if we had perfect access to all those documents (and of course we don't) they still wouldn't give us a complete picture of all Confederate WIA after General Order 63.
 
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#15
Thanks for all of the replies, everyone.

An interesting case study is Hood's army. These are the returns for his infantry effectives:



30th June 1864: 39,397
31st July: 30,451
10th August: 29,923
20th September: 27,094
6th November: 25,889
10th December: 18,342
20th January 1865: 14,870

This shows that, in terms of his fighting strength, Nashville was not actually a very nasty defeat for him - either he didn't take many casualties there or he was able to shift men out of logistics or the sick list to make them up, but he suffered 3,500 casualties in forty days. It was however ca. 20% of his infantry strength, but he suffered more proportionally during the Atlanta campaign.
So is the estimate that Hood had about 30,000 men in total at Nashville still accurate, just only 18,000 were "effectives"? Thomas stated that he captured 4,500+ Confederates at Nashville and more during the retreat, I believe, with supposedly no official estimates existing for killed/wounded. Does that just mean that many of his prisoners weren't "effectives"? Perhaps men still recovering from wounds at Franklin or something? I had always heard that the AoT suffered heavily from desertion and shrank considerably following Nashville as men simply started to give up.

Something else I wondered about recently, do the estimates for Confederate casualties that we have include state troops/militia? I remember reading that at Raymond in May 1863 Gregg's forces were bolstered by state militia (and volunteers?), and that his casualty report only accounted for his own troops, which is why he reported about 500 casualties when the total was over 800, so I wonder if historians count those kinds of casualties as well (I think at Griswoldville the only Confederate forces were militia?) in their totals? And also if the Confederates began to rely more on state militias later in the war, as I haven't really looked too much into it before.
 

Saphroneth

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#16
So is the estimate that Hood had about 30,000 men in total at Nashville still accurate, just only 18,000 were "effectives"? Thomas stated that he captured 4,500+ Confederates at Nashville and more during the retreat, I believe, with supposedly no official estimates existing for killed/wounded. Does that just mean that many of his prisoners weren't "effectives"? Perhaps men still recovering from wounds at Franklin or something? I had always heard that the AoT suffered heavily from desertion and shrank considerably following Nashville as men simply started to give up.

The real lesson is that we should compare armies by the same metrics. If we measure Hood's army at Nashville by effectives, PFD or Present we should do the same to Thomas' army.

Counting non-infantry arms (i.e. cavalry, artillery) as well as infantry arms, Hood's strength on 10th December was:

Effectives 23,000
PFD 26,850
AP 36,400
AP&A 87,000


Thomas' report of his December 10 state gives his PFD broken down by units, and if I sum up the total for all the units actually at Nashville during the battle of Nashville (GHQ, 4th AC, 23rd AC, Det. AoT (Smith), District of the Etowah, and all but 2nd division of the cavalry corps) it comes out as 62,500 PFD.

Thus we can state fairly confidently that Hood had less than 30,000 men at Nashville and that Thomas had more than 60,000 men, if you measure both by PFD. If you measure by Aggregate Present Hood probably has more than 30,000 men (given diminuition over the intervening couple of weeks), but I would expect Thomas' AP from the 10 Dec report to be north of 70,000 (haven't checked)


The trajectory of a single consistent metric (Hood's infantry effectives) seems to show that Hood's army mostly went to pieces after it "broke clean", though it's possible that it left large portions of the logs train behind on the retreat and this contributed to the disintegration.
 

Saphroneth

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#17
In effect, you can think of the same set of casualties in several ways:


Men killed are permanently removed from your army.
Men maimed to the point of being unable to fight in future are permanently removed from your army.
Men wounded (or captured, if you have the prisoners to exchange) are temporarily removed from your army but you could get them back in future.

Short term (same battle), casualties in your effective men deduct from your effective men. For example at Gettysburg casualties on day one remove from the line strength on day two, unless you reorg somewhat.

Medium term (same campaign), casualties deduct from your men present - that is, if you had 1,000 men and 60% of them are effective, you have 600 effectives. If you then take 200 casualties, you're down to 800 men, but you can reorg so that you still have 60% of your men effective and now you're at 480 men.
This only applies if you can send the wounded off to the rear. If your wounded have to be cared for by your men, one wounded casualty deducts from your effectives by perhaps 1.1 or even 1.5.

Long term, only the killed and permanently maimed actually deduct from your army for attrition purposes.

My understanding is that, for example, Lee's army had a large body of men who generally sort of sloshed back and forth between the army and the hospitals, which is why the army likely took more casualties in total than the number of men who were ever part of the army. The effect on the actual field strength of a battle like Antietam is to cause a sharp dip which slowly recovers naturally (as men get healthy and as regiments re-org their ratio of line strength to logs strength) but which never returns back to the strength beforehand unless an outside source of strength comes in (such as new levies being transferred into the army or a change of policy).
 

Saphroneth

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#18
A good example of this is looking at the strength of the AoNV over the time from pre-Second Bull Run to post-Antietam.




Pre-Second Bull Run status:

22,500 Jackson
Forces ordered up before Second Bull Run (strength based on 20 July reports) 31,768
Forces ordered up after Second Bull Run (strength based on 20 July reports) 22,250
Total 76,500

Strength on entering Maryland

Carried over
76,500
Effect of Second Bull Run + Chantilly
-8,000
Any effects during the Northern Virginia campaign (straggling and/or replenishment)
+ x (unknown value)
Strength on crossing the Potomac
68,500 + x

Strength at Frederick

Carried over
68,500 + x
Effects during early Maryland campaign (straggling)
+y (unknown value)
68,500 +x +y

Strength at Antietam

Carried over
68,500 +x +y
Effects during late Maryland campaign (permanent straggling)
+z
(Temporary straggling)
+s
Antietam strength
68,500 + s + x + y + z


Strength after Antietam (October 10 strength)

Carried over
68,500 +x +y +z
Casualties in Maryland campaign
286 Harpers Ferry + 887 Crampton's Gap + 2,685 South Mountain + (at least) 10,316 Antietam + 307 Shepherdstown
So
-14,500
Post-Antietam reinforcement
+w

October 10 total
54,000 +w +x +y +z
= 64,500 (October 10 return)

So w +x +y +z = 10,500.



Note that some of these numbers must be negative (s certainly is), but the stats show that if you take Lee's army that marched north and deduct known casualties it should be smaller than it ends up; that is, some genuine replenishment took place between 20 July and 10 October, to a greater extent than straggling and attrition losses ate up the strength of the army. These probably amount mostly to recovered Seven Days casualties and later on recovered Second Bull Run casualties.
 

Coonewah Creek

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Jun 1, 2018
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Location
Northern Alabama
#19
Col. Trevor Dupuy's classic study, HANDBOOK ON GROUND FORCES ATTRITION IN MODERN WARFARE, SEPTEMBER 1986, shows that for the American Civil War, the ratio of wounded to killed was 4.55:1 and the ratio of surviving wounded to battle deaths was 2.38:1. You could try applying those ratios to come up with a reasonable estimate of the total number of deaths, both KIA'd and later died of wounds, and wounded but survived and probably returned to the ranks. There are any number of reasons those ratios don't match any particular battle precisely, but as far as I know, his are the only aggregate averages published.
 

Saphroneth

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#20
It's actually interesting to contemplate whether the ratio changed during the war.

Early on both sides were mostly using smoothbore muskets, while later on rifle-muskets were ubiquitous. The range of combat wasn't much different for the two types of weapon, but there would be a tendency for a rifle ball to produce less severe wounds than a smoothbore musket ball.

This is because the ranges were much the same and the muzzle velocity (and I believe bullet mass) of the .58 cal rifles was lower than that of the M1842 smoothbore and the other early smoothbores.

This is why there are "terrible wounds" reported from the Minie ball - those who had been struck in those ways lived, while an equivalent hit from a smoothbore ball at a higher velocity would have killed.
 



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