Discussion Soldiers listed as missing

EricW48

Private
Joined
Apr 18, 2015
I hate to sound gruesome, but given the furiousity of the battles how many of the men listed as "missing" should be listed as killed. I know that some had just simply run off, but not as many as the rolls show as missing. Is it just that there wasn't anybody to identify them or see them fall, or there wasn't enough left of remains to identify? I know it's impossible to tell, but was just looking for others opinion on the subject.
 

John Winn

Major
Joined
Mar 13, 2014
Location
State of Jefferson
There were lots of reasons to go missing: killed, got wounded and still on the field or in a distant field hospital, got taken prisoner, got separated from the company, deserted. After a while I imagine a lot of the "missing" got accurately reported as one of the above.
 

General Casey

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 26, 2016
Location
Massachusetts
I'm doing research into a talk I may give at the Antietam Muster (if I am able to go) on the 20th Massachusetts. One of the soldiers of Company I was reported as missing in the records. He was wounded and an officer told him to go to the rear for aid. They saw him walk off towards the field hospital but he apparently never made it.

Did he collapse somewhere and die? Decide to walk off? Get lost? Captured?
 

Ole Miss

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Regtl. Staff Shiloh 2020
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Dec 9, 2017
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Many soldiers were badly mangled and unrecognizable, especially at Shiloh as many Union soldiers were stripped of clothing and quite possibly buried as rebels. 2 days or more laying on the field would render many as unrecognizable
Regards
David
 

Cdoug96

Corporal
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Dec 22, 2016
Location
Michigan, United States
I have heard that canister shot from cannons could literally turn soldiers into a bloody mist. Picket's Charge and Fredricksburg come to mind. I imagine many if those men would be listed as missing in action, perhaps even listed as deserting. Can anyone come up with other examples?
 

rpkennedy

Lt. Colonel
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Location
Carlisle, PA
I hate to sound gruesome, but given the furiousity of the battles how many of the men listed as "missing" should be listed as killed. I know that some had just simply run off, but not as many as the rolls show as missing. Is it just that there wasn't anybody to identify them or see them fall, or there wasn't enough left of remains to identify? I know it's impossible to tell, but was just looking for others opinion on the subject.

In my experience with New York's records, they were actually pretty good about getting men identified in the proper category but they still had some men who were listed as "missing". I've found that those men almost certainly died on the field because the records are pretty clear about men who were captured (and later died so the records aren't complete), who deserted, and who ended up at a hospital. My personal shorthand is if a man is listed as missing with no other records about them, they likely died on the field.

Ryan
 

rpkennedy

Lt. Colonel
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Location
Carlisle, PA
I have heard that canister shot from cannons could literally turn soldiers into a bloody mist. Picket's Charge and Fredricksburg come to mind. I imagine many if those men would be listed as missing in action, perhaps even listed as deserting. Can anyone come up with other examples?

It's possible but one has to be REALLY close to the muzzle of the barrel when it is discharged for that to happen. For example, the Missouri drummer who attempted to jam a fence rail down the barrel of a cannon just as it fired at the Battle of Franklin. He was simply blasted into pieces. Canister could definitely shred a man at close range but would usually leave something behind, although identification might be problematic.

Ryan
 
Joined
Sep 5, 2019
I wouldn't assume that missing = killed at all. In a minority of cases it does. In most cases it means taken prisoner. I've found that monuments at Gettysburg for example almost always they list prisoners among missing. Perhaps a way of saving face to the unit.

I was reading a compilation of Union casualties for Gettysburg, a book called:

Union Casualties at Gettysburg: A Comprehensive Record

And most of the time in the listings I looked at, missing = captured or may not offer a further explanation but the soldier will be reported as later mustering out or being killed or dying of disease later in the war. When he's missing and never heard from again, then you've got what we would consider today a true MIA. The lack of dog tags and occasional poor treatment of the dead doesn't require a body be destroyed for it be numbered among the unknown, as great multitudes were. Oftentimes someone saw him killed or a surgeon at least recorded it as being true and when he was never heard from again you assume it was.
 
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