Why were there more US casualties than CS casualties in the American Civil War?

Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
W

wilmer1269

Guest
I was reading statistics on the civil war and apparently over 275,000 union soldiers were wounded or killed while about 137,500 Confederate Army soldiers were wounded or killed, half the number. Taking into account the union army size was much larger, the majority of all firearms were supposedly in possession of the north and they're industrial output was much greater (more railways etc); why was the casualty rate twice as high??
 

KeyserSoze

Captain
Joined
Apr 14, 2011
Messages
5,680
Location
Kansas City
The casualty rate wasn't twice as high. In the first place you're under-stating the casualties. Union dead alone totalled about 360,000 and while numbers vary, the total Confederate deadwere closer to 258,000 than 137,000. Of those totals, about 111,000 of the Union dead and 94,000 of the Confederate dead were as a result of combat and 250,000 Union soldier and 164,000 Confederate solders died from any number of illnesses. So in combat, Union losses were, maybe, about 15 or 16 percent higher. And that can be explained by the fact that more often than not the Union army was on the offense and the Confederates were defending.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

M E Wolf

Colonel
Retired Moderator
Joined
Feb 9, 2008
Messages
17,457
Location
Virginia
Wilmer1269,

Welcome to Civil War Talk dot com.

You wrote:

I was reading statistics on the civil war and apparently over 275,000 union soldiers were wounded or killed while about 137,500 Confederate Army soldiers were wounded or killed, half the number. Taking into account the union army size was much larger, the majority of all firearms were supposedly in possession of the north and they're industrial output was much greater (more railways etc); why was the casualty rate twice as high??
It is my personal observation and opinion that there are several reasons for the statistics.

1. Not all Confederate documents survived the Civil War. The muster rolls, descriptive sheets, Surgeon General in Richmond and other papers, were being destroyed and or carried off as Union troops entered Richmond, as fire was raging there also. Secretary of War Stanton did manage to crate up many boxes and sent them north but, as Jefferson Davis and Cabinet fled, they had papers with them too. What was destroyed on the retreat of the CSA Government is not known. With statistics being 'swiss cheese', there will only be best efforts in providing numbers.

2. Statistics are as perfect as the statistic keepers. Long engagements where under fire for more than a day, the reports are delayed until there is time to submit them. The morning report with aggregate numbers are the most important, followed by the after action reports aka AAR. There would be added reports via 'addendum' reports--at times correcting the report and or statistics. Seeing some reports, some are great with specific details--some are generalized and more likely detailed down in the Battalion level and lower.

3. The Confederacy, et.al., was by composition many states fewer than the Union army. Though the Union took great pains to attempt to keep accurate statistics those who deserted, POWs, missing in action were often in limbo. I would assume the Confederate Army, et.al., had the same issues with the 'unknown' status of the deserters, POWs and MIAs.

4. Diseases bloomed when all of a sudden, state's population were tossed together and their local immunity to diseases were no longer their shield. Mumps and sanitation related diseases wiped out scores of individuals. Though sick they would be counted as soldiers however, the ones healthy to take the field often bore the battle with less men.

Just my personal opinions.

M. E. Wolf
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

dvrmte

Major
Joined
Sep 3, 2009
Messages
9,862
Location
South Carolina
Even more interesting are the total of combined wounded and killed on the battlefield, compared by side.

Union - 385,275

Confederate - 288,026

At first thought, you'd think it was because of numbers and it may well be. The only problem with that, is that you can only put a certain amount of men on the firing line. Just because there's more men doesn't make all of them available targets.

As far as who was doing the attacking and when it was against fortifications, let's examine the major battles.

Top Ten Costliest Battles in Casualties:

Gettysburg - Confederates attack Union forces that sometimes used natural and man made fortifications.

Seven Days - Same as above.

Chickamauga - Confederates attack.

Spotsylvania - Union forces attack Confederates in fortifications.

Chancellorsville - Confederates attack against fortified Union positions.

Wilderness - Both sides attack, sometimes against fortified positions.

Stones River - Confederates attacked Union positions in the open and fortified.

Shiloh - Confederates attack, then the Union attacks.

Sharpsburg - Union attacks, Confederate counterattacks.

Second Manassas - Union attacks Jackson who is in some places behind a railroad grade. Confederates counterattack.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

dvrmte

Major
Joined
Sep 3, 2009
Messages
9,862
Location
South Carolina
It's amazing that there weren't more Confederate casualties, especially because of the better Union firepower. The had more and better artillery and state of the art ammunition for it, repeating rifles, and an excellent navy.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

cash

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Messages
33,426
Location
Right here.
I don't believe they had the Minie Ball at the Alamo. Don't know if they even had rifled muskets or rifled artillery.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

prroh

Captain
Honored Fallen Comrade
Joined
Oct 1, 2009
Messages
5,552
Location
Maryland
Not only were many CSA records destroyed, I think that commanders tended to undercount their losses. For example, Lee puts his loss at Gettysburg at 21,000 while research indicates 28,000 is closer to the mark. The 3,500 wounded left behind weren't counted. Whether sloppy record keeping or deliberate falsifying records, I don't know.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Top