Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Civil War sucked more for South than previously thought

Via LGM, a new analysis of the Civil War's body count:
America's most devastating war was far deadlier than textbooks say, according to a historian whose conclusions are finding support among experts.

The true death toll was probably about 750,000 - 20 percent higher than the traditionally quoted figure of 620,000 - and might have been as high as 850,000, according to J. David Hacker of New York's Binghamton University.
The excess is largely due to undercounted Confederate dead:
The old estimate assumed similar death rates from disease for Union and Confederate soldiers, even though the North probably had better medical care.

Hacker arrived at his conclusions after studying improved census data released mostly in the last decade, the news release said.

After looking at reported male and female survival rates from 1850 to 1860, and from 1870 to 1880, he developed a baseline for typical death rates.

Then, looking at the data from 1870 - the Census after the war - he realized a lot more men were missing than the old death estimate could explain.

His new estimate suggested at least 650,000 died, and perhaps as many as 850,000.

"Roughly two out of three men who died in the war died from disease" - everything from diarrhea and measles to typhoid and malaria, Hacker said. "The war took men from all over the country and brought them all together into camps that became very filthy very quickly."
Hacker concedes however that the 1870 census of the South was unreliable, a factor he's tried to allow for in crunching his numbers. See also his post at the NYT "Disunion" blog.


  1. I thought the business of estimating the missing dead by:

    1) Assuming that men and women would have been undercounted in 1870 at the same rate and

    2) Using the changed proportion of men to women to estimate how many men were missing

    Was really nice reasoning. I forget how he decided to adjust that 1870 undercount, but I thought the whole thing great work.

    Immediate endorsement by Eric Foner as definitive is a pretty good sign.

    There's a passage near the start of C.Vann Woodward's Origins of the New South where he enumerates the loss of life, livestock, farm equipment, etc. in the war that's quite powerful, even with the old numbers.

  2. So, up to around 8.5 million people by today's standards? (I have decided to call this "sexual inflation," as determined by the CPI - copulation products index).

  3. By the standards of history the south didn't do so bad. Will Durant noted that parts of Italy destroyed in the middle ages had never recovered its former population. At least we were not taken over by the Huns or Mongols.JL

  4. The war took men from all over the country and brought them all together into camps that became very filthy very quickly."~

    According to David Irving and the ICRC, this explains the cause of the inmate deaths from the typhus epidemic that ravaged the concentration camps in Germany and Poland during WWII. After the Soviet takeover of Auschwitz when the German retreated, more deaths occurred under their "watch" than occurred during the German administration.

  5. More deaths at Auschwitz under the Russians, Pug? I'm gonna need a cite for that. A non-Irving cite.

  6. The Russians and the ICRC are still withholding archival materials from Auschwitz-Birkaneau. Why, after all this time, do they still deny access to these archives?

    That's not a "cite," but may lead one to suspect that the reason for the "lost volumes" of death records may be that the 1944 and after death records would reveal politically embarassing culpability by the Soviets. I'm thinking that many of the Auschwitz inmates that were physically able, chose to evacuate WITH the Germans before the Red Army took over there. I don't think that the ICRC had access to Auschwitz after the Red Army takeover.

    There are times when the circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find the trout in the milk."~Henry David Thoreau

    Fishing for that "trout."


  7. That isn't going to net you 1.3 million dead. No one "volunteered" to march with the Germans; the Nazis evacuated 60,000 from the camp and left about 7,500 who were too weak to move. No twiddling with those figures is going to have the Russians killing more than the Germans.

    If you are wanting to play Nazi apologist or Holocaust denier, I understand that there are lots of other places on the internet where that's welcome. I grant you I hadn't seen the ICRC conspiracy theory before - that insidious Red Cross!