What was the general breakdown of casualties per their cause during American Civil War?

What was the general breakdown of casualties per their cause during American Civil War?

  1. What was the general breakdown of casualties per their cause during American Civil War?

    E.g. bullets vs. artillery vs. edged weapons vs. disease vs. natural death.

  2. Did that breakdown change in meaningful way between the beginning and the end of the war?

You can get a breakdown of the major causes of death here.

Prior to the 20th century (possibly late 19th), the dominant cause of death in war was disease: the troops were in close quarters with unsanitary conditions and inadequate means of handling these. This number was followed by complications related to injuries actually suffered in battle - frequently one would get a small injury and it would get infected and kill the individual even though it would be trivial to heal the wound in better conditions.

Unfortunately, I cannot give you a specific breakdown of blade vs. bullet (and I suspect that it would be impossible to do so), but I will say that, based on the artillery technology of the time, it is fairly safe to say that discerning the difference between bullet and canon shot would be quite impossible. Even if you assume that there was a substantial interest in maintaining those records, there would not have been effort made to determine which injuries are post-mortem.

Bruce Catton's history and Shelby Foote's history should have the details. I cannot check as my copies are at home. From what I remember, it was pre-battle medical care and unsanitary conditions that killed the most soldiers. The first use of modern rifles with Napoleon tactics contributed to the hight number of dead on the battle field.

According to John Keegan "The Civil War", there was multiple factors for wounds and deaths, and there was no clear account of which weapon was the cause of casualties. However, there are some elements to answer this question.

First, yes, disease were the first cause of death. But one can consider them to be out of the count of combat casualties.


  • Infantry shooting is supposed to be the main cause of casualties, since the record of the battles show most of the time that only shooters could stop an attack.
  • Artillery was very useful and dangerous at the time. But it was mostly a threat on a tactical level: thus, when artillery started to fire at a unit, the unit quickly fell back or tried to take cover: artillery hampered its move, disorganized but did not create numerous casualties. Even more, artillery often fired on units on a friendly zone, which means that wounded soldiers could be rescued by nurses. It did not mean however, considering medical capacities of the time, that all wounded soldiers were saved
  • Bayonnet and edge weapon: There were not that much edge-weapon engagements, even for cavalry units which mostly fought dismounted. However, some close quarter fights occured sometimes, and they often led to numerous casualties*


Infantry fire: Most of casualties, high proportion of dead

Artillery: Numerous casualties, not that much of them dead

Edge weapons: No numerous casualties overall, but an infantry unit in close quarter fight was promised to heavy losses

*However, such losses were caused by edge weapons in the close quarter fight as well as by other soldiers shooting in the mass

American Civil War casualties

American Civil War casualties are those soldiers, both Union and Confederate, who died, were wounded, went missing or were captured. [1] The American Civil War was the nation's bloodiest war. [2] The violence in battles such as Shiloh, Antietam, Stones River and Gettysburg shocked everyone in the country, both North and South. [2] It also shocked international observers. [2] Of those who died, by far the leading cause of death was disease. [3] The exact number of dead will never be known with any certainty. All Civil War casualty numbers are estimates, no matter what the source. For over a hundred years the total number of dead has been accepted by most historians as 618,222, generally rounded off to 620,000. [4] Newer estimates have put the number at about 750,000 or about 20% higher than previously approximated. [5]

Articles Featuring Civil War Casualties From History Net Magazines

In 1864, 200 acres were set aside for Arlington National Cemetery. Today, it spans 624 acres. Image: Library of Congress.

According to Dr. J. David Hacker, the traditional death toll of 620,000—which historians have accepted for more than a century—failed properly to account for several key factors, including the influx of immigrants into the armed forces, not to mention casualties among black women who found themselves victims of the onrush of war. Hacker employed a new range of statistical accounting to determine mortality, including a system called the “two-census method.” To measure deaths, he counts the number of 20- to 30-year-olds in the 1860 census, and the number of 30- to 40-year-olds who turn up in—or, more important, disappear from—the next count, 10 years later. The difference represents the number of young people who died in the intervening decade, and Hacker took an educated stab, based on a shrewd reading of regional loyalties, at determining how many of them likely perished on the battlefield and not home peacefully in bed.

It’s useful to keep in mind that the long-accepted 620,000 tally was the work of two energetic but amateur historians, William F. Fox and Thomas Leonard Livermore, Union veterans who read every pension record, battlefield report and muster roll they could put their hands on. Fox published his Regimental Losses in the American Civil War in 1889—and through their extraordinary research we learned that the average Federal soldier weighed 143.5 pounds.

Inevitably, the new death-counting process proved more complicated than even this. For one thing, apparently, the reunited country’s 1870 census was something of a hash, with a level of undercounting that made the complaints around our recent 2010 census seem mild by comparison. Hacker admits it also remains difficult to count civilians who died in wartime. And he’s still as intrigued as the rest of us by the challenge of counting the number of farm boys who died from sickness after exposure to germ-riddled, but essentially immune, urban soldiers. Union medical care, he further points out, was far superior to Confederate—and more Johnny Rebs might have died of disease than Billy Yanks. Deaths among African-American troops have long had a widely accepted numerical accounting, but these numbers, too, Hacker believes, deserve reconfiguring, though no one is quite sure how to do it.

Caveats notwithstanding, Hacker bravely aimed at revising the total count, concluding the actual death toll for the Civil War amounted to between 650,000 and 850,000—and by prudently splitting the difference, proposed a new number: 750,000, as reported in America’s Civil War in March 2012. It also inspired a major New York Times story in April by Guy Gugliotta (whose new book, Freedom’s Cap, by the way, tells the extraordinary story of the U.S. Capitol and the coming of the rebellion). The scholarly journal Civil War History not only published the Hacker findings but trumpeted them, almost uncharacteristically, as “among the most consequential pieces ever to appear” between its covers.

Drew Gilpin Faust was right. In her extraordinary book This Republic of Suf­fering, the historian and president of Harvard University reminded modern readers of post-war America’s obsession with Civil War death and memory. The rush to build cemeteries, monuments and memorials, together with the overwhelming responsibility merely to bury dead bodies, filled survivors with an abiding reverence for, and obsessive fascination with, those who sacrificed that the nation might live (and even those who gave their lives that it might die). Exhumations were common as survivors and widows struggled with competing notions of sacred ground. Soldiers cemeteries became part of the American culture—and not just at Gettysburg. Those old emotions remain raw. Mass mourning is never far from the surface of Amer­ican culture, and statistics not only encourage scholarly debate but expose unhealed wounds.

The new Civil War death toll numbers have stirred the pot afresh. In reporting the new statistics, the Times, for example, took an unexpected pot shot at veteran historian James M. McPherson, one among countless scholars who have long accepted the earlier 620,000 number. The article called out the dean of the field for using that number “without citing the source in Battle Cry of Freedom, his Pulitzer-winning 1988 history of the war.” The fact that no one else has ever “sourced” the figures did not seem to matter in the new rush to up the gruesome ante.

McPherson, in turn, had a bone to pick with yet another great historian, Mark E. Neely, who once convincingly argued that the Civil War was not a total war in the 20th-century sense. McPherson com­mented that the revised numbers suggest that Neely was wrong after all—for what else but a total war could produce such staggering casualty figures?

What is extraordinary about all this is that we still desperately want to know the truth—the whole truth, and nothing but the precise truth—about the toll of war. We may never find out for certain how many men and women, blacks and whites, native born and foreign born died to save the Union and destroy slavery. But as the new science and the new attention show—thanks to David Hacker, Guy Gugliotta, et al.—more than curiosity is at work here. Hacker put it modestly when he opined that “it is just a curiosity.” In a sobering afterthought, he wisely told Gugliotta and the Times: “It’s our duty to get it right.”

Harold Holzer is chairman of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation.

The South

In stark contrast, the South was a relatively sparse and backward section of the country. Mostly agricultural, to drive its economy southern aristocracy was infected with an enormous cancer that had grown from over Cost Of The American Civil War200 years of perpetuating the exploitation of human bondage. To most northerners, slavery and its debilitating side effects influenced and skewed the cultural, political, and social values of southern society and to some extent prejudiced the entire country, a condition that was an extreme contradiction to northern religious and moral principles. Consequently, the South was continually forced to defend slavery and their way of life. A slave-based society was the economic means by which the wealthy southern aristocrats could continue to survive in the style they were accustomed to and, they insisted, it would be defended to the death.

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What was the general breakdown of casualties per their cause during American Civil War? - History

American Civil War Casualties, Fatalities and Statistics

Total Killed and Dead Civil War Soldiers

Casualties: Killed, Dead, Mortally Wounded Civil War Soldiers

Casualty Does Not Equal Dead

Dead Union Soldier at Siege of Petersburg in 1865

Dead Union Soldier at Siege of Petersburg in 1865

Casualties include three categories: 1) dead (aka fatalities, killed-in-action and mortally wounded) 2) wounded and 3) missing or captured. In general terms, casualties of Civil War battles included 20% dead and 80% wounded. Of the soldiers who were wounded, about one out of seven died from his wounds. Over 2/3 of the estimated 620,000 men who gave their lives in the Civil War died from disease, not from battle.

Battle Deaths: 110,070
Disease, etc.: 250,152
Total Deaths: 360,222

Confederate Estimated Losses (Fatalities):

Battle Deaths: 94,000
Disease, etc.: 164,000
Total Deaths: 258,000


While it may be assumed that most causes of morality during the Civil War were due to battlefield injuries, it is statistically proven that disease was the number one killer during this time. According to “The Impact of Disease on the Civil War” by Intisar K Hamidullah, 3/5 Union troops died of diseases. 63% of Union fatalities were due to disease, 12% due to wounds, 19% of Union deaths were due to death on the battle field. Likewise, 2/3 Confederate troops died of infection. It was also found that more men died throughout this 4-year period than in any other war experienced in the U.S. Over 600,000 soldiers died during the Civil war whereas 400,000 died during WWI. (7) The image below reveals the month sickness rates of 1861 and 1862 in the distinct regions.


The soldiers had a 1 in 4 chance of surviving because of poor medical care. At the beginning of the war, the North had 98 doctors and in 1865, they had 13,000. For the confederacy, at the beginning of the war, the South had 24 doctors and in 1865, they had 4,000 doctors. (6)

It was found that between May 1 st 1861-June 30 th 1866, federal armies reported about 6,455,000 casualties, but more than 6 million of those incidents were for bouts with diseases. More than 157,000 Northern troops died from disease, compared to 38,115 death from battle or non-battle injury. (6)

While illness rates dropped in 1864, as soldiers who came from rural areas were now succeptible to urban childhood disease, the fatality rates didn’t improve. (10) The vast majority of casualties lived to go home and probably felt their hospitalization had been a positive influence on that outcome. (6)

According to an article written by Michael R. Gilchrist titled “Disease and Infection in the American Civil War”, causes of death among Union prisoners at Andersonville Prison From March 1-August 31, 1864 are as follows: typhoid/typhus- 199 deaths, malaria- 119 deaths, smallpox/measles/scarlet fever- 80 deaths, diarrhea/dysentery- 4,529 deaths, scurvy- 999 deaths, bronchitis- 90 deaths, inflammation of the lungs- 266 deaths, other disease- 844 deaths, wounds- 586 deaths. Likewise, the article by Gilchrist lists the causes of death of Confederate prisoners in Northern prisons as follows: typhoid/typhus- 1,100 deaths, malaria- 1,000 deaths, smallpox/measles/scarlet fever- 3,500 deaths, diarrhea/dysentery- 6,000 deaths, scurvy- 351 deaths, bronchitis- 133 deaths, inflammation of lungs- 5,000 deaths, other- 1,700 deaths. It is clear that disease trumps battlefield casualties at this time period. (6)

Out of the seven mentioned diseases, diarrhea was the greatest killer, which eluded approximately 20% of all deaths caused by disease, followed by 14% of the deaths for pneumonia and 13% for typhoid. It was also found in the article by Hamidullah that 60,000 soldiers died from diarrhea or dysentery in both the Union and Confederate armies. (7)


Before interpreting the data regarding combat-related injuries, it is important to recognize limitations in the reporting. In order to be reported, a soldier had to be either transported to or make it back to a field hospital, and this may have resulted in an underreporting of deaths from cannon fire. As shown in Table 2 , most injuries resulted from the Minié ball invented by the French officer Claude-Etienne Minié in 1849. The Minié ball is a 0.58-caliber bullet that is slow moving and is made from soft lead. It flattens on impact and creates a wound that grows larger as the bullet moves deeper into tissues. It shatters bone above and below impact and usually does not exit. Because of its relatively slow muzzle velocity, it brought bits of clothing, skin, and bacteria into the wound. The majority of gunshot wounds occurred in the upper and lower extremities, but the fatality rate from these wounds was low ( Table 3 ). Only 18% of wounds were to the abdomen, but these were more often fatal from intestinal perforation in the preantibiotic era.

Table 2.

Types of weapons and number of wounds treated *

Type of weaponNumber% of recorded cases
Conoidal (Minié) ball108,04976.0%
Round or musket ball16,74212.0%
Fragment of shell12,5209.0%
Pistol or buckshot3,0082.0%
Grape, canister, etc.1,1531.0%
Solid shot3590.3%
Explosive musket ball1390.1%
Unknown missile103,829

Table 3.

Distribution of wounds among those listed as killed in battle or admitted to hospitals *

Commanders in the field were also slow to adjust their tactics in keeping with advances in weaponry. In the Revolutionary War era, smooth bore muskets were accurate only up to about 50 yards and were difficult to reload quickly, making rapid repetitive firing difficult. However, newer rifled muskets in use after the first year of the war were accurate up to 500 yards, and troops could easily fire them at a rate of 3 times a minute and sometimes faster. In the Revolutionary War, men could charge a fixed entrenched position with the possibility of success, whereas in the Civil War this same tactic was sure to fail. This was evidenced by the catastrophic failures of Picket's charge at Gettysburg in the East, and Hood's charge at Franklin, Tennessee, in the West. Six high-ranking Confederate generals were killed at the battle of Franklin, where over 1750 men died in a 5-hour period, with another 5500 wounded or captured (13).

Perhaps the most famous example of a lack of appreciation for the improvement in weaponry by those in high command occurred at the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse. John Sedgwick was the highest ranking Union general killed in the war. While directing troop movements at Spotsylvania Courthouse, he scolded his men for dodging bullets from sharpshooters concealed in the distant woods. “I am ashamed of you dodging that way. They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance” (14). Moments later a bullet fired from more than 500 yards struck him in the head, killing him instantly.


The Union included the states of Maine, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, California, Nevada, and Oregon. Abraham Lincoln was their President.

The Confederacy included the states of Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. Jefferson Davis was their President.

Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, Kentucky and Missouri were called Border States.

On the homefront, the Union had $234,000,000 in bank deposit and coined money or specie while the Confederacy had $74,000,000 and the Border States had $29,000,000.


The population of the Union was 18.5 million. In the Confederacy, the population was listed as 5.5 million free and 3.5 million enslaved. In the Border States there were 2.5 million free inhabitants and 500,000 enslaved people.


With the exception of rice and tobacco, the Union had a clear agricultural advantage. Particularly horses: the Union had twice that of the Confederacy, 3.4 million to the CSA's 1.7.

The Union led corn production with 400 million bushels compared to the 250 million bushels in the Confederacy and 150 million bushels in the Border States.

The Confederacy produced nearly all of the nation's rice which amounted to 225 million bushels.

The Confederacy led tobacco production with 225 million pounds compared to 110 million pounds produced in the Border States and 50 million pounds produced in the Union.

The Union led wheat production with 100 million bushels produced in comparison to 35 million bushels in the Confederacy and 20 million bushels in the Border States.

The Union was attributed with having 40 million heads of livestock compared to 35 million in the Confederacy and only 10 million in the Border States.

The Union had 101,000 factories, while the Confederacy had 21,000 and the Border States had 9,000.

The Union had 1.1 million factory workers, while the Confederacy had 111,000 and the Border States had 70,000.

The Union had 20,000 miles of railroad compared to 9,000 in the Confederacy and 1,700 in the Border States.

Enlistment Strength

Enlistment strength for the Union Army is 2,672,341 which can be broken down as:

· 178,975 African American soldiers

· 3,530 Native American troops

Enlistment strength for the Confederate Army ranges from 750,000 to 1,227,890. Soldier demographics for the Confederate Army are not available due to incomplete and destroyed enlistment records.

Civilian Occupations

Farmers comprised 48 percent of the civilian occ upations in the Union. Others included mechanics, 24 percent laborers, 16 percent commercial, 5 percent miscellaneous, 4 percent and professional occupations, 3 percent.

Farmers comprised 69 percent of the civilian occupations in the Confederacy. Others included laborers, 9 percent mechanics, 5.3 percent commercial, 5 percent professional occupations, 2.1 percent and miscellaneous, 1.6 percent.

Bloodiest Battles

The bloodiest battles of the Civil War were:

· Gettysburg: 51,116 casualties

· Seven Days: 36,463 casualties

· Chickamauga: 34,624 casualties

· Chancellorsville: 29,609 casualties

· Antietam: 22,726 casualties

Note: Antietam had the greatest number of casualties of any single-day battle.

Troop Strength

In July 1861, the two armies were nearly equal in strength with less than 200,000 soldiers on each side however at the peak of troop strength in 1863, Union soldiers outnumbered Confederate soldiers by a ratio of 2 to 1. The size of Union forces in January 1863 totaled over 600,000. Two years later, that number had not changed dramatically for the Union Army but had dropped to about 200,000 for the Confederate Army.

The 642,427 total Union casualties have been divided accordingly:

The 483,026 total Confederate casualties have been divided accordingly:

Of the 211,411 Union soldiers captured 16,668 were paroled on the field and 30,218 died in prison. Of the 462,634 Confederate soldiers captured 247,769 were paroled on the field and 25,976 died in prison. The mortality rate for prisoners of war was 15.5 percent for Union soldiers and 12 percent for Confederate soldiers.

What was the general breakdown of casualties per their cause during American Civil War? - History

The Price in Blood!
Casualties in the Civil War

At least 618,000 Americans died in the Civil War, and some experts say the toll reached 700,000. The number that is most often quoted is 620,000. At any rate, these casualties exceed the nation's loss in all its other wars, from the Revolution through Vietnam.
The Union armies had from 2,500,000 to 2,750,000 men. Their losses, by the best estimates:

Battle deaths: 110,070
Disease, etc.: 250,152
Total 360,222

The Confederate strength, known less accurately because of missing records, was from 750,000 to 1,250,000. Its estimated losses:

Battle deaths: 94,000
Disease, etc.: 164,000
Total 258,000

The leading authority on casualties of the war, Thomas L. Livermore, admitting the handicap of poor records in some cases, studied 48 of the war's battles and concluded:
Of every 1,000 Federals in battle, 112 were wounded.
Of every 1,000 Confederates, 150 were hit.
Mortality was greater among Confederate wounded, because of inferior medical service. The great battles, in terms of their toll in dead, wounded, and missing is listed on this site:

The Ten Costliest Battles of the Civil War.

Some of the great blood baths of the war came as Grant drove on Richmond in the spring of 1864- Confederate casualties are missing for this campaign, but were enormous. The Federal toll:

The Wilderness, May 5-7: 17,666
Spotsylvania, May 10 and 12: 10,920
Drewry's Bluff, May 12-16 4,160
Cold Harbor, June 1-3: 12,000
Petersburg, June 15-30 16,569

These total 61,315, with rolls of the missing incomplete.
The Appomattox campaign, about ten days of running battles ending April 9, 1865, cost the Union about 11,000 casualties, and ended in the surrender of Lee's remnant of 26,765. Confederate dead and wounded in the meantime were about 6,500.
Lesser battles are famous for their casualties. At Franklin, Tennessee, November 30, 1864, General Hood's Confederates lost over 6,000 of 21,000 effectives -most of them in about two hours. Six Confederate generals died there.
Hood lost about 8,ooo men in his assault before Atlanta, July 22, 1864 Sherman's Union forces lost about 3,800.
The small battle of Wilson's Creek, Missouri, August 10, 1861, was typical of the savagery of much of the war's fighting. The Union force Of 5,400 men lost over 1,200 the Confederates, over 11,000 strong, lost about the same number.
The first battle of Manassas/Bull Run, though famous as the first large engagement, was relatively light in cost: 2,708 for the Union, 1,981 for the Confederates.
The casualty rolls struck home to families and regiments.
The Confederate General, John B. Gordon, cited the case of the Christian family, of Christiansburg, Virginia, which suffered eighteen dead in the war.
The 1st Maine Heavy Artillery, in a charge at Petersburg, Virginia, 18 June, 1864, sustained a "record" loss of the war-635 of its 9oo men within seven minutes.
Another challenger is the 26th North Carolina, which lost 714, of its 800 men at Gettysburg-in numbers and percentage the war's greatest losses. On the first day this regiment lost 584 dead and wounded, and when roll was called the next morning for G Company, one man answered, and he had been knocked unconscious by a shell burst the day before. This roll was called by a sergeant who lay on a stretcher with a severe leg wound.
The 24th Michigan, a gallant Federal regiment which was in front of the North Carolinians on the first day, lost 362 of its 496 men.
More than 3,000 horses were killed at Gettysburg, and one artillery battalion, the 9th Massachusetts, lost 80 of its 88 animals in the Trostle farmyard.
A brigade from Vermont lost 1,645 Of its 2,100 men during a week of fighting in the Wilderness.
The Irish Brigade, Union, had a total muster Of 7,000 during the war, and returned to New York in '65 with 1,000. One company was down to seven men. The 69th New York of this brigade lost 16 of 19 officers, and had 75 per cent casualties among enlisted men.
In the Irish Brigade, Confederate, from Louisiana, Company A dwindled from 90 men to 3 men and an officer in March, '65. Company B went from 100 men to 2.
Experts have pointed out that the famed Light Brigade at Balaklava lost only 36.7 per cent of its men, and that at least 63 Union regiments lost as much as 50 per cent in single battles. At Gettysburg 23 Federal regiments suffered losses of more than half their strength, including the well-known Iron Brigade (886 of 1,538 engaged).
Many terrible casualty tolls were incurred in single engagements, like that of the Polish Regiment of Louisiana at Frayser's Farm during the Seven Days, where the outfit was cut to pieces and had to be consolidated with the 20th Louisiana. In this action one company of the Poles lost 33 of 42 men.
One authority reports that Of 3,530 Indians who fought for the Union, 1,018 were killed, a phenomenally high rate. Of 178,975 Negro Union troops, this expert says, over 36,000 died.
Some regimental losses in battle:

Regiment Battle Strength Per Cent
1st Texas, CSA Antietam 226 82.3
1st Minnesota, US Gettysburg 262 82
21st Georgia, CSA Manassas 242 76
141st Pennsylvania, US Gettysburg 198 75.7
101st New York, US Manassas 168 73.8
6th Mississippi, CSA Shiloh 425 70.5
25th Massachusetts, US Cold Harbor 310 70
36th Wisconsin, US Bethesda Church 240 69
20th Massachusetts, US Fredericksburg 238 68.4
8th Tennessee, CSA Stone's River 444 68.7
10th Tennessee, CSA Chickamauga 328 68
8th Vermont, US Cedar Creek 156 67.9
Palmetto Sharpshooters, CSA Frayser's Farm 215 67.7
81st Pennsylvania, US Fredericksburg 261 67.4

Scores of other regiments on both sides registered losses in single engagements of above 50 per cent.
Confederate losses by states, in dead and wounded only, and with many records missing (especially those of Alabama):

North Carolina 20,602
Virginia 6,947
Mississippi 6,807
South Carolina 4,760
Arkansas 3,782
Georgia 3,702
Tennessee 3,425
Louisiana 3,059
Texas 1,260
Florida 1,047
Alabama 724

(Statisticians recognize these as fragmentary, from a report of 1866 they serve as a rough guide to relative losses by states).

In addition to its dead and wounded from battle and disease, the Union listed:

Deaths in Prison 24,866
Drowning 4,944
Accidental deaths 4,144
Murdered 520
Suicides 391
Sunstroke 313
Military executions 267
Killed after capture 104
Executed by enemy 64
Unclassified 14,155

Source: "The Civil War, Strange and Fascinating Facts," by Burke Davis

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