Commentary

150 years

Civil War Sesquicentennial: The numbers are still staggering

Last Tuesday marked the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War. On April 12, 1861, the Union garrison at Fort Sumter, South Carolina, came under fire.

Four years later the bloodiest war ever fought by Americans came to an end. A century and a half later the statistics and scale of that conflict are still numbing:

• In all the wars fought since the creation of the United States, one of every two American war deaths occurred in the Civil War.

• Total number of deaths during the Civil War has been put at 620,000. That’s military deaths, not counting civilians. Only about one third of those deaths were attributable to combat. Disease claimed somewhere between 380,000 and 400,000 of those lives.

• It’s estimated one of every 50 Americans was killed in the Civil War. If that were to happen today, the number to die would be about 6.1 million, roughly the combined populations of Chicago and Los Angeles.

• There were an estimated 10,000 battles and skirmishes, about 2,000 of them given names. There were 14 named battles in Texas including the last one, the Battle of Palmito Ranch, May 12-13, 1865.

• In three days in July, 1863, 51,000 soldiers were killed in the Battle of Gettysburg, roughly the same number of Americans dying in the entire Vietnam War.

• Generals didn’t only plan strategy in safety behind the lines. They led the troops in every sense of the word. Eighteen Union and 11 Confederate generals died in combat.

• In fact, each side lost an Army Commander in combat. Union General James McPherson fell in the battle for Atlanta. Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston died at Shiloh. He’s buried in the Texas State Cemetery, Austin, and Johnston High School is named for him.

• Two hundred thousand African-American men joined the Union army and fought in the Civil War.

• Simplest statistic, so easy to overlook, and the greatest tragedy of all. The numbers are so high because all of the casualties, on both sides, were Americans.—M.B.


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2011-04-21 digital edition



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