For decades, it’s been generally accepted that around 620,000 men were killed during the American Civil War. Astonishing — more men died during that war that all other American wars combined. Old tactics mixed with new ballistics technology made for a disgustingly deadly war — as Shelby Foote once said, the worst fights he’d ever witnessed were between brothers.
Take the canister shot, for example. It was coffee-can-sized artillery round packed with lead shrapnel. In keeping with old school tactics, opposing forces in formation would often charge right up to a cannon, which was loaded with one or two of these shots — Napoleonic era military tactics facing off against modern hardware. When the battery fired, there was virtually nothing left of the charging men.
Nevertheless, an historian has determined that the fatality number of 620,000 is inaccurate and has calculated a much higher number.
By combing through newly digitized census data from the 19th century, J. David Hacker, a demographic historian from Binghamton University in New York, has recalculated the death toll and increased it by more than 20 percent — to 750,000.
I’m not so sure about this new number. I’m more comfortable with a head count, but taken at face value, it’s catastrophic.
(Via Broadway Carl and Ryan Carson)