Interview with Kraig McNutt about casualties during the Civil War

CWG: How many soldiers fought during the Civil War?

KM: 3.8 million men (and many boys) fought during the Civil War, from 1861 – 1865.

CWG: How many fought for the Union?

KM: 2.8 million fought to preserve the Union, roughly 13% of the total Northern population.

CWG: How many fought for the South?

KM: Just over 1 million fought for the Confederacy. Considering there were around 5 million non-blacks in the South in 1860, that accounts for roughly 20% of the total Southern (non-black) population.

CWG: How common was it to be wounded in the Civil War?

KM: For every 1,000 Federals (roughly the size of a Regiment at the beginning of the war), 112 were wounded. That number was higher for Confederates; 150 of every 1,000 Confederates were wounded.

CWG: Did battle wounds kill more soldiers or disease?

KM: Disease was much more deadly overall. While a Union soldier stood a 1 in 18 chance of dying in battle, he stood a 1 in 8 chance of dying of disease. Johnny Reb stood a 1 in 5 chance of dying of disease and a 1 in 8 chance of dying in combat.

CWG: how was the North and South, respectively ready for the casualties they faced inthe Civil War?

KM: Neither side was ready. The entire U.S. Army only had about 16,000 regular soldiers before the Civil War broke out, and most of those were out West. In April 1862 at the battle of Shiloh we see the first real staggering casualty numbers of the war. In just two days the Union lost over 10,000 men (killed or wounded) and the Confederates lost 9,700. That’s nearly 20,000 men in one battle.

CWG: this must have put an incredible strain on the ability to care for the wounded and dying.

KM: These kind of casualty numbers caused an enormous strain on the medical care required for the soldiers. When the War broke out there were just 113 surgeons in the U.S. Army, by the end there would be 12,000 in the Union ranks, and an additional 3,200 in the Confederate Army. Many men no doubt expired on the field having simply bled to death before proper care could be administered.

CWG: did medical care improve much as the war continued?

KM: Care for the wounded improved greatly as the War drew on. Mortality rates for surgeries especially improved as doctors improved their understanding of the body, disease, and the application of medical procedures.

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