The Cost of Total War in the South

Chapter 29, on “Lives Lost,” in the newly released booklet, “Understanding the War Between the States,” reveals startlingly higher numbers of people who lost their lives as a result of the War for Southern Independence, especially among Southern soldiers, civilians, and blacks.   New scholarly works on these topics are the basis for these significantly higher figures.   I learned this in research for the writing of this chapter.

The traditional number of soldiers who died as a result of this epic War, 620,000 (360,000 Northern and 260,000 Southern) has been revised to 750,000 (400,000 Northern and 350,000 Southern).   An estimated 35,000 white Southern civilians died, numbers very seldom even considered in the costs of the War.

Perhaps most astonishing of all, because heretofore very little attention has been paid to the deaths of black people caused by the War, the number of blacks who died in the Confederate States from the War’s causes may well have reached 200,000, primarily a result of the North’s lack of a plan for immediate emancipation and other policies of the “Union” government both during the War and Reconstruction, including the severe hardships brought on the Southern People by the blockade.

The Southern loss of life was so great that the prominent historian James McPherson believes that the total mortality rate of the South from this war — without counting the huge number of blacks who died — was greater than that of any country during World War I, a war so devastating that the West has been in decline ever since.  In World War II, only the region between the Rhine and the Volga suffered greater total mortality than did the South during the War, and this region included the Nazi death camps.

Almost 30% of all Southern white men between the ages of 18 and 48 died fighting for Southern Independence.   This ratio of deaths in a war fought today by the United States would result in 21 million deaths, virtually incomprehensible to modern Americans.  This rate of mortality is 300 times that of the Vietnam War, in which 58,000 Americans died.  Even World War II saw “only” 405,000 American deaths, itself a huge number, though paling in comparison with the comparable Southern losses during the War.

You can download the entire booklet by going to www.southernhistorians.org and clicking on, in the fourth block in the center of the page: “Free Download of New Booklet on . . . .”, and, on the link, click on at the top of the page: “Free PDF copy” of the booklet, which in this version is in its final published form. Some of the chapters are not the final version if one clicks on the individual chapters.

You might also enjoy these articles...