A bad day for America

As if the casualties from America’s Civil War hadn’t seemed bad enough, it turns out they were significantly higher than previously estimated:

For 110 years, the numbers stood as gospel: 618,222 men died in the Civil War, 360,222 from the North and 258,000 from the South — by far the greatest toll of any war in American history.

 But new research shows that the numbers were far too low.

 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.

Keep in mind, the total population of the United States was only around 33 million at the time the war began. By my math, that means that the Civil War killed over two percent of the national population, not to mention the millions who suffered injuries in combat.  To quote Axl Rose, that profound lyricist, “What’s so civil about war, anyway?”


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2 Responses to A bad day for America

  1. Bruce N True says:

    Interesting and illuminating. It shows how hard it is to measure a lot things.

    Given that it always disturbs me how earnestly we react to for example monthly employment. Last months numbers look weak, and their was a huge reaction.

    In fact though, that’s only one month, and it may be revised. Macro economic and a lot of other social statistics like war casualties are very soft. This case makes that clear. Look at population statistics, and you’ll see they’re often revised.

    With data take a chill pill and wait like the weather, it may change.

    • dedc79 says:

      It is, as you note, a good reminder of the need for caution in our judgments, especially at the rate information now flows.

      With respect to the Civil War specifically, though, the casualties were so high, and were known to be so high at the time, that i’m not sure a more accurate estimate would’ve changed anything.

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