The century-long American Civil War acceptance of a combined death toll of around 620,000 is way too low and is closer to 750,000, according to a professor at Binghamton University.
The American Civil War was fought between 1861 and 1865 and had over 2 million participants on the Union side and over 1 million from the Confederate side.
Professor J. David Hacker explains to journalist Robert Siegel in an interview that he came to his conclusion that the combined death toll was probably closer to 750,000 after comparing the 1860 census with the 1870 national census report.
Dr. Hacker told Siegel, “We follow cohorts across time. And by looking at the loss across that decade and comparing it to standards – like what is being lost among women – we can come up with an estimate of how many men are missing.”
The professor also explains that many other historians are not shocked with his new estimate. “I think we’ve known for some time that the traditional estimate we [have] been an undercount, based as it was on partial records – especially on the Confederate side where the record quality just deteriorates rapidly as the war closes. We really have no direct counts of Confederate deaths,” he explains.
Dr. Siegel went on to explain that getting a more accurate estimation on the death toll that the civil war caused is important in order to get a better understanding of the impact it had. He compared an 1860 national population of 31 million people to today’s 310 million and pondered what impact a war causing 7.5 million deaths would have today.
“You get some indication of how devastating the war was on the population, on the economy, on the institutions of 19th-century America,” he told Siegel.