Civil War Deaths and 9/11

Printable Version

Digital History ID 4520
From the National Park Service: The Journal of Heritage Stewardship, Volume 4, Number 2, Summer 2007, by John A. Latschar, Ph.D., the superintendent of Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.

In 1860, the total population of the United States was 31.4 million;

  • 3.8 million men - approximately 12 percent of the total population - were enrolled in military service;
  • 620,000 lost their lives (2 percent of the total population) in the war.

If there were another Civil War today, and those same percentages were still true, then:

  • Today‚Äôs population is approximately 300 million people (Census data, 2008);
  • approximately 37 million people would be enrolled in military service;
  • and approximately 6 million Americans would die.

Another way to illustrate this point is that the death toll at Gettysburg, measured as a percentage of the nation's population, was 21 times that of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. In fact, measured as a comparative percentage of the American population, there were 42 Civil War battles in which the death toll exceeded that of September 11th, or almost one a month, for four long years. One cannot even begin to comprehend how the nation could cope with such a horrific and prolonged struggle today.

See, for example, William F. Fox, Regimental Losses in the American Civil War (Albany, NY: Albany Publishing Company, 1889). Confederate casualty data is incomplete for 1864 and 1865. The comparisons above do not include any Confederate losses from the sieges of Richmond and Petersburg, which would undoubtedly increase the number of comparable battles.

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