Was Civil War death toll over a million?

An article by a Connecticut College professor says a revised Civil War death toll would be even higher – perhaps over a million – if it included former slaves.

James Downs, associate professor of history at Connecticut College, criticizes Dr. J. David Hacker for not including blacks in his Civil War death count. Dr. Hacker of Binghamton University, SUNY, using the 1960 and 1870 censuses, completed a study that put the Civil War death toll at 750,000 but says it could be as high as 850,000.

Hacker gives “a passing reference to former slaves’ mortality,” Downs writes.

“It is quickly pushed aside in favor of a more intensive analysis of the experience of white soldiers.

“According to both the 19th century counters and Hacker, former slaves were ‘civilians’ and thus were not considered part of the larger military death toll. Yet tens of thousands of slaves died during the Civil War. They were shot by Confederate soldiers, and according to new research conducted by Duke historian Thavolia Glymph, Union soldiers shot at former slaves. But many, many more died from the same illnesses that claimed the lives of white soldiers.”

More soldiers died from diseases than in combat, he notes

Downs, by the way, is author of “Sick of Freedom: African-American Illness and Suffering during the Civil War and Reconstruction,” available from Oxford University Press.


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