Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Marianna High - Class of 1860

I’ve mentioned to a few readers that I’ve been compiling a database derived from the 1860 and 1870 Jackson County censuses.  So far, I’ve included every adult white male as well as female property owners and some prominent African Americans.  Along with each name, I’m tracking a number of categories: profession, property valuations, acreage owned, slaves owned, etc.  My first goal is to get a sense of the impact of the War on this community which, I think, is in many ways representative of a cotton belt Southern county. 

To show the war's impact on this small community, let’s examine one group: white 18 year olds males in 1860, or what I think of as Marianna H.S. Class of 1860.  (I’m not including African Americans because only the two dozen or so free black or “mulatto” males living in Jackson Co. were listed by name in the 1860 census.)  Now, of course, most of these young men didn’t attend the local academy or any school for that matter.  The sad truth is that public education barely existed in the ante-bellum South and many whites, perhaps most from poor families, grew up illiterate, even unable to sign their own names.   For the sake of trying to make sense of the War, let’s suspend our skepticism and imagine the all the young, white men the census taker recorded as 18 years old when he knocked on their parents’ doors in the summer of 1860 as a high school seniors about to go out to begin their lives, working on daddy’s farm, venturing out West or even for a select few, going to college.    Marianna High “graduated” about 66 men that last peaceful spring before the cataclysm.  I say “about” because I don’t entirely trust the census takers’ reliability, and, truthfully, many poor homesteaders weren’t completely sure about their own ages as evidenced by variations from census to census.

What became of these 66 boys?   Well, for 12 (18%), I’m not sure what happened. Several of these 12 served in the Confederate Armies, so there is the possibility that some never returned.  Of the remaining 54 young men, 17 (26% of the total; or 31% of the 54 verified names) died in the war.  Like most Civil War soldiers, most died in hospitals from disease. Several, however, died in battles, including Chancellorsville, Chickamauga, and Missionary Ridge. Of the remaining 37? Only 11 show up in the 1870 Jackson Co. census.  Another boy died in 1869 and one more moved to Brazil with his family.  The remaining 26 can be verified through ancestry or other databases or genealogy lists as suriving the war.  Interestingly, as many as 4 young men served in the Union army.

So we know that at least 26% of the male 1860 18 year olds died in the Civil War. The percentage is probably higher as it is not a stretch to assume that an even greater rate of the unaccounted for died in the war.  For example, if we guess that half of the unknown 12 died in the war, which is certainly plausible, that would bring the death rate up to an astounding 35%. Of course, I'm not even listing those survivors whose lives were marred by war wounds, physical or mental. This is just intended to give a sense of my preliminary findings from the database. 

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