Tuesday, February 07, 2012

How Many Jackson County Men Died in the Civil War? The Answer (sort of) Below

How many Jackson County men served in the Civil War?  How many died in service of the Confederacy or, for a few, in service of the Union?  These are great questions and the wealth of Jackson County data available makes the answers approachable, although ultimately impossible to firmly ascertain.   
Who served?  A lot of men and boys volunteered at the war’s outset.  At first the age ranges were relatively narrow as confirmed by the CSA’s first conscription act in 4/1862 which, in addition to extending the enlistments of all twelve month volunteers to 3 years, required all white males between 18 and 35 to enlist.  A second act in 10/62 extended the age limit to 45 and a third act in 2/64 drew in all men from 17 to 50 (17s and over 45s serving in reserve corps).   A number of categories of exemptions applied, including planters who owned twenty or more slaves: at least 33 Jackson Co. men fell under this exemption, but most of these served, at least in home guard units.  We'll look at the actual service numbers at later date.
For purposes of these preliminary numbers, we’ll use a few assumptions. First regarding age: the 1860 census gives ages for that summer. Examination of previous and subsequent census numbers shows that a lot of these ages are estimates, but presumably with more than a thousand names, this problem should average out (any statisticians object?).  A boy of 17 in the spring of 1864 would likely have been 13 in 1860.   Men of 50 in the spring of 1864 would have been 46 in the 1860 Census.   There are many outliers: children as young as 9 in the 1860 census are credited as serving in Home Guard units (hello Frank Baltzell!) as well as some men in their 60s and 70s, up to the oldest war death of Francis Allen (about 75 when killed at Marianna), but there are exceptions.
Here is the basic number: there are about 1365 white males in the 1860 census within the draftable age range.  About 240 can be reasonably confirmed as dying as a direct consequence of military service or the war from 1861 through mid-1865.  The ultimate fate of 254 is unknown.  The remaining 871 are documented in some form or another as surviving the war, whether for a few months or decades.   Therefore, for the broadest age range (13 to 46 year olds in the 1860 census):  63% survived the War, 17.58% perished and 18.6% are unknown.   If we restrict the numbers just to those whose fates are known, the death rate rises to 21.6%.
Looking at the unknowns, we have service information for about 75.  For purposes of discussion, we’ll assume that the reason that half these men are unknown is that they were killed and missing in action.  This assumption will place the death stat at exactly 20%.
But, you say,  these numbers are misleading.  True, only about 1/3 of 13 year olds have service records, even for home guard units.  Two-thirds of 1860 fourteens, on other hand, served.  So we’ll put aside the 80 thirteen year olds including 4 deaths and 19 knowns.  And on the upper range, if we scan down to find an age cohort where we know that more than 50% served in units, we have to go down to age 42.   Cutting off this top range excludes another 80 including 9 deaths and 16 unknowns.  The symmetry of 80 is a coincidence.
So, removing the 13s and the 43 -46ers:
1205 males 14 through 42: 227 deaths (18.84%); 219 unknown (18.17%), leaving 63% surviving the war.   Putting aside the unknowns, the death rate is 23%. Playing the 50% game from above for unknowns who served, we are again left with about a 20% death rate of males within the conscription age range.    It is crucial to emphasize this last point because these death rates do not deal with the actual numbers who served.  Those death rates will be much higher.  But a simplistic, preliminary examination indicates that Jackson County was certainly within the Confederacy’s average range (perhaps on the lower end of average) for war death rates.

Next steps include looking at the rates of death for actual service.  It would also be interesting to explore the “rich man’s war, poor man’s fight” theory by examining service and death rates by wealth and slave ownership (Joseph Glathaar’s research on Lee’s army shows this to be a myth: the wealthy were more motivated and served and died at higher rates).  We can also look closer at the 240 dead and break those numbers down as far as KIAs, deaths from diseases, eastern and western theaters, etc.
These numbers do not in any way address the wounded and maimed.  We know from pension records, for example, that there were many amputees.  Certainly hundreds of men suffered from physical impairment and what is known today as PTSD.  
A subject not addressed, but might be the most elusive research topic is the service, in whatever form it may have taken, of Jackson County’s African Americans in the Confederate armies.

There’s obviously a lot more work that can be done with this data (as well as more data to retrieve and verify) that I don’t have much time for.  Any volunteers?