Regimental Losses In The American Civil War

1861-1865
 
 

A Treatise On The Extent And Nature Of The Mortuary Losses In The Union Regiments, With Full And Exhaustive Statistics Compiled From The Official Records On File In The State Military Bureaus And At Washington.
 
 

By William F. Fox, Lt. Col., U.S. V.
 
 

President Of The Society Of The Twelfth Army Corps; Late President Of The 10th N.Y. Veteran

Volunteers' Association; And Member Of The New York Historical Society.
 
 

Albany, N.Y.

Albany Publishing Company

1889
 
 

COPYRIGHT BY WILLIAM F. FOX 1889
 
 

RANDOW PRINTING COMPANY

ALBANY, N.Y.
 
 

FOX’S REGIMENTAL LOSSES

Chapter X.—THREE HUNDRED FIGHTING REGIMENTS.

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* Note - This version is only an excerpt of the 'Fox's Regimental Losses' and is for the concern of the 26th Wisconsin Infantry Volunteers. (Russ 1998)

        It is not claimed that these are the Three Hundred Fighting Regiments of the Army; but, that they are three hundred regiments which evidently did considerable fighting. There were, undoubtedly, others which did equally good or, perhaps, better fighting, and their gallant services will be fully recognized by the writers who are conversant with their history. But, for lack of other information, this chapter deals only with those which sustained the heaviest losses in battle. It includes every regiment in the Union Armies which lost over 130 in killed and died of wounds during the war, together with a few whose losses were somewhat smaller, but whose percentage of killed entitles them to a place in the list. It may be suggested that large casualty lists are not necessarily indicative of the fighting qualities of a regiment; that on many occasions regiments have rendered valuable service and achieved a brilliant success with but slight loss. Granted, as regards some particular action or instance; but, in the long run active service brings its many scars; where the musketry was the hottest, the dead lay thickest; and there is no better way to find the fighting regiments than to follow up the bloody trail which marked their brave advance.
        The losses in these three hundred regiments have been compiled from their muster-out-rolls, and counted name by name; the total of the deaths is, in each case, correct. At times, it was difficult to decide as to the company to which a death should be tallied: for men were often transferred from one company to another, and, where companies were consolidated, a dead man's name often appeared in two or more companies in the same regiment.
        Then, again, in dividing the deaths among the different battles it was sometimes difficult to ascertain the action in which the wound was received, as the date of death was often given, instead of the date when the wound was received. In such cases the death was tallied to the last battle previous to the man's death, that is, the last battle in which his regiment was engaged. In some instances the rolls bear the names of men marked simply as "killed in action ;" these are recorded here as killed at Place Unknown. But these inaccuracies are few and slight, leaving the main result substantially correct as to each regiment.
        In some regiments the rolls were in such condition, owing to the consolidation of companies and accessions of new companies bearing the same letters as the old ones, or to the reorganization consequent upon the reenlistment of the regiment, that the regular form of tabulation was not practicable, and, so, after stating the total number of deaths--omitting company losses--the list of battles is given, accompanied by the official casualty lists of killed, wounded, and missing, instead of the number of "killed and died of wounds." Where the casualties are stated thus, in "killed, wounded, and missing," the wounded includes the mortally wounded. This must be borne in mind to properly understand the nature of the loss.
        Where it could be done with accuracy, the number of killed and mortally wounded in each action is given in the regimental tabulations of these three hundred regiments; and this is done without confusing it with an additional statement of wounded and missing. The <fx_123>number of wounded is not always an exact, definite statement, owing to the slightly wounded which are counted in some regiments and not in others. It is sometimes difficult to draw the line between wounds, slight injuries, and lack of injury. The missing is a still more indefinite quantity, including, as it does, the captured, the missing, the stragglers, and, very often, many of the killed and wounded. But there is nothing indefinite about the status of the dead soldier, and, so, for purpose of comparison, it is better that the losses of the various regiments be stated in "killed or died of wounds," and in that only.
        When the total of the killed and died of wounds in any regiment is known, it is very easy to arrive at the number of its wounded, for the proportion, in the aggregate, is a definite and well known one, as has been previously shown. True, this proportion will not always hold good for a regiment in the instance of some one battle; but, in all the battles of a regiment it will be found correct, the variations correcting themselves in the aggregate.
        In these three hundred regiments, the title of each is accompanied by the name of its brigade, division, and corps. Of course, many regiments served in more than one brigade, and each brigade had several commanders. Still, in each case, the brigade mentioned will assist largely in identifying the regiment, or recalling to the hasty reader the campaigns in which it served. Lack of space debars the tedious details necessary to trace properly the changing organizations to which most regiments belonged.
        The loss by disease in Confederate prisons is stated in many instances, but, at the same time, it is included in the column of "loss by disease, accidents, &c."
        In stating the total enrollments, care has been taken to subtract transferred men who were shifted from one company to another in the same regiment. Deductions are also made for men transferred to a regiment after the war had closed, many regiments having received large accessions from disbanded organizations just before their own muster-out. In comparing these enrollments with the muster-out-rolls, this fact must receive attention; otherwise, there would be an apparent discrepancy.
        The bands are also omitted in the enrollments as stated here, as all regimental bands were ordered discontinued, and were mustered out during the summer of 1862. After that, no bands were enlisted, or paid as such, except brigade bands; and, if a regiment had a band, it was formed of enlisted men, or company musicians, detailed for that purpose.
        In addition to the battles mentioned,--in which a regiment lost men killed or mortally wounded,-- the engagements at which the regiments was "present" are also given. In some of the latter, losses were often sustained in wounded or missing men, but, as none of these wounded or missing are recorded among those who died of wounds, the battle does not appear in the tabulated list. In giving these additional battles at which a regiment was "Present, also," intentional omission is made of a certain class of minor affairs which are often used by regimental historians to unduly swell their list of battles, but which, if given here, would only confuse or mislead a disinterested reader.
        In the cavalry, however, these minor actions were so frequent, and resulted in so many casualties in wounded and captured men, that they form an important feature in the history of each mounted regiment. But the brief sketches given in the succeeding pages afford no room for the long and honorable list of additional actions in which each cavalry regiment participated,--actions replete with meritorious details, although they did not result in any loss of life. Still, the reader should bear these facts in mind to rightly appreciate the services rendered by the mounted regiments.
        In most of the three hundred regiments mentioned in this chapter the figures opposite the list of battles show only the number who were killed or who died of wounds. The number of the killed, wounded, and missing, for the more important losses of each regiment, will be found in the notes appended in each case.

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(1) Col. WILLIAM H. JACOBS.
(2) Col. FRED. C. WINKLER; BVT. BRIG.-GEN.

O Officers
K Killed and died of wounds.
M Men
D Died of disease, accidents, in prison, &c.
T Total
E Total Enrollment
  ----- K --- ----- ----- D --- -----  
Companies O M T O M T E
Field and Staff · · 2 2 · · · · · · 12
Company A 1 10 11 · · 7 7 101
B 1 21 22 · · 8 8 103
C 2 17 19 · · 5 5 103
D · · 18 18 · · 3 3 105
E 1 19 20 · · 13 13 114
F 2 17 19 · · 11 11 116
G 2 24 26 · · 10 10 112
H · · 19 19 · · 6 6 101
I 2 15 17 · · 8 8 112
K 1 14 15 · · 6 6 110
Totals 12 176 188 · · 77 77 1,089

188 killed = 17.2 per cent.

Total of killed and wounded, 503; captured and missing. 103; died in Confederate prisons (previously included), 17.
 
BATTLES. K. & M.W.   BATTLES. K. & M.W.
Chancellorsville, Va 53   Kenesaw Mountain, Ga 1
Gettysburg, Pa 61   Peach Tree Creek, Ga 15
Resaca, Ga 15   Siege of Atlanta, Ga 5
New Hope Church, Ga 15   Averasboro, N. C 10
Pine Mountain, Ga 1   Bentonville, N. C 1
Culp's Farm, Ga 14      

Present, also, at Lookout Mountain; Missionary Ridge; Rocky Face Ridge; March to the Sea; Siege of Savannah.

NOTES.— A German regiment whose gallantry and soldierly bearing reflected credit upon its nationality. General William Cogswell, formerly Colonel of the Second Massachusetts, and hence an authority in such matters, in an official communication to the Secretary of War, alludes to the Twenty-sixth as "one of the finest military organizations m the service. The regiment left Wisconsin on the 6th of October, 1862, proceeding to Fairfax, Va., where it was assigned to Krzyzanowski's (2d) Brigade, Schurz's (3d) Division, Eleventh Corps. Its first battle was at Chancellorsville. Where it made a creditable fight, although the corps was placed in an extremely disadvantageous position. The regiment held its ground there until nearly surrounded, gallantly, but vainly, trying to stem the victorious onslaught of Jackson's charge; its casualties at Chancellorsville were 23 killed, 135 wounded, and 40 missing. It was closely engaged at Gettysburg, and when the corps retreated through the town, the Twenty-sixth was ordered to protect its rear. Its loss at Gettysburg was 26 killed, 129 wounded, and 62 missing; a heavy percentage of those engaged. In September, 1863, the corps was ordered to Tennessee, and in April, 1864, was merged into the Twentieth Corps, under General Hooker. The regiment thus became a part of the Third Brigade, Third Division (Ward's), Twentieth Corps. At the battle of Peach Tree Creek, Ga., it captured the colors of the Thirty-third Mississippi and several prisoners, its own loss amounting to 9 killed, and 36 wounded; its conduct in that affair elicited the highest commendation in the official reports. After participating in the Atlanta campaign, the regiment marched with Sherman to the sea, and thence through the Carolinas to the Grand Review at Washington.
 
 

KILLED AND DIED OF WOUNDS.

MAXIMUM PERCENTAGES OF ENROLLMENT.


Regiment. Division.(*) Corps. Enrolled. Killed. Per ct.
2d Wisconsin Wadsworth's First 1203 238 19.7
1st Maine H. Art'y Birney's Second 2202 423 19.2
57th Massachusetts Stevenson's Ninth 1052 201 19.1
140th Pennsylvania Barlow's Second 1132 198 17.4
26th Wisconsin Schurz's Eleventh 1089 188 17.2
7th Wisconsin Wadsworth's First 1630 281 17.2
69th New York Hancock's Second 1513 259 17.1
11th Penn. Reserves Crawford's Fifth 1179 196 16.6
142d Pennsylvania Doubleday's First 935 155 16.5
141st Pennsylvania Birney's Third 1037 167 16.1
19th Indiana Wadsworth's First 1246 199 15.9
121st New York Wright's Sixth 1426 226 15.8
7th Michigan Gibbon's Second 1315 208 15.8
148th Pennsylvania Barlow's Second 1339 210 15.6
83d Pennsylvania Griffin's Fifth 1808 282 15.5
22d Massachusetts Griffin's Fifth 1393 216 15.5
36th Wisconsin Gibbon's Second 1014 157 15.4
27th Indiana Williams's Twelfth 1101 169 15.3
5th Kentucky T.J. Wood's Fourth 1020 157 15.3
27th Michigan Willcox's Ninth 1485 225 15.1
79th U.S. Colored Thayer's Seventh 1249 188 15
17th Maine Birney's Third 1371 207 15
1st Minnesota Gibbon's Second 1242 187 15


 
 

FOX’S REGIMENTAL LOSSES

IN CONCLUSION.
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        Every story, even a statistical one, has its moral, and some suggestions pertinent to the subject seem proper here. The official records of the Civil War, though voluminous and rich in valuable information, are too often deficient in the facts essential to a proper statement of a regimental loss in action.
        Only a few of the regiments, comparatively, made official reports for the actions in which they were engaged. After a hard-fought battle the regimental commandant would, perhaps, write a long letter to his wife detailing the operations of his regiment, and some of his men would send to their village paper an account of the fight, but no report would be forwarded officially to headquarters. Many colonels regarded the report as an irksome and unnecessary task; something to be avoided if possible, something to be attended to only when compelled by the repeated urging of a superior. They were evidently not aware that their only chance to gain a place for their regiment in the archives of history was through the medium of such returns.
        Of the official battle reports which were made by regimental commandants, but few gave the figures for their casualties. Hard fighting and heavy losses were often claimed, but as these terms were used without discrimination they became meaningless. Sometimes allusion was made to a nominal list of casualties appended, but its totals were not included in the report, and so when the accompanying list was lost, as was often the case, there was nothing to show what the colonel's idea of a heavy loss was.
        Again, mention was seldom made of the number of men taken into action, without which any statement of casualties was, to a large extent, meaningless, and for purposes of comparison was worthless.
        In the nominal lists of wounded men no distinction was made between the mortally, seriously, or slightly wounded; and the list of missing failed to show whether the men were captured or belonged to the class whose fate was unknown. Too often, no return of casualties whatever was made. As a result the statistics of our last war are, in many instances, meager and unsatisfactory; and, in some cases are wanting entirely.
        At the close of a war the Government should be able to publish the regimental losses in form similar to Dr. Engel's "Verluste der deutschen Armeen im Kriege gegen Frankreich, 1870 und 1871," an admirable official work which was given to the public by the German Government. The Staff of the German Army directed successfully the operations of a great war, but they still found time to supervise carefully the items of the "butcher's bill."
        In a conversation with the late Colonel Robert N. Scott, U. S. A., concerning these matters, that officer remarked, "We will do these things better in the next war." The question arises, will the "we" of the future do these things any better? In the turmoil and excitement will not "these things" be again overlooked, and gallant regiments be again disbanded without leaving scarcely a trace to show how well they fought ? Will not History be again neglected or despoiled ?
        Is it asking too much that, now, in time of peace, the National Military Academy provide in its course of instruction against any repetition of such neglect. Or, if such provision belongs within the province of the Adjutant-General's department, let the Blue Book containing the United States Army Regulations include the blank forms and paragraphs of instruction necessary to such end. <fx_575>
        In future wars the rule requiring regimental commandants to hand in an official report after each battle, should be rigidly enforced. Each colonel should be instructed to order a count made of his men just before going into action, instead of referring to the morning report for information regarding the strength of his command. Commandants should not only hand in a casualty list, but should see that it is properly classified, and that a copy is promptly transmitted to the proper bureau or to some place of safety. The totals of the casualty list should be included in the official report, accompanied by an accurate statement of the number of officers and men in line or actually engaged.
        In each regiment there should be some officer, attached to the non-commissioned staff, who should be entrusted with the care and preparation of the regimental statistics and casualty lists; and this person should be exempted from all liability to accidents in battle, and should not be allowed to go into action. During such times as the regiment was not engaged in an active campaign, this officer would find ample employment in ascertaining the fate of missing men, and of the wounded and sick who were absent in hospital or on furlough. All statements of casualties in battle made by him should be accompanied by a report of the number engaged, and such statements, together with all other mortuary reports, should be made in manifold, one copy to be forwarded to the War Department and one to the Adjutant-General of the State to which the regiment belonged. There should, also, be a definite agreement between belligerents that all captured records of this class should not be destroyed; and, that a full record should be carefully made of the fate of all prisoners within their respective lines.
        To all this some may sneer and some will say, "Cui bono ?" If so, let it be remembered that there are other reasons than money or patriotism which induce men to risk life and limb in war. There is the love of glory and the expectation of honorable recognition. But the private in the ranks expects neither. His identity is merged in that of his regiment.
        To him the regiment and its name is everything. He does not expect to see his own name on the page of history, and is content with a proper recognition of the old command in which he fought. But he is jealous of the record of his regiment, and demands credit for every shot it faced and every grave it filled.
        The bloody laurels for which a regiment contends will always be awarded to the one with the longest Roll of Honor. Scars are the true evidence of wounds, and the regimental scars can be seen only in the record of its casualties. In our last war many a noble regiment lost the place in history to which it was entitled through a failure to file the proper records of its gallant deeds. Will it always be so?