Chapter 4: loss in officers — list of Generals killed — Surgeons and Chaplains killed.
The loss in officers killed or wounded, in proportion to their number, was in excess of that of their men. Of the total number killed and wounded during the war, there were 6,365 officers, and 103,705 enlisted men; or, one officer to 16 men. In the common regimental organization there was one officer to 28 men; and this proportion would have consequently required only one officer to 28 men among the killed.
The loss of officers, however, was not so excessive as the difference in these ratios would indicate; for, as the ranks became depleted the latter proportion was not maintained.
In the Army of the Potomac, just before starting on the Wilderness
campaign, the morning reports showed one officer to every 21 men “present for duty, equipped.”
As this latter proportion was a frequent one,1
it may be assumed that the difference between it and the actual ratio in the killed indicates fairly the excess of the loss in officers.
, the officers lost 27 per cent. in killed and wounded, while the enlisted men lost 21 per cent.,--as based on the number engaged.
, the loss in officers killed and wounded was 21.3 per cent., and in men 17.9 per cent.,--as based on the morning reports of Grant
's six divisions.
This greater loss among the officers did not occur because they were so much braver than the men in the ranks, but because the duties of their position while under fire involved a greater personal exposure.
Sharpshooters were always on the alert to pick them off; and, even in the confusion of a hot musketry fire, any soldier, no matter how poor a marksman, would turn his rifle on any conspicuous man in the opposing ranks whose appearance indicated that he might be an officer.
In close quarters, guns were not apt to be aimed at privates if a Lieutenant was in sight near by. There was just as good stuff in the ranks as in the line; in fact, the line officers were recruited almost entirely from the ranks; but when the gallant private donned an officer's uniform, he found his chances not at all improved, to say the least.
This additional exposure is well illustrated by a comparison of the casualties at Gettysburg
with those of the Wilderness
In the first named battle the percentage of loss among the officers was one-half greater than in the latter.
, the fighting was done in open fields, where the officers were in full view; at the Wilderness
, the fighting was done in dense thickets which concealed the opposing armies.
In the latter, both officers and men were hidden by the leafy screens, and hence their casualty lists show a like percentage of loss.
In the Franco-Prussian war there was a remarkable excess of loss among the German officers.
The percentages of killed and mortally wounded in the entire German army were: Enlisted men, 3.1; Line officers, 8.0; Staff officers, 9.6.