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Regimental casualties in the Union Army

In any discussion of the total or relative casualties suffered by a military organization in a war, or in any particular engagement, it must be borne in mind that the entire subject is one around which many questions center. The general consideration has been discussed by Colonel Hilary A. Herbert in the preceding chapter. It now remains to give the readers of the Photographic History some few exact statistics of the losses suffered in both great armies.

In the official records there are summarized with considerable completeness the enlistments and casualties for the various regiments and other organizations of the Union army. The reports for the most part are complete and comprehensive, admitting of full discussion, yet often there is great difficulty in reducing the vast amount of material to a common denominator for purposes of comparison. The problem is to consider the various elements in their relations one to another. Thus, it is possible to take those regiments where the number killed or died of wounds during the entire period of service stood at a maximum in comparison with other organizations. Furthermore, it is possible to consider such casualties relatively, depending upon the strength of the organization, and this latter method gives a clear indication of the efficiency of the regiment during its entire period of service. Large total losses mean that the regiment was at the fore-front of the fighting in many battles and not necessarily unduly exposed at one particular action.

Such is the list to be found on page 154, compiled from the authoritative work of LieutenantColonel William F. Fox, U. S. V.—Regimental losses in the Civil War. It is, indeed, a record of valor; the fifty regiments here listed are entitled to places of high honor on the scroll of history. It is, all things considered, the most useful basis of making a comparison of the services of the different regiments, and it is one which unfortunately cannot be made for the regiments comprising the Confederate army, on account of the absence of suitable rosters and reports.

Now, if we should consider the maximum percentage of casualties based on the total of killed, wounded, and missing, a similar roll could be constructed. It would be headed by the First Minnesota Infantry, which, at the battle of Gettysburg, with 262 men engaged on the second day, lost 168 wounded and 47 killed, or a percentage of 82. In fact, other regiments standing at the top of such a list are worthy of note, and a few such, as listed by Colonel Fox, are given in the table at the bottom of this page.

The tabular statement on page 154 must be considered, therefore, as suggestive rather than complete. The selection of fifty regiments is an arbitrary one; for, of over two thousand regiments in the Union army, 45 infantry regiments lost over 200 men killed or mortally wounded in action during the war. In fact, Colonel Fox has compiled a list of 300 fighting regiments, which lost over 130 who were killed and died of wounds during the war, or which, with a smaller enrollment, suffered an equivalent percentage of casualties.

REGIMENTBATTLEKilledWoundedMissingTotalEngagedPer Cent.
1st MinnesotaGettysburg471682151262 82.0
141st PennsylvaniaGettysburg251032114919875.7
101st New YorkBull Run61011712416873.8
25th MassachusettsCold Harbor531392822031070.0
36th Wisconsin (4 Cos.)Bethesda Church201083816624069.0
20th MassachusettsFredericksburg2513816323868.4
8th VermontCedar Creek17662310615667.9
81st PennsylvaniaFredericksburg15141017626167.4
12th MassachusettsAntietam491651022433467.0
1st Maine H. A.Petersburg1154892863295066.5
9th Louisiana ColoredMilliken's Bend6213019230064.0
5th New HampshireFredericksburg201541919330363.6

1 Action of July 2d,—8 companies engaged; total casualties at Gettysburg were 224.

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