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Confederate losses during the war — correspondence between Dr. Joseph Jones and General Samuel Cooper.

The following correspondence explains itself. Dr. Joseph Jones, the first Secretary of the--Southern Historical Society, is distinguished for his pains-taking research as well as for his high scientific attainments.

General Cooper, the able and efficient Adjutant and Inspector-General of the Confederacy, was, of course, very high authority on the questions discussed in this correspondence. It is a sad reflection that the General was not spared until the more liberal policy, which now prevails at the War Department, would have allowed him to inspect the records of his old office. Those records will be thoroughly sifted, and the story they tell given to the world; but in the meantime the carefully collated figures of this correspondence will be of interest and value.

Dear Sir — You will please excuse the liberty which I take in trespassing upon your valuable time.

I have recently been preparing for the Southern Historical Society a paper upon the losses of the Confederate army from battle, wounds and disease during the civil war of 1861-5. [288]

The following general results of my investigation are most respectfully submitted to you for examination and criticism:

Killed, wounded and prisoners of the Confederate army during the war of 1861-5.


If the deaths from disease be added the sum total will represent the entire loss. The returns of the field and general hospitals are known for 1861 and 1862.

Confederates killed in battle, 1861-2,19,897
Deaths caused by wounds in field hospital,1,623
Deaths caused by wounds in general hospital,2,618
Deaths caused by disease in field hospital,14,597
Deaths caused by disease in general hospital,16,741
Total deaths in the Confederate States army, 1861-2,55,476
Total wounded in Confederate States army, 1861-2,72,713
Total prisoners in Confederate States army, 1861-2,51,072
Total discharged in Confederate States army, 1861-2,16,940
Total wounded, prisoners and discharged, 1861-2,140,725

If it be fair to assume that the total mortality of 1863-1864, was fully equal to that of 1862, then the total deaths in the Confederate army, 1861-5, was at least 160,000, exclusive of the deaths in the Northern prisons, which would swell the number to near 185,000; and if the deaths amongst the discharged for wounds and disease and amongst the sick and wounded on furlough be added, the grand total of deaths in the Confederate army during the entire war did not fall far short of 200,000. According to this calculation, the deaths from disease were about three times as numerous as those resulting from the casualties of battle. [289]

The available Confederate force capable of active service in the field did not during the entire war exceed six hundred thousand (600,000) men. Of this number, not more than four hundred thousand (400,000) were enrolled at any one time; and the Confederate States never had in the field more than two hundred thousand (200,000) men capable of bearing arms at any one time, exclusive of sick, wounded and disabled. If the preceding calculation be correct, we have the following figures illustrating the losses of the Confederate armies during the war:

Confederate forces actively engaged, 1861-5, 600,000. Total deaths in Confederate States army, 200,000. Losses of Confederate States army in prisoners, 1861-5, which may be considered as total losses, on account of the policy of exchange by United States, 200,000. Losses of Confederate States army by discharges, disability and desertion, 100,000.

If this calculation, which is given only as an approximation, be correct, one-third of all the men actively engaged on the Confederate side were either killed outright upon the field, or died of disease and wounds; another third of the entire number were captured and held for an indefinite period in Northern prisons, and of the remaining two hundred thousand at least one-half were lost to the service by discharges and desertions.

At the close of the war the available force of the Confederate States numbered scarcely one hundred thousand effective men. The resolution, unsurpassed bravery and skill with which the Confederate leaders conducted this contest is shown by the fact that, out of 600,000 men in the field, about 500,000 were lost to the service.

At the close of the war the 100,000 Confederates were opposed to one million (1,000,000) Federal troops. Your approval or disapproval of this calculation is most respectfully solicited.

The distinguished ability with which you discharged the responsible and arduous duties of Adjutant-General of the Confederate army, qualifies you above every other officer of the late Confederate States to decide how far such calculations may approach to accuracy.

With great respect and the highest esteem,

I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,

Joseph Jones, M. D., Secretary and Treasurer Southern Historical Society, Professor of Chemistry, Medical Department, University of Louisiana.

near Alexandria, Va., August 29th, 1869.
Dr. Joseph Jones, Secretary and Treasurer Southern Historical Society, New Orleans, Louisiana:
Dear Sir — I have had the honor to receive your kind and interesting letter of the 2d instant and beg you will accept my best thanks for same. [290]

I have closely examined your several statements in respect to the Confederate military forces during the late war, as well as the casualties incident thereto, and I have come to the conclusion, from my general recollection, which those statements have served to enlighten, that they must be regarded as nearly critically correct.

Most of the returns from which you most probably have derived your information, must have passed through the files of my office in the Confederacy, and if reference could be made to all the records of that office, they would, I have no doubt, enable you to give nearly a complete history of the strength and operations of our armies in detail.

The files of that office which could best afford this information were carefully boxed up and taken on our retreat from Richmond to Charlotte, North Carolina, where they were unfortunately captured, and, as I learn, are now in Washington, where they are arranged in a separate building, with other records appertaining to the Confederacy. I presume that by proper management reference might be had to them. Indeed, I had at one time contemplated to make an effort to renew my acquaintance with those records by a personal application to the authorities in Washington; but I finally abandoned the idea. * * It would afford me much pleasure to furnish you with the information in the tabular form you have suggested, but it would be quite impossible for me to do this without reference to those records. I can only state from general recollection that during the two last years of the war the monthly returns of our armies received at my office exhibited the present active force in the field nearly one-half less than the returns themselves actually called for, on account of absentees by sickness, extra duty, furlough, desertions, and other casualties incident to a campaign life.

These returns were kept with great secrecy, in order to prevent the enemy from becoming acquainted with our weakness. Another disadvantage was also felt in the limited number of our suitable weapons of war, and I believe it will be found on examination that the most approved and tried arms in the hands of our troops were captured from the enemy in battle. These, and many other incidents of a like nature, if brought to light, would exhibit the greatest disparity between the two opposing forces, if not in the numbers of troops, as you have exhibited in your tables, at least of sufficient importance to satisfy every unprejudiced mind that we were constantly laboring, throughout the contest, under every possible disadvantage.

I perceive by the printed prospectus of the “Southern Historical Society,” which you were so kind as to send me, that time must be given in collecting the necessary facts which are to be the basis of this important work before it shall be prepared and given to the public. To this end it will be my endeavor to contribute from time to time such facts as I may be enabled to collect and as may be deemed of consequence by the Society.

With great respect, I have the honor to be,

Your obedient servant,

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