About a million soldier casualties (killed/wounded) in the Civil War, give or take. I was asked by one of my students what of civilian casualties? I had included in my lesson some information and quotes from Gen Curtis in Arkansas, and soldier quotes, describing the horrific conditions in that state alone. So when the question was asked I was not sure what to say. Having looked at the Trans-Mississippi region in my studies, I would be shocked in civilian deaths as a result of the war were not significant.
So the question in my mind, how do we determine collateral damage during the Civil War? Does the starvation of civilians or their murder by bushwhackers count as “casualties”? I would argue it does.
In June of 1862 Gen. Curtis described the situation in eastern Arkansas, “I leave nothing for man or brute in the country passed over by my army,” he informed his superiors, “except a little saving to feed the poor, which will hardly save them from suffering.”
Confederate bushwhackers and guerrillas brutally targeted suspected Union sympathizers and burned cotton wherever they found it, causing civilian morale to “plummet” throughout the state. The combined effect, according to one historian, was economic “collapse, social upheaval,” and the general “collapse of social institutions,” according to William L. Shea.
“Women and children are houseless,” wrote a soldier with the Second Wisconsin Cavalry, “with little to eat or wear.”
There is no way to know at this point without further research what the true effects of the war were on civilians and what kind of price they truly paid.
Does anyone know of any reliable studies that try to estimate civilian casualties and what about collateral damage, do I have a valid argument?