Fox's Regimental Losses
The Casualties Of War-- Maximum Of Killed In Union Regiments--Maximum Of Percentages
WARS and battles are considered great in proportion to the loss of life resulting from them. Bloodless battles excite no interest. A campaign of maneuvers is accorded but a small place in history. There have been battles as decisive as Waterloo and Gettysburg, but they cost few lives and never became historic. Great as were the results, Waterloo and Gettysburg would receive but little mention were it not for the terrible cost at which the results were obtained.
Still, it is difficult to comprehend fully what is implied by the figures which represent the loss of life in a great battle or a war. As the numbers become great, they convey no different idea, whether they be doubled or trebled. It is only when the losses are considered in detail-- by regiments, for instance-- that they can be definitely understood. The regiment is the unit of organization. It is to the army what a family is to the city. It has a well known limit of size, and its losses are intelligible; just as a loss in a family can be understood, while the greater figures of the city's mortuary statistics leave no impression on the mind.
The history of a battle or a war should always be studied in connection with the figures which show the losses. By overlooking them an indefinite, and often erroneous, idea is obtained. By neglecting them, many historians fail to develop the important points of the contest. They use the same rhetorical description for different attacks, whether the pressure was strong or weak; the loss, great or small; the fight, bloody or harmless.
To properly understand the relative importance of the various movements on a battle field, the student must know the loss of life at the different points of the line. He will then see where the points of contact really were; where the pressure was greatest; where the scenes of valor and heroism occurred. There is no better way of doing this than by noting the place in the line held by the various regiments and ascertaining the loss of life in each.
There were over two thousand regiments in the Union Armies. On some of these the brunt of battle fell much heavier than on others. While some were exempted from the dangers of active service, others were continually at the front. While some were seldom called upon to face the enemy's fire, others were repeatedly ordered into the thickest of the fight. While in some regiments the number of killed was small, in others the Roll of Honor was unequaled in the records of modern wars. Who were these men who fought so well in defense of their flag ? What were the names and numbers of their regiments ? What were the losses in these regiments ? What limit is there to the tell of blood exacted from a regimental thousand during a long and bloody war
The one regiment, in all the Union Armies, which sustained the greatest loss in battle, during the American Civil War, was the Fifth New Hampshire Infantry. It lost 295 men, killed or mortally wounded in action, during its four years of service, from 1861 to 1865. It served in the First Division, Second Corps. This division was commanded, successively, by Generals Richardson, Hancock, Caldwell, Barlow, and Miles; and any regiment that followed the fortunes of these men was sure to find plenty of bloody work cut out for it. The losses of the Fifth New Hampshire occurred entirely in aggressive, hard, stand-up fighting; none of it happened in routs or through blunders. Its loss includes eighteen officers killed, a number far in excess of the usual proportion, and indicates that the men were bravely led. Its percentage of killed is also very large, especially as based on the original enrollment. The exact percentage of the total enrollment cannot be definitely ascertained, as the rolls were loaded down in 1864 with the names of a large number of conscripts and bounty men who never joined the regiment.
The second highest in the list of infantry regiments having the greatest number killed in battle, is the Eighty-third Pennsylvania, which lost 282 officers and men who died while fighting for the Union. This was a Fifth Corps regiment, serving in Morell's-- afterwards Griffin's-- First Division. Two of its Colonels were killed, and a third was badly wounded and crippled for life. It was a splendid regiment, well officered and well drilled. It suffered a severe loss in killed, by percentage, as well as in numbers.
The next regiment on the list is the Seventh Wisconsin Infantry, of the famous Iron Brigade, Wadsworth's (First) Division, First Corps. This gallant regiment stands high in the list, because of its many battles and the persistency with which it would hold its ground in the face of the deadliest musketry. By glancing at the table of percentages, it will be seen that the Seventh occupies an honorable place in that list also.
Next, among the regiments sustaining the greatest loss in action, stands the Fifth Michigan, of the Third Corps, in which 263 were killed; and next, comes the Twentieth Massachusetts, of the Second Corps, with a credit of 260 killed in battle.
The following table will show clearly the relative position of the leading infantry regiments in point of numerical loss. It embraces every infantry regiment in the Union Armies which lost over 200 men, killed or mortally wounded in action, during the war. In all, there are forty-five:
KILLED OR DIED OF WOUNDS.
It may be of interest to state here that on the records of the War Department some of these regiments are not credited with quite so many men killed; and, that if a tabulation were to be made from the official figures at Washington, the relative positions of some of these regiments would have to be slightly changed. In the first five regiments the Seventh Wisconsin would head the list, and the Fifth New Hampshire would stand third instead of first; while the Eighty-third Pennsylvania, the Fifth Michigan and the Twentieth Massachusetts would still hold, respectively, the second, fourth and fifth places, as before. The records of the War Department show as follows:
7th Wisconsin 280 Killed or Died of Wounds 83rd Pennsylvania 278 " " " " " 5th New Hampshire 277 " " " " " 5th Michigan 262 " " " " " 20th Massachusetts 257 " " " " "
This difference arises from the fact that in each regiment there were men borne on the muster-out rolls as "missing in action," whose fate had not been determined at the close of the war, at which time these rolls were made out. But, since then, many of the States have made strenuous efforts to ascertain the fate of these men. New Hampshire, for instance, published a supplement to its printed muster-out rolls, in which it accounts definitely for most of its missing, the State Adjutant-General having obtained, from various sources, satisfactory evidence that these men were killed. But the War Department declines-- and very properly-- to account for missing men as killed until they receive official information to that effect. The official channels, through which such information must come, are the original records of the muster-out rolls; the final statements, as they are technically termed; and the affidavits which may accompany a pension claim.
Now, the State of New Hampshire, and other States as well, have ascertained definitely that many of their missing men were killed, and have revised their records accordingly;(*) but, if these missing men have no heirs to prosecute their claims at the Pension Office, the records at Washington will remain unchanged, and the men will still be recorded there, not among the killed, but as missing. The mortuary statistics in these pages are compiled largely from State records; hence, the figures in many cases will exceed those of the War Office. The variation, however, is not important enough to warrant this digression were it not for the honest endeavor to arrive at exactness, and to forestall any possible misunderstanding or controversy.
In treating here of the matter of losses in battle, or otherwise, each regiment will be considered by itself. Hence, it is important that the student before going further should understand thoroughly the size and formation of a regiment, in order to comprehend the extent and nature of the loss. Otherwise, the figures would have little or no meaning.
The infantry regiments, which formed the bulk of the army, had a maximum of organization beyond which recruiting was not allowed. There was, also, a minimum of strength which must be obtained before a regiment could be accepted. An infantry command consisted of ten companies of foot, and the Field and Staff: the latter were mounted, and consisted of the Colonel and such officers as were not attached to the company formations. The maximum formation was as follows;
Field and Staff Company Formation 1 Colonel 1 Captain 1 Lieutenant Colonel 1 First Lieutenant 1 Major 1 Secont Lieutenant 1 Adjutant 1 First Sergeant 1 Quartermaster 4 Sergeants 1 Surgeon (Rank of Major) 8 Corporals 1 Chaplain 1 Wagoner 1 Sergeant-Major 82 Privates 1 Quartermaster's Sergeant ----------- 1 Commissary-Sergeant ----------- 1 Hospital Steward ----------- 2 Principal Musicians ----------- ----------- ----------- 15 101
Ten companies, 101 each, 1010 Field and Staff 15 Total 1025
In the minimum organization the formation, and number of officers, was the same; but the number of privates was placed at 64, making the total of the minimum, 845. The newly recruited regiments, accordingly, ranged in numbers from 845 to 1025. The most of them left their rendezvous with full ranks, especially those which were raised under the second call for troops, in 186~. As their numbers became reduced by disease and wounds, fresh recruits were added, so that the total enrollment of a regiment was often increased several hundred before its term of service expired. Nominally, an infantry regiment consisted of one thousand men, less the depletion incidental to its service, the actual number of effectives being far below the nominal one.
In addition to the infantry, there were 32 regiments of heavy artillery in the volunteer service. It would be unnecessary to mention these were it not that the heaviest loss in battle, of any regimental organization, occurred in two of these regiments, each of which lost more men killed than the Fifth New Hampshire. But, owing to their larger organization and different formation. they must be considered secondly, and in a class by themselves. A regiment of heavy artillery contained 1800 men, divided into 12 companies of 150; attached to each company were five line officers-- a captain and four lieutenants. The regiment was divided into three battalions of four companies, with each battalion under the command of a Major. There was but one Colonel and one Lt. Colonel, as in infantry. These troops performed garrison duty, serving mostly within the fortifications around Washington, or in the coast defences where heavy ordnance was used. In the spring of 1864, most of the heavy artillery regiments within the defences of Washington were ordered to the front, where they served as infantry, and took an active part in the campaign.
The heaviest loss in this arm of the service-- and, also, in any regiment of the army-- occurred in the First Maine Heavy Artillery, of Birney's Division, Second Corps. During its term of service it lost 23 officers and 400 enlisted men killed or mortally wounded in battle. This regiment is remarkable, also, for its large percentage of loss; for the large number of officers killed; and, for having sustained in a certain engagement the greatest loss of any regiment in any one battle. The First Maine H. A. did not take the field until May, 1864, having served the two previous years in the fortifications of Washington. Its fighting and all its losses occurred within a period of ten months.
The next greatest loss in the heavy artillery is found in the Eighth New York, of Gibbon's Division, Second Corps, in which regiment 19 officers and 342 enlisted men were killed or died of wounds during their three years' term of service. Like the First Maine, it did not go to the front nor see any fighting until the last year of its service, all its losses occuring during the last ten months of the war.
The following list embraces all the heavy artillery regiments in which the number of killed, or died of wounds, exceeded two hundred:
KILLED AND DIED OF WOUNDS.
Regiment Division Corps Officers Men Total 1st Maine Birney's Second 23 400 423 8th New York Gibbon's Second 19 242 361 7th New York Barlow's Second 14 277 291 2nd Connecticut Wright's Sixth 12 242 254 1st Massachusetts birney's Second 9 232 241 2nd Pensylvania Ferror's Ninth 5 228 233 14th New York Ferrero's Ninth 6 220 226 2nd New York Barlow's Second 10 204 214 9th New York Ricketts's Sixth 6 198 204
The Second Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery carried, from first to last, over 5000 names on its rolls. In fact, it comprised two regiments-- one in the Ninth, and one in the Eighteenth Corps. In the spring of 1864, the regiment, 1800 strong, joined the Second Division of the Eighteenth Corps, at Cold Harbor. The surplus men had been previously formed into a "provisional" regiment with the same designation, and assigned to the Ninth Corps. The most of the losses occurred in this provisional command.
A cavalry regiment numbered 1200 men, nominally, and was divided into twelve companies of one hundred each. They did not suffer such severe losses in particular engagements as did the infantry, but their losses were divided among a great many more battles. The cavalry went into action very much oftener than infantry. Although mounted and armed with sabres, much of their fighting was done dismounted, and with carbines. The mounted regiments which lost the most men, killed or fatally wounded in action, were the following:
Regiment Division Corps Officers Men Total 1st Maine Gregg's Cavalry, A.P. 15 159 174 1st Michigan Kilpatrick's Cavalry, A.P. 14 150 164 5th Michigan Kirpatrick's Cavalry, A.P. 6 135 141 6th Michigan Kilpatrick's Cavalry, A.P. 7 128 135 1st Vermont Kilpatrick's Cavalry, A.P. 10 124 134 1st N.Y.Dragoons Torbert's Cavalry, A.P. 4 126 130 1st New Jersey Gregg's Cavalry, A.P. 12 116 128 2nd New York Wilson's Cavalry, A.P. 9 112 121 11th Pennsylvania Kautz's Cavalry, A.P. 11 108 119
The light artillery was composed of batteries with a maximum strength of 150 men and six guns. Before the war closed many of them were reorganized as four-gun batteries. In some cases there were regimental organizations comprising 12 batteries, but most of the troops in this arm of the service were independent commands; even where there was a regimental organization, each battery acted separately and independently of the others. In the volunteer service the leading batteries, in point of loss in battle, were as follows:
KILLED AND DIED OF WOUNDS.
Synonym Battery Corps Officers Men Total "Cooper's" - "B" 1st Penn. Artillery First 2 19 21 "Sands" 11th Ohio Battery Seventeenth --- 20 20 "Phillips" 5th Mass. Battery Fifth 1 18 19 "Weeden's" - "C" 1st R.I. Artillery Fifth --- 19 19 "Cowan's" 1st N.Y. Battery Sixth 2 16 18 "Stevens'" 5th Maine Battery First 2 16 18 "Ricketts" - "F" 1st Penn. Artillery First 1 17 18 "Easton's" - "A" 1st Penn. Artillery First 1 16 17 "Kern's" - "G" 1st Penn. Artillery First 1 16 17 "Randolph's" - "E" 1st R.I. Artillery Third --- 17 17 "Pettit's" - "B" 1st N.Y. Artillery Second --- 16 16 "Bigelow's" 9th Mass. Battery Reserve Art'y 2 13 15 "Bradbury's" 1st Maine Battery Nineteenth 2 13 15 "Wood's" - "A" 1st Ill. Artillery Fifteenth --- 15 15
The loss in the Eleventh Ohio Battery occurred almost entirely in one action, 19 of its men having been killed or mortally wounded at Iuka in a charge on the battery. In the other batteries, however, the losses represent a long series of battles in which they rendered effective service, and participated with honor to themselves and the arm of the service to which they belonged.
Among the light batteries of the Regular Army, equally heavy losses occurred in the following famous commands:
"B" 4th U.S. Artillery "Gibbon's" or "Stewart's" "K" 4th U.S. Artillery "DeRussey's" " "Seeley's" "I" 1st U.S. Atillery "Ricketts'" " "Kirby's", or Woodruff's" "D" 5th U.S. Artillery "Griffin's" " "Hazlitt's" "C" 5th U.S. Artillery "Seymour's" " "Ransom's" or "Weir's" "H" 5th U.S. Artillery "Gunther's" " "Burnham's" "A & C" 4th U.S. Artillery "Hazzard's" " "Cushing's" or "Thomas'"
The foregoing pages show accurately the limit of loss in the various regimental organizations in the civil war. The figures will probably fall below the prevalent idea as to the number killed in certain regiments; but these figures are the only ones that the muster-out rolls will warrant, and no others can be accepted. True, there are many errors in the rolls, but they have been thoroughly revised and corrected.
There have been too many careless, extravagant statements made regarding losses in action. Officers have claimed losses for their regiments, which are sadly at variance with the records which they certified as correct at the close of the war-- muster-out rolls which they made out themselves, and on which they accounted for each man in their command. If any veteran is surprised at the figures given here and feels disposed to question their accuracy, let him first carefully examine the muster-out rolls of his regiment. It will not be necessary to exaggerate the result. To the thoughtful, the truth will be sensational enough: the correct figures are amply heroic, and are unsurpassed in the annals of war.
The number of men killed in a regiment during its term of service has thus far been considered only in respect to the maximum of loss, and the result is of value only so far as it defines the limit of casualties to which regiments of this size are exposed. But, though similar in formation, the regiments varied in numbers according to the recruits or transferred men received. Some regiments received large numbers of recruits to make good their losses, while other commands went through the war with constantly lessening ranks and carried only the original thousand, or less, upon their rolls. Some regiments which reenlisted at the end of their three years' term received large accessions from other commands which, returning home, left detachments in the field composed of recruits with unexpired terms, or reenlisted men. Distinction must be made, in the matter of losses in action, between the regiments whose ranks were always kept full, and the ones which received no fresh material.
In short, the proper way to judge of the relative losses of regiments during their term of service is to accompany the statement of the losses with the figures of the total enrollment, and compare the percentages as well as the losses. The regiments in the following list Call fairly claim the honor of having encountered the hardest fighting in the war. They may not have done the most effective fighting, nor the best fighting; but they evidently stood where the danger was thickest, and were the ones which faced the hottest musketry. They were all well-known, reliable commands, and served with unblemished records. The maximum of loss is reached in this table:
KILLED AND DIED OF WOUNDS.
MAXIMUM PERCENTAGES OF ENROLLMENT.
Regiment Division Corps Enrolled Killed Per ct. 2nd 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 142nd 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 83rd Pennsylvania Griffin's Fifth 1808 282 15.5 22nd 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 255 15.1 79th U.S. Colored Thayer's Seventh 1249 188 15.0 17th Maine Birney's Third 1371 207 15.0 1st Minnesota Gibbon's Second 1242 187 15.0
The loss in the Second Wisconsin indicates the extreme limit of danger to which human life is exposed in a war similar in duration and activity to the American Civil War. It shows the chances which a man takes when he enlists. The figures, however, are the result of the weapons and mode of fighting of twenty years ago. Since then, muzzle-loading rifles have been dispensed with. Still, in the Franco-Prussian war, in which the troops were armed with breech-loaders, there was no increase in the percentage of casualties. In fact, the old muzzle-loaders were capable of delivering a hotter fire than any body of troops could withstand. At Marye's Heights and Cemetery Ridge, the bravest of assaulting columns recoiled from their fire; breech-loaders could have done no more. There was a limit of punishment beyond which endurance would not go, and the old Springfield rifle was capable of inflicting it.
But the figures of the Second Wisconsin, and of the other regiments as well, fail to show the full percentage of loss: the actual percentage was much larger. The figures given are based upon the total enrollment of the regiment, and necessarily include the non-combatants-- the musicians, teamsters, company cooks, officers' servants, Surgeon's assistants, and Quartermaster's men; also, the sick, the detailed men, and absentees of all kinds. If the percentage were based on the number of men who were accustomed to follow the colors into action, the figures would be still more startling. But there is no place to draw a dividing line, and so the total enrollment must be taken. As all regiments were pretty much alike in respect to the number of non-combatants, it shows fairly their relative positions in point of loss.
These figures, let it be remembered, include only the killed and mortally wounded. To understand their full significance, one must bear in mind the additional loss of wounded men who survived their injuries-- many of them surviving only to drag their marred and crippled lives along a lower plane of existence. In the Second Wisconsin nearly 900 men were killed or wounded, leaving but few unharmed of those who carried arms.
In stating the total enrollment of a regiment, the statistician is often in doubt as to what figures may be fairly used. In the Second Wisconsin there were two companies K. The first one remained with the regiment but a few weeks and was then permanently detached. Its place was taken by another company which was recruited in October, 1861. It would, manifestly, be unfair to include both companies in the enrollment, and so the first was not counted. Yet, the first company K was with the regiment in the battle of First Bull Run, and lost in that action one man killed and two missing. As this loss is included in the figures given for the Second Wisconsin, absolute accuracy would demand their subtraction before calculating the percentage. The regiment would, however, still remain at the head of the list in the table of percentages.
In the case of the First Maine Heavy Artillery a careful discrimination was also necessary. The enrollment given here includes the original regiment, together with all recruits received prior to the close of the war. But, in June, 1865-- two mouths after the war had closed-- the regiment received a large accession from the Seventeenth and Nineteenth Maine Infantry. These latter commands had been mustered out, upon which the recruits with unexpired terms of service were transferred to the First Maine Heavy Artillery. These men-- transferred after the war had ended-- are not included in the enrollment, as they formed no part of the body under consideration in the matter of percentage of loss. Their number had already entered into the calculation of the regiments in which they had previously served. A careful examination of the rolls of the First Maine Heavy Artillery, name by name, shows that 2202 men only were enrolled prior to the surrender at Appomattox.
A similar case is found in the Fifty-seventh Massachusetts, which carried 1052 names, officers and enlisted men, on its rolls up to the close of the war. On the 9th of August, 1865-four months after the fighting had ceased-- its rolls were increased by a transfer of the Fifty-ninth Massachusetts, which was consolidated with it. The names thus added were not included in the enrollment under consideration.
In the following table will be found every regiment in which the loss in killed and died of wounds exceeded ten per cent. of the total enrollment:
REGIMENTAL PERCENTAGES OF KILLED DURING ENTIRE TERM OF SERVICE.
In some of the regiments of the preceding list, a part of the enrollment has been omitted, and the percentage was calculated on the number enrolled during the period of active service. In some cases deduction was made for large bodies of conscripts which never joined the regiment, although their names were borne upon the rolls; also, for accessions of substitutes and drafted men who did not reach the regiment until the fighting had practically ended. Partial enrollments were used in calculating the percentages of the Second Massachusetts, Third Wisconsin, Twentieth Massachusetts, Seventh West Virginia, Eighty-second New York, and Eighty-third New York.
There were many regiments which would appear in the preceding table of high percentages were it not that their rolls were unduly swelled by useless names; by conscripts and mercenaries who deserted on their way to the front; and by transfers from disbanded regiments, in which too large a number of the men appeared on the transfer papers only. An attempt has been made in the succeeding pages to render justice to such regiments by tabulating the original enrollment separately, and stating the percentage of killed as based on that. In the Fifth New Hampshire, which does not appear in the table of high percentages, 17.9 per cent. of the original regiment were killed or mortally wounded.
Care was necessary, also, to avoid counting names twice, as in many regiments men were transferred from one company to another, their names appearing on the muster-out rolls of each company. In the printed rolls of the New Jersey troops these men are counted twice in the recapitulation which appears at the end of each regimental roll, thereby increasing, apparently, the quota of men furnished, but lowering the percentage of killed. Still, the printed rolls of the New Jersey regiments are in better shape than those of any other State, and are highly creditable to the authorities who had charge of the publication. In the regimental rolls published by Massachusetts, the names of those who reenlisted appear twice; and in all the State rolls names are duplicated more or less as the result of transfers or consolidation of companies. On the War Department records, a man who reenlisted was counted as two men, and so credited on the quota of the State.
In the figures given here, pains have been taken to avoid counting a man more than once, the intention being that the total enrollment should show exactly the number of individuals who served in each regiment.
This Page last updated 01/26/02
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