He had his group of friends and I had mine, but we mingled a lot together. We used to hang around down at the beach, and the Quincy Quarries was one of our spots," John says. We got along very well. Jimmy's mom Carol was home with a cousin when two Marines and the parish priest arrived with the news that Jimmy was dead.
Rest in Peace? Bringing Home U.S. War Dead
But when she got there, she says she turned around walked away and spent the day wandering around. Her friends found her at Burger King that afternoon and told her she had to come home.
Chris thought she was in trouble for skipping school. It was much worse that that. John was at work, having lunch and playing cards with fellow workers, when he found out. And he said, 'It's Jimmy,' and I knew.
The death toll, they wrote, translated to "direct anguish in hundreds of homes all over the country, we must pause to look into the faces. Jimmy's siblings Chris and John did that again recently, with Chris softly fingering the faded pages as she turned them, choking on tears, before she saw her brother.
That was it.
It just killed her. Carol Hickey died in , just four years after her son.
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Her family says she had a broken heart and just wanted to be with Jimmy again. She was only Fifty years later, Chris says she remembers her brother's death like it happened yesterday. She says she still thinks about the day Jimmy and his friends quit school and left for Vietnam. Skip to main content. Hundreds of thousands died of disease. Taken as a percentage of today's population, the toll would have risen as high as 6 million souls.
The human cost of the Civil War was beyond anybody's expectations.
Rest in Peace? Bringing Home U.S. War Dead
The young nation experienced bloodshed of a magnitude that has not been equaled since by any other American conflict. The numbers of Civil War dead were not equaled by the combined toll of other American conflicts until the War in Vietnam. Some believe the number is as high as , The Civil War Trust does not agree with this claim. New military technology combined with old-fashioned tactical doctrine to produce a scale of battle casualties unprecedented in American history. Even with close to total conscription, the South could not match the North's numerical strength.
Southerners also stood a significantly greater chance of being killed, wounded, or captured. This chart and the one below are based on research done by Provost Marshal General James Fry in His estimates for Southern states were based on Confederate muster rolls--many of which were destroyed before he began his study--and many historians have disputed the results.
The estimates for Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, South Carolina, and Arkansas have been updated to reflect more recent scholarship. Given the relatively complete preservation of Northern records, Fry's examination of Union deaths is far more accurate than his work in the South. Note the mortal threat that soldiers faced from disease. A "casualty" is a military person lost through death, wounds, injury, sickness, internment, capture, or through being missing in action.
In practice, officers would usually be responsible for recording casualties that occurred within their commands. If a soldier was unable to perform basic duties due to one of the above conditions, the soldier would be considered a casualty. This means that one soldier could be marked as a casualty several times throughout the course of the war. Most casualties and deaths in the Civil War were the result of non-combat-related disease. For every three soldiers killed in battle, five more died of disease.
The primitive nature of Civil War medicine, both in its intellectual underpinnings and in its practice in the armies, meant that many wounds and illnesses were unnecessarily fatal. Our modern conception of casualties includes those who have been psychologically damaged by warfare.
This distinction did not exist during the Civil War. Soldiers suffering from what we would now recognize as post-traumatic stress disorder were uncatalogued and uncared for. Approximately one in four soldiers that went to war never returned home. At the outset of the war, neither army had mechanisms in place to handle the amount of death that the nation was about to experience. There were no national cemeteries, no burial details, and no messengers of loss.
The largest human catastrophe in American history, the Civil War forced the young nation to confront death and destruction in a way that has not been equaled before or since. Recruitment was highly localized throughout the war. Regiments of approximately one thousand men, the building block of the armies, would often be raised from the population of a few adjacent counties. Soldiers went to war with their neighbors and their kin. The nature of recruitment meant that a battlefield disaster could wreak havoc on the home community. The 26th North Carolina, hailing from seven counties in the western part of the state, suffered casualties out of men during the Battle of Gettysburg.
The 24th Michigan squared off against the 26th North Carolina at Gettysburg and lost out of men. Nearly the entire student body of Ole Miss out enlisted in Company A of the 11th Mississippi.
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Eighteen members of the Christian family of Christianburg, Virginia were killed during the war. It is estimated that one in three Southern households lost at least one family member. One in thirteen surviving Civil War soldiers returned home missing one or more limbs. Pre-war jobs on farms or in factories became impossible or nearly so. This led to a rise in awareness of veterans' needs as well as increased responsibility and social power for women.
For many, however, there was no solution.
Tens of thousands of families slipped into destitution. Compiling casualty figures for Civil War soldiers is a complex process.
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