4/4 | Numbers & Visualization

What do the available numbers for the Civil War dead tell us? How can visualizations help us understand those numbers? What makes a good visualization?

The nineteenth-century Americans were so concerned with getting an accurate count of the Civil War dead because they felt as though the North and the South did not put that much emphasis on that part of the war and seeing as how the death and destruction was such a large part of the war, they felt that numbers would stress the importance of never having another war of that magnitude on American soil and involving only American lives.

In the article written by Drew Faust that was posted in the Journal of Military history, he went into detail about why American’s in the postwar era felt so strongly about getting accurate Civil War dead numbers. It became such a large topic because once historians actually dived deep into what happened after the Civil War battle, they realized that the North and South lacked accountability around the board. They had not notified family members about deaths and left many soldiers unidentified. This is definitely baffling, but not shocking seeing as the tensions between the North and South were still high after the battle especially once slaves received their freedom.

The fact that soldiers put their lives on the line to fight for the idea of freedom (in both sides) and weren’t even granted the courtesy of getting proper burials or even people caring enough to find their names and notify their families disgusted postwar historians. They felt it was imperative that the government take Civil War dead counts into their hands and take it seriously, and thus, the numbers of 620,000 dead soldiers were found. The most shocking part that historians found were that the amount of deaths totaled both American and Vietnamese deaths combined in the Vietnam War. Those numbers constantly burn into the brains of Americans and the government, and I believe it’s one of the strongest forces to keep American’s from starting another Civil War and causing such a magnitude of casualties in our own soil.

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