(See update below)
As I have mentioned before, I’m really not a Civil War fan. I’ve thought for years that the war was a colossal, criminal, waste of time, treasure, and the lives of far too many young men.
Here in Kendall County, nearly 10 percent of the total population served in the war and around 2 percent of the total 1860 population died or was killed during the war. Hundreds of those who returned home were disabled , both mentally and physically, to a greater or lesser extent.
In addition, the war apparently created a sense of wanderlust in those who served. Kendall County’s population in 1860 stood at 13,074. After the war, it underwent a steady decline over almost the next entire century. The county’s population did not rise above it’s 1860 level until 1960 when vigorous post-World War II economic and population growth accelerated.
So the war had a substantial, and long-lasting, effect on us here in the North. The effect on the South appears to have been even worse.
Historian David Oshinsky has a fascinating piece in the Washington Post looking, in part, at the impact of the Civil War on the State of Mississippi. As pointed out by Eric Loomis at one of my favorite blogs, Lawyers, Guns, and Money, Oshinsky writes:
More than a third of Mississippi’s 78,000 soldiers were killed in battle or died from disease. And more than half of the survivors brought home a lasting disability of war. Visitors to the state were astonished by the broken bodies they saw at every gathering, in every town square. Mississippi resembled a giant hospital ward, a land of missing arms and legs. In 1866, one-fifth of the state budget went for the purchase of artificial limbs.
Did you get that? A third of Mississippi’s soldiers who marched off to fight for slavery and slave owners died. But even more astonishing, 20 percent of the state’s entire budget in 1866, the year after the war ended, was spent on artificial arms, legs, hands, and feet.
The Civil War was an abomination. That no one was prosecuted for starting it and sticking with it until an estimated 620,000 soldiers were either killed or died of disease or other reasons was a horrible miscarriage of justice.
UPDATE: Was doing my usual early morning cruise about the Net today and came across this great column by the War Nerd about Sherman’s “March to the Sea,” which stepped off from Atlanta just 150 years ago this month.
One thing for which you’ve got to give the instigators of the War of Southern Sedition credit is their remarkably successful post-war effort to spin this absolutely horrible conflict as entirely the North’s fault that was undertaken to somehow take the South’s freedom away.
I remember while growing up that movies and TV shows continually glorified the “Lost Cause.” The rebels were not only glorified, but, in the case of Robert E. Lee, almost sanctified. The causes of the war were obscured so that most came to believe the “states’ rights” canard. Sherman and Grant had no illusions about what was going on, nor did those who fought in Union blue. As Grant put it, the South’s decision to fight a war to uphold slavery was “the worst cause for which men ever fought.” And as Sherman warned his Southern friends before their effort to subvert the Constitution got fully underway: “It is all folly, madness, a crime against civilization!”
It truly was. Read the War Nerd’s blog post.