The Civil War’s Human Cost

Author:   George C. Burling


Almost as many soldiers died during the Civil War as in all other American wars combined. Union combat deaths totalled 111,904; another 197,388 died of disease, 30,192 in prison, and 24,881 as a result of accidents. Another 277,401 Union solders were wounded. Confederate casualties were nearly as high, with approximately 94,000 combat deaths, 140,000 deaths by disease; and 195,000 men wounded.

Over half of all deaths were caused by disease. As a result of poor sanitation, primitive medical practices, and contaminated water supplies, the average regiment lost half its fighting strength from disease during the first year. This letter underscores the war’s human cost.


Excuse the liberty I take in addressing you this letter knowing you to be a Jersey man to the core. I want you to have a thorough knowledge of the 2nd Brigade. We left our camp last April numbering near 3600 men, for duty. To day we do not number more than 1200. Where is the rest? Virginia’s soil made sacred with the blood and bodies of a large number of the deficiency. The balance in Hospitals suffering from wounds or sickness. I have no fault to find with this that is what we left home and its comforts for, to sacrifice health and even life, to sustain our glorious flag and Country, and the remainder though few in numbers are brave in spirit, and are ready and willing to stand to the last man, in defense of our Common Country.