Thursday, October 25, 2007

Shiloh versus Ken Burns

There are times when I can still hear David McCullough narrate Ken Burns The Civil War in my head. I almost know the series by heart because I listened to it on cassette tape as a kid. Yes I was a nerd. However, during the film McCullough states that the Battle of Shiloh had more deaths and all previous American Wars combined. This blog will go inside the numbers and see if Burns and his writers are correct in their assumptions. First lets take a look at the Battle of Shiloh and the casuality lists then I'll list the casualites of the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Mexican war.According to the website

"On the morning of April 6, 1862, Confederates commanded by Albert Sidney Johnston roared into Grant's encampment around Pittsburg Landing, beginning the bloodiest battle of the war. It would be remembered by the name of the little whitewashed church around which some of the fiercest early fighting swirled - Shiloh, a Hebrew word meaning "place of peace.""

According to the national park service the casulties at Shiloh were very high. The site lists 23,746 total casualities for both sides at Shiloh(US 13,047; CS 10,699). Total forces engaged Army of the Tennessee and Army of the Ohio (65,085) [USA]; Army of the Mississippi (44,968) [CSA].

Lets look at the three previous wars that the United States fought in.The Revolutionary War had 10,623 total casualties, the War of 1812 had 6,765, The Mexican War had 5,885. If you add those three together your grand total over three wars is 23,273. If you take Shiloh's total and the pervious was totals and subtract them The Battle of Shiloh had 473 more men fall. Not a staggering total but Burns and his researchers were accurate in their assessment. This backs up the historical argument that warfare had changed and the old tactics caused horrundes amounts of casualities.
It should be noted that the Battle of Shiloh lasted two days, The Revolutionary War lasted seven years, The War of 1812 lasted two years and the Mexican War lasted two years. So 746 more men fell in two days of combat versus eleven years of combat. Astonishing isn't it?Moreover, in the three previous wars a grand total of 8,428 men died while serving in combat. At Shiloh or Pittsburg Landing a grand total of 3,477 men died in just two days of combat. Thats a difference of 4,951 men which isn't alot when you think that the previous wars had over eleven years of time to build a big lead. These numbers just jump out at me and its hard to grasp but it is there and the rest is left to history.

CRS Report to Congress on American War deaths/wounds is here:

The page devoted to Shiloh, along with the map is on the PBS page:

The nps webpage on Shiloh is here:

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