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Finding American Civil War Ancestors
Column published: 22 November 2006.
By: Shirley Gage Hodges Biography & Archived Articles
Those of you who know me well realize that if I am addicted and compulsive about my genealogical studies that I am truly over the bend when it comes to learning about the history of the Civil War.
Depending on which part of the country you lived in, this period was referred to in many ways. In the north we refer to it as the Civil War. This really is an oxymoron. Who ever heard of any war that was truly civil?
Some of the other names that it has been called are:
Men from Michigan responded gallantly. As the men who volunteered exceeded Michigan's quotas, many men joined "Units in Other States". If your ancestor lived in Michigan and served in the Civil War and you cannot locate him in Michigan records, check and see if he might have enlisted in one of our neighboring states. For example, three companies of men from the Battle Creek area formed the Merrill Horse of Missouri. This Missouri Regiment was the largest group of Michigan men serving in the unit of another state. We had over 900 men serving in Illinois units. There were 386 men serving in the Reserve Corp and 153 serving with General Hancock. The casualty rate of these men was over 11%.
The Union had a population of about 20,700,000. The eleven states of the Confederacy had a population of 9,100,000 including nearly 4,000,000 slaves.
How many Americans died in the Civil War?
Union deaths from battle or disease totaled 364,511. Authoritative figures for the confederacy are not available, but most estimates range around 260,000. The total of 620,000 deaths makes this conflict the bloodiest in the nation's history -- not excluding World War II, in which 405,399 Americans died.
Age of Soldiers
Figures from government records indicate that 78% of the Civil War was fought by 15-18 year olds. 38% of all soldiers were 18.
The explosion of the Sultana was, and remains even today, America's worst-ever-maritime disaster. The Sultana exploded on the Mississippi River early on the morning of April 27, 1865. Well over 1,500 paroled Union soldiers, crewmen and passengers lost their lives in the cold, muddy waters that spring morning.
The actual number of passengers aboard the Sultana will likely always be unclear due to poor record keeping at the time of boarding, but scholars today believe that between 2,200 and 2,300 were probably aboard the steamer when she exploded nine miles north of Memphis, Tennessee on the Mississippi River.
Of the paroled Union soldiers aboard the Sultana, nearly three out of four were from the states of Ohio, Tennessee, or Indiana, but there were also many soldiers from Michigan aboard. In fact about 13% of those on board were from Michigan.
Some of Shirley's favorite Civil War Sites
Thought For The Day
I would like to share this following thought with you. There are 37 shopping days left until Christmas. I would like to have each of you think about something that you could do for your family for Christmas.
Write your life story. It truly is the most precious gift that you could ever give them. I think that the most important mistake that we make as genealogists is that we don't pass along information about ourselves. We get so wrapped up in finding out information about those who have gone before us that we forget about ourselves. Hopefully, one hundred years from now that will matter to someone also.
Shirley Hodges, biography & genealogy lectures; email: email@example.com
Editor's Note: Shirley Hodges is the author of the popular Guide to United States Census, 1790-1930
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