The Biggest Causes of Death for Soldiers During the Civil War

The American Civil War was by all accounts a tremendously bloody battle and is to date the deadliest armed conflict in American history. Even sides victorious in battle often had tremendous casualties. Overall, it's estimated that 750,000 soldiers were killed. More Americans lost their lives in the Civil War than in the Revolutionary War, The Mexican War and the War of 1812 combined. The losses were staggering at the time and even more staggering to contemplate in contemporary times when the prospect of war rarely conjures images of such a tremendous death toll.

Bloodiest Battles

The Battle of Gettysburg, considered to be the most important of the war, was by far the bloodiest and cost the nation approximately 51,000 lives. The battle was a tremendous defeat for the Confederacy, which had been convinced of victory. The Union Army still suffered tremendous losses in the battle, with casualties numbering near 23,000.

Other bloody battles included the Battle of Chickamauga, which took place in southeastern Tennessee and had a death toll of 34,624, and the Battle of Spotsylvania, which took 30,000 lives. Much of the astonishingly large battlefield death toll could be attributed to the fact that newer military technology – i.e., deadlier weapons – were combined with older military tactical style, producing an unprecedented number of casualties. Although the South had nearly complete conscription and ultimately lost fewer lives over the course of the war, they were outnumbered by the soldiers from the North and eventually forced to surrender, ending the war.

Casualties Outside of Battle

While many of the casualties accounted for in statistics refer to death on the battlefield, an even greater number of soldiers died from noncombat-related illnesses and disease. Statistically, for every three soldiers who died during combat, there were five who died of disease. Civil War medicine wasn't advanced or sophisticated. Poorly treated wounds easily became infected and led to deadly disease. The sheer volume of soldiers who had been wounded or injured or fell sick was so vast that conditions that otherwise wouldn't have been fatal lead to death for want of better or more comprehensive care.

In addition to battle-related wounds and diseases, many soldiers died of heatstroke, drowning, murder, suicide, execution or accidents.

Casualties in the North and in the South

The Union Army lost approximately 110,000 soldiers in combat and a further 250,000 died from other causes. The Confederate Army's death toll numbers were lower, with an estimated 95,000 combat deaths and 165,000 deaths from other causes.