What’s In a Number?

There’s been a lot of talk lately about numbers, specifically in assessing the number of Civil War dead. J. David Hacker’s essay “A Census-Based Count of the Civil War Dead” appeared in a 2011 issue of Civil War History. The essay received a great deal of attention and a shorter version appeared in the New York Times Disunion blog. Keith Harris offers some thoughts here. More recently, Nicholas Marshall published an essay in The Journal of the Civil War Era that can be seen, in part, as a response to Hacker. Whether Marshall’s essay garners as much traction has yet to be seen, but it did receive a thorough critique from fellow blogger Vince Slaugh at Lancaster at War.

The National Park Service at Andersonville has also been counting the Civil War dead. Here is the latest update for 150 years ago this May 8.

One response... add one

I did not jump on the Hacker bandwagon when his research was published and therefore did not change the Civil War Trust casualty figures. His conclusions in what he included and the broad and therefore wildly unhelpful range he provides does nothing in my opinion to unseat the admittedly also largely speculative figures assembled by Fox and Livermore long ago. http://www.civilwar.org//education/higher-number.html. The unhelpful range reminds me of a snow forecast in places where people don’t get much snow–2″ to 36″ expected overnight…buy milk, bread and toilet paper!

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