Soldiering the Army of Northern Virginia

Here is a fairly recent interview with Joe Glatthaar about his latest book, Soldiering in the Army of Northern Virginia: A Statistical Portrait of the Troops Who Served under Robert E. Lee, which is the companion book to his massive study of the Army of Northern Virginia. Glatthaar touches on a number of things, including the number of deaths in the Civil War, desertion, and the army’s connection to slavery.

[Uploaded to YouTube on June 17, 2014]

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2 comments… add one

  • Lee Jun 20, 2014

    I found Glatthaar’s comments about the number of deaths in the war rather puzzling. The traditional figure has been about 618,000 Union and Confederate soldiers. A few years ago, using census records, J. David Hacker concluded this was too low, and gave a new estimate of 750,000. Hacker also said that the actual figure could be as high as 850,000. Hacker’s work has received little challenge from historians.

    But Glatthaar actually goes in the other direction–sticking with the traditional figure of 360,000 Union deaths and lowering the Confederate figure of 258,000. Has he given any reasons for rejecting Hacker’s findings? In the interview here, he says that using census records to determine the number of dead was “dicey,” but didn’t get more specific than that, and to me this seems insufficient for dismissing the work of another scholar.

    • Boyd Harris Jun 23, 2014

      Some scholars have reserved their final judgement until further verification of Hacker’s hypothesis. Hacker was at a conference recently at the University of Mississippi and I got to see firsthand some of the questions that his work has raised in the field. They primarily focus on the incongruities of the 1870 census and the validity of Hacker’s algorithms. Needless to say, some of this is very dry quantitative analysis.

      I do not know Glatthaar’s reasoning as to why he questions Hacker’s research. My impression is that he is merely doing what good scholars are supposed to do, which is to question and challenge new interpretations. When I lecture on death in the Civil War, I also use the traditional numbers. I also mention that new scholarship challenges those numbers, while adding that exact numbers will never be fully known.

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