Do we officially know how many service members, North and South, died during the Civil War?
I had thought so, but a recent article casts serious doubts on the long accepted estimate of approximately 620,000 men (including KIA, dead of wounds or disease, and missing).
The April 2, 2012 New York Times published an article titled “New Estimate Raises Civil War Death Toll.” Written by Guy Gugliotta, the article presents this interesting information:
“By combing through newly digitized census data from the 19th century, J. David Hacker, a demographic historian from Binghamton University in New York, has recalculated the death toll and increased it by more than 20 percent — to 750,000.
“The new figure is already winning acceptance from scholars. Civil War History, the journal that published Dr. Hacker’s paper, called it “among the most consequential pieces ever to appear” in its pages.”
So yet another 130,000 men died in uniform? Let the scholars finetune the figures while we meet three Maine boys counted in the final number.
David and Abigail Brann, Levant farmers, sent three sons to save the Union. Born in Corinth on Jan. 23, 1838, Abner Brann mustered into the 22th Maine Infantry’s Co. H on Oct. 10, 1862. The Maine Adjutant General, John L. Hodsdon, credited his enlistment to Greenville, however.
Dispatched to Louisiana, Abner served until his discharge in late July 1863. Apparently satisfied with Army life, he re-enlisted on July 24, soon contracted a illness that proved fatal, and died in Baton Rouge on Aug. 28, 1863.
Born in Corinth on May 3, 1840, David Franklin Brann mustered into the 1st District of Columbia Cavalry on Oct. 14, 1863 and served in that outfit’s Companies D and E. His muster date suggests that David joined after learning about Abner’s death. The 1st D.C. Cavalry later merged with the 1st Maine Cavalry.
Diphtheria claimed David’s life in a Portsmouth, Va. hospital on Sept. 5, 1864.
So David and Abigail Brann were now out two sons. The news in their section of Levant was all bad during the war’s middle years. Their loss did not prevent David Brann from serving in the Army, however.
Another son, William Lewis, had been born in Wellington on Sept. 18, 1842. Along with Abner, he mustered into the 22nd Maine Infantry on Oct. 10, 1862 and went off to war with Co. H. Discharged in Louisiana on July 24, 1863, he evidently liked the bayou country and stayed in New Orleans.
Smallpox killed him there on Feb. 23, 1865.
All three Brann brothers have gravestones in the Hill Top Cemetery in Corinth. Given that Abner and William died in Louisiana and that their farmer parents likely could not afford to have their bodies embalmed there and shipped home for burial, the stones for those sons likely mark empty graves. David Franklin Brann might have “come home” from Virginia; with the murderous casualties suffered in spring and summer 1864 by the Army of the Potomac, the professional embalmers had become proficient in preserving still-warm bodies and shipping them north.
With three sons dead in service to the Union, David and Abigail Brann paid a terribly high price to save their country. Unfortunately, the Death Angel frequently visited the Branns in 1863, 1864, and 1865; besides their boys in blue killed by diseases, David and Abigail lost daughters Abbie and Laura, son John, and an unnamed infant son during those three years.
A military-honoring phrase circulating in the United States reminds us that “all [veterans] paid some, some [veterans] paid all.” David and Abigail Brann, patriotic farmers from Levant, paid just about everything.
Brian Swartz can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.