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 (1863) Battle of Gettysburg
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Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5100
Joined: 2004
The most fatally stricken brigades
7/30/2021 5:51:00 PM
It would be interesting to see how the contending armies fared in terms of their most fatally damaged brigades. Here I allude to actual deaths, as opposed to overall casualties. High casualty counts don’t necessarily entail heavy loss of life : the proportion of prisoners might inflate losses, with relatively few men being killed. Sometimes the soldiers escaped with slight wounds, if the lie of the land and the amount of cover made the fire they were exposed to less lethal, or if their deployment afforded them a chance to avoid the close quarters fire that was more dangerous. I note that while some of the yankees who held the breastworks in the Culp’s Hill fighting suffered fewer casualties than the rebels who attacked them, their wounded were likely to be shot in the head, with consequentially high proportions of fatalities. Holding high ground can be more dangerous than is commonly supposed, if the men are visible against the sky line : the defenders of the Round Tops were to suffer lethal fire from rebel sharpshooters : Hazlett, Vincent and Weed being officers who suffered that fate and paid with their lives. A brigade that was routed might be susceptible to murderous fire as the men were pursued.... Never let the enemy see your backs ! was more than just an appeal to martial honour : it was a warning that turning and running could be more dangerous than standing your ground.

I’ll make a table of the brigades in the two armies that suffered the highest percentages of killed and mortally wounded, and see how the two sides compared, and if there are common denominators that might be discernible. How did the Federal Iron Brigade, for example, compare with Pettigrew’s or Armistead's ? Since Confederate brigades tended to be larger than their Federal counterparts, there might be some disparities based on the smaller units being especially hard hit. There’s also John Busey’s recent research which tends to increase the size of Confederate brigades on account of all the roster being included, where Federal counts were more confined to battle effectives.

If it does nothing to arouse interest or enhance knowledge, it will at least satisfy my own curiosity .

Regards, Phil

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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
Larry Purtell
Little Meadows PA USA
Posts: 1304
Joined: 2004
The most fatally stricken brigades
7/30/2021 6:59:40 PM
You certainly have my interest and I await your figures.

Larry
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"My goal is to live forever. So far, so good.
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5100
Joined: 2004
The most fatally stricken brigades
7/31/2021 11:44:30 AM
Thanks, Larry.

Heavy lifting accomplished : quite a task, especially with one eye and one ear on the Olympics !

I selected only those brigades in both armies that sustained a loss of ten per cent or more in killed and mortally wounded. A large number on both sides suffered a loss very close, but I have not included them. A loss of ten per cent in killed/ died of wounds implies a total casualty count of one third, or even one half, of the entire command if non mortal wounds and prisoners are taken into account : worse than that, many of those captured unscathed would die whilst prisoners, and these were in addition to the dead in the list below.

There are fourteen Union and twelve Confederate brigades in the table, with the percentage of combat fatalities presented alongside


Union Brigades :

Harrow : 17.35%

Willard : 14.72%

Burbank : 13.99%

Rowley : 13.82%

Meredith : 13.72%

Hall : 13.12%

Webb : 12.46%

Stone : 12.22%

Krzyzanowski : 12.04%

Carr : 11.64%

Brewester : 10.67%

Ames : 10.62%

Brook : 10.58%

Cross : 10.01%


Confederate Brigades :

Pettigrew : 16.7%

Garnett : 15.37%

Davis : 14.6%

Lang : 14%

Armistead : 13.95%

Wright : 13.47%

Scales : 13.4%

Iverson : 12.45%

Barksdale : 11.51%

Lane : 10.82 %

Daniel : 10.64%

Kemper : 10.1%


Time afforded for each post does not allow me to make further comment, but there is so much more to say.

Confederate brigades tended to be larger, and there is scope for a bit of tweaking here, but I reckon the thing as displayed shows the awful strain of a very evenly balanced battle, in which the victors were hideously damaged too.

Edit : to put this into absolute numbers, the twelve rebel brigades mustered 21,753 on their rolls , and lost 2,871 killed or mortally wounded. Their fourteen Yankee counterparts aggregated 18,521 and lost 2,355 killed or died from wounds.
In percentage terms, these were 13.2 and 12.7 respectively.


Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5100
Joined: 2004
The most fatally stricken brigades
8/5/2021 8:32:07 AM
Here's another tabulation, based on Fox and Busey, giving the record Corps by Corps in the two armies, with the important proviso that the strength carried into battle was probably not more than four fifths of the figures in the table.

Union.

1st Corps : 9,403. Fatally hit : 1,098 (11.7%)

2nd Corps: 12,363. Fatally hit : 1,238 (10%)

3rd Corps : 11,247. Fatally hit : 1,050 ( 8.8%)

5th Corps : 11,954. Fatally hit : 593 (5%)

6th Corps : 14,516. Fatally hit : 46 (0.3%)

11th Corps : 9,197. Fatally hit : 724 (7.9%)

12th Corps : 8,193. Fatally hit : 320 ( 3.9%)

Cavalry Corps : 14,973. Fatally hit : 152 (1%)

Reserve Artillery : 6,692. Fatally hit : 70 (1%)



Confederate.

First Corps : 22,353. Fatally hit : 1,937 (8.7%)

Second Corps : 21,806. Fatally hit : 1,387 (6.4%)

Third Corps : 23,376. Fatally hit : 2,036 (8.7%)

Cavalry : 9,122. Fatally hit : 51 (0.6%)

Time runs out. Further comments later.

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
mikecmaps
CAMARILLO CA USA
Posts: 106
Joined: 2020
The most fatally stricken brigades
8/5/2021 12:54:26 PM

Phil,
Thanks a lot for your work and presentation on K&W.
I note for corps stats that on 3 rd; Meade had a potential reserve of about half his total infantry available for a major counter attack; he missed a great chance for a decisive counter attack.
Also corps percentages show larger losses, K&W at least, in union defenders, 1st, 2nd, 3rd & 11th corps than confd attackers 1st & 3rd. Which might show again that Lee was not mistaken to make effective attacks, yes effective is issue.
I do wonder if isolating K&W has great advantage. The Missing numbers may be a good stat to express the morale/cohesion conditions after battle. With the loser generally leaving the field, a sign of morale lost, and men left behind wounded and KIA and many simply walking away during the withdrawal phase. And where MIA numbers are heavily skewed to the loser it may show the relative scale of defeat. May I say mike’s general rule being larger missing showing which side lost and scale of defeat? And yes a very general rule only.
Mike_C
mikecmaps
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5100
Joined: 2004
The most fatally stricken brigades
8/5/2021 2:26:15 PM
Mike,

Your comments appreciated, as always. Allow me to emphasise that I refer only to killed - i.e. killed outright or died from wounds - and that large ( very large) numbers of wounded are not included. I'm in total agreement with you about the loss in prisoners. I refer to POW rather than MIA, because the CSA return for MIA included K&W, which Busey investigated and ascribed to their proper category. The Union army, winning the battle and holding the field, was better able to account for its dead and wounded, and the yankee MIA were virtually all prisoners. A large portion of the rebel prisoners (20%+) were taken , not in the three days of heavy fighting, but in the following two days as Lee relinquished the field. One of the features that strikes me is the fact that the Union 2nd Corps suffered some of the deadliest damage, in terms of mortality, but its commander - himself desperately wounded - advocated an immediate counter attack when the PPT assault was repulsed. The MIA proportion of Hancock's Corps was small - only 9% - which attests your point about morale.

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5100
Joined: 2004
The most fatally stricken brigades
8/6/2021 2:06:50 PM
The Union Ist Corps had the highest proportionate loss in killed ( although the 2nd lost more in absolute terms). It’s also the case that the Ist Corps lost a great number of missing : from memory, about forty per cent of its total casualty list were unwounded prisoners. Yet, its fighting effectiveness was superb : it probably inflicted even greater slaughter than it suffered, and smashed up several rebel brigades, capturing in excess of a thousand prisoners. The figures are always open to differing interpretations.

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
Jim Cameron
Ossining NY USA
Posts: 967
Joined: 2005
The most fatally stricken brigades
8/6/2021 5:39:43 PM
Part of what this shows is that CW brigades could sustain losses that would render a modern infantry unit combat ineffective. Not because troops now are lesser men, but because the demands placed on a CW unit were very different. A unit could lose large numbers of men and still fight effectively, just on a smaller front. Pretty much all an infantryman had to do was carry and fire his musket. By comparison, modern infantry have many different tasks, which casualties make difficult to execute.
For a CW brigade, combat losses in any one engagement were unlikely to fatally damage it.
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Jim Cameron Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5100
Joined: 2004
The most fatally stricken brigades
8/7/2021 6:40:53 AM
Quote:

For a CW brigade, combat losses in any one engagement were unlikely to fatally damage it.



Thanks, Jim : the points you make are valid, and they have made me aware of poor choice of words on my part.

By “ fatally stricken” , I mean the actual percentage of fatal casualties, rather than damage to the unit’s ability to fight being fatally effected .

It’s always caught my eye : a regiment, for example, might report a loss of 20 killed and 100 wounded, and you’ll find that virtually all the killed are concentrated in one or two companies, while the rest of the regiment suffers very few killed, but significant numbers of wounded. The reasons for this interest me : what imparts such lethality to the fire that strikes one contingent, while the others, engaged with the same enemy at the same time, escape with wounds only ? I must be careful here : no complacency about being wounded, especially in that war. Indeed, I note that some regiments - and brigades - reported small numbers of killed, but larger numbers of mortally wounded. I suppose this reflects the ability to recover and care for badly wounded who were bound to succumb : who knows whether the initial return of killed alludes to men killed outright, or badly wounded who were left to die in horrible circumstances, untended and abandoned ? The degree to which bloodshed and mortality are conflated is a feature of warfare’s record that has fascinated me. The research of Busey throws a lot of light on this. Then, of course, there’s the crucial importance of medical care, which is dependent on evacuation and standards of practice in the respective armies.
I often muse on the trope that there is more mileage in wounding your enemy than in killing him. The wounded require resources to be lavished on them ; there’s also testimony from many battlefields that the fate of the wounded had a deleterious effect on morale.

Gettysburg, I think, has a lot to offer when it comes to trying to study this.

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

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