He Wasn’t Kidding

In a speech after the war ended, General William Tecumseh Sherman famously said, “War is Hell.” Lest we begin to forget what a calamity war can truly be, consider for a moment American military losses in the Civil War:

Approximately 620,000 military deaths (both sides, all causes)

Mass grave at Andersonville Prison (NPS.gov photo)
Mass grave at Andersonville Prison (NPS.gov photo)

That’s 2% of the total population at that time! All those deaths in a relatively brief period of time resulted in a logistical nightmare. Whether a fallen soldier received an honorable and dignified burial after a battle involved a number of variables:

    Did his side win or lose?
    Were overall losses minimal or extensive?
    Where did the battle occur (open field, wooded area, hilly region, etc.)?
    What was the weather like that day (very hot, very cold, rainy, etc.)?
    Was he carrying identification of some sort?

If numerous bodies were unidentified, or if large numbers of bodies needed to be buried quickly, the solution was often a mass grave. It’s possible to search this record collection in Ancestry Library Edition (Ancestry LE) for Civil War mass graves:

U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current Results

Try this search:

SEARCH—DEATH—YEAR 1863 (+/- 2 years) CEMETERY mass grave

This search returns burials in these locations (to name but a few, including several in our own state):

    Battery Wagner Mass Union Grave (Charleston, South Carolina)
    Confederate Mass Grave (St. Landry Parish, Louisiana)
    Confederate Mass Grave (Iuka, Mississippi)
    Confederate Mass Grave (Vernon County, Missouri)
    Confederate Mass Grave (Rutherford County, Tennessee)
    Goslin’s Lane Mass Grave (Boone County, Missouri)

In order to be thorough, you should also do this search:

SEARCH—DEATH—YEAR 1863 (+/- 2 years) CEMETERY mass trench

It returns burials in the Shiloh Mass Confederate Trench (Tennessee).

Sadly, this search also produces results:

SEARCH—DEATH—YEAR 1863 (+/- 2 years) CEMETERY massacre

You can use Ancestry LE at Central Library or any of our branches.

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