Civil War







Death %





Death %





​Source: U.S. Dept. of Defense via World Book of Facts​

​The population figures given above were from the U.S. census for 1790 for the Revolutionary war, 1860 for the Civil War and 1940 for World War II. 1790 was the first official Federal census.

A review of the information presented above indicates that participants in the American Civil War were more than 5 times more likely to be killed than American soldiers in World War II. Several factors caused the terrible mortality rate in the Civil War compared to other wars in which America has fought.

Weapons and Tactics:

At the outset of the war military leaders for both the northern and southern troops had received their training together at West Point. The commonly used textbooks for their military education focused on the highly regarded military strategies of Napoleon. His strategies in conducting wars in the early 1800s across Europe were the pattern of instruction at the United States Military Academy.

Many of Napoleon’s strategies had valid application in the Civil War and beyond. However, there was one important strategy that was employed with great success by Napoleon that resulted in catastrophic carnage in the Civil War several decades after Napoleon’s era. In Napoleon’s time the weapons, small arms and cannon alike, were smooth bore. As a result they had limited accuracy and limited range. Smooth bore muskets were generally undependable beyond 30 yards or so.

Napoleon surmised properly that to account for this limitation in weaponry the best approach was to mass troops in linear fashion which concentrated fire and increased the odds of actually hitting enemy soldiers in their opposing ranks. By the time of the Civil War a major improvement had evolved in small arms and cannon alike. Both were manufactured with rifled barrels. This increased accuracy and killing effectiveness to hundreds of yards or more.

Unfortunately, for the soldiers in the field the massing of troops in linear fashion following Napoleonic strategies made them easy targets for the enemy’s highly accurate and lethal rifled muskets and cannon. The most common rifles used by both armies were the 1861-63 Springfield rifled musket and the British made Enfield rifle. Both sides experienced massive loss of life and limb because of the failure of their leaders to account for the substantial changes brought to weaponry between Napoleon’s wars and the Civil War.

Other weapon advancements added to the carnage. Cannon loaded with “canister” and “grape shot” ripped massive holes into advancing enemy lines. In effect cannon so deployed became giant shotguns with horrific effectiveness. During the war repeating breech loaded small arms became available like the Spencer Repeating Rifle and Spencer Carbine adding even more fire power into the hands of soldiers.

The failure to adjust tactics to account for the improvements in weapons and their effectiveness at a much longer range contributed in large measure to the fatality rates experienced by the northern and southern soldiers in the American Civil War. However, it was not the only factor that brought about this result. Medical treatment for injured troops was very primitive and had not improved much at all from Medieval times.

Medical treatment for wounds and illnesses:

An examination of the previously presented statistics reveals that more men died from improperly treated battle wounds, infections and a wide range of illnesses inadequately addressed than in battle in the Civil War. Of the nearly half a million deaths of soldiers on both sides of the conflict, 57% died outside of battle based on the statistics presented above. In comparison, in World War II the number of American soldier deaths beyond the battle field were only 28% of total deaths.

Medical knowledge and practice simply had not evolved quickly enough to address the injuries and illnesses associated with modern warfare. Understanding about infections and their causes and treatment was still decades in the future. Amputation was the universally practiced approach for injured limbs in an effort to prevent infection and gangrene from setting in. Bone saws and surgical instruments were not sterilized. Antibiotics to prevent and treat infections were nonexistent. As a result, bacterial infections following medical treatment were all too common and sometimes fatal.

Beyond the threat of battle wounds and their aftermath, non-battle related diseases were actually larger killers than cannon shrapnel, bullets, swords and bayonets. Intestinal disorders were the most common including typhoid fever, diarrhea or dysentery. The conditions of camps where soldiers slept, ate and drank were filthy and often wet. Pneumonia frequently developed from minor colds ultimately becoming a significant cause of non-battle deaths.

At the beginning of the war the medical personnel for both sides were significantly undermanned, under trained and under supplied. Field hospitals were whatever could be found in a hurry. Many a family parlor or bedroom became makeshift hospitals where amputations and other quick and dirty emergency procedures were performed. As the war lengthened, the medical staffs grew significantly. Women stepped forward as volunteer nurses in large numbers. Nevertheless, the medicine practiced was still very primitive by modern standards.

Other General Observations:

Finally, because the American Civil War was fought among fellow citizens “brother against brother” all deaths on both sides were of Americans, either northern or southern, except for the rare foreign participant. This factor caused the casualty numbers to be greater compared to other wars in which America has been involved against foreign forces.

Sources of Information on Yinger Family Civil War Soldiers:

In researching and compiling data for an understanding of the participation of Yinger family participants in the American Civil War several important sources of information were consulted.

By far the most important source I used to compile Yinger family Civil War participation was the History of Pennsylvania Volunteers 1861-65 by Samuel Bates. This comprehensive work was commissioned just after the Civil War ended by the Pennsylvania Legislature. They sought to preserve a record of service by her many brave sons who participated in various regiments and other military units under the jurisdiction of the State of Pennsylvania. Bates completed this monumental publication between 1869 and 1871.

I was fortunate to find the contents of this essential work on Pennsylvania soldiers in the Civil War on the internet as part of the University of Michigan Library online system.  The following link takes you to a page which causes the results of a search for the name Yinger within the online collections of the University of Michigan’s library system to be displayed.  Yinger appearances within Samuel Bates’ History of Pennsylvania Volunteers 1861-5 are included within those search results.  http://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/moa/. 

Transcripts of the preface, regimental histories and muster rolls of regiments that Yinger ancestors fought in from Samuel Bates’ History of Pennsylvania Volunteers 1861-5 are included in this Civil War section of the web site.  The link for that area of this web site is included at the bottom of this Introduction and Summary.

Another source of information for determining the service record for Yinger family members in the Civil War that is available on the internet is Civil War Pension application records index cards.  Occasionally those index card images provided clarifying information beyond the muster rolls in Samuel Bates' work.

While Civil War Pension Record index cards sometimes provide additional insights to a soldier’s service, a much greater wealth of information on Civil War pension applications resides at the National Archives on the Mall in Washington, D.C. When a veteran sought to apply for a pension as a result of his disability in the later years of his life, significant documentation had to be provided to the Federal Pension Board justifying the eligibility of the veteran for a pension.

Furthermore, when a widow of a Civil War Veteran wanted to receive a pension on behalf of her deceased husband’s military service, she had to submit important documentary evidence as well to the Federal Pension Board about her marriage to the veteran. Similarly, minor children of deceased veteran Civil War soldiers also had to have important documentation submitted proving their relationship to the veteran as a minor child before they could receive a pension as a child of the veteran.

These original documents are kept in files at the National Archives. A visit to the Archives provided an opportunity to review these important files for the Yinger ancestors who were Union veterans of the Civil War. It is also possible to order copies of the contents of the files for a particular soldier for a fee. This process is discussed on the web site of the National Archives which is http://www.archives.gov/.

In addition to the Civil War Pension application file documentation, the National Archives also maintains a file of documentation for the service records of each Union Civil War veteran. These documents are also available for viewing in person at the National Archives on the Mall in Washington, D.C. Copies can also be ordered from the web site indicated above.

An additional resource I found on the internet was available at the web site for the Pennsylvania State Archives. They have an online database titled Civil War Veterans' Card File, 1861-1866 Indexes. From their web site the following description of the contents is excerpted:


“These 3" x 5" cards were initially prepared to serve as an index to Samuel Penniman Bates' "History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-1865," (Harrisburg, 1869-1871). The Office of the Adjutant General later expanded the scope of the cards by transcribing onto them data found on the original Civil War Muster Rolls and Related Records, 1861-1866 {series #19.11}. The information generally includes the soldiers' names, military units, Bates' citations (volume and page), ages at enrollment, descriptions (complexion, height, color of hair and eyes), residences and birthplaces; the dates and places where enrolled; the dates and places where mustered in; and the dates of discharge. The listing is not inclusive.”


Like the Civil War pension file documents additional insights were occasionally gleaned from these index cards that were not previously noted in the other sources I consulted.  The web site address leading to this data base is http://www.digitalarchives.state.pa.us/archive.asp.

Yinger Family Civil War Participation

Introduction to Bates History of PA Volunteers

Battle Summaries

Civil War Conclusion​






The American Civil War 1861-1865
Yinger Family Member Participation
Introduction and Summary

“Federalism” versus “States’ Rights”:

In the early years of the United States shortly after the Revolutionary War for American Independence had been won, strong differences of opinion emerged regarding the issue of a strong central “Federal” government with ultimate overarching authority versus a government system which gave wide latitude and power to the individual States (“States’ Rights”). Proponents of both sides had strong convictions regarding the merits of their positions on the matter.

Alexander Hamilton was a leader of the “Federalist” camp which promoted the necessity of a strong central government looking to the British system for inspiration. He was George Washington’s Secretary of the Treasury, the first to hold that cabinet position in American history. He had been a close military assistant to Washington during the revolution and had served Washington and his country with distinction and success.

Under Alexander Hamilton’s tenure many significant achievements were attained. The most significant accomplishment was to set the country’s finances in order following the war. Some of the more noteworthy specific measures Hamilton implemented included the assumption of state debts incurred during the war by the federal government, the founding of the United States Mint and the founding of the first national bank.

While these steps helped secure the fiscal well being of the new nation they were met with skepticism and outright opposition by other “founding fathers”. Their oppositions were based on the fear that a central government with too much power would be a never ending threat to the freedoms so dearly won at great expense from a similarly overbearing strong centralized government; the monarchy of England.

The opposition was lead by men like Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Aaron Burr. The philosophical dispute resulted in sharp political divisions. The origins of a two party system in American politics sprang from this dispute. Hamilton and his supporters became the foundation of the “Federalist Party” which was committed to the notion of a strong central government. Jefferson and his supporters formed the “Democratic-Republican” party alternatively known as “Jeffersonian Democrats”.

The disputes between the two philosophies became so intense and the hard feelings so personal that the divisions eventually led to personal animosity and bloodshed. In July 1804 Hamilton was challenged to a duel by Aaron Burr over personal insults exchanged between the two. Hamilton was mortally wounded and died the next day, July 12, 1804. Burr was Jefferson’s Vice President at the time of the duel. He was charged with murder but never tried in court.

The “Peculiar Institution” of Slavery

During the late 1700’s and the first several decades of the 1800’s slavery in the United States was not the only hot issue seen very differently by “Federalists” and “States’ Rights” proponents. However, it certainly was the issue that elicited the strongest passionate differing points of view across the country, north and south, and increasingly westward.

Slavery was rapidly diminishing in the northern states due to rising industrialization and urbanization. In the southern states, however, the agrarian plantation based system which relied heavily on slavery for its prosperity and existence continued unabated. The country was expanding westward into areas like Missouri and Kansas. Settlers into those areas had different views about the expansion of slavery into new territories. These differences resulted in bloodshed as pro-slavery proponents and anti-slavery proponents took up arms against each other.

Differing views emerged politically regarding whether the federal government should make the determination regarding the expansion or prohibition of slavery into new territories and states. Many felt that the citizens within a given new territory or state should be able to determine for themselves whether to allow slavery in their area or not by popular vote.

Over the decades from the 1820’s through the 1850’s various federal legislative attempts were made to address the problem of slavery and its expansion westward into new territories. Most often the laws passed by congress were compromises that resulted in a bandaid approach to what was becoming an increasingly deep and festering wound in the American psyche.

In the north, abolitionists began to speak out more and more passionately about the moral evils of slavery as they saw it. They reminded their listeners that our founding fathers had emphasized in our nation’s Declaration of Independence in 1776 that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Publications like the anti-slavery novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe further fanned the flames of abolitionist sentiment across the country, particularly in the northern states. Southern leaders felt increasingly like they were being railroaded down a path by anti-slavery sentiment in the north that would threaten their way of life and prosperity which was very dependent on slavery.

This fear was further accelerated by the increasing polarization between the political parties. The nation’s two-party system became divided along northern and southern lines. The Whig party became the party of the northern states while the Democratic Party became the party of the southern states. In 1854 the Republican Party was formed on an explicit platform of anti-slavery. Most Whigs joined the new Republican Party and leading up to the Presidential election of 1860 it became known and feared in the south as the anti-slavery northern party.

In the election of 1860 Abraham Lincoln was the Republican Party Presidential candidate. During his campaign his speeches addressed the slavery issue with language that made it very clear that he did not believe the nation could continue to exist while being part slave and part free. In 1858 he stated this conviction at the Illinois Republican state convention with the statement that “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free”.

To southerners this statement made it abundantly clear what the future held for their way of life and culture should Lincoln win the Presidential election of 1860. However, before that watershed event occurred, another significant anti-slavery action took place in October 1859. An extremist and militant abolitionist named John Brown decided to take action to address the evils of slavery. He led a party of less than 20 men in an attempt to raid the federal armory at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia.

John Brown and his abolitionist backers hoped that many slaves would rise up if they were provided with weapons and, by military force, secure the necessary end to the evil institution of slavery that immorally bound them. His attempt failed and he was eventually captured with his men by the U.S. marines led by Lt. Colonel Robert E. Lee. Brown was tried for treason and hanged in December 1859. This action by an extreme “madman” served as another example to the citizens of the southern states how vulnerable their way of life dependant on slavery was.

Secession by the Southern States:

In the election of 1860 the worst fears of the southern states were realized with the election of Republican Party candidate Abraham Lincoln as President resulting in the complete control of the Federal government by northern “free” states. Within a couple months, South Carolina voted to secede from the Union. In the months that followed, states in the deep-south followed suit including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

In February 1861 these seceding southern states met in Montgomery, Alabama and formed the Confederate States of America (CSA). They constructed a constitution patterned after the U.S. Constitution but with language specifically protecting slavery and also emphasizing the importance of “States’ Rights”.

When Lincoln took office in March, 1861 he emphasized that the actions of the seceding southern states was not legal because they had violated a binding contract, the U.S. Constitution, to which they were bound. However, he also expressed that he did not intend to end slavery in the southern states or to invade the south unless they attempted to take possession of federal property within their borders.

Shots are fired:

Fort Sumter was a federally held fort in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina. Lincoln decided to send provisions to the federal troops holding the fort. Word of his intentions made their way to Jefferson Davis, the appointed President of the newly formed Confederate States of America. Davis gave orders to CSA General P.G.T. Beauregard in Charleston to take action toward forcing a surrender of the fort. He first sent an aide to demand surrender without success.

As a result of the inability to achieve surrender with diplomacy, the order was given to open fire and early in the morning of April 11, 1861 a mortar round was shot into the air signaling the other Confederate batteries in the vicinity to open fire on the fort. Thus began the American Civil War. In little more than a day after the artillery exchange began, Major Robert Anderson surrendered the fort to the Confederates when the federal troops’ munitions were all but depleted.

Lincoln’s Call to Arms:

Lincoln responded to the attack on Fort Sumter with a call for volunteers from the non-seceding states for a period of 90 days to put down the rebellion. Southern states that had not previously seceded chose to join the CSA rather than supply troops to fight against their fellow southerners. Those additional seceding states were Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

The initial call for volunteers for a period of only 90 days gives an insight into the common naïve misconception of the probable duration of the impending struggle. Whether Lincoln himself harbored any delusions at how long reunification would take, a prevailing sentiment existed on both sides that the conflict would be short and a victory would be easily won. Both sides were guilty of this gross miscalculation.

Northern soldiers and their supporting families and governments believed they were fighting for a noble cause; to preserve the union by defeating the "Rebels". “The Union Forever” was a popular musical anthem of the day. Southern soldiers believed they were protecting their homeland and way of life from meddling northern politicians and “Yankees”. Accordingly, both sides were confident of the righteousness of their causes. Both sides invoked through prayer and petition the assistance of Almighty God to achieve their just victory. Neither side could possibly conceive of the horrific bloodshed they were about to experience.

The Killing Fields:

Comparative Statistics

Though American soldiers have participated in many wars throughout our nation’s history the Civil War in the 1860’s remains the most costly war in terms of casualties. Reasons for that grim reality will be presented shortly but it might be helpful to review some basic statistics before exploring some of those reasons.​​