I had seen this new evidence presented in the 150-year anniversary feature that the New York Times has been running on the Civil War, and am happy to see it get article treatment. They had used the 618,000 figure for many years, but it was based on 19th century demographic science. A big problem was that there were many other changes going on in America in those days: particularly, the influx of immigrants. Only when the technology developed to try and match the actual people in the 1860 census to the one in the (much derided) 1870 census, and to use some other statistical techniques, did it become clear that the 618,000 number was probably a low-ball.
The researchers feel that the number of Civil War dead, both sides total, was somewhere between 650,000 and 850,000 —- with 750,000 taken as the midpoint. More dead in the South. Also, more younger fighters in the South.
This makes history make more sense. If the northern side had fewer casualties, out of a greater population, then the South was really fighting with a rag-tag bunch that had its showy military people and some early success. You know, I have said about the aftermath, that Ulysses Grant did not bring enough hanging rope to Appomattox Court House, and I wonder why the North went so light on the South after the war ended. (“The North won the War, but the South won the Peace” is the old saying — not mine.) Now maybe this makes more sense. If you really decimate a population, what are you finishing off? Grant fought hard, harder than the number of generals who came before him, and he used a number of “modern” techniques. If the South really got blown away to a greater extent than the history story tells us, it might have looked to the late Lincoln Administration that the retribution for the war was already had. Even though they did not have good numbers to work with, people knew “bad” in the sense that a reality happened that was a bit more extreme than what history records.
It would just, sort of, explain that nasty Southern attitude that has existed since the 1860’s, and continues to affect our politics in these very days, like with the Trayvon Martin shooting and the kind of people winning primaries and general elections in the South.
They picked a fight they shouldn’t have, and lost. Moreover, the South never paid back for what it did. This was the main theme of the Radical Republicans of that era, like Thaddeus Stevens of here in Lancaster County. (Remember, Republican in 1870 meant something a lot different than it did today.) But if the South had incurred greater losses than recorded, it makes sense why they continued to hold such recalcitrance against Northern-inspired reforms; and why that same strand of culture exists in the South today.