Hugh Pickens writes writes: "For more than a century it has been accepted that about 620,000 Americans died in the the bloodiest, most devastating conflict in American history, but now BBC reports that historian J David Hacker has used sophisticated statistical software to determine the war's death toll and found that civil war dead may have been undercounted by as many as 130,000. "I have been waiting more than 25 years for an article like this one," writes historian James McPherson. Hacker began by taking digitized samples from the decennial census counts taken 1850-1880. Using statistical package SPSS, Hacker counted the number of native-born white men of military age in 1860 and determined how many of that group were still alive in 1870 and compared that survival rate with the survival rates of the men of the same ages from 1850-1860, and from 1870-1880 — the 10-year census periods before and after the Civil War. The calculations yielded the number of "excess" deaths of military-age men between 1860-1870 — the number who died in the war or in the five subsequent years from causes related to the war. Hacker's findings, published in the December 2011 issue of Civil War History, have been endorsed by some of the leading historians of the conflict but do the numbers, equivalent to about 7.5 million US deaths in proportion to America's current population, really matter? "The difference between the two estimates is large enough to change the way we look at the war," writes Hacker. "The war touched more lives and communities more deeply than we thought, and thus shaped the course of the ensuing decades of American history in ways we have not yet fully grasped. True, the war was terrible in either case. But just how terrible, and just how extensive its consequences, can only be known when we have a better count of the Civil War dead.""
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