The Civil War took at least 620,000 lives, the most of any war in U.S. history. The figure is particularly astonishing when it is taken into account that the population of America was only 31.4 million. The losses on both sides were terrible, as they were for several states. The home state of the most people killed in the Civil War was New York. A total of 46,534 residents died.
The primary reason New York’s death toll was higher than all others is that its population was the highest among all states. According to the 1860 Census, it had 3.9 million residents. This was followed by Pennsylvania at 2.9 million and Ohio at 2.3 million. Ohio had the second highest death toll of the war at 35,475. Pennsylvania was fourth by the same measure at 33,183. (These are the states with the most Civil War deaths.)
New York has another rare Civil War distinction. New York City had draft riots from July 13 to 16, 1863, in reaction to the Congress’s decision to start a draft to swell the number of Union forces. As many as 1,000 people died in the incident.
The size of the state’s population aside, why did so many New Yorkers die? It was the nature of the war. New military technology and improved logistics in the Civil War combined with unadapted tactical doctrine to produce a scale of battle casualties unheard of in U.S. history. Most casualties and deaths in the Civil War were the result of non-combat-related disease. For every three soldiers killed in battle, five others died from disease. The rudimentary nature of Civil War medicine meant that many wounds and illnesses were unnecessarily fatal. (Here are the ways Civil War soldiers died in Union prison camps.)
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