When the American Civil War began in April 1861, there were only 16,000 men in the U.S. Army, and of these many Southern officers resigned and joined the Confederate States Army. The U.S. Army consisted of 10 regiments of infantry, four of artillery, two of cavalry, two of dragoons, and three of mounted infantry. The regiments were scattered widely. Of the 197 companies in the army, 179 occupied 79 isolated posts in the West, and the remaining 18 manned garrisons east of the Mississippi River, mostly along the Canada-United States border and on the Atlantic coast. Of the 2,213,363 men who served in the Union Army during the Civil War, 364,511 died in combat, or from injuries sustained in combat, disease, or other causes, and 281,881 were wounded. More than one out of every four Union soldiers was killed or wounded during the war; casualties in the Confederate Army were even worse - one in three southern soldiers were killed or wounded.

The Confederates suffered a considerably lower amount of overall casualties than the Union, at roughly 260,000 total casualties to the Union's 360,000. This is by far the highest casualty ratio of any war in which America has been involved. By comparison, one out of every 16 American soldiers was killed or wounded in World War II, and one out of every 22 during the Vietnam War. In total, 620,000 soldiers died during the Civil War. There were 34 million Americans at that time, so 2 percent of the American population died in the war. In today's terms, this would be the equivalent of 5.9 million American men being killed in a war. The Union Army was composed of many different ethnic groups, including large numbers of immigrants. About 25 percent of the white people who served in the Union Army were foreign-born. Breakdown of the approximately 2.2 million Union soldiers:

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• 1,000,000 (45.4 percent of all Union soldiers) native-born Americans of British ancestry.

• 516,000 (23.4 percent) Germans; about 216,000 were born in Germany.

• 210,000 (9.5 percent) African American. Half were freedmen who lived in the North, and half were ex-slaves or escaped slaves from the South. They served in more than 160 "colored" regiments. One such regiment, the 54th Massachusetts, is dramatized in the film Glory. Others served under white officers in Federal regiments organized as the United States Colored Troops (USCT).

• 200,000 (9.1 percent) Irish.

• 90,000 (4.1 percent) Dutch.

• 50,000 (2.3 percent) Canadian.

• 50,000 (2.3 percent) born in England.

• 40,000 (1.8 percent) French or French Canadian. About half were born in the United States of America, the other half in Quebec.

• 20,000 (0.9 percent) Scandinavian (Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish).

• 7,000 Italian

• 7,000 Jewish

• 6,000 Mexican

• 5,000 Polish (many of whom served in the Polish Legion of Brig. Gen. Włodzimierz Krzyżanowski)

• 4,000 Native Americans

• Several hundred of other various nationalities.

Many immigrant soldiers formed their own regiments, such as the Irish Brigade (69th New York, 63rd New York, 88th New York, 28th Massachusetts, 116th Pennsylvania); the Swiss Rifles (15th Missouri); the Gardes Lafayette (55th New York); the Garibaldi Guard (39th New York); the Martinez Militia (1st New Mexico); the Polish Legion (58th New York); the German Rangers (52nd New York); the Highlander Regiment (79th New York); and the Scandinavian Regiment (15th Wisconsin). But for the most part, the foreign-born soldiers were scattered as individuals throughout units.

For comparison, the Confederate Army was not very diverse: 91 percent of Confederate soldiers were native born and only nine percent were foreign-born, Irish being the largest group with others including Germans, French, Mexicans (though most of them simply happened to have been born when the Southwest was still part of Mexico) and British. Some Southern propaganda compared foreign-born soldiers in the Union Army to the hated Hessians of the American Revolution. As well, a relatively small number of Native Americans (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Creek) fought for the Confederacy. [Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Union_Army Apr 2015]

As always please see your local County Veterans Service Officer if you have any questions. You can contact your local VSO at (218) 631-7617 or by email at david.anderson@co.wadena.mn.us and as always have a great week.