Since we’re in the midst of commemorating the 70th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy – more commonly known as D-Day – on June 6, 1944 and the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, which lasted from April 1861 to April 1865, it seems timely to take a hard look at exactly what the human cost of war really is. I’ve subscribed to a magazine called “Civil War Times” for years and the latest issue contains some information that may help us focus in on what that human cost was 150 years ago. Much of the information for this week’s column comes from the pages of that magazine.
My guess would be that many readers aren’t familiar with most of the engagements that will be cited. That’s certainly understandable. The same could probably be said of the Normandy invasion that was commemorated just a few weeks ago. The problem is that once events like D-Day and the Civil War pass from living memory, they tend to become just another paragraph in a dusty history book. Nearly three generations have been born since D-Day and only a handful of the GIs who were part in that historic day are still living. But the men and boys who took part in the Civil War and who stormed the beaches of Normandy were just as real as the men and women now serving in Afghanistan today – that’s a point worth remembering.
For example, during the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, during the Civil War, the Confederates lost more troops in five hours than were lost by US forces in 19 hours on D-Day in 1944. The invasion of Normandy cost the United States approximately 6,600 casualties on that one day.
Here’s another piece of information few may know. At the Battle of Cold Harbor during the Civil War, 7,000 Union soldiers fell in just 20 minutes! By that point in the war – June 1864 – Union soldiers were fully aware of what was facing them in an assault on Confederate trenches, so much so that many wrote there names and home addresses on little slips of paper and pinned them on the back of their uniforms so their bodies could be identified after the battle and sent home.