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The federal government and Union soldiers themselves tried to ensure that bodies were identified with at least a name, a desire that led some soldiers to go into battle with their names and positions pinned onto their uniform (foreshadowing the popular use of dog tags in subsequent wars).
Again, when time allowed and when burial units were available, Union forces made an effort to avoid anonymous burial, identify graves, and keep records of who died during a battle, an effort that grew increasingly more sophisticated as the war dragged on.
Infant mortality hovered around 200 per 1,000 live births, and roughly 10 percent of individuals between one year and twenty-one years died from a wide range of causes.
Despite this close and personal awareness of human mortality, Americans during the Civil War had a radically different set of experiences with death than previously. The total number of deaths for both the North and the South, in the four-year period, was over 600,000.
Up until the war, Americans were quite familiar with the presence of death, intimate with its consequences in their own homes and local communities.
Some estimates suggest that in the North, where more accurate records of the period are available, the crude death rate in the antebellum period was around 15 per 1,000 in rural areas, and between 20 and 40 per 1,000 in more populated cities.
Under wartime conditions, Americans in general, and soldiers in particular, acquired a unique familiarity with human mortality.
According to some historians, roughly one out of sixteen white males in the North between the ages of sixteen and forty-three lost his life during the war.
Even more astonishing than the overall mortality rates for the entire conflict are the number for particular battles: During the three-day battle at Gettysburg, for example, 3,155 Union soldiers died; at Antietam, during one day of fighting, the Union lost over 2,000 young men.
First and foremost, this conflict produced more deaths than any other war in U. World War II is the only other major conflict that comes close to this number, when over 400,000 individuals died in battles across the ocean.
More demographic information is available for the Northern armies than for the Confederacy, which did not have the resources to keep accurate records on soldiers.