Noncombat Deaths in the American Civil War
Brian Steel Wills
Winner: Richard B. Harwell Award
Of the hundreds of thousands of soldiers who died in the Civil War, two-thirds, by some estimates, were felled by disease; untold others were lost to accidents, murder, suicide, sunstroke, and drowning. Meanwhile thousands of civilians in both the north and south perished—in factories, while caught up in battles near their homes, and in other circumstances associated with wartime production and supply. These “inglorious passages,” no less than the deaths of soldiers in combat, devastated the armies in the field and families and communities at home. Inglorious Passages for the first time gives these noncombat deaths due consideration.
“Wills drives home the stark fact that death was a constant companion of the Civil War soldier.”
—Journal of Southern History
“Wills’ study of noncombat deaths brings together into a cohesive whole the various kinds of mortal danger facing soldiers and civilians, driving home the universality of sacrifice and loss for Americans during the Civil War.”
—Civil War MonitorSee all reviews...
“Wills explores seemingly every possible way for a man to die outside of battle, from industrial accidents to horse kicks to court martial. In lesser hands this could be a dull catalog of sometimes bizarre fatalities, but Wills is a seasoned professional whose prose flows easily.”
“Even more impressive than his research is Wills’ respectful treatment of the material. He relays these episodes objectively, avoiding sentimentality or sensationalism. In the end, his even approach allows the material to achieve its full weight and impact.”
—Civil War Book Review
“Using often grim first-hand accounts to illustrate the ways in which soldiers—and some civilians—died, Wills manages to weave a very readable narrative, and has made a very valuable contribution to the literature of the war.”
—New York Military Affairs Symposium Review
“Wills writes with such grace and pathos for the victims and their tragic circumstances that he eases the reader’s own passage through such a dispiriting but important topic. . . . Wills’s sensitive, unique, and all-encompassing examination of noncombat deaths is a notable contribution to the literature.”
—Civil War Books and Authors
“With this work, a master historian presents a powerfully researched and engagingly written history of the American Civil War’s non-combat fatalities. Brian Steel Wills explores the end of life events for those men and women who died by tragic accident, military execution, virulent disease, melancholy suicide, unpredictable weather, and industrial mishap. Filling a wide gap in the Civil War field, this book is an important one to have on any military history bookshelf.”
—Barton A. Myers, Associate Professor of Civil War History, Washington and Lee University, and editor of The Guerrilla Hunters: Irregular Conflicts during the Civil War
“Award-winning historian Brian Steel Wills has written another fine work, this time describing in riveting detail the many Americans who fell ingloriously away from battlefields. The research is impressive and the writing moving.”
—Jeffry D. Wert, author of A Glorious Army: Robert E. Lee’s Triumph, 1862–1863
“Battle accounted for only a third of soldier-deaths in the Civil War. Wills has pored through a mass of primary material to bring to light a host of other killers who preyed daily on soldiers blue and gray. This is a major contribution to the human element so often overlooked in Civil war history.”
—James I. Robertson, editor of A Rebel War Clerk’s Diary
“We know a great deal about soldier deaths from disease and combat in the Civil War, but Brian Steel Wills shows us that thousands more died from other causes ranging from accidents and drownings to lightning and snakebites. Verily, as one soldier put it, “there is no glory [in war]. Everything about it is simply horrible.” In this original and exhaustive study, Wills has provided countless examples of the horror of inadvertent death.”
—James M. McPherson, author of The War That Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters
“Brian Wills’ Inglorious Passages explores the whole range of noncombat deaths in the American Civil War—an important and virtually untouched subject. This fascinating and often poignant study is filled with wonderfully drawn accounts of soldiers and civilians alike whose stories illuminate the war’s enormous death toll in new and important ways. Even veteran students of the Civil War will learn a great deal from this fine book.”
—George C. Rable, author of Damn Yankees! Demonization and Defiance in the Confederate SouthSee fewer reviews...
In letters, diaries, obituaries, and other accounts, eminent Civil War historian Brian Steel Wills finds the powerful and poignant stories of fatal accidents and encounters and collateral civilian deaths that occurred in the factories and fields of the Union and the Confederacy from 1861 to 1865. Wills retrieves these stories from obscurity and the cold calculations of statistics to reveal the grave toll these losses exacted on soldiers and civilians, families and society. In its intimate details and its broad scope, his book demonstrates that for those who served and those who supported them, noncombat fatalities were as significant as battle deaths in impressing the full force of the American Civil War on the people called upon to live through it. With the publication of Inglorious Passages, those who paid the supreme sacrifice, regardless of situation or circumstance, will at last be included in the final tabulation of the nation’s bloodiest conflict.