Historians as numerologists: keeping it local

We have seen, in this series of posts, that the military age population of the white South was mobilized for war by the CSA. We know, from contemporary newspapers and correspondence, that Union commanders speculated about the meaning of this in terms of their odds on the battlefield. It could be argued that the persistent Democratic meme of Lincoln half-heartedly prosecuting the Civil War begins with his seeming indifference to draconian Rebel mobilizations.

There is of course the question of what those numbers could be. Where Livermore used the census to calculate a military-age male population in the South of 1,239,000 by 1865. Joseph Harsh looked at the same base data and tallied 1,596,318.

There is the additional question – not touched by the Civil War historian since Livermore – of how the mobilized men were divided between the standing “national” military establishment of the CSA and the state and local authorities.

Livermore took a try. Looking at Fox and comparing Fox’s figures with those of the CSA’s Superintendent of the Bureau of Conscription dated 2/65, he estimated that 978,664 men ended up in the field armies of the Confederacy. Livermore counts 160 regiment-sized organizations outside of the CSA’s army structure. He allocates a wartime strength of 98,720 to the militias and state forces, leaving an unexplained gap between the total mobilization and the combined totals of “establishment” and local forces; more work is clearly needed.

Some of the bits are fascinating and Fox presents them as scraps of fragmentary information that illuminate our ignorance as readers.

* In August 1861, Carson’s Division of Virginia Militia wanders into the Valley and onto the pages of history with a strength of nine regiments.

* In April of 1862, we learn of three regiments of Virginia militia deploying at Williamsburg. We don’t know of other militia or emergency men deployments on the Warwick line but we know of this one.

* For November of ’62, Livermore found at least three regiments of Virginia militia serving with the ANV. Were there more? Were these counted in Fredericksburg histories?

* In South Carolina, where there were local defense companies, these company strengths are set by law at no fewer than 76 and no more than 137 men, with regiments to consist of 10 companies. The idea of regiments formed of local defense companies is a little confusing and shows how much remains to be done in this field.

Livermore also identified nine regiments of North Carolina militia with an average strength of 617 men per regiment.

And so it goes. Let's next take a look at a reasonable theatre-level assessment of enemy strength in Virginia and Maryland in 1862.

More numerology here and here.