One of the interesting aspects of the Civil War in our community is that graves of Civil War veterans can be found in many cemeteries throughout the Capital District. Records from the histories of the many units from this area show the death toll for the local units. Here is where the story instructs us to reflect about really what happened during the Civil War. The military records indicate that the Civil War units from our area lost at least 7504 soldiers from 1861 to 1865. Since the war began in April 1861 and lasted until April 1865, the death toll of 7504 soldiers means that on average, 156 soldiers died every month for the entire four year period. Imagine picking up your local newspaper during 1861 to 1865 and finding 156 death notices every month.
This means that local families heard the devastating news every week for four years. If we can imagine having 156 deaths per month in our community today from a war, imagine how it must have felt in the 1861 to 1865 period when the population of the entire Capital District was only about 125,000.
Civil War regiments varied in size but many contained from 800 to about 1,000 soldiers. The death statistics from the local units show that one artillery unit lost 669 soldiers dead and that at least 17 other fighting units lost at least 200 soldiers. Many of these units’ lost more than 300 soldiers dead. The sorrow was thus concentrated in our community in a highlighted manner.
Sometimes there is a tendency to forget the dead soldiers of war. It would be special that around Veterans Day 2011, we spend some time in our visits to cemeteries to honor the brave veterans by visiting the Civil War section of the cemetery and reflect on the graves of the soldiers who died 150 years ago.
The author holds three degrees from the University at Albany and serves as a Public Service Professor. He has conducted extensive travel to many civil war sites.