In light of the 150th anniversary of the bombardment of Fort Sumter, today is Civil War Day at The Study. In this second entry, we consider the cost of the war. As most people learned (or heard but ignored) in history class, over 600,000 soldiers died during the war, a gruesome number unequaled in any other American war. But what about the some three million who survived? What were their postwar fortunes?
Early last year, Professor Chulhee Lee, a visiting scholar at UCLA, published a study looking at "how measures of economic mobility after the Civil War differed between the veterans as a whole and men who did not serve in the military." Among other findings, Lee writes, "Unskilled [Union Army] veterans were more likely to become a white-collar worker or farmer than nonveterans. On the other hand, the probability of entering a skilled job was lower for UA veterans than for nonveterans." The author attributes superior mobility among veterans in white-collar jobs to "the influences of military experiences, such as receiving training while performing military duties and learning from peers in the same company, rather than potential selections in the recruitment process." For example, Lee notes that "for many recruits, the Union Army was perhaps the biggest, most formal, and most hierarchical community they had ever been part of. Hence, military service during the Civil War could have served as a basic training course for human relations or management."
Unfortunately, Lee was unable to confirm whether survivors of Pickett's Charge pioneered this "motivational" poster:
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