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U.S. Army Casualty Statistics of The War with Mexico, 1846-1848

Books and Documents

In 1856, the Office of The Surgeon General, U.S. Army, published a major compilation of statistical information on the health of the U.S. Army received from medical officers throughout the Army from January 1839 to January 1855.   The Statistical Report on the Sickness and Mortality in the Army of the United States Compiled from The Records of the Surgeon General's Office; A Period of Sixteen Years, From January 1839 to January 1855 was the second in a series of statistical reports published by the Surgeon General's Office that provided detailed information on sickness and mortality in the Army.  This report also covered the years of the War with Mexico from 1846-1848 and provided a detailed examination of the losses reported in dead, sick, and wounded by Regular Army and Volunteer units that were involved in military operations in the various theaters of fighting.  As such, it provides one of the single best sources of the casualty totals for the U.S. Army as they were known and recorded at the time.

John T. Greenwood, Ph.D.
Chief, Office of Medical History
Office of The Surgeon General, U.S. Army


34th Congress
1st Session
Ex. Doc. No. 96

STATISTICAL REPORT

ON THE

SICKNESS AND MORTALITY

IN THE

ARMY OF THE UNITED STATES,

COMPILED FROM

THE RECORDS OF THE SURGEON GENERALS OFFICE;

A PERIOD OF SIXTEEN YEARS,

FROM JANUARY, 1839, TO JANUARY, 1855.

PREPARED UNDER THE DIRECTION OF

BREVET BRIGADIER GENERAL THOMAS LAWSON,

SURGEON GENERAL, UNITED STATES ARMY

BY

RICHARD H. COOLIDGE, M. D.,

ASSISTANT SURGEON, U. S. ARMY.

WASHINGTON:

A. O. P.

NICHOLSON, PRINTER.

1856.


STATISTICS OF THE WAR WITH MEXICO.

The regulations for the Medical Department of the army require all medical officers, when serving with troops in the field, to render monthly, to the medical director at the seat of war, and quarterly to the Surgeon General, "reports of sick and wounded, and of deaths, and of certificates for discharge for disability." The medical director is also required to make to the Surgeon General, monthly, a consolidated report of sick and wounded, from the several reports made to him.

The records of the Surgeon General’s office attest that these regulations have been faithfully obeyed, and that the required reports have been made with remarkable regularity and accuracy. Notwithstanding the general completeness of the returns, a very extended and careful examination of the records has proved it to be impossible to compile from them correct abstracts of the sickness and mortality in the army during the war with Mexico. The sources of error are numerous, and cannot be eliminated. In some instances, important returns failed to reach the Medical Bureau, having been captured by the enemy; the same cases of disease were frequently reported more than once—first, perhaps, on the returns of surgeons of regiments, and again from one or more general hospitals to which the soldier had been sent or transferred. The consolidated monthly reports of the medical directors served to remove, in part, this source of error, but it unfortunately appears that those officers failed in many instances to receive the required reports from hospital and regimental surgeons, and, consequently, their returns are incomplete. Other sources of error might be mentioned, but enough has been stated to show the nature of the difficulties opposing the desired compilation.

Abandoning the effort to collate the vital statistics of the war exclusively from the records of the Medical Bureau, recourse was had to the muster-rolls of the army on file in the Adjutant General’s office; from which source, chiefly, though aided somewhat by the medical returns, the following tables, (abstracts Nos. 1 and 2), exhibiting the statistics of commissioned officers and enlisted men by regiments, have been compiled.

The attempt to include the old army in these tables was reluctantly abandoned. The difficulties to be encountered were much greater than with the ten new regiments and volunteer corps, in which the original roll of muster into service, and final muster-roll for discharge, gave two fixed points; another almost insurmountable difficulty in regard to the old army consisted in the necessity of accounting for the numerous detachments of recruits which were from time to time forwarded to the seat of war.

It may, however, be briefly stated, that, exclusive of "discharges by expiration of service," the total loss in the old army, by deaths, discharges, resignations, and desertions, was 7,993, in an aggregate force of 15,736; being 50.79 per cent, for the whole service of 26 months, or a monthly loss of 1.95 per cent.

In the ten new regiments, using the same basis, the total loss was 3,839, in an aggregate strength of 11,186 ; being 34.22 per cent for the whole service of 15 months, or a monthly loss of 2.28 per cent.


606

In the regiments and corps of volunteers, the total loss was 20,385, in an aggregate force of 73,260; being 27.82 per cent. for the average period of service, (10 months,) or a monthly loss of 2.78 per cent.

While it is thus shown that the total loss, from all causes, sustained during the war, was much greater in the old army than in either the ten new regiments, or volunteer troops, the relative loss for each month in which those forces were respectively in service is greatest in the regiments and corps of volunteers.

Confining the comparison to the "killed in battle" and "died of wounds," it is found that the old army sustained a loss of 792, or 5.03 per cent, of the aggregate force employed; the ten new regiments, a loss of 143, or 1.27 per cent. of their number; and the regiments of volunteers lost 613 of their aggregate strength, or 0.83 per cent.

Of the aggregate discharged "by order and civil authority," the larger proportion, by far, were by "order ;" that is, by the order of the commanding general or other military authority; and it is well known that these orders were given to men with enfeebled or broken-down constitutions, who, under ordinary circumstances, could only have been discharged on "surgeon’s certificate for disability." It is therefore deemed just, to consider all the discharges "by order" and "for disability" as consequent upon disease or wounds. If, then, we take the aggregate of the discharges under those two heads, together with the "ordinary" and "accidental" deaths, we will have the most correct expression of the total loss sustained by disease arid the exposures and hardships of an active campaign, independent of losses in conflicts with the enemy.

Assuming that basis, it is ascertained that the old army, in a period of 26 months, and with an aggregate force of 15,736, lost 4,917 officers and men; being 31.24 per cent, for the whole service, or 1.20 per cent. per month.

The ten new regiments, in a service of 15 months, and with an aggregate strength of 11,186, lost 3,002 officers and men; being 26.83 per cent. for the whole service, or 1.79 per cent, per month.

The volunteer force, in an average service of 10 months, and with an aggregate strength of 73,260, lost 15,617 officers and, men; being for the whole service 21.31 per cent., or 2.13 per cent. per month.

These deductions are made in no spirit of invidious comparison. The old army was longer in the field, and participated in more battles, than other portions of the military establishment, so that its total loss in killed and wounded is relatively greater than that of other corps. On the other hand, the statistical tables which follow, show that the loss sustained by the "additional force" and volunteers in some of the battles in which they were engaged, was greater than that of the old army.

The point to which particular attention is invited, is the disparity in the loss by disease in the several forces; the monthly ratio, the true comparison in this instance, being in the volunteer corps nearly twice as high as in the old army. The examinations necessary to the compilation of this series of statistics were nearly completed, when a copy of a report of the Adjutant General to the Secretary of War, dated December 3d, 1849, prepared in answer to a resolution of the House of Representatives of July 31,1848, calling for "information relative to the military forces employed in the late war with Mexico," was shown to the compiler. No extra numbers of this valuable report were printed, and it is now exceedingly difficult to obtain a copy. In view of the general interest which attaches to this subject in the army, a portion of the very extended series of tabular statements embraced in that report are herewith submitted.


607-608

No. 1.–Abstract exhibiting, by regiments, the statistics of commissioned officers serving the army of the United States during the war with Mexico.



608-610

No. 2–Abstract exhibiting, by regiments, the statistics of enlisted men serving in the army of the United States during the war with Mexico.


610

[The Tables which follow are from the report of the Adjutant General of December 3, 1849.]

General view of the subjects of inquiry, showing the aggregate of the regulars and volunteers employed during the war, with their average of service, and the casualties incident to each description of force.


611-612

General return of the number of commissioned officers, non-commissioned officers, musicians, artificers, and privates, of the regular army, killed, wounded, and died of wounds in the several conflicts with the Mexican troops, in the year 1846.


612

Recapitulation of loss in battle of the regular army, by regiments and corps, in the campaign of 1846.


613-614

General return of the number of commissioned officers, non-commissioned officers, musicians, artificers, and privates, of the regular army killed, wounded, and died of wounds in the several conflicts with the Mexican troops, in the year 1847.


615-616

Loss (regular army) in incidental affairs and skirmishes with the enemy in 1847.


616-617

Recapitulation of loss in battle of the regular army, by regiments and corps, in the campaign of 1847.


617

General return of the number of commissioned officers, non-commissioned officers, musicians, artificers, and privates, of volunteers killed, wounded, and died of wounds in the several conflicts with the Mexican troops, in the year 1846.


618

General return of the number of commissioned officers, non-commissioned officers, musicians, artificers, and privates, of volunteers killed, wounded, and died of wounds in the several conflicts with the Mexican troops, in the year 1847.


619-620

Loss (volunteers) in incidental affairs and skirmishes with the enemy in 1847.


621

Recapitulation of loss in battle of the volunteer forces in the campaign of 1847.

 

WAR DEPARTMENT

Adjutant General’s Office, Washington, December 3, 1849

R. Jones

Adjutant General, United States Army

The aggregates reported in the several recapitulations of "loss in battle," do not agree with those reported in the first tables of this series. The losses in battle are obtained from the field reports of the commanders, forwarded immediately after the action, and are liable to revision when subsequently reported in the regimental returns and company rolls.

The statistics of the war are presented as close approximations only; the difficulties attending their compilation being so numerous as to render the attainment of positively accurate results impracticable.