Why Confederates Fought: Family and Nation in Civil War Virginia

By Aaron Sheehan-Dean | Go to book overview
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Appendix * METHODOLOGY

My initial goal was to determine how many men from Virginia enlisted in Confederate military service and to identify the counties in which those men enlisted. Most historians use the number from the Official Records (153,876). Although this number misses the men who enlisted in 1864 (unlikely to be no more than 2 percent of total enlistments), it seems reasonable to assume that the Conscription Bureau, at a crucial point in the war, would calculate the numbers of men each state had contributed (and consequently had left to contribute) with a fair degree of accuracy. Almost all of the unit histories in the Virginia Regimental History Series (Lynchburg, Va.: H. E. Howard, 1982-) (hereafter VRHS) noted the total number of men enlisted in each regiment. Adding these numbers, however, produces an inflated total because of company transfers and regimental reorganizations that occurred throughout the war.

I created a database with county totals in order to eliminate duplication where I could. In order to identify the county origin of all companies (and to note which companies were double-counted in regimental totals), I crossreferenced Lee A. Wallace Jr.’s A Guide to Virginia Military Organizations, 1861–1865, 2nd. ed.(Lynchburg, Va.: H. E. Howard, 1986) with the individual unit histories from the VRHS. Stewart Sifakis’s Compendium of the Confederate Armies, vol. 1: Virginia (New York: Facts on File, 1992) provided useful cross-reference information on the artillery batteries, which he lists by county instead of the traditional practice of identifying them by captain’s name. Finally, I needed to identify company-level totals for each county. Forty of the VRHS unit histories included exact enlistment numbers by company. For the remaining units, I divided the regimental total evenly among the number of companies that filled each regiment. By averaging the company sizes, I maintained the accuracy of the regimental total but flattened out discrepancies in enlistment numbers from the different counties that contributed companies (on the positive side, my estimated company sizes are roughly similar to the exact company totals I pulled from the VRHS unit histories). My county totals offer a close degree of accuracy for each region (if we assume that few men traveled more than a county or two away to enlist) and a fair degree of accuracy for each county.

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