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Reconstruction Trivia

Brain Snacks: Tasty Tidbits of Knowledge

By some scholarly estimates, the 4 million men, women, and children emancipated from slavery in 1865 represented some $4-6 billion in invested capital.19

Remarkably, an estimated 80% of black officeholders during Reconstruction were literate, though it had been a crime to learn to read under slavery.20

More than 620,000 Americans died in total during the Civil War, as many as in every other American war combined (from the Revolution through Vietnam). In 1865, that figure constituted over 2% of the entire population; a war fought today that ended in the deaths of a similar proportion of the overall population would kill over 6 million Americans.21

Disease was the chief killer in the Civil War, as it had been in almost every war in history. Two soldiers died of disease for every one that was killed in combat, and this disease mortality rate was actually lower than that for any previous army. Nonetheless, 82 out of every 1,000 soldiers had a case of syphilis or another sexually transmitted disease; 100,000 more men died from diarrhea or dysentery than in combat.22

Almost one third of all black soldiers (about 68,178) ended up listed as dead or missing; 2,751 of them were killed in combat.23

The first woman to be hanged by the U.S. government was Mary Surratt, for conspiracy in the Abraham Lincoln assassination.24

Although the Confederacy had just spent four years rebelling against the government and taking the lives of over 340,000 Union soldiers, not one of its members was ever convicted for treason, with a sole exception. The only Confederate executed for war crimes was Capt. Henry Wirz, who was held responsible for the concentration camp-like conditions at Georgia's infamous Andersonville Prison. He rejected a pardon offered on the condition that he identify Jefferson Davis as responsible for the deaths at Andersonville. During the 14 months that Andersonville Prison was in operation (1864-5), more than 45,000 Union soldiers were confined here. Of these, almost 13,000 died from disease, poor sanitation, malnutrition, overcrowding, or exposure to the elements.25

The Freedmen's Bureau never had more than 1,000 agents working in the South, an area with a population of some twelve million people.26

Historian Eric Foner has noted that every U.S. Census from 1880-1940 counted more white than black sharecroppers, but a far higher percentage of black farmers rented land rather than owned it.27

The Fourteenth Amendment introduced the adjective "male" into the U.S. Constitution for the first time.28

Once three-fourths of all states had ratified the Thirteenth Amendment, the rest did not have to ratify it, although they did have to abide by it. Mississippi did not formally ratify the Thirteenth until 1995!29

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