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Determining the Facts

Reading 2: Casualties in the Battle of Rivers Bridge -- The Official Reports

The Union Report:
Account of Union casualties, from The War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 122 volumes (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1880-1901), Series I, Vol. XLVII, Part I, p. 309.

Maj. Gen. F. P. Blair to Army of the Tennessee HQ, "In the Field"
5 February 1865

I have the honor to report the following as the casualties in this command on the 2d and 3d instant, all of which are in the First Division: One officer and 17 enlisted men killed; 3 officers and 103 men wounded. General Mower estimates the losses of the enemy at about 200. There are 16 of their dead on the field and a hospital with 17 wounded found in rear of their position. The number of prisoners taken is 10, and of deserters 17.

The Confederate Report
Account of Confederate casualties, from The War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 122 volumes (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1880-1901), Series I, Vol. XLVII, Part I, pp. 1075-1076.

Col. George P. Harrison, Jr., 32nd Georgia Infantry, commanding Harrison's Brigade, McLaws' Division; return of Casualties in Harrison's Brigade at Rivers' Bridge, 3 February 1865

I have the honor to report the number of casualties in the detachment from my brigade under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Bacon, Thirty-second Georgia Infantry, in the engagement of the 3d instant at Rivers' Bridge:

Command Killed Wounded Missing Total
32nd Georgia Infantry 5 27 10 42
47th Georgia Infantry 1 8 34 43
5th Georgia Reserves 1 8 1 10
Earle's Battery 1 1 - 2
Total 8 44 45 97

Questions for Reading 2

1. Compare the two official casualty reports. Why do you think that the number of Union soldiers killed and wounded was twice the number of Confederates killed and wounded?

2. Note the difference in the number of Confederate casualties estimated by the Union commander and the number of Confederate casualties reported by the Confederate commander. How might you account for the difference?

3. What purposes do casualty reports like these serve to military commanders?

4. If you were an officer commanding a large force of soldiers in the field, how would you report your unit's casualties and the casualties of the enemy? How would obtain your information? How accurate do you think the information would be?

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