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Monthly Features

Impact of Civil War Casualties

Civil War Amputee

Private Columbus Rush (Company C, 21st Georgia Infantry) was wounded during the March 25, 1865, assault on the Union's Fort Stedman, in Petersburg, VA. Soon after a shell burst fractured his right leg and left kneecap, doctors amputated both limbs. He was eventually transferred to Lincoln Hospital in Washington, DC, and discharged on Aug. 2, 1865. In 1866, Rush was fitted with artifical limbs at St. Luke's Hospital in New York, NY.

The Civil War Trust Link to a non-federal Web site estimates that 1.5 million casualties were reported during the Civil War—620,000 killed, 476,000 wounded, and 400,000 captured or missing. Rush was just one of the many thousands of Civil War veterans who benefited from the increase in the number of artificial limb manufacturers following the war. Their number rose from 5 in 1860 to 24 in 1870.

Other occupations related to the war's casualties witnessed similar increases during the 1860s. For example, the number of coffin manufacturers grew from 210 in 1860 to 642 in 1870. Establishment of military cemeteries likely helped increase the number of undertakers from 835 in 1860 to 1,996 in 1870.

Photo courtesy of the National Museum of Health and Medicine.

Robert E. Lee

Portrait of Robert E. Lee

Robert E. Lee assumed command of the Army of Northern Virginia on June 1, 1862. Between 1862 and 1865, Lee participated in some of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, including the battles of Antietam, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. Frequently, Lee's army eeked out a victory or draw against Union armies fielding superior numbers of troops. For example, facing an army nearly twice the size of his own during the Battle of Chancellorsville, Lee forced General Joseph Hooker's Army of the Potomac back to defensive positions protecting Washington, DC, and in what Ulysses S. Grant wrote was his "greatest regret" of the war, Lee's 62,000 stong army defeated more than 100,000 Union soldiers at the Battle of Cold Harbor.

After the Army of Northern Virginia had abandoned the Confederate capital—Richmond, VA—the Union's numeric superiority and the speed with which they converged upon Appomattox Court House prevented Lee from resupplying his troops in Lynchburg, VA, or joining forces with Confederates in North Carolina. Without provisions or reinforcements, Lee had no choice but to surrender on April 9, 1865.

Lee returned to Richmond, VA, after the war and then moved to Lexington, VA, after accepting the presidency of Washington College (Washington and Lee University Link to a non-federal Web site) in October 1865. Lee served as the college's president until his death on October 12, 1870.

Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.

Surrender at Appomattox Court House

Painting of the surrender at Appomattox Court House

April 9 marks the 150th anniversary of Robert E. Lee's surrender following the Battle of Appomattox Court House. In the weeks prior to the battle, Lee's Army of Northern Virginia had abandoned its position in Petersburg, VA, and evacuated the Confederacy's capital—Richmond, VA. Lee hoped to evade the Union army and join Confederate forces in North Carolina; however his attempts to reestablish lines of supply were repeatedly thwarted.

By April 9, the Union army had converged on the Confederate's positions at Appomattox Court House, VA. Reports indicated that a weak point in the Union lines could provide an opportunity for Lee to escape being surrounded and reach desperately needed supplies in Lynchburg, VA. Confederate Major General John B. Gordon exploited this weakness, pushing past Union cavalry defending Lynchburg Road, but soon discovered that corps of the Union Armies of the James and Potomac had moved in to support the cavalry earlier that morning. At 8:30 a.m., Gordon sent word to Lee, "... my command has been fought to a frazzle, and unless [General James] Longstreet can unite in the movement, or prevent these forces from coming upon my rear, I cannot go forward." Outnumbered and surrounded, Lee replied, "There is nothing left for me to do but to go and see General Grant, and I would rather die a thousand deaths."

This image, "The Surrender," by Keith Rocco, depicts Robert E. Lee surrendering the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant, at the McLean family's home in Appomattox Court House, VA.

Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.

J. Presper Eckert, Computer Pioneer

Image of UNICAC I On April 9, 1919, computer pioneer J. Presper Eckert, Jr. was born in Philadelphia, PA.

Eckert and Dr. John Mauchly formed the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation in 1945, and soon began work on the UNIVAC I computer for the U.S. Census Bureau. Delivered in March 1951, UNIVAC I (similar to the image shown from 1952) tabulated the 1950 Census, the 1954 Economic Census, and several economic surveys.

Eckert became an executive at Remington Rand after it acquired the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation in 1950. In 1986, the company merged with Burroughs Corporation forming Unisys. Eckert retired from Unisys in 1989, but continued to consult on projects until his death in June 1995.

The Census Bureau used Unisys computers until decommissioning its last Unisys mainframe—the Unisys Clearpath 4400 [PDF 3.5MB]—in 2010.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Census History Staff | Last Revised: December 05, 2014