Are Bugs Behind Civil War Death Toll?

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One of every 10 soldiers wounded in the Civil War was wounded by artillery fire. But Gary Miller says the much larger threat to soldiers was something much smaller.


The bugs were torture to wartime soldiers. So were fleas and flies, all smaller and deadlier than any bullet, as Gary says.

"We had 110,000 die in battle-related injuries, 200,000 died of disease."

Gary blames insects for spreading much of the disease. And he should know. He gained his Civil War expertise as an entomologist. When reading those history books, he kept noticing bugs.

On Friday, July 10, 1863, one soldier wrote this to his wife: “The flies are in the millions, they are never off the table, dead and dying in every mouthful you eat."

It's not the stuff of Civil War reenactments, or even real photographs. Gary says he's only found one picture that even hints at the problems of insects. Yet, he says, they probably did more human harm than either North or South.

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Vernon Clayson - 3/25/2006

Using today's standards the media and the opposition party would have blamed Lincoln personally for the number of bug related deaths, that would be on top of the dogs and hogs eating the dead which they, the media, would find particularly heinous. All of this was nature doing what nature does, it's all very basic, carrion draws scavengers. There's a moral here, it's much like the media, sharks of politics, being drawn to blood.