9 Bloodiest Battles of the Civil War by The Numbers
9 Bloodiest Battles of the Civil War by The Numbers

9 Bloodiest Battles of the Civil War by The Numbers

Matthew Weber - April 29, 2017

9 Bloodiest Battles of the Civil War by The Numbers
Battle of Shiloh. History

Shiloh, Tennessee (April 6-7 1862)

In April of 1862, the Army of the Tennessee, under Union General Ulysses S Grant, had moved deep into Tennessee. And While the fight for Middle Tennessee (the strategic goal for the state) wouldn’t be decided until the end of 1862, the Union had made inroads towards that goal.

The Army of the Tennessee, as it should be noted, is completely different from the Army of Tennessee. The latter fought for the Confederacy, while the former was named after the river. The reason for this is simple, the army made it so deep into Tennessee after traveling on the Tennessee River.

Battle of Shiloh Statistics

Total Troops: North – 66,812 South – 44,699

Casualties: North – 13,047 South – 10,699 Total – 23,746

Grant’s army had encamped at Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee on April 5 1862. The Confederate Army, led by General Albert Sidney Johnston, launched a sneak attack on April 6, but was rebuffed, but was able to cause Grant’s army to take a lot of casualties. Their hope was to move Grant’s army away from the Tennessee River and into the more swampy land of Owl Creek. Because the Confederate lines got confused, the Union army was instead able to reform its defensive lines to the northeast along the river. This allowed them to overcome the surprise attack and strengthen their lines to drive the Confederates back.

Johnston was mortally wounded in the battle. The death of their commander and their break for the night due to exhaustion, allowed the Union time to bolster its numbers with the Army of Ohio, which arrived on April 7.

Up until that point in the war, The Battle of Shiloh was the bloodiest in American History. And while the war would have many battles that were bloodier, Shiloh remains an important battle as it allowed the Union to create inroads into Northern Mississippi.

9 Bloodiest Battles of the Civil War by The Numbers
Battle of Antietam. HistoryNet

Antietam, Maryland (September 17 1862)

Antietam, or the Battle of Sharpsburg, is the bloodiest battle of the Civil War that happened on a single day. And while the numbers of killed and wounded is impressive and tragic, as are all battles, what is important at Antietam is the outcome strategically. As can be seen throughout most of this article, if one were to go only on total numbers of casualties, the South would have won the war.

What isn’t shown is that the North had a lot more men in almost all of these battles. For example, at Antietam, the Union had 75,000 men and the Confederacy had only 38,000.

While Antietam has been labelled by historians as tactically inconclusive, strategically it was a Union victory.

Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg) Statistics

Total Troops: North – 75,500 South – 38,000

Casualties: North – 12,401 South – 10,316 Total – 22,717

From a military history, Antietam is very complex. Over the course of several hours, the two armies, led by Major General George B McClellan for the Union and General Robert E. Lee for the Confederacy, battled back and forth, using many different military tactics.

What makes Antietam a strategic victory for the North was that it enabled President Abraham Lincoln to announce the Emancipation Proclamation. This is simply because the North was able to repel Lee’s attack into Maryland (one of his attempted invasions of the North). It is also said that this particular ‘victory’ by the North, and the subsequent announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation prevented Britain and France from considering any help for the Confederate States of America.

Whether this is true or not, is debatable. Many historians think that Britain would have stayed out of the American Civil War no matter the particular outcome of any battle or political maneuver. Either way, Antietam was a major battle that had grand implications on the ultimate end of the Civil War.

9 Bloodiest Battles of the Civil War by The Numbers
Second Battle of Bull Run (Manassas). Emaze

2nd Bull Run (Manassas), Virginia (August 29-30 1862)

While the first Battle of Bull Run will go down in history as one of the Civil War’s most famous battles, the 2nd Battle of Bull Run was much larger, and in the end much more important. It was also a massive Confederate Victory.

Many historians posit that if the South was ever going to win the Civil War, the beginning of that victory might have happened at the 2nd Battle of Manassas as it is called. The fight from the Union in this battle was very poor.

2nd Battle of Bull Run Statistics

Total Troops: North – 62,000 South – 50,000

Casualties: North – 10,000 South – 8,300 Total – 18,300

The Union, led by Major General John Pope, consistently attacked a better fortified Confederate force led by Robert E Lee and Thomas J ‘Stonewall’ Jackson. They were repeated rebuffed and outflanked, causing them to retreat to Centreville, Virginia

The fall out was that Pope was relieved of command, which led to the promotion of George McClellan. This battle was the precursor the Antietam, which is another reason why Antietam was so important in terms of the Union Victory. If the South had managed to pull out another tactical victory at Antietam, the momentum may have become much harder to overcome for the North.

Instead, the 2nd Battle of Bull Run is a high point for Lee and his army, and because of the loss at Antietam and Lee’s retreat, the Maryland Campaign and Lee’s invasion of the North was a failure.

While this wouldn’t be Lee’s last attempt to invade the North, the set back would demoralize Lee’s army for a time, and would refocus his efforts further South. It wouldn’t be until 1863 and 1864 that he would try again.