Friday, January 26, 2007

Portrait of a Regiment. . . Ages

In 2003, I earned my master's degree in history from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. My master's thesis focused on the socio-economic backgrounds of Union soldiers, as well as an examination of the extent to which such socio-economic factors as age, occupation, income, ethnicity, et cetera, played a role in a soldier's wartime experience. As a case study for my research, I selected the regiment I knew best: the 48th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. In order to be entirely accurate, I spent more than a year trying to match the soldiers with their census records from the 8th U.S. Census, conducted in 1860. Of the more than 1,800 soldiers who served for a time in the regiment, I was able to successfully locate, with 100% accuracy, 657 of these soldiers, or more than one-third of the regiment, to the census records, and I thus used this number as my statistical basis, believing it to be a fair sample.

I came across my notebooks from when I was working on my thesis, and figured I would share some of my findings with you. . .


*The Average Age of the soldier who served in the 48th Pennsylvania throughout the four years of the Civil War was 24.95 years. Of the 657 soldiers I linked to the Census Records, 84 (12.8%) were 17 or younger when the enlisted; 318 (48.4%) were between the ages of 18-24; 107 (16.3%) were between the ages of 25-30; 62 (9.4%) were between 31-35; 76 (11.6%) were between 36-45; and 10 (1.5%)were aged 46 or older.

*The Average Age of the soldiers who volunteered at the war's outset in 1861 was 23.6 years.

*The Average Age of the soldiers who were mustered into service in 1864-1865 was 26.3 years.

*The Average Age of the regiment's Commissioned Officers in 1861 was 29.2 years, nearly six years older than the average age of the volunteers of 1861. The Average Age of those who advanced to the ranks of Commissioned Officer throughout the war (i.e. those who were promoted from the ranks) was 25.95 years.

*The Average Age of those soldiers of the regiment who died of disease was 24.7 years.

*The Average Age of soldiers from the regiment who deserted was 28.2 years.

*The Average Age of soldiers who served as Substitutes (1864-1865) in the place of drafted civilians was 29.6 years.

*The Average Age of soldiers who were Drafted (1864-1865)was 30 years.

So. . .what does all of this mean?

Commissioned officers at the outset of the war averaged six years older than the volunteer/non-commissioned officer, but as the war dragged on, this average greatly decreased to the point where commissioned officers averaged just one year older than the soldiers they commanded.

The soldiers who volunteered in 1861 averaged 2.7 years younger than those who were mustered in during the years of 1864-1865. This is partly attributable to the higher ages of those who entered the regiment as either conscripts or substitutes. It is in these two categories that we see the greatest difference in average ages. The drafted soldier averaged 5 years older than the volunteer, and the substitute averaged 4.65 years older than the volunteer.

Finally, soldiers who deserted averaged 3.25 years older than the regimental average.

These numbers get more interesting when cross-categorized with a soldier's marital status, income level, and ethnicity. . . In the weeks to come, I'll update this blog with more socio-economic information on the soldiers who served in the 48th.

Samuel Beddall was just 17 years old when he enlisted as a private in Company E, 48th PA Vols. By the end of the war, Beddall was a sergeant and from October 1864-July 1865, he was the regimental color bearer.

Theodore Pletz, a tailor from Middleport, was 22 years old when he enlisted as a corporal in Company I, 48th PA Vols. Wounded and listed as Missing in Action at the Second Battle of Bull Run, Pletz returned to the regiment and was mustered out as a "veteran" on July 17, 1865.

1 comment:

Allyson Haines said...

I stumbled upon this by accident and am so glad I did. I am interested in your books. At least 2 of my great-uncles were member's of the 48th regiment, from Minersville, PA: Sgt Charles Haines and Cyrus Haines. I have a copy Charles' Civil War Pension file. There's 100 years and 1 month between my grandfather's birth (in Minersville) and my own. Thank you, John.