Thursday, February 8, 2007

Portrait of a Regiment: Marital Status

A week or so ago, I introduced a new feature on my blog entitled "Portrait of a Regiment." My first post on this new feature detailed the ages of the soldiers who served in the 48th PA. Today I will examine the the soldiers' marital status. As I mentioned in my blog about ages, this information came about as the result of my thesis research at Lehigh University. I was unable to locate the census information for the entire regiment, but was able to link with certainty 657 of the soldiers to the information contained in the 8th US Census (1860), believing this number to be a fair sample of the regiment as a whole.

Captain Francis D. Koch, Company I, and Wife

(From the Collection of Ronn Palm, Museum of Civil War Images, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania)


From the census records, it is clear that the 48th Pennsylvania was largely a regiment of bachelors. Overall, of the 657 soldiers I was able to locate in the census records, 479, or 72.9%, were not married in 1860. 178, or 27.1% of the regiment, were husbands when they marched off to war in 1861, and 90% of the married men who served in the regiment were fathers as well.

Let's look at how these numbers break down into the various categories.

1. The Volunteers of 1861. . .

The volunteers who enlisted in the summer of 1861 were somewhat younger in age than the regimental average, it is thus no surprise that just one-quarter of them, an even 25% of these soldiers, were married at the time of their enlistment. This is just slightly lower than the regimental average overall. However, the greatest difference lies among the regiment's first commissioned officers. An astonishing 77.8% of the regiment's officers in 1861 were married, a more than fifty percent increase from the regimental average. This too is most certainly due to the older age of these men.

2. The Enlistees of 1864-1865. . .

Nearly 30% of the soldiers who were mustered into service during the final two years of the war were married in 1860. Seventy percent were thus single, at least they were in 1860.

3. Commissioned Officers. . .

As mentioned above, 77.8% of the regiment's first commissioned officers were married at the outbreak of civil war in April 1861. And most of these men, some 86%, had children as well. However, it is interesting to note that as the war dragged on and as the 48th's original field officers were replaced with those from the ranks, we see a vast decrease in the number of married men holding commissioned rank. Indeed, only 40% of the regiment's officers as a whole were husbands.

4. Soldiers who Died of Disease. . .

31.4% of the soldiers who died of disease were married, a figure just slightly above the overall regimental average. If there is a link between marital status and whether or not a soldier succumbed to disease, I cannot think of it. There is probably no connection, whatsoever.

5. Substitute and Conscripted Soldiers. . .

As I mentioned two weeks ago, the soldiers who entered the regiment in the place of another or as a drafted soldier were typically older than those who voluntarily joined. So again we see another correlation with their marital status. Some 35% of substitute soldiers were married, while 63.6% of conscripted men left behind a wife when they were forced into service.

6. Deserters. . .

Finally, let's take a look at deserters. Of the soldiers who fled the regiment, 35% were married, which is 8% higher than the regimental average. 93% of the desertes were fathers as well.

In summation, it is clear that, at least in 1861, the vast majority of the 48th's commissioned officers were married. This is most likely due to their higher average age. Most of the men they commanded were single, which continued to be the case throughout the four years of the regiment's existence. It is also clear from this data that a higher percentage of soldiers who entered the regiment as substitutes or as conscripts were husbands, while 35% of the men who deserted went home to their wife, and, for most of them, their children as well.

Perhaps these numbers can help us further examine the motivations behind a soldier's enlistment and his reasons for desertion.

My next entry for "Portrait of a Regiment" will analyze the ethnic composition of the regiment.

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