Wednesday, March 1, 2017

1860 Census

As you might imagine, I regularly scour the web for news regarding upcoming titles. One that caught my eye recently was some kind of history of the U.S. census, but it ended up being miscategorized in the ACW section. It got me thinking, though. We all know how incredibly useful 1860 census data is to modern researchers and scholars, but how about the Civil War civilian and military officials themselves? The first connection that came to my mind was the oft told tale in the literature of General Sherman's use of census data in plotting his march routes through enemy backcountry, the overall intent being to maximize the food and fodder foraging of his men while at the same time meting out direct punishment to those civilians that presumably were the chief supporters of the Confederacy (i.e. the rich plantation/farm owners). I would imagine that the Lincoln Administration used it to come up with the 90-Day volunteer allotments levied to each state after the firing on Fort Sumter. I have no answer to the question of whether there's enough of this kind of stuff to fill an actual book that would prove worthwhile, but it seems possible that someone might come up with something interesting.

Under the auspices of the U.S. Civil War Centennial Commission, the Government Printing Office published the pamphlet-sized "The United States on the Eve of the Civil War: As Described in the 1860 Census" in 1963, but I haven't come across any books specifically addressing the actual war years.

1 comment:

  1. The Official Records note that the War Department did indeed use the 1860 census to calculate troop quotas for each state. Another interesting fact that was noted in the 1865 New York State census is that many people were reluctant to give information to the census takers, fearing that it would be used to draft them or their family members.
    Will Hickox


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