Numbering the Dead

A hundred and fifty years ago, slightly more, a strange notion: the dead could be counted. In the Civil War, in the lush fields of the South, Americans first, as a culture, began to imagine death in numbers. Rosters of soldiers, as well as lists of war casualties, were not common practice in the mid-nineteenth century. Many officials feared responsibility for the dead by numbering or naming them, and military leaders felt an accurate count might embolden their enemies.