April 12 marked the anniversary of the start of The American Civil War, but a new survey from Rasmussen Reports finds just one-in-three Americans even know it happened. With an abysmal and, frankly pathetic, number such as that, I thought it made sense to draw attention to the nation’s past suffering and sacrifice before it became an valid position to argue they were both in vain.
After all, a “nation,” as defined by Benedict Anderson, is not a nation at all without a shared sense of sacrifice, and glory.
The American Civil War was the nation’s bloodiest conflict by far, with 620,000 military deaths representing roughly 2 percent of the entire U.S. population. New military technology combined with out-dated battlefield tactics resulted in a scale of military casualties and death unprecedented in American history, and to a certain extent, world history.
If we were to total up the number of military casualties from all the following wars, it wouldn’t parallel the death seen in the Civil War until the Vietnam War. Indeed, nearly as many Americans died in captivity during the Civil War than the entire casualty count from Vietnam.
“Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.” –Abraham Lincoln, 2nd Inaugural Address