Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Chances of being killed in action and a Possible Reason for such Chances

Battle of Solferino, courtesy of stmaryscollegehull.co.uk

From the Covington Journal of May 25, 1861

I wonder how accurate these statistics were, and if any post-Civil War data that might compare to it exists.  With so many deaths during the war caused by disease (not mentioned in this article, but death by diarrhea is every bit as permanent as death by bullet) and so many shots fired, it might be an interesting comparison. (Of course, I note the story title talks about "killed in war' while the article itself mentions "killed in battle" a big difference - darned headline writers.) I also question if it took into account the weight of artillery fire.

Marshall Saxe, a high authority in such things, was in the habit of saying that to kill a man in battle, the man's weight in lead must be expended. A French medical and surgical gazette, published at Lyons, says this fact was verified at Solferino, even with the recent great improvement in fire-arms. The Austrians fired eight million four hundred rounds. The loss of the French and Italians was two thousand killed and ten thousand wounded. Each man hit cost seven hundred rounds, and every man killed cost four thousand two hundred rounds. The mean weight of balls is one ounce; thus we find that it is required, on an average, two hundred and seventy-two pounds of lead to kill a man. If any of our friends should get into a military fight, they should feel great comfort in the fact that seven hundred shots may be fired at them before they are hit, and four thousand two hundred before they "shuffle off the mortal coil."

Then again, maybe the following article, on the same page of this paper, should be considered when discussing this topic.

Many of the northern volunteers, says the Syracuse (NY) Courier, have been presented with revolvers by their friends, and the weapon is doing more injury to the possessor than the enemy. We hear of several cases of accident occurring from the careless use of these "little jokers," a few of which have proved fatal. A volunteer at Lockport shot himself dead on Saturday, through accidental carelessness in handling a pistol. These weapons are being taken away from the volunteers at Albany, as being a very unnecessary weapon for infantry service. Most of the raw recruits are not familiar with any weapon of the fire-arms description, much less pocket revolvers and we caution them to beware how they play with them.

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