Veterans, Tramps, and the Economic Crisis of 1873
Non-commissioned Union Officers
Some facts and figures to consider as you conduct research. The numbers of men involved with the Civil War included:
- North: 2.2 million served of a population of 22 million;
- South: 1 million served of a 9 million population)
- 1.03 million casualties; 620,000 deaths – 2/3 by disease
- 6% of Northern males and 18% of Southern males between 13 and 43 died in the war
Western Confederate Troops, 1864
Research Questions and Topics
- What was the percentage of veterans among the postwar working-age population of men?
- How many veterans never gained employment after the Civil War?
- How many veterans gained work after the war far from their original homes or in a line of work very different from the work they did before the war?
- In their attempts to reintegrate into society, did veterans find that society had changed, that they themselves had changed, or both?
- How many veterans gained work after the war, only to lose it during the economic downturn of the 1870s?
- What proportion of income was from wages paid by an employer (as opposed to, for example, the incomes of farmers and independent tradesmen) before the Civil War? What proportion after?
- How many were in the military after the Civil War – 1865 to 1890, say, the period of the Indian Wars? How many of them were Civil War veterans?
- How many tramps were there immediately after the Civil War (1865-1873), and what proportion were veterans?
- How many tramps were there during the economic downturn which started in 1873, and what proportion of them were veterans?
- What proportion of railroad workers immediately after the Civil War were veterans?
- Who funded the construction of railroads? How did the number of people employed building railroads change year by year during the period 1865-1900?
- What psychological factors, if any, made veterans particularly adept at or susceptible to a life of tramping? Were alcoholism and drug abuse factors? (Opiate addiction – “Soldier’s Disease” – was a myth constructed in 1915 and after.) Were veterans self-medicating for physical wounds? For psychological wounds? What evidence do we have?
- Were veterans or surviving families denied benefits that had been promised as a result of military service – pensions, medical care? Did they protest? How? (http://www.answers.com/topic/civil-war-pensions)
- What government and societal reactions to the phenomenon of homelessness exacerbated the problems? Mitigated the problems? What do the reactions say about the attitudes of the people who enacted or tightened vagrancy laws, ran charitable organizations, etc.?