Harper’s Weekly eloquently wrote about the profound loss of life during the Civil War on November 5, 1864, “They die, these brave and noble boys, but they live. They live in our purer purpose, in our firmer resolution in the surer justice of the nation. Against compromise, against concession, against surrender, this precious blood cries from the ground.” These words were written in an effort to let the public know their brave young men were dying for something worthwhile. Even though those words were written for a Northern audience, the South felt just as sure that their cause was worth the sacrifice that war inflicted. After all these years one must ponder the historical impact not only of reuniting a nation, but of those lives that were sacrificed on the individual, the family and the community level. To understand the magnitude of loss in human life we must first look at the statistics and then look beyond to understand the human experience. To look beyond the statistics we will focus on Stephen Dodson Ramseur and Charles Russell Lowell, Jr. Both of these brave young men fought heroically until their fated ends at the Battle of Cedar Creek.
In reaction to the Confederates firing at Fort Sumter, President Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers on April 15, 1861 to put down the Southern rebellion. Two days later on April 17, 1861 President Jefferson Davis called for 32,000 volunteers. In these early days of organizing for war, young men on both sides felt great hope. The general feeling was one victory and this war would be over. Men rushed to enlist. Most regiments were comprised of men from the same families and neighbors of the same region. This type of grouping of men would be dire for the continuance of certain regions and family legacies. One historian notes, “An example of companies being raised from the same communities caused these areas to lose an entire generation of men. The Pelican Rifles, a company in the 2nd Louisiana Volunteers, is an extreme example of this. Of the 151 men who served in the unit, 119 died in the war. Of the 32 who survived, 31 were wounded.” The mortality and casualty statistics that were ahead of the Union and Confederate soldiers were going to leave a lasting imprint for future generations to come.
By Shannon Moeck