The “400”: Is This Sample Representative?

“Au travail!” as they say in France. Or, as they say in America, this is where the rubber hits the road. I thought I’d start analyzing the “400” by establishing if some companies were better represented than others in the sample. My motive consisted of ensuring that the “400” I had selected randomly were more or less representative of the 5th New Hampshire. As you’ll see, though, you never know where a question like this will take you. And this question took me far afield.

I started out by surveying a spreadsheet that contained information for all the original volunteers in the regiment and determined how many men were in each company. This was the spreadsheet from which I had randomly selected the “400” in the first place. I found the following:

Table 1

Co. A
Co. B
Co. C
Co. D
Co. E
Co. F
Co. G
Co. H
Co. I
Co. K
Band
F&S*
NCS**
104
87
101
86
103
88
101
93
101
100
24
8
5
*F&S stands for “Field and Staff” (i.e. the colonel, lieutenant colonel, major, adjutant, quartermaster, surgeons, and chaplain.)
**NCS stands for “Noncommissioned staff” (i.e. the regimental sergeant major, commissary sergeant, quartermaster sergeant, hospital steward, and principal musicians).

The total adds up to 1,001 men. That figure is a little smaller than the numbers that are commonly attributed to the regiment upon its formation, but that’s how many original volunteers I found in Ayling’s Revised Register. If I’ve made a mistake, it’s of the order of about 0.1%–no joke (Edward Cross, the regiment’s colonel, claimed he left Concord, NH, at the end of October 1861 with 1,012 men). I think I can live with that.

In any event, the total number of men in my “400” Excel spreadsheet is 403. So my “400” represent 40.3% of the original 1,001 volunteers. That being the case, I multiplied the figures in Table 1 by .403 to see what my sample of “400” would look like if it was perfectly representative of the regiment (and I did round to the nearest whole number):

Table 2

Co. A
Co. B
Co. C
Co. D
Co. E
Co. F
Co. G
Co. H
Co. I
Co. K
Band
F&S
NCS
42
35
41
35
42
35
41
37
41
40
10
3
2

But this is what my sample of the “400” actually looks like:

Table 3

Co. A
Co. B
Co. C
Co. D
Co. E
Co. F
Co. G
Co. H
Co. I
Co. K
Band
F&S
NCS
41
36
36
40
43
39
41
33
45
35
9
3
2

In some cases, the numbers match up very nicely. Look at Companies A, B, E, and G. The Band, the Field & Staff, and the non-commissioned staff are also in the right ballpark. But Companies C, H, and K are underrepresented while Companies D, F, and I are overrepresented. You might think that the discrepancies are not great, but we are talking errors of well over 10%. What happened?

My first thought was that this issue was due to the luck of the draw. I picked men randomly, so my thinking went, and random selections sometimes lead to these kinds of disparities. Maybe. But my second thought was this: what if some of the companies are underrepresented among my “400” veterans because these units disproportionately suffered from death due to combat or illness? I decided to try that hypothesis out. Among the original volunteers, 114 were killed in action, 62 died of their wounds, and 100 succumbed to illness. Surely death was not evenly distributed throughout the regiment.

This is what I found:

Table 4

A B C D E F G H I K Band F&S NCS
KIA 11 5 16 12 14 7 15 9 12 12 0 1 0
MW 6 6 6 2 7 7 9 5 5 9 0 0 0
KIA+MW 17 11 22 14 21 14 24 14 17 21 0 1 0
Disease 7 11 12 8 9 10 6 9 11 15 2 0 0
TOTAL 24 22 34 22 30 24 30 23 28 36 2 2 0

If you remember, Companies C, H, and K are underrepresented in my sample of the “400.” It certainly looks as if Companies C and K suffered a disproportionate number of deaths (they were the two companies that lost the most men). But the number of deaths suffered by Company H was disproportionately small. Something else must explain why there are fewer members of that company among the “400” than there ought to be.

Companies D, F, and I are overrepresented in my sample, and it looks like D and F suffered fewer deaths than most companies. But five companies suffered fewer deaths than I, so I’m not sure how to explain why so many men from that company ended up among the “400.”

There are some factors that could have corrupted my findings somewhat. For example, some men were transferred from one company to another or promoted to the Field & Staff before being killed; as I’ve set it up, their deaths would have been credited to their original company. And some men, while still belonging to their company, could have formed part of the color guard where they were much more likely to get killed. If some companies were overrepresented in the color guard, that could have influenced the findings somewhat. The number of men transferred or promoted, as well as the number of soldiers assigned to the color guard (nine at any given moment), was small, but cumulatively, these issues could have warped my figures.

It seems I have found only a partial answer to my question of why some companies were overrepresented and others were underrepresented in the sample. Maybe part of the answer really is just chance.

The foregoing calculations, however, led me to another line of inquiry: why had some companies suffered many more deaths than others?

I started thinking about combat deaths and surmised that the companies closest to the color guard (which always drew a great deal of fire) during a battle suffered disproportionate casualties (to be honest, looking at who served in the color guard itself would be helpful, but that information is not available to me right now). Testing this hypothesis by figuring out the deployment of companies in line of battle was something of a task. In General Order No. 6, Colonel Edward Cross assigned the position of companies according to the seniority of the captains who commanded them.

1st Company: Company A: Captain. Edward E. Sturtevant
2nd Company: Company B: Captain Edmund Brown
3rd Company: Company C: Captain James B. Perry
4th Company: Company D: Captain John Murray
5th Company: Company E: Captain Ira McL. Barton
6th Company: Company F: Captain H.T.H. Pierce
7th Company: Company G: Captain Charles H. Long
8th Company: Company H: Captain Richard R. Davis
9th Company: Company I: Captain Charles E. Hapgood
10th Company: Company K: Captain Richard Welch[i]

“Formation in Order of Battle” (1861): This image from Hardee’s Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics shows who went where when a regiment was drawn up in line of battle. In this particular illustration, eight companies are in line of battle and two are detached for skirmish duty.

So far so good. However, matters get a bit complicated when one starts discussing the actual deployment of the regiment in combat. According to William J. Hardee’s Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics, U.S. Infantry Tactics, and Silas Casey’s Infantry Tactics, a regiment arranged its companies in the following manner when it was arrayed in line of battle:[ii]

2nd

7th

10th

5th

8th 3rd 9th 4th 6th

1st

B

G K E H C I D F

A

Company A, which had the most senior captain (Sturtevant), occupied the post of honor which was the right flank of the regiment. This arrangement seems to indicate that Companies H and C were on either side of the color guard which was in the middle of the formation. While Company C suffered the second-highest number of combat deaths (21), Company H was definitely on the low end of the scale (14). Ok, scratch my theory about the color guard. Again, maybe I should try to figure out who was in the color guard and from what companies they were selected.

Edward E. Sturtevant (1826-1862), then living in Concord, NH, recruited and commanded Company I of the 1st New Hampshire, a three-month regiment. Shortly after that regiment was mustered out, he went on to recruit and command Company A of the 5th New Hampshire. It was this company that earned the post of honor on the right flank of the regiment when it went into battle. Sturtevant eventually attained the rank of major before he was killed at the Battle of Fredericksburg. (Image courtesy of David Morin.)

I then thought that maybe some companies were more frequently used for picket duty and skirmishing than others. The problem is that I didn’t know if Cross leaned on particular companies in this way let alone which ones they would be.[iii] In any event, my impression is that in a number of major battles (Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, and Cold Harbor), the 5th New Hampshire went straight into action without deploying skirmishers.

And so I was left falling back on the last recourse of a scoundrel; perhaps this was all a matter of chance and circumstance. In the battles for which I have detailed records of casualties, I have noticed striking discrepancies in the number of dead and wounded suffered by each company. Take for example the Battle of Fair Oaks (June 1, 1862):

Company A: 3 killed, 2 mortally wounded, 20 other wounded
Company B: 2 killed, 2 mortally wounded, 19 other wounded
Company C: 4 killed, 3 mortally wounded, 17 other wounded
Company D: 4 killed, 6 wounded
Company E: 5 killed, 1 mortally wounded, 22 other wounded
Company F: 3 mortally wounded, 10 other wounded
Company G: 3 killed, 2 mortally wounded, 6 other wounded
Company H: 1 killed, 3 mortally wounded, 17 other wounded
Company I: 7 wounded
Company K: 3 killed, 13 wounded[iv]

To take the two extremes, Company E (Barton) suffered a total of 6 dead and 22 wounded for a total of 28 casualties while Company I (Hapgood) suffered a mere 7 wounded. It is worth noting that this battle (among other things) helped convince Cross that Barton was a drunken incompetent.[v] It is also probably worth noting that Hapgood later became the colonel of the regiment. So maybe the quality of company commanders had something to do with the distribution of casualties. Still, we should not disregard bad luck. A single shell burst could literally double a company’s casualties in a battle. For example, according to William Child’s History of the Fifth Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers (1893) a one charge of canister killed or wounded 8 men from Company G at the Battle of Antietam.[vi]

Ira McL. Barton (1840-1876) raised much of Company D in the 1st New Hampshire and led that company during it three months of service. He later recruited and led Company E in the 5th New Hampshire until he resigned his commission in September 1862. Surprisingly, Barton landed on his feet as Lieutenant-Colonel of the 1st New Hampshire Heavy Artillery and served in the regular army after the war. (Image courtesy of David Morin.)

We’ve covered combat, so what about disease? Why did some companies suffer so much more than others, especially when the sanitary arrangements laid down by the regiment’s commander applied equally to all companies? I think the answer has to do with the men and not the conditions to which they were subjected.

It turns out that the companies that suffered the fewest deaths from disease (A, D, and G) were also those that happened to be most heavily recruited from urban areas in the state. (When I use the word “urban,” I employ it in the same sense as the Census Bureau: a settlement of more than 2,500 people.) [vii] In all likelihood these recruits had been more heavily exposed to communicable diseases throughout their lives and proved less susceptible to various illnesses than men from small rural settlements. Over 40% of Company A was recruited from Concord, NH (10,867), the second-largest town in the state and the 86th biggest settlement in the United States. Well over half of Company D’s men came from three major towns that were right next door to each other: Dover (8,487), Somersworth (4,785), and Rochester (3,833). And Company G was the only one in the regiment where the majority of men (70% in fact) came from one urban settlement: Claremont (4,009). No other companies had such high concentrations of urban dwellers.[viii] I like this hypothesis, but I have no means of testing it.

Map of Claremont in 1860

So are some companies overrepresented in the sample? Yes! Do I know why? Maybe, but not with any certainty. Did I figure out why some companies suffered more deaths than others? Partially.

Did I learn something by asking a bunch of different questions? I think so.


[i] I have several copies of General Order No. 6 at my disposal, but the one I referred to in this instance was in William Andrew Moore’s papers at the New Hampshire Historical Society.

[ii] Hardee’s book was published in 1855 and became the bible for field and junior officers during the Civil War. See http://www.cs-cavalry.de/Hardees%201862.pdf (p. 8). U.S. Infantry Tactics was put out by the War Department in 1861 and appears to plagiarize Hardee’s work extensively. See https://www.google.com/books/edition/U_S_Infantry_Tactics/ 3kAWAAAAYAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=Hardee+light+infantry+tactics+ school+of+the+company&pg=RA1-PT3&printsec=frontcover. Finally, Casey’s work also draws heavily from Hardee. See http://64thill.org/drillmanuals/
caseys_infantrytactics/volume1/part01.htm#6
.

[iii] I know that at Fair Oaks, Companies A and C were used in this fashion, but I don’t know if Cross always used them this way. See https://archive.org/
details/historyoffifthre00chil/page/n115/mode/2up

[iv] This information was assembled by consulting Ayling’s Revised Register and the surgeon’s report for the 5th New Hampshire that appeared in the New Hampshire Statesman, June 21, 1862, p. 2.

[v] Mike Pride and Mark Travis, My Brave Boys: To War with Colonel Cross & the Fighting Fifth (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 2001), p. 158. Interestingly enough, after Barton resigned from the regiment, he and Hapgood remained on good terms and continued to correspond.

[vi] See https://archive.org/details/historyoffifthre00chil/page/n163/mode/2up However, if one amalgamates information from Ayling’s Revised Register and the Surgeon’s Report that appeared in the New Hampshire Statesman, October 4, 1862, p. 2, it appears that while Company G suffered 15 casualties at Antietam, only one soldier died as a result of that battle.

[vii] https://www2.census.gov/geo/pdfs/reference/GARM/Ch12GARM.pdf

[viii] All information in this paragraph comes from the Census of 1860 and Ayling’s Revised Register.

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