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Measuring the demographic impact of the Civil War in Virginia

Perhaps no event in Virginia’s history had more of an impact on its population than the four years of war between 1861 and 1865. The war resulted in an unknown number of deaths, freedom from slavery for close to a third of its population, and the secession of West Virginia. Though historians have attempted to calculate the number of military deaths during the war for over a century, only in recent years, with the digitization of historic census data, have historians and demographers been able to analyze the larger impact that the Civil War had on the population beyond military death records.

The methodology used to measure the demographic impact of the Civil War by utilizing digitized historic census data is reasonably similar to the methodology used by the Weldon Cooper Center to project Virginia’s future population in 2020 or 2030 in that both methods analyze how age cohorts change between decennial censuses. Applying this demographic technique to 1850, 1860 and 1870, we are able to use census data to produce an estimate of the impact that the Civil War had on the populations in each of the counties in Virginia.

The results and analysis can be seen below. Click here for a full screen view.