How Many People Died During the Revolutionary War?

February 29, 2024

What is the real story behind how many people died during the revolutionary war?

In a time when what we would consider basic hygiene was often absent, soldiers suffered from typhoid fever, dysentery and other infectious diseases. These conditions created a perfect breeding ground for deadly viruses that ravaged armies and navies alike. Epidemics such as smallpox wracked both the American and British, killing thousands of men on each side. Throughout the eight-year conflict, the vast majority of the deaths in both sides’ forces came from disease rather than in battles.

Even with the primitive military technology of the day, the death toll was staggeringly high. For example, according to Howard H. Peckham’s 1974 book The Toll of Independence, over 25,000 American combatants died in the Revolutionary War—and that doesn’t even include those who were killed outside of battle.

More than 8,000 American men died from diseases spread by the British while in camp or aboard prison ships, which is much more than the 6,800 that were lost in battles. In a nation as young as the United States, these losses had a huge impact.

Although the American Revolution was one of the deadliest wars in history, the enduring legacy of this bloodshed has allowed the country to grow into a global powerhouse. While we don’t remember the numbers of those who died in the Revolution, what has lasted is the idea that Americans have an exceptional will to overcome their adversaries. Stream these and other great HISTORY documentaries, commercial-free on HISTORY.


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