Educator's Guide: Mathematics: Killing Commanders


The Civil War was the bloodiest conflict in American History. New military technologies and lack of adequate medical care contributed to the high number of casualties. Leadership, or lack of leadership, often placed units in harms way. As Private Alfred Davenport 5th New York put it; "The men put no trust in Hooker's bluster, he will simply get us killed, as Burnside did." Who were these killer commanders?


Have students analyze statistical data from the Civil War. Using the lists below have students rank the commanders from bloodiest to fewest killed. Have students determine percentages of fatalities, wounded and missing for these generals. If you wish to narrow the scope, have students analyze the data from just one battle of the Civil War.

Rank the commanders on both sides.

  • Robert E. Lee
  • Stonewall Jackson
  • James Longstreet
  • Joseph Johnston
  • Pierre T. Beauregard
  • A.P. Hill
  • Ulysses S. Grant
  • William T. Sherman
  • James McPherson
  • Philip Sheridan
  • George B. McClellan
  • George Meade

Have students construct a graph showing the results of their analysis. This activity can be expanded to statistical analysis of battles, regimental losses, losses by state, etc...

Classroom Activities:

  • Mathematics
  • Social Studies


  • 4- 12


Students will evaluate a general's performance based solely on the rate of fatalities among his units. Older students can discuss how these statistics could be used to enhance or destroy a general's reputation. Older students can make comparative studies of death statistics from other American wars.


Historical reference material or encyclopedia. Paper, pens, calculators (optional), graph material

Last updated: April 14, 2015

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