Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Casualty rates, then and now

One of my not-for-work books in August was a history of the decline of the New England fisheries. This paragraph jumped out at me: One night in February, 1862, Gloucester [Massachusetts] alone lost 120 men and 15 fishing vessels to a northeast gale on Georges Bank. A summer gale in 1873 swept the grounds from ...

The U.S. National Archives/flickr
The U.S. National Archives/flickr
The U.S. National Archives/flickr

One of my not-for-work books in August was a history of the decline of the New England fisheries. This paragraph jumped out at me:

One night in February, 1862, Gloucester [Massachusetts] alone lost 120 men and 15 fishing vessels to a northeast gale on Georges Bank. A summer gale in 1873 swept the grounds from the Grand Banks to Georges, claiming 128 men.... Between 1860 and 1880 The Fishermen's Book records 1,800 Gloucestermen lost at sea, an average of 90 men a year for a town whose population never exceeded 25,000 people.

Among other things, this makes me understand better how Americans endured the casualty rates of the Civil War.

One of my not-for-work books in August was a history of the decline of the New England fisheries. This paragraph jumped out at me:

One night in February, 1862, Gloucester [Massachusetts] alone lost 120 men and 15 fishing vessels to a northeast gale on Georges Bank. A summer gale in 1873 swept the grounds from the Grand Banks to Georges, claiming 128 men…. Between 1860 and 1880 The Fishermen’s Book records 1,800 Gloucestermen lost at sea, an average of 90 men a year for a town whose population never exceeded 25,000 people.

Among other things, this makes me understand better how Americans endured the casualty rates of the Civil War.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.