American Civil War

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Everything about the American Civil War

Civil War Generals

How Many Civil War Generals Were There

Civil War generals numbered in the hundreds during the war.

Many officers were promoted to higher ranks during the war, which included promotions to the rank of general.

These promotions were called brevet promotions. They were only valid for as long as the war lasted.

After the war ended their rank reverted back to where it was prior to their brevet promotion.

George Custer was one example of this type of wartime promotion. He was promoted to the rank of general during the Civil War.

Generals of the Civil War either won or lost battles due to their competence as commanders or their incompetence.

Great Civil War Generals

Some generals such as Robert E. Lee and General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson are famous for their brilliant tactics and wise decisions on the battlefield.

A must read book about Stonewall Jackson is Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson this is a very well researched and fascinating biography about one of the Confederates best and most famous generals.

Bad Civil War Generals

Some less impressive generals during the Civil War are remembered simply for being as equally terrible as Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were great.

Union General Ambrose Burnside is one example of incompetence and ineptitude that was nothing more than a burden to his subordinates and his men.

General Ambrose Burnside

General Ambrose Burnside

Burnside’s Blunder at Antietam

One of General Burnside’s most famous blunders was during the battle of Antietam at a bridge which forever bears his name called Burnside bridge.

He ordered his men to cross the bridge so that Union forces could cross Antietam creek and continue their attack against the Confederates. The bridge was defended by a small group of Confederate soldiers who held the high ground on the other side.

The defenders had easy targets as the Union troops tried to cross the narrow bridge.

Hundreds of General Burnside’s men were needlessly sacrificed trying to cross this bridge. Meanwhile General Burnside could have had his soldiers cross the creek a few hundred feet downstream where it was not defended and it was shallow enough for his men to have easily and safely walked across the Antietam creek.

Burnside himself even admitted publicly that he would make a very poor general, apparently nobody was listening and he was put in command anyway.

A great book about Civil War Generals from both sides of the conflict is Generals South, Generals North: The Commanders of the Civil War Reconsidered.

Below you will find a list of some of the more famous leaders during the Civil War.

Civil War Generals and Other Famous People

Abner Doubleday

(1819-1893) Abner Doubleday was born on June 26th 1819 in Ballston Spa, New York. He was a staunch Union loyalist [...]

Abraham Lincoln

(1809-1865) Abraham Lincoln Timeline - 1809 February 12 - Abraham Lincoln was born in a one-room log cabin, near what is [...]

Albert Sidney Johnston

(1803-1862) Albert Sidney Johnston was born on February 2nd 1803 in Washington, Kentucky. At the outbreak of the Civil War [...]

Alexander Gardner

(1821-1882) Alexander Gardner was born in Scotland on October 17th 1821. In 1856 he arrived in the United States hoping [...]

Allan Pinkerton

(1819-1884) Allan Pinkerton was born in Glasgow, Scotland on August 25th 1819. In 1842 he left Scotland and came to [...]

Ambrose Burnside

(1824-1881) Ambrose Burnside was born in Liberty Indiana on May 23rd 1824. He attended West Point and served in the [...]

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Civil War Generals2019-07-25T22:26:40-04:00

Civil War Tents

Civil War tents came in many different shapes and sizes.

Civil War tents were made out of canvas.

At the start of the Civil War Union soldiers often used the Sibley tent. This tent was invented in 1857 by Henry Sibley a West Point graduate who explored out west. The design was inspired by Native American teepees. This was a very large conical shaped tent. It is eighteen feet in diameter, and twelve feet high with a support pole in the center that sits on a tripod.

Civil War Sibley Tent

Civil War Sibley Tent

The tripod was adjustable and could either tighten the tent or make it loose. These Civil War tents could also raise and lower from the ground to provide ventilation. The top of the tent had a round opening a foot wide. This opening allowed for ventilation and a stove chimney.

In inclement weather a flap could be pulled over the opening to protect the inside. When soldiers were not using a stove inside the tent they built campfires on the floor which were ventilated through the opening at the top. The Sibley tent slept twelve men.

The Sibley Civil War tents were retired in 1862. It was far too expensive, large, and cumbersome for an army to carry with them. Each tent required several wagons to carry.

If you are looking for modern tents here are some great camping tents you might like.

 Civil War A Tent or Wedge Tent

The A tent or Wedge tent was a canvas tent stretched across a six foot long horizontal bar with two vertical supporting bars in the front and back.

Inside Civil War Sibley Tent

Inside Civil War Sibley Tent

Civil War A Tent

Civil War A Tent

These Civil War tents could sleep up to six men. If five or six soldiers were sharing the tent they would have to spoon each other and turn over at the same time. It could fit four soldiers comfortably.

This was a rather large tent and not easy to transport when an army was on the march. They were used only for the first two years of the Civil War.

Civil War Hospital Tent or Wall Tent

The Civil War hospital tent also called a wall tent since it has four vertical walls, was a very large tent. These Civil War tents were used for hospitals and for officers. The wall tents came in different sizes. The largest tents were the hospital tents.

Civil War Hospital Tent

Civil War Hospital Tent

These were so large that men could walk around upright in them. They could hold up to twenty patients.

There would be a corridor down the center of the tent with cots on each side for the patients. When a larger tent was needed soldiers would join two of these tents together doubling its size.

Inside Civil War A Tent

Inside Civil War A Tent

Generals and officers were given a smaller version of the wall tent. The wall tent also had a flap called a fly, this helped protect against inclement weather.

Shelter Tent or Dog Tent

The shelter tent also called a dog tent was created in late 1861. This was the common soldier’s tent.

Civil War Officers Tent

Civil War Officers Tent

These were small tents made of canvas. They were large enough to sleep two men. Each soldier was issued a half-shelter, which was half of the tent, two halves would button together forming a single tent.

Each shelter half was only about five feet long and four and a half feet wide. It had buttons and button holes on three sides, with two holes on each corner for stakes. Soldiers paired up with each other combining both of their half-shelters to form a single two person tent.

The two half-shelters were supported by rifles with their bayonets attached. The rifles were stuck vertically into the ground, one in front and one in the back of the tent.

A wire or rope was tied around the trigger guard of each rifle and the half-shelters were slung over the wire. Soldiers also used branches to support the tent.

Civil War Tents

Civil War Dog Tent

Civil War Shelter Tent

Civil War Shelter Tent

If it was good weather soldiers typically would not use their tents. Instead they would sleep out under the stars with just their blankets. The last thing a tired soldier wanted to do was take time to setup a tent if it really wasn’t necessary.

If the weather was bad, or it was going to get bad, they would set their tents up. Soldiers would dig a ditch around their tent to drain rainwater away.

New recruits would learn the hard way that if they didn’t bother to do this they would be lying in a puddle and all their equipment soaked when they woke up after a rain.

Civil War Tents during Winter Quarters

With the arrival of winter fighting typically stopped. Soldiers used their dog tents to take up a more permanent residence in camp. Walls made from logs were built between two and five feet high, the openings between the logs were packed with mud.

The ground beneath the shelter was sometimes dug out one to two feet. Wooden rafters were made to place on top of the walls and the tent halves were placed on top of the rafters. This formed a large and warm shelter.

Civil War Winter Quarters

Civil War Winter Quarters

Chimneys were constructed inside these shelters using brick, stone, or wood. Wooden chimneys were lined with mud to protect against fire. A fireplace would be built under the chimneys which kept the shelter warm and it gave the men a place to cook.

The winter months gave the men plenty of downtime. They were always looking for ways to entertain themselves and civil war games played a major role in helping soldiers fight the ever present companion of boredom that comes with daily camp life.

Civil War Bombproof Shelters

These shelters were solely used for protection against enemy artillery fire. Bombproofs were built inside fortifications using heavy logs packed with mud, they were covered by several feet of dirt and had a small door that faced away from the enemy.

Civil War Bombproof Shelter

Civil War Bombproof Shelter

They were built either on top of the ground or dug into the ground. Both the Union and Confederacy used bombproof shelters.

Troops would take cover in them whenever the enemy began shelling their position. They were cold and damp and soldiers did not sleep in them unless it was out of necessity.

Confederate soldiers never had it as good as Union soldiers. This is even true when it came to a simple thing like Civil War tents. Often Confederate soldiers used no tents, some lucky Confederates would sometimes capture Union tents and use those. More often than not they slept out in the open. Each soldier was issued a blanket and an oil-cloth, which is just a rubber blanket.

Two soldiers would sleep together. One rubber blanket would be placed on the ground they would cover themselves with the two regular blankets and on top of that they would place the other rubber blanket. In this way they slept very warmly and comfortably through any type of inclement including rain and snow.

Union soldiers typically put their camps in large open fields, with the exception of winter when they located them in wooded areas. Confederate soldiers usually setup their camps in the woods. In an open field Union camps were more orderly and better arranged but Confederate camps looked nicer in the woods.

Civil War Tents2019-07-19T22:04:58-04:00

Civil War Uniform

The Civil War uniform for both Northern troops and Southern troops was one of the most basic and important things a solider could have. Uniforms were more than just clothes to wear.

They showed your friends and enemies alike what side you were on, they showed what branch of service you were in Infantry, Cavalry or Artillery.

Union Soldier Uniform

The United States controlled the factories and had massive industrial capacity which was able to produce high quality wool uniforms for all of their troops.

United States troops looked like soldiers, they all looked the same and were outfitted very well. One of the most recognizable Union uniforms were worn by the Zouaves. Their uniforms consisted of a red cap and bright red pants.

civil war union uniform

Union Uniform

A typical Union soldier uniform during the Civil War consisted of:

  • light blue pants
  • blue overcoat with a cape
  • dark blue jacket
  • heavy shoes
  • woolen socks
  • a cap called a kepi
  • gray woolen shirt
  • knapsack
  • haversack

Along with the Civil War uniform, Union soldiers wore a belt which held a cap box, cartridge box, bayonet with scabbard, canteen, and a blanket roll which contained a wool blanket, a shelter half and a rubber blanket and poncho.

The Confederate Civil War Uniform

The Confederacy was not an industrial powerhouse, they did not have many manufacturing plants that could easily create thousands of uniforms. The south was primarily an agricultural society.

civil war confederate uniform

Confederate Uniform

They had plenty of cotton for uniforms, they were also made of wool and jean but they didn’t have the means of producing proper uniforms in large quantities like the Union did. The Confederate uniform was usually a hodgepodge and often the soldiers looked very different from each other.

Ideally Confederate uniforms would look like Union uniforms just in a different color. In reality the common soldiers of the south had poor quality uniforms that were inferior to their Union counterparts. Officers uniforms were generally of much higher quality than the typical infantry soldier.

Confederate Uniforms

Confederate soldiers traveled very light and did not want to be encumbered by carrying a lot of items. Their uniforms were as bare bones as possible. A typical Confederate Civil War uniform consisted of:

  • slouch hat
  • jacket
  • shirt
  • one pair of pants
  • one pair of underwear
  • one pair of shoes
  • one pair of socks
  • blanket
  • rubber blanket
  • haversack

Confederate soldiers typically did not carry a knapsack, they fit everything they could into their haversacks, knapsacks were far too large and cumbersome to carry on a long march.

They did not carry cap boxes and cartridge boxes opting instead to use their pockets to hold their caps and cartridges.

Many of them also threw away their canteens in favor of a tin cup, which was smaller, could be used to boil water and was more convenient than lugging around a canteen.

Confederate soldiers traveled much lighter than their Northern counterparts. This made marching and fighting much easier but it came at a cost.

Rebel soldiers would often have to capture Union provisions, clothing and weapons in order to sustain themselves.

If you are interested in reading more about the different uniforms from both sides some fantastic choices are

Don Troiani’s Regiments & Uniforms of the Civil War
Uniforms of the Civil War
The Civil War Catalog
An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Military Uniforms of the 19th Century

As the war progressed it became increasingly more difficult for the Confederacy to produce and supply uniforms to their men.

Southern uniforms during the Civil War were usually dyed to make them gray or sometimes brown, this was done to at least try to give uniformity throughout the army.

Union soldiers often referred to confederate soldiers as Butternuts or gray jackets because of the grayish brown color of their uniforms.

Southern soldiers also wore short jackets and vests as well as shirts and underwear that were usually mailed to them from home. Shoes were also a major problem for the Rebel army. They didn’t have enough of them and the ones they did have were of very poor quality.

A soldiers haversack or knapsack if he carried one held their rations, an extra pair of socks, writing paper, stamps and envelopes, ink and pen, razor, toothbrush, comb and any other items that each individual soldier decided to keep with them.

Civil War Uniforms Identify Branch of Service

Civil War Uniforms identified individual soldiers and the units they belonged to. Identification included buttons, colors, and rank markings.

Civil War Uniform Union ButtonsConfederate Civil War Uniforms Buttons

Confederate Soldiers were also identified by the color of the hat they wore. Early war kepis in the south used solid colors.

These were later changed to a thin band with the color of the branch wrapped around the base of the cap to identify the area of service.All uniforms regardless of being Union or Confederate had prominent markings on them which identified whether a soldier was an enlisted man or an officer.

Uniforms Identify Rank

Confederate and Union soldier ranks were identified with chevrons.

Confederate Civil War Uniforms ChevronsCivil War Uniform Union Chevrons

Union Officer Insignia

Union officers were identified by epaulets and shoulder straps.

Civil War Uniform Union EpaulettesUnion Shoulder Straps

Confederate Officer Insignia

The Confederate army identified their officers with collar badges and sleeve badges.

Confederate Civil War Uniforms Collar BadgesConfederate Civil War Uniforms Sleeve Badges

Did the Confederates Attack Gettysburg to Capture Shoes?

The Confederate army was always in dire need of new shoes. They wore out quickly and they couldn’t produce enough to keep up with demand. If they could capture them they did. There has been a persistent myth about why General Robert E. Lee decided to attack Gettysburg Pennsylvania.

The myth says that he chose Gettysburg because it was believed there was a large number of shoes located in the town. This was not the case, there were no shoes in any quantity in Gettysburg that would have supplied the Army of Northern Virginia.

The reason this myth occurred was because on June 30th 1863 Confederate General Henry Heth ordered General Pettigrew to go to Gettysburg and search for army supplies (shoes especially). This order from General Heth is what started the myth about shoes at Gettysburg.

The problem with the theory is that Confederate General Jubal Early and his men were actually in Gettysburg four days earlier on June 26th 1863. General Early demanded that the authorities hand over supplies.

The authorities of Gettysburg claimed that they had very few supplies to give them. The Confederates then searched the town for anything of value before deciding there was not much to take.

If there was a large quantity of shoes in Gettysburg and there was a Confederate mission to find a large quantity of shoes, General Early would have certainly informed General Heth if he had found or captured a large stash of shoes.

Two days later on June 28th General Early and his men entered the town of York, Pennsylvania. Again they demanded supplies.

This time however, they received from the authorities between 1,200 – 1,500 pairs of shoes, 1,000 hats, 1,000 pairs of socks, and $28,600.

If Gettysburg had shoes General Early would have known about it.

Why Did the Gettysburg Battle Happen

The reason the Confederates ended up at Gettysburg is because all roads in that area lead to Gettysburg, it was only natural the Confederate and Union armies would find themselves meeting there after crossing into Pennsylvania.

Civil War Uniform2019-06-25T21:59:43-04:00

Abolitionist

Abolitionist Definition

Leading up to the outbreak of the Civil War the definition of abolitionist was a person who opposed slavery. Their goal was to abolish slavery immediately. John Brown and Frederick Douglass are the most well known abolitionists.

Abolitionist Movement

The abolitionist movement began years before the Civil War broke out. Prior to the war in the 1850’s Kansas was in it’s own little war between abolitionists and slave holders.  This was known as Bleeding Kansas.

Abraham Lincoln was opposed to slavery however he was not an abolitionist. The abolitionist definition was a fanatical belief that slavery should immediately cease and all slaves should be freed without delay. Lincoln wanted to end slavery gradually over a period of time.

The southern states felt extremely threatened by the abolitionist movement and by Abraham Lincoln. They knew that if he was elected in 1860 the institution of slavery would be under direct attack.

The entire economy of the south depended on agriculture and slavery, with the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 the south had no choice but to immediately secede and withdraw from the Union.

Abolitionist John Brown

John Brown is one of the most famous abolitionist. He was heavily involved with the fighting against the pro slavery groups in Kansas during the 1850’s. On May 24th 1856 he and his abolitionist group were responsible for murdering five pro slavery men known as the Pottawatomie massacre.

If you’d like to read more about John Brown check out John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights

He is most famous for his raid against Harpers Ferry Virginia on October 16th 1859. The idea was that he and twenty-one of his followers would raid the town, capture the arsenal and recruit nearby slaves to rise up against their masters and join him in a revolution to end slavery. He would form a slave army that would be armed with weapons from the Harpers Ferry arsenal.

Abolitionist seized Harpers Ferry on October 16th 1859

Abolitionist seized Harpers Ferry on October 16th 1859

In reality the plan never had any hope of success. The group captured the town easily since there was little resistance however his slave army never materialized. There was no mass uprising to support his cause. As John Brown and his men waited in Harpers Ferry hoping slaves would come to their aid, they were instead greeted with local militia forces who had been alerted to the attack and quickly converged on the town.

After a small skirmish with the militia they were eventually trapped inside the firehouse where they were forced to eventually surrender. John Brown was later tried and executed for treason on December 2nd 1859.

While the raid failed it did bolster the anti-slavery movement in the north. Some northerners praised the raid and renewed their call for the end of slavery.

Abolitionist Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass is another well-known abolitionist from the Civil War.

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass as a young man

He was born into slavery around 1818 but was able to escape when he was around twenty years old.

After his escape he began to get more involved in the abolitionists efforts to end slavery. He met another staunch abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison who offered to accept him into the Massachusetts Anti Slavery Society, Douglass soon began giving many speeches to northern crowds.

Frederick Douglass wrote three books about his life as a slave Frederick Douglass : Autobiographies : Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave / My Bondage and My Freedom / Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (Library of America) which offer a fascinating glimpse into Frederick Douglass through his own eyes.

During the Civil War he offered his counsel to President Lincoln and convinced him to begin to focus more on abolishing slavery everywhere and to make it clear the the north was fighting this war to end slavery.

Emancipation Proclamation

On January 1st 1863 the Emancipation Proclamation took effect. This made slavery illegal in all of the rebellious states, it did not change anything for the border states, however most of them decided to end slavery on their own before the Civil War ended in April 1865.

On December 16th 1865 the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified making slavery in the United States illegal. African Americans would go on to win the right to vote and receive full citizenship. With these things accomplished the abolitionist movement succeeded in fulfilling it’s goals.

Abolitionist2019-06-25T22:05:10-04:00

Anaconda Plan

The Anaconda Plan was the Union’s strategic plan to defeat the Confederacy at the start of the American Civil War. The goal was to defeat the rebellion by blockading southern ports and controlling the Mississippi river. This would cut off and isolate the south from the outside world. The plan was developed by General Winfield Scott at the beginning of the Civil War following the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter on April 12th 1861.

General Winfield Scott during the Civil War

General Winfield Scott during the Civil War

The strategic plan would have eventually ended the Civil War, ideally with minimal casualties on both sides. It was a humanitarian way of defeating the rebellion as opposed to invading the south with massive numbers of troops, killing, burning and capturing everything in sight. General Scott’s Anaconda Plan was a very passive way of defeating the Confederacy.

The problem General Scott had with his idea wasn’t the rebels. His problem was convincing fellow Union commanders that this was a good idea. Pretty much all of the Union commanders disliked this plan and referred to it as being too complacent.

They wanted to attack the south and defeat them with the Union’s overwhelming military and industrial might. General Scott’s plan would require patience and time. The other generals wanted to crush the rebellion quickly and permanently as soon as possible.

For an in-depth look at the tactics of the Civil War a great book is the Atlas of the Civil War: A Complete Guide to the Tactics and Terrain of Battle

The Anaconda Plan Was a Good Idea

Complacent or not, the plan, if allowed full implementation and support from Northern military commanders would have saved many lives. Theoretically if the plan was implemented at the start of the war the giant battles fought later in the war may never have happened.

The south would have been slowly deprived of food and supplies by the Union blockade. Union armies would have taken up defensive positions in the North repelling any Confederate attacks. The Union would have slowly and methodically cut the Confederacy in half by taking the Mississippi river and the rebellion would have withered on the vine from a lack of food and supplies and forced to surrender.

Anaconda Plan

The Anaconda Plan drawn in 1861

The Objectives of the Anaconda Plan

The Anaconda Plan consisted of two main objectives. The first objective was to set up a naval blockade of the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico ports that were controlled by the Confederacy. This would cut off all trade to and from the rebellious states. The second objective of the plan was to transport roughly 60,000 Union troops in 40 steam transports escorted by upwards of 20 steam gunboats down the Mississippi river. They would capture and hold forts and towns along the way.

They would secure the Mississippi river down to the Gulf of Mexico which would link up with and keep their lines of communication open with the naval blockade. Capturing the Mississippi river would also cut the Confederacy in half. It would not be a quick victory but given enough time it had a chance of being successful. This was a good plan but it was never given the opportunity to be put into action.

General Winfield Scott and Staff Officers

General Winfield Scott and Staff Officers

General Winfield Scott’s Anaconda Plan was Rejected

Many people did not approve of the plan seeing it as too passive and slow to implement. President Lincoln, the Union generals, and most civilians believed all they needed to do was raise an army in Washington, invade Virginia and capture the Confederate capital of Richmond and the war would be over in a few weeks.

General George McClellan had his own plan. He wanted to raise an army of 80,000 men in Ohio (he was the military commander in Ohio at this time) and send them on an overland campaign through Virginia and capture Richmond. These ideas were rejected by General Scott in favor of the Anaconda Plan.

A book that takes a look at the Civil War using maps is Civil War, The: The Story of the War with Maps

General Scott retired at the end of 1861 and his subordinate General George McClellan took over command of the Union army. The Anaconda plan was a good idea in theory however it would have been difficult for it to have actually succeeded in it’s original form. While the Union navy did set up a blockade at the start of the rebellion, it was not strong enough at the beginning of the war to adequately blockade the entire south.

The naval blockade alone would not have defeated the rebellion, even if the Union also controlled the entire Mississippi river. Confederate leaders were also not going to stand by and do nothing as the Union tried to starve them into submission. The Confederacy had a strong army and was more than capable of taking on the Union army especially at the beginning of the war.

The Anaconda Plan Revisited

The Union looked to put an end to the war as quickly and decisively as possible. The tactics that were eventually used were reminiscent of Scott’s plan yet they also involved horrific combat. After a long siege General Ulysses S. Grant captured the city of Vicksburg on July 4th 1863 giving the Union control of the Mississippi river and effectively cutting the Confederacy in two.

Abraham Lincoln with his generals

Abraham Lincoln with his generals

General William Tecumseh Sherman led his army on a rampage through the south during his march to the sea in 1864 depriving the south of vital food and materials as he and his men destroyed or captured anything that stood in their way.

This included the burning of Atlanta Georgia in 1864. These victories coupled with the big battles in the north and the always increasing strength of the Union blockade eventually forced the Confederates to go completely on the defensive. This inevitably resulted in their defeat and the crushing of the rebellion.

Whereas with General Scott’s plan for a more peaceful resolution to the rebellion, General Grant, General Sherman and the other Union commanders accomplished virtually the same things as the Anaconda plan proposed. The main difference being brutal combat and many casualties on both sides.

The original strategic plan was a failure, as it was never given the support it required to succeed. However in the end, the general framework of the plan was a major contributing factor that brought about the surrender of the Confederacy and the end of the American Civil War.

Anaconda Plan2019-06-26T00:27:14-04:00

Family Tree

I receive a lot of questions from people asking me about their family tree. They want to know if I can help them find any information about their family members that served in the Civil War. I always direct them to Fold3 In my opinion this is the best website to find information on family that served not just in the Civil War but in any war in United States history.

I have found a lot of information about my own relatives who fought in the Civil War. My mother’s family are from West Virginia, many of it’s citizens were Confederate sympathizers, including my great great grandfather and his three brothers who all joined the Confederate army. They were in the 25th Virginia Infantry Regiment which was part of the Army of Northern Virginia. They were later transferred into the 62nd Virginia Mounted Infantry Regiment. My great great grandfather and his brothers fought in most of the major battles of the Civil War. One of his brothers was wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg and another was captured there.

All four of them were captured at one point or another during the war. My great great grandfather was captured by Union forces while stealing horses for the Confederate army. He spent the last few months of the war imprisoned at Point Lookout. One of his brothers was captured, swore allegiance to the United States and then joined the Union Army.

The amount of documents available make it easy to find relatives and give you a better understanding of what their lives were like. If you are looking for information about your own family take a look at Fold3 If you are looking to find out more about your heritage a great option is the AncestryDNA: Genetic Testing – DNA Ancestry Test Kit and the 23andMe DNA Test – Health + Ancestry Personal Genetic Service – 75+ Online Reports – includes at-home saliva collection kit. However you choose to learn about your family history I do hope you find what you are looking for.

Family Tree2019-06-25T20:26:05-04:00

Soldier Life

Soldier life during the Civil War was not easy. At the beginning of the war, men across the country were eager to volunteer in both the Union and Confederate armies.

Army Lifestyle

When a citizen wanted to volunteer they would receive a medical examination to make sure they were fit for duty. If they were fit they would sign up and be sworn in.

After entering army life the new soldiers would receive their Civil War uniform and other supplies. They would then be sent to an army camp where their training would begin. Soldiers were not permitted to leave camp unless they had a signed pass from an officer. Soldier life consisted of having to drill everyday, most of a soldiers time in camp was spent on drilling.

Union soldiers were trained using Hardee’s Infantry Tactics. It was an easy system to for soldiers to learn. Each day consisted of drilling in the school of the soldier, school of the company, skirmish drill, and dress parade, then taps sounded which signaled lights out, the next day drilling resumed.

After training had ended soldiers were sent from their camps and joined the main armies in the field.

Raising Civil War Units

Civil War units were formed with men from the same town or geographical area. This meant that soldiers were often in the same units as their friends, family and neighbors.

This had some consequences, if a soldier ran away during a battle, all of his neighbors, friends and family would either see it happen or hear about it. This would ruin a person’s reputation very quickly. This created a fear that often led soldiers to fight until they were killed in order to avoid the humiliation they would receive if they were to run at the sight of the enemy.

This fear was so great that when a unit was forced to retreat the men would sometimes run backwards still facing the enemy in order to avoid being shot in the back, since being shot in the back would indicate they had run away.

Another problem with recruiting units of local men was that if a unit suffered horrendous casualties during a battle it could effectively wipe out the male population of a small town.

Soldier of War

During the Civil War army infantry life primarily consisted of extreme boredom, foraging for food, long marches, living outside in all kinds of weather, and fighting.

Life of a union soldier during the Civil War was pretty much the same for Confederate soldiers. Union soldiers were often better clothed and better fed than their Confederate counterparts. As the war dragged on and the Confederates began to lose, the Confederate government had an increasingly difficult time clothing and feeding their men.

Food

Food was always a top priority for a soldier. Civil War food typically consisted of light bread, coffee, fresh meat when available, salt meat, beans, rice, onions, Irish and sweet potatoes and hardtack.

Officers and Ordinary Soldiers

Officers were treated far better than ordinary soldiers. When marching they rode on horseback while regular troops had to walk. When traveling by train officers had the luxury of riding in a passenger car while the troops had to ride in box cars or flatbed cars.

When traveling by steamboat officers had their own private quarters inside the ship while regular soldiers had to sleep outside on the open deck. Officers were paid more and received better food.

While officers received these luxuries and maybe it seemed unfair to the regular troops, soldiers also realized that officers had the weight of the war on their shoulders, they had to deal with strategy and tactics. The decisions they made determined the lives of hundreds or thousands of soldiers.

Being an officer had it’s benefits but it was an extremely stressful job. Ordinary soldiers had no such worries about making decisions, all they had to do was listen to the orders of their officers and do what they were told.

Soldiers had little luxury but they had the benefit of having much less stress than their commanders had.

Civil War Rifle Care

Soldiers were typically required to keep their rifles bright and shinning, this meant they had to disassemble their muskets removing all metal pieces and clean and polish them frequently to keep a nice shine on them at all times. They used a rag with powdered dirt  and polished the barrel, bands, lock plate, and trigger guard.

Soldiers also learned to coat their muskets with bacon grease when it rained, doing this protected the musket from becoming rusty.

Soldier Life and Civil War Disease

Civil War disease and sickness were the biggest killers during the war. More men died from disease than from any other cause combined during the Civil War. The reasons for this were simple, bad hygiene, overcrowded army camps, bad water, bad food, and lack of proper sanitation.

These conditions were a breeding ground for disease. While it was understood that these conditions would produce disease it was extremely difficult to provide a clean sanitary environment for soldiers. There were just too many people crowded together and it was almost impossible to keep it a healthy environment while trying to fight a war.

Soldiers After the Civil War

When it was all over and the war had ended soldiers began to return home. While they were off fighting the people and towns they left behind changed little, especially in the north. Some men after spending years in the army would return home and feel as though they had only been gone a day or two. They would resume their lives right where they left off.

The war would be one of the most important events that many of them had ever participated in during their entire lives. When it was all over and they went back home life resumed for many of them as though they had never left.

Soldier Life2019-06-25T20:26:57-04:00

Hardtack

Hardtack was a treat given to every Union soldier during the Civil War. The Confederates were given corn bread which was equally unpleasant.

Ok so this bread wasn’t that great of a treat but it was still edible with some effort.

It was made of flour, water, salt, and lard in northern factories and packed in wooden crates for shipping.

The handy biscuits had a bland, but satisfactory taste when eaten fresh.

However, most of it sat around for months before it was distributed to the soldiers, so it was hard, tasteless, and often infested with weevils.

Soldiers called the hard little biscuits, tooth-dullers and dipped them in coffee or cooked them along with salt pork. Confederate soldiers made a similar meal by mixing cornmeal in with salt pork as it cooked.

Typical Civil War hardtack

Typical Civil War hardtack

At this point it was beyond stale. It became a virtual rock which sometimes contained weevils and maggots. Not exactly appetizing.

A soldier’ ration was a pound per day of this lovely treat.Needless to say they didn’t like it very much but if your a soldier in the field and that’s all you have to eat then it will just have to do.

This bread would often be boiled to soften it up. It would be broken up to be used in soup or a nice layer of lard would be spread on them kind of how you might put jelly on toast.

Hardtack2019-06-25T21:12:47-04:00

Civil War Women

For Civil War women in the 1860s it was conventional wisdom that a “woman’s place is in the home,” but the American Civil War challenged this convention as it challenged other cultural conventions.

During the war, Civil War women from both sides served valiantly far from home. There were many important women of the Civil War. Approximately 4,000 women made up the backbone of the volunteer nursing corps that cared with devotion and self-sacrifice for thousands of wounded soldiers.

Women were accustomed to nursing their family members at home so volunteer nursing was not as strange to their mindset as is it was to the mindset of the bewildered army surgeons who often initially greeted women volunteers with hostility.

There were many famous Civil War nurses such as someone like one of the most important women of the Civil War Clara Barton, however there were far more nurses, especially black women who served in great numbers, that are not so well-known.

Many may be surprised to learn that Harriet Tubman, the former slave who led hundreds of other slaves to freedom by the Underground Railroad, also served as a Civil War nurse.

Tubman used her wide knowledge of healing herbs and roots in her nursing service and moved from camp to camp during the war. She was later given a small military pension and even the honor of a military funeral when she died in 1913.

Susie King Taylor, a former slave who traveled with her husband Edward King when he joined the 1st South Carolina Volunteers(the Union’s first black regiment), recorded her experiences of nursing and camp life in Reminiscences of My Life in Camp, but many other devoted nurses, both black and white are known to us only by their names, if at all.

Most Civil War nurses received no recognition by the government for their services.

Taylor, for example, served over four years in Union Army hospitals with no pay or acknowledgment. A few nurses did receive public honor for their service.

Mary Ann Bickerdyke (a.k.a. Mother Bickerdyke) who followed Grant’s army to care for the wounded was well-respected by both Grant and Sherman.

Sherman joked that she outranked him and she marched with Sherman’s troops during the victory parade in Washington.

Phoebe Yates Levy Pember, member of a prominent Jewish family from Charleston and the first woman administrator at Chimborazo army hospital outside of Richmond, was on the Confederate payroll (forty dollars a month, considerably more than the troops got).

Sally Tompkins who ran a small private hospital in Richmond, was commissioned by Jefferson Davis as a captain in the Confederate army in recognition of her services.

Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, the second woman to graduate from an American medical school, who served as a volunteer assistant surgeon at a Washington hospital during the war, later received the Congressional Medal of Honor for her services; quite unfairly Congress rescinded the awarding of the Medal to Walker and ninety others in 1917 when it changed the rules on who could receive the honor.

Women were not only nurses however, Mary Chesnut keep an extensive diary during the entire war and an untold number of women, by some estimates as high as 750, broke more drastically with convention by disguising themselves as men and enlisting in either the Union or Confederate army as Civil War women soldiers.

Government officials were even more reluctant to acknowledge the service of women soldiers than they were to acknowledge female Civil War nurses.

In 1909, when journalist Ida Tarbell wanted a record of female soldiers in the Civil war, she was told by the Adjutant General’s Office (AGO) that there were no records of women serving in the military.

This was untrue; there are numerous records of soldiers discovered to be female and then dismissed.

Civil War women are finally getting the attention they deserve. Hopefully, they will become more widely known in the future.

Sadly, the heroic service of many women is forever lost in the mists of history; they are no more than just names to us.

Civil War Women2019-06-25T20:28:29-04:00

Civil War Weapons

There were many types of Civil War weapons ranging from muskets to ironclads.

In the roughly 80 years between the American Revolution and the start of the Civil War, weapon technology had advanced greatly.

Despite advancements in technology the arsenals in both the Union and Confederacy were still mostly stocked with the old style smooth-bore muskets.

These were the same types of muskets primarily used during the Revolutionary War almost a century before. These were fine guns during their time however they had no place on a Civil War battlefield.

In 1861 after hostilities had erupted into all out war, both sides quickly began to convert from the old smooth-bore muskets to the new Civil War rifles.

These were rifled muskets. The rifling in these new guns put a spin on the projectile as it left the barrel which gave the rifles great accuracy. It’s like throwing a football.

Civil War Rifle

Civil War Rifle

The new rifles also used a new type of ammunition. Instead of the old round ball used in smooth-bore muskets, the new rifled muskets used a minie ball.

This projectile has the same pointed shape as today’s modern bullets and was much more accurate and inflicted much more damage than round ball ammunition.

Examples of Civil War Rifles

Sharps Rifle

Spencer Rifle

Springfield Model 1861

Henry Rifle

Of all of the Civil War weapons the rifled musket was the most widely used weapon of the entire war and in fact more than 90% of the casualties during the war were caused by rifles, this figure also includes Civil War Pistols

You’ve seen the scene where hundreds or thousands of soldiers on either side all nicely lined up firing into each other until one side decides it’s had enough and runs away.

Those tactics were fine and necessary during the Revolutionary war when both sides were using smooth-bore muskets. However with the advent of rifles these tactics became suicidal. The commanders on both sides were not quick to adapt their tactics to the new technology which resulted in huge casualty rates.

Civil War Weapons: Artillery

Civil War Cannons were the lions of the battlefield. They were big, loud, and packed a punch. They were instrumental in defeating General Robert E. Lee at the battle of Gettysburg. They inflicted huge casualties on the 12,500 men who attacked the Union lines during Pickett’s Charge on July 3rd 1863.

Civil War Cannon at Fort Woodbury, Virginia

Civil War Cannon at Fort Woodbury, Virginia

Examples of Civil War Artillery

Parrot Rifle

Whitworth Cannon

Napoleon Cannon

Ordnance Rifle

Every major battle involved the use of artillery. They were instrumental in the fighting for both sides. Despite this all the artillery fired throughout the entire war only inflicted roughly 5% of casualties on both sides.

The generals loved artillery and they certainly had a psychological effect on soldiers who had to face them in battle.

Civil War Weapons: Bayonets

The Civil War Bayonet was a sharpened piece of steel that would attach to the end of a rifle. The bayonet had many uses during the Civil War from fighting to opening cans it was always a useful tool for every soldier to have.

Civil War Soldier with Bayonet

Civil War Soldier with Bayonet

Hand to hand fighting did occur in several battles during the war in which the bayonet was used. Some famous examples of this were the Union attacks at Fort Wagner, the 20th Maine attacking and chasing the Confederates down Little Round Top at Gettysburg, and during the Battle of the Crater.

While the bayonet saw fighting in these and other battles soldiers more often than not used the bayonet for more practical purposes. Such as cutting meat, stirring food, cooking food over a campfire, or using it as a can opener.

Civil War Weapons: Swords

Civil War Swords

Civil War Swords

Civil War Swords are a recognizable symbol of the Civil War. However with the advent of much more sophisticated and powerful gunpowder weapons the sword was mostly relegated to more of a ceremony weapon for the officers.

While swords were used in combat by officers leading their men. It was the cavalry units that did most of the fighting with them.

They used a saber which is a curved sword, good for slashing. Even this however was very limited. Cavalry troops preferred either pistols or carbines rather than a sword in combat.

Civil War Weapons: Ironclads

At the start of the Civil war, ships were made of wood and canvas. As the war progressed Civil War ships started to be clad in iron. They were still made of wood and used sails however they were much stronger and more impervious to attack.

These ships became known as ironclads. The USS Galena is an example of an ironclad ship.

Ironclad USS Essex in 1862

Ironclad USS Essex in 1862

Eventually both sides created ships made entirely covered in iron. The Confederate navy developed the CSS Virginia and the Union navy created the USS Monitor were the first of these new ships. They had no sails and were powered by steam engines. The monitor had a rotating turret as you would see on a modern day warship.

The CSS Virginia and the USS Monitor fought a monumental battle against each other at the Battle of Hampton Roads in Virginia on March 8th and 9th 1862.

CSS Virginia fights the USS Monitor

CSS Virginia fights the USS Monitor

Neither ship could get the advantage over each other and they were pretty evenly matched. The battle ended in a draw. It was however considered a Union victory since the USS Monitor prevented the CSS Virginia from attacking and breaking the Union naval blockade.

The new advancements in Civil War technology and Civil War weapons played a crucial part in the war. The Civil War was the first war to be fought on an industrial scale.

Massive amounts of Civil War weapons were produced and massive casualties were the result. These advancements helped to develop many new ideas and theories however the cost was high for the people on the receiving end of these new weapons.

Civil War Weapons2019-06-25T20:28:45-04:00