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.
A typical Union soldier uniform during the Civil War consisted of:
light blue pants
blue overcoat with a cape
dark blue jacket
a cap called a kepi
gray woolen shirt
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.
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 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:
one pair of pants
one pair of underwear
one pair of shoes
one pair of socks
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
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.
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.
Union Officer Insignia
Union officers were identified by epaulets and shoulder straps.
Confederate Officer Insignia
The Confederate army identified their officers with collar badges and 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.
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.
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
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 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
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
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.
The Anaconda Plan was developed at the beginning of the American Civil War. It was the Union’s strategic plan to defeat the Confederacy.
Why Did the Union Call it the Anaconda Plan
The main purpose of the Anaconda plan 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.
An Anaconda is a snake that squeezes and suffocates it’s victim. The Anaconda Plan was designed to do the same thing, it was a great snake that would surround and squeeze the Confederacy into submission. The Anaconda Plan map drawn in 1861 shows how it would have worked.
Who Developed the Anaconda Plan
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.
Why Was the Anaconda Plan Important
It was important because 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.
Complacent or not, the plan, if allowed full implementation and support from Northern military commanders would have saved many lives.
Creator of the Anaconda Plan General Winfield Scott during the Civil War
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.
Key Elements in the Anaconda Plan Timeline
The Anaconda Plan consisted of two main objectives:
Naval blockade of all Confederate ports on the Atlantic coast and in the Gulf of Mexico
Capture the Mississippi river in order to cut the Confederacy in two
Blockading all southern ports would cut off all trade to and from the rebellious states which would eventually cripple their economy.
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. Union troops would capture and hold forts and towns all along the Mississippi.
After these forts and towns along the Mississippi were captured, reinforcements would be sent to fortify and secure these areas. Troops 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 ongoing naval blockade.
The federal troops along the Mississippi river would be in a strong defensive position which would make it impossible for any Confederate forces to defeat them.
Capturing the Mississippi river would cut the Confederacy in half. Along with the naval blockade the Confederacy would be completely surrounded and cut off.
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’s Plan Was Rejected
Many people did not approve of the anaconda plan seeing it as too passive and slow to implement.
General George McClellan had a different idea and came up with 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.
Many people however including President Lincoln, Union generals, and most civilians believed all they needed to do was
These ideas were rejected by General Scott in favor of the Anaconda Plan.
President Lincoln Ordered Attack
This aggressive and optimistic plan was actually carried out. An army was raised in Washington DC and this army commanded by General Irvin McDowell triumphantly marched into Virginia.
The army even had civilians following along hoping to see a great battle which would lead to the inevitable Confederate defeat.
The Union army and civilians did get their decisive battle. July 21st 1861 was a beautiful sunny day, the civilians following the Federal army laid out blankets and sat casually on the grass.
People set up picnics, chatted, and had some laughs. They were eagerly anticipating the victory of the Union army which would ultimately lead to the end of the Confederacy. It was all very exciting.
As the battle began excitement was in the air. As the battle continued the excitement began to turn into concern, followed by some anxiety, and then horror.
This brand new army was rapidly running back toward the lounging civilians. People quickly realized the entire army was running away, the bystanders were now in the way getting tangled up with the retreating troops.
The surprise and panic of this defeat was so great the troops along with their civilian followers didn’t stop running until they got back to the safety of Washington.
This battle became known as the First Battle of Bull Run also known as First Manassas. It was a decisive Confederate victory.
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
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.
Was the Anaconda Plan Successful
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.
Civil War Technology made the American Civil War the first industrial and modern war. Technologies ranged from hot air balloons to submarines.
Old style smooth bore muskets were quickly phased out and rifles were now mass produced in huge quantities on both sides. These rifles allowed soldiers to fire accurately at long distances causing massive casualties.
The use of Photography meant that the war was the first conflict to be recorded on a large scale with actual photographs instead of paintings.
Civil War Locomotive J.H. Devereux
Commanders in the Civil War also made great use of the telegraph on a massive scale. Never before in warfare had communication been made so easy and instantly.
The telegraph allowed generals to relay information in real time with each other. The use of railroads on both sides became critically important in transporting troops and supplies.
Civil War Technology – Weapons
Of all of the technological advances made by the time of the Civil War, the rifle made the biggest impact. The rifle was created long before the Civil War.
It was used in limited numbers and typically by specialized troops during the Revolutionary War. At the beginning of the Civil War in 1861 both sides were still primarily using the old smooth-bore muskets.
These muskets were not accurate and did not have a long range. The musket had a smooth barrel which used a round lead ball as ammunition.
Union Soldiers with Rifles
When fired the lead ball would bounce around inside the barrel. This resulted in very inaccurate results. The reason soldiers lined up shoulder to shoulder in the Revolutionary War was because muskets needed to be used in a massed volley in order to have any chance of actually hitting anything.
After the Civil War had begun arsenals began mass producing rifles instead of the old smooth-bore muskets.
Rifles were a far superior weapon in every way. They had groves in the barrel that gripped ammunition tightly which put a spin on the bullet allowing for deadly accurate and long range fire. With the new rifle came a new bullet.
Gone was the round lead ball. In it’s place was a bullet that resembles today’s modern bullets. It is called a minie ball, this bullet exited the barrel of a rifle spinning and at a high velocity.
The bottom of the minie ball had little groves in it that helped it grip onto the inside of the rifles barrel. These groves also carried bacteria, when a soldier was shot this bacteria entered the wound and caused infections.
The only way to deal with these infections during the Civil War was to amputate.
Gatling Gun in the Civil War
The Gatling gun was a Civil War technology invented by Richard Jordan Gatling in 1861 and patented in 1862. The Gatling gun was essentially the first machine gun.
It used multiple barrels driven by a hand crank allowing the gun to shoot at a rapid rate of fire. It was first used by General Benjamin Butler during the siege of Petersburg in 1864 and 1865.
The below images are an improved version of the Gatling patented in 1865.
Gatling Gun Patent Drawing 1865 – National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the Patent and Trademark Office
Gatling Gun Civil War – National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the Patent and Trademark Office
The Gatling gun was never used on a large scale during the Civil War. The gun required large amounts of ammunition which the Union saw as being wasteful.
The United States did not begin using this weapon until after the Civil War. The Gatling gun was formally adopted into the United States army in 1866.
Civil War Technology – Torpedoes (Landmines and Naval Mines)
During the war the Confederacy was always trying to come up with innovative ways of stopping the Union army. One of these ideas was by using torpedoes, this was just another name for landmines and naval mines.
They used torpedoes in land and at sea. They did some damage here and there but it wasn’t something that was going to win the south the war.
Civil War Technology – Ironclads
The Civil War also saw the beginning of modern naval ships. These new ships were clad with iron earning them the nickname “ironclads”. Some ironclads like the monitor class of ships are very similar to today’s warships.
The Union Ironclad Monitor Onandaga
They sat low in the water and had either one or two rotating gun turrets, which enabled them to fire in any direction without having to turn the ship.
After the introduction of ironclads in the Civil War naval warfare never went back to wooden sailing ships. After ironclads came dreadnoughts.
Civil War Technology – Submarines
Civil War technology also saw the first successful use of a submarine. The Confederates created a submarine called the Hunley, named after it’s creator. The Hunley was powered by eight men who sat on a bench and turned a propeller with a hand crank.
It was a crude method of propelling a boat but it worked. The Hunley only went on one mission against the Union navy. In February 1864, the Hunley quietly approached and attached a naval mine to the USS Housatonic.
When the mine exploded the USS Housatonic became the first ship in history to be destroyed by a submarine. Only minutes after successfully sinking the USS Housatonic the Hunley also sank. It is still unclear what actually sank the Hunley.
Civil War Technology – Railroads
Railroads proved to be a vitally important Civil War technology. Railroads were essential for keeping the war moving and keeping troops supplied. The Union Railroad Train system was far superior to Confederate Railroads.
Nashville Tennessee Railroad Depot, 1864
The north was a very industrialized society with large cities and massive infrastructure. The south was an agricultural society, with little infrastructure.
Most of the United States railroad system prior to the war was built in the North. The south had railroads as well but they had far fewer tracks and locomotives than the north.
This would hinder the south’s ability to wage war, however they used what rail they did have to great effect. One example was the timely reinforcement by rail of Confederate troops during the First Battle of Manassas.
These reinforcements helped the Confederates win a devastating victory over the Union. Rail transport was also instrumental for the Confederacy when they captured Harper’s Ferry.
Civil War Technology – Telegraphs
The telegraph was perhaps one of the most effective technologies used during the Civil War.
Telegraph Operators for the Army of the Potomac, August 1863
It allowed commanders to instantly communicate with each other and provide almost real time information about battle results, enemy troop movements, unit locations etc…
Abraham Lincoln used the telegraph daily. He often spent long nights in the telegraph office issuing orders to his generals and waiting for news from the front. He wanted to know exactly what was happening on the various battlefields.
Telegraph lines were strung up as soon as an army arrived at any location. Civil War soldiers grew adept at putting up telegraph lines since they were doing it so frequently.
Union Observation Balloon during the Battle of Fair Oaks, 1862
In conjunction with the telegraph the Union military also employed observation balloons during the Civil War to watch battles and monitor enemy troop movements.
These movements were then relayed to ground commanders who could adjust their own troop movements accordingly or telegraph back to headquarters what they had witnessed.
Civil War Technology – Pictures
Civil War pictures showed war in a way that had never been seen before. In prior wars and even during the Civil War painters often accompanied armies on battlefields.
They later sat and painted what they saw. These paintings looked nice with gallant soldiers bravely fighting in a battle, however they failed to capture the brutality of war. They never showed the bloated corpses littered across a battlefield, or the destroyed cities, or the starving prisoners of war.
Painting of the Battle of Shiloh, April 6th – 7th 1862
Photographs showed these things. Warfare could never be seen the same way again after the Civil War. The most famous Civil War photographer was Alexander Gardner.
Most of the pictures you see today of the Civil War were taken by him. His boss and studio owner Mathew Brady is usually the person who gets credited for most of the photography of the Civil War.
It was however, Alexander Gardner and his team who were out in the field taking the pictures.
Civil War Technology – Food
Civil War technology was not very good when it came to food. Food is one of the most important things to any soldier in an army.
Union Soldiers Eating
However the only thing technology really had going for it when it came to food was canned food. Napoleon Bonaparte is credited as being the first person to use canned food to feed his army.
When the Civil War started cans were commonly being used on both sides. Canning certainly made it easier to transport and store food, however they were also difficult to open and they were heavy.
Civil War Technology – Aftermath
Often during wartime technology advances at a far greater speed than it ever does during peacetime. This is simply because during war there is a great need to get an edge on the enemy.
The technology that came out of the American Civil War had long lasting implications.
The Civil War can be seen as a precursor to World War 1.
Union troops in Rifle Pits
Many technologies from the Civil War such as Gatling guns, mines, ironclads, observation balloons and submarines became much more advanced as the years went on.
Toward the end of the war both the Union and Confederate armies began to dig themselves into trenches just like World War One. The largest example of this was during the Siege of Petersburg in 1865.
After the Civil War armies would never again line up in nice formations and stand across from each other firing volley after volley until one side ran away.
It took years for the Union and Confederate generals to update their tactics to reflect the new weapons in the hands of their armies.
There were a whole host of Civil War diseases during the American Civil War.
The major cause of death during the Civil War was disease.
Disease killed more people than everything else combined including gunshots, artillery, accidents, drowning, starvation, suicide etc…
The worst disease in the Civil War was Dysentery. Dysentery accounted for around 45,000 deaths in the Union army and around 50,000 deaths in the Confederate army.
The reason Dysentery and so many other diseases were able to spread so rapidly through both armies was primarily because of a lack of sanitation practices and contaminated water. Proper hygiene during this time was nonexistent.
Patients at Armory Square Hospital, Washington, D.C.
This was not because doctors and nurses were negligent. They just did not know any better. Civil War Medicine was not yet advanced enough to connect a lack of hygiene with disease.
For example during a typical Civil War surgery cleanliness was a mere afterthought. Surgeons would often use the same tools continuously on patient after patient never cleaning them. They might wipe them off on their apron, but that was about as much cleaning as any piece of equipment received.
Surgeons and Stewards at Harewood Hospital, Washington, D.C.
Cross contamination was not known, so there was no thought of washing and sanitizing instruments after they had been used. Needless to say surgeons did not wash their hands between patients either.
Unfortunately for people back then they didn’t realize that there was a link between hygiene and health. Civil War nurses also helped to tend to sick soldiers. Often they put themselves at risk for disease in doing so.
Disease and Contaminated Water
Simple things such as placing a latrine downstream and away from the clean water supply were often overlooked. This foul water would quickly lead to water contamination which made the development and spread of disease much more frequent.
Civil War Field Hospital near Brandy Station, 1864
Civil War Disease List
So what diseases were there in the Civil War? Here is a look at some of the major Civil War diseases that people had to contend with:
Civil War Diseases: Typhoid
Typhoid was another major killer. This disease was a result of contaminated water or food. Typhoid killed around 30,000 Confederate and 35,000 Union troops during the war. 1 out of every 3 people who contracted this disease died of it.
Civil War Diseases: Pneumonia
Pneumonia was responsible for the deaths of 20,000 Union and 17,000 Confederate troops. 1 in 6 people who got this disease died from it. Stonewall Jackson died from Pneumonia after being shot by his own men during the battle of Chancellorsville.
Pneumonia was more of an opportunistic type of disease. It looked for weak people to inject itself into. If you became wounded on the battlefield or became sick with something else there was a good chance Pneumonia was going to find you.
Civil War Diseases: Measles
Measles killed a lot of people during the Civil War around 11,000 soldiers in total. Not as many as other diseases did but it had its fair share. With so many people gathered in such small areas this disease was able to spread rapidly. About 1 in 20 people who got this disease died as a result of it.
Civil War Diseases: Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis killed about 14,000 soldiers during the war. There was no known cure for it during the war. Even today there is no real cure, it can be treated but never cured. Once you get this disease you get it for life.
Civil War Diseases: Malaria
Malaria was also prevalent during the war killing roughly 30,000 soldiers. This number is high but considering around 3 million people contracted the disease it was not often fatal. This was due in large part to the readily available supply of quinine, which was used to successfully prevent and treat the disease.
The biggest thing that all of these Civil War diseases had in common was that nobody had any idea how to cure them. With the exception of Malaria.
This spelled bad news if you were one of the unfortunate ones to come down with any of these diseases.
Civil War food came in many shapes and sizes. Suppose you’re a Civil War soldier and you’ve marched all day in the grueling heat.
You’re exhausted, but you have one more duty before you can retire to your tent to dream of better days; you have to cook your dinner.
Civil War soldiers never had the luxury of standing in a mess line waiting for army cooks to dish out the chow.
Civil War Soldiers Eating Food
How Did Soldiers Get Food in the Civil War
Civil War food for both Union and Confederate soldiers was provided by their respective Commissary Departments, but the daily rations were given to the soldiers uncooked.
Civil War Generals and other officers had the luxury of a cook, however the vast majority of soldiers gathered in small groups each evening to prepare their own food.
They called these groups “messes” and referred to others in the group as “messmates”. Messmates took turns watching the meals they cooked. Food in the Civil War was cooked over an open campfire in a cast iron skillet or kettle or occasionally on a spit.
If they had the time, soldiers tried to devise ways of making their dull diet a little more varied, occasionally catching wild game or picking wild berries.
Food during the Civil War was not high quality and did not taste good. Confederate soldiers usually didn’t receive much food at all especially as the war dragged on. Union troops were well fed but the food was not that much better than what the Confederates were eating.
Soldier life was not pleasant on either side during the Civil War. The old saying that an army marches on it’s stomach is very true.
Cooking Civil War Food
Without Civil War food and water an army soon disintegrates into nothing more than a lot of starving people with no energy or will to fight. If a general has no food he has no army.
What Kind of Food Did They Eat During the Civil War
Civil War food supplied to soldiers of both sides was plain and monotonous. Since rations had to be transported long distances, the commissary departments relied on foods that could be preserved, so the primary ingredients available to soldiers were salted meat and canned goods.
Union Officers Eating in Camp
Civil War Food Hardtack
Union soldiers also received a hard, unsavory cracker-like biscuit that the soldiers dubbed hardtack while Confederate soldiers were lucky if they received a good supply of cornmeal.
During battles and when food was scarce a Union soldier’s primary source of substance often came from hardtack.
Hardtack is basically bread, it’s three inches long and half an inch thick. Soldiers would often soften hardtack up by soaking it in water or coffee in order to make it easier to bite into. Hardtack is probably the most well known Civil War food.
Even if you know nothing about the American Civil War you’ve probably heard of hardtack.
Civil War Camp Kitchen
What Was the Food Like During the Civil War
There were plenty of other Civil War food options a soldier typically had.
Salt pork was given to soldiers during the war. It was a stinky kind of blue extra salty meat, with hair, skin, dirt, and other junk left on it. It was however, a soldiers main supply of protein.
Letters from Civil War soldiers contain numerous references to bacon, but historians believe that the term bacon was used for all salt and smoked pork, not just the strips of meat that we now call “bacon”. Salted beef and jerky were also given to the soldiers.
Many ate salt beef only out of necessity. This was especially true for the Confederates. Salt beef was basically all of the very worst parts of a cow that you could think of. Parts included organs, neck and shanks, but the basic meat was pork.
Civil War soldiers were also given rice, potatoes, onions, molasses, and other non-perishable or slow to perish items, but hardtack (or cornmeal) and salt meat were favored because they were both easy to ship and easy to carry on a march or into battle.
Civil War Food Rations
Soldiers were given Civil War food rations in three-day allotments; before a march or battle, they cooked their raw food so that they could carry it with them. A canvas haversack with a removable lining was used to carry Civil War food on the move.
Although soldiers removed the lining and washed it when they had a chance, the haversacks soon smelled of old meat. Sometimes the salted meat given to the soldiers was past its prime, so they nicknamed it “salt horse”.
Naturally soldiers grew tired of this monotony. In Union camps, sutlers (civilian merchants) sold items like canned fruit, sugar, tobacco, and coffee. Confederate soldiers did not usually have sutlers stores. They were forced to rely on the generosity of local farmers for occasional treats such as fruit.
Of course you might need something to cook all this wonderful food you create. The Lodge Deep Camp Dutch Oven will do that job perfectly.
Civil War Sutlers Tent
Foraging For Food
Civil War soldiers did occasionally have fresh meat to eat. They did this by taking cattle, pigs, and sheep.
Armies would have entire herds following them while they were on campaign. When in enemy territory, soldiers frequently helped themselves to chickens, fruit, vegetables, and other items from local farms and households, considering these the spoils of war.
Commanders might reprimand soldiers for such acts, but this seldom stopped a hungry man from seeking extra food. During Sherman’s march from Atlanta to the sea, Union soldiers feasted on captured cattle, hogs, vegetables and fruit and destroyed anything they could not carry.
Civil War Meat Hanging in Tent
Civil War Food Shortages
The Union never really had any problems with food shortages. The Union had a robust transportation network which could supply their troops with everything they needed throughout the entire war.
There were occasions when Union troops didn’t receive supplies for one reason or another but typically Union troops had no trouble with food shortages.
The Confederacy was the complete opposite. The south always had food shortages during the war which only became worse the longer the war lasted. Civil War food rations in the south were given to the most important people first.
Politicians and other leaders ate first, followed by soldiers, civilians, slaves and finally captured Union soldiers located throughout the south in various Civil War prison camps received whatever food was left.
Despite their high priority to receive food Confederate soldiers often went without. The poor condition of the Confederate railroad network and overall bad transportation system meant any food that was produced had a hard time finding it’s way to the army or anyone else.
The Union blockade of southern ports also restricted any food and other supplies the Confederacy desperately needed just to survive.
When times were thin soldiers sometimes resorted to eating their horses and mules. In extreme desperation, rats were consumed. As the war continued food shortages in the Confederacy became so bad for civilians that it led to food riots throughout many southern cities.
Fruits and Vegetables
Corn was really only available when things were going well for a particular side. The same goes for beans, as they could not be consumed uncooked or improperly cooked.
This would result in very bad stomach situations. Peas were plentiful in supply and could be eaten as a meal in times of desperation. When there were no peas around, potatoes and rice would suffice. Fresh fruits were really important to have in good supply.
Civil War Disease
Lack of fresh fruits could cause sickness and disease. One example is Scurvy which is a horrible disease that resulted in tooth loss, receding gums, night blindness, rotting lips, jaws, and cheeks, and even internal hemorrhaging.
Civil War medicine was not very advanced during the Civil War, however Scurvy was easily prevented by simply eating oranges.
Volunteer nurses and the volunteers who collected supplies back home for the soldiers tried to alleviate their monotonous diet by collecting fresh fruits and vegetables for them.
Although these items were not easy to send into the field, they were supplied in abundance to sick and wounded soldiers in northern hospitals. Southern hospital workers also did there best to get fresh food for their patients, despite wartime food shortages.
Fruit was a favorite treat for ill soldiers; Abraham Lincoln often brought gifts of fresh fruit to the soldiers at the Washington army hospital, as did poet Walt Whitman who volunteered at the hospital. Baked goods were another treat for sick soldiers.
It was not uncommon for volunteer nurses to stay up late at night baking for their sick and wounded soldiers. Gingerbread was considered nourishing and easy to digest; it was often given as a comfort Civil War food to hospital patients.
The men in the war loved their coffee, and drank it whenever possible. Coffee was a treasured beverage during the war. Soldiers soon recognized it’s properties to keep them awake after many hours of weary duty.
Civil War Soldiers Drinking Beverages
Raw green coffee beans were given to Union soldiers who roasted them in a pan over an open fire. Confederates frequently had to use coffee substitutes, such as chicory or roasted acorns.
Soldiers Traded With Each Other
During lulls in the fighting Confederate and Union soldiers would often meet up with each other and trade items.
Confederates usually traded tobacco with Union soldiers who gave them coffee beans in return. Of course these trade deals had to be made in secret since fraternizing with the enemy was punishable on both sides.
Civil war food was extremely important during the war but it was far from a balanced diet. Not surprisingly, a poor diet along with unsanitary conditions contributed to a high disease rate among soldiers on both sides.
If we went back in time to the Civil War we would enjoy some of the familiar foods of today like gingerbread and coffee that the soldiers enjoyed. However we would also find some of the food like hardtack or salted beef rather unappetizing.
Civil War games were common on both sides during the war. Games did a lot to keep the troops entertained and ease the constant boredom of soldier life. While in camp soldiers wanted to socialize with each other, there is no better way to socialize then to play games, especially if you are living in a Civil War tent with one or more men for a long period of time.
Civil War Games in Camp
Types Civil War Games
Soldiers played all kinds of Civil War card games, they made distinctive chess pieces, played checkers, backgammon, dominoes, they read newspapers, books and played horseshoes.
They also played whole team sports such as baseball and a very early often-brutal version of football. Holidays in camp were cause for large celebrations. There were foot races, feasts, horse races, music shows, and all types of different contests that were put on by the troops.
Both Union soldiers and Confederate soldiers did anything they could to stop the boredom they often had to endure living in camp.
Civil War Games – Playing Cards
Some soldiers chose not to participate in Civil War games, these were often the less educated and illiterate men. Instead of playing games they preferred to socialize, smoke or watch others play games.
Then there were the small number of soldiers who did nothing at all. They did not play games, they did not socialize. These were the loners. They kept to themselves, cooked their own meals and ate alone. They even camped alone while on the march. They would often walk off if other men were getting to loud and rowdy around them.
These men just preferred solitude or believed that soldiers should only act in a strict and disciplined manner, and did not approve of playing games or socializing while in camp. These soldiers liked guard duty since it gave them a lot of time to be alone.
Of course all of these activities could never take place when an army was on an active campaign, during a campaign leisure time was relegated to basically writing letters, sleeping and keeping your equipment in working order.
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 more about your ancestry and ethnicity here are two great choices
Civil War music was extremely important to every soldier during the war. The Civil War drummer was an especially important person in the infantry.
They announced all sorts of activities on a daily basis.
In the morning the drums began to beat for reveille.
They played for morning roll call, breakfast call and sick call.
As if that wasn’t enough they were also used to announce guard duty, beginning a march and any drills that were taking place.
Drums were not just used in camp however. They were used on the battlefield as well where they played an important role.
Drums were used to signal troops to maneuver and to signal when troops would load their weapons and fire them.
Civil War Drum
While drums were very important to the infantry, the cavalry and artillery relied on buglers instead of drums for their orders.
Another type of music during the Civil War was the kind that individual soldiers made. Soldiers on both sides really liked to sing and make music. A wonderful collection of songs from the Civil War is Songs Of The Civil War
Musical instruments were commonplace in both armies. They included flutes, harmonicas, guitars, banjos, fiddles and any other instrument a soldier could either buy or maybe even make if they were creative enough.
Civil War Fife
Some of the most favorite songs of the Confederate soldiers were “The Bonnie Blue Flag”, “Lorena”, “Maryland My Maryland”, and “Dixie”.
On the other side of the line the Union troops preferred “The Battle Cry of Freedom”, “Tenting on the Old Campground”, and the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”.
Sometimes when the two armies were facing off against one another each sides respective brass band would play some of the favorite songs of the other side.
Despite the war there were still some moments of peace and respect between the armies.
Civil War Spies were active on both sides during the Civil War. The Union had many more spies and were much better organized then their southern counterparts.
It was difficult for each side to detect spies in the Civil War. This was due to the fact that everyone was an American, they all looked the same and spoke the same language. The ability for a man from a northern state such as Pennsylvania to travel to a southern state and integrate into society and begin receiving information was a relatively easy task to accomplish.
Shortly before the Civil War broke out on January 1st 1861 a man named Charles P. Stone was appointed as Colonel and Inspector General of the forces in Washington D.C. He became the very first officer appointed by the United States government to defend it against secession.
He was also one of the first people to use Civil War spies in order to infiltrate and gather information about rebel groups in Maryland prior to the outbreak of the war.
On January 2nd Colonel Stone met with the commander of the National Rifles company Captain Schaeffer, Captain Shaeffer not knowing that Colonel Stone had just been appointed as Inspector General declared that he was going to guard the frontiers of Maryland in order to keep the Yankees from conquering the south.
These words coming from a supposedly loyal United States officer concerned Colonel Stone greatly. He admonished Captain Scheaffer for saying these things but did not pursue it further. Instead Colonel Stone inspected the National Rifles company and discovered that they numbered more than 100 men and their numbers were increasing daily.
They had rifles, howitzers, revolvers, and sabers, they had far too many weapons for a company of soldiers, and had weapons that normal infantry would not normally have. He came to find out the former Secretary of War John B. Floyd allowed Captain Schaeffer to have any weapons he wanted. Secretary of War John B. Floyd was a Confederate sympathizer and resigned from office on December 29, 1860.
Civil War Spies Infiltrate the Rebel Company
Colonel Stone decided to infiltrate a secret service agent into the company in order to determine their true intentions. The agent provided regular reports to Colonel Stone regarding Captain Scheaffer.
The agent discovered that the reason Captain Scheaffer obtained an odd assortment of weapons was because he was attempting to secretly form an independent command consisting of infantry, cavalry, and artillery units.
Colonel Stone ordered Captain Scheaffer to return the two howitzers, sabers and revolvers to the Columbian armory in Washington since an infantry unit should not have those weapons. The Captain reluctantly obeyed his orders and returned the weapons.
At the same time Captain Scheaffer was in line to be promoted to the rank of Major. Before he could be promoted Colonel Stone asked him to take an oath of allegiance to the United States. Captain Scheaffer refused to do so.
Colonel Stone then told him that he could not receive the promotion and since he refused to take the oath he stripped him of command of the National Rifles company. The company was then put under the command of a very loyal officer eliminating the threat they posed under the command of Captain Scheaffer.
Civil War Spies Infiltrate Maryland Secessionist Group
Meanwhile another secessionist group called the National Volunteers met every night in Washington D.C. This group was quickly gaining more members and discussed plans to capture the capital. Colonel Stone had a detective from New York who was able to join this group.
The detective gave Colonel Stone a report on every meeting that the group conducted which gave him a clear understanding of the groups intentions.
These two groups the National Rifles and National Volunteers were working together and planed to seize key areas in Washington D.C.
The group wanted to obtain weapons, in order to do so they had to go through Colonel Stone. The group decided to pretend to form a company of troops loyal to the Union. The leader of the group was elected as their commanding officer.
He met with Colonel Stone and asked to receive weapons. Colonel Stone stated that he would need to have a muster roll of all of the men in the company before he could issue any weapons. The commander of the group returned the following day with the list signed by each man.
Colonel Stone took the list placed it in his desk drawer and locked it. He informed the commander that he was happy to have the list and wished him a good morning. The officer took the hint and left the office promptly heading south to join the Confederacy, his group quickly disbanded without their leader.
Prior to the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln in 1861 there were many threats against him. Colonel Stone was responsible for infiltrating spies into the many groups who were plotting to stop the inauguration. His spies were successful in foiling all of the plots against Abraham Lincoln and he safely arrived at his inauguration.
The work of Colonel Stone was just one example of the many instances of espionage and counter intelligence efforts performed both before and during the Civil War.
Union Spies During the Civil War
When the Civil War started there was no official Union espionage organization. Groups operated independently of each other.
The closet thing to any official spy agency in the Union was Allan Pinkerton who founded the Pinkerton Detective Agency.
In 1861 General George McClellan was put in command of the Army of the Potomac. He immediately organized a secret service force under the command of Allan Pinkerton.
To maintain secrecy Pinkerton used the alias E.J. Allen in his correspondence with General McClellan. Pinkerton and his men interrogated Confederate spies, runaway slaves, refugees, deserters, and prisoners of war.
These interrogations procured information about Confederate strength, positions, and troop movements. The information gathered by Pinkerton and his secret service was not always reliable and accurate.
For example in 1862 Pinkerton estimated that the Confederate army facing the Army of the Potomac had 150,000 men. In reality the Confederate army had around half that number.
This was one of the reasons General McClellan was so cautious in attacking the Confederates, he simply believed they were much stronger than they actually were.
Early in the war the Confederates established the Confederate Signal Bureau. The signal bureau consisted of men that traveled with the army and communicated using semaphore flags and torches to convey encoded messages to commanders on the battlefield.
Confederate spy Belle Boyd
Since the men of the signal bureau were already trained in sending secret messages, the Confederate government decided to use these skills and form the Confederate Secret Service.
The Confederate Secret Service relied on spies in northern areas especially in Washington D.C. who could send information directly to the Confederate capitol in Richmond, Virginia.
The information was carried along what was known as the secret line.
Many of these Civil War spies were women who were strong supporters of the southern cause, they could also more easily infiltrate Union camps since they would not be as suspicious as a man would be.
Confederate Spy Rose Greenhow with her daughter
They often lived in Union controlled areas, and befriended Union troops, commanders, and even politicians finding out information which was then sent to the Confederates.
Belle Boyd and Rose Greenhow were two of the most successful Confederate spies.
The information they provided to the Confederate government was very valuable.
Even the most notorious man of the Civil War John Wilkes Booth may have been in secret talks with members of the Confederate secret service in Canada, although this has never been confirmed.