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Civil War Medicine

Civil War medicine was nothing like you would expect to see in today’s world. Medical care during the Civil War was rather primitive.

There are many Civil War medicine pictures which show grizzly scenes.

Suppose you’re a Civil War soldier.

It really doesn’t matter much which side, although medically speaking you were a little better off if you were a Union soldier.

Either way the last thing you want is to become sick or become wounded with anything more than a paper cut.

Since sanitation was non-existent during this period of time, any type of open wound could easily become infected leading to severe complications even death.

There were many different Civil War diseases and if you did become sick, and every soldier did at some point there were a lot of interesting techniques Civil war doctors would use to treat your illness.

The Civil War medical instruments used during the Civil War would most likely do you more harm than actually help you.

A great book detailing the brutality of the Civil War is Living Hell: The Dark Side of the Civil War this book goes into great detail describing exactly what a soldier fighting during the Civil War really experienced, it shatters all of the romantic misconceptions about the war and offers a much bleaker version of the war which most people do not generally think about.

Substances such as Mercury were used often as a treatment for all sorts of problems. If you felt sick they gave you mercury, well they gave you something called calomel which was nothing more than honey and chalk with mercury mixed into it.

Needless to say the medical community at the time was not aware of the poisonous substance they were giving their patients, even though the patients were developing tooth loss, digestive problems and even brain damage.

Now the one piece of medical technology during the Civil War that was actually quite beneficial to patients was Chloroform. This was an anesthetic that was invented during the 1840’s.

Chloroform allowed Civil War surgeons to perform their operations without a wild-eyed screaming patient on their table. It really was quite a valuable tool. And even better there were great quantities of it in both the North and the South.

Now if you were injured in battle you didn’t have a whole lot of options especially if the would was severe.

Probably the most recognizable and well known piece of medical equipment during the Civil War was the bone saw. This lovely instrument looks like a hacksaw and had only one purpose.

You know what that purpose is of course. It was used to cut off arms and legs and feet and hands. A full 75% of surgeries in the field were amputations.

The greatly improved weapon technology coupled with old Napoleonic style battle tactics led to huge amounts of casualties.

Civil War medicine was years behind the technology that caused so many deaths.

And quite frankly the doctors during that time simply did not posses much medical knowledge at all. All these things add up to one conclusion.

A huge death toll.

Civil War Medicine2019-11-30T21:30:58-05:00

Civil War

The Civil War started to take shape with the election of Abraham Lincoln on November 6, 1860. What caused the Civil War is debatable but the election of Lincoln certainly was a key factor.

This was the final straw in decades of conflict between pro and anti-slavery forces. Lincoln believes in “Free Soil.” In other words, he believes that no more states should be admitted to the Union as slave states.

On December 20, 1860 South Carolina secedes from the Union; Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas quickly follow her.

Lincoln hopes to end the rebellion quickly, although a few Northerners feel that the industrial North will get along just fine without its “backward” agricultural Southern cousins and are ready to say “good riddance” to the South.

The most vocal anti-war group in the north were the Copperheads. One of the most prominent voices of the North was Horace Greeley. When Jefferson Davis is selected as president of the Confederacy in February 1861 it’s obvious that these “insurrections” may be tough to put down, but Northerners remain confident in a quick victory.

An excellent resource on some of the more obscure events of the war is The Untold Civil War: Exploring the Human Side of War which delves into the unknown side of the war.

If you have never seen Ken Burns: The Civil War (Commemorative Edition) documentary it is by far one of the best Civil War documentaries ever made. It goes into great detail about the major events of the Civil War.

On March 4, 1861 Lincoln takes office and the next month Confederate troops fire on Federal troops guarding Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, igniting the Civil War. Surrounded, the Federal troops surrender (April 13, 1861). Within a few days, Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee also secede. Lincoln blockades the Confederacy so that it cannot get supplies. The South has few factories and has relied on the North and on European manufacturers for weapons and ammunition, so Lincoln hopes the blockade will be sufficient to force the South into submission without the need of bloodshed. Like many of Lincoln’s hopes during the Civil War, this one is quickly dashed.

The South swiftly begins manufacturing its own weapons, using scrap metal and other supplies gathered by loyal Confederates and also relies on supplies smuggled in from Europe and the North. Lincoln also hopes brilliant war tactician Robert E. Lee will agree to be the Union’s chief general, but although Lee feels the South would be better off without slavery, he cannot bring himself to fight against his native Virginia and he becomes the Confederacy’s major general.

Finding a good general will be a headache for Lincoln throughout most of the Civil War. At one point, Lincoln plans war strategy himself, studying books on battle tactics late into the night, because he has little military experience. The elderly, ailing hero of the Mexican War, General Winfield C. Scott provides a strategy know as the Anaconda Plan to squeeze the South into submission, but he can’t take to the field to see his plans put into action; if “Old Fuss and Feathers” (Scott’s nickname) had been able to take the field he might have given Lee a run for his money.

Inexperienced troops lead to a disastrous first battle for the Union. The First Battle of Manassas or Bull Run occurs on July 21, 1861, by the Bull Run River outside of Manassas, Virginia. Believing Union troops will win a decisive victory, several Congressmen drive down from Washington to watch the battle and actually picnic under the trees a little apart from the battlefield. Their picnic is spoiled when Confederate Infantry reinforcements arrive and send the green Union troops into a panic. Soldiers and Congressmen run for their lives.

To discipline the Army of the Potomac’s green troops during the Civil War, Lincoln picks General George B. McClellan. The troops love “little Mac” because he genuinely cares for their welfare and they are soon a disciplined army, but “little Mac” delays beginning an offensive campaign. Lincoln complains that McClellan is too slow. He tolerates McClellan’s delays because he knows how vital troop morale and discipline are and he appoints McClellan General-in-Chief.

Few battles happen during the Civil War in the first year. In February 1862, the Union wins a decisive victory when Ulysses S. Grant and Andrew H. Foote capture Fort Henry and Fort Donelson. Union troops take Nashville by month’s end. Grant wins a promotion for his leadership and in meanwhile the slow McClellan has finally begun the Peninsular Campaign which is aimed at capturing Richmond.

In April, the battle of Shiloh devastates both sides, but the Union gains the upper hand. Shiloh is the first of many horrifically bloody battles that will occur throughout the Civil War. On April 29, Union forces occupy New Orleans; they will hold this important port for the rest of the war. A few days later, McClellan occupies Yorktown, but he delays in attempting to capture Richmond the Confederate capitol, despite Lincoln’s constant urging.

Things go poorly for the Union during several battles that summer. In July, Lincoln appoints Henry W. Halleck as General-in-Chief. It now apparent to Lincoln that his original goal of keeping the Union together is not adequate motivation to win the war; freeing the slaves will weaken the Confederacy and give the Union a nobler goal to fight for. Because of the North’s frustration with the war’s slow progress, Lincoln keeps his decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation secret, until Lee invades Maryland and Union forces push him back at Antietam (September 17, 1862).

McClellan‘s significant victory at Antietam allows Lincoln to announce the Emancipation Proclamation on a wave of Union victory; however, Antietam is McClellan’s only significant victory.

In November, Lincoln replaces him as commander of the Army of the Potomac with Ambrose E. Burnside, but Burnside is no more effective than McClellan. On January 1, 1863 the Emancipation Proclamation takes effect; unfortunately, this only frees slaves in the rebel states, since the president has no constitutional power to free slaves in the loyal states. Later in the month Lincoln replaces the ineffective Burnside with “Fighting Joe” Hooker. Hooker losses his nerve at the Battle of Chancellorsville (May1-4) and by June, Lincoln takes another step in search of the right general, replacing Hooker with George Gordon Meade.

That July, Union forces under George Gordon Meade win a decisive victory over the Confederates at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Lee’s determination that his forces should win leads him to make costly mistakes. In the meanwhile, Grant’s forces have been sieging Vicksburg, a vital port which will allow the Union to regain control of the Mississippi; after six weeks of siege, the Confederates surrender Vicksburg (July 4, 1863).

Control of the Mississippi is vital to a Union victory, for the Confederacy has been smuggling supplies by it. Grant’s strategy has paid off and Scott’s Anaconda plan is beginning to squeeze the Confederacy from two sides. Union forces face bloody battles that September in Tennessee, but the tide is definitely turning in the Union’s favor.

Lincoln has finally found a general who has what it takes. In March 1864, Grant is appointed head of the Armies of the United States. Grant and his friend General William T. Sherman are not afraid to use what might seem ruthless tactics to win the Civil War; they reason that the sooner the conflict is over, the fewer lives will be lost in the long run. That May, Grant begins the campaign against Richmond the Confederate capitol, while Sherman begins his march to Atlanta, burning Confederate cities and supplies as he goes. By September, Sherman’s forces take Atlanta and burn the city after evacuating its residents. Sherman’s March to the Sea begins and by December he occupies Savannah, Georgia.

The Confederacy is dying. Hunger is plaguing civilians and soldiers alike and getting ammunition is becoming more difficult. Sherman’s march to the sea has cut the South in two, just as he and Grant had planned. Confederate representatives meet with Lincoln, but they refuse his terms of surrender. On April 3, 1865 Union forces occupy Richmond; five days later, Lee surrenders to Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. Though some Confederate forces will continue to fight until early May, the Civil War is over.

Sadly, the Union’s guiding force will not live to see the aftermath of victory. Lincoln was killed while attending a play with his wife Mary Todd Lincoln at Ford’s Theater. The Lincoln Assassination occurred on April 14, the day the Union flag is once more flown over Fort Sumter, Lincoln is assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, a fanatical Southerner.

On the day Lincoln died Edwin Stanton uttered the famous words “And now he belongs to the Ages”. With the death of Lincoln the South lost it’s best friend. Lincoln wanted to help the South with Reconstruction and warmly welcome them back into the country. Lincoln’s successors and northern Carpetbaggers would not be so forgiving.

It would take many long years before the south recovered from the devastation of the Civil War.

Civil War2019-11-30T21:54:23-05:00

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

Andrew Johnson

(1808-1875) President Andrew Johnson was born in Raleigh, North Carolina on December 29, 1808. The presidency was forced upon [...]

AP Hill

(1825-1865) AP Hill had his most brilliant engagement during the Battle of Gettysburg. General Hill would be seen as [...]

Arthur MacArthur

(1845-1912) Arthur MacArthur is most famous for winning the Medal of Honor during the battle of Chattanooga and for [...]

Barnard Bee

(1824-1861) Barnard Bee was the Confederate General, who is attributed with giving one of the most famous generals of [...]


(1818-1893) General P.G.T. Beauregard was born on May 28th 1818 near New Orleans, Louisiana. On February 13th 1861 he warned [...]

Benjamin Butler

(1818-1893) Benjamin Butler was the infamous Union leader in charge of the captured city of New Orleans and his [...]

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Civil War Generals2019-11-30T16:49:49-05:00

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


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 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.


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 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 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.


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 Timeline

This Civil War timeline shows how the American Civil War was a vital crossroads in our nation’s history. Though tragic it welded together a united nation, two almost separate countries, the North and the South. To get a good overview of the war, it is important to have an understanding of all of the events that took place during the war. The following is a basic timeline of all the major battles and events, along with some more minor incidents.

Civil War Timeline 1860

November 6: Abraham Lincoln, an ardent Free Soiler is elected president, bringing to a head the conflict between slavery and ant-slavery forces that has been simmering for decades. It started with the Jayhawkers and Bushwhackers in Kansas during the 1850’s.

December 20: South Carolina becomes the first state to secede.

Civil War Timeline 1861

January 9 – February 1: Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas secede.

February 9: Jefferson Davis becomes provisional president of the Confederacy.

March 4: Lincoln takes office.

April 12: Confederate forces fire on Fort Sumter, South Carolina.

April 13: Federal troops surrender Fort Sumter.

April 15: Lincoln declares the southern states are guilty of “insurrections” and asks for federal troops to quell the rebellions.

July 21: First actual battle of the war occurs near Manassas, Virginia. It is known as First Battle of Manassas or Bull Run. Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston defeats Union General Irvin McDowell’s green troops.

July 27: Command of the Army of the Potomac is given to Major General George B. McClellan.

August 6: The first Confiscation Act is passed by the U.S. Congress. The Act allows for the confiscation of enemy property, including slaves.

November 2: McClellan becomes General-in-Chief of the United States forces, replacing aging General Winfield Scott.

November 7: The United States Navy captures Port Royal, South Carolina.

November 8: The U.S. Navy captures James M. Mason and John Slidell, Confederate foreign commissioners onboard the British ship Trent. British anger over the Trent Affair is soothed by Charles Francis Adams, the U.S. ambassador to London, and the two Confederate officials are eventually allowed to travel on to Britain.

Civil War Timeline 1862

January 15: Edwin M. Stanton becomes the U.S. Secretary of War.

February 6: Ulysses S. Grant and Andrew H. Foote seize Fort Henry and Fort Donelson. The victory is significant, since Grant requires a total surrender and the capture allows Union forces to take Nashville.

February 25: Union forces occupy Nashville.

March 9: The first ironclads (armored ships), the Union Monitor and the Confederate Virginia, clash. The battle ends in a draw.

March 11: Dissatisfied with McClellan’s performance, Lincoln removes him as general-in-chief, but keeps him in charge of the Army of the Potomac. Henry W. Halleck is given charge of the Department of the Mississippi.

March 23-: Confederate General Thomas J. Jackson conducts Shenandoah Valley June 9 Campaign (western Virginia) to distract Union forces.

April 5: Beginning of the siege of Yorktown by the Army of the Potomac.

April 6-7: Battle of Shiloh is the first major bloodbath of the war. Thomas J. Jackson earns the nickname “Stonewall” and Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnson dies.

April 29: Actions of Admiral Farragut and his fleet allow the Union to take New Orleans. Union forces will hold this significant port for the rest of the war.

May 4: McClellan takes Yorktown, after the Confederates have evacuated.

May 9: Confederates leave Norfolk, Virginia.

May 31-June 1: Battle of Seven Pines or Fair Oaks in Virginia.

June 2: Robert E. Lee becomes commander of the Army of Northern Virginia. From the war’s onset, Lee has been the south’s leading general.

June 6: Battle of Memphis.

June 19: Slavery becomes illegal in all the territories.

June 25-July 1: Seven Days’ Battles. Lee prevents McClellan from reaching Richmond.

July 11: Halleck becomes United States’ General-in-Chief.

July 22: Lincoln shares his first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation with his cabinet.

August 29-30: Second Battle of Bull Run

September 2: McClellan is restored to full command in Virginia.

September 11: Lee’s forces move north into Hagerstown, Maryland.

September 17: McClellan’s forces defeat Lee’s in the Battle of Antietam, Maryland. The battle is McClellan’s only significant victory and it lifts Union morale.

September 19: Battle of Iuka, Mississippi.

September 22: The Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation is issued.

September 27: Free blacks join the first Union regiment of African American soldiers.

October 3-4. Battle of Corinth, Mississippi.

October 8: Battle of Perryville, Kentucky.

November 7: Ambrose E. Burnside replaces McClellan as the commander of the Army of the Potomac.

December 13: Battle of Fredericksburg. Union forces lose 13,000 troops and the Confederates lose 5,000.

December 29: Battle of Chickasaw Bayou.

December 31-January 3: Battle of Murfreesboro, Tennessee

Civil War Timeline 1863

January 1: Issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

January 20-22: Burnside’s “Mud March.”

January 23: Joseph Hooker replaces Burnside as commander of the Army of the Potomac.

March 3: Congressional approval of Federal Conscription Act.

April 2: Crowds in Richmond other southern cities riot over lack of food.

May1-4: Battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia. “Stonewall” Jackson is wounded and dies some days later.

May 18: Beginning of the siege of Vicksburg.

June 20: West Virginia is admitted to the Union.

June 27: George Gordon Meade replaces Hooker as commander of the Army of the Potomac.

July 1-3: Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is a significant loss for the South.

July 4: Lee retreats from Gettysburg. Vicksburg surrenders, which allows the Union to control the length of the Mississippi.

July 13: Draft Riots in New York City.

July 18: An all black regiment, the 54th Massachusetts shows its bravery in the assault on Fort Wagner.

August 21: William Quantrill raids Lawrence Kansas

September 19-20: Battle of Chickamauga

November 19: Lincoln gives the Gettysburg address.

November 23-25: More battles in Tennessee.

December 8: Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction is issued to declare policy for Confederate territory occupied by the Union.

December 16: Confederate General Joseph E. Johnson takes charge of the Army of Tennessee.

Civil War Timeline 1864

February 14: The Union captures Meridian, Mississippi.

March 9: Ulysses S. Grant is made Lieutenant General and given charge of the Armies of the United States.

May 4: The Army of the Potomac begins its march to take Richmond.

May 5-6: Battle of the Wilderness.

May 7: Union General William T. Sherman begins his march on Atlanta.

June 1-3: Battle of Cold Harbor.

June 18: Start of siege of Petersburg, Virginia.

July 12: Confederate Jubal Early’s forces threaten Washington, D.C., but then withdraw.

July 22: Battle of Atlanta.

September 2: Sherman takes Atlanta.

September 7: Sherman orders the evacuation of the citizens of Atlanta and burns the city.

November 8: Lincoln reelected.

November 16: Sherman begins his march to the sea.

December 22: Sherman enters Savannah, which Confederate forces have already evacuated.

Civil War Timeline 1865

January 19: Sherman begins his march through South Carolina.

January 31: The Thirteen Amendment is approved by the U.S. House of Representatives. The Thirteen Amendment abolishes slavery.

February 3: Lincoln meets with Confederate representatives, but they refuse to meet his conditions for peace.

February 17: Charleston is evacuated and Sherman’s forces seize Columbia, South Carolina.

March 4: Lincoln is inaugurated for a second term.

March 19: Beginning of the Appomattox campaign.

April 1: Battle of Five Forks, Virginia.

April 2: Confederate government flees Richmond.

April 3: Union occupation of Richmond and Petersburg.

April 4: Lincoln tours Richmond.

April 6: At Sayler’s Creek, the Army of the Potomac and Army of Northern Virginia clash for the last time.

April 7: Grant sends a letter to Lee asking him to surrender.

April 9: Lee surrenders to Grant at Appomattox Court House.

April 12: Confederates surrender Mobile, Alabama.

April 14: President Lincoln is shot by John Wilkes Booth. Henry Rathbone is wounded in the attack; Lincoln dies the next day. William Seward is brutally attacked by Lewis Powell in an assassination attempt to cut of the head of the Federal government. That same day the Federal flag is raised at Fort Sumter for the first times since the war began. Andrew Johnson becomes president.

April 18: Sherman and Confederate General Joseph Johnson sign a surrender agreement, but President Johnson does not approve the generous terms Sherman has offered General Johnson.

April 26: Joseph Johnson surrenders unconditionally. John Wilkes Booth is shot to death by Federal soldiers.

May 4: Confederate General Richard Taylor surrenders in Alabama.

May 23-24: Union troops march in a Grand Review in Washington.

May 26: West of the Mississippi, the last Confederate force surrenders.

July 7: Lincoln Assassination conspirators Mary Surratt, Lewis Powell, George Atzerodt, and David Herold are hanged in Washington DC. Another conspirator John Surratt had fled to Canada to escape prosecution.

December 18: Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution goes into effect, after being ratified by twenty-seven states.

Civil War Timeline2019-06-25T20:28:09-04:00

Civil War Soldiers

Civil War soldiers did not have it easy. In the beginning of the war things weren’t so bad but as the war went from weeks to months to years, army life became increasingly difficult. Union and Confederate soldiers pretty much lived in the same conditions during the war although Union troops were much better supplied and equipped.

If you had a pulse and a trigger finger you were qualified to be a soldier. The life of a soldier for both the North and South was a rough one and they lived under strict discipline. Enlisted troops were seen as bodies by their governments that pulled triggers, and that’s pretty much how they lived.

These soldiers were not just bodies however they were real people who had real lives. For these men fighting in a war at the front meant many long months and years away from home. The only contact most soldiers ever had with their loved ones back home was the occasional leave or if they received letters.

Union soldiers diary with a bullet hole top right

Union soldiers diary with a bullet hole top right

Letters were prized possessions that were read and re-read many times. Receiving mail was one of the most joyous times in a soldier’s life because in a way it allowed them to go home even if only for a moment. One important thing that gave soldiers comfort in their times of need was religion.

They could always count on a chaplain to listen to their problems and offer comfort when they needed it. Soldier life was boredom, hunger, sickness, and survival. To help with their downtime soldiers often played Civil War games such as cards, checkers, baseball or anything else they could think of.

Boredom was a soldier’s ever-present companion. Soldiers had to endure very long hours of drill on a daily basis, bad food, diseases that spread through camp, and living in Civil War tents which made pretty inadequate shelters.

They also had to do menial tasks such as gathering wood for campfires and cooking fires had to serve on guard duty for many long hours, had to be on water detail and many other chores that were required to survive in camp.

And when they weren’t just trying to survive in camp they were trying to survive on the battlefield. When boredom wasn’t around absolute terror was right there to take its place.

Civil War soldiers did not have it easy but when their country needed them they answered the call.

Civil War Soldiers2019-06-25T20:28:09-04:00