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

George Armstrong Custer

George Armstrong Custer

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

Who Were the Best Civil War Generals

  • Ulysses S. Grant
  • William Tecumseh Sherman
  • Phillip Sheridan
  • Winfield Scott Hancock
  • George Thomas
  • Robert E. Lee
  • Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson
  • James Longstreet
  • Nathan Bedford Forrest
  • Albert Sidney Johnston
  • Jeb Stuart
  • Edward Porter Alexander

This list is in no particular order. It is difficult to proclaim one general is better than another. Each of these generals possessed unique abilities and qualities of their own.

For example Jeb Stuart’s brilliant cavalry leadership can’t be compared to Edward Porter Alexander’s talent using artillery, or Stonewall Jackson’s tactical abilities on the battlefield.

Although if I had to pick the best general of the Civil War, I would pick General Ulysses S. Grant. This choice is not based on any particular talent he had. Instead it’s based on his overall ability to get things done. He did more than any other general to win the war. As Abraham Lincoln once said “I can’t spare this man, he fights”

Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant

A must read book about Stonewall Jackson is #ad 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.

Who Was the Worst General in the Civil War

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

Union General Ambrose Burnside was arguably the worst general in the Civil War. He was an example of incompetence and ineptitude that was nothing more than a burden to his subordinates and his men.

General Ambrose Burnside

General Ambrose Burnside

What Happened at Burnside Bridge

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.

Burnside Bridge During Civil War

Burnside Bridge During Civil War

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 wasn’t 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 #ad Generals South, Generals North: The Commanders of the Civil War Reconsidered

Who Were the Main Generals in the Civil War

These are some of the more famous Civil War Generals

Abner Doubleday

(1819-1893) Abner Doubleday was born on June 26th 1819 in Ballston Spa, New York. He was a staunch Union loyalist from New York, he served in many of the most famous battles during the Civil War. In 1860 he [...]

Albert Sidney Johnston

(1803-1862) Albert Sidney Johnston was born on February 2nd 1803 in Washington, Kentucky. At the outbreak of the Civil War he immediately resigned his commission in the United States army and promptly joined the Confederate army. He was given [...]

Ambrose Burnside

(1824-1881) Ambrose Burnside was born in Liberty Indiana on May 23rd 1824. He attended West Point and served in the Mexican-American War from 1846 to 1848. In 1853 he resigned his commission in the United States army to focus [...]

AP Hill

(1825-1865) AP Hill had his most brilliant engagement during the Battle of Gettysburg. General Hill would be seen as a man of courage and great valor during the battle and would lay claim as one of Lee's favorites. General [...]

Barnard Bee

(1824-1861) Barnard Bee was the Confederate General, who is attributed with giving one of the most famous generals of the Civil War, his sterling nickname, General Stonewall Jackson. General Bee was a Confederate army officer, who commanded the 3rd [...]


(1818-1893) General P.G.T. Beauregard was born on May 28th 1818 near New Orleans, Louisiana. On February 13th 1861 he warned the military board of the state of Louisiana that New Orleans was in dire threat of being attacked even [...]

Benjamin Butler

(1818-1893) Benjamin Butler was the infamous Union leader in charge of the captured city of New Orleans and his methods and laws were a constant source of intrigue and anger. His tenure as the occupying mayor of a major [...]

Braxton Bragg

(1817-1876) Braxton Bragg was one of the most controversial generals, from both sides, in the war, General Braxton Bragg was the poster-boy of Confederate leadership. Strict and confident in his tactical abilities, Bragg would have his finest hour of [...]

Daniel Sickles

(1819-1914) General Daniel Sickles was the man who shot Francis Scott Key's son, Philip Barton Key. He is remembered as one of the most interesting people of the Civil War. Indeed the life and times of General Daniel Sickles [...]

George Custer

(1839-1876) George Custer is best known for his famous last stand, Custer however did surprisingly well in the Civil War. As a leader of cavalry troops Custer did fairly well against the ragged remnants of the Confederacy. By the [...]

George Gordon Meade

(1815-1872) George Gordon Meade at the start of the Civil War, was assigned to command a brigade of Pennsylvania volunteers. Meade and his Pennsylvanians built defenses near Tenallytown, Maryland, part of the defenses of Washington. In March 1862, his [...]

George McClellan

(1826-1885) George McClellan was the greatest Union general during the Civil War. At least he could have been and should have been. McClellan was second in his class at West Point, he was an engineer, a brilliant organizer, he [...]

George Pickett

(1825-1875) George Pickett is glorified in books and movies, even in futility; George Pickett's place in Civil War history is forever entrenched. "Pickett's charge" the saying that is one of the most recalled statements of the war, was in [...]

George Thomas

(1816-1870) General George Thomas was known as the Rock of Chickamauga. The actions of General Thomas at Chickamauga against a vastly superior force of Confederates (three to one) and better supplied, would be his hallmark throughout the entire bloody [...]

Irvin McDowell

(1818-1885) Irvin McDowell was involved in many of the Civil War’s greatest battles. From fighting in the battles of Bull Run and many other battles during the Civil War, General McDowell saw plenty of action. Tactical instructions were the [...]

Jeb Stuart

James Ewell Brown (Jeb) Stuart (1833-1864) was born on February 6, 1833 Stuart enrolled at the the US Military Academy at West Point and graduated in 1854. His first service was the 1st US Cavalry in the Kansas territory, [...]

John Bell Hood

(1831-1879) John Bell Hood was the youngest man ever to achieve the rank of full general in the Confederate army, not an easy task at any age. He was to be known as a great leader with a spirit [...]

John Buford

(1826-1863) It was John Buford and his two brigades that fired the opening shots at the battle of Gettysburg. Buford held the high ground at Gettysburg for the Union army. He was very much aware of the Confederate intention [...]

John Pemberton

(1814-1881) John Pemberton was a wasted opportunity. That was the final verdict for one of the most controversial figures in the Civil War. General John Pemberton was a man without a country. Torn in his mind over which side [...]

John Reynolds

(1820-1863) General John Reynolds was a great man, a fantastic leader, and all the characteristics of a fine and able-bodied leader, meant nothing. He was a leader determined to fail. And fail he did. From falling asleep at the [...]

Joseph Hooker

(1814-1879) General Joseph Hooker earned a questionable reputation in his time, both in his military and civil life. The nickname that stood out the most was 'Fighting" Joe Hooker. The name could have arrived from his ability on the [...]

Joseph Johnston

(1807-1891) The main issue the entire Union brass had with General Joseph Johnston had nothing to do with his military expertise or tactical command, it was his inability to stand and fight. Numerous times when Johnston had far superior [...]

Joshua Chamberlain

(1828-1914) There are no statues of Joshua Chamberlain erected for his gallantry in battle at the most famous of Civil War battles, Gettysburg. Although the colonel bravely held back a fierce rebel attack that eventually secured the victory for [...]

Jubal Early

(1816-1894) Jubal Early was a valuable and trusted general who fought alongside Lee and Jackson in the Civil War. Known for his straight-laced demeanor, he would sometimes be seen as bitter. Easy to offend, Early gained a reputation as [...]

Kirby Smith

(1824-1893) Kirby Smith was the last of the 'full" generals to die. His life was a look into what it was like to be the prototypical general in the Civil War. Friends would refer to him as "Seminole", partly [...]

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