Civil War Generals

I may earn a commission from the companies mentioned in this post via affiliate links to products or services associated with content in this article. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Please read the Advertising Disclosure for more information.

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

54th Massachusetts

The 54th Massachusetts regiment was the most famous African American fighting unit formed during the war. On January 1st 1863 Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation went into effect. The proclamation allowed free black men to enlist in the Union army. [...]

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 [...]


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, Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman are the most well [...]

Abraham Lincoln

(1809-1865) Abraham Lincoln Timeline - 1809 February 12 - Abraham Lincoln was born in a one-room log cabin, near what is now Hodgenville, Kentucky. His parents were Thomas (a carpenter by trade; a farmer out of necessity) and Nancy Hanks. [...]

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 [...]

Alexander Gardner

(1821-1882) Alexander Gardner was born in Scotland on October 17th 1821. In 1856 he arrived in the United States hoping to work with the most well-known Civil War photographer Matthew Brady. Alexander Gardner and Matthew Brady did end up [...]

Allan Pinkerton

(1819-1884) Allan Pinkerton was born in Glasgow, Scotland on August 25th 1819. In 1842 he left Scotland and came to the United States. He decided to live in a small town outside of Chicago, Illinois where he worked as [...]

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 [...]

Anaconda Plan

When Did the Anaconda Plan Start 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 [...]


Andersonville was a Confederate prisoner of war camp located in Sumter County in Southwestern Georgia. The camp was officially known as Camp Sumter by the Confederate government. The Confederates established Andersonville on February 24th 1864. Andersonville was originally built [...]

Go to Top