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.
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.
Not All Civil War Generals Were as Skilled as Stonewall Jackson
Some less impressive generals during the Civil War are remembered simply for being as equally terrible as Lee and 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.
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.