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Civil War Soldiers

Information and Articles About Soldiers from the Civil War

Union Cavalry Soldier
Union Cavalry Soldier

Who Was the Common Soldier of America’s Civil War?

How Many Fought
About 2.75 million soldiers fought in the Civil War — 2 million for the North and 750,000 for the South.

The Average Soldier
According to historian Bell I. Wiley, who pioneered the study of the Civil War common soldier, the average Yank or Reb was a ‘white, native-born, farmer, protestant, single, between 18 and 29.’ He stood about 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighed about 143 pounds. Most soldiers were between the ages of 18 and 39 with an average age just under 26.

Making a Living
The majority of soldiers North and South had been farmers before the war. Union rosters contained references to more than 300 different careers, including accountant, surveyor, locksmith, teacher, carpenter, shoemaker, black- smith, painter, mason, teamster, and mechanic. Southerners who had not farmed included carpenters, mechanics, merchants, machinists, lawyers, teachers, blacksmiths, and dentists.

Rifle, Carbine, or Cannon?
In the Union army, 80 percent of the men were in the infantry, 14 percent in the cavalry, and 6 percent in artillery. In the Confederate army, 75 percent of the men served in the infantry, 20 percent in the cavalry, and 5 percent in artillery.

The Odds Against Them
Of every 1,000 Feder-als, 112 were wounded; 150 of every 1,000 Confederates were hit. A Yankee stood a 1 in 8 chance of dying due to illness and a 1 in 18 chance of dying in battle. A Rebel faced a 1 in 5 chance of succumbing to disease and a 1 in 8 chance of dying in combat.

Taps
Over 360,000 died in service to the North, 110,000+ in battle and 250,000+ of other causes, primarily disease. The South lost over 260,000 men, 95,000+ in battle and 165,000+ to other causes, primarily disease. Some recent estimates claim the totals were actually higher.

Prisoners of War
Roughly 211,000 Union soldiers were captured; 17,000 were paroled in the field; 30,000, or about 15.5% of those sent to prisoner of war camps, died there. Over 426,000 Confederates were captured, of which some 248,000 were paroled in the field; imprisoned in the North, and 26,000, or 12% of those sent to POW camps, died in captivity.

Why They Fought
Men on both sides were inspired to fight by patriotism, state pride, the chance for adventure, steady pay. Union soldiers fought to preserve the Union; the common Confederate fought to defend his home. Later in the war, increasing numbers of Federal soldiers fought to abolish slavery, if for no other reason than to end the war quickly. Confederate soldiers sometimes fought because they feared Union victory would result in a society where black people were placed on an even footing with whites.

Army Melting Pots
The large majority of Civil War soldiers were native born. Nonetheless, large numbers of stout-hearted newcomers to the country also volunteered to fight–especially in the North. Nearly one quarter of the Union’s soldiers were immigrants, including 200,000 Germans; 150,000 Irish; 45,000 English; 15,000 Canadians, and lesser numbers of French, Norwegians, Italians, Mexicans, and Poles. Exact figures for the South are sketchy, but tens of thousands of Irish, Germans, British, French, Canadians, Dutch, and Austrians entered Confederate ranks.

Black Troops
By war’s end, African-American soldiers made up roughly 10 percent of the Union army. Approximately 179,000 black soldiers wore the blue; 37,000 lost their lives. In March 1865, the Confederate congress authorized the army to recruit 300,000 black troops. Some units were raised, but it was too late for them to make a difference.

Soothing the Savage Breast
Johnny Reb and Billy Yank loved to sing–on the march, in camp, and sometimes even in battle. The men in blue favored ‘Battle Cry of Freedom,’ ‘Red White and Blue,’ ‘The Star Spangled Banner,’ and others. The men in gray cherished ‘Dixie,’ ‘Bonnie Blue Flag,’ ‘Yellow Rose of Texas,’ and other songs. Both sides were moved by the heartbreaking tune ‘Home Sweet Home.’

Mess Time
‘What breakfast could possibly compare with this,’ Union Lieutenant Theodore Ayrault Dodge wrote in his journal in 1862—’hard crackers, boiled beef (2 days in the haversack) and bologna sausage (ditto).’ Officially, the daily Union ration consisted of 22 ounces of bread and either 12 ounces of pork or a pound of salted beef. Confederates were supposed to be supplied (but seldom were) with 12 ounces of bacon or 20 ounces of beef (usually salted) along with 18 ounces of flour or 20 ounces of corn meal or hard bread. Vegetables such as beans and peas often proved hard to come by, especially for the Rebs. Usually, Yankees banked on hardtack and coffee, while their counterparts tried to get by on corn bread and coffee. Men on both sides got what they could from sutlers or foraging. Coffee and tobacco were common cravings.

The Wages of War
Soldiers on each side initially earned $11 per month. In June 1864, the Confederacy raised each soldier’s pay to $18 per month, a sum worth less and less as the Confederate dollar dropped in value. That same month the Union upgraded its soldiers’ monthly wage to $16. Black soldiers were initially paid just $10 per month–minus the $3 clothing allowance that white troops received. After June 1864, black soldiers who had been free men before the war were paid the same as whites, but recently freed slaves who joined the army’s ranks did not get the raise.

Passing the Time
Soldiers had to deal with much boredom. To fill the hours, Yanks and Rebels wrote letter after letter to family, friends, and sweethearts. In spite of the warnings of officers, bouts of drinking and especially gambling broke out. Soldiers played checkers, chess, and baseball, whittled and carved, and if they were feeling particularly creative, would even put on plays. Tennessean Sam Watkins described one winter diversion: ‘Brigades and divisions were soon involved, and such a scene was never before seen on earth. Many thousands of men were engaged in a snow ball battle.’ Both sides read whatever they could get their hands on: Yankees favored Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, Harper’s Weekly, American Review, and The Atlantic. Confederates read Southern Illustrated News, Southern Literary Messenger, and Field and Fireside. Both sides loved dime novels and the Bible.

Dirt and Disease
Whenever armies remained settled in camp, sanitary conditions worsened. For starters, until later in the war, latrines were often built upwind or even upstream from camps. Accumulation over time created an unpleasant and unhealthy environment. Eventually, refuse from cooking and slaughtered animals began to cover the ground, and the local water source often became fouled. Disease spread rapidly.

Religion
Both armies claimed to be fighting with God’s blessing, and religion played a big part in the lives of many soldiers. ‘Sometimes, a few of the fellows would gather in prayer, while the rest of us fought the guns,’ wrote Confederate soldier William M. Dame. ‘Several times…we met under fire…we held that prayer hour every day, at sunset, during the entire campaign.’ While the slaughter and grief of war drove some men from their faith, religious revivals swept through both armies, claiming thousands of converts. Most of the men were Christian, though 7,000 Jews fought for the Union and 3,000 for the South. 600 Jewish soldiers died in the war.

This article was written by Eric Either and originally appeared in the December 2003 issue of Civil War Times. Some data has been edited due to new research since the original article was published.

Union Soldiers

Total numbers of the Union armies are estimated to be between 1.5 million and 2.4 million. The bulk of these men were volunteers, though estimates say that 5 to 6 percent were conscripts. Read more about Union Soldiers.

Confederate Soldiers

Estimates of the total number of confederate soldiers is difficult, and range between 750,000 to 1 million soldiers fought during the Civil War. Learn more about Confederate Soldiers.


 

Articles Featuring Civil War Soldiers From History Net Magazines

Featured Article

Civil War Soldiers: Decimated by Disease

By Glenn W. LaFantasie

Disease and primitive medical knowledge were the Civil War soldier’s worst enemies. For every soldier killed in battle, two died of disease. During their first summer of service in the Confederate army, William C. Oates and his comrades of the 15th Alabama Infantry Regiment watched as the first casualties dropped from their ranks, not from wounds inflicted by their Federal foes but from the deadlier onslaught of microbes and viruses in their camp. The Alabamians learned before they ever fired a single shot in anger that war often brought suffering and death where they were least expected, and that this particular war would seldom show mercy to anyone caught in the swath of its deadly scythe.

The 15th Alabama Infantry fell victim to an enemy more powerful than any Union army in the summer and autumn of 1861

Oates was a lawyer, newspaper publisher and editor, as well as a former fugitive from justice who had spent part of his youth as a gambler in Texas. In July 1861 he formed a militia company in Henry County, Alabama—the “Henry Pioneers”—that become Company G of the newly established 15th Alabama Infantry, under the command of Colonel James Cantey. Oates was named captain of Company G. From Fort Mitchell on the Chattahoochee River, Cantey moved his regiment—about 1,000 men strong—north by train to Richmond, where the 15th Alabama spent a few weeks drilling and training. Then, on August 21, the regiment received orders to proceed to the front. When they heard the news, the men cheered and sang all through the night.

The next morning, Cantey led the regiment through the streets of Richmond to the railroad depot, where President Jefferson Davis reviewed the troops and complimented Cantey on their fine appearance. The newly elected governor of Alabama, John Gill Shorter, a prominent Democrat from Eufaula with whom Oates was politically allied, was also there to see the 15th off, and he delivered a short address before the men boarded the cars. According to one Alabama soldier, Gill’s speech “did our hearts good,” for apparently the governor stirringly invoked the memory of Patrick Henry who, 80 years before, had denounced King George III by declaring, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” Once on the train, the men gave a rousing Rebel yell, the whistle blew, and the wooden stock cars lurched forward toward Manassas Junction.

All around Centreville and Manassas, near where the Confederates had won their first major victory in a battle fought on July 21, Brigadier General Joseph E. Johnston had extended the Southern lines. Reinforcements from all over the South were being rushed to the Manassas defenses as recruits poured into the army in the wake of the fighting along Bull Run. By August, Johnston’s army numbered less than 40,000 soldiers, and the general believed he needed more men to keep the Federal army from contemplating—and perhaps succeeding in—another southward push.

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As the train carrying the 15th Alabama passed through little hamlets—places no bigger or even smaller than Abbeville, the county seat where Oates had mustered in the Henry Pioneers—on its ambling journey north, Virginians stood by the tracks cheering the soldiers and waving their hats and handkerchiefs. At each stop, Gus McClendon, one of Oates’s privates in Company G, remembered that “the patriotic ladies and beautiful Virginia girls would be gathered…to welcome us, distributing their fruits and flowers and cheering us on with expressions of delight when informed we were from Alabama.”

It took all day for the train to reach Manassas Junction, where the men of the 15th Alabama got off the cars, formed ranks, and marched about five miles from the station to an old field called Pageland, a flat open plain just north of Warrenton Turnpike where the Page family had intended to build a mansion and develop a plantation. On the march, Captain Benjamin Gardner of Company I led his men while he held a great umbrella over his head. “It had a most unmilitary appearance,” Oates remembered years later, “but the captain was large and corpulent, a lawyer by profession, unused to the sun, 52 years old, and therefore excusable.”

The 15th Alabama went into camp beside the 21st North Carolina, the 16th Mississippi, and the 21st Georgia Regiments. Across the broad expanse of field, practically nothing but row upon row of tents could be seen. The noise of camp—officers shouting, feet plodding on dry sod, bugles blowing, drums tapping—echoed over Pageland in one vast discord of sound. Although the water in the camp was bad, the weather was hot, and many thirsty soldiers decided to drink the tainted water rather than suffer from dehydration. Colonel Cantey saw to it that his companies drilled hard every day, and from miles around one could see the dust rising from Pageland like the billowing smoke of a forest fire.

“Drilling and performing the routine of camp duty was the regular order,” recalled Oates. Despite the arduous regularity of drilling every day for at least four hours, the men did have some respite and moments of gaiety and laughter. Oates fondly remembered “the fife of old Hildebrand, and Jimmie Newberry’s and Pat Brannon’s drums, as they were heard at reveille and tattoo.” Colonel Cantey’s teamster also brought a smile to the men’s faces: He “was the only man connected with the regiment,” Oates said, “who could surpass the Colonel in profanity.” But camp life involved mostly endless marching and backbreaking work. As Gus McClendon remembered: “The fatigue duty consisted of policing the camp, looking after its sanitary condition, cutting and hauling wood, and going with the forage and commissary wagons to the depot at Manassas Junction, to assist in loading them with the supplies for man and beast.”

With the camp less than two miles from the fields where the Battle of Manassas had been fought, Oates decided to take Company G and some other men from the regiment on a tour of the ground. It had just been a month since the Confederate victory, and the Alabamians were all curious to see what a battlefield really looked like. At first, the terrain matched their own romantic conceptions of the battle and the heroes who had fallen fighting for their righteous cause. Oates recalled that white posts “had been set up to mark each of the places where fell General [Bernard] Bee, of South Carolina, Colonels [Francis] Bartow, Georgia; [Charles] Fisher, of North Carolina, and [Egbert] Jones, of Alabama.”

The men walked over the ground with expressions of awe and wonder on their faces. Caspar W. Boyd, a private in Company I, wrote home to his parents that he “found a sight ther that I never saw befor.” Some of the dead from the battle had been hastily buried and their arms and hands protruded from beneath thin mounds of dirt. Boyd and his comrades even discovered severed hands and feet on the ground. The carcasses of dead horses still littered the field. He remarked that they strolled by the Widow Henry house, where the widow herself had been “kiled on her bed” during the battle.

Oates distinctly remembered, almost 45 years later, the pungent smell of fennel and pennyroyal—weeds growing on the battlefield that had been mashed down during the fight and still gave off their recognizable aromas. Some of Oates’s men thought the odor came from “dead Yankees,” concluding that Northerners must have a different smell in death than Southerners. A few of the Alabamians reacted to the battlefield with less solemnity than did Oates or Caspar Boyd. Gus McClendon reported that some of the men treated the outing like a picnic, and they felt “like birds turned out of a cage.” Nevertheless, he and his companions could not avoid being amazed at the sight of the remnants of a stand of pine where the 7th Georgia was known to have held its ground during the battle. The trees had been chopped to pieces by musket volleys. “It was a wonder to us,” wrote McClendon, “how a man could live in such a place.”

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If nothing else, the excursion to the Manassas battlefield gave the Alabama boys reason to ponder war and its grim realities. Oates and his men roamed fields where the grass was still stained red with dried blood, where unexploded shells lay exposed to view, and where minié balls covered patches of ground in a thick lead carpet. To McClendon, the “horrible” battlefield offered “sad scenes” that “furnished food for reflection.” Although some tried to treat the tour as a frolic, no one who visited the battlefield that day would ever regard war in quite the same fashion as he had done before.

“At the time,” wrote McClendon, “I was full of malice and hatred for the ‘Boys in Blue’ and was just as anxious to kill him as he was to kill me, yet when I would stop and take a second thought, and gaze upon those little mounds I could truthfully say of the dead ‘Boy in Blue’ that sometime, and somewhere, he had been ‘somebody’s darling.’ ” When the men walked solemnly back to Pageland and reached their camp, they thought their short journey had showed them the worst of war. They had no idea of the far worse horrors yet to come.

Those horrors began at Pageland. It was in the Confederate camps there that, in the words of one private in the 15th Alabama, “the reaper commenced the harvest of death” that would continue for the regiment until its surrender at Appomattox. When the 15th Alabama had first arrived at Pageland, its closest neighbor in the camp, the 21st North Carolina, was already struggling with an epidemic of measles and serious outbreaks of mumps and typhoid. All of these diseases were—and still are—highly contagious, although in our modern times we have grown accustomed to dealing with them during childhood and have vaccines that prevent their spread and other medicines that quickly wipe them out. In the Civil War, measles was by far, as Oates himself declared, “the worst enemy of our army,” for it spread rapidly among the adult soldiers who had developed no immunity to the disease and who could do nothing to fight it.

Measles cut through the ranks of the 15th Alabama at the encampment like a biblical plague or the medieval Black Death. No one, including the small number of surgeons assigned to the army, knew that the disease was carried on droplets through the air and that proximity to the virus meant almost certain infection. In this respect, it is somewhat miraculous that the entire Confederate camp at Pageland was not stricken with the disease. Infected soldiers experienced high fever, rash, runny noses, watery eyes, and coughing. Due to the lack of a vaccine and effective treatments, few men who were infected survived the illness. After the initial symptoms, their condition generally worsened. Some soldiers came down with pneumonia and encephalitis (brain inflammation) as a result of measles; others suffered middle-ear infections, severe diarrhea, and convulsions. The worst cases—and there were hundreds of them among the troops of the 15th Alabama—resulted in death.

The first man in the regiment to die was Andrew J. Folmar, 18, a private in Company I. Then many others quickly became sick and had no strength or immunity to fight off the overwhelming disease. About 100 of the regiment’s men died over the span of six weeks. A military funeral and burial were performed for each death, and obsequies soon became part of the camp’s daily routine. Overcome with emotion from this profusion of sickness and death, one private wrote in despair: “Beneath the soil of Prince William [County], now slumber in quiet repose, secure from summer’s heat and winter’s cold, from the cares of life and shock of strife, the noblest and best of the regiment.”

Those who fell to sickness were stricken by the fear—and the near certainty—of approaching death. Sick and well alike yearned for the comforts of home and to be magically transported from this strange land where so many men were dying. For those on death’s doorstep, the longing for home was even more pronounced. “The thought of home is ever uppermost in the mind,” admitted one Alabamian, “and a wish exists to be buried with their fathers and the companies of their youth.” Their wish would not be granted. At Pageland, the “Dead March” was so frequently heard that men became inured to it and soon did not even inquire as to who had died or was being buried. The endless deaths produced a “crude shock” among the men of the 15th Alabama and, as anyone might expect, “threw a gloom” over the camp that could not be shaken off.

So many men were sick that the routine camp duty for those who remained healthy became more strenuous than ever, for now there were fewer hands to do the work. Throughout the desolation of this epidemic, the 15th Alabama—just like all the other regiments—was ordered to keep up its drill four hours a day, although those who were not sick began to lose their strength under the physical burdens they had to bear.

Oates became outraged at the desperate situation. He faulted the army for keeping the sick in the same camp with the healthy men, which ensured that those who were not yet sick soon would be. Years later he wrote in anger:

I do not know who was responsible for it, but it was a great mistake. There was not that care taken of the men of any regiment, so far as my observation extended, which foresight, prudence and economy of war material—leaving humanity out of the question—imperatively demanded….Had the Confederate authorities made more persistent efforts than they did, hospitals could have been more established in sufficient numbers to have saved the lives of hundreds and thousands of good men, which were for the want of them unnecessarily sacrificed.

Oates believed that the surgeons could be blamed as well. They were “criminally negligent,” he said, “for not earnestly protesting against such sacrifices of human life.” He reached a bitter, but obvious, conclusion: “This folly lost to the service more men than were put out of it by the enemy’s bullets.”

Someone in Johnston’s high command eventually decided that the Alabamians had stayed in Pageland long enough, and around the middle of September the 15th Alabama, along with several other regiments, received orders to transfer their camps closer to Centreville. Oates and the other capable officers and men of the 15th struck their tents under a sweltering sun, leaving about 300 of the regiment’s sick behind, and marched up and down the swales of the Warrenton Turnpike toward Bull Run. Surely the sights and sounds of death had been more than enough for them at Pageland, but the Alabamians once more had to march across the Manassas battlefield, where those dour reminders of war and combat remained exposed in their shallow graves. One of Oates’s men later wrote that the decomposing carcasses of humans and beasts spoke “in dumb eloquence” of man’s inhumanity.

From the battlefield, Oates led his men—beaten down by the heat, their own fatigue, and somber thoughts of death—along the Alexandria Pike until they reached a vast open field, not altogether unlike Pageland, about five miles east of Centreville and three miles west of Fairfax Court House. There they established Camp Toombs, named in honor of Robert Augustus Toombs of Georgia, who had resigned his appointment as Confederate secretary of state to become a brigadier general. (Oates called him “Georgia’s most erratic and greatest talker.”) Not far from the camp were “bold springs” of water, the kind Virginia was noted for, Oates said happily.

The measles predictably followed the column from Pageland to Camp Toombs, even though the sickest men had been quarantined at Pageland. The men of the 15th Alabama, and of a good number of other regiments as well, kept dying. Barnett “Bud” Cody, a private in the 15th Alabama who was the son of a clergyman and Oates’s playmate in their younger days, became ill and began to fear for his life. The doctor told him to stay in his tent, which soldiers were not allowed to do, especially when it came time for drill and dress parade. Oates, however, released Cody from duty from several days and allowed him to get stronger.

The army had an epidemic on its hands, and no one seemed to know quite what to do about it. The men turned to religion, as people—and particularly soldiers—do in times of doubt or utter despair. They were desperate, these young Confederate boys who cherished their Bibles and wrote home to their families to inform them that they kept up with their Scripture readings despite the taxing demands that the army placed on them every day. While Gus McClendon was on guard duty one day, a little girl gave him a Bible as a present, all carefully inscribed with the girl’s name. He carried the book through several battles, treasuring the gift and honoring the girl who had given it to him. In camp, an itinerant preacher arrived to do some Bible thumping and held a prayer meeting that attracted large numbers of soldiers. The preacher handed out Bibles to the men, but only if they would promise to carry the Good Book with them, which many of them did.

As the Confederates camped around Fairfax Court House and Centreville waited for the war to erupt into battle again, which it did not do during these long weeks in the early autumn of 1861, separate hospitals for each regiment’s roster of sick men were finally established. The 15th Alabama’s was set up at Haymarket, a little village of a handful of houses and shops 10 miles west of Manassas Junction. Ill and dying soldiers from the 15th Alabama, including the ones who had been left behind at Pageland and those who had more recently succumbed to disease in Camp Toombs, were transported in uncomfortable springless wagons to the field hospital in Haymarket.

The village, located about six miles southwest of the Manassas battlefield, was not a perfect place to set up a hospital. South and west of the town a marshy stretch of woods produced more than a sufficient quantity of “bad air” and “bad water” that Civil War doctors incorrectly believed were the causes of contagious diseases.

The men of the 15th Alabama were brought to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, and as many of them as would fit were laid out on the pews in this house of God. For some, those who held to their faith, knowing they were housed in a church gave them succor and hope. For others, they must have been pleased, at the very least, to have a sturdy and dry roof over their heads. Many of the sick, however, were quartered in tents raised in the fields around the church, the fields that already held those soldiers who had not recovered from their wounds after the Battle of Manassas. Others were given beds of straw and hay under the only protection available—the tall trees that shaded the yard around the church.

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The sick were attended by Dr. Francis A. Stanford, a native of Georgia who had enlisted in the 15th Alabama at Fort Mitchell on the Chattahoochee, and by a Dr. Shepherd of Eufaula, Alabama, who was nearly 75 years old. Stanford had carefully selected Haymarket as the site of the regimental hospital. One soldier said of Stanford that he missed “no opportunity to provide for the well-being of the invalids.” This Alabamian had nothing but praise for the good doctor: “All of his time and talent is devoted to his profession and the amelioration of the suffering. Day by day we see him on his rounds of mercy from the rising of the sun until ‘the going down thereof,’ and from dark until midnight, in fair weather and foul, and oh! ungrateful humanity; we hear him abused the remaining six [hours of the day].”

Convalescents provided the nursing care to their comrades at the hospital. Oates visited St. Paul’s and described with a critical eye what he saw there:

At this improvised hospital there was neither accommodations nor comfort; no bedding but the soldier’s blanket, with his knapsack for a pillow, and no nourishment but army rations; a scant supply of medicine and no medical attention worth having, except such as old Dr. Shepherd…could give….The nights in October were cold, and early in the month there was frost, and the suffering of the sick men was intolerable….It was no uncommon sight at that hospital to see six or seven corpses of 15th Alabama men laid out at once.

There were probably worse places to die than under those high trees (heavenly trees, the locals call them) or in the peaceful fields surrounding the church or in the quiet chancel of St. Paul’s in Haymarket. But the men did die, and whether the place was good or bad, serene or bedlam, the only thing that mattered was that poor boys who could not do anything to save themselves, young men a very long way from their homes in Alabama, were slipping away. In time, the epidemic abated and the deaths finally ceased, but the Confederate forces in northern Virginia had already paid a very stiff price by losing good men, young men who had not yet even experienced the horror of combat but who had come to know of hell by confronting an invisible enemy against whom they had no defense.

At Camp Toombs, where the remainder of the 15th Alabama spent that autumn, camp life fell into the same old routines. Company and battalion drill, said Oates, was the daily occupation. Years afterward he remembered: “Occasionally we were aroused by a rumor, incident to such a life, concerning the advance or other movements of the enemy; but, having no foundation, the excitement soon subsided. Later in the war the soldiers denominated such rumors as ‘grapevine telegrams’ and paid no attention to them.” In the loneliness of an army camp, with thousands of fellow soldiers all around, some of the men, Oates claimed, died of homesickness.

As for the sick and dying at Haymarket, Oates could not take his mind off them. Their suffering, as he had said, was unbearable—to them and to their comrades who survived. It is not known precisely how many men the 15th Alabama buried in the fields around St. Paul’s Church, where their remains still lay after all this time. A stone marker near the entrance to the church states flatly, without mention of the dead of the 15th Alabama: “In this area are buried 80 unknown Confederate soldiers who died of wounds after the battle of Manassas, July 21, 1861.”

Oates thought that at least 150 men died there and were buried in the churchyard, but in old age, as he wrote his memoirs and strained to remember the details of the Haymarket hospital, he caught himself and confessed that the number must have been much greater. The adjutant’s report for the month of November 1861 alone listed 60 dead. With sadness in his heart, Oates said he thought the estimates were all low. And he was probably right. It seems likely that no less than 200 men from the 15th Alabama, and perhaps considerably more than that, fell from disease at Haymarket and are buried in the fields (or what is left of them) to the north and west of the church building.

Haymarket was not unique in the autumn of 1861, for there were hospital sites just like the one at St. Paul’s near practically every army camp, Union and Confederate, from Virginia to Texas. The hell faced by the men of the 15th Alabama at Haymarket was experienced by thousands of soldiers on both sides. Few of the men who got sick in their camps recovered from their illnesses; most who contracted measles or mumps or whooping cough or typhoid—or any of the other highly contagious and highly lethal diseases that sliced through Civil War armies—died without ever really understanding what had happened to them or why they had to die. Over the next four years, disease continued to take its toll in the Confederate and Union ranks, and the terrible scenes that had taken place at Pageland, Camp Toombs, and Haymarket would repeat themselves across the American countryside until the war, and all its hard suffering, finally ended.

What William C. Oates and the boys of the 15th Alabama learned in the late summer and autumn 1861 was a lesson learned by every soldier in every war. It was a lesson as old as time. War is all misery, cruelty, and hell. And all too often young soldiers—brave and true boys—give their lives for no good reason at all.

Glenn W. LaFantasie is the author of Gettysburg Requiem: The Life of William C. Oates (Oxford University Press, 2006).

This article was first published in MHQ, Spring 2004.

Featured Article 2

A search for clues to what compelled the men who went to war

By James Hall

Heroes and Cowards: The Social Face of War
by Dora L. Costa and Matthew E. Kahn
Princeton University Press, 2008

A Civil War book full of charts, graphs and tables, even when it is com­bined with intriguing human interest profiles of soldiers who fought in our nation’s epic four-year struggle, can be a risky undertaking for any author. But in Heroes and Cowards: The Social Face of War, by Dora L. Costa and Mat­thew E. Kahn, this unusual conceptual approach comes across as downright riveting.

Costa and Kahn, both professors at UCLA, used the life stories of 40,000 Civil War soldiers to explore how social dynamics influenced the motivation, behavior and thinking processes of these soldiers. Using information from government documents (e.g., pension records), as well as soldiers’ journals and letters and other available data, the authors provide a compelling look at the influence of social interaction and social networks during a time of war.

Among the topics explored in the book are: • The make-up of various companies, where factors such as similar ethnicity, age and occupation influenced whether soldiers would remain loyal or eventually desert from the ranks. • Multiple and diverse social factors that allowed some men to survive horrendous POW camps while others perished. • How punishments meted out by officers for breaking codes of conduct affected the lives and psyches of soldiers both during and after the war. • The psychologically daunting experiences of African-American soldiers and how comrades’ attitudes influenced their lives during the war and in its aftermath.

Had the authors chosen to make the book primarily a scholarly examination of data and information, it wouldn’t have been accessible to the average Civil War buff. Instead, they wisely decided to bring all their facts and figures and statistics into a human focus by coupling this research data with thorough, insightful personality profiles.

Costa and Kahn also include photographs that contribute perspective. For example, “before” and “after” photos of one African-American male illustrate the dramatic changes that sometimes occurred when poverty-ridden blacks joined the Union ranks.

The analysis of war data in Massachu­setts is a good case sample. We find, all else being equal, that the men who en­listed tended to come from poorer towns. Enlistees also were more likely to be from pro-Lincoln towns, and ideology and money were found to be equally important enlistment decisions. The authors do not neglect the complex questions concerning why humans are willing to risk their own lives to fight and kill other humans. There are many answers to this question, not always involving ideological passions and patriotism.

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Costa and Kahn find that many Northern soldiers saw the Civil War as a war of liberty against despotism. Some fought primarily for the purpose of freeing slaves, while others had no interest in that cause. Many sociologists, psychologists and military historians have said that soldiers’ primary motive for going into battle is frequently intense loyalty to a small group of comrades. This would explain why many wounded Union troops were so anxious to return to their units, even though they may not have been fully recovered from their injuries.

Heroes and Cowards provides important insight into the lives and social bondings of those who left home and hearth to risk life and limb. We learn that when soldiers fight, they seldom fight alone.

Articles 1

Major General Adelbert Ames: Forgotten Man of the 20th MaineJune Issue Extra: Adelbert Ames preceded Joshua Chamberlain as colonel of the 20th Maine
The Civil War Experience: 1861-1865 (Book Review)Reviewed by Partick AlanBy Jay WertzPresidio Press Civil War enthusiasts are unable to rest until everyone they know stops tolerating their mania and starts sharing it. It is the great crusade that lies at the heart of the hobby, a mission that many a Civil War Times reader has sworn on a well-thumbed copy of …
George Armstrong Custer: Between Myth and RealityReality and myth about George Custer still collide on the battlefields of Virginia and Pennsylvania.

By Jeffry D. Wert

Baltimore & Ohio Railroad: The Union’s Most Important Supply LineThe Baltimore & Ohio Railroad survived numerous hardships of the Civil War in its service to the Union.
Battle of New Market Heights: USCT Soldiers Proved Their HeroismOn a gunfire-swept slope near Richmond on September 29, 1864, USCT soldiers stood to the test and proved black men made good professional troops. Fourteen of them received the Medal of Honor for their bravery.
Account Of The Battle of the WildernessIn the dark, forbidding woods of Virginia's Wilderness, Generals Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee stumbled blindly toward their first wartime encounter. Neither had a clear idea of his opponent's intentions, but each planned to do what he did best--attack.
Battle of Harpers FerryHarpers Ferry was the scene of an important 1862 battle in Lee's Maryland campaign and a prelude to 'Bloody Antietam.'
Confederacy’s Canadian Mission: Spies Across the BorderStealing secrets and causing trouble, Rebel spies in Canada waged a risky underground war across the Union's northern frontier.
Battle of Gaines’ Mill: U.S. Army Regulars to the RescueAs Robert E. Lee hammered Federal forces at Gaines' Mill, Brig. Gen. George Sykes proud division of Regulars held its post of honor on the Union right. The 'Old Army was showing its mettle to the new.
Siege of Port HudsonPort Hudson, like Vicksburg, was a tough nut to crack. But the Union's traditional superiority in firepower, personified by the 1st Indiana Heavy Artillery, quickly went to work on the Rebel bastion.
Account Of The Battle of ChickamaugaOverconfident and overextended, the Union Army of the Cumberland advanced into the deep woods of northwest Georgia. Waiting Confederates did not intend for them to leave. At Chickamauga Creek, the two sides collided.
The 7th U.S. Infantry Service in the American Civil WarThe 7th U.S. Infantry's most powerful foe was John Barleycorn.
American Civil War: The New Bern RaidJohn Wood's swashbucklers set out to seize a Union fleet.
American Civil War: The 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry RegimentThe Twenty-Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment included two future presidents and an Army Commander.
America’s Civil War: Loudoun RangersThe Quaker-dominated Loudoun Rangers openly defied Virginia tradition to serve the Union.
Sir Percy Wyndham: American Civil War Union Army’s Flamboyant English Cavalry CommanderColorful and charismatic, Sir Percy Wyndham served the Union Army as a cavalry commander.
Capturing Fort Pulaski During the American Civil WarAs a young U.S. Army lieutenant, Robert E. Lee helped to construct Fort Pulaski. As a Confederate general 30 years later, he confidently assured fort defenders it could not be breached. Union gunners were not so sure.
America’s Civil War: Major General John Pope’s Narrow Escape at Clark’s MountainWhile Robert E. Lee's entire army massed behind Clark's Mountain to attack the Union Army of Virginia, a daring Yankee spy swam the Rapidan River to warn Maj. Gen. John Pope of the imminent danger. It was, said one military historian, 'the timeliest single product of espionage' in the entire war.
Battle of Chickamauga: Colonel John Wilder’s Lightning Brigade Prevented Total DisasterArmed with their new, lethal seven-shot Spencer rifles, Wilder's Lightning Brigade was all that stood between the Union Army and the looming disaster at Chickamauga Creek.
Second Battle of Manassas: Union Major General John Pope Was No Match for Robert E. LeeBrash, bombastic John Pope tempted fate by returning to the old battleground at Manassas. He thought he had caught Robert E. Lee napping. He was wrong.
Battle of Sailor’s CreekThe April 6, 1865 Battle of Sailor's Creek constituted one of the darkest days in the Army of Northern Virginia's history.
America’s Civil War: Images of Peace at AppomattoxEvery picture tells a different story about Lee's surrender.
America’s Civil War: Horses and Field ArtilleryWorking side by side with soldiers, horses labored to pull artillery pieces into battle. Without them, field artillery could not have been used to such deadly effect.
Battle of Antietam: Controversial Crossing on Burnside’s BridgeShould General Ambrose Burnside have ordered his men to wade Antietam Creek? Author Marvel undertook a personal odyssey to find out.
44th Georgia Regiment Volunteers in the American Civil WarThe hard-fighting 44th Georgia suffered some of the heaviest losses of any regiment in the Civil War.
Battle of Antietam: Taking Rohrbach Bridge at Antietam CreekWhile Union commander George McClellan fumed and the Battle of Antietam hung in the balance, a handful of Rebels held off Federal troops at 'Burnside Bridge.'
Battle of Champion’s HillWith Ulysses S. Grant's army steadily menacing Vicksburg, Confederate General John Pemberton left the town's comforting defenses to seek out the enemy army. Too late, he found it, at Champion's Hill.
Frederick Stowe: In the Shadow of Uncle Tom’s CabinThe fame of novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe followed her son throughout the Civil War.
Battle of Shiloh: The Devil’s Own DayAt a small Methodist meeting house in southwestern Tennessee, Union and Confederate armies met for a 'must-win' battle in the spring of 1862. No one, however, expected the bloodbath that ensued. It was, said General William Sherman, 'the Devil's own day.'
America’s Civil War: Union Soldiers Hanged in North CarolinaEight months after Major General George E. Pickett led his famous charge, he hanged Union prisoners in North Carolina.

Articles 2

J.E.B. Stuart’s RevengeA stolen hat and wounded pride spurred Southern cavalryman J.E.B. Stuart into action. His vengeance would be swift, daring, and--unexpectedly--funny.
Union General Judson KilpatrickUnion General Judson Kilpatrick was flamboyant, reckless, tempestuous, and even licentious. In some respects he made other beaux sabreurs like fellow-cavalrymen George Custer and J. E. B. Stuart seem dull.
Battle of Wilson’s CreekThe Battle of Wilson's Creek helped to keep a critical border state out of the Confederacy.
Father John B. Tabb: Aboard Confederate Blockade RunnersFather John B. Tabb, an unreconstructed Rebel to the end, had served the Confederacy aboard blockade runners.
Confederate General Samuel GarlandWhen Samuel Garland fell at South Mountain, the Confederacy lost a promising general and a proven leader.
Battle of Ball’s BluffConfederate soldiers drove inexperienced Union troops acting on faulty intelligence into the Potomac River like lemmings.
Brigadier General John Gibbon’s Brief Breach During the Battle of FredericksburgAlthough overshadowed by the doomed Federal attack on the Confederate center, General John Gibbon's 2nd Division managed -- however briefly -- to make a breakthrough on the Union left.
Brigadier General Thomas F. MeagherBrigadier General Thomas F. Meagher, the colorful leader of the Irish Brigade, fought many battles--not all of them with the enemy.
America’s Civil War: Fort Wagner and the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer InfantryThe doomed assault on Fort Wagner won the 54th Massachusetts a place in history, but did not win the battle for the North. No regiment could have carried the fort that day.
Gas Balloons: View From Above the Civil War BattlefieldLed by pioneering balloonist Thaddeus Lowe, daredevil aeronauts on both sides of the war took to the skies in flimsy balloons to eyeball their opponents' every move. Soldiers on the ground often did not take kindly to the unwanted attention.
1st Louisiana Special Battalion at the First Battle of ManassasRecruited from New Orleans' teeming waterfront by soldier of fortune Roberdeau Wheat, the 1st Louisiana Special Battalion more than lived up to its pugnacious nickname--Wheat's Tigers--at the First Battle of Manassas.
THE CLASSICS: Ambrose Bierce’s Civil War (Book Review)Reviewed by Peter S. CarmichaelEdited by William McCann Ambrose Bierce’s Civil War, edited by William McCann, reveals Bierce’s wartime experiences through his vivid accounts. When considering the violence and intense trauma experienced by Civil War soldiers, their letters and memoirs reveal very little about the true horrors of combat. Letters were public matters that the …
THE CLASSICS: The Iron Brigade (Book Review)Reviewed by Peter S. CarmichaelBy Alan T. Nolan Alan T. Nolan pioneered the modern regimental history with The Iron Brigade. The voices of the "Black Hat Boys," who comprised one of the fiercest combat units in the Army of the Potomac, still resound in The Iron Brigade, by Alan T. Nolan. George Pickett, although not …
Vicksburg: The Campaign That Opened the Mississippi (Book Review)Reviewed by Mike Oppenheim By Michael B. BallardUniversity of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 2004 Popular writers tell us the Confederacy successfully fought off the Union until July 1863. Then came Vicksburg and Gettysburg, after which defeat became inevitable. Meant to satisfy both sides, this traditional view pays too much attention to the stalemate in the …
Vicksburg: The Campaign That Opened the Mississippi (Book Review)Reviewed by Brian J. MurphyBy Michael B. BallardUniversity of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 490 pages Michael B. Ballard’s new book on the Vicksburg campaign offers a refreshing experience. The research is exhaustive, and the writing is lively. It may not be surprising that a Mississippi historian would put a slightly Southern slant on the …
Battle of ShepherdstownThe savage little Battle of Shepherdstown made for a bloody coda to the 1862 Maryland campaign.
John Cabell Early Remembers GettysburgMajor General Jubal Early's nephew recalled the famous meeting on July 1 between his uncle and General Robert E. Lee during the 1863 invasion of Pennsylvania.
America’s Civil War Comes to West PointThough the Corps of Cadets was forced apart by political differences in 1860-61, and passions grew intense, there were more tears than hurrahs among the Northerners when their Southern friends resigned. The last institution to divide, the Academy was one of the first to reunite.
America’s Civil War: Front Royal Was the Key to the Shenandoah ValleyThe pretty little town of Front Royal, in the Shenandoah Valley, had a strategic value that belied its size. As Stonewall Jackson knew, it was the key to the valley, the state of Virginia and the war itself.
Eyewitness Account: A Tar Heel at GettysburgAfter capture, Lawrence D. Davis had to undergo being reviewed by 'big & fat' Ben Butler.
THE CLASSICS: The Passing of Armies : An Account Of The Final Campaign Of The Army Of The Potomac (Book Review)Reviewed by Peter S. Carmichael By Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain Fame for his actions at Little Round Top has overshadowed the rest of Joshua Chamberlain’s historical résumé. Admirers and critics alike tend to reduce his wartime contributions to a single but decisive moment on July 2, 1863. The Bowdoin College professor is partially to blame for …
THE CLASSICS: Four Years With General LeeReviewed by Peter S. Carmichael By Walter Herron Taylor Of all Robert E. Lee’s subordinates, few were better qualified to write a history of the Army of Northern Virginia than Walter Herron Taylor. Taylor’s Four Years With General Lee, published in 1877, stands as one of the standard works on the Army of Northern Virginia. …
Donnybrook: The Battle of Bull Run, 1861 (Book Review)Reviewed by Dan Monroe By David Detzer Harcourt In Donnybrook: The Battle of Bull Run, 1861, retired history professor David Detzer returns to the battle that made plain the bloody intensity that was to characterize the Civil War in the Eastern theater. Caught up in a surging tide of Northern public opinion favoring aggressive action, …
America’s Civil War: Pre-dawn Assault on Fort StedmanLed by select groups of sharpshooters, the weary, muddy troops of the Army of Northern Virginia made one last desperate push to break out of Petersburg.
Second Battle of Bull Run: Destruction of the 5th New York ZouavesThe Texas Brigade tide bore down on the isolated 5th New York Zouaves at Second Bull Run. A fine regiment was about to be destroyed.
Battle of Gettysburg: Union Cavalry AttacksAfter the conclusion of Pickett's Charge, ill-advised Union cavalry attacks killed dozens of Federal horsemen and a promising brigadier general.
Major General George Stoneman Led the Last American Civil War Cavalry RaidEven as General Robert E. Lee was surrendering at Appomattox, a vengeful Union cavalry horde led by Maj. Gen. George Stoneman made Southern civilians pay dearly for the war. It was a last brutal lesson in the concept of total warfare.
Battle of Antietam: Carnage in a CornfieldMr. Miller's humble cornfield near Antietam Creek became the unlikely setting for perhaps the worst fighting of the entire Civil War.
Battle of Resaca: Botched Union AttackWilliam Tecumseh Sherman waited expectantly to hear that his accomplished young protégé, James B. McPherson, had successfully gotten astride the railroad at Resaca and cut off the Confederate line of retreat. Hours went by with no word from McPherson. What was 'Mac' doing in Snake Creek Gap?
Lieutenant Colonel Horace C. Porter: Eyewitness to the Surrender at AppomattoxLieutenant Colonel Horace C. Porter provides a firsthand account of Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House in April 1865.

Articles 3

Edwin Booth Saved Robert Todd Lincoln’s LifeA Lincoln family incident during the Civil War became a remarkable snippet of assassination lore.
America’s Civil War: Assault at PetersburgSixth Corps Yankees stumbled out of their earthworks and toward the muddy pits of the Army of Northern Virginia. It was the beginning of the end at Petersburg.
37th North Carolina Infantry Regiment in the American Civil WarThe service of the 37th North Carolina epitomized the grit and determination of Tar Heel fighters.
Battle of Gettysburg: Fighting at Little Round TopThe Battle of Gettysburg, and perhaps the fate of the Union, was decided in one hour of desperate fighting on the rocky ledges of Little Round Top.
Life at West Point of Future Professional American Civil War OfficersWhether they spent their energy studying or sneaking off to Benny Havens's tavern, the future professional officers of the Civil War left West Point with enough stories for a lifetime -- and an enduring common bond.
African American Troops of Company K, 9th Cavalry Fought in the Battle of Fort LancasterCaptain William Frohock, Lieutenant Frederick Smith and the black troopers of Company K, 9th Cavalry, received an after-Christmas surprise from Kickapoo raiders in 1867.
Truth Behind U.S. Grant’s Yazoo River BenderMurky facts and contradictions confuse the story of a purported 1863 drinking spree by the general.
First Battle of Bull Run: The U.S MarinesWith hordes of eager Confederates gathering at Manassas, panicky Union commanders massed whatever forces they could in the nation's capital. Among those answering the call were the U.S. Marines. Manassas, however, would not be one of their shining moments.
Sullivan Ballou: The Macabre Fate of a American Civil War MajorMajor Sullivan Ballou gained fame for the poignant letter he wrote to his wife before the First Battle of Bull Run. Not so well known is that after he was mortally wounded in that fight, Confederates dug up, decapitated and burned his body.
America’s Civil War: George Custer and Stephen RamseurGeorge Custer and Dodson Ramseur had a friendship that survived the Civil War -- until the Battle of Cedar Creek.
Eyewitness to America’s Civil War: William W. PattesonTeenager William W. Patteson fled his Virginia farm and fought at the Battle of Cedar Mountain.
America’s Civil War: Union General Phil Sheridan’s ScoutsCivil War Union General Phil Sheridan put together a group of daring scouts who wore Rebel uniforms and captured Confederate irregulars, dispatches and generals.
America’s Civil War: John Mosby and George Custer Clash in the Shenandoah ValleyWhen Civil War's John Singleton Mosby's Partisan Rangers clashed with George A. Custer's Union Cavalry, the niceties of war were the first casualty. Reprisal and counter reprisal became the order of the day.
Harry Macarthy: The Bob Hope of the ConfederacyHe could make tired soldiers laugh, and his 'Bonnie Blue Flag' churned southern audiences into a frenzy. That was why Harry Macarthy was loved from one end of the confederacy to the other.
Madame Loreta Janeta Velazquez: Heroine or HoaxerMadame Loreta Janeta Velazquez wrote a controversial memoir disclosing her activities as a double agent and brave soldier during the Civil War.
Battle of Gettysburg: Confederate General Richard Ewell’s Failure on the HeightsFor the second day in a row, Confederate General Richard Ewell inexplicably failed to take the offensive at Gettysburg. 'The fruits of victory, Robert E. Lee lamented, had not been gathered.
Did Lt. Gen. Richard Ewell Lose the Battle of GettysburgAfter disobeying Robert E. Lee's orders to avoid a general engagement at Gettysburg, Lt. Gen. Richard Ewell received an order to 'press those people.' His failure to do so created a controversy that survives to this day.
Battle of Kernstown: Stonewall Jackson’s Only DefeatA furious Stonewall Jackson watched impotently as his proud Confederates stumbled down the hillside at Kernstown, Va. 'Give them the bayonet,' Jackson implored -- but no one obeyed.
Ulysses S. Grant’s Lifelong Struggle With AlcoholThroughout his legendary military and political career, U.S. Grant battled accusations that he was overly fond of the bottle. Did his alleged excessive drinking make him an alcoholic, or for that matter, did he really drink that much more that the average man of the nineteenth century?
America’s Civil War: Stonewall Jackson’s Last DaysDr. Hunter McGuire, Stonewall Jackson's 27-year-old medical director, chronicled the general's last days.
Second Battle of Winchester: Richard Ewell Takes CommandOne month after Stonewall Jackson's death at Chancellorsville, Robert E. Lee turned to Stonewall's trusted lieutenant, Richard Ewell, to cover his invasion of the North. Was 'Old Bald Head' up to the challenge?
America’s Civil War: XI Corps Fight During the Chancellorsville CampaignDisliked and distrusted by their comrades in the Army of the Potomac, the men of the XI Corps would find their reputation further damaged by a twilight encounter with Stonewall Jackson's troops in the dark woods at Chancellorsville.
Battle of Chancellorsville: Day OneNew Union commander 'Fighting Joe' Hooker planned to encircle Robert E. Lee at the Virginia crossroads hamlet of Chancellorsville. The plan seemed to be working perfectly, until....
Battle of VicksburgUlysses S. Grant thought his formidable Army of the Tennessee could take Vicksburg from a 'beaten' foe by direct assault. He was wrong, thanks to near-impregnable fortifications, renewed Southern spirit, and surprisingly suspect Northern generalship.
Battle of CorinthThe strategic railroad town of Corinth was a key target for Confederate armies hoping to march north in support of General Braxton Bragg's invasion of Kentucky.
America’s Civil War: Robert E. Lee and James Longstreet at Odds at GettysburgAt Gettysburg, Longstreet told Lee that a direct assault would end in disaster -- but Pickett's Charge went forward anyway.
The Irish Brigade Fought in America’s Civil WarTheir casualties were enormous but their courage and capacity for fun were legendary. General Lee, himself, gave highest praise to these Yankees of the Irish Brigade.
Battle of Gettysburg and American MythologyMuch of what Americans believe about Gettysburg is myth, but their flawed knowledge of the battle nevertheless serves to sanctify their national memory of the fight.
Grierson’s Raid During the Vicksburg CampaignU.S. Grant, bogged down outside Vicksburg, needed a diversion to ease his way. He got just that from a music teacher turned cavalryman--one who hated horses, at that.
Drones in the Great Hive: A Letter from an African-American Civil War SoldierChristian A. Fleetwood -- an African-American Medal of Honor-winner -- writes bitterly of the way the Union army treats its black soldiers.

Articles 4

Who Was the Common Soldier of America’s Civil WarCommon Soldier of the Civil War. Here's what the statistics tell us.
America’s Civil War: Last Ditch Rebel Stand at PetersburgAfter nearly 10 months of trench warfare, Confederate resistance at Petersburg, Va., suddenly collapsed. Desperate to save his army, Robert E. Lee called on his soldiers for one last miracle.
America’s Civil War: The South’s Feuding GeneralsIt sometimes seemed that Southern generals were more interested in fighting each other than in fighting Yankees. Their inability to get along together contributed greatly to the South's demise.
Battle of Boydton Plank Road: Major General Winfield Scott Hancock Strikes the Southside RailroadWith Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia stubbornlyclinging to Petersburg, Ulysses S. Grant decided to cut its vital rail lines. To perform the surgery, he selected one of the North's proven heroes -- Major General Winfield Scott Hancock.
An Englishman’s Journey Through the Confederacy During America’s Civil WarSuave, gentlemanly Lt. Col. Arthur Fremantle of Her Majesty's Coldstream Guards picked an unusual vacation spot: the Civil War-torn United States.
War Watchers at Bull Run During America’s Civil WarA crowd of Washington politicos, socialites, and newsmen came out to watch the war's first real battle, along northern Virginia's Bull Run. For most, the view was as disappointing as the fight's outcome. But a few got to see all the action they could handle, and more.
Battle of Nashville: Enemies Front and RearUnion forces under George H. Thomas destroyed the Confederate Army of Tennessee at Nashville as Thomas endured his own battle of resolve with Ulysses S. Grant.
The Fall of VicksburgOn July 4, 1863, Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton surrendered the Confederate bastion of Vicksburg, Mississippi, to Union forces under Major General Ulysses S. Grant. The surrender brought an end to 47 days of unendurable siege, but it also brought an end to Confederate control of the Mississippi River.
Major General J.E.B. Stuart: Last Stand of the Last KnightMajor General J.E.B. Stuart posted his horsemen at Yellow Tavern -- between Union attackers and Richmond -- and waited for the collision. It would come with a deadliness he could never have imagined.
Battle of Brawner’s Farm: Black Hat Brigade’s Baptism of FireJohn Gibbon's mostly green Midwestern troops found themselves in quite a scrape as the sun set on August 28, 1862.
Camp William Penn: Training Ground for FreedomUnder the stern but sympathetic gaze of Lt. Col. Louis Wagner, some 11,000 African-American soldiers trained to fight for their freedom at Philadelphia's Camp William Penn. Three Medal of Honor recipients would pass through the camp's gates.
America’s Civil War: Philip SheridanAt an obscure railroad station in northern Mississippi, an equally obscure Union cavalry colonel faced a personal and professional moment of truth. His name was Phil Sheridan, and his coolness and dash clearly marked him for bigger things.
Siege of Petersburg: The City and Citizens Were Impacted from the StartCircled by Confederate trenches, hard pressed by Union forces, the people of Petersburg had nothing left to do but endure -- and pray for a miracle.
Winchester, Virginia: A Town Embattled During America’s Civil WarWinchester, Virginia, saw more of the war than any other place North or South.
Northern Volunteer Nurses of America’s Civil WarA cadre of dedicated Northern women from all walks of life traveled to the charnel houses of the Civil War to care for the sick and wounded.
Battle of the Wilderness With General Robert E. LeeAs the Union army crossed the Rapidan River to commence its powerful 1864 spring offensive, Confederate General Robert E. Lee scrambled to divine his enemy's intentions. But not even Lee could fully pierce the fog of war.
Reno Gang’s Reign Of TerrorLong before the James brothers began robbing trains, the Reno brothers tried their hand at it in post--Civil War Indiana, but the outlaw Hoosiers' reign didn't last long.By William Bell
Old Dominion Brigade in America’s Civil WarThe Virginia regiments originally under the brigade command of William Mahone seemed to save their best for last. After two years of average service, they became Robert E. Lee's go-to troops in the Wilderness and at Petersburg's Crater.
Eyewitness to American Civil War: Iron Brigade Soldier’s Wartime LettersTimothy Webster survived Fredericksburg and Gettysburg with the Iron Brigade, but not Petersburg.
Battle of Monroe’s Cross RoadsUnion General William Sherman considered Judson Kilpatrick, his cavalry chief, 'a hell of a damn fool.' At Monroe's Cross Roads, N.C., his carelessness and disobedience of orders proved Sherman's point.
Battle of Yellow TavernBadly misunderstanding his opponent's intentions, Jeb Stuart played into Phil Sheridan's hands at Yellow Tavern. A swirling cavalry fight ensued.
America’s Civil War: May 2001 LettersPreservation Donation Thank you so very much, Primedia History Group, for your generous donation of $9,778 to the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust. These proceeds from your recent Chancellorsville reenactment at Ft. Pickett, Va., September 22-24 are a wonderful indication of the support and loyalty of participating reenactors. The gift will allow our organization to purchase …
Book Review: Conceived in Liberty: Joshua Chamberlain, William Oates, and the American Civil War (by Mark Perry) : CWTConceived in Liberty: Joshua Chamberlain, William Oates, and the American Civil War, by Mark Perry, Viking Penguin, New York, (800) 331-4624, 500 pages, $31.95. Joshua Chamberlain of the 20th Maine is the closest thing we have to a Civil War pop idol. Entire conferences focus on him, artists grind out image after image for an …
Book Review: A Place Called Appomattox (by William Marvel): CWTA Place Called Appomattox, by William Marvel, University of North Carolina Press, 400 pages, $34.95. The history industry is replete with scholars hawking startling, or at least intriguing, reinterpretations of familiar stories. Revisionism is the engine that keeps the history presses rolling, and in past years William Marvel has made a fair dollar–and inspired a …
Book Review: A Worth Tribute, Gods and Generals by Jeff Shaara — CWTA WORTHY TRIBUTEGods and Generals by Jeff Shaara is the “prequel” to his late father’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Killer Angels. Ronald Maxwell, director of the movie Gettysburg, which was based on Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels, was the prime instigator of the younger Shaara’s efforts toward his new novel. We may hope that Maxwell …
Book Review: Stonewall Jackson: The Man, the Soldier, the Legend (James I. Robertson) : CWTStonewall Jackson: The Man, the Soldier, the Legend,by James I Robertson, Jr. (Macmillian, New York, 950 pages, $40). Forty years have passed since the publication of the last scholarly biography on Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. That’s hard to believe, considering that millions of tons of paper and barrels of ink have been conscripted to publish …
Book Review: Conquering the Valley (Robert K. Krick) : CWTCONQUERING THE VALLEY The heart of Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s 1862 Shenandoah Valley Campaign spanned six weeks and ended near the place it had begun: Port Republic, in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains. There and at Cross Keys, a village five miles northwest of Port Republic, Jackson’s army defeated two Union forces on …
Book Review: The Men Stood Like Iron: How the Iron Brigade Won Its Name (Lance J. Herdegen) : CWTThe Men Stood Like Iron: How the Iron Brigade Won Its Name, by Lance J. Herdegen, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 288 pages, $24.95. Civil War veterans always argued among themselves about whose unit could fight harder, march farther, or steal more chickens. In the Union army, regiments of the “Iron Brigade of the West” seemed …
Book Review: General John Pope (by Peter Cozzans): CWTGeneral John Pope: A Life for the Nation, by Peter Cozzens, University of Illinois Press, Urbana and Chicago, 474 pages, $39.95.. The bombastic Union general John Pope knew how to provoke people. The usually unflappable Robert E. Lee called Pope a “miscreant” after Pope declared a harder war on Virginia civilians during the summer of …
Book Review: Ulysses S. Grant: Soldier and President (Geoffrey Perret) : CWTUlysses S. Grant: Soldier and President, by Geoffrey Perret, Random House, New York, (800) 762-0600, 560 pages, $35. It is one of the puzzles of Civil War scholarship that Ulysses S. Grant has rarely been the subject of a full-length biography–much less one favorably disposed toward its subject. Geoffrey Perret, the author of several biographies …

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