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Confederate Army

Facts, information and articles about Confederate Army during The Civil War

Confederate Army Flag (1865)
Confederate Army Flag (1865)

Confederate Army summary: The Confederate Army was the army of the Confederate States of America during The Civil War. In 1860, shortly after the election of Abraham Lincoln, southern states began seceding from the union. On February 8, 1861, delegates from Southern states adopted the Provisional Constitution of the Confederate States of America, and soon after established a volunteer army. After the attack on Fort Sumter began the civil war, confederate President Jefferson Davis took charge of the army. After four years fighting, it was defeated by the Union Army, ending the Civil War. Though estimates vary, it is said that between 750,000 to 1 million soldiers fought at some time in the confederate army, about half the size of the Union Army.

Confederate Army History

The confederacy was created at the start of the American Civil War. In 1860, when Abraham Lincoln won the election, the southern states began seceding from the Union. They decided to create a confederacy and thus having an organization by which to make decisions. The strength of the Confederate Army was half of the Union Army. There were only so many soldiers who were against the Federal Forces and the Central government.

There were not only Army men of the Union in the Confederate Army, but also the prisoners who were captured in the war from different skirmishes. They also included the Native Americans. There were around 28,693 Native Americans who served both in the Union and Confederate Army. The Confederate Army had African Americans and Chinese. The incomplete and destroyed records give an inaccurate number of the numbers that served in Confederate Army, but as far as best estimates 1.5 million soldiers participated in civil war against Union Army.

Leading The Confederate Army

The Confederate Army didn’t have a general-in-chief until late in the war. The President Jefferson Davis himself served as commander-in-chief and provided war strategies to land and Naval forces. After four years of Civil war, the Union Army defeated the Confederate Army. As is the case with many wars, there was a large advancement in technology and weaponry. 

Confederate Army Casualties

The number of casualties of the Confederate Army is not exactly known because they destroyed the records. Estimates of confederate battle deaths are approximately 95,000, with another 200,000 dying from disease and in prison camps.


Articles Featuring Confederate Army From History Net Magazines

The South’s Last Great Victory

By David J. Eicher

For the first year and a half of the Civil War, Southern spirits rode high. But by the fall of 1863, the Confederacy found itself against the ropes.

First came the loss of Kentucky in late 1862. Then the stunning Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg in July 1863, and by September Confederate morale was at its lowest ebb since the beginning of the war. With the Confederacy sliced in two by the loss of the Mississippi River, and the repulse of Robert E. Lee’s vaunted Army of Northern Virginia in the East, Southerners everywhere were wondering whether independence was still realistic. It was obvious a clear-cut, major military victory was desperately needed.

The slipping of Southern hopes possessed Confederates young and old with a sense of the unreal. They had believed Confederate victory and independence were foreordained. The 1864 Johnson’s Elementary Arithmetic had asked Southern schoolchildren, “If one Confed-erate soldier can whip seven Yankees, how many soldiers can whip 49 Yankees?” Patriotism had been furious in most of the South. Although a crisis in confidence had accompanied the disaster in Kentucky, morale rose again and was solid until July 1863.

“All of us are…ripe and ready for the fight,” wrote one soldier from Albemarle County, Va. “I shall be shoulder to shoulder with you when ever the fight comes off. I go for wipeing [sic] them out.”

But gloom spread over the armies and the home front following Vicksburg and Gettys­burg. “I see no prospect now of the South ever sustaining itself,” a paroled Southern private wrote his wife from Vicksburg. “We have lost the Mississippi and our nation is Divided and they is not a nuf left to fight for. I don’t look for eny thing Else but total anahighlation…of the South if She continue to carry on the war for we have a Powerfull nation fighting against us. They have Every thing…while we are half fed.”

The despondency spread far and wide. A movement in North Carolina, for example, began courting a return to the Union. “The men are low spirited and have been ever since they heard of the fall of Vicksburg,” wrote a Louisiana private near Jackson, Miss. “I never saw such a depression.”

A broadside titled “COMMON SENSE,” posted in Dallas County, Texas, claimed that Southern civilians had been deluded by their leaders, and called for a peace convention. It was signed, “One who was at VICKSBURG.”

All this doom and gloom called for swift action and a decisive victory to turn the war’s momentum around. Confederate President Jefferson Davis realized his back was against the wall.

The North, naturally, hoped to continue pressing the advantage, to bring an end to the war as soon as possible. Gettysburg had been the climax of a vast, evolving campaign in the East; Vicksburg had been the result of a months-long series of operations in the West.

And in the center of the divided nation, events in the late summer and early fall were building toward another major military clash.

The principal forces in southern Tennessee at that point were the Union Army of the Cumberland, under Maj. Gen. William Starke Rosecrans, and the Confederate Army of Tennessee, commanded by General Braxton Bragg. Both commanders were interesting characters whose backgrounds and military training would play into the campaign to come. Rosecrans, a 43-year-old Ohioan who graduated fifth in the West Point Class of 1842, had served as an engineer before leaving the Army in 1854 to work in the coal and petroleum industries. He did not serve in the Mexican War.

“Old Rosy,” as he was known, was a well-tempered, jovial man who became quite popular with his men. Somewhat heavy, with soulful eyes, a neatly cropped beard and shaggy hair over his ears, Rosecrans reportedly earned his nickname not because of his name but because of his prominent Roman nose. Rosecrans looked every bit the part of a competent commander.

Early in the war, Rosecrans served as an aide to Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan and participated in the fighting in western Virginia before heading west to join Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck’s Federal army in Mississippi in May 1862. Rosecrans commanded Halleck’s right wing as the army plodded toward Corinth, Miss., and fought at both Iuka and Corinth before transferring to Kentucky to relieve Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell as commander of the former Army of the Ohio.

In December, Rosecrans fought Bragg to a tactical draw at the Battle of Stones River (Murfreesboro), but the Federals claimed victory when Bragg withdrew across the Duck River to Tullahoma, Tenn., on January 3, 1863.

For Rosecrans’ army, the rest of the first six months of the year would be marked by relative inaction and a series of mostly inconsequential cavalry raids before the general began engineering a plan to overrun Rebel positions in southeastern Tennessee.

His adversary again would be Bragg, the 46-year-old general from North Carolina. Bragg, one of Jefferson Davis’ close friends, was otherwise almost universally disliked. He had an intense stare, bushy eyebrows, a thick beard and graying hair trimmed short over his ears. That made him appear severe, and the argumentative, aggressive and sometimes downright mean disposition he displayed—along with frequent liberal bouts of profanity—endeared him to few.

Bragg graduated fifth in the West Point Class of 1837 and had fought against the Seminoles in Florida before compiling a distinguished Mexican War record. He was brevetted for deeds at Buena Vista in February 1847.

But even as a young officer, Bragg was disliked. Twice—in August and September 1847—his troops allegedly tried to kill him. The first time, a shell was placed two feet from his bed. When it exploded, it sent fragments above and below his bed. He was not injured on either occasion, however.

Bragg resigned from the Army in 1856 and became a sugar planter in Louisiana. When war erupted in 1861, he was appointed an aide to Louisiana Governor Thomas Moore, commanding forces in New Orleans, and then was commissioned a brigadier general. Jefferson Davis soon gave him a command of the region on the Gulf of Mexico coastline, from Pensacola, Fla., to Mobile, Ala.

In the fall of 1861, Bragg took command of a corps in General Albert Sidney Johnston’s Army of the Mississippi. Bragg led the Second Corps during the Confederate defeat at Shiloh in early April 1862. After the battle, in which Johnston was killed, Bragg was commissioned a full general, and by the summer he had been named to succeed Johnston’s replacement—P.G.T. Beauregard—as the head of the Army of the Mississippi.

In August, Bragg began his invasion of Kentucky, hoping to bring the purportedly “neutral” border state under Confederate control. The effort ended with the tactical Rebel victory at the Battle of Perryville in October. But the Confederates never followed through on the success at Perryville, and following his clash with Rosecrans at Stones River in December, Bragg left Kentucky altogether.

Bragg’s newly named Army of Tennessee in the late summer of 1863, comprised a right wing commanded by Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk, which included a division under Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Cheatham, a corps under Maj. Gen. Daniel Harvey Hill and the Reserve Corps of Maj. Gen. William H.T. Walker. The army’s left wing was commanded by Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, who had been detached from the Army of Northern Virginia on September 9. That wing contained Maj. Gen. Thomas C. Hindman’s division, Maj. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner’s Corps and Longstreet’s Corps, now commanded by Maj. Gen. John Bell Hood. A cavalry corps, commanded by Maj. Gen. Joseph Wheeler, and a corps under Brig. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest rounded out the Confederate forces in the vicinity.

Rosecrans’ army, meanwhile, consisted of the XIV Corps under Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas, the XX Corps commanded by Maj. Gen. Alexander M. McCook, Maj. Gen. Thomas L. Crittenden’s XXI Corps, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger’s Reserve Corps and Brig. Gen. Robert B. Mitchell’s Cavalry Corps.

By September 1863, Rosecrans had seized the initiative, beginning a series of movements designed to flank Bragg’s army, holed up in Chattanooga. This Tennessee city a few miles from the Georgia border, with a population of 2,540, was not only an important rail center but also a natural military base ringed by mountains. It was intended to be an important launching point for a planned Federal incursion into central Georgia.

Bragg was supposed to do more than just stop Rosecrans from attacking Chattanooga; he was to destroy the Army of the Cumberland in the process. This, Davis calculated, would reignite the waning Southern morale both among troops in the field and on the home front.

Early in September, Rosecrans sent his cavalry south to strike at Bragg’s rear. When Bragg learned of this, he gathered his army and, rather than fight there, withdrew from the city and concentrated at La Fayette, Ga. On September 9, Yankee troops moved into Chattanooga and began celebrating what seemed an easy conquest, never realizing the danger they were in with Bragg’s army still close and their own lines spread over 40 miles.

Authorities in Richmond nevertheless panicked at the rapid Union progress. Davis even considered sending Robert E. Lee to Chattanooga but called off the plan, fearing Virginia’s security would be compromised. He instead chose to send Longstreet’s Corps from Lee’s army.

With the Federals strung out along a series of mountain gaps, Bragg realized he had a special opportunity to catch them off-guard. On September 10, he ordered Hill and Hindman to attack the isolated Union positions, but both generals failed. It was quickly apparent that the opportunity for surprising and routing portions of Rosecrans’ army had been squandered.

The next day, Bragg ordered another attack on Maj. Gen. James S. Negley’s isolated division. Hindman, however, chose not to follow the order, believing he needed more information before he could proceed.

On the 12th, Bragg angrily commanded Hindman again to attack Negley, but Hindman inexplicably withdrew first to the north before reversing himself and moving his men south. By this time, Negley had realized the danger and had withdrawn to the south.

Meanwhile, Nathan Bedford Forrest’s cavalry had located the whereabouts of General Crittenden’s corps. When Forrest provided the information to Leonidas Polk, however, Polk hesitated rather than taking decisive action, wasting valuable time. That gave Crittenden time to realize the danger he was in and concentrate his forces.

Bragg finally arrived on the scene on the 13th, but when he realized none of his generals had followed through on his orders, he was livid.


It was now apparent to Rosecrans that Bragg was assembling his army for an attack. Bragg began concentrating his force along Chickamauga Creek, a small stream in Georgia not far from Chattanooga, named in Cherokee dialect for a smallpox outbreak that had occurred along its banks. Chickamauga translated to “river of death.”

On September 18, Bragg’s army was in position. By placing himself between the Yankees and Chattanooga, he was hoping to force Rosecrans’ hand. Rosecrans took the bait.

The Battle of Chickamauga erupted the following day at Jay’s Mill, and quickly spread south to a point near Lee and Gordon’s Mill. The fields, cabins and woods in the area witnessed repeated, rolling attacks that resulted in mostly temporary gains for both sides. Kelly Field, Brock Field, the Poe Cabin, Viniard Field, the Winfrey House and Alexander’s Bridge all gained a measure of instant fame during the day’s action.

The battle was renewed on the 20th as Bragg again stabbed toward Chattanooga, inciting engagements along a long north-south battle line. If not for a stroke of timing, the fight might have continued at its bloody yet unspectacular pace. Union Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Wood was ordered to move his division to support another area, creating a quarter-mile gap in the Federal line. At nearly the same moment, Longstreet sent six divisions forward, plowing through and sending the Yankees back in startled confusion in one of the most decisive frontal attacks of the war.

“Now the enemy are in plain view along the road covering our entire front,” wrote James R. Carnahan, a captain in the 86th Indiana Infantry. “You can see them, as with cap visors drawn well down over their eyes, the gun at the charge, with short, shrill shouts they come, and we see the colors of Longstreet’s corps, flushed with victory, confronting us.”

“The men rush over the hastily-constructed breastworks of logs and rails of the foe, with the old time familiar rebel yell, and, wheeling then to the right, the column sweeps the enemy before it, and pushes along the Chattanooga road towards Missionary Ridge in pursuit,” wrote Captain William Miller Owen, a staff officer in Confederate Brig. Gen. William Preston’s division. “It is glorious!”

Pushed to a series of hills northwest of the center of the field, the last Federal remnants held fast to a region known as Horseshoe Ridge, which included Snodgrass Hill and a little cabinlike house owned by George Washington Snodgrass. The Rebels had the Yankees on the run; only Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas and the small Federal force that remained held the ground here, earning Thomas the sobriquet “Rock of Chickamauga.”

It was a desperate day, but Thomas’ resistance prevented a rout and allowed Rosecrans and the bulk of the Union army to scurry back to Chattanooga. “The Union line held the crest. Longstreet was stayed at last,” recalled Lt. Col. Gates P. Thruston, a Federal staff officer. “Gathering new forces, he soon sent a flanking column around our right. We could not extend our line to meet this attack….For a time the fate of the Union army hung in the balance. All seemed lost, when unexpected help came from Gordon Granger and the right was saved.”

The battle was a Union disaster and a spectacular—albeit brief—Confederate return to domination.

Chickamauga caused such panic in Washington that President Abraham Lincoln initiated an enormous movement to reinforce Rosecrans’ apparently stunned and mauled army.

The new star of the Federal army, Ulysses S. Grant, would arrive to personally supervise the rebuilding of the army, now penned in at Chattanooga and depleted of food and supplies.

A week after the battle, Confederate nurse Kate Cumming recorded her impressions of the wounded who had been left behind. “As we rode out of the yard, I tried to look neither to the right nor the left, for I knew that many eyes were sadly gazing at us from their comfortless sheds and tents,” she wrote. “I could do nothing for the poor fellows, and when that is the case, I try to steel my heart against their sorrows.”

The strategic legacy of Chickamauga was huge. The Confederates had whipped the Federals and sent a flurry of renewed hope through battle lines all across the South. Comfort that the war wasn’t slipping away was restored throughout much of the Confederate home front. Rosecrans’ army had been pushed north in confusion. Perhaps the only negative aspect of the battle for the Rebels was that they had failed to pursue and crush more enemy troops, which had been a realistic possibility.

The cost was frightful: Of about 58,000 Union soldiers engaged, 1,657 were killed, 9,756 wounded and 4,757 missing. Of 66,000 Confederates engaged, there were 2,312 killed, 14,674 wounded and 1,468 missing.

The loss in north Georgia sent chills through the authorities in Washington—particularly bitter for politicians, citizens and officers alike in the wake of the stunning Union victories that summer.

Despite the victory, the gruff, argumentative and demanding Bragg found himself with few friends. Ridiculed by many subordinate commanders for not aggressively pursuing the fleeing Yankees—especially by Polk and Longstreet—Bragg found that as he moved his forces into position around Chattanooga, few soldiers or officers held any confidence in him.

Bragg blamed D.H. Hill for not following orders, and Buckner emerged as one of Longstreet’s anti-Bragg allies. This situation produced one of the most remarkable stories of conspiracy in the entire war.

On October 4, furious over what they envisioned as Bragg’s incompetence, this core of general officers launched a cabal against Bragg by planning to send a petition to President Davis for his removal as commander of the Army of Tennessee. Written by Buckner, the document was signed by 11 general officers. Major General John C. Breckinridge hated Bragg so thoroughly that he declined to sign, believing his signature might actually dampen the chances of the petition taking effect.

In the end, the signers decided not to submit the document to Davis, and it was filed away with Longstreet’s papers. Instead, Bragg held a council of war and listened as his corps commanders denounced his ability to lead the army.

Polk assumed temporary command, and Hill was singled out and removed from command. Bragg had resumed command of the army by November 7, however.

Fighting continued in the region in the immediate wake of Chickamauga. As the third autumn of the war began, the Confederates remained besieged; the tremendous tactical success of Chickamauga did not turn around the desperate Southern fortunes after all. Though exhausted, the Federals maintained their hold on Chattanooga.

In Washington, alarm over the battered condition of Rosecrans’ army had led to the largest troop reinforcement in U.S. military history. Assistant Secretary of War Charles A. Dana telegraphed Secretary of War Edwin Stanton with his concerns in late September, and Stanton ordered the entire XI and XII Corps, 23,300 men, 10 batteries, and all their equipment, horses and mules to move quickly by rail to Chattanooga. The Union troops went from Virginia through Maryland to the Ohio River, through central Ohio to southern Indiana and south through Kentucky and Tennessee.

By October 2 the first Federal troops from the Army of the Potomac would arrive at Bridgeport, Ala., having traveled 1,159 miles in seven days. Longstreet, meanwhile, would move his force to eastern Tennessee to face Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside, a second-rate assignment that he nevertheless found preferable to remaining with Bragg.

The key result of Chickamauga for the South was the palpable rise in Southern morale. The belief in ultimate Confederate victory had gained strength following this battle in remote northern Georgia; it would rise slightly more after the first clash with Grant in the Wilderness in the spring of 1864.

But after that, morale would again sink into despair as the final summer of the war began. The Federal breakthrough in Georgia, the fall of Atlanta, Lincoln’s re-election—those and more signaled a precipitous fall in Confederate hopes. In more ways than one, the Battle of Chickamauga, though fought by a despised commander, would be the South’s “Last Great Victory.”

David J. Eicher is editor of Astronomy magazine and is the author of several books on the Civil War. He might be the only contributor to this issue with a minor planet (3617 Eicher) named for him.

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