Facts, information and articles about Union Army during The Civil War
Union Army summary: The Union Army (aka the Federal Army, or Northern Army) was the army that fought for the Union (or North) during the the American Civil War. Actually, it was comprised of several armies, to cover the many departments (geographic regions) in which the war was fought. Union armies were named for primary bodies of water within their department; hence, the Army of the Potomac (the largest Union army), Army of the Ohio, Army of the Cumberland, Army of the Tennessee, etc. These armies were comprised of U.S. regulars (professional soldiers of the regular United States Army (the Federal army), and the volunteer units supplied by the Northern and Western states and territories. At the end of the Civil War in 1865, the Union Army was victorious over the Confederate Army.
Make-up Of The Union Army
The United States had always maintained a small army; the Founding Fathers feared a large army could be used by a Napoleon-like figure to overthrow the democratically elected government. In times of crisis, the various states were expected to provide volunteer militias of citizen-soldiers to swell the army’s ranks until the crisis had been dealt with. Accordingly, when the Civil War broke out, the U.S. Army had only about 26,000 men, scattered from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Weakening it further, a large portion of its West Point–educated officer corps resigned to fight for their home states of the South. Likewise, the cavalry arm was predominantly composed of Southerners who left to join the armies of the Confederacy. Only the artillery saw few, if any defections; this is one of the reasons that Union artillery enjoyed superiority over that of the South throughout the war.
After Fort Sumter was fired on, President Abraham Lincoln called for 75,000 ninety-day volunteers to suppress the Southern rebellion. From beginning to end, state units made up the vast majority of the army. To distinguish these amateurs from the professionals of the regular army, soldiers in the regular army wore uniforms of dark blue coat and pants; volunteers wore dark blue coats but light blue pants.
Ethnic Groups in the Union Army
Famines in Ireland and Germany had caused many citizens of those countries to immigrate to America in the two decades preceding the war. The California gold rush attracted newcomers from all parts of the globe, including the Orient. Many of these immigrants joined the Union Army; the XI Corps of the Army of the Potomac was known as "The Dutchman’s Corps" because it included so many German immigrants, but it became something of a catch-all corps for foreign-born recruits from throughout Europe and even the Mideast.
Another large group in the army were men from Ireland. There were several Irish regiments on both sides of the war, but the most famous unit was the Irish Brigade of the Army of the Potomac that was raised by Thomas Francis Meagher and originally comprised only of New York regiments of Irishmen.
Around 25% white Americans of the Union Army were foreign-born. In part, this was because most immigrants were poor; the Lincoln Administration used several drafts to get new recruits, but a man could escape the draft if he paid someone to serve in his place. Most immigrants couldn’t afford to buy their way out and were, in fact, prime candidates to serve as paid "substitutes." In 1863, anti-draft riots broke out in New York City, starting in the Irish ghettos. They soon became the most violent riots of American history. Troops were sent with orders to kill if necessary.
Most foreign-born soldiers were from Europe, but Asians also served. Soldiers from some ethnic groups were born in America, however, including many from the native tribes. Indeed, there was a civil war within the Civil War between Indians who chose to fight for one side or the other. Initially, the military rejected black troops, but as casualties mounted and abolitionists pressed Lincoln to allow black men to serve they were finally admitted. About 200,000 served in the Union Army and Navy. Some were former slaves; others had been born freemen.
Desertion was a problem for both armies. It is estimated that some 200,000 men deserted from the Union armies during the course of the war. Some of these were "bounty jumpers" who accepted pay to serve as a substitute, then deserted, went to a different area and offered to serve as someone else’s substitute to get paid again, repeating the scam as long as they could get away with it.
The North’s advantage in manufacturing assured more ready supplies of everything from shoes to cartridges than Confederates received. The image of the well-dressed Union Army solider fighting the ragged, barefoot Southerner is more than a bit romanticized, however. Campaigning wore out Northern uniforms and shoes, too, and when commanders like Ulysses S. Grant in the Vicksburg Campaign and William Tecumseh Sherman in Georgia and the Carolinas cut loose from their supply lines, Northern manufacturing capacity made little difference. Many of their soldiers marched barefoot in ragged clothes as well.
Union Army Casualties
Accurate numbers from this period are impossible, but estimates of Union casualties are approximately 110,000 killed in battle, 225,000 deaths from disease and 30,000 deaths in Confederate prison camps.
Articles Featuring Union Army From History Net Magazines
By Ron Soodalter
Disgrace was a fate worse than death for a soldier. And thousands of soldiers died to prove it
Honor is a complicated word to define. The concept of honor, according to historian and ethicist Bertram Wyatt-Brown, “seems inherently and perversely contradictory: comic and tragic, romantic and shrewd, inhumane and magnanimous, brave and hypocritical, sane and mad.” Yet every conceivable aspect of honor, from its most selfless to its most desperate and deluded, influenced the actions of the privates and generals, the Billy Yanks and Johnny Rebs, from the first shot fired at Fort Sumter to the signing of the surrender at Appomattox in what Sir Winston Churchill would one day call “the last war between gentlemen.”
It can be argued that the opposite of honor is shame, and that fear of the latter inspires defense of the former. Consider a company of soldiers, standing at attention, awaiting the order to charge across an expanse of open field against a defensive position, into the mouths of cannons loaded with grapeshot, rifled muskets charged with bone-smashing .58-caliber Minié balls, and—in the event they make it across the field alive—the bayonets of the enemy. This was a scene played out on countless battlefields throughout the war—and with rare exception, the soldiers followed orders and charged, often into certain death. At Cold Harbor, on the night of June 2, 1864, an aide to General Grant watched as the soldiers pinned or sewed their names into the lining of their blouses and coats—“so that their dead bodies might be recognized upon the field, and their fate made known to their families back home.” Next day, as they charged Lee’s defenses in the face of devastating fire, they unconsciously bent forward, as if fighting their way through a driving storm. And—as they had predicted the night before—they died in droves. One private, seeing his comrades suddenly drop to the ground, assumed they’d been ordered to seek cover; he did likewise, only to discover they were all dead.
The unavoidable question: What can be more precious to a man than his life, and what choice more obvious than flight, when confronted with the possibility—or the certainty—of death? In Stephen Crane’s brilliant novel of the Civil War, The Red Badge of Courage, the young Union volunteer, Henry Fleming, betrays his own sense of personal valor by running from his first skirmish. Overcome with shame and seeing himself as a “craven loon,” Fleming ultimately finds redemption by seizing the company standard in a later engagement and leading his comrades in a successful charge. The shame of being branded a coward had become more loathsome to him than death.
The development of a military code of honor among officers can be traced to the Knights Templar, a religious/military order formed during the Crusades. Under their code of chivalry, a knight was forbidden, on pain of expulsion from the order, to engage in cowardice in battle, conspiracy against a fellow knight, desertion, lying, stealing, sodomy and murder. Over the centuries, such standards were adapted—to greater or lesser degrees—by the armies of various European nations. When the British established themselves in the New World, their military code of honor came with them. As one historian points out, “Honor was the most precious possession of a gentleman. It had no degrees—a gentleman could not lose a little honor….Honor was a mark of distinction that…enabled an officer to command men.”
Naturally, this European-style code of honor informed the first cadets of the fledgling U.S. Military Academy at West Point. During the first half of the 19th century, the academy was the training ground for more than 500 cadets who would serve either the Union or the Confederacy, and West Point’s honor code would influence their conduct throughout the war. Interestingly, this code of honorable behavior was not formally written down until the mid-20th century. In 1819, however, President James Monroe and Secretary of War John C. Calhoun declared West Point’s student body to be members of the Regular Army, and—despite having no written code of their own—the cadets became subject to the Articles of War. In the Articles, acts of conduct dishonorable to the service—lying, stealing, cheating, cowardice—were carefully spelled out, along with the penalty—which, as in the Regular Army, was determined by court-martial and frequently resulted in dismissal from the service.
Insofar as individual conduct was concerned, the cadets often took it upon themselves to deal with those who, in their estimation, had behaved dishonorably. For general infractions, punishment ranged from “coventry”—permanently shunning a fellow cadet—to actually escorting him to the next outbound train.
For offenses to one’s sense of honor, however, there was a darker aspect to this system of redress. Derived from the regular officer’s unwritten code, it followed the rule “Brook no insult.” In the words of one chronicler, “Protecting one’s reputation from all insults or reproofs, actual or imaginary, was one of the most conspicuous requirements of honorable conduct during this era.” Gentlemen who felt the slightest affront were duty-bound to respond with violence. Those who failed to respond either with or to a challenge were viewed as cowards, and faced ostracism. So prevalent was the practice of answering even trivial insults with force that West Point banned cadets from owning pistols or sabers—although many cadets kept weapons hidden away. According to eminent West Point historian James L. Morrison Jr., “The antebellum cadet was pugnacious; his sense of honor was prickly, and an insult or injustice almost inevitably provoked a scuffle….Usually, the altercations were simple fist fights, resulting only in bloody noses and black eyes, but occasionally the combatants resorted to weapons with intent to do bodily harm.”
By the time the cadets graduated from West Point and joined the regular officer corps, the practice of fighting for one’s honor had become second nature; it was no less than was expected by their peers. The Army officially frowned upon dueling among its officers. In fact, Article 25 of the Articles of War prohibited the practice, stating that any officer who engaged in dueling would be cashiered. Article 28 went a step further, and expressly forbade calling a fellow officer a coward for turning down a challenge:
Any officer or soldier who shall upbraid another for refusing a challenge, shall himself be punished as a challenger; and all officers and soldiers are hereby discharged from any disgrace, or opinion of disadvantage which might arise, from their having refused to accept of challenges, as they will only have acted in obedience to the laws, and done their duty as good soldiers, who subject themselves to discipline.
Nonetheless, dueling in the service persisted, practiced by officers who cited a higher moral imperative in the face of a disagreeable—or “dishonorable”—law.
On the field, there was a common saying among the troops that “the post of danger is the post of honor.” No post was more perilous than that of standard bearer, and yet, on either side, there was never a lack of volunteers to carry the flag into battle. In fact, a number of Union soldiers—including the 16-year-old future father of General Douglas MacArthur—were awarded the newly established Medal of Honor for bearing the standard under fire, as well as for capturing the enemy’s flag. One New York colonel recorded the death of his regimental color-bearer at Gettysburg: “Sergeant Michael Cuddy…displayed the most heroic bravery. When he fell, mortally wounded, he rose by convulsive efforts and triumphantly waved in the face of the rebels, not 10 yards distant, that flag he loved so dearly of which he was so proud and for which his valuable life, without a murmur, was freely given up.”
The troops had a favorite anecdote about a soldier in an outfit that was about to engage the enemy. As the regiment formed to charge, and the enemy guns opened up, a rabbit suddenly broke from cover and ran to the rear. A soldier, on seeing the rabbit’s dash for safety, shouted, “Go it, cottontail! I’d go it, too, if it weren’t for my reputation!” Both Yankees and Rebels claimed the story as true, and went so far as to name the soldier involved. It matters not at all who said it, or if the story is, in fact, apocryphal; the message is universal. With the path to safety open before him, the soldier elects to risk death for the sake of his “reputation”—his honor. To run would be to incur the condemnation of his comrades.
To many, the shame of losing was equal to the ignominy of cowardice. When Union General Philip Sheridan trapped Jeb Stuart’s cavalry at Yellow Tavern in May 1864, Stuart—mortally wounded and seeing his men breaking before the Union onslaught—shouted as he was driven from the field, “Go back! Do your duty as I have done mine! I would rather die than be whipped!” It was a sentiment shared by the men of both armies.
At times, soldiers otherwise renowned for their strong sense of honor behaved abysmally. For a century and a half, Maj. Gen. George Pickett has been a revered charter member of the pantheon of Confederate knights, and is known to history as the commander who valiantly led his men in that doomed, glorious charge at Gettysburg. What many students of the war do not know, however, is that he was also responsible for one of its most horrific acts. After mishandling the February 1, 1864, amphibious attack on the Union forces at New Bern, N.C., Pickett captured some 53 Federal prisoners, all of whom were local North Carolinians, and some 22 of whom had previously served in the state’s home guard. Accusing them of desertion—although leaving the home guard was not a crime in the state—he ordered courts-martial for the prisoners. The verdicts were a foregone conclusion, and over the course of the next few weeks, he hanged all 22. In the absence of black hoods, Pickett ordered their heads covered with corn sacks. On a large, hastily built scaffold, he hanged 13 prisoners at one time, including a 14-year-old drummer boy. Their weeping families and friends watched helplessly while his soldiers jeered. Pickett allowed his men to strip the bodies, and buried in a mass grave all who were not claimed by their families.
Union Maj. Gen. John Peck, commander of the District of North Carolina, learned of the trials, and wrote to Pickett, beseeching him not to let his recent “hasty retreat” at New Bern cause him to treat the men as other than prisoners of war. By the time the letter reached Pickett, 20 of the men had already perished, and the remaining two faced imminent death. Pickett replied that deserters deserved to die, and threatened that if Peck hanged any Rebel prisoners in retribution, “I have merely to say that I have in my hands and subject to my orders, captured in the recent operations in this department, some 450 officers and men of the United States army, and for every man you hang, I will hang ten of the United States army.” Within two months, nearly all the other prisoners perished in Rebel prison camps.
Some historians argue that Pickett was merely acting to staunch the flow of desertion, which by this time was a major problem in the Confederate Army. Others have pointed to his embarrassing failure at New Bern as the motivation for his actions. The executions—stunning even in the midst of the slaughter and mayhem of war—inspired the War Department to hold inquiries after the end of hostilities. Pickett, who had escaped with his family to Montreal, was found solely responsible for the atrocities. Denied parole and facing prosecution, he wrote to his old friend and West Point classmate, General Ulysses S. Grant, stating ironically that “certain evil disposed persons are attempting to re-open the troubles of the past,” and asking him to intercede with President Andrew Johnson on his behalf. Grant wrote the president requesting clemency, adding, “Gn. Pickett I know personally to be an honorable man” (emphasis added). A parole was granted George Pickett the same day.
The deeds that reflected the greatest honor were those that exceeded the everyday demands on a soldier’s life and commitment. Fifteen years after the war ended, former Confederate General J.B. Kershaw wrote a letter to the Charleston News and Courier recalling details of a remarkable event. At Fredericksburg in December 1862, after wave upon wave of charging Union troops were cut down by the fire of entrenched Rebels, thousands of wounded Yankees lay stretched and moaning on the frozen ground. No truce was agreed upon for the aid of the wounded or the retrieval of the dead, and the field, blanketed with Federals, was a pitiful sight. Unable to move, men cried out constantly from pain and thirst.
In the sunken road behind the Rebel wall at Marye’s Heights, Richard Kirkland, a 19-year-old sergeant of the 2nd South Carolina Infantry, requested leave of Kershaw to take water to the fallen foe. According to Kershaw’s account, he admonished the youth, “Kirkland, don’t you know you would get a bullet through your head the moment you stepped over the wall?” Kirkland responded, “Yes, sir, I know that. But if you let me, I’m willing to try.” He filled as many canteens as he could carry, and—forbidden to carry a white flag—stepped over the wall, in plain sight of the Union ranks.
Kirkland went from soldier to soldier, administering water, and if asked, a prayer. He refilled the canteens a number of times, and each time he returned to the field, he was met with respectful silence. After an hour and a half, he returned to his own ranks for the last time. No one cheered; no one had to.
There were countless other examples on both sides of soldiers who extended kindness to a vulnerable enemy. As his men were preparing to fire on a Confederate picket line, one Union officer ordered them to stand down, on the premise that it was “nothing but murder to kill a poor picket while on duty.” On another occasion, a Yankee general stood looking through his telescope at the enemy position, whereupon a rock sailed into the soldiers’ rifle pit. Around the rock was tied a note that read, “Tell the fellow with the spy glass to clear out or we shall have to shoot him.”
Contrary to the thinking of many at the time, honor was not the sole provenance of the white race. Following the Emancipation Proclamation, nearly 180,000 blacks enlisted for service in the Union Army. Reviled by their white fellow soldiers, threatened with execution if captured by the enemy, singled out for slaughter at Fort Pillow, Poison Spring and Petersburg, they fought gallantly to establish their rightful place in a restructured America.
By the time the war ended, 16 were awarded the Medal of Honor for “conspicuous gallantry”—and a third of their number had perished—3,000 in action, and some 65,000 from wounds and disease. Abraham Lincoln, in recognizing their contribution, wrote, “[T]here will be some black men who can remember that, with silent tongue, and clenched teeth, and steady eye, and well-poised bayonet, they have helped mankind on to this great consummation.”
Ultimately, honor on the field was a soldier’s most personal possession. Every soldier, from the lowliest private to the most senior commander, had to decide how to comport himself, how to fight and, for hundreds of thousands of men and boys, how to face death. Honor was never far from a soldier’s mind; should he lose sight of it, there were always officers present to hammer it home. In the end, the honorable choice was not always an easy one.
“I can anticipate no greater calamity for the country than the dissolution of the Union,” a colonel in the U.S. Army wrote his son just two months before the opening of hostilities. “It would be an accumulation of all the evils we complain of, and I am willing to sacrifice everything but honor for its preservation.”
The sacrifice was apparently too great for this officer. The author of these pensive words was Robert E. Lee. n
Scrimshander and historian Ron Soodalter is the author of Hanging Captain Gordon: The Life and Trial of an American Slave Trader.
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Battle of Antietam: Federal Flank Attack at Dunker ChurchWith Union Major General Joseph Hooker's I Corps lying shattered in the blood-soaked cornfield at Antietam, Brigadier General George Greene's 'Bully Boys' somehow managed to punch a salient in the Confederate line. But would they be able to hold it?
By Robert C. Cheeks
Battle of Pea RidgeConfederate General Earl Van Dorn expected to march breezily through Missouri, capture St. Louis and fall on Ulysses S. Grant in Tennessee. But at Elkhorn Tavern in northern Arkansas, an outnumbered Union force had other ideas.
Battle of Ox HillWith Union General John Pope reeling in defeat after the Battle of Second Manassas, Stonewall Jackson confidently set out to block Pope's retreat. It would be easy pickings--so Jackson thought.
By Robert James
Battle of Gettysburg: Fury at Bliss FarmBack and forth, for 24 hours, soldiers at Gettysburg contested possession of a no man's land with an incongruous name--Bliss farm.
By John M. Archer
Battle of Gettysburg -- Day TwoIf Robert E. Lee's bold plan of attack had been followed on Day 2 at Gettysburg, there might never have been a third day of fighting. As it was, confusion and personal differences between commanders would severely affect the Confederate assault on Cemetery Ridge.
Battle of Belmont: Ulysses S. Grant Takes CommandWith Union and Confederate troops jockeying for position in neutral Kentucky, an inexperienced brigadier general -- Ulysses S. Gran- - led his equally green Federal troops on a risky foray along the Kentucky-Missouri border.
By Max Epstein
Battle of Cold HarborNot until World War I would so many men die in so little time. Why didn't Northerners hear about Grant's botched battle of Cold Harbor?
By David E. Long
Abraham Lincoln Takes the HeatCartoonists & commentators, politicians & publishers, Southerners & Northerners--everyone seemed to feel free to lampoon Abraham Lincoln. How the president responded revealed his greatness.
By Harold Holzer
17th Maine Infantry in the Battle of GettysburgThe 17th Maine helped transform a Gettysburg wheatfield into a legend.
By Jeffry D. Wert
George Smalley: Reporting from Battle of AntietamNew York Tribune reporter George Smalley scooped the world with his vivid account of the Battle of Antietam.
Account Of The Battle of ShilohIn the aftermath of a staggering Confederate surprise attack, skulking Union fugitives huddled alongside the bluffs overlooking the Tennessee River near Shiloh.
Battle of Shiloh: Shattering MythsEvents that have been distorted or enhanced by veterans and early battlefield administrators have become part of the accepted story of the April 1862 battle -- until now. Case in point: The Sunken Road wasn't.
Battle of Fisher's HillGeneral George Crook's flank attack at Fisher's Hill swept down on the Rebel left like a force of nature.
Siege Of Corinth By Henry Halleck in 1862For one Union general -- Henry Halleck -- the march into Mississippi continued straight on to Washington.
USS Indianola: Union Ironclad in the American Civil WarThe powerful Union ironclad Indianola was jinxed from the start--poor design and bad morale made the vessel an accident waiting to happen. Near Vicksburg, she ultimately fulfilled her ill-starred destiny.
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.
Ely Parker: Iroquois Chief and Union OfficerA lifelong friend and trusted aide of Ulysses S. Grant, Ely Parker rose to the top in two worlds, that of his native Seneca Indian tribe and the white man's world at large. Through the Civil War and Reconstruction he strove to serve both worlds as best he could.
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.
Battle of Fort PillowAs Nathan Bedford Forrest's tired, angry Confederates moved into place around Fort Pillow, their commander demanded its unconditional surrender. 'Should my demand be refused,' Forrest warned, 'I cannot be responsible for the fate of your command.'
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.
Union Captain Judson KilpatrickAn unknown farm boy, he attended West Point. Homely, he had an endless string of mistresses. An inept commander, he became a major general. What was Judson Kilpatrick's secret?
American Civil War: No Draft!Angry farmers turn a Wisconsin town into a battlefield when they riot against conscription in November 1862.
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.
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.
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.
Battle of Stones River: Philip Sheridan's Rise to Millitary FameWhen Braxton Bragg's Confederates swooped down on the Federals at Stones River, only one division stood between the Rebels and calamitous defeat. Fortunately for the Union, that division was commanded by Phil Sheridan.
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.
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.
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.'
Brigadier General Silas Casey at the Battle of Seven PinesBrigadier General Silas Casey's rookie division bore the brunt of furious Rebel assaults at the Battle of Seven Pines.
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.
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.
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.
The Sword of Lincoln: The Army of the Potomac (Book Review)
Reviewed by Steven Wright
By Jeffry D. Wert
Simon & Schuster, New York, 559 pages
Over 50 years have passed since the publication of Bruce Catton's monumental three-volume history of the Army of the Potomac. In all that time, no …
Battle of ShepherdstownThe savage little Battle of Shepherdstown made for a bloody coda to the 1862 Maryland campaign.
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.
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 …
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.
Immortal 600: Prisoners Under Fire at Charleston Harbor During the American Civil WarKnowingly exposing helpless prisoners to artillery fire seems unconscionable. War, however, has a way of fostering inhumane behavior.
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?
Martha Derby Perry: Eyewitness to the 1863 New York City Draft RiotsThe wife of a bedridden Union surgeon was a horrified witness to the New York City Draft Riots of July 1863.
Elizabeth Van Lew's American Civil War ActivitiesEccentric enough to hide in plain sight within the Confederate capital, Elizabeth Van Lew was Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's eyes and ears in Richmond.
America's Civil War: Louisiana Native GuardsThe black and mixed-race troops of the Louisiana Native Guards offered to serve both South and North.
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.
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.
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.
Battle of Perryville: 21st Wisconsin Infantry Regiment's Harrowing FightThe green 21st Wisconsin found slaughter at the 1862 Battle of Perryville, Kentucky.
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: 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.
Battle of Chickamauga: Union Regulars Desperate StandCivil War Brigadier General John King's disciplined brigade of Union Regulars found itself tested as never before at Chickamauga. For two bloody days, the Regulars dashed from one endangered spot to another, seeking to save their army from annihilation.
Battle of Stones River: Union General Rosecrans Versus Confederate General BraggAmerican Civil War Union General William Rosecrans bided his time, waiting to attack Confederate General Braxton Bragg's Rebel army at Murfreesboro, 30 miles south of Nashville.
Battle of Chickamauga: 21st Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry and Their Colt's Revolving Rifles'My God, We Thought You Had a Division Here!' The 21st Ohio Infantry's unique repeating weaponry was its salvation - and nearly its undoing - at Chickamauga.
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.
America's Civil War: Digging to Victory at VicksburgTo the armies at Vicksburg, picks, shovels and manual labor proved as valuable as bullets and bombshells.
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: Savage Skirmish Near SharpsburgWith Robert E. Lee's wily Confederates waiting somewhere in the vicinity of Antietam Creek, Union General George McClellan ordered I Corps commander Joseph Hooker to advance and turn the Rebel flank. But McClellan, for once, was too quick to move, and Hooker soon found himself in an unexpectedly vicious fight.
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 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: Battle for KentuckyIt had been almost one month since Confederate General Braxton Bragg had pulled off an organizational masterpiece--four weeks since the first troop trains had rumbled into Chattanooga, Tennessee, completing an improbable 800-mile odyssey.
Battle of Chickamauga: Colonel John T. Wilder and the Lightning BrigadeColonel John T. Wilder's'Lightning Brigade' did all it could to stave off Union disaster at the Battle of Chickamauga.
Battle of Waynesboro: Jubal Early and Phil Sheridan Meet For the Last TimeWith his once-formidable army reduced to a mere shadow of its former self, Confederate General Jubal Early pulled up at Waynesboro to face his old nemesis, Phil Sheridan, for the last time.
The Dahlgren Papers RevisitedThe mystery surrounding documents detailing a Union plan to murder Jefferson Davis is put to rest by historian Stephen W. Sears.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.