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Union Soldiers

Information and Articles About Union (Northern) Soldiers of the American Civil War

Union Soldiers summary: The number of Union soldiers is estimated to be between 1.5 million and 2.4 million. Though the majority of the Union Soldiers were volunteers, estimates are that 5 to 6 percent were conscripts. A fourth of the Union soldiers came from outside of America. Of all soldiers, about 1,600,000 were males born in this country. Another 516,000 were either born in Germany or of German origin. Two hundred and ten thousand soldiers formed the United States Colored Troops and consisted of freed slaves from the north as well as the south. Ireland’s contribution was 200,000 soldiers and the Dutch gave 90,000. Canadians and British-born soldiers numbered 50,000 from each country. Many other countries and ethnic groups made up the rest.

Union Soldiers Come Together To Form An Army

Soldiers of that time were categorized by what they could do best. For the first time ever, a signal corps was among the armed forces. They were commandeered by either a colonel, or sometimes a lieutenant colonel. Even majors had been known to lead the troops.

Average Age Of The Union Soldier

The average age of Union Soldiers was very young, the early twenties. Most of them had been married and many had children at the time they volunteered or were drafted. They came mostly from an agrarian background and had to be trained for warfare.

Passing The Time In The Union Army

Life of the Union soldier, when not engaged in battle, was often quite boring. A favorite game was Dominoes. Playing cards or Chess was another way to pass the time. Even when they had received orders, they would prepare and then they would have to wait. Communication was much slower at that time. To get one order to be followed by a more precise one could take several days. During that time, soldiers would write letters to their families, wash and mend their uniforms cook their meals and played games to pass the time.

To learn more facts and statistics of the common soldier of the American Civil War, please see our Civil War Soldiers page.


Articles Featuring Union Soldiers From History Net Magazines

Featured Article

Murder and Mayhem Ride the Rails – Union Soldiers Rampage in Virginia

Smoke and fire filled the skies south of Petersburg in December 1864 as the Army of the Potomac’s V Corps targeted the Weldon Railroad. Dur­ing a raid along this vital supply line linking southeastern Virginia with North Carolina, liquor-fueled Federals went on a rampage in a corner of the Old Domin­ion that thus far had been largely untouched by war.

Over an appalling two days, drunken soldiers began looting a number of houses and farms along the raid route near Hicksford, Va., and a few men even resorted to violence, destruction and rape. These shameful incidents inevitably sparked more brutality as locals bent on retribution caught and killed some Union stragglers. The Confederate victims would long remember their humiliation at the hands of “Federal troops who burned their furniture, home and crops, then left women and children in the snow with no food or animals.”

Attitudes toward the demolition of private property had changed notably since the opening years of the war. When Athens, Ala., was sacked in May 1862, for instance, Union brigade commander Colonel John Turchin—who had, as he put it, “shut my eyes” for two hours during the looting—was court-martialed for failing to prevent the destruction, and his division commander was transferred to a backwater garrison. Although President Abraham Lincoln later promoted Turchin, the incident provoked widespread controversy at the time. When Union troops looted the old colonial city of Fredericksburg, Va., on December 12, 1862—the day before the historic battle there—the moral outrage resounded on a national scale, even though no one was actually prosecuted after the fact. But by the end of 1864 the widespread destruction practiced by William T. Sherman’s and Philip Sheridan’s Federal armies gave tacit cover for the depredations committed by Maj. Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren’s soldiers during the Weldon Railroad raid.

The Weldon Railroad, known formally as the Petersburg & Weldon Railroad, was a legitimate military target, since it supplied General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, which Union troops had besieged at Petersburg at the conclusion of the Overland Cam­paign in June 1864. Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant was concerned that the railroad remained a crucial supply source for Lee even after the Union victory at the Battle of Globe Tavern in August, which had cut the line near Petersburg.

The Confederates had continued to run supplies along the railroad to Stony Creek Station, about 20 miles south, then hauled them the rest of the way by wagon along the Boydton Plank Road, the target of unsuccessful Federal offenses the previous September and October. Hoping to “destroy so much of the railroad that it would no longer be practical for Lee’s commissariat to run a wagon line to the end of the track,” Grant on December 5 issued orders to Maj. Gen. George G. Meade, commander of the Army of the Potomac: “You may make immediate preparations to move down the Weldon railroad for the purpose of effectually destroying it as far south as Hicksford, or farther if practicable. Send a force of not less than 20,000 infantry, sixteen or twenty guns, and all your disposable cavalry. Six days rations and twenty rounds of extra ammunition will be enough to carry along….”

Meade selected Warren’s V Corps, reinforced by a division of the II Corps and a cavalry division—altogether nearly 27,000 troops—to conduct the raid. The plan was for Warren’s force to travel light and fast, with as few wagons as possible. Colonel Charles S. Wainwright, commander of the V Corps artillery, recorded in his diary, “As speed of movement will be our main reliance for success, I am to take but four batteries of four guns each along.”

Warren was known as a conservative, professional soldier. The V Corps had been only minimally involved in the looting of Fredericksburg’s colonial city two years earlier, having spent that December day across the Rap­pahannock River at Falmouth. Of course, the soldiers had long made it a regular practice to supplement their rations on the march by foraging for livestock or firewood, but that was a far cry from what was about to happen in one little corner of Sussex County.

On the morning of December 6, 1864, the Union men moved from their camp toward the rear, halting near Fort Stevenson. Brigadier General Regis de Trobriand, a brigade commander in Brevet Maj. Gen. Gersham Mott’s division, noted, “The weather had become more mild; it was one of those autumn days in which it is a pleasure to march, and the spirit is exuberant.” The following day the Federals marched about 15 miles before crossing the Nottoway River at Hawkinsville.

Confederate scouts quickly reported the movement of the Union soldiers, and Lee warned Confederate guard units stationed along the railroad, as well as Maj. Gen. Wade Hampton’s cavalry. He also ordered a counterstriking force, under Lt. Gen. A.P. Hill in Petersburg, to attack the Union raiders. The previous August, Hill and Hampton had mauled a similar force of the II Corps at Ream’s Station, another point along the Weldon Railroad.

Major General David Gregg’s cavalry was the first to approach the railroad at Jarratt’s Station, where the first real skirmishing during the raid took place. The outnumbered Con­federate horsemen briefly put up a spirited defense before withdrawing. That night Wainwright observed the suffering that the war had brought to even this relatively unscathed part of Virginia, describing the plight of a six-person family living in the home where he camped. Foraging Union soldiers had already killed and eaten the farm’s last two large hogs.

December 9 would mark a major change in the character of the expedition. While the infantry mustered at 6:30 a.m. that day, Gregg’s cavalry rode south toward the major railroad bridge across the Meherrin River at Hicksford. After a brief skirmish at Three Creek, the Federal horsemen destroyed the bridge there and rode the final six miles to the river.

At the village of Belfield north of the river, across from Hicksford, the Union troopers encountered a hodgepodge group of Confederate defenders commanded by the talented Hampton. In addition to a division of veteran cavalry that had raced around the Union column to reach Hicksford by daylight, he had with him some garrison infantrymen who had been quickly summoned from across the North Carolina border, including several companies of underage Junior Reserves and nine cannons. Hampton had ordered some of his infantry to dig in on the Belfield side to protect the road and railroad bridges. He planned to check the Union advance there, to give A.P. Hill’s pursuing infantry column enough time to catch up and possibly trap Warren’s entire force.

Upon contact, Gregg sent five regiments forward under stiff fire and pushed the Belfield defenders out of their rifle pits. The Union troopers were then checked by intense artillery and small arms fire from across the river, and the Confederates burned the wagon road bridge across the Meherrin. A heavy exchange of fire continued for some time, resulting in the death of the commander of the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry.

Later that day Warren and Wainwright arrived to assess the situation. Wainwright recorded in his diary that “After a small attempt to get down to the [railroad] bridge, it was given up as likely to cost more loss of life than it was worth….” Warren reluctantly concluded that another day’s delay to take the crossing and destroy the bridge would jeopardize the safety of his entire expedition.

Meanwhile the infantry continued their work, tearing up and burning the railroad to the north. After each division destroyed one section, it would leapfrog the next division’s sector, moving south and commencing work again in a fresh location. The 83rd Pennsylvania’s Lieutenant Ed Whittelsey wrote home, “It was a fine sight to see the line of fire for ten miles.” By late afternoon, the soldiers were nearing exhaustion as a result of marching combined with manual labor. In addition, the weather had worsened, with temperatures falling and heavy rain turning to sleet.

When the men broke for camp that evening, they sent out parties to forage nearby farms for livestock. The troops found this section of Sussex County rich with provisions. Virtually all the regimental histories, in fact, speak of the region’s bounty.

The foraging parties soon resembled an unruly mob, as more and more men discovered quantities of applejack whiskey stored nearby. The regimental historian of the 120th New York Volunteers noted: “No special order having been issued against pillaging and the devastation to private property, there was from the first much straggling for those purposes. On the second and third day [December 8-9], this was carried to a shameful extent, every house within sight and some far beyond being visited….Although the troops were amply supplied with food, houses were ransacked and stripped of everything eatable, while women and children wept their protestation.”

The whiskey-fed breakdown in discipline would spread this unruly behavior and set off a tragic cycle of events. Captain Amos Judson, in his History of the 83rd Pennsylvania, wrote that “Almost every man in the brigade filled his canteen and coffee pot, and by midnight we had a drunken brigade.”

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Matters quickly unraveled. “The disorder reached such an extent that a regiment of cavalry was sent to suppress it,” wrote historian John J. Pullen in The 20th Maine, “but the cavalrymen, too, were overcome and only added to the uproar.” In the increasing chaos, a few white and black women were raped, including one in the final stages of pregnancy.

The next morning most of the army was in no shape to march, but necessity forced Warren to push his troops—A.P. Hill’s Corps was rapidly approaching. Had Hill cut more aggressively across Sussex County at Jarratt’s Station instead of swinging south through Hicksford, the Union expedition could have been in serious trouble.

At the same time, local citizens as well as roving bands of Confederate cavalry had begun to retaliate against the marauding Federals. Some Union stragglers captured by the Southerners were summarily executed.

Two members of the 83rd Pennsylvania were among those lost that day. Both Privates James Flynn and Louis Schilling were apparently too drunk to march on the morning of the 10th. Flynn was captured and sent to Pemberton Prison in Richmond. Finally paroled in March 1865, he would suffer mental problems as a result of his captivity for the rest of his life, and was confined to insane asylums from 1870 until his death in 1903. As for Schilling, he simply disappeared and was never heard from again. He almost certainly died at the hands of the Confederate cavalrymen.

General de Trobriand wrote a letter on December 14 describing the return march: “During the night between nine and ten, the snow changed to ice and during all the following day, we marched on the ice and in a frozen landscape. I never saw anything like that. There wasn’t a blade of grass, nor a leaf, nor a branch which wasn’t covered by ice a quarter of an inch thick. It was curious, magnificent to see, but hellishly cold.”

As the day warmed slightly, the Union men found themselves marching in icy, ankle-deep mud. Many of the troops had thrown away some of their warm clothing during the first balmy days of the raid, a decision they now undoubtedly regretted.

A harsh fate awaited some Federals who became separated from their commands. Eyewitnesses recalled seeing bodies that had been stripped naked and mutilated, with throats slashed from ear to ear. Some of the corpses had been hung up along the road.

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At Sussex Court House the nude bodies of half a dozen Union soldiers were reportedly found lying on the courthouse grounds, while another dead Federal had been discovered pinned to the ground by a stake driven through his mouth. Enraged by these horrific scenes, the Union men began torching the homes of civilians.

It is unclear whether anyone ordered such measures, and Warren later indicated in his official report that he had tried to stop it. In all probability, the Federals’ actions were spontaneous, with some officers participating and others looking the other way. Comparatively few men claimed to have actually seen the bodies at the courthouse, and the numbers reported range from two to six actually laid out. Despite unconfirmed details, news of the killings spread like wildfire down the line of march, spurring more Yankees to get out their firebrands.

Meanwhile the scouts in Maj. Gen. Matthew C. Butler’s cavalry division “were instructed that when they caught Yankees in the act of robbing and burning to take the vandals by the arms and legs and swing them into the flames, drunk or sober. Such are the terrors of war.”

Not all Union men took part in the pillage, and many unwilling observers believed such harsh retribution was unconscionable. Brigadier General Joshua Cham­­berlain, who commanded a bri­gade in Brig. Gen. Charles Griffin’s V Corps division during the raid, later expressed his frustration over the scene: “This was a hard night….I saw sad work in protecting helpless women and children from outrage….I invariably gave them protection which every man of honor will give any woman as long as she is a woman. But I have no doubt they were all ‘burnt out’ before the whole army got by. It was a sad business. I am willing to fight men in arms, but not babes in arms.”

The chaplain of the 120th New York also signified his revulsion at what he had witnessed in Sussex County: “Such Savage atrocity [the murder of the Union stragglers] cannot be too severely punished; but a wholesale and terrible retaliation, for the most part upon the innocent and helpless for acts, wicked as they were, were incited by the wanton outrages of our own men, could not but be a bad lesson in morals to the troops.”

Wainwright praised his own artillerymen for their discipline during the difficult march, but noted that despite great provocations against the Union soldiers, “it was not enough to justify their acts at all.” He continued:

But now comes the worse. The story spread almost instantly through the column, and the sight of the burning house seemed to raise devil in the men at once. Scores of men left the ranks, and seizing brands from the burning house, fired every building in sight. None escaped, large and small, pig sties and privies, all were burnt, with barely time allowed for the people themselves to get out, saving nothing. The Negroes fared no better than the whites….For this barbarism there was no real excuse, unless exasperation and the innate depravity of mankind is one….So pitiable a sight as the women and children turned adrift at nightfall, a most severe night, too. I never saw before and never want to see again. If this is a raid, deliver me from going on another.

When Warren arrived at Sussex Court House, he ordered a stop to the burnings. He mentioned only one instance of finding a soldier with his throat cut, but acknowledged that “it soon became the belief of all the men in the command….Every effort was made by the officers to stop this incendiarism (which most likely punished only the innocent) and with partial success.” Finally the darkness, heavy rain and exhaustion ended the burnings.

A nervous Grant had been very concerned about the safety of the expedition from the outset. As early as the afternoon of December 7 he had sent inquiries to Meade, and on the 10th to the Union commander occupying the seaboard area of Suffolk, Va., for information about Warren’s status. That same day he requested that Meade “move all the force you can to Warren’s relief….I don’t think there should be any delay in sending out reinforcements.” Later that afternoon, Meade ordered Maj. Gen. Robert Potter’s IX Corps division south toward Sussex in an attempt to find and perhaps even rescue Warren.

On December 11 Warren’s troops began another difficult day’s march back toward the safety of the Petersburg lines. The Confederates under Hill never caught up, and Hampton’s cavalry broke off harassing the rear guard before the Union men had recrossed the Nottoway.

How much damage the Union men had actually done to civilian property in Sussex County is unclear. According to some accounts, hundreds of homes were probably destroyed—and many of the Federal witnesses certainly believed that was the case. But the Sussex County Land Book records for 1865 list only 28 properties that had their assessments lowered as the result of damage done by the Northern raiders.

This is very close to the figure that General de Trobriand gave in his December 14 letter: “We have burned about thirty plantations and taverns, besides barns and forage in retaliation for those of our stragglers, who were…murdered.” Given the county’s rural character and the fact that the return march was made on just two roads, however, the soldiers’ perception of utter destruction is understandable. Almost all they saw was indeed burned out.

The December raid severely damaged the brittle system that supplied Lee’s army. Throughout that winter thousands of Confederates deserted to Union lines with tales of little food and inadequate clothing, while thousands of others simply slipped away from their units, returning to their homes. The Weldon Railroad had served as the army’s principal source for animal fodder, so the cavalry and artillery especially suffered.

Within days of the Hicksford raid, the Confederates began repairing the destroyed tracks. Hampton placed Butler in charge of the process, and with 1,000 of his cavalrymen he managed to rebuild about six miles in two weeks. The railroad’s superintendent impressed 300 slaves to continue the work, and by early March 1865 the railroad was open from Weldon to Stony Creek. The restored line was in operation for only a brief period, however, before events at Petersburg made the rail link irrelevant.

Casualties stemming from the expedition were not specifically reported, but we know that the Union lost approximately 200 infantry and 130 cavalry, including 225 missing. Confederate losses were unrecorded.

Soon after the raid, several circulars from various Union headquarters were issued noting the success of the offensive and singling out specific units and individuals for commendation. Only Warren’s official report mentioned the killing of stragglers or the burning of civilian homes. All other reports were completely silent on those subjects.

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How to explain the uncharacteristic violence of the V Corps men at Hicksford? Two rationales are immediately apparent: The rowdy drunkenness of thousands of soldiers resulted in a breakdown in military discipline, and retaliation by angry locals clearly brought about even more violence.

Deeper insights may be found if we examine the stresses inherent when troops are operating deep inside enemy territory. As historian James McPherson puts it: “An essential component of the masculine code of honor was revenge for insult and injury. Hatred of the object of vengeance often accompanied this code….As the Civil War escalated in scope and intensity, the fury of hatred and revenge against perpetrators of death and destruction crowded out Christian charity.”

George E. Deutsch, who writes from Catonsville, Md., is the co-founder of several historical organizations in his hometown of Erie, Pa., related to the Civil War and the War of 1812. He is the co-author of One of the Very Best Regiments: The 83rd Pennsylvania Volunteers From Petersburg to Appomattox, to be published in late 2010.

Articles 2

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Mothers of the Lost CauseAn army of determined Southern women buried the dead but kept the mythic Confederate legacy of the Lost Cause alive
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Stumbling in Sherman’s PathStandard histories of Major General William T. Sherman’s celebrated March to the Sea invariably portray the Confederacy’s response as inconsequential. Such broad generalizations may assuage wounded Southern pride, but they also rewrite history.
The 9 Lives of General John Brown GordonIndestructible Confederate general John B. Gordon survived multiple wounds and serious illnesses during the Civil War. From First Manassas to Appomattox, he proved nothing could keep a good man down.
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‘A Stupid Old Useless Fool’William Nelson Pendleton was far more effective behind a pulpit than he was as Robert E. Lee's chief of artillery in the Army of Northern Virginia.
Coming Apart From the Inside: How Internal Strife Brought Down the ConfederacyPoliticians and generals on the Confederate side have long been lionized as noble warriors who heroically fought for an honorable cause that had little chance of succeeding. In reality, the Confederate leadership was rife with infighting.
The Union’s Bloody Miscue at Spotsylvania’s MuleshoeUlysses S. Grant's human battering ram assaults failed to break Robert E. Lee's position at the Muleshoe despite twenty hours of fighting at the Bloody Angle.
The Worst Battlefield Blunders: Five Battles That Ended BadlyBattlefield blunders can be as decisive as brilliant tactics. Five of the worst military blunders came at the battles of Gallipoli, Fredericksburg, Dien Bien Phu, Adwa, and Little Bighorn.
Sculpting a Scapegoat: Ambrose Burnside at AntietamA fresh examination of Major General Ambrose Burnside's actions at the Battle of Antietam suggests he was made into a scapegoat for others' failings.
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Articles 3

Custer’s Last Stand Still Stands UpThe Battle of the Little Bighorn is like a 10,000-piece jigsaw puzzle on the south-central Montana landscape - the stuff of legend and historical gamesmanship.
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General Bragg’s Impossible Dream: Take KentuckyThe 1862 invasion of Kentucky had great promise, but disappointing results.

By Frank van der Linden

Battle of Cold Harbor: The Folly and HorrorThe blame for a broad command failure that led to 7,000 unnecessary Union casualties in a single hour applies to more than just the commander in chief.

By Robert N. Thompson

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By Bruce J. Dinges

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By Ted Alexander

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By Phil Noblitt

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By Robert James

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By John M. Archer

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By Mark J. Crawford

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By Max Epstein

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17th Maine Infantry in the Battle of GettysburgThe 17th Maine helped transform a Gettysburg wheatfield into a legend.

By Jeffry D. Wert

James Longstreet: Robert E. Lee’s Most Valuable SoldierThe words resonate through Confederate history like an unwelcome truth. As General Robert E. Lee made preparations for an assault on the center of the Union line at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863, his senior subordinate, Lieutenant General James Longstreet, voiced objections. At one point in the discussion, Longstreet recounted his experience as a soldier …

Articles 4

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.
Robert E. Lee and His Horse TravellerRarely have horse and rider gone so well together as Traveller and Robert E. Lee.
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.
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.'
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.'
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.
Father John B. Tabb: Aboard Confederate Blockade RunnersFather John B. Tabb, an unreconstructed Rebel to the end, had served the Confederacy aboard blockade runners.
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.

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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.
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 …
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.

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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: 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.

Articles 7

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.
Book Review: Everyday Life during the Civil War (by Michael J. Varhola): CWTEveryday Life during the Civil War: A Guide for Writers, Students and Historians, by Michael J. Varhola, Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1-800-289-0963, 274 pages, softcover, $16.99. One hundred and thirty-five years after the last shots were fired, public fascination with the American Civil War continues unabated. The copious outpouring of campaign studies, biographies, memoirs, …
Book Review: Island No. 10: Struggle for the Mississippi Valley (Larry J. Daniel and Lynn N. Bock) : CWTIsland No. 10: Struggle for the Mississippi Valley,by Larry J. Daniel and Lynn N. Bock (University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, 213 pages, $24.95). Island No. 10: Struggle for the Mississippi Valley is the first book ever to be devoted entirely to the siege and capture of the Confederate stronghold of Island No. 10 on the …
Book Review: The Armies of U.S. Grant (James R. Arnold) : CWTTHE ARMIES OF U.S. GRANT The Armies of U.S. Grant by James R. Arnold, Arms and Armour, London, distributed by Sterling, New York, 320 pages, $29.95. Arnold traces Ulysses S. Grant’s lineage of Civil War commands from colonel of the 21st Illinois Infantry through general in chief of the Union army.
Book Review: Ulysses S. Grant: Triumph over Adversity, 1822-1865 (by Brooks Simpson): CWTUlysses S. Grant: Triumph over Adversity, 1822-1865, by Brooks Simpson, Houghton Mifflin, New York, 523 pages, $35. In Let Us Have Peace (1991), Brooks Simpson’s first book about Ulysses S. Grant, Simpson told us what we already knew about his subject–that in time of war he was a more than competent general officer who combined …
Book Review: Lincoln’s Men: How President Lincoln Became Father to an Army and a Nation (by William C. Davis): CWTLincoln’s Men: How President Lincoln Became Father to an Army and a Nation, by William C. Davis, Free Press, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020, 315 pages, $25. William C. “Jack” Davis is one of our most prolific and finest historians. He has either edited or authored dozens of books with subjects …
Book Review: Echoes of Battle: The Struggle for Chattanooga (Richard A. Baumgartner and Larry M. Strayer) : CWTECHOES OF BATTLE: THE STRUGGLE FOR CHATTANOOGA Echoes of Battle: The Struggle for Chattanooga, by Richard A. Baumgartner and Larry M. Strayer, Blue Acorn, Huntington, West Virginia, $43.75. Accounts of 450 Union and Confederate soldiers and a collection of 465 photographs, many previously unpublished, tell the story of the Union campaigns for Chickamauga, Georgia, and …
Book Review: Agent of Destiney: The Life and Times of General Winfield Scott (John S.D. Eisenhower) : CWTAgent of Destiney: The Life and Times of General Winfield Scott, by John S.D. Eisenhower, Free Press, New York, New York, 464 pages, $27.50. There is an underground opinion unknown to the general public but held by many military historians: the greatest American battlefield general of all time is not Washington, Lee, Grant, or Jackson, …
Book Review: Men With Custer: Biographies of the 7th Cavalry (Kenneth Hammer with Ronald H. Nichols) : WWMEN WITH CUSTER: BIOGRAPHIES OF THE 7TH CAVALRYWhen it comes to the Little Bighorn, far more ink than blood has been spilled. How and when some 210 soldiers under George Armstrong Custer’s direct command died remains a mystery because there were no acknowledged survivors. This is a book about his men, not their battle, and …
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: 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: 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 …
Book Review: Gettysburg: A Battlefield Guide (by Mark Grimsley and Brooks D. Simpson) Chickamauga: A Battlefield Guide With a Section on Chattanooga (by Steven E. Woodworth): ACWGettysburg: A Battlefield Guide, by Mark Grimsley and Brooks D. Simpson, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, 1999, $17.95, paperback. Chickamauga: A Battlefield Guide With a Section on Chattanooga, by Steven E. Woodworth, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, 1999, $16.95, paperback. The University of Nebraska Press recently launched a new series, “This Hallowed Ground: Guides to …
Book Review: A Place Called Appomattox (By William Marvel): ACWTwo volumes offer new interpretations and shatter some myths about the end of the Civil War. By A. Wilson Green William Marvel knows how to tell a good story. He is also a master at debunking myths and reinterpreting historical orthodoxy. Readers familiar with his monograph about the notorious Confederate prison camp at Andersonville, Georgia, …
Book Review: Ulysses S. Grant: Soldier & President (Geoffrey Perret) : ACWUlysses S. Grant was an unremarkable man, except at the times when it mattered most. By Richard F. Welch The image of Ulysses Simpson Grant that has most endured with the American public is that of a brisk, no-nonsense general who won great Civil War battles but constantly lost equally great battles with the bottle. …
Book Review: Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant (U.S. Grant/ Brooks D. Simpson) : ACWPersonal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, introduction by Brooks D. Simpson, University of Nebraska Press (Bison Books), Lincoln, 1996, $26. For Civil War buffs and scholars alike, there are certain books that are required reading, as indispensable as ErnestHemingway’s novels are to American literature students. One of these volumes is Ulysses S. Grant’s Personal Memoirs. First …
Book Review: The Confederate War (Gary Gallagher) : ACWIn his provocative new book, The Confederate War, author Gary Gallagher revises the revisionists. By Richard F. Welch Over the past 15 years an influential school of Civil War historians–now perhaps the dominant orthodoxy–has argued that class, race and gender divisions so wracked the South that the Confederacy was foredoomed to defeat. Exponents of this …
The Approaching Fury: Voices of the Storm, 1820-1861 (Stephen B. Oates) : ACWThe Approaching Fury: Voices of the Storm, 1820-1861, by Stephen B. Oates, HarperCollins, New York, 1997, $28. The vast pantheon of Civil War literature is graced with titles focusing on the underlying causes of America’s bloodiest conflict. Politics and economics, racial and social undercurrents, states’ rights and Manifest Destiny–all have received minute scrutiny. Far too …
Book Review: General John Pope: A Life for the Union (By Peter Cozzens): ACWA new biography presents a fresh picture of General John Pope, and Robert Sneden’s pictures are presented. By Brooks D. Simpson If, as historian T. Harry Williams once put it, George B. McClellan was the “problem child” of the Civil War, then John Pope was the favorite butt of many a joke, especially those comparing …
Book Review: Stonewall Jackson: The Man, The Soldier, The Legend (James I. Robertson) : ACWA magisterial new biography of Stonewall Jackson presents all sides of a complex, often inscrutable man. By Richard F. Welch At the time of his death in May 1863, Lieutenant General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson was the best-known Civil War commander. Revered in the South and feared in the North, Jackson so personified the Confederacy’s …
Book Review: Eye of the Storm: A Civil War Odyssey (by Robert Sneden) : ACWEye of the Storm: A Civil War Odyssey, by Robert Sneden, The Free Press, New York, 2000, $37.50. In 1994, the Virginia Historical Society announced the purchase of four scrapbook albums of Civil War watercolors by Union soldier and cartographer Robert Knox Sneden. The albums, which contained nearly 500 detailed watercolor maps and drawings, proved …
Book Review: GENERAL JOHN POPE: A LIFE FOR THE NATION (by Peter Cozzens) : AHIGENERAL JOHN POPE: A LIFE FOR THE NATION, by Peter Cozzens, University of Illinois Press, 412 pages, $39.95. In writing about John Pope’s famous defeat at the second Battle of Bull Run, author Bruce Catton described the Union commander as “simply over his depth.” Shelby Foote, in turn, charged Pope with being “outgeneraled.” More recently, …

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