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Of Duty Well and Faithfully Done: A History of the Regular Army in the Civil War

Clayton R. Newell and Charles R. Shrader; University of Nebraska Press

If numbers, organization charts and statistical tables get your pulse racing, this history of the growth and development of the Regular Army during the war is for you. It will become the definitive study of an important, but too often overlooked, subject.

While most of the fighting fell to volunteer regiments raised by the states, staff support, logistics and administrative responsibilities were filled mainly by Regular Army units. Clayton Newell and Charles Shrader, both of whom served as chief of the historical services division of the U.S. Army Center of Military History, have therefore focused their analysis primarily “on organizational history and institutional change in the Regular Army” over the course of the war. The changes, they conclude, were substantial and extraordinary. The war “was the first large-scale modern war involving a continent-wide theater of war. The number of men and the quantities of material involved were unprecedented as were the distances over which the opposing armies moved and had to be supported.”

This fact-filled study is probably best used as a reference book rather than a front-to-back read, although the authors’ prose easily propels readers through the densely packed, double-columned pages. For instance, if you want to know how much food the Union armies consumed and what it cost to feed them, Table 22 provides a consolidated report of substance purchases 1861-1865.

Regular Army units’ battlefield accomplishments are not neglected. “When the Union Army got to the big battles of 1862,” the authors point out, “the Regular infantry and cavalry fought in regimental strength alongside the Volunteers.” At war’s end, occupation duties in the South and protection of settlers in the West also fell to Regular Army units.


Originally published in the December 2011 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.