Confederate States Army facts for kids

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John Richard Whitehead CSA
Photograph of Sgt. John Richard Whitehead, Company G, 6th Virginia Cavalry, CSA

The Confederate States Army (CSA) was organized in February 1861 to defend the newly formed Confederate States of America during the American Civil War. Somewhere between 750,000 and 1.2 million soldiers served the Confederacy in one form or another. The exact numbers are not known because of incomplete and destroyed records. Although it won a large number of battles the Confederate Army was not able to win the war. It could not overcome the Union army's larger numbers and better resources. On April 9, 1865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered what was left of the Army of Northern Virginia to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. While his army was only a part of the total Confederate army, his surrender marked the end of the Confederacy. On June 23, 1865, Georgia's Stand Watie became the last Confederate general to surrender.

Makeup

Much of the design of the Confederate States Army was based on the structure and customs of the U.S. Army. Both armies consisted mainly of infantry, cavalry and artillery units. While the structure of the two armies was almost the same, the sizes of the units within the army varied. Many Confederate officers were graduates of West Point just like Union officers. Regiments were usually numbered and named for the state where they were first organized and where most of the soldiers came from. Brigades were usually named after their commanders (past or present). For example, the Stonewall Brigade was named for its commanding general, Stonewall Jackson.

The Confederate Army was made up of three parts; the Army of the Confederate States of America (ACSA, smallest but intended to be the permanent, regular army), the Provisional Army of the Confederate States (PACS, or "volunteer" Army, to be disbanded after the war), and the various Southern state militias. The Confederate Constitution called for the President, Jefferson Davis to be Commander-in-Chief of the army and navy. It did not call for a commanding general of the army but several generals serves as advisors to President Davis.

Structure

  • A regiment was the basic unit in battle. At the start of the war, a regiment was 1,000 men and was led by a colonel. Regiments were usually recruited from the same area so most soldiers and officers knew each other. Disease, desertion, and combat reduced the numbers considerably. Usually, instead of adding new recruits to a decimated regiment, a new regiment would be raised in its place.
  • A brigade was from two to five regiments. Led by a brigadier general a brigade was usually from one branch of the army (infantry, cavalry or artillery).
  • A division was two or more brigades. In the Confederate army, divisions could be as many as five or six brigades (Union army divisions were usually smaller). Divisions were commanded by a major general.
  • A corps was two or more divisions. A corps usually included infantry, cavalry and artillery. That way a corps was independent and could conduct operations on its own.
  • An army was two or more corps. A Corps or an army was usually led by the most senior major general or a general picked by Jefferson Davis.

Armies

The Confederate States Army included the following armies:

  • The Army of Northern Virginia was one of the main forces of the Confederate Army in the east.
  • The Confederate Army of the Shenandoah, after the First Battle of Bull Run it became part of the Confederate Army of the Potomac.
  • The Army of the Peninsula was established May 26, 1861. On April 12, 1862, it was merged into the Army of Northern Virginia.
  • The Confederate Army of the Northwest was an army early in the war. It was disbanded February 9, 1862.
  • The Army of Central Kentucky. Was created in 1861. In March 1862 it was merged into the Army of Mississippi, which then became the Army of Tennessee
  • The Army of New Mexico was a smaller army that operated in the New Mexico Territory in 1861 and 1862.
  • The Army of the West was largely made up of the Missouri State Guard.

Confederate officers

Before the Civil War, many Confederate officers had served in the United States Army. When war broke out, 313 army officers resigned and became officers in the Confederate army. Lee was one of those who found it difficult to leave. Abraham Lincoln had offered him the position of commander-in-chief of the Union Army. But he could not fight against his native state of Virginia. He became a Major general of the Virginia militia and when Virginia Seceded, it became part of the regular army. Many militias elected their officers including field officers. When these units joined the Confederate army, their officers were commissioned. There were also a number of professional officers who came from Germany or Britain (just as there were in the Union army). But at the start of the war, few Southern officers had any real experience. Wealthy planters who owned 20 or more slaves were not required to serve in the army and many stayed home during the war. Some served in the Enlisted rank but many found it objectionable to serve under officers so poor they could not afford a single slave. Many Confederate officers kept a slave as a personal servant throughout the war.

Confederate soldiers

Confederate officers in general did not maintain discipline among their men. Many of their soldiers were illiterate and some did not know which was their left foot and which was their right. At the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, even Lee complained about the lack of discipline in his army. Visiting foreign officials were shocked at lack of discipline and were amazed they could fight.

Confederate soldiers came from a few ethnic backgrounds. Most of their ancestors came from Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales. Some had ancestors from France and Southern Europe. In regiments such as the 33rd Texas Cavalry, many had Spanish ancestry. Some could even trace their roots back to Spanish Conquistadors. In the Deep South, the Cherokee Nation sent several regiments who fought as equals alongside other Confederate units.

The average Confederate soldier was in his early 20s. He was usually gaunt, unkempt and beards were common. His wool uniform was often torn and in rags. It often did not fit, especially if taken off a dead soldier. Most wore a white shirt under their wool jacket. Replacement uniforms were hard to get. They would often stain homespun (clothing made at home) with a dye made from walnuts. This gave their uniforms a yellowish-brown appearance they called "butternut". Many did not have shoes or shoes that fit. Those who did nailed horseshoes to the bottom to keep them from wearing through the sole. At first he carried a musket or flintlock rifle. Later in the war many carried the better Enfield rifles taken from dead Union soldiers. What the Rebel soldier lacked in supplies and equipment, he made up for in fighting spirit. Any boots, uniforms or supplies Union soldiers left behind or were captured were used by the Confederate soldiers. In camp, most of the tents were marked "U.S." Most of the Southern Artillery was also captured Union cannons.

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