The Confederate Naval Ordnance Works, Iron Clad Shipyard and Army Arsenal located in Selma were key targets for Union General James H. Wilson. Destruction of the Selma facilities in April 1865 would ultimately seal the fate for the CSA war effort.

A brief Lesson Guide for what you will see at the reenactment site.

This guide is about what you will see at the re-enactment site and about the soldiers who fought in the Civil War. At the site the re-enactors all do a living history by living in tents all weekend and dressing the way the people did during that era. This guide will cover briefly the Civil War in the West and then the following subjects: 1) How many Soldiers; 2) Army organization; 3) Shelter; 4) Clothing; 5) Food; 6) Weapons; 7)How much Weight the Soldiers Carried; 8)Medical Treatment.
The Civil War started in the spring of 1861 and lasted 4 years until the spring of 1865. The first year was important for what you will see because, during that year, major changes in shelter, uniforms, and weapons came about. The last year was also important because of the North’s military move through Georgia by Sherman from Chattanooga to capture Atlanta. That successful campaign broke the Confederacy and insured Lincoln’s reelection as President. In early 1865 Union Military authorities turned there eyes towards Selma. Home of a bustling military industrial complex, this manufacturing center created out of thin air only a couple of years prior, now rivaled Richmond in production of materials supplied the Southern Armies in the field.
When Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the U.S.A. in the fall of 1860 there were 11 southern states that seceded from the Union to form the Confederate States of America, the C.S.A. The 2 Border States, Missouri and Kentucky, formed secessionist governments but sympathetic Unionist Governments kept them in the Union. Counting these 2 there were 24 states that remained loyal to the Union and the government in Washington. In 1861 the Union forces drove the Confederate forces from most of the western part of Virginia and occupied those counties. In 1863 the state of West Virginia was formed from those counties and was accepted as a state in that same year.



Although the first capital of the Confederacy was Montgomery, Alabama, only 50 miles from Selma, when the populous state of Virginia succeeded the capitol was moved to Richmond, Virginia. Richmond was only 100 miles from Washington, D.C. The main fighting of the Civil War in the East took place there and many major battles were fought in that area.  In the west there was fighting in Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas and the Confederates from Texas invaded the New Mexico Territory in 1862 but were driven back into Texas. In late April 1862 the U.S. Navy captured New Orleans and occupied it. The Union forces also came through Western Kentucky into Western Tennessee. There was a large and bloody battle in early April 1862 at Shiloh, TN, just north of the juncture of the borders of TN, MS, and AL. The Union forces continued to advance southwards along the Mississippi River and put Vicksburg, MS under siege. The Confederates in the fall of 1862 pushed northward into Western Kentucky but were driven back into Tennessee.
In 1863 the Union took Vicksburg, MS, thereby taking all the Mississippi River and splitting the Confederacy into two parts. They also drove the Confederates southwards out of Tennessee and into Georgia where they were stopped at the battle of Chickamauga in September 1863 just south of Chattanooga, TN. This set the stage for The Atlanta Campaign to start in the spring of 1864. From just south of Chattanooga the Union forces under General Sherman were to drive south to Atlanta.  After much bloodly fighting around Atlanta, Nashville, and Richmond in 1864, the beginning 1865 saw the siege of Richmond tighten and the launch of Gen. James H. Wilson’s Raid to destory the production facillities in Selma, Alabama.


CSS Teennessee built in Selma in 1863

By the spring of 1865, the territory of the Confederacy consisted only of isolated areas, and its commercial and industrial capabilities were in shambles. Only 100,000 ragged, poorly equipped men were left in the Southern armies.  The North, more powerful than ever, had 1,000,000 men in the field, and were attacking on every front.  Selma, Alabama, was one of only a few manufacturing and munition centers remaining in the South, and on March 22, Union Gen. James H. Wilson started from his base in southern Tennessee to conquer it. He set out with two divisions of cavalry, 13,500 veteran troops armed with Spencer carbines, three batteries of horse artillery, and a supply train of 250 wagons. His only obstacle would be the son of a poverty-stricken backwoods blacksmith, Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest.
The Confederacy’s shortage of men and supplies, however, had taken a frightening toll on Forrest’s command. He had fewer than 8,000 men, many of whom were new recruits and impressed citizens- old men and young boys who had previously escaped the Confederate draft. While setting up a defensive position in his front, Forrest sent his veteran troops to attack the rear of Wilson’s column.  Wilson, however, intercepted a dispatch containing Forrest’s plans and used the information to isolate and delay the raiding party. Then, on April 1, Wilson attacked and overran Forrest’s inexperienced troops in the Battle of Ebenezer Church. Forrest fell back 18 miles to Selma, where he put his few hundred cavalry veterans and 3,000 untried militiamen, spread very thinly in the 3.5 miles of earthworks surrounding the city.
At 5:00pm on April 2, Wilson attacked and quickly drove the Confederates out of the works. By the end of the day, Wilson had captured 2,700 COnfederate prisoners and the city of Selma, with only 46 killed and 300 wounded among his own men.  Forrest and a few of his command escaped. Forrest, the most feared southern commander and the man that had never lost a battle, at last, had been beaten.

As he slashed his way out of Selma, Forrest killed the 30th, and last, Union soldier attributed to him in personal combat.


How Many Soldiers
1) In the spring of 1861 the U.S. Army numbered only about 13,000 men, of which about 1,000 were officers. Of these some 313 of the officers joined the Confederacy at that time. At the start of the Civil War there were about a dozen Military Schools (College level) in the U.S. but only one, West Point, was in the North. The rest were in the South so the South actually had a large number of men with some military background.
Actual numbers of men under arms on both sides during the war are unknown. The numbers given here are derived from historical estimates.
At the start of the war in 1861 President Lincoln, on April 15, called for 75,000 militiamen for 3 months terms and then, on May 3, he asked for 42,000 more as 3 year enlistees in the army plus expanding the regular army by 23,000 more men. In July of that year, following the battle of First Bull Run (also called First Manassas, a Confederate victory); the U.S. Congress formally authorized these actions and authorized an additional 1,000,000 volunteers for 3 year terms.
Each Northern state used various enlistment terms (3 months, 6 months, 1 year and 2 years) for their volunteer militia but most had adopted the 3 years system by the end of 1861.
By the end of the first year of the war there were over 400,000 men under arms in the U.S. Army out of some 500 to 600 thousand that had actually enlisted. The reduction was due to many being too old, too young or just not physically able to withstand the rigors of army life. Also many did not stay after their 3 or 6 months terms were finished and many just deserted to return to civilian life or to rejoin another unit under another name.
In 1861 each of the 11 Confederate states had militias numbering around 5,000 men or a few less. The Confederate Congress authorized 100,000 volunteers for 2 year terms and nearly all of the state militias sent their men for service as well as recruiting new volunteers. Everyone believed that the war would be short and after the South’s victory at First Bull Run many more volunteered for the state militias, most of which were sent to the Confederate Armies. By the end of the first year of the war the South had approximately 400,000 men under arms and so the spring of 1862 saw both sides about equal in military manpower.
As in the North, some 500 to 600 thousand enlisted but as many as one out of every 5 or 6 dropped out due to age, physical inability to soldier or dislike for military service. Also many came from rural areas and were not immune to common diseases such as measles. The drastic change in food and living in close unhygienic conditions made dysentery a common illness, causing death or forcing men to return home.
In July of 1862 the congress authorized Lincoln to call up another 300,000 state militia for 9 months service in the U.S. Army and to call up another 300,000 for a 3 years term. By the end of 1862 the Northern Armies had gained 421,000 volunteers in for the 3 years term and another 88,000 militia also serving 3 years term. The total men in the armies of the North were probably around 650 thousand by the end of the second year of the war.
The Confederacy adopted conscription in April of 1862, for all men 18 to 35 years of age for 3 years service and also extended all 1 year volunteers to 3 years term of service. This replaced battle losses and the South’s armies actually grew in numbers a little to around 500,000 men in the armies.
In the 3rd year of the war Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation authorized Negroes to serve in the army from January 1, 1863 and the North also adopted conscription to start in July 1863. These measures replaced losses and increased the numbers in the Northern armies to over 800 thousand men by the spring of 1864. The Confederacy expanded the ages for conscription but could not match the manpower of the North. The South’s armies probably numbered around 400,000 by the spring of 1864.
During the 4 years of the war more than 2 ½ million men served on the Northern side and approximately 1½ million men served on the Southern side. Some served for short periods of time and others for the entire war.
Over 300 thousand on each side died from wounds, disease and illness during their service. Probably about another 500 thousand on each side carried scars from the war for the rest of their lives.
Prisoners of War were exchanged constantly on both sides until the fall of 1863 when it was found that Confederate soldiers who had surrendered at Vicksburg in July 1863 and had been paroled were fighting in the battle of Chickamauga. This was a violation of the prisoner exchange agreements and so exchange of prisoners stopped until January of 1865 when it was resumed.
The men of both armies were of an average age of 23 or 24. At that time the average life expectancy was much lower than today due to a high infant mortality at birth and death from accidents, illness and/or disease at a young age. Generally, if you lived to the age of 18 you could expect to live to reach your fifties. But it was the younger men who did most of the fighting in the war.
On the Northern side about 60% of the soldiers and about 70% of them on the Southern side were from rural, mostly farming, backgrounds. Some 65% of the soldiers on both sides were functionally illiterate (they could read signs and newspaper headlines and write their names and a few common words but if they had to read and write well enough to hold a job that required reading and writing ability they could not). Most of those that came from the cities and towns were laborers with some clerical workers and a very few professionals. The professionals generally chose to become officers rather than remain in the ranks.
The Civil War marked big changes in the way of life in the USA. Not only was slavery abolished but service in the military in a time of war by so many of the male population meant that daily life as it was lived before the war could never return. You can imagine what it would be like if you had to live for a couple of years in one of the military camps you will see at the reenactment site and then try to go back to the way you live now.
Military Organization
2) The military organization of armies on both sides was the same. Confederate President Jeff Davis was a West Point graduate, had fought in the Mexican War and had been Secretary of War of the U.S.A. He was the one who appointed the high military officers in the Confederacy and knew personally most of the top military officers of both North and South.
There were 3 main branches of service in the army: the artillery, the cavalry and the infantry. All 3 followed the same organization as the infantry, which is outlined below. The artillery usually called their company a battery and the cavalry called their company a squadron.
The smallest military unit in the infantry for both the Militias and the Armies was the Company, 50 to 100 men, led by a Captain, who was assisted by a Lieutenant and from 2 to 5 Sergeants. Soldiers for each company were usually recruited from the same city, town or rural area by the man who was commissioned to be their Captain. Sometimes these Captains would also furnish uniforms or weapons or money to purchase them in order to get enough soldiers to form a Company. The Lieutenants and Sergeants were also usually named by the Captain although sometimes they were elected by the soldiers.
With the war starting many state militias just commissioned anyone who could recruit a company but some companies just formed themselves and elected their own Captain and Sergeants.
The companies were formed into Regiments, also called Battalions, of from 6 to 10 companies, led by a Colonel who was assisted by a staff of officers. Many Colonels furnished uniforms and weapons or money to purchase them to help get the companies formed. When the state militias commissioned officers they usually required that the Colonels have some military education or background before commissioning them, but many were also political appointees or just individuals who had enough money to buy weapons uniforms for most of their Regiment. The Regiments were usually designated by a number, in their order of formation, followed by the name of the State (25th New York, 19th Ohio, 12th New Hampshire, 7th Florida, 44th Georgia, and 10th Texas).
From 2 to 6 Regiments were formed into larger units called Brigades, each led by a Brigadier General, assisted by his staff of officers. In the North the Brigades were numbered but in the South they were named after their General. Before the war the rule of thumb was that if the State Militia furnished the uniforms and weapons for the Regiments that made up a Brigade then the State could commission the Brigadier General. If the U.S. Army furnished the uniforms and weapons then that Army commissioned the General. During the war both the U.S. and the Confederacy followed this method so almost all Generals on both sides were appointed by the Secretary of War for each side.
From 2 to 5 Brigades were formed into Divisions led by Major Generals. As with the Brigades those in the North were numbered and those in the South were named after their General.
Two or more Divisions were formed into Corps led by Lt. Generals and these were put together into an Army. The armies were named after states in the South (Army of Tennessee) and after rivers in the North (Army of the Potomac).
3) The soldiers were quartered in forts and military encampments before the war. The forts usually had a large area in their walls and the encampments separate buildings called barracks in which the soldiers lived. These were usually equipped with bunk beds or one bed above the other. When the soldiers went out into the field for training or on campaign they carried tents in wagons with followed their columns and when they stopped for the night or a few days camps were set up in a standard pattern.
The soldier’s tents were called A frame tents and were made
of canvas. Each tent had 3 poles, 6 feet in length, so that one could be set across the top of the other two to support the top of the tent when the 4 corners were pegged to the ground.
The tents had one end closed and one end split to serve as a door and when placed on the ground covered about 50 square feet of area. 4 or 5 men slept in each one of these tents. With the rapid rise in numbers of soldiers during the first year of the war as many as 8 or even 9 men were assigned to sleep in each tent. In order to fit inside the tent for sleeping they all had to lie on their sides facing the same way.
Sergeants were assigned 2 or 1 to a separate tent and
junior officers (Lieutenants and Captains) each had a separate tent.
Field Grade Officers (Majors and above) had wall tents which were about 14 feet wide by 15 feet long and 11 feet high with short walls on the sides. Wall tents were also used as hospital tents.
Just before the war a West Point graduate, Henry Sibley who later became a Confederate General, invented the Sibley Tent (also called the Bell Tent). It was a cone 18 feet in diameter when set up and looked like the plains Indians teepees. It had a center pole to make it 12 feet high and had a round opening in the top. A stove with a stovepipe was made for it and 12 men could sleep in it. It was cumbersome to carry in the field and so was relegated to
garrison duty in 1862. The U. S. Army bought nearly 50,000 of these tents and they were nearly all used only in training camps after 1862.
With the need for so many tents and the wagons to carry them a change was needed and near the end of 1861 the Shelter Tent was adopted. This was a piece of canvas close to 6 feet square with button holes and buttons on one side so that it could be joined with another of the same size and the two together made a tent for 2 soldiers, who would each carry his half of it. The rifles of the two soldiers with their bayonets stuck into the ground served as the uprights holding the tent up and a string tied to the trigger guards served as top or ridgepole of the tent.
The corners were pegged to the ground. This also eliminated
the need for wagons to carry the soldiers’ tents. The officers continued to use the A frame and Wall tents.
Over half of the U.S. Army was stationed in Texas at the beginning of the war and when Texas seceded most of the army’s supplies were taken for use by the Confederacy. These and tents brought from Europe through the naval blockade to the capitol, Richmond, VA were the main source of the tents for the South. Most of these soon wore out from continuous service.
Due to a lack of cotton cloth manufacturing few tents were made for the Southern soldiers. Most of the tents the soldiers had were taken from the battlefields. By the last year of the war most of the Southern soldiers just carried a piece of cloth or canvas taken from a tent where ever they could find it or just a blanket to use for shelter. The Southern officers usually had sufficient tents as they just purchased their own tents.

Confederate Camp of the 3rd Kentucky Infantry, Corinth, Mississippi 1862










4) Uniforms for the U.S. Army at the start of the war were set forth in regulations as dark (navy) blue with a black hat and/or a kepi (which is a small cap with a brim adopted from the French Army) and black shoes. Each soldier was to be issued a frock (dress) coat (a military coat, close fitting, with a high collar and with a skirt-like extension from the waist down to just above the knee), a fatigue (work) coat (a 4 button loose fitting coat that came down to the hips), trousers held up by suspenders, and leather shoes called brogans. Officers wore only the dress uniform of a frock coat and pants.
The coats and pants were made of wool. Wool lasts longer and gives protection against cuts and scratches when running through thick brush and woods. It also lets enough air through so as to be not too hot in summer and warm in winter.
Each state militia had its own design and color scheme for its uniforms but most followed the U.S. Army regulations. The Zouave uniforms are an example of some that were different.
The South did not get around to establishing uniform regulations until late in 1861 but the Colonels and Captains forming the Regiments and Companies quickly adopted the shell Jacket as the style of coat for the soldiers. This was a close fitting military jacket with a high collar but only reaching down to the waist. All tailors knew how to make these and they used a lot less cloth than the frock or fatigue coat.
The color of the Southern uniforms was gray but there was a wide variation in color. The Confederacy did not have a military supply organization and had to create one from scratch. After the battle of First Bull Run (First Manassas) in July 1861 the South raised a larger army quickly and each enlistee was to be paid $50 per year to furnish his own uniform. The lack of an adequate supply of cloth was made up by the wives and families of enlisting soldiers cutting and sewing an existing coat to the Shell Jacket pattern and then dying it and an existing pair of pants to some color of gray. The State Militias already had uniforms and their Regiments clothing looked most military but their numbers were lost in a sea of homemade coats of different colors of gray. A lot of the dyes used were not permanent and many were homemade dyes so the variety of uniform colors for the South was great, even within the same companies and Regiments. Most southern soldiers also brought their wide brimmed civilian hats with them into service.
Many soldiers had their family make their uniform and left the $50 for the family to live on while the soldier was away. The Confederacy began to contract out uniforms but the annual payment continued until about mid 1863 when it was fazed out and replaced with the issuance of uniforms. The Confederate Officers purchased their own uniforms from tailors and followed the frock coat regulations.
The South had to import wool and during the first year of the war most of existing supplies were soon used up to make uniforms. The Confederacy adopted jeanwool as the cloth for its uniforms ordered from contractors. Jeanwool is a combination of cotton and wool woven into cloth somewhat smooth on one side and rough on the other. Because the rough side was placed inside the garment most of the uniforms were lined with a thin cotton cloth to prevent abrasion while wearing them. The uniforms made of jeanwool did not look very military.
The North started with uniforms all dark navy blue in color and contracted them out to many manufacturers. In December 1861 the U.S. Secretary of War found that sky blue wool pants could be purchased at a lesser cost than dark blue ones and so by January 1862 all the Northern uniforms were being produced with dark blue coats and sky blue trousers. Also to save money the North began issuing only the fatigue coat to the soldiers on campaign. The dress uniform was needed when they were stationed in a fort or near the Capitol, Washington.
In the West, Northern troops had a good supply system using the rail lines they repaired as they moved towards Atlanta. The Confederates were falling back along the railroad line and to Atlanta, which had large stores of jeanwool uniforms, so during that campaign neither side was dressed in rags. After Atlanta fell in September 1864, Sherman marched to Savannah and then up through the Carolinas without a supply line and his men were dressed in rags by the time the war ended.
The Confederate Army that left the Atlanta area marched to Northern Alabama and then campaigned to Nashville, Tennessee. It was mostly without a supply line during that time so the soldiers also were in rags by the time the war ended.

A somewhat idealised look at Confederate Uniforms in “Harper’s Weekly”

Women’s clothing was the same on both sides. Women wore long sleeved blouses and long skirts. Work dresses were usually a single piece garment and day dresses, worn when not working, were a skirt matched with a blouse. Below are some pictures of the women’s clothing of the era. A work dress, a day dress and a ball gown.




5) While in forts and training camps the soldiers of both sides were fed meals of whatever the commissary officer could obtain locally. This was usually beef or pork in some kind of stew with bread. On campaign the U.S. soldier was issued some 9 or 10 pieces of Hard Tack (hard crackers made from flour) along with a small piece of salt pork or salt beef and a few roasted coffee beans every morning.
The men were formed into a mess of 9 or 10 men and daily each mess would warm any food from the day before and make coffee for breakfast. The mess would send a man to draw its rations and distribute them. For lunch no fire was made and the men usually just ate some hard tack. In the evening after the camp was set up the mess would gather wood for a fire, get water and each would cook in a large tin cup that he carried what he had to eat. Some messes carried a pot or pan to pool their salt meat and boil it at the end of the day with whatever vegetables they had found during the day’s march.
The Confederate soldiers in forts and camps were fed whatever the commissary officer could obtain locally or from Army supplies received occasionally. On both sides permanent camps were usually placed not too close to cities as soldiers would desert. They were put near or on a rail line to ease getting supplies to them. While on campaign the Southern soldier also got a small piece of salt pork or salt beef each day but did not receive regular supplies of hard tack. They were issued some hard cornmeal crackers, cornmeal or just plain corn to eat. The cornmeal crackers had to be boiled to soften them and corn also had to be cooked. Any vegetables or meat the soldier had was put in the pot or cup with the corn or crackers and the resulting mush was called Cush. Some Southern Armies had herds of cattle with them and just butchered a beef or two each day and gave the cut up meat to the men. The Southern soldier also received twists of tobacco regularly.
Soldiers from both sides scavenged for whatever edibles they could find while on campaign and once a large group of soldiers had passed through an area the civilians who lived there said that they wished that the soldiers would not return because the land had been picked clean of food.
6) The main weapon for the soldiers on both sides was the rifled musket. At the start of the war there was a wide variety of muskets, many of which had a different caliber (the inside diameter of the bore), in use. The various state militias each had its own preferred musket type.
Many soldiers carried shotguns when muskets were not available. The South quickly bought a lot of old military muskets from Europe but most of those that got through the blockade were nearly useless. From a box of 10 or 12 muskets they could assemble only 2 or 3 useable ones by cannibalizing the others. At the start of the war some Virginians raided Harpers Ferry where some Springfield musket dies were stored and took those to Richmond where they were used to make what is called the Richmond Springfield. Several Southern armories were established by the government and private individuals and these produced various muskets.
The North was able to purchase what they needed almost immediately from manufacturers in the North. The North bought from contractors mainly a standardized .58 caliber Springfield, named from the Springfield armory. The U.S. government also bought some 400,000 Enfield muskets of .577 caliber from the company of that name in England. Eventually over 2,000,000 Springfield muskets were made by different contractors for the U. S. Army for use in the Civil War.
The South also purchased around 400 thousand Enfield muskets in England and at least 350 thousand of them made it to the South through the blockade.
The rifled musket was loaded through the muzzle and a percussion cap had to be placed on it to fire the musket. The cartridges were made of paper with a ball (lead bullet) and powder inside the paper cartridge. The soldier tore open the paper, poured the powder into the barrel, rammed home the bullet on top of the powder and then placed the cap where the hammer could make it fire.
The soldiers were trained to load and fire a musket 3 times a minute and to fire in unison for a volley. The rifled muskets were accurate up to around 400 yards but few soldiers were marksmen and so the army continued to use the volley as the most effective firepower. There was no target practice for the soldiers until near the end of the war and so most of the volleys were fired at a close range of about 100 to 150 yards to make sure that some of the bullets had a chance of hitting their target.
As the war progressed each side salvaged whatever firearms they could from battlefields and by the last year of the war the Springfield and Enfield muskets were the main infantry weapons used by both sides.
Soldiers on both sides also carried triangular shaped bayonets but these were mostly used for a daily inspection, while on guard duty, digging and as tent poles when on campaign. The bayonet also got in the way for loading the musket and slowed down the rate of fire so it was rarely used on the battlefield except for digging. There are only a couple of recorded instances in battles where there was fighting with bayonets.
The cannons were of different sizes and their shots could be made to explode in the air, upon impact or, if solid shot was used, to just bounce along the ground. When the enemy got close the gunners also had what was called grape and canister shells which made the cannon like a shotgun with many small shots in it.

Brooke Cannon from the Naval Ordnance Works







7)Before the war most of the soldiers; time was spent in forts or stockades where the men lived in barracks. For when they moved (went on campaign) most battalions of soldiers had several wagons to carry their tents, food, ammunition and some fodder for the horses pulling the wagons and those used by the officers.
During the war, the widespread use of trains to move the soldiers long distances and the need for large bodies of soldiers to spend a lot of time in the field (on campaign) made the weight of the soldiers; clothing and equipment become crucial because he had to carry it all with him.
The weight of what the soldiers carried while on campaign was about 35 to 40 pounds. It consisted of his clothing, leather belts and shoes (about 7 to 9 lbs.), canteen full of water (4 lbs.), haversack with food and personal items (5 or 6 lbs.), cartridges and cartridge box (4 lbs.), musket and bayonet (10 lbs.), blanket and ground cover or shelter half (6 lbs.). Some had backpacks to put some of these things in while they marched but many did not.
When they went into battle they were usually told to drop their blankets and haversacks and they would be able to come back to them later. They quickly learned not to leave anything behind as the chance of returning for it was slim.
They just wore and carried all with them until they made camp each night and put it all back on when they left the camp.
8) Theoretically, at the start of the war each Regiment (Battalion) should have had a Surgeon, an Assistant Surgeon, and an Orderly. When knowing that there would be a battle several men would be designated as stretcher bearers and there would be supplied from the Brigade (several Battalions) or Division (several Brigades) a few ambulance wagons with drivers, stretchers and more medical supplies. These were mostly lacking at the battles all through the war.
Hospitals were established in major towns and cities by both sides. These were to serve as convalescent or recovery areas for severely wounded or ill soldiers who could stand a long trip to them by train and ambulance wagon from the battlefield area to reach them. Field Hospitals near the battlefield were set up for those judged too badly wounded to make the journey to a major or general hospital.
Somewhere within about a mile of the battlefield Field Stations were established to attend immediately to those soldiers brought in from the battlefield. These were where the surgeons sewed up wounds, removed bullets and shrapnel and performed amputations.
When a soldier arrived at the field station the surgeon determined if he was able to treat the wound or not. Some wounds, like in the stomach or chest were deemed as untreatable and usually fatal so the men were laid in a particular area to see if they got better or died within a few days.
Two out of three of the wounds were to the extremities (arms, legs, hands and feet) If these were puncture wounds the surgeons would probe to find the bullet, piece shrapnel or debris left by its passage. They had tools for the probes but most used their forefingers because these were more sensitive to finding what should be removed. They normally did not wash their hands but just wiped them dry on their aprons or other cloth. Once the wound was cleaned it was sewed up.
If the bullet or shrapnel had hit a bone it usually shattered the bone rather than making a clean break. That meant that the bone could not be treated by rejoining it and fixing it in place with splints. The limb had to be amputated just above the breakage. General opinion was that this should be done as quickly as possible while the patient was still in shock and pain. The flesh was cut and the exposed bone sawed and then recovered with flesh and the skin sewed together over the wound. Some surgeons used cauterization with a red hot piece of metal to stop the loss of blood and close the wound for healing. Speed in amputation was thought necessary and a proficient surgeon could amputate a limb and sew it up in a little over a minute
During these treatments several hospital orderlies held the soldier as both probing and amputation were agonizing. Chloroform and Morphine came to be used for the pain but supplies of these were not adequate. After the soldier had been treated by the surgeon he was placed with others who had been through the same treatment and within a few days, if hospital gangrene did not develop, he was sent to a hospital.
To get the wounded to the field station the soldier had to come by himself if he were about to do so, be helped or carried there by friends in his regiment, or be carried or helped by the stretcher bearers. The assistant surgeon usually roamed the battlefield with an orderly or two carrying canteens of water and medical bags. The bags had needles and thread for binding up open wounds, bandages, sponges, splints, tourniquets, a few medical tools and some brandy or rum for relieving pain. Late in the war morphine was also carried.
The wounded usually called for water and as the assistant surgeon found them he gave them water while he checked their wounds. If they could walk he sent them to the field station alone or with help if they needed it. If they had a stomach or chest wound he usually gave them a little brandy or rum and left them alone. He sent those with puncture wounds back to the field station because they could be treated by the surgeon. The non-walking wounded were carried back by the stretcher bearers as they were available.
Some of these assistant surgeons went out during the heat of battle and others waited for a lull or until the battle was over.










Remains of the Confederate Naval Ordnance Works at Selma after General Wilson burned the City of Selma.


Books/ Movies/Materials


 Read All About It! Read All About It!

There are literally TONS of books that have been written about the Civil War and
here are a few that you might be interested in! Check them out at your local

 Grades 5 through 8:

Irene Hunt, Across Five Aprils 1964

James I. Robertson Jr., Civil War! America Becomes One Nation, 1992

Florence W. Biros, Dog Jack, 1990

Clifton G. Wisler, Red Cap, 1991

Charles Flate, The Golden Book of the Civil War, 1961

Alan Armchault, Johnny Reb: The Confederate Soldier in the Civil War, 1995

Alan Armchault, Billy Yank: The Union Soldier in the Civil War, 1995

Jill Canon, Civil War Heroines, 1994

Elsie Creagar, Gettysburg By The Third Sun Setting, 1988

Grades 5 through 12:

Paddy Griffith, Battle in the Civil War 1986

Stephen Crane, The Red Badge Of Courage, 1895

Bruce Catton, The American Civil War, 1987

Jack Coggins, Arms and Equipment of the Civil War, 1961

E. B. Long, The Civil War Day By Day – An Almanac 1861-1865, 1971

The National Historical Society, The Image of War: 1861-1865, 1981

Ina Chang, A Separate Battle: Women and the Civil War, 1991

James McPherson, Marching Toward Freedom: The Negro in the Civil War, 1967

Harold E. Straubling, In Hospital and Camp: The Civil War Through the Eyes of
its Doctors and Nurses, 1993

Time-Life, Gettysburg: High Tide of the Confederacy, 1987

Time-Life, Echoes of Glory: Arms and Equipment of the Union, 1998

Time-Life, Echoes of Glory: Arms and Equipment of the Confederacy, 1998

Time-Life, Echoes of Glory: Illustrated Atlas of the Civil War, 1998

Philip Van Doren Stren, Secret Missions of the Civil War, 1959

Time-Life, An Illustrated History of the Civil War: Images of an American Tragedy, 2000

For the advanced reader:

Shelby Foote, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume I: Fort Sumter to Perryville, 1999

Shelby Foote, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume II: Fredericksburg to Meridan, 1999

Shelby Foote, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume III: Red River to Appomattox, 1999

Lawrence R. Labota, From Selma to Appomattox: the history of the Jeff Davis Artillery, 1994

Glenn W. Sunderland, Wilder’ Lightning Brigade, 1984

John W. Morton, The Artillery of Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Cavalry, 1909

Stephen W. Sears, For Country Cause & Leader: The Civil War Journal of Charles B. Haydon, 1993

Jay Winik, April 1865: The Month that Saved America, 2001

John Hardy, History of Selma, 1957 (reprint of John Hardy, Selma; Her Institutions and Her Men, 1879)

Mildred Brewer Russell, Lowndes Court House: A Chronicle of Hayneville, an Alabama Black Belt Village 1820-1900, 1957

Clement Eaton, A History of the Old South, The Emergence of a Reluctant Nation(3rd Edition), 1975

Virginia Van Der Veer Hamilton, Alabama: A Bicentennial History, 1977

George C. Rable, Civil Wars: Women and the Crisis of Southern Nationalism, 1989

Charles A. Misulia, COLUMBUS GEORGIA 1865: The Last True Battle of the Civil War, 2010

Mike Wright, What They Didn’t Teach You About The Civil War, 1996

C. Vann Woodward, Mary Chesnut’s Civil War, 1981

Burke Davis, The Long Surrender, 1985

Authur Sinclair, Two Years on the Alabama, 1895

Edward G. Longacre, Grant’s Cavalryman: The Life and Wars of General James H. Wilson, 1972

James Pickett Jones, Yankee Blitzkrieg, 1976

Benjamin F. McGee, History of the 72d Indiana Volunteer Infantry, 1923

James H. Wilson, Under the old Flag, 1912

William F Scott, The Story of a Cavalry Regiment, 1893

Thomas Crofts, History of the Third Ohio Cavalry, 1910

Michael R. Bradley, Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Escort and Staff, 2006

Shane E. Kastler, Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Redemption, 2010

Nancy Pape-Findley, The Invincibles, 2002


A library is a wonderful place where the imagination is fulfilled and questions
are answered. Make sure to get to your local library, because reading is fun!

Link to more Civil War Books


“Ratings” should be followed.  All movies are not suitable for every age group.

  • 10. Cold Mountain (2003)
  • Written by Charles Frazier
  • Directed by Anthony Minghella
  • Jude Law as Inman
  • Nicole Kidman as Ada Monroe
  • Renée Zellweger as Ruby
  • Natalie Portman as Sara
  • Donald Sutherland as Preacher Monroe
  • Cold Mountain is about as exciting as watching Old Yeller for the first time. Is that good or bad? It was not the best love story that I have ever seen. Furthermore it‘s not the best Civil War or action movie around. I found Cold Mountain to be decent romantic drama set in the year 1864 so they could use the Civil War as a back ground. There was some very good acting, I was all pumped up looking for something great. Although Cold Mountain is not great, it is worth seeing.
  • Although the movie was a bit of a let down to me, others really enjoyed it. The acting in the film was very good on all accounts. I think that Renée Zellweger was flat out awesome and deserved her Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. Her acting is great. Cold Mountain will not be remembered as a great movie. The plot was not that good. It needed more depth and a better dialog. On the upside the music was great! The cast was great and the acting very well done. I’d recommend Cold Mountain to someone who enjoys romantic dramas, westerns or Civil War flicks.
  • Quote From Cold Mountain
  • Ruby: They call this war a cloud over the land. But they made the weather and then they stand in the rain and say, %#ZX& it’s raining.
  • **********
  • 9. Shenandoah (1965)
  • Directed by Andrew McLaglen
  • James Stewart as Charlie Anderson
  • Doug McClure as Sam
  • Katharine Ross as Ann Anderson
  • Patrick Wayne as James Anderson
  • Shenandoah was a good movie with a good story line. The cast with Jimmy Steward and Doug McClure were very good. Stewart plays a Virginia Farmer during the Civil War. He didn’t believe in the war and didn’t want to have a thing to do with it let a lone choose a side. The problem was that his land was in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley which was dead center in the middle of the war.
  • I enjoyed the movie Shenandoah for a couple of reasons. First off the acting and cast were very good. Another reason that I enjoyed the movie was that it offers the viewer a whole new perspective on the American Civil War. Mr. Anderson didn’t believe in the war at all, north or south. The script was also very realistic. I would recommend Shenandoah to someone who enjoys westerns, civil war movies or James Stewart.
  • Quotes from Shenandoah
  • Lieutenant Johnson: When are you going to take this war seriously, Anderson?
  • Charlie Anderson: Now let me tell you something Johnson, before you get on my wrong side. My corn I take seriously, because it’s mine. And my potatoes and tomatoes and my fence I take note of because they’re mine. But this war is not mine and I don’t take note of it.
  • ——
  • Charlie Anderson: I’m glad you’re here, Johnson. I’ve been meaning to have a word with your people about those cannons of yours. The chickens have stopped laying, the cows have dried up. Who do I send the bill to?
  • **********
  • 8. Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
  • Clint Eastwood as Josey Wales
  • Chief Dan George as Lone Watie
  • Sondra Locke as Laura Lee
  • Bill McKinney as Terrill
  • John Vernon as Fletcher
  • Outlaw Josey Wales is a film about the Kansas Jayhawkers (Red legs) and the Missouri Bushwackers. The warfare that took place out west between Kansas and Missouri during the Civil War, was nothing less than brutal murder. Both sides would invade each others states and kill, rape, pillage and burn. The movie Outlaw Josey Wales is about a farmer who was living in Missouri minding his own business when a band of Red legs kill his family. The only mistake they make is not killing Josey Wales when they had a chance!
  • Quotes from Outlaw Josey Wales
  • Josey: When I get to likin someone, they ain’t around long.
  • Watie: I notice when you get to dislikin’ someone they ain’t around for long neither.
  • ——–
  • Josey: You a bounty hunter?
  • Bounty Hunter: A man has to do something these days to earn a living.
  • Josey: Dyin ain’t much of a living boy.
  • ——–
  • Senator: There’s a saying, Fletcher: To the victor belongs the spoils.
  • Fletcher: There’s another saying, Senator, don’t %#Z& down my back and tell me it’s raining.
  • **********
  • 7. North And The South ( 1985, Warner Bros, ABC Mini-Series)
  • Directed by Richard T. Heffron
  • Patrick Swayze as Orry Main
  • James Read as George Hazard
  • Kirstie Alley as Virgilia Hazard
  • David Carradine as Justin LaMotte
  • Lesley-Anne Down as Madeline Fabray LaMotte
  • Johnny Cash as John Brown
  • Morgan Fairchild as Burdetta Halloran
  • Hal Holbrook as Abraham Lincoln
  • Robert Mitchum as Patrick Flynn
  • Elizabeth Taylor as Madam Conti
  • John Anderson as William Hazard
  • Jonathan Frakes as Stanley Hazard
  • Forest Whitaker as Cuffey
  • At 12 hours long it is able to touch on every issue that the Civil War was fought over. The film also gives the viewer an in-depth look at both sides from two completely different perspectives. Two men, one from the north, George Hazzard and one from the South, Orry Main are best friends before the war between the states. After the war breaks out it tests their friendship to it’s very core.
  • Quotes from North And The South
  • Orry: This is our way of life, it has been for more than a hundred years!
  • Orry: How would you like me, to come up to Lehigh Station, telling you how to run your life, to change the way you have always lived?
  • Orry: But I mean this George. You and me… we’re good friends, and if we want to keep that friendship, there are certain things we can never say to each other. Some things we can never talk about.
  • George: I guess you’re right.
  • George: We’re supposed to be fighting Mexicans… not each other!
  • ——
  • Ashton Main: {Spoiled Southern Bell} I couldn’t possibly love just one man, think how disappointed the rest would be.
  • **********
  • 6. The Red Badge Of Courage (1951)
  • Written by Stephen Crane
  • Directed by John Huston
  • Audie Murphy as Henry Fleming
  • John Dierkes as Jim Conklin
  • Bill Mauldin as Tom Wilson
  • Douglas Dick as The Lieutenant
  • Tim Durant The General
  • The Red Badge Of Courage was based on Stephen Cranes classic short story published in 1894. The movie is also fairly short at one hour nine minutes long. The Red Badge Of Courage delves into the physic of warfare to the foot soldier. The questions that every soldier going to and in war will ask himself. Some viewers will notice sub plots such as war itself and it’s effect on soldiers as well as the inhumanity of war. The Red Badge Of Courage takes a look into the soul of a soldier. What better person to play the part than the most decorated war hero the United States has ever had, Audie Murphy
  • **********
  • 5. Gods & Generals (2003)
  • Directed By Ronald F. Maxwell [Gettysburg & Joan of Arc]
  • Jell Daniels as Lt Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain [Gettysburg & Blood Work]
  • Stephen Lang as General “Stonewall” Jackson [Gettysburg]
  • Robert Duvall as General Robert E. Lee [ Lonesome Dove]
  • Kevin Conway as Sergeant ‘Buster’ Kilrain [Gettysburg & Joan Of Arc]
  • Mira Sorvino as Fanny Chamberlain [Joan Of Arc]
  • Kali Rocha as Anna Jackson
  • Gods and Generals does a good job of starting out before the war and going all the way up to Gettysburg. I really enjoyed the battle scenes. I also thought it was neat how most of the cast came back to play their parts. I must say they played the parts well! What I liked most about Gods and General was how Maxwell is so meticulous in his historical accuracy! For example, there must be a hundred things said or done in the movie that were right on the money! One thing that I really enjoyed about Gettysburg is how the movie portrayed the views of both sides during the war. Gods and Generals didn’t do nearly as much of the Union side as I had hoped. The movie was constantly on Stonewall Jackson. I believe it would have been better if Maxwell would have cut out most of the Stonewall prayer scenes and replaced them with scenes of Colonel Chamberlain and his Maine men.
  • I must admit that I was expecting something more along the lines of Gettysburg. This was more of a biography of Thomas Stonewall Jackson. I have a few friends that were re-enactors for the movie. For their help with making the movie 500,000.00 was donated to preserve civil war battlefields. I wish more movies were as historically accurate. I say a job well done Ron Maxwell, sir. I am looking forward to the release of The Last Full Measure!
  • Quotes from Gods and Generals
  • General Lee: Though I love the Union, I love Virginia more.
  • [Stonewalls last words]
  • General “Stonewall” Jackson: Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.
  • **********
  • 4. Andersonville
  • Directeed by John Frankenhiemer
  • Jarrod Emick as Josiah Day
  • Frederic Forrest as Sgt. McSpadden
  • Ted Marcoux as Martin Blackburn
  • Carmen Argenziano as Hopkins
  • William H. Macy as Colonel Chandler
  • Cliff De Young as Sgt. John Gleason
  • Andersonville may the most inhuman prisoner of war camp to ever existed. Even Sobibor and Auschwitz gave P.O.W.’s drinking water and a shack to stay in. Andersonville tells the daunting true story of a Confederate prisoner of war camp during the American Civil War. You couldn’t call it a camp really, it was simply a ringed log wall with guard towers and a small nasty creek running through the edge of it. This creek was their, drinking water, bathing water and sewer system. There was upwards of thirty thousand Union soldiers living in this HELL HOLE, of a world. They would dig a hole in the ground and try and cover it with old shirts, pants, anything they could get their hands on. On top of all this they were starving to death. The odds of getting out of this place alive were slim to none. The prison was built for 8,000 prisoners, before the war’s end it would see over 30,000 men stuffed in this place. During the last couple of years nearly 13,000 men died in Andersonville.
  • I have nothing but praise for this movie. The acting was superb! The dialog, directing, cinematography and score were all outstanding. I would recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys history or the American Civil War. I would also like to give praise to Ted Turner (Turner Productions & Turner Network Television – TNT). If it wasn’t for Turner’s great interest in with American history we wouldn’t have movies such as Andersonville, (Gettysburg & Gods And Generals).
  • **********
  • 3. Ride With The Devil (1999)
  • Directed by Ang Lee
  • Tobey Maguire as Jake (Dutchy) Roedel
  • Skeet Ulrich as Jack Bull Chiles
  • Jeffery Wright as Holt
  • Jewel as Sue Lee
  • Ride With The Devil does not get into the Politics of the war or “The Cause”. Instead it focuses on the ruthless, savage clan type warfare that took place in Missouri and Kansas during the American Civil War. Nothing less than cold blooded murder took place quite frequently in these two states during the Civil War years. There were no Armies per say, out west where they were. The Pro Confederate folks formed bands called Bushwhackers. The Pro Union folks formed bands called Jayhawkers. If either side found out you were on the wrong side they would burn your house down and murder you and your sons. In my humble opinion Ang Lee did a splendid job, portraying this brutal and largely unknown side of the American Civil War.
  • The movie is set in Missouri in the early years of the Civil War. Ang Lee focuses on a small group of Missouri men and boys that that are forced to choose a side and fight like hell! The Jayhawkers had found out that Jack Bulls Father was a southern sympathizer. They Burnt down the family house and Jack Bull’s father was dragged into the front yard and shot. Jack Bull was able to escape.
  • Jack Bull and his friend Jake Roedel got out of town in a hurry. They would join the local band of Bushwhackers and avenge the death of Jack Bull’s father. One of the may ironies of the movie was Holt. A black man who was fighting with the pro Confederate Bushwhackers. There wasn’t much concern about States rights or freeing slaves were they were. The concern was staying alive and avenging murders committed against their friends and families.
  • Quotes from Ride With The Devil
  • Jake: [Discussing his missing finger that had been shot off with Jack Bull] No. It was a fine finger and I’d rather have it still, but… it was took from me and it’s been et by chickens for sure. And I say, what is the good side to this amputation? And there is one.
  • ———-
  • Sue Lee: So do you wanna marry me?
  • Jake: No, not too bad.
  • Sue Lee: Good. That’s good news, ’cause I wouldn’t marry you for a wagonload full of gold.
  • ********************************
  • 2. Glory (1989)
  • Directed by Edward Zwick
  • Matthew Broderick as Colonel Robert Shaw
  • Denzel Washington as Pvt. Trip
  • Cary Elwes as Major Cabot Forbes
  • Morgan Freeman as Sergeant Major John Rawlins
  • John Finn as Sergeant Major Mulcahy
  • Glory is one of the finest films ever made pertaining to the American Civil War. The film was based on letters that Colonel Robert Shaw wrote. The all-star cast did an excellent piece of work in making this Civil War classic. The directing by Edward Zwick is exceptional. The score is very good as well. The story was about the 54th Massachusetts, an all-black Union Infantry regiment. The film was based on their actual story and the events that took place with their regiment, The 54th Massachusetts.
  • It is a very thought provoking film with several disturbing issues. The story was very good. The acting doesn’t get any better. Denzel Washington’s performance was brilliant and won him an Academy Award. The Cinematography was also as good as it gets, and also won an Academy Award. The score was excellent. Morgan Freeman gives us his usual perfect performance and Broderick is at his best in Glory. I would recommend this movie to anyone. I give Glory two thumps up and 5 big stars.
  • Quote From Glory
  • Colonel Shaw: There’s more to fighting than rest, sir. There’s character. There’s strength of heart. You should have seen us in action two days ago. We were a sight to see! We’ll be ready, sir. When do you want us?
  • ************************************************************************
  • 1. Gettysburg (1993)
  • The movie was based on the epic novel The Killer Angels, written in 1974 by Michael Shaara.
  • Gettysburg was Produced and directed by Ronald F. Maxwell in 1993. It was filmed on location at the Gettysburg National Military Park. Most everything in the film was true. The film is extremely historically accurate. From The order of battle to when the different divisions showed up at Gettysburg. Colonel Chamberlains infamous bayonet charge on little round top. General James Longstreet’s objection to Lee’s order to advance on the Angle. You will never have a real idea of what really happened at Gettysburg until you see this great reenactment (movie) of the battle at Gettysburg. Gettysburg is the best all around civil war film that I have seen to date.  Although this is the best civil war movie, Martin Sheen’s performace, as Robert Edward Lee, in this movie and in God’ & Generals is the worst casting in movie history.   Both movies without Sheen’s performace would have been even better.  The rest of the casting is excellent!
  • Quotes From Gettysburg
  • Colonel Chamberlain: [Quoting Hamlet] “What a piece of work is man, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god.”
  • Sergeant Kilrain: Well, man may be an angel. But he damn well must be a killer angel.
  • ——–
  • Robert E. Lee: To be a good soldier you must love the army. To be a good commander you must be able to order the death of the thing you love.
  • ——–
  • General Longstreet: We should have freed the slaves, then fired on Fort Sumter.
  • ——–
  • General Pickett: Up men! And to your posts! And let no man forget today, that you are from Old Virginia!
  • ——–
  • General Armistead: Virginians! For your land – for your homes – for your sweethearts – for your wives – for Virginia! Forward… march!
  • ——–
  • General Kemper: Well, I got to hand it to you, George. You sure got a talent for trivializing the momentous and complicating the obvious. You ever consider running for Congress?
  • That’s my list of the best American Civil War movies that I have ever seen. I hope you found a movie that you have not seen.
  • More American Civil War Movies
  • • The Blue And The Gray (1982, CBS Mini-Series)
  • • An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge (1962)
  • • How The West Was Won (1962)
  • • Gone With The Wind (1939)
  • • USS Hunley (1999)
  • • The Good The Bad And The Ugly
  • • Wicked Spring (2002)
  • • Major Dundee (1965)~ personal favorite
  • • The General (1927)
  • • The Birth Of A Nation (1915)
  • • Shadow Riders (1982)
  • Gettysburg Three Days Of Destiny (2003)
  • The Horse Soldier(1965) *even though everyone knows the uniforms are wrong.


  • Link to more Movies
  • These Topics  Below Are For The More Advanced Student Of History.

    Jefferson Davis

    Jefferson Davis was born June 3, 1808, in that portion of Christian county, Kentucky, which was afterwards set off as Todd County. His grandfather was a colonist from Wales, living in Virginia and Maryland, and rendering important public service to those southern colonies. His father, Samuel Emory Davis, and his uncles, were all Revolutionary soldiers in 1776. Samuel Davis served during the Revolution partly with Georgia cavalry and was also in the siege of Savannah as an officer in the infantry. He is described as a young officer of gentle and engaging address, as well as remarkable daring in battle. Three brothers of Jefferson Davis, all older than himself, fought in the war of 1812, two of them serving directly with Andrew Jackson, and gaining from that great soldier special mention of their gallantry in the battle of New Orleans.
    Jefferson Davis received his academic education in early boyhood at home, and was then sent to Transylvania University in Kentucky, where he remained until 1824, and the sixteenth year of his age. During that year he was appointed by President Monroe to West Point military academy as a cadet. A class-mate at West Point said of him, “he was distinguished in his corps for manly bearing and high-toned and lofty character. His figure was very soldier like and rather robust; his step springy, resembling the tread of an Indian ‘brave’ on the war-path.” He was graduated June, 1828, at twenty years of age, assigned at once to the First infantry and commissioned on the same day brevet second-lieutenant and second-lieutenant. His first active service in the United States army was at posts in the North-west from 1828 to 1833. The Black-hawk war occurring in 1831, his regiment was engaged in several of its battles, in one of which the Indian chieftain, Blackhawk, was captured and placed in the charge of Lieutenant Davis; and it is stated that the heart of the Indian captive was won by the kind treatment he received from the young officer who held him prisoner. In 1833, March 4th, Lieutenant Davis was transferred to a new regiment called the First Dragoons, with promotion to the rank of first-lieutenant, and was appointed adjutant. For about two years following this promotion he had active service in various encounters with the Pawnees, Comanches and other tribes.
    Jefferson married Sarah Knox Taylor (daughter of Zachary Taylor). Three months after the wedding Mrs. Davis died of disease. He later married Varina Howell (16 years his junior); their marriage endured the war and lasted until his death.
    Jefferson served during the Mexican War with former West Point classmates. He was appointed Colonel of the Mississippi Regiment. He refused a promotion to Brigadier Gen. from the president on the grounds that the president had no authority to promote a state militia officer.
    He served as Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce. Davis served the people of Mississippi as their representative in the U.S. House of Representatives and 12 years as their U.S. senator. During his tenure in the senate he argued against secession as a method of solving regional differences. His deep concern for the rights of states not being overshadowed by the central government was the center of his political agenda. He reluctantly resigned from the U.S. Senate upon Mississippi’s vote of secession. Upon his return to MS he was appointed Maj. General of the MS militia. A couple of weeks later he was given the position as provisional president of the Confederacy. A short time later he was elected President of the new Confederacy.
    At the end of the war he was imprisoned at Fortress Monroe for two years. For more information on Jefferson Davis go to
    Respectfully submitted by Rev. J.W. Binion, D.Min.

 Black Troops in the Civil War



A Civil War Historical Narrative by Major George E. Reynolds

President Abraham Lincoln concluded his December 1, 1862 Message to Congress by stating in part: “In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free – honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best, hope on earth.” Under fire from rival Democrats and some members of his own Republican Party, the embattled Lincoln wrote those forthright words just one month before the formal signing of his Emancipation Proclamation. With the passage of that remarkable document, President Lincoln made perpetually free the nearly four million slaves living in bondage within the territories of the rebellious Confederate States of America.

Although historically speaking it was the Confiscation Act of July 1862 that first specifically authorized black enlistment, Lincoln refused to allow the policy until after his signing of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. Some of Lincoln’s more abolitionist minded generals, however, attempted to raise their own black units prior to the official go-ahead. General John Fremont, commander of Union forces in Missouri, issued a directive freeing all slaves in his area of operations without first getting the President’s approval and in nearby Kansas, Brigadier General Jim Lane formed black units without the War Department’s concurrence. Northern officers like Generals David Hunter and Rufus Saxton in South Carolina tried to form black regiments from the multitudes of contrabands that fled across Union lines. While in Louisiana, General Benjamin Butler mustered into service the free men of color of the Louisiana Native Guards – thereafter known as the Corps d’ Afrique. Those efforts, though, were limited in scope and the full and advantageous impact of African American recruitment was not fully realized until after the Emancipation Proclamation.

The Emancipation Proclamation dramatically changed forever, the direction of the American Civil War. With one mighty stroke of his pen, Lincoln transformed the war from one waged to restore the Union, to one fought to abolish the evil of Southern slavery. Lincoln’s important declaration also paved the way for the official authorization and the raising of African American regiments to augment the already war-weary white Union forces. This audacious move proved to be a political powder keg for Lincoln.

To many Northerners, the President’s action was tantamount to treason; large numbers of outspoken citizens and politicians were alarmed and appalled at the prospects of black recruits. Arguing against the black enlistment bill, one Democratic legislator declared: “This is a government of white men, made by white men for white men, to be administered, protected, defended, and maintained by white men.” Reacting sharply to the outrageous and offensive claims against his policy, an acerbic and unmoved Lincoln argued that peace would eventually come to the Union, and when it did: “Then, there 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 to this great consummation; while, I fear, there will be some white ones, unable to forget that, with malignant heart, and deceitful speech, they have strove to hinder it.”

Unfortunately, the strong debate over black enlistment was not limited to Northern civilian sectors and political arenas. Numerous white soldiers, enlisted men and officers alike, strongly objected to the idea of African American military service, contending that blacks had no place fighting in a “white man’s war.” One private in a Rhode Island infantry regiment no doubt spoke for many when he wrote: “The plan of having Negro soldiers is very well in some cases; but when it comes to putting the whites and blacks on the same footing, I come to the conclusion it is about time to quit soldiering. I want to see the war come to a close, this rebellion crushed, and the Stars and Stripes waving over a united country once more, and I am willing to fight for it, but I am not willing to fight shoulder to shoulder with a black.”

Fortunately for the Union, prejudicial attitudes amongst Northerners was not universal. Abolitionists rejoiced in Lincoln’s decision while scores of others, reluctantly, if not pragmatically, accepted the idea of black enlistment. One Ohio lieutenant surely echoed the thoughts of others when he wrote: “.. there is not a Negro in the army that is not a better man than a rebel ..” And in another example of in-ranks support for the President’s plan, Union Captain Charles Hill wrote his wife saying: “A great many white people have the idea that the entire Negro race are vastly their inferiors. I have a more elevated opinion of their abilities than ever before. I know that many of them are vastly the superiors of those who would condemn them to a life of brutal degradation.”

President Lincoln also found a strong ally – and at times harsh critic – in the renowned African American orator and anti-slavery advocate Frederick Douglass. Douglass was an eloquently vocal supporter of black enlistment and was one of the earliest leaders to understand that a black call to arms was the quickest and surest means available to gain African American respect and equality. Realizing the important need for black men to participate in the achievement of their own freedom, Douglass proclaimed: “The colored man only waits for honorable admission into the service of the country. They know that who would be free must strike the first blow.” The South, for its part, erupted in sweeping, and for the most part frenzied, outrage over the Lincoln edict. Confederate President Jefferson Davis, along with just about every other rebel political and social leader, vehemently condemned the idea of black enlistment and promoted it as “last ditch measure” of a defeated Northern government. The Confederate Congress responded quickly, and on May 1, 1863 passed a formal declaration that black men bearing arms would be viewed as insurrectionary slaves subject to the laws of the states where they were captured. At the very least, captured African American soldiers faced a return to the shackles of bondage.

In numerous documented instances, however, surrendering black soldiers along with their white officers were killed outright by their Confederate captors. Rebel soldiers had little tolerance for a policy that exposed turning former slaves into soldiers. It was into this bubbling cauldron of social and political turmoil that President Abraham Lincoln plunged, first himself, and then the entire nation.

Understanding full well the profound positive impact African American soldier manpower would have on the Union war effort and the devastating psychological jolt it would produce within Confederate ranks, Lincoln ordered the formation of black regiments. Writing to then Tennessee Governor Andrew Johnson in March, 1863, a poised Lincoln professed: “The colored population is the great available, yet unavailed of, force for restoring the Union. The bare sight of fifty thousand armed, and drilled black soldiers on the banks of the Mississippi, would end the rebellion at once.” The – great available colored population – that Lincoln wrote of responded overwhelmingly, and with little haste, to his call to the Nation’s defense. Inspired by vigorous support from prominent black leaders and motivated by African American newspapers emblazoned with phrases like: “We must fight! fight! fight!”; “It is now or never – now if ever.”; “What better field to claim our rights than the field of battle?”; “To strike for the Union, is to strike for the bondsmen,.” blacks descended upon recruiters in large numbers.

While many of the would be enlistees lining up outside of the bustling recruitment stations were recently liberated slaves or plantation runaways, a much larger number were black men who were born free. Men like George Stephens of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania who implored: “We do not deserve the name of freemen, if we disregard the teachings of the hour and fail to place in the balance against oppression, treason, and tyranny, our interests, our arms, and our lives.” Stephens, who served in the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, went on to add: “we have more to gain, if victorious, or more to lose, if defeated, than any other class of men, (the) sooner we awaken to their inexorable demands upon us, the better for the race, the better for the country, the better for our families, and the better for ourselves.”

Another member of the famed 54th, Corporal James Henry Gooding, passionately encouraged black volunteerism by writing: “As one of the race, I beseech you, slavery must die! It depends on the black men of the North, whether it will die or not – those who are in bonds must have some one to open the door; when slaves see the white soldier approach, he dares not trust him and why? Because he has heard that some have treated him worse than their owners in the rebellion. But if the slave sees the black soldier, he knows that he has got a friend; and through friendship, he that was once a slave can be made a soldier, to fight for his own liberty. Now is the time to act!”

White leaders, also heralding the cause of black recruitment, zealously solicited and encouraged black men to enlist. None was more enthusiastic in effort than Massachusetts Republican Governor John A. Andrew. Andrew had long and ardently advocated the use of blacks in the military – fully believing that they could, and would fight if given the opportunity. It was no surprise then, when he, along with the earnest support of Frederick Douglass – raised the nation’s first post-Emancipation Proclamation black unit, the 54th Massachusetts Regiment. When the proud and imposing 54th paraded along Boston Common in grand review on May 28,1863, they knew that a pugnacious rebel enemy awaited them in South Carolina. The magnificent men of the noble regiment refused to yield to the uncertainty of their impending fate, however, and instead marched triumphantly amongst the cheering and flag waving well-wishers – both black and white – who lined the crowded streets. The impressive 54th departed the Bay State as the model for all of the black regiments that followed.

All total, some 185,000 African American men followed in the exalted footsteps of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, hell-bent on confirming their manhood and extinguishing the flames of Southern oppression. A staggering 74% of all free blacks of military age (18-45) fought for their country. They formed into 166 units – 60 of which engaged in direct combat – and organized as 145 infantry regiments, 13 artillery units, seven cavalry groups, and one engineer battalion. Most of the units mustered into service with state designated titles – 55th Massachusetts; 1st Kansas; 1st Mississippi – until the War Department changed the names to the United States Colored Troops (USCT) in 1864. Even then, four units – 5th Massachusetts Cavalry; 54th and 55th Massachusetts Infantry; 29th Connecticut Infantry – retained their state designations throughout the entire war.

All of the black units – except for the Corps d’ Afrique – entered military service led by white officers. This was done to assuage the concerns and help stem the objections of many Northerners who opposed black enlistment. Unfortunately for the soldiers, though, many officer selections were not based on qualifications. Thus black regiments became convenient dumping grounds for careless, self-promoting, or just plain inferior officers. These substandard officers were many times inept and usually racist and the unlucky black soldiers almost always paid the price. On more than one occasion, black soldiers were carelessly thrown into a deadly maelstrom of fire by commanders who didn’t know any better or who just didn’t care. Luckily, however, the majority of USCT units were led by well qualified officers who fit Governor Andrew’s designs for: “young men of military experience, of firm anti-slavery principles, ambitious, superior to vulgar contempt for color, and having faith in the capacity of colored men for military service.” The white leadership issue notwithstanding, black also faced many others problems in their passage from civilian to soldier. Often they received second-rate equipment, shoddy clothing, inadequate supplies, and inferior living environments – not to mention a pervasive cloud of prejudice that existed throughout the military ranks.

These indignities were minor, however, when compared to the explosive issue of equal pay. In 1863, when blacks began to enlist, the pay for white recruits was $13 per day plus food and clothing. All concerned, including the War Department, assumed that the new black soldiers would be entitled to equal payment as well. Instead, Solicitor William Whiting, using requirements specified in the Militia Act of 1862 ruled that soldiers of the USCT would be paid at the black government laborer rate of $10 per day; deducting another $3 for a clothing allowance. Needless to say, blacks were universally inflamed by the blatant display of discrimination. Many soldiers refused to accept their pay rather than suffer the indignation. One disgruntled soldier argued his point effectively when he asked: “Do we not fill the same ranks? Do we not cover the same ground? Do we not take up the same length of ground in the graveyard as others do? The ball does not miss the black man and strike the white, they strike one as much as the other, we have done a soldier’s duty, why can’t we have a soldier’s pay?”

Eventually in 1864, Washington politicians bowed to pressure from blacks and whites alike and reinstated equal pay measures; to some, however, the unjust policy forever stigmatized the legitimacy of the Federal government’s intentions.

Despite these tremendous adversities and many other stifling acts of bias, black soldiers took to the field of battle with a level of intensity and ferocity no less than that of their white comrades at arms. Against the parapets of Battery Wagner, along the approaches to Port Hudson, within the trenches of Petersburg, and across the many other battlefields were they spilled their precious blood, black soldiers completely destroyed the myths of slavery. Their gallant deeds garnered twenty-nine Medals of Honor and all but erased the skepticism of an entire nation. By their heroic conduct, they vindicated their manhood, and earned forever, the rightful claim to citizenry in the United States of America.

In the words of one white officer following the overwhelming Union victory at Nashville, Tennessee: “I have often heard men say that they would not fight beside a Negro soldier but on the 16th the whites and blacks charged together and they fell just as well as we did. When you hear any one say that Negro soldiers won’t fight just tell them that, I have seen a great many fighting for our country.”

Just as pointed, but more solemnly stated, was 28th USCT chaplain Garland H. White, who proudly proclaimed: “The historian pen cannot fail to locate us somewhere among the good and the great, who have fought and bled upon the altar of their country.”





By Steve Fry
The Topeka Capital-Journal
September 27, 2001
Copyright 2001 Topeka Capital-Journal

“Before William Clarke Quantrill and hundreds of his Missouri guerrillas raided Lawrence in 1863, John Noland rode ahead to scout out the town.

Noland, Quantrill’s primary scout, is just one of many blacks who served in Confederate units during the Civil War“, said historian Ed Kennedy.

Noland joined Quantrill because his family in Missouri had been abused by Jayhawkers, Kansas guerrillas who raided Missouri and later were mustered into the Union forces, Kennedy said. Photographs of Quantrill’s raiders as they attended reunions after the Civil War show Noland sitting prominently with white members of the group.

In the 1999 movie “Ride With the Devil,” Noland is the basis for the character Daniel Holt, the freed black who along with his former owner rides with Quantrill’s bushwhackers, Kennedy said.

It is difficult to determine how many blacks fought in the Confederate forces, in part because many Confederate records were destroyed. Kennedy estimates seven percent to eight percent of the Confederate forces might have been black.

Kennedy cites a number of sources, including diaries, letters, private publications, the “Official Records of the War of the Rebellion” and writings of black scholars.

For instance:

  • .. And photographs showed black veterans, who “wore their veterans badges as proudly as any whites.”
  • .. Pensions were paid to black Confederate soldiers.
  • .. An 1862 letter from Frederick Douglass to President Abraham Lincoln in which Douglass writes that many blacks serve in the Confederate Army as “real soldiers having muskets on their shoulders and bullets in their pockets, ready to shoot down and do all that soldiers may do to destroy the Federal government.”
  • .. A Union sanitary commission officer saw 3,000 black armed combatants in the Confederate Army moving through Fredricksburg, Va., in 1862.

Blacks served in the Confederate Army “for the same reason they defended the United States colonies in the Revolutionary War,” Kennedy said. “They were patriots,” who thought their homes were being invaded by the Union. They felt like this was their home, that this was their country. They weren’t fighting for slavery.”

The black Confederates were a combination of free blacks and slaves who were house servants accompanying white masters, Kennedy said. Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest freed 44 of his slaves after they served Forrest’s cavalry forces, Kennedy said. Unlike blacks in the Union Army who served in all-black regiments, blacks in the Confederate Army fought in mixed units, he said.

The topic of black Confederate soldiers is rarely talked about because “it’s not politically correct,” Kennedy said. Some people who hear about black soldiers fighting in the Confederate Army “just go ballistic,” Kennedy said. He likens their reaction to people who didn’t know blacks served in the Union Army before release of the 1989 movie “Glory,” the film about the 54th Massachusetts, an all-black unit Union regiment. (The first black regiment to fight in the Civil War was the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry.)





Civil War Historian Ed Kennedy is a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army and a former instructor of history at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. He teaches Army Reserve Officer Training Corps classes at Leavenworth High School and is co-owner of Historical Leadership Seminars, a private company that takes corporate executives to battlefields to teach leadership and decision-making skills.


Black Confederates Why haven’t we heard more about them?
by Scott K. Williams

National Park Service historian, Ed Bearrs, stated, “I don’t want to call it a conspiracy to ignore the role of Blacks both above and below the Mason-Dixon line, but it was definitely a tendency that began around 1910” Historian, Erwin L. Jordan, Jr., calls it a “cover-up” which started back in 1865. He writes, “During my research, I came across instances where Black men stated they were soldiers, but you can plainly see where ‘soldier’ is crossed out and ‘body servant’ inserted, or ‘teamster’ on pension applications.” Another black historian, Roland Young, says he is not surprised that blacks fought. He explains that “some, if not most, Black southerners would support their country” and that by doing so they were “demonstrating it’s possible to hate the system of slavery and love one’s country.” This is the very same reaction that most African Americans showed during the American Revolution, where they fought for the colonies, even though the British offered them freedom if they fought for them.

It has been estimated that over 65,000 Southern blacks were in the Confederate ranks. Over 13,000 of these, “saw the elephant” also known as meeting the enemy in combat. These Black Confederates included both slave and free. The Confederate Congress did not approve blacks to be officially enlisted as soldiers (except as musicians), until late in the war. But in the ranks it was a different story. Many Confederate officers did not obey the mandates of politicians, they frequently enlisted blacks with the simple criteria, “Will you fight?” Historian Ervin Jordan, explains that “biracial units” were frequently organized “by local Confederate and State militia Commanders in response to immediate threats in the form of Union raids”. Dr. Leonard Haynes, an African-American professor at Southern University, stated, “When you eliminate the black Confederate soldier, you’ve eliminated the history of the South.”

As the war came to an end, the Confederacy took progressive measures to build back up its army. The creation of the Confederate States Colored Troops, copied after the segregated northern colored troops, came too late to be successful. Had the Confederacy been successful, it would have created the world’s largest armies (at the time) consisting of black soldiers,even larger than that of the North. This would have given the future of the Confederacy a vastly different appearance than what modern day racist or anti-Confederate liberals conjecture. Not only did Jefferson Davis envision black Confederate veterans receiving bounty lands for their service, there would have been no future for slavery after the goal of 300,000 armed black CSA veterans came home after the war.

1. The “Richmond Howitzers” were partially manned by black militiamen. They saw action at 1st Manassas (or 1st Battle of Bull Run) where they operated battery no. 2. In addition two black “regiments”, one free and one slave, participated in the battle on behalf of the South. “Many colored people were killed in the action”, recorded John Parker, a former slave.

2. At least one Black Confederate was a non-commissioned officer. James Washington, Co. D 35th Texas Cavalry, Confederate States Army, became it’s 3rd Sergeant. Higher ranking black commissioned officers served in militia units, but this was on the State militia level (Louisiana)and not in the regular C.S. Army.

3. Free black musicians, cooks, soldiers and teamsters earned the same pay as white confederate privates. This was not the case in the Union army where blacks did not receive equal pay. At the Confederate Buffalo Forge in Rockbridge County, Virginia, skilled black workers “earned on average three times the wages of white Confederate soldiers and more than most Confederate army officers ($350- $600 a year).

4. Dr. Lewis Steiner, Chief Inspector of the United States Sanitary Commission while observing Gen. “Stonewall” Jackson’s occupation of Frederick, Maryland, in 1862: “Over 3,000 Negroes must be included in this number [Confederate troops]. These were clad in all kinds of uniforms, not only in cast-off or captured United States uniforms, but in coats with Southern buttons, State buttons, etc. These were shabby, but not shabbier or seedier than those worn by white men in the rebel ranks. Most of the Negroes had arms, rifles, muskets, sabers, bowie-knives, dirks, etc…..and were manifestly an integral portion of the Southern Confederate Army.”

5. Frederick Douglas reported, “There are at the present moment many Colored men in the Confederate Army doing duty not only as cooks, servants and laborers, but real soldiers, having musket on their shoulders, and bullets in their pockets, ready to shoot down any loyal troops and do all that soldiers may do to destroy the Federal government and build up that of the rebels.”

6. Black and white militiamen returned heavy fire on Union troops at the Battle of Griswoldsville (near Macon, GA). Approximately 600 boys and elderly men were killed in this skirmish.

7. In 1864, President Jefferson Davis approved a plan that proposed the emancipation of slaves, in return for the official recognition of the Confederacy by Britain and France. France showed interest but Britain refused.

8. The Jackson Battalion included two companies of black soldiers. They saw combat at Petersburg under Col. Shipp. “My men acted with utmost promptness and goodwill…Allow me to state sir that they behaved in an extraordinary acceptable manner.”

9. Recently the National Park Service, with a recent discovery, recognized that blacks were asked to help defend the city of Petersburg, Virginia and were offered their freedom if they did so. Regardless of their official classification, black Americans performed support functions that in today’s army many would be classified as official military service. The successes of white Confederate troops in battle, could only have been achieved with the support these loyal black Southerners.

10. Confederate General John B. Gordon (Army of Northern Virginia) reported that all of his troops were in favor of Colored troops and that it’s adoption would have “greatly encouraged the army”. Gen. Lee was anxious to receive regiments of black soldiers. The Richmond Sentinel reported on 24 Mar 1864, “None will deny that our servants are more worthy of respect than the motley hordes which come against us.” “Bad faith [to black Confederates] must be avoided as an indelible dishonor.”

11. In March 1865, Judah P. Benjamin, Confederate Secretary Of State, promised freedom for blacks who served from the State of Virginia. Authority for this was finally received from the State of Virginia and on April 1st 1865, $100 bounties were offered to black soldiers. Benjamin exclaimed, “Let us say to every Negro who wants to go into the ranks, go and fight, and you are free Fight for your masters and you shall have your freedom.” Confederate Officers were ordered to treat them humanely and protect them from “injustice and oppression”.

12. A quota was set for 300,000 black soldiers for the Confederate States Colored Troops. 83% of Richmond’s male slave population volunteered for duty. A special ball was held in Richmond to raise money for uniforms for these men. Before Richmond fell, black Confederates in gray uniforms drilled in the streets. Due to the war ending, it is believed only companies or squads of these troops ever saw any action. Many more black soldiers fought for the North, but that difference was simply a difference because the North instituted this progressive policy more sooner than the more conservative South. Black soldiers from both sides received discrimination from whites who opposed the concept .

13. Union General U.S. Grant in Feb 1865, ordered the capture of “all the Negro men before the enemy can put them in their ranks.” Frederick Douglass warned Lincoln that unless slaves were guaranteed freedom (those in Union controlled areas were still slaves) and land bounties, “they would take up arms for the rebels”.

14. On April 4, 1865 (Amelia County, VA), a Confederate supply train was exclusively manned and guarded by black Infantry. When attacked by Federal Cavalry, they stood their ground and fought off the charge, but on the second charge they were overwhelmed. These soldiers are believed to be from “Major Turner’s” Confederate command.

15. A Black Confederate, George _____, when captured by Federals was bribed to desert to the other side. He defiantly spoke, “Sir, you want me to desert, and I ain’t no deserter. Down South, deserters disgrace their families and I am never going to do that.”

16. Former slave, Horace King, accumulated great wealth as a contractor to the Confederate Navy. He was also an expert engineer and became known as the “Bridge builder of the Confederacy.” One of his bridges was burned in a Yankee raid. His home was pillaged by Union troops, as his wife pleaded for mercy.

17. As of Feb. 1865 1,150 black seamen served in the Confederate Navy. One of these was among the last Confederates to surrender, aboard the CSS Shenandoah, six months after the war ended. This surrender took place in England.

18. Nearly 180,000 Black Southerners, from Virginia alone, provided logistical support for the Confederate military. Many were highly skilled workers. These included a wide range of jobs: nurses, military engineers, teamsters, ordnance department workers, brakemen, firemen, harness makers, blacksmiths, wagonmakers, boatmen, mechanics, wheelwrights, etc. In the 1920’S Confederate pensions were finally allowed to some of those workers that were still living. Many thousands more served in other Confederate States.

19. During the early 1900’s, many members of the United Confederate Veterans (UCV) advocated awarding former slaves rural acreage and a home. There was hope that justice could be given those slaves that were once promised “forty acres and a mule” but never received any. In the 1913 Confederate Veteran magazine published by the UCV, it was printed that this plan “If not Democratic, it is [the] Confederate” thing to do. There was much gratitude toward former slaves, which “thousands were loyal, to the last degree”, now living with total poverty of the big cities. Unfortunately, their proposal fell on deaf ears on Capitol Hill.

20. During the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1913, arrangements were made for a joint reunion of Union and Confederate veterans. The commission in charge of the event made sure they had enough accommodations for the black Union veterans, but were completely surprised when unexpected black Confederates arrived. The white Confederates immediately welcomed their old comrades, gave them one of their tents, and “saw to their every need”. Nearly every Confederate reunion including those blacks that served with them, wearing the gray.

21. The first military monument in the US Capitol that honors an African-American soldier is the Confederate monument at Arlington National cemetery. The monument was designed 1914 by Moses Ezekiel, a Jewish Confederate, who wanted to correctly portray the “racial makeup” in the Confederate Army. A black Confederate soldier is depicted marching in step with white Confederate soldiers. Also shown is one “white soldier giving his child to a black woman for protection”.- source: Edward Smith, African American professor at the American University, Washington DC.

22. Black Confederate heritage is beginning to receive the attention it deserves. For instance, Terri Williams, a black journalist for the Suffolk “Virginia Pilot” newspaper, writes: “I’ve had to re-examine my feelings toward the [Confederate] flag started when I read a newspaper article about an elderly black man whose ancestor worked with the Confederate forces. The man spoke with pride about his family member’s contribution to the cause, was photographed with the [Confederate] flag draped over his lap that’s why I now have no definite stand on just what the flag symbolizes, because it no longer is their history, or my history, but our history.”


Charles Kelly Barrow, Forgotten Confederates: An Anthology About Black Southerners (1995). Currently the best book on the subject.

Ervin L. Jordan, Jr. Black Confederates and Afro-Yankees in Civil War Virginia (1995). Well researched and very good source of information on Black Confederates, but has a strong Union bias.

Richard Rollins. Black Southerners in Gray (1994). Excellent source.

Dr. Edward Smith and Nelson Winbush, “Black Southern Heritage”. An excellent educational video. Mr. Winbush is a descendent of a Black Confederate and a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV).

For general historical information on Black Confederates, contact Dr. Edward Smith, American University, 4400 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20016; Dean of American Studies. Dr. Smith is a black professor dedicated to clarifying the historical role of African Americans.

Copyright 1998, by Scott Williams, All Rights Reserved. Permission granted to reproduce this fact sheet for educational purposes only. Must include this statement on all copies.

Black Confederate Pensioners After the Civil War

by James G. Hollandsworth Jr.

The service of African Americans with the Confederate army during the American Civil War has long intrigued historians and Civil War buffs. Were these men soldiers or servants? Did they get shot? Why did they serve, and what was the nature of the relationship between black servants and their white masters in uniform? The answers to these questions may never be completely understood, but one thing is clear from a variety of sources: African Americans were an integral part of the Confederate war effort.

Black southerners contributed to the Confederate war effort in four ways. First, as slaves, they provided the labor that fueled the Southern cotton economy and maintained the production of foodstuffs and other commodities. Second, slaves were rented to or drafted by the Confederate government to work on specific projects related to the South’s military infrastructure, such as bridges and railroads. Third, black southerners were part of the work force in the Confederacy’s war-related foundries, munitions factories, and mines. In addition, they transported food and war material to the front by wagon, and provided services to wounded and sick soldiers in Confederate hospitals. Last, a large number of black southerners went to war with the Confederate army as noncombatants, serving as personal servants, company cooks, and grooms.

The lack of reliable information presents a problem with developing a better picture of what black noncombatants did with the Confederate army. Documentation for the use of slave labor on fortifications and railroads is extensive because that type of labor was a matter of official policy and subject to contractual arrangements. The services of black workers in Confederate arsenals, mines, and hospitals were also documented.

Unfortunately, the same sort of documentation does not exist for black noncombatants with the Confederate army because their service was not officially recognized. Consequently, the primary source of information regarding their service is anecdotal, and anecdotes do not provide a reliable basis for drawing historical conclusions. Anecdotes usually originate from a single source and thus lack corroboration. The shortcoming of anecdotes can be illustrated by the widely accepted – but inaccurate – generalization that most African Americans serving with the Confederate army were sent home after 1862.

Fortunately, there is another source of information about the service of these men. Although the information it provides is not as colorful as that found in the anecdotes recorded by Confederate veterans, it has the advantage of having been collected systematically and verified by witnesses. That source of information consists of their applications for Confederate pensions after the war.

Black Confederate pensioners

North Carolina and Florida led the way in 1885, and by 1898 all of the states that had seceded from the Union offered pensions to indigent Confederate veterans. Missouri and Kentucky followed suit in 1911 and 1912, respectively. These states, with the exception of Missouri, also extended coverage to indigent widows of veterans, as long as they did not remarry.

African Americans who had served with the Confederate army were not included – except in Mississippi, which had included African Americans in the state’s pension program from its beginning in 1888. It was not until 1921 that another state extended the eligibility for pensions to African Americans who had served as servants with the Confederate army.

Unfortunately, black southerners who applied for Confederate pensions in the 1920s were, for the most part, very old men. Consequently, the number of black pensioners was small compared to the large number of Confederate veterans in the states that had allowed for pensions decades earlier. For example, Mississippi, which was the only state to include African Americans from its program’s beginning in 1888, had 1,739 black pensioners; North Carolina, which first offered pensions in 1927 had 121; South Carolina, which first offered pensions in 1923, had 328; Tennessee, which first offered pensions in 1921, had 195; and Virginia, which first offered pensions in 1924, had 424 black pensioners.

Initially, Mississippi’s pensions for Confederate veterans were limited to soldiers or sailors and their former servants with a disability sustained during the war, such as the loss of a limb, that prevented them from engaging in manual labor, and to women who had been widowed during the war and had not remarried. In 1892, Mississippi expanded the eligibility for pensions to include veterans, their former servants, and unmarried widows “who are now resident in this State, and who are indigent and not able to earn support by their own labor.”

Pension applications from African Americans in Mississippi were forwarded to the state auditor’s office by pension boards in each county. These applications are now on file in the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, where they are intermingled with applications from white soldiers and widows, all of which are filed alphabetically by last name. Black pensioners can be identified by the special application form that servants were required to use. A review of the applications for Confederate pensions in Mississippi – about 36,000 – reveals 1,739 applications from African Americans.

Pension applications

Other Confederate states also wanted to know what black applicants had done in regard to their service during the war, but they limited the applicant’s response to a single word or term, such as “body servant.” Interestingly, Mississippi did not start asking for this information until 1922, the same year it stopped asking for the applicant’s age.

Surprisingly, none of the states, except Mississippi, asked black applicants if they were wounded as a result of their service with the Confederate army. This omission did not mean, however, that such information did not find its way onto application forms, for all states allowed the applicant to state why he should be awarded a pension, and applicants were not hesitant to report wounds received during the war. Nevertheless, information about wounds was not systematically obtained from black applicants, except in Mississippi, and the county pension boards in Mississippi stopped collecting wound information in 1922.

Confederate pension programs were administered by the states, and all applications, including affidavits, were completed at the county level, even in those states where final approval rested with a state pension board. At least two witnesses, preferably former Confederate soldiers, were required to sign affidavits under oath attesting that the information provided by the applicant was accurate. As a result, applicants, white or black, were usually known by the people who asked for the information on pension applications and affidavits. In contrast, the federal pension program for Union soldiers was administered centrally in Washington, D.C., where a small group of over-worked clerks attempted to sort through thousands of applications from all parts of the country, costing the federal government millions of dollars on fraudulent claims.

Black noncombatants

The number of black pensioners in Mississippi was large enough to indicate the distribution of black noncombatants within the Confederate army. Unit assignments can be identified for 1,312 black applicants in Mississippi, of which nearly 1,100 were with units raised in the state. Unit assignments of masters (thus that of black noncombatants) by percentage were: infantry, 57 percent; cavalry, 33 percent, artillery, 8 percent; and general staff, 2 percent). Of the seventy-nine infantry and cavalry regiments or battalions with Mississippi designations during the war, only three (4 percent) were not represented by at least one black pensioner after the war.

As black pensioners served in 96 percent of the regiments and battalions from Mississippi, it is evident that African Americans served with every army, in every theater, both early in the war and late. Furthermore, they were at every major battle of the Civil War east of the Mississippi River. When the end came, black noncombatants with Mississippi units were at Appomattox and Bentonville, Mobile, and Selma.

The age at which black noncombatants began serving with the Confederate army can be calculated from information contained on applications in Mississippi, Tennessee, and Virginia. The modal age (the age that occurs with the greatest frequency in the distribution) for all three states was seventeen. All of the states were remarkably similar when it came to the average length of time these black noncombatants served with the Confederate army (2.6 years).

A central question about these men is whether some of them ever became soldiers. Unfortunately, applications submitted by black pensioners do not address this question. By filling out a servant’s application, these men acknowledged at the onset that they were noncombatants, not soldiers. African Americans who may have enlisted as soldiers in the Confederate army, which would have entitled them to a larger pension, would have applied using a soldier’s pension form.

Although applications from black pensioners provide relatively straightforward answers to questions that can be easily measured, such as wounds and their nature, they have serious limitations when it comes to dealing with personal feelings about their service. The question of the black noncombatants’ motivation, for example, is only partially resolved by information from pension applications. Questions about motivation did not appear on application forms, and the vast majority of African Americans who labored for the Confederate war effort were slaves. While it is true that many of the slaves who served as black noncombatants may have served willingly, how many – and how willingly – is a matter of speculation. Some black southerners did volunteer.

The responses to questions on the nearly 3,000 applications from Confederate black pensioners reinforce the conviction that black noncombatants were an important part of the Confederate armies, and shed some light on what they did to support the Confederate war effort.

James G. Hollandsworth Jr., Ph.D., is a former professor of psychology and lecturer in history at the University of Southern Mississippi, and the author of “Looking for Bob: Black Confederate Pensioners After the Civil War,” which appeared in the winter 2007 edition of The Journal of Mississippi History, Vol. LXVIX, No. 4. and from which this article is condensed.
Posted May 2008

Selected bibliography:

Brewer, James H. The Confederate Negro: Virginia’s Craftsmen and Military Laborers, 1861-1865. Durham, N. C.: Duke University Press, 1969.
Gorman, Kathleen, “Confederate Pensions as Southern Social Welfare,” in Elna C. Green, ed., Before the New Deal: Social Welfare in the South, 1830-1930. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1999.
Franklin, John Hope. From Slavery to Freedom: A History of Negro Americans. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1980.
Mohr, Clarence L. “Bibliographical Essay: Southern Blacks in the Civil War: A Century of Historiography,” Journal of Negro History 59, April 1974, 177-95.
Oliver. John W. History of the Civil War Military Pensions, 1861-1885, Bulletin of the University of Wisconsin, no. 844. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin, 1917, 41.

The proportion of black pensioners among different work categories varied from state to state. The pension statutes in Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee, for example, were intended primarily to reward the service of servants or cooks whose masters were assigned to units in the Confederate army. Despite state variations, an overall pattern of service among the black pensioners is clear. On average, 85 percent of the black pensioners served as servants or cooks with the Confederate army.

Pension applications for African Americans were different from those used for soldiers or widows. Questions on the applications for servants asked for the applicant’s name, age, the name of the person he had served during the Civil War, and the dates of his service. Questions also asked the unit to which the applicant’s master had been assigned. This information, coupled with his master’s name, allowed pension boards to verify the applicant’s service by checking Confederate muster rolls. This step in the approval process was crucial as contemporary records documenting the service of African Americans were nonexistent. There were no muster rolls for these men, most of whom had no last names at the time of their service.

Veterans of the Union army who were disabled as a result of their service during the Civil War were eligible for a federal pension as early 1868. However, disabled Confederate veterans had to wait until their Confederate allies regained political control of the Southern states after Reconstruction to apply for pensions sponsored by the individual states. Although Confederate pensions were limited initially to disabled veterans, it was not long before eligibility was expanded to include veterans who were poor and in need.

Ervin L. Jordan, Jr., Black Confederates and Afro-Yankees in Civil War Virginia, 1995

Charles Kelly Barrow, Forgotten Confederates: An Anthology About Black Southerners, 1995