Soldiers of the Civil War

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The singular purpose of the American Civil War soldier was to fight a battle and win.
Unlike American soldiers who fought in international disputes and wars, the American Civil War soldier, whether from the North or South, had much in common. With the exception of recent emigrants, the majority of the soldiers, whether generals or privates, spoke the same language, enjoyed the same music, food and hobbies, and were even affiliated with the same Christian denomination. Some Union and Confederate soldiers claimed the same home state, attended the same university, had the same surname, and were even raised in the same house. Many households were divided, witnessing brothers and close family members on opposite sides of the battlefield, causing many to refer to the conflict as the Brothers' War. While motives for enlisting and fighting in the war varied, politicians had their own convictions as to what caused the Civil war. While the cause and even name of the war itself are subjects of debate and controversy, most agree, however, that the war caused at least 620,000 deaths. See also Causes and Origins of the American Civil War.

Photograph of Amputated Legs & Feet
Photo Civil War Amputated Legs and Feet.jpg
American Civil War amputations. National Archives

General U. S. Grant.
General U. S. Grant.jpg

Life of a Civil War Soldier
Life of a Civil War Soldier.jpg
Bible saved me more than once, stated the Union soldier

(About) Photograph of a Civil War soldier who, although he had been shot twice, had survived dozens of battles during the four year conflict. Photo of Walter G. Jones, Pvt., 8th New York Cavalry, Co. C., U.S.A., half-length, facing front. His New Testament with bullet holes and the two spent bullets that lodged in his Bible are also in the display. While there is no shortage of Civil War stories circulating from soldiers who exclaimed how enemy bullets were halted from Bibles to belt buckles, this tintype photo alongside the author's Bible, with the spent bullets, is solid Americana that is rare indeed. Any soldier, regardless of the conflict, will say that if he dies he would rather be killed at the beginning of the war and not on its last day. The second bullet that struck the little Bible in front of Private Jones' heart occurred on the same day that Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrendered to Gen. U.S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, which signaled the end of the four year Civil War. Jones, obviously moved and humbled by the very thought that he was only a fraction of an inch from death, opened his New Testament and placed it on a crude makeshift memorial, but only after he made his heartfelt entry. The private's short testimony accompanying his Bible speaks volumes, for he did not brag, boast, or even attempt to exaggerate his social status or military accomplishments, but he simply opened his New Testament and began his testimony by stating who he was not. Jones stated that he was not famous or from any of the prominent and wealthy families of his community, but that he was just a private. He also understood what it meant by saying that the "little Testament" was located in his "blouse pocket," for that pocket is located in front and near to the vital organ necessary to pump the lifeline of blood through the body. By indicating that it was a "little Testament," meant even more to the New Yorker. Not one shot, but two bullets had hit a very small target, his Bible, and because it halted the metals betwixt the pages, he perhaps believed that it was none other than Jesus himself who had intervened and saved him. If you look closely at the opened bible you will see the "Gospel of Matthew," which is literally translated as "Gift from God."

General Robert E. Lee
General Robert E. Lee.jpg

American Civil War Casualties, Fatalities and Statistics

American Civil War Medal of Honor Recipients

Hand-To-Hand Fighting

Civil War Weapons, Firearms, and Small Arms

Civil War Small Arms, Firearms, and Edged Weapons: A Photographic History

The American Civil War Soldier: Firearms, Small Arms, Edged Weapons

Civil War Glossary and Terminology of Guns and Firearms

Civil War Firearms and Small Arms

Civil War Soldier Pay

American Civil War Soldier's Life
Civil War Amputations.jpg
Civil War Soldier often experienced loss of limb

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Recommended Reading: The Life of Johnny Reb: The Common Soldier of the Confederacy (444 pages) (Louisiana State University Press) (Updated edition) (November 2007) Description: The Life of Johnny Reb does not merely describe the battles and skirmishes fought by the Confederate foot soldier. Rather, it provides an intimate history of a soldier's daily life--the songs he sang, the foods he ate, the hopes and fears he experienced, the reasons he fought. Wiley examined countless letters, diaries, newspaper accounts, and official records to construct this frequently poignant, sometimes humorous account of the life of Johnny Reb. In a new foreword for this updated edition, Civil War expert James I. Robertson, Jr., explores the exemplary career of Bell Irvin Wiley, who championed the common folk, whom he saw as ensnared in the great conflict of the 1860s. Continued below...
About Johnny Reb:
"A Civil War classic."--Florida Historical Quarterly
"This book deserves to be on the shelf of every Civil War modeler and enthusiast."--Model Retailer
"[Wiley] has painted with skill a picture of the life of the Confederate private. . . . It is a picture that is not only by far the most complete we have ever had but perhaps the best of its kind we ever shall have."--Saturday Review of Literature
Recommended Reading: Life of Billy Yank: The Common Soldier of the Union (488 pages) (Louisiana State University Press). Description: This fascinating social history reveals that while the Yanks and the Rebs fought for very different causes, the men on both sides were very much the same. "This wonderfully interesting book is the finest memorial the Union soldier is ever likely to have. . . . [Wiley] has written about the Northern troops with an admirable objectivity, with sympathy and understanding and profound respect for their fighting abilities. He has also written about them with fabulous learning and considerable pace and humor.


Recommended Reading: The Fighting Men of the Civil War, by William C. Davis (Author), Russ A. Pritchard (Author). Description: "A must for any Civil War library!" The sweeping histories of the War Between the States often overlook the men in whose blood that history was written. This account goes a long way toward redressing the balance in favor of the men in the ranks. The reader follows the soldiers from enlistment and training to campaigning. Attention is also given to oft-forgotten groups such as the sailors and black troops. Continued below.

No effort has been spared to include rare war era photographs and color photos of rare artifacts. Engagingly written by William C. Davis, the author of more than thirty books on the American Civil War. Award winning author and historian James M. McPherson states: "The most readable, authoritative, and beautifully designed illustrated history of the American Civil War."


Recommended Reading: Hardtack & Coffee or The Unwritten Story of Army Life. Description: Most histories of the Civil War focus on battles and top brass. Hardtack and Coffee is one of the few to give a vivid, detailed picture of what ordinary soldiers endured every day—in camp, on the march, at the edge of a booming, smoking hell. John D. Billings of Massachusetts enlisted in the Army of the Potomac and survived the hellish conditions as a “common foot soldier” of the American Civil War. "Billings describes an insightful account of the conflict – the experiences of every day life as a common foot-soldier – and a view of the war that is sure to score with every buff." Continued below...

The authenticity of his book is heightened by the many drawings that a comrade, Charles W. Reed, made while in the field. This is the story of how the Civil War soldier was recruited, provisioned, and disciplined. Described here are the types of men found in any outfit; their not very uniform uniforms; crowded tents and makeshift shelters; difficulties in keeping clean, warm, and dry; their pleasure in a cup of coffee; food rations, dominated by salt pork and the versatile cracker or hardtack; their brave pastimes in the face of death; punishments for various offenses; treatment in sick bay; firearms and signals and modes of transportation. Comprehensive and anecdotal, Hardtack and Coffee is striking for the pulse of life that runs through it.


Recommended Reading: Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War. Description: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tony Horwitz returned from years of traipsing through war zones as a foreign correspondent only to find that his childhood obsession with the Civil War had caught up with him. Near his house in Virginia, he happened to encounter people who reenact the Civil War--men who dress up in period costumes and live as Johnny Rebs and Billy Yanks. Intrigued, he wound up having some odd adventures with the "hardcores," the fellows who try to immerse themselves in the war, hoping to get what they lovingly term a "period rush." Horwitz spent two years reporting on why Americans are still so obsessed with the war, and the ways in which it resonates today. Continued below...

In the course of his work, he made a sobering side trip to cover a "murder that was provoked by the display of the Confederate flag," and he spoke to a number of people seeking to honor their ancestors who fought for the Confederacy. Horwitz has a flair for odd details that spark insights, and Confederates in the Attic is a thoughtful and entertaining book that does much to explain America's continuing obsession with the Civil War.

Recommended Reading: Tracing Your Civil War Ancestor (Hardcover). Description: It is tantalizing to speculate about the role your ancestors may have played in the great national drama of the Civil War. But family records are often inaccurate, or provide precious few leads on where to begin the search. Now, experienced historian Bertram Hawthorne Groene shows you how easy it is to trace your forbearers' role in the war, where and how long they fought, whether they were Union or Rebel, soldier or sailor -- even with a minimum of information. Continued below...

Tracing Your Civil War Ancestor provides you with:

-- The names and addresses of all state archives.

-- Names and addresses of institutions that hold microfilmed service records from the national archives.

-- Names and publishers of useful regional Civil War reference books.

-- Names and publishers of sourcebooks for identifying Civil War weapons and accoutrements.

-- And much more.

Historians, genealogists, antique dealers, and collectors of Civil War artifacts will find this concise guidebook of great value. But most of all it is of inestimable practical value to family historians, North and South, who are discovering the pleasure and satisfaction of compiling an accurate family history.


Recommended Reading: Civil War Collector's Encyclopedia: Arms, Uniforms and Equipment of the Union and Confederacy. Description: This comprehensive and exhaustive reference identifies and describes the use and application of more than 800 items. Arranged alphabetically by topic, subjects range from artillery accouterments and boats to tools and patriotic sheet music. "Everything an interested reader would want to know . . . A must-have book." — Antiques & Auction News. Over 350 rare illustrations. Continued below...

The Civil War buff and even serious collector of Civil War arms, uniforms and equipment should purchase the Civil War Collector's Encyclopedia: Arms, Uniforms And Equipment Of The Union And Confederacy as an indispensable reference and core guide in this specialized area of military antiques and collectibles with noted authority Francis A. Lord covering almost everything to do with Civil War memorabilia--from equipment to Union and Confederate uniforms.

Recommended Reading for "The American Civil War Soldier; Causes and Motives of the American Civil War Soldier; Soldiers of the American Civil War; Why They Fought."

Tags: Life as an American Civil War Soldier History, What was it like to be a Civil War Soldier, Experiences of a Civil War Soldier, Photo, Photos, Photographs, Pictures, List of Female Civil War Soldiers, Picture Amputee, Amputees' Limbs, Limb, Arm, Arms, Leg and Legs, Civil War Medal of Honor

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