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U.S. Civil War FAQ, Part 1/2

( Part1 - Part2 )
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Archive-name: civil-war-usa/faq/part1
Posting-frequency: monthly
Last-modified: 2002/3/19
Version: 9.11

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
U.S. Civil War FAQ v9.11 (19 Mar 2002)

This is part 1 (of 2) of a collection of answers to frequently asked
questions (and some not-so-frequently, too!) about the Civil War. It is
posted on or about the 20th of each month. It was compiled by Justin M.
Sanders ( who tried to be as complete and
accurate as possible, but who is definitely human and has probably made
several errors. 

Please send comments, suggestions, or corrections to the address above.

The topics covered are (a plus means a new entry, an asterisk means a
    revised entry):
               ---Part 1---
Section 0: alt.war.civil.usa,, and net stuff
   *Q0.1:  What are these groups anyway?
   *Q0.2:  Are the FAQ and Reading List archived somewhere?
   *Q0.3:  Where can I find Civil War images, documents, and so
          forth on-line?
Section 1: Secession and the beginning of the War
    Q1.1:  When did state X secede?
    Q1.2:  Was there a declaration of war or something?
    Q1.3:  Was Texas given a right to secede by the Treaty of Annexation
           that brought it into the Union?
    Q1.4:  Did the Supreme Court ever rule on the legality of secession?
    Q1.5:  What were the populations of the states at the outbreak of
          the war?
Section 2: Battles and fighting forces
    Q2.1:  What are the alternative names of various battles?
    Q2.2:  Who were the U.S. Generals at the outbreak of the war, and
          who were the first Generals appointed after the war began?
    Q2.3:  Who were the first C.S. Generals appointed?
    Q2.4:  What were the naval ranks during the Civil War?
    Q2.5:  What were the organization and strengths of various units
          in the armies?
    Q2.6:  What is the difference between grapeshot and canister? 
    Q2.7:  How did prisoner exchanges and paroles work?
    Q2.8:  What did a brevet promotion indicate, and what did an officer
          gain by being given a brevet?
               ---Part 2---
Section 3: The end of the War
    Q3.1:  When did the war end?
    Q3.2:  If the rebel states were never considered legally out of the
	  Union, how was Reconstruction justified?
    Q3.3:  When were the different states readmitted to representation in
    Q3.4:  Who was the last surviving veteran of the Civil War?
Section 4: Genealogy and Unit Histories
    Q4.1:  My ancestor fought in the war-- how do I find out about 
          his service?
    Q4.2:  How can I find information about a particular regiment?
Section 5: Miscellaneous
    Q5.1:  What is the "Stars and Bars"?
    Q5.2:  What changes to the U.S. flag occurred during the war?
    Q5.3:  How was the state of West Virginia created?
    Q5.4:  What war records did the post-war presidents have?
    Q5.5:  What are the various alternative names for the war?
   *Q5.6:  What are good books on the war?
    Q5.7:  How can I get the soundtrack to Ken Burn's "Civil War"?
    Q5.8:  Did U.S. Grant and R.E. Lee both own slaves and free them?
    Q5.9:  What is the recipe for hardtack?
   *Q5.10:  Where can I get a copy of the Sullivan Ballou letter quoted 
           in Ken Burn's "Civil War"?
   *Q5.11:  What were the lyrics to "Dixie", "The Bonnie Blue Flag", etc.?
    Q5.12:  How can I get the "Official Records" on CD-ROM?


Section 0: alt.war.civil.usa,, and
net stuff

*Q0.1:  What are these groups anyway?

   The USENET newsgroup alt.war.civil.usa was created in the Spring
of 1992 at the suggestion of Patrick L. Dunn (Thanks!). The earliest 
articles are dated in early May 1992.  The charter of alt.war.civil.usa 
      The purpose of this group is the discussion of topics 
   related to the United States Civil War (1861-65).  Topics can 
   involve military, political, social, economic or other factors 
   which impacted upon this period of history.  This newsgroup will 
   also serve as a source of information, assistance, or referral
   for persons seeking guidance via responses from more 
   knowledgeable subscribers.

   The USENET newsgroup is a moderated group
created in June 1995.  Andrew McMichael spearheaded the drive to create
the group (thanks Andrew!).  Its purpose is very similar to
alt.war.civil.usa; the whole panoply of topics related to the U.S. Civil
War may be discussed.  However, it is moderated.  This means that articles
are screened by volunteer moderators to insure that they remain on topic,
do not excessively quote other articles, are not flames, and do not
contain racial or other attacks.  A more detailed explanation of the
moderation policy is posted in the group at the beginning of each month.  
It is also available at the Web Page at

*Q0.2:  Are the FAQ and Reading List archived somewhere?

   Yes, the latest versions of the FAQ and Reading List are available for
anonymous ftp at:

*Q0.3:  Where can I find Civil War images, documents, and so forth on-line?

[Your humble FAQ maintainer asks the net cruisers among you to keep him
notified of changes and errors.]
   A large collection of e-texts relating to the Civil War including the
Confederate Constitution, secession ordinances, Lincoln's Inaugurals, the
Emancipation Proclamation, lists of CS Navy ships, the autobiography of
CSA Gen. D.H. Maury, plus images of famous people on both sides are
available at the anonymous ftp archive site

Here is list of URL's that will lead to dozens more
[Compiled with assistance from Steven Rohr]:

The American Civil War Homepage (Univ of Tennessee)

U.S. Civil War Center (LSU)

Civil War Page (Jim Janke)

Civil War Resources

The Gettysburg Discussion Group

Causes of the Civil War site (Jim Epperson)-- lots of documents from 
  the period leading to secession)

The Library of Congress has a Civil War image collection at

An archive of articles previously posted in alt.war.civil.usa and is available at

Section 1: The beginning of the War

Q1.1:  When did state X secede?

Before Lincoln's call for troops, the following states seceded:
 1. South Carolina, Convention passed Ordinance of Secession, 20 Dec 1860
 2. Mississippi, Convention passed Ordinance of Secession, 9 Jan 1861
 3. Florida, Convention passed Ordinance of Secession, 10 Jan 1861
 4. Alabama, Convention passed Ordinance of Secession, 11 Jan 1861
 5. Georgia, Convention passed Ordinance of Secession, 19 Jan 1861
 6. Louisiana, Convention passed Ordinance of Secession, 26 Jan 1861
 7. Texas, Convention passed Ordinance of Secession, 1 Feb 1861, to
    take effect 2 Mar 1861 provided it was ratified by the voters
    on 23 Feb 1861 (approved 46,153 to 14,747).  Texas admitted to the 
    Confederacy, 2 Mar 1861.

After Lincoln's call for troops on 15 Apr 1861, the following states
 8. Virginia, Convention rejected secession 4 Apr 1861, Convention
    passed Ordinance of Secession 17 Apr 1861 and ratified C.S.A.
    Constitution, both subject to ratification of voters 23 May 1861 
    (approved 132,201 to 37,451).  Virginia admitted to CSA 7 May 1861. 
 9. Arkansas, Convention rejected secession ordinance on 18 Mar 1861
    and called for referendum in August, Convention passed Ordinance 
    of Secession 6 May 1861.  Arkansas admitted to C.S.A. 20 May 1861.
 10. North Carolina, Voters narrowly rejected (47,705 to 47,611) calling a
     Convention 28 Feb 1861.  Legislature called Convention 1 May 1861. 
     Convention passed Ordinance of Secession 20 May 1861.  North Carolina
     provisionally admitted to CSA 17 May 1861.
 11. Tennessee, Voters rejected (69,772 to 57,708) calling a Convention 
     9 Feb 1861.  On 6 May 1861 Legislature passed "Declaration of 
     Independence" and ratification of CSA Constitution subject to 
     referendum on 8 June 1861 (approved 104,471 to 47,183).  Tennessee 
     admitted to CSA 17 May 1861. 

The following two states never seceded via any mechanism provided by a 
"regular" government:
 12. Missouri, Convention rejected secession 9 Mar 1861; Convention
     reconvened in July 1861 and declared offices of governor and
     legislature vacant; rump legislature, meeting in Neosho, passed 
     Ordinance of Secession 31 Oct 1861 and requested admission to CSA. 
     Missouri admitted to CSA 28 Nov 1861.
 13. Kentucky, southern sympathizers called for convention Oct 1861,
     Convention passed Ordinance of Secession 18 Nov 1861. Kentucky
     admitted to the CSA 10 Dec 1861.

Sources: Civil War Day-by-Day; Official Records, Ser. IV, Vol 1; D.W. 
Crofts, *Reluctant Confederates* (1989); W.L. Buenger, *Secession and the 
Union in Texas* (1984).

Q1.2:  Was there a declaration of war or something?

   1.  The United States never declared war.  This was in keeping with its
position that the rebel states did not form a new nation, rather they were
states in which a rebellion was taking place.  Abraham Lincoln issued a
Proclamation that an insurrection existed in the states of SC, GA, FL, AL,
MS, LA, and TX on 15 Apr 1861 (Messages & Papers of the Presidents, vol. V, 
p3214).  He also proclaimed a blockade of Southern harbors on 19 Apr
1861, and the date of this proclamation was taken by the Supreme Court in
several cases to be the official beginning of the insurrection. 
   2.  The Confederate States passed "An Act recognizing the existence of
war between the United States and the Confederate States" on 6 May 1861. 
This act exempted MD, NC, TN, KY, AR, MO, DE, and the territories of AZ
and NM, and the Indian Territory south of KS. 

Sources: McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom; Official Records, Ser. IV, 
 Vol. 1

Q1.3:  Was Texas given a right to secede by the Treaty of Annexation
         that brought it into the Union? 

   Texas *was not* brought into the Union by treaty.  There was an attempt
to do this in 1844, but the U.S. Senate refused to ratify the treaty. 
Texas was annexed by a Joint Resolution of Congress in 1845. 
   Neither the failed annexation treaty nor the Resolution of Annexation
reserved any right for Texas to secede.  In fact, the treaty would have
made Texas a mere territory, but the Joint Resolution gave immediate
statehood.  In addition, the Resolution provided that Texas might divide
itself into as many as five states, if it so desired.  In 1845, Texas did
not avail itself of this provision of the Resolution, and it is not clear
whether the provision would still be operable after that time. 

Q1.4:  Did the Supreme Court ever rule on the legality of secession? 

   Yes, it did-- after the war.  Perhaps the clearest statement is in 
the case Texas v. White (74 U.S. 700).  Chief Justice Chase, writing 
for the court in its 1869 decision, said: 
   "The Constitution, in all its provisions, looks to an indestructible
Union, composed of indestructible States. ... Considered, therefore, as
transactions under the Constitution, the Ordinance of Secession, adopted
by the convention and ratified by a majority of the citizens of Texas, and
all the Acts of her Legislature intended to give effect to that ordinance,
were absolutely null. They were utterly without operation in law. ... Our
conclusion, therefore, is, that Texas continued to be a State, and a State
of the Union, notwithstanding the transactions to which we have referred." 

The entire decision is available on the Web at

Q1.5: What were the populations of the states at the outbreak of the war?

   The following statistics are from J.C.G. Kennedy, Supt. of Census,
_Population of the United States in 1860_ (Washington, G.P.O., 1864)

  State    White   Free Colored  Slave    Total[1]   Military[2]
    AL    526,271      2,690    435,080    964,201     99,967
    AR    324,143        144    111,115    435,450     65,231
    CA    323,177      4,086          0    379,994    169,975
    CT    451,504      8,627          0    460,147     94,411
    DE     90,589     19,829      1,798    112,216     18,273
    FL     77,747        932     61,745    140,424     15,739
    GA    591,550      3,500    462,198  1,057,286    111,005
    IL  1,704,291      7,628          0  1,711,951    375,026
    IN  1,338,710     11,428          0  1,350,428    265,295
    IA    673,779      1,069          0    674,913    139,316
[3] KS    106,390        625          2    107,206     27,976
    KY    919,484     10,684    225,483  1,155,684    180,589
    LA    357,456     18,647    331,726    708,002     83,456
    ME    626,947      1,327          0    628,279    122,238
    MD    515,918     83,942     87,189    687,049    102,715
    MA  1,221,432      9,602          0  1,231,066    258,419
    MI    736,142      6,799          0    749,113    164,007
    MN    169,395        259          0    172,023     41,226
    MS    353,899        773    436,631    791,305     70,295
    MO  1,063,489      3,572    114,931  1,182,012    232,781
    NH    325,579        494          0    326,073     63,610
[4] NJ    646,699     25,318         18    672,035    132,219
    NY  3,831,590     49,005          0  3,880,735    796,881
    NC    629,942     30,463    331,059    992,622    115,369
    OH  2,302,808     36,673          0  2,339,511    459,534
    OR     52,160        128          0     52,465     15,781
    PA  2,849,259     56,949          0  2,906,215    555,172
    RI    170,649      3,952          0    174,620     35,502
    SC    291,300      9,914    402,406    703,708     55,046
    TN    826,722      7,300    275,719  1,109,801    159,353
    TX    420,891        355    182,566    604,215     92,145
    VT    314,369        709          0    315,098     60,580
[5] VA  1,047,299     58,042    490,865  1,596,318    196,587
[5] VA1   691,424     55,269    472,494  1,219,299    129,786
[5] WV    355,875      2,773     18,371    377,019     66,801
    WI    773,693      1,171          0    775,881    159,335
 Territories                                           76,214 (all terr.)
    CO     34,231         46          0     34,277
    DK      2,576          0          0      4,837
    NE     28,696         67         15     28,841
[6] NV      6,812         45          0      6,857
[7] NM     82,979         85          0     93,516
    UT     40,125         30         29     40,273
    WA     11,138         30          0     11,594
    DC     60,763     11,131      3,185     75,080     12,797

The bottom line:
             White    Free Colored   Slave     Total     Military
   Union*  21,475,373   355,310     432,650  22,339,989  4,559,872
   CSA      5,447,220   132,760   3,521,110   9,103,332  1,064,193
    *includes MO and KY, DC, and territories

The following statistics are from J.C.G. Kennedy, Supt. of Census,
_Preliminary Report on the Eighth Census, 1860_ (Washington, G.P.O., 1862)
and from Annie Abel, _The American Indian as Slaveholder and 
Secessionist_ (1915, repr 1992: U of Nebraska Pr)
   The Five Civilized Tribes
     Tribe     White   Free Colored  Slave    Indian
     Choctaw    802        67        2,297    18,000
     Cherokee   713        17        2,504    21,000
     Creek      319       277        1,651    13,550
     Chickasaw  146        13          917     5,000
     Seminole     8        30            0     2,267

The following statistics are from J.C.G. Kennedy, Supt. of Census,
_Agriculture in the United States in 1860_ (Washington: G.P.O., 1864)
[ratios calculated by JMS]

State   Slave-   Slaveholders in   slaves per
        holders   white pop. (%)   slaveholder
 AL      33,730      6.4             12.9
 AR      11,481      3.5              9.7
 DE         587      0.65             3.1
 FL       5,152      6.6             12.0
 GA      41,084      6.9             11.2
 KY      38,645      4.2              5.8
 LA      22,033      6.1             15.0
 MD      13,783      2.7              6.3   
 MS      30,943      8.7             14.1
 MO      24,320      2.3              4.7
 NC      34,658      5.5              9.6
 SC      26,701      9.2             15.1
 TN      36,844      4.4              7.5
 TX      21,878      5.2              8.3
 VA  [5] 52,128      5.0              9.4
 VA1 [5] 48,523      7.0              9.7
 WV  [5]  3,605      1.0              5.1
 Total  393,967      4.9 [8]         10.0

   The number of free households in the 15 slave states was 1,515,605. 
Since the census generally counted only one slaveholder per household, the
number of slaveholding households will be roughly equal to the number of
slaveholders.  So there were roughly 393,967 slaveholding households in
1860.  Taking the ratio shows that 26% of Southern households were
slaveholding households. 

[1] Total includes other racial/ethnic groups.
[2] White males aged 18-45
[3] KS became a state in 1861; it was a territory during the Census.
[4] "Slaves" are "colored apprentices for life."
[5] VA includes the present state of WV, VA1 is just the present state of 
     VA, and WV is just the present state WV.  The whole of VA in 1860 
     (i.e. VA1 plus WV) was used in later calculations. 
[6] NV became a state in 1864.
[7] White includes "half-breeds."
[8] White population used was the total of the 15 states (WV included 
     with VA) in the table.

Section 2: Battles and fighting forces
Q2.1:  What are the alternative names of various battles?

   Union                   Confederate
Bull Run, VA              Manassas       21 July 1861
Wilsons Creek, MO         Oak Hills      10 Aug 1861
Logan's Cross Roads, KY   Mill Springs   19 Jan 1862
Pea Ridge, AR             Elkhorn Tavern 6-8 Mar 1862
Pittsburg Landing, TN     Shiloh         6-7 Apr 1862
Fair Oaks, VA             Seven Pines    31 May-1 Jun 1862
Bull Run, VA (2nd)        Manassas       29-30 Aug 1862
Antietam, MD              Sharpsburg     17 Sept 1862
Chaplin Hills, KY         Perryville      8 Oct 1862
Stones River, TN          Murfreesboro   30 Dec 1862-2 Jan 1863
Elk Creek, Ind. Terr.     Honey Springs  17 July 1863
Ocean Pond, FL            Olustee        20 Feb 1864
Sabine Cross Roads, LA    Mansfield       8 Apr 1864
Opequon Creek, VA         Winchester     19 Sept 1864

*Q2.2:  Who were the U.S. Generals at the out-break of the war, and who
       were the first Generals appointed after the war began?
          [Contributed by Carlton Andrews (]

        USA Generals  -  Prior to Army Expansion

Name                       Rank  *Commission Date    Age 7/1/61
----                       ----   ---------------    ----------
Winfield Scott             M.G.   6/25/1841                75
John Ellis Wool            B.G.   6/25/1841                77
David Emanuel Twiggs       B.G.   6/30/1846
  [Twiggs was dismissed 3/1/1861 for handing/surrendering all men and
   equipment in Texas to the state of Texas]
William Selby Harney       B.G.   6/14/1858                60
  [Harney was removed from his command in Missouri 29 May 1861.  He was 
   not reassigned and retired 1 Aug 1863.]
Joseph E. Johnston      QM-B.G.   6/28/1860  [staff appt.]
Edwin Vose Sumner          B.G.   3/16/1861                64

              ARMY EXPANSION May 1861

              Regular Commissions
George Brinton McClellan   M.G.   5/14/1861                34
John Charles Fremont       M.G.   5/14/1861                48
Henry Wager Halleck        M.G.   5/19/1861                46
Joseph K. F. Mansfield     B.G.   5/14/1861                57
Irvin McDowell             B.G.   5/14/1861                42
Robert Anderson            B.G.   5/15/1861                56
William Starke Rosecrans   B.G.   5/16/1861                41

              Volunteer Commissions
John Adams Dix             M.G.   5/16/1861                62
Nathaniel Prentiss Banks   M.G.   5/16/1861                45
Benjamin Franklin Butler   M.G.   5/16/1861                42
37 officers                B.G.   5/17/1861

* Commission Date is date to rank from, not date appointed.

Q2.3:  Who were the first C.S. Generals appointed?

[31 Aug 1861 will be the cut-off date for this answer.]
   Generals in the CS Army (all were appointed on 31 Aug 1861, to date 
from the date given below):
 Samuel Cooper                     16 May 1861 (Adjt & Insp. Gen)
 Albert Sidney Johnston            30 May 1861
 Robert Edward Lee                 14 Jun 1861
 Joseph Eggleston Johnston          4 Jul 1861
 Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard 21 Jul 1861

Prior to 16 May 1861, the highest rank in the CS Regular Army was
Brigadier General (5 were authorized): 
 Samuel Cooper                     16 Mar 1861 (Adjt & Insp. Gen)
 Robert Edward Lee                 14 May 1861
 Joseph Eggleston Johnston         14 May 1861

In addition to the CS Regular Army, there was the Provisional Army (PACS). 
Which had the ranks of Brigadier and Major General. 
Major Generals (PACS):
 David Emanuel Twiggs  22 May 1861
 Leonidas Polk         25 Jun 1861
The first Brigadier General (PACS) was 
 Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard  1 Mar 1861   
at least 35 others appointed between Mar and Aug 1861

The rank of Lieutenant General was authorized for the PACS on 18 Sep 1862.

Q2.4:  What were the naval ranks during the Civil War?

[Information from Richard Staley with amendments from Justin T. Broderick]

 Admiral (grade created for David Farragut 25 Jul 1866)
 Vice Admiral (grade created 21 Dec 1864, Farragut being the 
   first to hold this rank)
 Rear Admiral (created 16 July 1862, the only flag rank that has been 
   maintained continuously to this day)
 Flag Officer (title created 16 Jan 1857, replaced by Commodore on 16 Jun 
 Commodore (courtesy title until 16 Jul 1862 when the grade was 
   formally adopted to replace Flag Officer)
 Lieut. Commander (grade created 16 Jul 1862)
 Master (originally "sailing master"; after the period was changed to 
   Lieutenant Junior Grade.)
 Ensign (title for a passed Midshipman after 16 Jul 1862)
 Passed Midshipman (Midshipman who had passed his examination for 
   promotion to Lieutenant;  called Ensign after 1862 although the term 
   continued in use.)
 Midshipman (grade given undergraduates of the U.S. Naval Academy;  
   not strictly in the line of the Navy in the latter part of the century).
 Master's Mate
 Shipped or Rated Master's Mate (usually a warrant officer).

_Todd's American Military Equippage: 1851-1870_
W.B. Cogan, _Dictionary of American Admirals_, US Naval Institute Press, 
C.G. Reynolds, _Famous American Admirals_, Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1978
C.O. Paullin, "Naval Administration, 1842-1861", _USNI Proceedings_, vol. 
J.C. Tily, _The Uniforms of the United States Navy_, Thomas Yoseloff, 

Q2.5:  What were the organization and strengths of various units in the

[Compiled with the assistance of Stephen Schmidt
 <> and Dominic J. Dal Bello

(A good source of information is Richard Zimmermann, _Unit Organizations
of the Civil War_.)

   First, always remember that most Civil War units in the field were only
at anywhere between 20% to 40% of their full strength. Thus, while in
theory a company contained 100 men, and would be recruited at that size,
by the time they reached the army they'd be down to 60 or so and after the
first battle down to 40 or so. The full-strength sizes are given below, so
remember to knock them down by 50% or more when reading about units
engaged in battles. 
   Second, due to casualties among the officers, frequently units would
find themselves commanded by an officer one or two grades below the rank
he should have for the job (e.g., a regiment commanded by a lieutenant
colonel or major). 
   Third, keep in mind that in the early stages of the war and in the more
remote areas (such as the Trans-Mississippi), unit organizations tended to
deviate more from the norm.  What follows will be the ideal, your mileage
may vary. 

I. Infantry.  

The basic unit is the company, commanded by a captain
   100 men = 2 platoons = 4 sections = 8 squads
A company has the following officers (commissioned and non-coms):
   Captain (1), 1st. Lieut. (1),  2nd. Lieut. (1)
   1st Sgt. (1), Sgts. (4) and Corporals (8).
When the company was divided into platoons, the captain commanded one and
the 1st Lt. the other.  There was a sergeant for each section, and a
corporal for each squad.  The 1st Sgt. "ran" the whole company. 

   Battalions and regiments were formed by organizing companies together.
In the volunteers (Union and Confederate), 10 companies would be organized
together into a regiment.  The regiment was commanded by a colonel. A
regiment has the following staff (one of each): 
   Col.; Lt. Col.; Major; Adjutant (1st Lt); Surgeon (maj.); 
   Asst Surgeon (capt.); Quartermaster (lieut); Commissary (lieut);
   Sgt-Major; Quartermaster Sgt.
There were also volunteer organizations containing less than 10 companies:
if they contained from 4-8 companies, they were called battalions, and
usually were commanded by a major or lieutenant colonel. 
   The (Union) Regular regts organized before the war (1st-10th) were 10
company regiments like the volunteers.  When the NEW Regular regts. were
authorized, a different organization was used. The new Regular regts were
organized 8 companies to a battalion and 2 battalions to the regiment.
Thus new Regular regts contained 16 companies.  These regiments frequently
fought as battalions rather than as single regiments.  However, often the
2nd battalion could not be recruited up to strength, in which case they
fought as a single regiment. 

   A brigade is formed from 3 to 6 regiments and commanded by a brigadier
general.  The South tended to use more regiments than the North, thus
having bigger brigades.  At some times in the war, some artillery would be
attached to the infantry brigade: see the Artillery section below. Each
brigade would also have a varying number of staff officers. 

   A division is commanded by a major general and is composed of from 2 to
6 brigades. In the North usually 3 or 4, but in the South normally 4 to 6.
Thus, a Southern division tended to be almost twice as large as its
Northern counterpart, if the regiments are about the same size. At some
times in the war, some artillery or, less often, cavalry might be
attached: see the Cavalry and Artillery sections below. Each division
would also have a varying number of staff officers. 

   A corps is commanded by a major general (Union) or a lieutenant general
(Confederate) and is composed of from 2 to 4 divisions. Again the North
tended to have 2 or 3, while the South had 3 or 4.  Each corps would also
have a varying number of staff officers. 

   Corps within a geographic department were aggregated into armies. The
number of corps in an army could vary considerably: sometimes an army
would contain only 1 corps and other times as many as 8. Armies were
commanded by major generals in the North, and usually by full generals in
the South. Corps and armies usually had some artillery and cavalry
attached: again, see below.  Each army would also have a varying number of
staff officers. 

To summarize, the nominal strengths and commanding officers were:
 UNIT       MEN  Commander  Example NAME
 Company    100  Captain    Co. A (but not J, looks like I)
 Regiment  1000  Colonel    5th N.Y. Infantry
 Brigade   4000  Brig Genl  3rd Brigade (US) **
 Division 12000  Maj. Genl  Cleburne's Division (CS) **
 Corps    36000  Maj. Genl* IIIrd Corps (US) **
 Army            Maj. Genl+ Army of Tennessee (CS) ++
  * or Lt. Gen. in the South
  + or Gen. in the South
  ** Numerical designation was used in the North, the Commander's
     name was typically used in the South, e.g. Forrest's Corps. 
  ++ The South mainly used the name of the area or state where the
     army operated.  Rivers were used primarily as names in the
     North, e.g. Army of the Cumberland. 

II. Cavalry.

   The basic unit is the troop or company, organized pretty much the same
way as an infantry company.  The nominal strength was 100.  If the troop
dismounted for battle, 1 man in 4 would stay behind to guard the horses. 

   In the Union volunteers, 12 cavalry troops form a regiment commanded by
a colonel.  The Confederate Cavalry used a 10 company regiment. Again, the
(Union) Regulars had a different organization: in the Regular units 2
troops form a squadron, 2 squadrons form a battalion, and 3 battalions
form a regiment.  And again, there were groups of 4-8 companies of
volunteer cavalry which are called battalions.

   Initially, each Union cavalry regiment was assigned to an infantry
division.  The Confederates brigaded their cavalry together. The Union
eventually adopted this organization as well. As the war progressed, both
sides formed cavalry divisions (again the South took the lead).  The North
also formed cavalry corps, and the South later also adopted this

III. Artillery.

   The basic unit of artillery is the battery, which has 4 to 6 guns, is
commanded by a captain, and has 4 lieutenants, 12 or so noncoms, and 120
or so privates. It typically had 4 guns in the South and 6 guns in the
North. Batteries were a subdivided into gun crews of 20 or so, and into
sections of 2 gun crews, 2 or 3 sections per battery. A gun crew was
commanded by a sergeant and a section by a lieutenant. 

   At the start of the war, each side assigned one battery attached to
each infantry brigade, plus an artillery reserve under the army commander.
By mid-1862, larger organizations were used.  The basic unit contained 3
or 4 batteries of artillery; it was called a battalion in the South and a
brigade in the North (same unit, just a different name) and it was
commanded by a colonel, lieutenant colonel, or major. 

   After 1862, it was typical for each infantry division to have an
artillery battalion attached, and each corps or army to have a reserve of
two to five battalions. Each division's artillery usually fought along
side the infantry, while the corps/army reserves were used to form the
massed batteries. The artillery reserve was commanded by a brigadier
general or colonel. 

IV. Other Units.

   The Confederacy organized a number of units known as legions. They were
mixed-arms units, usually containing 6-8 companies of infantry, 2-3
companies of cavalry, and a couple artillery pieces. Generally as soon as
they reached the battlefield they were broken apart, the infantry forming
a battalion, the cavalry being reassigned to some other unit, and the
artillery joining the reserve.  Sometimes the infantry retained the name
legion, more frequently it got renamed to battalion. 

   Both sides had a rudimentary Marine Corps which fought along the
Atlantic coast. The US Marines contained about 3,000 men and were
organized into companies. There doesn't seem to have been any organization
higher than that: they rarely operated in larger units than a few
companies anyway. The Confederate Marines had a strength of about 300 men
organized in four companies and was nominally commanded by a colonel. 

   The Union organized some "heavy artillery" units, regiments containing
10 artillery batteries (about 1800 men) which had training both as
infantry and as artillerists.  They were organized in much the same way as
infantry units, but were quite a bit larger to provide enough men to run
the guns.  Originally raised to man the defenses of Washington, in 1864
they joined the Grant's army, and then served more as infantry. 

   Both sides raised special regiments of engineers. They were organized
similarly to the infantry regiments and were expert in building forts,
entrenchments, bridges, and similar military construction. They were
combatants but usually didn't do any fighting, instead continued to work
on construction even when under fire. 

   Both sides raised special sharpshooter units. The Confederate units
tended to be independent companies, but the Union raised two sharpshooter
regiments (Berdan's 1st and 2nd US Sharpshooters). These regiments were
organized as infantry.  Usually they were assigned to skirmish duty, or
they would be allowed to roam around the battlefield to find good
positions from which to shoot at enemy officers in the rear. 

Q2.6:  What is the difference between grapeshot and canister?

   Here is a list of the various ammunitions used in the war. The main
division is between shot (did not carry its own explosive charge) and
shell (carried an explosive charge). 

For shot:
 1. solid shot-- the standard cannon ball (or bullet shape in the in case
of a rifled gun)
 2. canister-- smaller shot placed in a sheet iron cylinder.  The
cylinder disintegrated when the gun was fired. 
 3. grape-- smaller shot layered between iron plates and held together by
a central bolt. Presumably the bolt broke when the gun fired allowing the
shot to scatter.  Examples of grape shot can be seen in [2] pp. 76, 76,
and 191. 
 4. quilted grapeshot-- small shot covered in canvass and tied up with
rope which a gave it a quilted look.  An example of quilted shot can be
seen in [2], p. 177. 
 5. chain shot-- two shot joined by a chain.  Used to destroy rigging of
sailing ships. 
 6. bar shot-- two shot joined by a solid bar (like a dumbbell).  Used to
destroy rigging to sailing ships. 
 7. red hot shot-- shot heated before firing.  Used to start fires on

For shell:
 1. standard shell-- hollow iron projectile filled with explosive
 2. shrapnel shell-- hollow iron projectile filled with explosive and with
small solid shot which scattered upon explosion.  The spherical version of
this was called "spherical case" or simply "case." The term "case" was
also used for the name of the class of rounds which scattered small shot,
thus canister, grape, and spherical case were all classified together as
"case shot." (confusing, isn't it?)
   Shell was fitted with either a timed fuse (which ignited the charge
after some fixed delay) or a percussion fuse (which ignited the charge
upon impact). 

   Standard solid shot and standard shell were primarily for destruction
of materiel (viz. fortifications or ships).  Canister, grape, quilted shot
and shrapnel were used against personnel.  However, there were also
varieties of (non-shrapnel) shell designed for use against personnel (the
hollow was shaped so the shell would split into a relatively few large
pieces about the size of small shot). 

 [1] "Ammunition", in Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th ed (1911).
 [2] F.T. Miller, ed., "Photographic History of the Civil War," vol. 5,
      "Forts and Artillery" (1957 edition). 
 [3] "Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War"

Q2.7:  How did prisoner exchanges and paroles work?

   Prisoner exchanges were a way for captors to avoid the responsibility
and burden of guarding, housing, feeding, clothing, and providing medical
care for POW's. 
   Exchange of prisoners began with informal agreements between the
commanders of the armies after particular battles, but the practice was
codified by a cartel between the USA and CSA in July 1862.  The cartel was
suspended by the US in May 1863, but individual commanders again arranged
exchanges and paroles until the US called a halt to all exchanges in early
1864.  When the CSA agreed to correct some irregularities in its earlier
exchanges, and when it agreed to treat captured black troops equally with
whites, the 1862 cartel was again put into operation in early 1865. 
   Commissioners of exchange were appointed by each government, and they
exchanged and compared lists and computed how many on each side were to be
exchanged.  There were official points where prisoners were to be taken
for exchange:  City Point, VA in the East and Vicksburg in the West. 
Equal ranks were exchanged equally, and higher ranks could be exchanged
for some number of lower ranks according to an agreed upon list of
equivalents (e.g. 1 colonel equaled 15 privates). If one side still had
prisoners left, after the other side had exhausted its supply of prisoners
by exchange, those excess prisoners would be released on parole. 
   Paroled prisoners were returned to their side, but were prohibited by
an oath of honor from taking up arms or performing any duty that soldiers
normally performed (like garrison or guard duty) until they were properly
exchanged.  Generally each side maintained parole camps where their
paroled soldiers were kept while they awaited exchange, but in other cases
the parolee was allowed to return home until exchanged. 
   [Sources: Boatner, Civil War Dictionary; Miller, ed, "Prisons and
     Hospitals", vol 8, Photographic History of the Civil War]

Q2.8:  What did a brevet promotion indicate, and what did an officer gain
by being given a brevet?

[By Stephen Schmidt ( with assistance from Jim
Epperson and J.M. Sanders]

A brevet rank was an honorary promotion given to an officer (or
occasionally, an enlisted man) in recognition of gallant conduct or other
meritorious service.  They served much the same purpose that medals play
today (our modern system of medals did not exist at the time of the Civil

A brevet rank was almost meaningless in terms of real authority. For
example, a major who was a brevet colonel collected the pay of a major,
wore the uniform of a major, could not give orders to lieutenant colonels,
and was only eligible for commands that normally fell to majors. But he
was allowed to use the title of colonel in his correspondence. 

In addition, there were some unusual circumstances where brevet rank
carried authority.  For instance, when a force consisted partly of Regular
troops and partly of state militia, command would go to the officer with
the highest brevet rank (who might neither the highest ranking regular
officer nor the highest ranking volunteer!).  This came up during the
Mexican War on some occasions, and seems to have been designed to allow
Regular officers with brevets (implying experience) to assume command over
higher-ranking militia officers who had neither experience nor brevets. 

An officer could also claim his brevet rank when serving on court-martial
duty. Since an officer cannot be tried by officers ranking lower than
himself, using brevet ranks allowed more people to qualify as possible
court members.

During the war itself, brevets were very difficult to get and were a sign
of valor, but on March 13, 1865, the War Department gave one brevet and
sometimes two to nearly every officer on duty with the army. This angered
many officers and men, who saw it as trivializing the efforts of men who
won brevets in combat. (J.L. Chamberlain mentions this in his memoirs, for

Like regular ranks, brevets were kept separately for the U.S. Volunteers
and the U.S. Army. Thus one man could have four ranks: an actual Volunteer
rank, a brevet Volunteer rank, an actual Regular rank, and a brevet
Regular rank. Brevets in the Regular army were sometimes used to honor men
who had already been brevetted Major General in the Volunteers and could
not be brevetted again (in the Volunteers), as no brevet Lieutenant
Generals were created during the war (Winfield Scott had been made Brevet
Lieutenant General [of Regulars] during the Mexican War). 

Brevet ranks were authorized for the Regular Army in the Articles of War
of 1806; they were authorized for the US Volunteers on March 3, 1863.
Partly as a result of dissatisfaction with the end-of-war brevet giveaway,
brevet promotions were discontinued in 1869; although officers who had
been given brevets before that date continued to use them. They were
reinstated for the Spanish-American war and continued in use until after
World War I.

The Confederate army did not award brevet promotions.

Sources: Boatner's *Civil War Dictionary*, the *Historical Times
Encyclopedia of the Civil War*, the 1806 Articles of War, and a very
helpful discussion of several Mexican War situations involving brevet
ranks in *The Mexican War 1846-1848* by K. Jack Bauer. 
*** End of Part 1 of U.S. Civil War FAQ ***

Justin M. Sanders           "I shot an arrow into the air.  It fell 
Dept. of Physics               to earth I know not where." --Henry
Univ. of South Alabama           Wadsworth Longfellow confessing     to a sad ignorance of ballistics.

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