Soldiers In The Civil War

By Evan Frasca


There were millions of soldiers on both sides of the Civil War, both Union and Confederate. Usually these soldiers were drafted as young men, ranging from ages 18-24 years old. Usually, soldiers were white protestant men who were raised under and agricultural or industrial roof. Many of these soldiers thought of the Civil War as a heroic experience, but once they ventured into the real battles, many of them were unable to fight. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers passed away during the Civil War, and many weren't used to the war, compared to their everyday lives.

A Group of Civil War Soldiers

Background Information and Facts:

  • Common soldier enlisted early in the war, age 18-24.
  • Usually born from a protestant family. Many were sons of farmers but also, many were sons of wealthy businessmen and intellectuals.
  • All soldiers had to be literate and physically able.
  • Northern soldiers also had to be politically able and understand exactly what they were fighting for.
  • Soldiers generally weren’t married, although some were married very young.
  • The Irish, Germans, Italians and African Americans were different from the majority of the native whites.
  • Soldiers thought brilliantly of the war, that it would be a fun and heroic experience. However, once they began to fight, they experienced the real violence and terror of the Civil War.
  • Citizens who had no experience and lived a normal life as a farmer or student etc had to learn how to become a valiant soldier.
  • When battle first arrived for some soldiers, they were afraid to shoot and their bodies shut down when violence came their way.
  • When a soldier volunteered for the war, they never really left home; they were put into a group called a regiment. This was made up of people who came from the same general area or state and were given a group and number for their regiment.

Northern and Southern life before the Civil War:

The common Civil War soldier's life before the war was generally quite simplistic. They would usually work for their families in one of two places: on a farm or in a factory. The everyday life was filled with tedious work and consisted of the same routine over and over again. However, this routine would vary between the two sides of North and South. The Northern man was of a much more industrial family who believed in the abolition of slavery and believed in a liberal-minded Union that should always try to advance forward. The work was usually left to them to do by themselves as there were no slaves to do it for them. Unlike the Northern man, the Southern man was almost the exact opposite. They were usually from an agricultural family who owned 1-5 slaves and also believed in a unified country. However, they wanted to keep things the same when it came to national issues like slavery. Before the war, the northern and southern lifestyles were continual laborious days without much excitement. However, this was all about to change.

Life During the Civil War:

A citizen of the U.S.A would become a soldier by choice or by the draft. Usually the soldier would have chosen his fate and wouldn't normally be drafted until the peak of the Civil War. At the time, the war was thought of as a heroic opportunity to show great valor, courage and pride for their country. Little did new recruits know, the war was no free ride, intense drilling was soon to come, as well as the chance to fight on the actual battlefield. Every soldier was guaranteed a new attire which varied depending on which side the soldier volunteered for, Union or Confederate. The Union soldiers attire consisted of a navy blue wool jacket, navy blue pants and a navy blue hat with a black brim. Usually this uniform was worn with leather belts, holsters or backpacks to carry necessities (guns, food, water). The Confederate soldier's garb was along the same lines. It consisted of all the same items as the Union soldier's was, only they were grey as opposed to navy blue.
A Union Soldiers Uniform
A Confederate Soldiers Uniform
After volunteering, the soldier was assigned to a regiment. A regiment is a group of military units commanded by a Colonel or General ranging from a couple hundred to 5,000 soldiers usually from the same general area or state. This regiment would soon get to know each other very well and eventually become friends. Groups of individuals had the same general vision about the war; they thought that it was going to be a heroic experience in which they could express there true views about the war. A northern man thought that the objective of the war was to move forward and to abolish the trace of slavery. A southern man took it much more personally and fought for his rights alone. The south was happy with the way the war was and believed that it should stay the same in order for the country to stay in order. Once the regiment had been created, they would go into intense drilling and training, because most soldiers had no idea how to load a gun. After training, the soldiers would finally head off to battle. As said above, soldiers thought miraculously of the war, and weren't afraid of what was to come. However, when in battle, soldiers were often very frightened by the idea of being shot/shooting a fellow citizen and were afraid to act in a time of need.

Life After The War:

Life after the war was not as expected. The reunited nation needed serious reconstruction both economically and racially. The war had put the country into a massive slump and generated millions of dollars in expenses. Not only was money lost, but so were many lives. Eight percent of the white male population had died from the war. Once the war was over, the remaining soldiers returned to their daily lives back home, but with a changed attitude towards their everyday surroundings. Racially, the nation was still a wreck. After all black regiments rose up during the war, African Americans were taken much more seriously. Confederate slaves were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation and slavery was officially abolished by the thirteenth amendment. Now that slavery had been abolished, the South began to slowly fall apart and southern economy went into a downward spiral. It was now up to Abraham Lincoln to take control of his nation and begin the reconstruction on the demolished USA.
Abraham Lincoln

Civil War Veterans:

Today, there are no living Civil War veterans. The last confirmed Civil War veteran was Albert Woolson (union side), who died on August 2nd 1956. However, there are a few descendants of soldiers who are old enough to tell stories about the rough times during the Civil War. Below is a video of 98 year old, Edward Blakely, a son of a civil war veteran who tells a brief story about his father, and what he was told about the Civil War.

Fun, Interesting Links!

Interesting Facts
Reenactment of Gettysburg
Interactive Quiz


Bates, Christopher. "Civil War, volunteer soldiers and." In Waugh, Joan, and Gary B. Nash, eds. Encyclopedia of American History: Civil War and Reconstruction, 1856 to 1869, vol. 5. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2003. American History Online. Facts On File, Inc.
ItemID=WE52&iPin=EAHV311&SingleRecord=True (accessed May 18, 2009).

Bates, Christopher. "veterans of the Civil War." In Waugh, Joan, and Gary B. Nash, eds. Encyclopedia of American History: Civil War and Reconstruction, 1856 to 1869, vol. 5. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2003. American History Online. Facts On File, Inc.
ItemID=WE52&iPin=EAHV309&SingleRecord=True (accessed May 17, 2009)

Stabler, Scott L. "Union army." In Waugh, Joan, and Gary B. Nash, eds. Encyclopedia of American History: Civil War and Reconstruction, 1856 to 1869, vol. 5. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2003. American History Online. Facts On File, Inc.
ItemID=WE52&iPin=EAHV297&SingleRecord=True (accessed May 20, 2009).

“Confederate Soldiers.” Civil War Soldiers. 2002. May 16 2009.

“Union Soldiers.” Civil War Soldiers. 2002. May 16 2009.