Confederate Soldiers

Elementary Information

Portrait of Confederate soldier John Thomas Lowe

Portrait of a Confederate soldier

The average Confederate soldier was a young man in his early 20s, unshaven, unkempt, gaunt, but tough from months of difficult living. The Rebel soldier’s woolen hat and uniform was grey, ragged form either having been worn too long, or having been “handed down” from a dead soldier. It was not uncommon for the uniforms to be ill-fitting, with sleeves either too short or too long, and to have buttons missing.  In addition to this uncomfortable outfit, the soldier wore a white shirt. Those lucky enough to have a fitting pair of shoes would often nail horseshoes to them to prevent the soles from wearing down.  While the confederate soldier’s appearance was often shabby, it was his spirit which led him to the charge.

The Rebel soldier carried a flint-lock rifle or a musket, also known as Confederate Springfields. He kept his ammunition in a cartridge box attached to the right of his belt.  He also carried a small rolled-up blanket, a haversack, a cloth-covered canteen, a tin cup, and a small frying pan.  As the war went on, more and more Rebels carried Enfield rifles which they had taken from dead Union soldiers.  Once a Confederate had acquired such a rifle, he would wear its bayonet in a scabbard attached to the right of his belt.

As the war progressed, the Rebels who had been cut off from their suppliers by rail and sea, Not only did they run out of ammunition, but having not eaten meat in weeks, many fell ill from fatigue and starvation.  Furthermore, Confederate soldiers were poorly funded, and would sometimes have to wait months before being compensated for their service,  which meant their families, left behind and waiting for support, would often go months without eating.   While the vast majority of Rebel soldiers were Caucasian, their ranks also included women (posing as men), and Native Americans like the Choctaw Indians in Oklahoma.

The Confederate soldier was a man who fought for his ideals, not because he had been drafted. Even if many of those ideals may be offensive by today’s standards, we must still respect the integrity of these men; after all, war itself, the loss of human life, is an abomination.  There were fewer deserters amongst the Confederates than the Union forces, but those who did abandoned the fight out of desperation, tired of starving, being away from their families (sometimes their parents since many were still teenaged boys), and afraid to die.  Some deserted to go protect their wives and children from Indians who were rumored to have been attacking farmhouses.  Those who were caught deserting would either be hung or executed by firing squad, but some were spared, only to be branded with a hot iron and thrown out of camp.

There are very few photographs of Confederate soldiers taken while they were still alive.  Photography was expensive, and most people could only afford being photographed posthumously.  But we suspect most of the photos taken of dead Confederate fighters were not taken for the purpose of remembering the individuals, but remembering victory over them.

Confederate Flag

Confederate Flag

Detailed Information


Confederate General Robert E. Lee

Confederate General Robert E. Lee

The Confederate States Army was the ground force of the military of the Confederate States of America. The Confederate States of America (CSA), also known as the Confederate States (CS) or the Confederacy, was a government set up in by the seven states permitting slavery in 1861. This military force was active from 1861 to 1865. Confederacy came into existence on February 28, 1861, at the time of the American Civil War. A provisional volunteer army was set up by the provisional Confederate Congress to control the military operations and to gather sate forces and volunteers to fight for the President of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis. A permanent Confederate States army was set up by the confederacy with the help of additional military legislation on March 6th and 9th in 1861.

The Confederate records were destroyed during the war and it is difficult to find the accurate number of men served in the confederate army. However the approximate number of the confederate soldiers is estimated to be between 750,000 and 1,000,000.The casualty figures regarding the confederate army are also unreliable and incomplete. It has been estimated that more than 94,000 were either killed or wounded in the battle and about 31,000 deaths occurred in the Union prison camps.

On April 12th and April 26th of 1865, the main Confederate armies such as the Army of Northern Virginia under the control of General Robert E. Lee and some part of the Army of Tennessee and various other army units under General Joseph E. Johnston, surrendered officially. The remaining forces of the Confederate surrendered between 16th of April and 5th of May, 1865, as President Jefferson Davis was captured by the union forces on 10th May, 1865.



The seven slavery permitting states of lower south seceded and formed the Confederate State before Lincoln became the president of the United States on March 4th 1861. This Confederate seized the properties and federal forts within the borders. Lincoln wanted to take back the forts, especially the Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina. Thus the civil war became inevitable. The troops of the Confederate government under the command of General P. G. T. Beauregard attacked Fort Sumter on April 12–13, 1861, forcing its surrender on April 14, 1861 under the order from their president Jefferson Davis. The northern states were outraged by this activity and demanded war on the confederate states. On April 15th, 1861 Lincoln called all the states to send troops to recapture the forts, to end the rebellion and preserve the unity of the country. Four more states joined the Confederate States of America and both sides began to gather volunteers and armies for their purposes. The Confederate congress gave permission for a Confederate army, which was supposed to be patterned like the U.S Army. This consisted of a small regular army which is permanent and a large provisional force for the time of war. The provisional volunteer army came into existence with the act passed by the Confederate Congress on February 28th 1861. The act for the permanent regular army was passed on March 6th 1861. However the confederate regular army was not organized properly.


Provisional Army of the Confederate States (PACS)

This army started organizing on April 27th, 1861. All the men, including the conscripts and volunteers wanted to join this organization as the officers of this army was able to achieve higher ranks in this army than they could attain in the Regular Army. The confederates were intended of disbanding the provisional army if they achieved success in the war.


Army Of The Confederate States Of America (ACSA)

Confederate Soldier Uniform

Confederate Soldier Uniform

This army was allowed to include as many as 15,015 men, including 744 army officers. However, this number has never been achieved by this force. Confederate States Generals, such as Samuel Cooper and Robert E. Lee, who were high ranked enrolled in ACSA to make sure that they were above the militia officers. The ACSA however, never became a functional unit.

The operations of the Confederate States Army were controlled and administered by the Confederate States War Department, which was established by the Confederate Provisional Congress by an act on February 21st, 1861. On March 8th, 1861 the Confederate Congress passed a law that endorsed Davis to issue proclamations to call up about 100,000 men. On March 9th The War Department asked for 8,000 volunteers and on April 8th, for 20,000 volunteers. 49,000 volunteers were called for on and after April 16. Davis anticipated an army of 100,000 soldiers in his message to Congress on the 29th. The Confederacy called for 400,000 volunteers on 8th of August to serve for one or three years. The Confederacy passed a conscription act, which recruited men into PACS in 1862.


The Strength Of The Confederate Army

There is no definite information regarding the total strength of the Confederate States Army, because of the destruction of the records in the central repository in Richmond during 1865. The estimate of the total men ranges from 500,000 to 2,000,000 during the time of the war. During the period from 1861 to 1865 the following calls for the men were requested.

  • 100,000 volunteers and soldiers on March 6th, 1861
  • 400,000 military and volunteers on January 23rd 1862.
  • The first conscription act on April 16th, 1862 called for white men between the age of 18 to 35 for the duration of the war.
  • The second conscription act on 27th September, 1862 extended the age limit from 18 to 45 with the implementation of the act from July 15th, 1863.
  • The third conscription act of February 17th, 1864 further extended the age limit from 17 to 50.
  • On March 13th, 1865 it was authorized for 300,000 African American troops, but was not able to implement it.
  • Confederate States of America were strategically a defensive army initially and the soldiers were offended when the army of Northern Virginia was lead to an invasion by Lee in the Antietam Campaign September 1862. The battle of Antietam is considered as the bloodiest single-day battle in the American history and it was one of the major turning points of the civil war.


Command Of The Confederate Soldiers



The Confederate State Army lacked a formal military commander or general during the early stages of the war. Jefferson Davis, the president of the confederate himself was a former U.S army officer and U.S state secretary of War. Jefferson provided the direction for the army as the commander-in chief. Some of the prominent men were attributed different degrees of control on the army.

  • Military operations of the armies of the Confederacy were controlled and conducted by Robert E Lee from March 13th to May 31st, 1862. Though he was considered as the military advisor for Davis, he had great control over the strategic planning and the logistical side of the army. He took command of the army of northern Virginia on June 1st.
  • The military operations in the armies of the Confederacy were conducted by Braxton Bragg from February 24, 1864 to January 31, 1865.
  • Lee became the general-in-chief of the army formally by the act of congress in January 1865. He served in the post till April 9th 1865.


The Design Of The Confederate States of America

When the confederate congress established the war department on February 21st, 1861 the design of the army was based on the structure of the U.S army. There were three parts for this army, the Army of the Confederate States of America (ACSA, which was the permanent and regular army), the Provisional Army of the Confederate States (PACS, or Volunteer Army, which was to be disbanded after fighting) and the different militias of the Southern state. Like the Federal Army the Confederate Army also had professional and political generals. The ranks in the confederate army are similar to that of the U.S Army in its design and seniority of the positions. The general staff for the army consisted of adjutant general, a quartermaster general, a commissary general, and a surgeon general. The Confederate Army initially commissioned only brigadier generals in the volunteer and regular army services; the Confederate Congress later passed a legislation which allowed for the appointment of major generals as well as generals. This legislation provided clear and distinct seniority over the existing major generals in the various state armies. When lieutenant generals were authorized, on September 18th, 1862, the Confederate States Army had four ranks of general officers; they were brigadier general, major general, lieutenant general, and general in the increasing order of rank. Jefferson Davis controlled the appointment to the various grades of general. The Confederacy failed in the strategic operation due to lack of centralized control. There were multiple army groups acting to achieve common objectives. Many senior military leaders of the confederacy were from the U.S Army and were ready to fight against the country. President Lincoln was annoyed by such act of the men who were originally expected to love and protect the country.


Personal Organization of the Confederate Soldiers

The Confederate soldiers of the United States of America were also organized by military specialty like the Union Soldiers and it included cavalry, artillery and infantry. There were several armies in the Confederate States Army and only a few soldiers constituted a platoon or a squad. The smallest number of army consisted of about 100 soldiers. A regiment comprised of 10 companies which means that a regiment comprised of 1000 men. But, in due course most of the regiments were reduced to a greater extent as causalities and diseases started to take its toll. In fact, new regiments started to form and replacements did not want to be part of the existing army. The regiments were raised by every state in the United States and were represented in this format, number and state. For e.g., 12th Virginia. A battalion was the word utilized to represent a regiment size unit. A brigade constituted of four regiments and transfer of regiments between brigades was not often done. An army division was constituted by two to four brigades and two to four brigades formed a corp. Two to four corps together forms an army. There were times when a single corps was used to operate separately as a small army.
A captain commanded a company and it had two or more lieutenants. The colonels commanded the regiments and the second officer in command was the lieutenant colonel. The following is the rank structure of the Confederate States. It has the General as the commanding officer, followed by a Colonel who is assisted by a Lieutenant Colonel. A Major is the next person in the hierarchy followed by the Captain who commands the First Lieutenant and Second Lieutenant. The general officers were of four grades: General, Lieutenant General, Major General and Brigadier General. All the four grades of General wore the same insignia. Braid designs were worn by the officers on the sleeves and kepi of their uniform. The width of the lines of the design helped in knowing the rank of the officer. The infantry, cavalry and the artillery were given blue, yellow and red branch colors respectively as the chevron colors. The Confederates States Army was different from the normal armies as all officers under the brigadier general were elected by the soldiers under their command. The Confederate State Army comprised of many independent military departments and armies, and these services were disbanded, constituted and renamed according to the need. The name of the states and the geographic regions were used to name these new army units. There was a total of seven Generals in the Confederate State Army that commanded the armies.


Supply and Transportation of Confederate Soldiers

A railway mounted gun and its crew used during the Siege of Petersburg

A railway mounted gun and its crew used during the Siege of Petersburg

The number of people supplied for most of the Confederate soldiers was very meager despite the armies returning victorious from the battlefield. It was the responsibility of the individual states to supply soldiers for their armies and it was not the job of the Central Government. Some of the problems that were the key factors in the demise of the Confederate Armies were: poor railroads, lack of central government control and the inability of the State Government to provide the necessary funding at the right times. This also resulted in a lot of major ports and oceans being captured from the Confederacy. The road transportation was very poor and the overburdened railroad system was used more and more and this resulted in delay of transportation of the soldiers. The telegraph lines, engines, cars, tracks and bridges came under attack by the Union several times as they pretty well knew that the new equipments or transport and supply were not available to the Confederacy. The Confederacy soldiers were not able to wear the standard uniform during the war due to naval blockade of the Southern ports by the union as well as supply and transportation problems. The lack of textile factories in the Confederate States also was a factor contributing to this problem.

The Confederate Army wore different kinds of dresses during parade formation or during a march-parade. Some of the soldiers wore patched up clothes, homemade uniforms, faded regulation uniforms as well as civilian clothing during parades. Also, as individual states were authorized to supply soldier uniforms, the lack of uniformity in the dressing of the soldiers was clearly evident. Some of the hardships faced by the Confederacy soldiers were: lack of supply of tents, shoes and other military gear as well as lack of adequate quantities of food. The soldiers had to face food shortage to a larger extent during the war. The Confederacy had a lot of meat in stock and the problem that it faced was shipping the meat to its soldiers. Robert E Lee, one of the generals of the Confederate Army, had to spend a lot of time in 1863 searching for food for their soldiers than for planning strategy and tactics to beat the enemy. In fact, commanders had to borrow, steal or beg for food and ammunition from different sources available including captured Union depots. The policies of the Union Army, particularly in South Carolina, Georgia and the Sherandoah Valley in 1864 prevented and bruised the Confederacy from supplying food to their civilian population. In fact, the Confederacy Armies had to suffer from starving and lack of food and water which also resulted in many people dying due to lack of food and illness related to starvation.


American Soldiers in Confederate Army

Native American people served in both the Union as well as the Confederacy Armies during the American Civil war and it is reported that a total of 28,693 Native Americans took part in the American Civil war and served in the Confederate and Union armies. Some of the battles that the Native Americans participated were: Pea Ridge, Spotsylvania, Antietam, Cold Harbor, Second Manassas and in Federal assaults on Petersburg. Albert Pike took charge as the Confederate envoy to the Native Americans during the commencement of the war. He was responsible for negotiating a lot of treaties during his tenure as the envoy for the Native Americans. It covered many subjects like: possibilities of the Confederate States of America citizenship, national sovereignty of Choctaw and Chickasaw, and an unrestricted delegate in the Confederate States of America’s House of Representatives. Some of the tribes that fought the war from the Confederacy side were: Creek, Catawba, Choctaw, Seminole and Cherokee. A recruiting camp in Mobile, Alabama was also erected by the Confederacy as they wanted to recruit Indians located in the east of the Mississippi River in 1862. Stand Waite was made the colonel of the Cherokee tribe that joined the Confederate Army and he was in charge of the Cherokee battalion. The Cherokee became a delegate to the Confederate Congress at Richmond following the treaty signed by Chief Ross that transferred all the obligations that the U.S Government had to give the Cherokee tribe to the Confederate States that also included protection, food stock, goods as well as livestock tools. The Cherokee had to in return deliver ten companies of men for the Army as well as allow space for construction of military posts as well as roads in the Cherokee nation. In fact, the treaty also prevented any Indian regiment to fight outside the Indian Territory. The second Cherokee Mounted Rifles was formed following this treaty and it was led by Colonel John Drew. This Mounted Rifles group led by Drew was moved to the Union forces in Kansas following the Battle of Pea Ridge in March 1862 and the group joined the Indian Home Guard. The Choctaw tribe formed the Confederate battalions in the Indian Territory as well as in the Mississippi. The Choctaws did not get as much support from the confederate as they expected. They got a very partial supply of tents, clothing, garrison and camp equipments from the Confederate Army. Several of the Mississippi Choctaws who were captured in the Union prison in New York died in prison. The passion and the zeal or the Confederate Army began to take a nose dive once the Choctaws found out that no arms and payment were arranged for them.


Confederate Army’s African Americans

The Confederate States Army had recruited a lot of white men and with about 40% of the population occupied in different jobs, the Confederate States Army now turned to the slaves to maintain its proper functioning. The confederate armies needed to support of the African Americans soldiers because of the speculation that war is going to take place soon. It was just a thought that struck the minds of Confederate administrators. A letter from Patrick Cleburne to raise black soldiers by offering them liberation led to strong and controversial debate. Robert E Lee further put some thought into this suggestion and wrote a letter to the Confederate Congress to give this thought a serious consideration. It was on March 13, 1865 that the Confederate Congress passed the General Order 14 to raise African American companies and this was signed by President Davis.

Only a few African American companies sprung up after the General Order 14 was passed. Also, a company or two of black hospital workers were attached to a Hospital in Richmond, Virginia. The small number of black soldiers that gathered in Richmond in 1865 were the first and the only black soldiers that were used by the Confederate Army. There were also reports in leading newspapers of black rebel troops mushrooming in Confederate uniforms despite wearing soldier uniforms. There is no proper record as to how many African Americans served in the Confederate army. But, a vague figure given in the census report of United States in 1890 lists that 3273 African Americans have staked claim as being Confederate victims.

Abraham Lincoln talking about Confederate Soldiers

Abraham Lincoln talking about Confederate Soldiers

Size of Confederate Army

There are many incomplete records as well as destroyed and damaged records available that makes it quite difficult to make out the exact count of individuals who have served the Confederate Army. Some of the early and highly improbable estimates put their number between 600,000 and 1,500,000 men. This seems to be far from reality. A more realistic figure of individual soldiers who have served the Confederates army is between 750,000 and 1,000,000 men. The figures that are estimated above are just the figures of the individual soldiers who fought on behalf of Confederates at any time during a war. They do not represent the size of the armies at a given date. Also, the number of casualties of Confederate army that are available are also quite staggering and unreal as the number of death estimates are to the tune of 94,000 killed during a battle or have been mortally wounded in the battlefield.

It has also been estimated that as many as 164,000 soldiers of the Confederate armies have died due to diseases and about 26,000 to 31,000 soldiers have died in the Union prison. Apart from this estimate, a total of 25,000 Confederates has been reported vaguely to have died of various death incidents like accidents, murder, killed after capture by the Union Soldiers, suicide, drowning, sun stroke and execution for various committed crimes. There are no concrete evidences on these Confederate casualties. There is also a Confederate wounded estimate of 194,026 and another of 226,000 and these figures are considered to be incomplete. A total of 174,223 Confederate men had surrendered to the Union Army at the end of the war.


2 Responses

  1. Mark Zhao
  2. Bancroft

Add Comment