When the Civil War broke out in 1861, hundreds of thousands of men, as well as a number of women and children, put their lives on hold and signed up to serve as soldiers.
How Many Soldiers Fought in the Civil War?
Roughly 2.75 million soldiers fought during the Civil War. About 2 million of these soldiers fought for the Union and 750,000 fought for the Confederates.
How Many Soldiers Died in the Civil War?
According to the Civil War Trust, between 620,000 – 850,000 soldiers died from combat, disease and starvation during the Civil War.
How Many Civil War Soldiers Were Held as POWs?
Although the exact number is unknown, it is estimated that as many as 674,000 people were held as prisoners of war in about 150 Civil War prison camps. Most of these prisoners were white male soldiers but there were also African-American POWs and women POWS.
How Much Were Civil War Soldiers Paid?
Soldiers in the Union army were paid $13 per month and soldiers in the Confederate army earned $11 per month. When African-Americans were allowed to join the Union army in 1863, they were only paid $10 per month.
Civil War soldiers ate very bland food such as pork, hardtack (known as “army bread”) peas, beans and coffee. Occasionally the soldiers would be issued vegetables and dried fruit to prevent scurvy but only in small quantities. When nearby fighting interrupted food deliveries, soldiers would be forced to scavenge for food and would often eat whatever they could find, which was sometimes rats, bullfrogs as well as cats and dogs.
Many young children served as soldiers, musicians, messengers, nurses and scouts in the Civil War. It is estimated that at least 20 percent of all Civil War soldiers were under 18 years of age. Although it technically wasn’t legal for children and young teens to serve as soldiers in the army, many of these minors lied about their age in order to serve their country and earn money. Others signed up for supporting roles, such as drummer boys and messengers, but often joined the troops in combat in the heat of battle. About 48 boys won a Medal of Honor for their bravery during battle.
Approximately 400 women disguised themselves as men and joined the army to serve as soldiers for both the Confederate and Union army. The reason these women were able to disguise themselves so easily is because of the large number of young boys and men in the army at the time, who were often small, boyish-looking, hairless males who lacked deep voices and strong builds. Many of these women were single, poor and deeply passionate about the war and joined in order to earn money for their families or fight for their side.
African-Americans weren’t allowed to join the Union army until 1863. When they were finally allowed to join, it is estimated that about 10 percent of all Civil War soldiers were African-American. Approximately 179,000 African-American men served in the army and 19,000 served in the navy during the Civil War. About 40,000 African-American soldiers died in the war, mostly from disease or infection.
It is estimated that between 8,000 to 10,000 Jewish soldiers fought in the Civil War. The majority of Jewish soldiers fought for the Union army. About 20 Jewish soldiers won a Medal of Honor during the Civil War.
Native-American Civil War Soldiers:
The exact number of Native-Americans who fought in the Civil War is unknown but is estimated to be as high as 6,000 for the Union and 12,000 for the Confederates. A few of the tribes who fought in the war include the Cherokee and the Seneca tribe.
Civil War Guerrillas:
Not everyone who fought in the Civil War was a soldier. When the Union army began to invade the south, it sparked a guerrilla war that consisted of ambushes, skirmishes and raids by Confederate guerrillas. These guerrillas were secessionist civilians who wanted to defend the south but didn’t want to join the army so they organized themselves into guerrillas bands to fight Union occupation. Some famous Civil War guerrillas include Jesse James and William Quantrill.
Famous Civil War Soldiers:
Since so many people fought in the Civil War, it is inevitable that some of them would later go on to become famous, or possibly infamous, in some way either for their actions during the war or after.
The following are some famous and/or notable Civil War soldiers:
Long before he became a famous author, Mark Twain served a brief stint as a Confederate soldier in the Civil War. Twain was working as a riverboat pilot in Mississippi when the war broke out. Soon after, he decided to join the Confederate militia but his stint in the military only lasted two weeks before he quit and went out west. He later faced criticism for his role in the war and for deserting but he defended himself by explaining his confusion while enrolling and stated he didn’t fully understand the politics behind the war at the time.
Alfred Packer was a former Civil War soldier who later became a prospector and wilderness guide and was accused of cannibalism in 1874. Packer was working as a shoe maker when the Civil War broke out. He decided to join the army in 1862 and was so proud of his new job that he had his encampment, battalion numbers and infantry numbers tattooed on his arm. His stint in the army was short lived though due to his struggle with epilepsy. He was discharged later that year and when he enlisted again six months later, he was discharged again for the same reason. After his second discharge, he drifted from job to job before becoming a prospector and wilderness guide in Colorado in 1873. Packer was accused of cannibalism and murder after one of his groups disappeared during a trip through the Colorado wilderness and their bodies were later discovered on the trail with signs that they had been eaten. He escaped from jail and remained on the run for nine years until he was caught, tried and convicted of murder in 1883. He was eventually pardoned and paroled in 1901.
Albert Woolson was a former drummer boy and the last living Civil War veteran when he died in 1956 at the age of 109. Woolson joined the army as a drummer boy in 1864 at age 17. His regiment never saw combat and he was honorably discharged in September of 1865. Woolson later became a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, which was an organization of Civil War veterans, and served as the group’s senior vice commander in chief in 1953. Since Woolson was the last Civil War veteran, the organization was dissolved after he died.
Chang and Eng Bunker
Chang and Eng Bunker were conjoined twins who had made a small fortune working as sideshow performers. The twins were living in North Carolina, where they ran a plantation, when the war broke out. In 1865, the twins were shocked to find out that Eng had been drafted by the Union army, who had recently raided the area and taken it over. The Union army had placed all the names of the local male residents into a lottery wheel and chosen them at random, which is how they selected Eng’s name. Since Eng was selected but not Chang, and the twins could not be physically separated, there wasn’t much the Union army could do about it so they decided against recruiting Eng. Even though the twins never officially served in the army, both of their eldest sons joined and fought for the Confederates.
Paul Revere’s Grandsons:
Three of Paul Revere’s grandsons, Paul Joseph Revere, Joseph Warren Revere and Edward Hutchinson Revere, served as soldiers for the Union army in the Civil War. Paul Joseph Revere and Edward Hutchinson Revere served in a Massachusetts regiment while Joseph Warren Revere served in a New Jersey regiment. Both Paul and Edward were captured at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff and held as POWs in Richmond before being exchanged for Confederate prisoners. Paul and Edward went on to fight at the Battle of Antietam where Paul was wounded and Edward was killed. Paul then went on to fight in the Battle of Gettysburg where he was killed. Joseph was the only Revere grandson to survive the war but he was court martialed and allowed to resign instead of being dismissed.
The Civil War in the West (1861-July 1863) By Dale Anderson
National Archives: Black Soldiers in the Civil War: https://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/blacks-civil-war
The Shapell Roster: Jewish Soldiers in the Civil War: http://www.shapell.org/the-shapell-roster/
Civil War Trust: Guerrilla Warfare: http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/warfare-and-logistics/warfare/guerrilla-warfare-during-the.html
Civil War Trust: Military Pay: http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/warfare-and-logistics/logistics/pay.html
New York Times: New Estimates Raises Civil War Death Toll: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/03/science/civil-war-toll-up-by-20-percent-in-new-estimate.html