Confederate Soldiers in the Civil War

Soldiers who served in the Confederate States Army fought on behalf of the Confederate States of America.

These Confederate soldiers were from the 11 states that had seceded from the United States of America and joined the Confederate States of America.

They tended to be young southern farmers, laborers and mechanics. Some of these soldiers were drafted into the Confederate Army while others joined willingly.

The following are some facts about Confederate soldiers in the American Civil War:

How Many Confederate Soldiers Served in the Confederate Army?

According to the Oxford Companion to American Military History, the best estimate of total Confederate soldiers range from 850,000 to 900,000.

How Much Were Confederate Soldiers Paid?

Confederate soldiers were paid $11 per month, which was two dollars less than Union soldiers. They were paid in Confederate currency.

What Did Confederate Soldiers Wear?

The types of uniforms Confederate soldiers wore consisted of a double-breasted gray frock coat, a pair of light “french blue” trousers, white cotton shirts, a forage cap and leather brogan shoes.

Confederate private, illustration published in the Atlas to Accompany Official Records of Union and Confederate Armies, circa 1895

Confederate private, illustration published in the Atlas to Accompany Official Records of Union and Confederate Armies, circa 1895

How Old Were Confederate Soldiers?

The majority of Confederate soldiers were under 30 years of age. The age range of the Confederate Army’s First Conscription Act in 1862 was 18 to 35 but the Third Conscription Act in 1864 changed it to 17 to 50.

Where Were Most of the Confederate Soldiers From?

The precise number of Confederate soldiers from each state is unknown because many military records were destroyed when Richmond was evacuated in 1865.

However, according to Randolph H. McKim in his book The Numerical Strength of the Confederate Army, the numbers of enrollment into the Confederate army were:

Virginia: 175,000
Florida: 15,000
Georgia: 120,000
North Carolina: 129,000
South Carolina: 75,000
Mississippi: 70,000
Alabama: 90,000
Tennessee: 115,000

James McPherson broke down the geographical distribution of Confederate soldiers even further in his book For Cause and Comrades:

State / Estimated % of all Confederate Soldiers:

Virginia 14%
North Carolina 15%
Tennessee 12%
South Carolina 6%
Georgia 11%
Florida 2%
Alabama 9%
Mississippi 7%
Louisiana 6%
Arkansas 3%
Texas 6%
Maryland 2%
Kentucky 5%
Missouri 3%

How Many Confederate Soldiers Deserted or Were Killed?

It is estimated that over 100,000 Confederate soldiers deserted during the war, more than 250,000 died of wounds or disease and 200,000 were wounded.

What Did Confederate Soldiers Do Before the Civil War?

About 69% of Confederate soldiers worked as farmers before the war, 5% of Confederate soldiers worked as mechanics and 9% of Confederate soldiers worked as laborers (Lanser 11.)

What Jobs Did Confederate Soldiers Do in the Confederate Army?

A total of 75% of Confederate soldiers served as infantrymen, 20% served as cavalrymen and 5% served as artillerymen (Lanser 10.)

Why Did Confederate Soldiers Fight in the Civil War?

According to Civil War historian James M. McPherson, in his book For Cause and Comrades, most Confederate volunteers stated they were fighting for liberty as well as slavery while many of the Union soldiers stated they fought to end slavery and preserve the union.

Although only 20% of a sample of 429 Southern soldiers named slavery as the main reason they were fighting in the war, there was a reason for that, according to McPherson:

“Slavery was less salient for most Confederate soldiers because it was not controversial. They took slavery for granted as one of the Southern ‘rights’ and institutions for which they fought, and did not feel compelled to discuss it. Although only 20 percent of the soldiers avowed explicit proslavery purposes in their letters and diaries, none at all dissented from that view.”

What Were Confederate Soldier’s Nicknames?

Confederate soldiers had a variety of nicknames, such as Reb, Johnny Reb, Greyback, Rebels, Secesh, Butternuts and Johnnies, according to Josephus Nelson Larned in his book The New Larned History for Ready Reference, Reading and Research:

“During the first year of the war [of the rebellion – in the United States] the Union soldiers commonly called their opponents, ‘Rebs’ and ‘Secesh’; in 1862, ‘Confeds’; in 1863 ‘Graybacks’ and ‘Butternuts” and in 1864, ‘Johnnies.’ The nickname ‘Butternuts’ was given the Confederates on account of their homespun clothes, dyed reddish-brown with a dye made of butternut bark. The last name, ‘Johnnies,’ is said to have originated in a quarrel between two pickets, which began by the Union man’s saying that the Confederates depended on England to get them out of their scrape…The Union man…said that a ‘Reb’ was no better than a Johnny Bull, anyhow…The name stuck, and in the last part of the war the Confederate soldiers were almost universally called ‘Johnnies.’”

Why Were Confederate Soldiers Called “Rebels”?

Confederate soldiers were called rebels because, at the time, the American Civil War was known as the “War of the Rebellion.” Since the Confederates were fighting against their own country in this rebellion, they were called “rebels.”

For more information about soldiers in the war, check out the following article on Civil War soldiers.

Sources:
McKim, Randolph A. The Numerical Strength of the Confederate Army. Neal Publishing Company, 1912.
McPherson, James M. For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War. Oxford University Press, 1997.
Larned, Josephus Nelson. The New Larned History for Ready Reference, Reading, and Research. Vol 2, C.A. Nichols Publishing Co, 1922.
Lanser, Amanda. Civil War By The Numbers. Capstone Press, 2016.
“Who Fought?” American Battlefield Trust, www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/who-fought
“Military Pay.” American Battlefield Trust, www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/military-pay

Confederate Soldiers in the Civil War

5 thoughts on “Confederate Soldiers in the Civil War

  1. Alice Ray

    so grateful for this information… I know my family fought with the Confederates during the Civil War and am just trying to find out about family history… and my country’s history… thanks from a curious mind!

    Reply
  2. William Kuhn

    I have a great-great step-grandfather who was a doctor in the 1st LA Cavalry during the War of Northern Aggression. While I think the slavery was certainly a significant catalyst (along with tariffs & internal improvements) for the war, once started the Southern objective was simple: obtain independence in a national liberation struggle. Honoring the heroes & heroines that fought that struggle is no disgrace.

    Reply
  3. Joy

    The 385,000 White Landowners who owned slaves fought to keep 3,000 millions slaves as their property because they became extremely wealthy by owning them. Period! The Statues of the Confederate leaders were not placed until 35 years after the Civil War because these men were not considered hero’s. At that time they were considered Traitors to the Union. History was manipulated so these statues could remind the black people of their horrific brutal past and to keep them segregated from the white folk, while offending them. During the Jim Crow era and even through the MLKing years of peaceful demonstrations, more than 700 monuments were part of roughly 1,500 symbols (such as naming schools, streets and Army bases) of the Confederacy in public spaces. Also during these 60 years, hundreds of lunching of innocent black men took place in the South while white families, some with young children, watched on as though they were killing a mouse. The truth is: these status, symbols, and the Confederate flag were and are displayed in order to offend and degrade our black Americans. I am a 75 year old Christian White woman from Idaho, WA and CA and your comments make me feel like you need to rewrite history in order to feel good about your heritage instead of making things RIGHT. May God forgive you as this is not what the New Testament is all about. 126 times it says help the less fortunate and I am sure it means even more so when you have compromised their education and freedom as was done for our black bothers and sisters for 250 years before the civil war so others could benefit financially…horrible greed at it’s best.

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