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The Men In The Union and Confederate Armies

        Although many of those in both armies were mere youngsters in age at the time of their enlistments, they soon became men.
        All but 1.5 per cent of the enlisted men in the Federal Army were between 18 and 46 at the time of their enlistment; and all but 3.3 per cent of the officers fell into that age bracket. The average age was slightly under 26 years (25.8083) at time of enlistment.
        There were 127 Northern soldiers recorded as being age 13; 330 age I4; 773 age 15; 2758 age 16; 6425 age 17; 133,475 age 18; 90,215 age 19; 71,058 age 20; 97,136 age 21. From there on it gradually went down to 7012 age 45; 967 age 46; and 2366 age 50 or over.
        As to physical characteristics, the average height of the Federal soldier was put at 5 feet, 8 inches. The tallest man authentically recorded was said to be Capt. Van Buskirk of the Twenty-seventh Indiana, who stood 6 feet, 10 inches. The shortest man as far as records go was a member of the 192nd Ohio, and at the age of 24 he measured 3 feet, 4 inches in height.
        Incomplete records indicate the average weight was 143 pounds. About 13 per cent had black hair, 25 per cent dark hair, 30 per cent brown, 24 per cent light, 4 per cent sandy, 3 per cent red, and 1 per cent gray hair. Forty-five per cent of the Yankees had blue eyes, 24 per cent gray, 13 per cent hazel, 10 per cent dark, and 8 per cent black.
        In prewar occupations some 48 per cent of the Yankees were farmers, 24 per cent mechanics, 16 per cent laborers, 5 per cent in "commercial pursuits," 3 per cent professional men, and 4 per cent miscellaneous.
        As to nativity of Northerners, basing the Army on a total of 2,000,000, about three fourths were native Americans. Of the 500,000 foreign-born, about 175,000 were from Germany, 150,000 from Ireland, 50,000 from England, 50,000 from British America, and 75,000 from other countries.
        The vast majority of soldiers on both sides were volunteers. There were 16,367 in the Regular Army in 1861. This increased to 25,463 by January 1, 1863, and then dropped to 21,669 by March 31, i865. There was a militia (on paper at least) in most states, but as an actual force it had before the war fallen into ineffectual decay and cannot he said to have been more than an institution for occasional parades, festivals, or social events.
        In the North the draft act of 1863 resulted in four different enrollments: July, 1863; March, 1864; July, 1864; and December, 1864. These drafts resulted in a total of 249,259 men being held to service. Of this total, some 86,724 paid commutation to be relieved of service, which brought in $26,366,316.78. There were actually 162,535 men raised by the draft. Of this total only 46,347 men were held to personal service; 116,188 furnished substitutes. Thus the draft provided only about 6 per cent of the total Federal enlistments in the Army. Nevertheless the drafts main effect seems to have been to stimulate enlistments of volunteers who made up the great bulk of the manpower.
        In July of 1862, the Federal Congress authorized the acceptance of Negroes for labor and military service. The first major recruiting began in Louisiana in September of 1862. A few units were organized by states, but for the most part they were considered Federal troops. A total of 178,892 Negroes officially served in the Union Army, of whom 134,111 were from slave states, with some 93,346 of these from seceded states. They participated in r66 regiments including 145 infantry regiments, 12 regiments of heavy artillery, 1 regiment of light artillery, 1 of engineers, and 7 cavalry regiments. Losses in Negro troops were 2,751 men killed or mortally wounded; 29,618 died of disease. Among the 7,122 white officers, 143 were killed or mortally wounded and 138 died of disease.
        In the Confederacy problems of manpower were inherently much greater. Here, as in the North, conscription undoubtedly served to keep men in the Army and to stimulate enlistments and reenlistments far more effectively than it did to provide manpower directly. Furthermore, national conscription was contrary to the theories of local and personal autonomy that formed the spiritual background of the Confederacy. Conflicts with state and local authorities, large exemptions, and substitutions all contributed to the conscription problem. Records are not available as to the effects of conscription in the Confederacy, but its impact both for good and evil is readily apparent. The inescapable fact is that the South urgently needed skilled manpower at home to keep the economy rolling; at the same time the Confederacy desperately needed men for the armies. With too few men to meet both needs, the two necessities could not be reconciled.
        The Confederate Congress in an act of April 16, 1862, adopted conscription, which included substitution. This was the first military draft in the history of the United States. The substitution measure was repealed December 28, 1863. An act of February 17, 1864, authorized use of Negroes, free and slave, as laborers in units designed for manifold duties. It was not until March 13, 1865, and after much debate, that provision was made for the use of slaves as soldiers. The move came far too late to be of significance militarily.
        Incomplete reports show that 81,993 conscripts were drafted in the Confederate states east of the Mississippi from April 16, 1862, until early 1865.
        Much is often made of the supposition that a disproportionately large number of West Point graduates went South. While it is of course true that many exceptionally capable officers did follow their states into secession, a majority of trained officers stayed with the Union. Of the 1249 known living graduates when the war commenced, 89 per cent served in either the Union or Confederate armies. Of this 89 per cent nearly three fourths were in the Federal armies. While figures vary, it is recorded that 296 West Point graduates joined the Confederacy. Of these over 13 per cent were born in the North and over 11 per cent appointed from the free states.
        Of the 1098 officers in the Regular Army at the outbreak of the war, one record lists 286 who resigned and joined the Confederacy. Of this number 187 were West Point graduates, and 99 non-West Pointers. Of those who did go with the South, 26 were appointed from the North, including 16 West Point graduates. One estimate states that out of 350 West Point graduates from slave states who were in military service at the beginning of the war, 162 remained with the North and 168 went South. Of the Regular Army enlisted men, only 26 are recorded as having joined the South, a surprisingly low figure.
Source: "The Civil War Day By Day" by E.B. Long

This Page last updated 10/22//04


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