Civil War (detail of painting 'First Battle of Bull Run' by Kurz & Allison)

Soldiers in Blue and Gray

The soldiers were young and inexperienced, most in their teens or early twenties. In the North, they were farmers and factory workers, and newly arrived Irish immigrants. In the South, they were farmers, mechanics, and students. Most were volunteers; many were draftees unable to pay a substitute to go in their stead.

Early in the war, their training was slapdash. Many died in the first months from illness or wounds. Those who survived learned to be soldiers in the daily drills and discomforts of camp life, the exhaustion of miles-long marches, and the dry-mouth terror of battle.

Union Infantry

Union troops were well-outfitted—even overburdened—with army-issued supplies and equipment.

Union soldiers wore regulation uniforms of heavy wool—in just two sizes—with leather-billed caps that drooped in the rain, and stiff shoes. On a typical twenty-mile march, they packed more than sixty pounds of gear. Atop knapsacks stuffed with extra clothes, a weekly change of underwear, and personal “truck,” they carried rolled-up wool and rubber blankets and half a tent. They filled haversacks with salt pork, hardtack, coffee, sugar, dried peas, pressed sheets of desiccated vegetables, and perhaps a pickle. They slung canteens and cartridge boxes over their shoulders and carried muskets.

Confederate Infantry

The Confederacy struggled to keep troops equipped and supplied. Many units outfitted themselves.

Confederate soldiers wore various uniforms, although gray jackets became common, often with felt slouch hats. Many had no knapsacks; instead they looped their bedrolls across their torsos when they marched. Tents were scarce. Men kept tobacco and pipes, a bit of soap, and maybe foraged apples in their haversacks. Many immediately cooked and ate the three-day ration of fatback and cornbread, rather than packing it. They filled their canteens with buttermilk or cider, and kept a cup to dip water from streams. They carried their muskets, but most had no cartridge boxes, so they stuffed ammunition into their pockets.

An estimated 12,000 American Indians fought for the Confederacy, battling Union advances in the Indian Territory of present-day Oklahoma. Most were Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole. Brigadier General Chief Stand Waite, a Cherokee, was the last Confederate general to surrender, on June 23, 1865.

Cavalry Soldier Loading a Rifle by Winslow Homer
Soldier Giving Water to a Wounded Companion by Winslow Homer
Two Studies of a Bugler by Winslow Homer
Soldier With Pipe in his Mouth by Winslow Homer
Army Cook’s Tent by Winslow Homer
Three officers in camp
Poster for recruiting African Americans, 1863

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