Very Basic Equipment

Water was more important to the Civil War soldier than food and gunpowder. In summer, men were lost on marches because they suffered dehydration. Many of the first volunteers were given tin canteens, like this one, taken from U.S. government stockpiles. In the 1860s, some people were discouraged from joining the Union and Confederate armies due to old laws and traditions. Native Americans, for instance, were excluded from many volunteer regiments. In the Northeast, there was a great deal of...

Rejected Volunteer

Attitudes about race were not the same all over the South. In lower Louisiana, for instance, there had been a tradition of black military service already. Free black volunteers had fought to defend the city of New Orleans during the War of 1812. When the Civil War broke out, free New Orleans blacks raised the Louisiana Native Guards regiment and volunteered to defend their city once again. Some, like this regiment member, even had their photographs taken in uniform. But the government of the...

Troops With Henry Rifles

The Henry rifles these Illinois soldiers are holding were the models for some of the weapons that would be popular in the American West after the Civil War. They were not loaded at the muzzle. Metal cartridges holding the cap, gunpowder, and bullet were stored in a tube under the barrel. When the shooter pulled down a lever beneath the rifle's trigger, that movement threw out any used metal cartridge at the bottom of the barrel. When the lever was pulled back up, it inserted a new cartridge...

Case Shot

The load shown here is a hollow iron shot filled with slugs and gunpowder. It is called case shot. A time fuse was screwed into the round opening in the ball. Case shot exploded in midair over the heads of attacking troops. Jagged fragments of the shell and its load of slugs rained down, killing or injuring the enemy. Before a cannon was reloaded, it was sponged out to kill any sparks inside. A gun crew member slipped this leather protective cover over his thumb and held it on top of the...

Southerners In Exile

This group of ex-Confederates fled to Canada after the Civil War. When their government collapsed, they feared punishment by Union authorities, as had happened in other countries when revolutions failed. One of these men, John C. Breckinridge, was an 1860 candidate for U.S. president and a former Confederate general. Neither he nor the other men with him were punished for having taken part in the conflict. Breckinridge later returned to the United States and became governor of Kentucky. Robert...

Tool Of Union Victory

Many historians claim Northern industry won the war for the Union. This steam-driven wool-carding machine from a Pennsylvania factory is an example of that. it made wool that could be turned into military uniforms. The South supplied manufacturers with cotton and other raw materials, but it lacked large amounts of machinery and free workers to make products for its own use. The loss of raw materials from the South did not cripple Northern industry. Union states simply purchased those items...

Threatening A Free Family

When freedmen were given the right to vote, some former Confederates organized themselves into terrorist bands to intimidate them. The Ku Klux Klan was the most famous of these groups. Early in Reconstruction, its members would burst into the homes of black people and tell the men Do not vote for any Carpetbaggers.

Father And Son Soldiers

What American boy today can imagine marching off to war with his father This was not unheard of during the Civil War. Volunteers who made up the first militia companies came from small towns and neighborhoods. Often brothers or fathers and sons were among the members. This Southern parent and child posed for the camera in their dress militia uniforms before heading off for combat. Landon Creek was very young when he joined a regiment of Mississippi volunteers. He was wounded three times before...

Proud Black Cannoneers

Not long before posing with their cannon, these black artillerymen were slaves. They were among thousands of escaped slaves who were organized into army regiments late in the war. Many of them could neither read nor write. Because of this, they were trained by white troopers or officers, who read aloud to them from military manuals and then drilled them repeatedly. In this way, these blacks were able to memorize great amounts of material, and many of them became crack soldiers.

Major General Meade

President Lincoln appointed George Meade commander of the Union's Army of the Potomac just two days before the Battle of Gettysburg. Meade was a native of Pennsylvania. He replaced General Joseph Hooker, who led the army when it was defeated in May, 1863, at the Battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia. Gettysburg is a small town in south-central Pennsylvania, just a few miles north of the Maryland state line. In the summer of 1863, Confederate General Robert E. Lee marched 75,000 men north to...

Reminder Of A Serious Wound

Merwin was an artilleryman who was wounded in battle. Doctors amputated his right arm. This is the jacket he wore that day. Merwin saved it as a souvenir, along with a pair of left-handed gloves given to him by his sympathetic men. Like many other soldiers, he fought on through the war despite his disability. If a civil war soldier became sick or was hurt in battle, he was in serious trouble. In the 1860s, there were no medicines to fight infections no one had heard of...

Multifaceted Bayonet

This is a steel parade model of the most common bayonet that Civil War soldiers carried. Most were made of iron. The sides were not sharp, only the point. The men often used these bayonets as tent pegs. They also jammed them into tabletops or stumps and then used them as candlesticks. In a crisis, these bayonets also became handy digging tools. Cannons were the deadliest weapons in any Civil War fight. Most were made of bronze or steel and were loaded at the muzzle. Some were rifled. This means...

From Slave To Soldier

This photograph of a young black Union army drummer named Jackson was circulated all across the North, together with a photograph of the same young man dressed in the rags he had been wearing when he showed up behind Union lines as an escaped slave. Some white Northerners doubted that former slaves could be turned into disciplined soldiers. The pair of photographs were shown to convince those doubters that slaves could be trained to fight for the freedom of others in bondage. The american civil...

Victory Parade Through Savannah

This is a newspaper artist's rough sketch of the victory parade of Sherman's army through downtown Savannah. Union soldiers spared this attractive old city. Some places shown here still stand. Grant's army besieged Lee's forces at Petersburg, Virginia, from June, 1864, until April, 1865. At the same time, Sherman's Union troops took the cities of Atlanta, Savannah, and Charleston, as well as Columbia, South Carolina, and Raleigh, North Carolina. In December, 1864, Confederate General John Bell...

Southern Aristocrat

Caroline Deslonde was the daughter of an influential Creole plantation owner in Louisiana. Shortly before the Civil War began, she married Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, one of the Confederacy's first hero-generals. Caroline was a member of what was known as the Southern Aristocracy, the wealthy class of Southerners that had a strong influence on politics and society. Many working-class Confederates disliked these people and blamed them for the war and its hardships. After the conflict, the...

Spurs

These Western-style spurs were worn by Confederate Captain E. M. Hudson. Civil war soldiers spent almost all their time outdoors, in every season of the year. When traveling on campaigns, most men slept in bivouac, meaning they simply lay down on the ground and covered themselves with blankets. Troops assigned duty in and around cities sometimes lived in barracks, simple wood buildings. But when assigned to large camps, the troops slept in tents that held from four to eight men. They ate meals...

Both A Detective And

At the start of the Civil War, Allen Pinkerton was a successful private detective. Union General George McClellan hired him to organize a corps of spies for his army. But Pinkerton was not good at espionage. He often overestimated the size of the Southern forces. It is surprising that Pinkerton allowed himself to be photographed. Good spies rarely want anyone to know what they look like. Mosby was well known to Northerners. Union tabloids carried stories about the man Yankee soldiers called the...

Admiral David Farragut

David Farragut is the naval commander who said, Damn the torpedoes Full speed ahead He came from a family with a tradition of navy service and was the adoptive brother of two Union navy admirals. He won the surrender of New Orleans in 1862 and made his famous statement while winning the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864. The first civil war volunteers carried a variety of blades and firearms. Their generals urged them to accept standard weapons that any soldier could use. The rifles they preferred...

Recruiting Poster

Before the invention of radio, television, and motion pictures, organizations and government officials spoke to individuals by using posters. These were hung in places where people often gathered, such as town squares, open-air markets, and the front of shops and newspaper offices. This enlistment poster was one of the most popular types seen in the first days of the Civil War. It does not mention pay or benefits. Rather, the picture of the patriotic soldier in battle gives recruits the...

An Antislavery Slogan

Slaves The British Army

Americans who hated slavery formed organizations to try to end it and to embarrass slave owners. One group's slogan was the question Am I Not a Man and a Brother The members tried to force masters to admit that slaves were not farm property, but people like themselves. what rights does a state enjoy Can it ignore a federal law with which it does not agree Americans had been arguing about the powers of the national government versus the rights of states longer than they had been arguing about...

Home Away From Home

The waterproof leather knapsack was an item common to every foot soldier in the first years of the war. A leather-wrapped blanket roll was strapped to the top, and inside a soldier carried every bit of spare clothing he might have his tin cup, plate, fork, and spoon extra ammunition and any personal items he might want to keep with him. As they lost more items and as regulations relaxed, many soldiers abandoned these sacks later in the war and took to carrying all their possessions in a simple...

Bowie Knife

Custom Gun Bowie Knife Pic

Bowie knives had blades as long as a man's forearm and were carried by many Civil War soldiers. They were made famous on the American frontier and were named for their inventor, Jim Bowie, a Texas patriot who fought at the Alamo. The Bowie knife shown here with its red leather sheath was made in Sheffield, England, and was carried by a Southern soldier. Soldiers said a Spencer could be wound up on Sunday and fired all week. It was among the first shoulder weapons that could fire several shots...

The Irishman From Arkansas

Cleburne Flag

Cleburne was born in County Cork, Ireland. He studied pharmacy at school and later served for three years in Britain's Royal Army. After that, he immigrated to Arkansas and ran a drugstore. This background hid great military talent. In the Confederate army, he rose to the rank of major general and led his troops to many victories. Cleburne was killed in November, 1864, at the Battle of Franklin, near Nashville, Tennessee. He was shot while waving his military cap in the air and...

Hanged

Lawrence Orton Williams Civil War Spy

Spies caught disguised in their enemy's military uniforms were quickly disposed of. Lawrence Orton Williams was a cousin of Mrs. Robert E. Lee. Union troops caught him wearing a U.S. Army uniform. Williams claimed to be a member of the inspector general's staff. He was questioned, then hanged. A SUCCESSFUL SPY This may be the only photograph of William Henry Harrison, a Confederate army officer who worked as a scout and spy. He won his place in history by pinpointing Union army positions during...

The Bravest Black Regiment

Early in 1863, Massachusetts Governor John Andrew authorized the recruitment of an all-black regiment from his state. He also selected Robert Gould Shaw, the son of a prominent white family of abolitionists, to lead it. In July, 1863, the regiment, named the 54th Massachusetts, was asked to charge heavily armed Confederates dug in at Fort Wagner, outside Charleston, South Carolina. Colonel Shaw, with sword and pistol in hand, led the regiment's attack and was the first to reach the top of the...

Wartime Substitutes

This is the dress coat of Confederate General D. W. Adams. Regulations called for his uniform to be made of gray wool, but this coat is made of denim, the same cloth that is used to make blue jeans. In the war's last days, most Southerners wore and ate things made of substitute items because the Confederacy could not obtain good raw materials. Imitation coffee was made from the chicory plant. Flour was made from ground acorns. Quality items, such as real sugar, salt, and spices, were saved to...

Bullet Mold And Rifle Tools

To make bullets, a thin lead bar was put into a pot and then set atop a fire. When the lead turned to liquid, it was poured into a bullet mold. After the lead cooled and hardened, the handles of the mold were pulled apart and the newly made bullet was pulled out. The other items here are tools that could be attached to a ramrod and used to clean a rifle barrel or remove a jammed bullet from it.

Hand Grenade

Northerners tried several infantry assaults on the Vicksburg trench lines. In those attacks, they sometimes used Ketchum hand grenades. These weapons exploded when they landed on the detonation plates fixed to their noses. Confederates stopped these grenades by catching them in blankets and throwing them back at the attacking Union troops. Citizens of new england and the Midwest were stunned when the Southern states left the Union. Many had believed their family of state would never break up....

European Observers

Armee Sudiste

Civil War photographers liked to pose important visitors for pictures. Here are three titled French military men from the left, the Duc de Chartes, the Prince de Joinville, and the Comte de Paris. They are all members of the same French titled family, and served with Union Major General George McClellan's staff in 1862. TWO GERMAN BROTHERS The Midwest produced many regiments made up of men from Germany and Scandinavia. These two soldiers from Illinois, George and Herman Grothe, were both born...

The Murder Of A President

Laura Keene Lincoln

This old Lithograph illustrates the events of April 14, 1865. After the shooting, the unconscious president was carried across the street from the theater to the small home owned by a tailor named Petersen. Lincoln passed away there near dawn the next day. This is a playbill for the feature performed at Ford's Theatre the night of April 14. Laura Keene, the star of Our American Cousin, knew Booth. She was briefly detained by the police. However, she had no part in the plot to kill the...

Writing Home

In these years before electronic communication, a letter was the quickest way for a soldier to get a message home. Telegraphic messages were expensive and, during the war, controlled by the military. These are some writing implements of a Union soldier, as well as a letter, some patriotic stationery, and a rolled-up lap desk. The desk is made from small slats of wood. When it was unrolled, the desk provided a smooth writing surface for a soldier seated on the ground. During the Civil War,...

Starr Army Revolver

The Union government bought pistols from companies other than Colt and Remington. The Starr Arms Company of New York State made .44 caliber revolvers like this one for the North. It has two triggers. The trigger farther from the grip cocks the gun the other one fires it. With this clumsy arrangement, the pistol was not popular. Long before the Civil War, the U.S. Army gave soldiers who fired cannons these short swords. They were modeled on the swords carried by soldiers in the army of ancient...

An Assortment Of Uniforms

Garibaldi Guard American Civil War

Clothing was a problem for both armies at Bull Run. Many volunteers showed up to fight dressed in uniforms that neither side recognized. Some Northerners wore gray uniforms. Some Southerners wore blue uniforms. Others, such as men who joined Zouave regiments, wore gaudy outfits. The Zouaves took their name and flamboyant clothing from French regiments that, in turn, had modeled their uniforms on the clothes of fighters of the Zouava tribe of Algeria in Africa. The lack of standard military...

Percussion Caps

Fulminated Mercury Caps

These brass caps are filled with a small amount of explosive. They fit on a metal nipple underneath a rifle's hammer or at the end of a revolver's cylinder. Soldiers carried a supply of caps in a separate small Cup to create a hollow base in a bullet Worm screw, which attaches to a ramrod to remove stuck bullets from a barrel

U S Grant

1868 Confederate Bill

Grant of Illinois considered himself a failure. After a West Point education, he tried army life, left that to try business, and ended up impoverished. But his military training won him the rank of Union army colonel in the war's first days. Early success earned him promotions. After his victory in April, 1862, at the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee, he was given greater responsibilities. He was later named general in chief of all Union armies and defeated Robert E....

Battle Drum

Battle Vicksburg Bomb Shelter

This drum was found on the battlefield. It was used as a model for a drum that is seen in a famous painting of the fight by artist Peter Rothermel. Drummers were often young boys who went into combat. They beat out signals on the drum that directed the troops to move one way or another. Strapping to keep the drum head taut Strapping to keep the drum head taut Small grove of trees that marked the center of Meade's lines , Vicksburg, mississippi, is a town on the east bank of the Mississippi...

The Drummer Boy Of Shiloh

Drummer Boy Confederate

John Clem ran away from his Ohio home to join the army at age nine. He had turned ten by the time he served at the Battle of Shiloh. The next year, in September, 1863, at the Battle of Chickamauga in Georgia, Clem shot a Southern officer who tried to force him to surrender. This won him even more celebrity. Years after the war, General Grant made him a lieutenant in the U.S. Army. John Clem retired as a major general in 1916.

The Leader Of The Confederate Troops

Beauregard Epaulets

Beauregard led the main Confederate army in the First Battle of Bull Run. Here he is wearing his old U.S. Army uniform. Most of his prewar experience involved army engineering projects, not combat. However, his success in capturing Fort Sumter in April, 1861, led to Beauregard's being appointed one of the highest-ranking generals of the Confederacy. These brass epaulets were worn on the shoulders of General Beauregard's dress uniform. They were stored in a large hard leather case...

Stonewall Jackson

Born Thomas Jackson, this Southern general was a professor at the Virginia Military Institute when the Civil War began. He won his nickname, Stonewall, for his tough action as an officer at the First Battle of Bull Run. He won his fame as an expert in strategy and tactics and for victories in the Shenandoah Valley. Jackson was also a victim of bad luck. In May, 1863, he was wounded by North Carolina troops in an accident at the Battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia, and died several days later....

Parttime Ambulance Workers

Saw Roman Amputation

In both the Union and Confederate armies, cooks and musicians worked as stretcher bearers during battles. In this photograph of Union Zouave troops performing an ambulance drill, the discarded drum hints that these men made music when not carrying the wounded. Their ambulance had few springs, so its bumpy ride was painful for its injured passengers. Zouave turban Litter or stretcher hanging stretchers , Rolled canvas A MEDICAL MAN'S UNIFORM This is the homespun butternut uniform of Confederate...