Soldiers pass the time playing dominoes at a mess table.

Camp life for soldiers was boring and predictable. Much of the soldiers' time was spent drilling (marching in formation) mounting up (preparing to move into battle), and working around camp. For Union soldiers, food and other supplies were usually easily available, and what they weren't assigned they could usually buy at the sutler's wagons just out side of camp. If you were a Confederate, though, you had a much harder go of it: the Confederate army had far fewer supplies, and soldiers often depended on the generosity of family members at home or farmers and businesses near where they were camped.

Soldiers in the Civil War rarely got to go home; most signed up for a first three-month muster, and then when it became clear that the war wasn't going to end in three months, they re-upped for periods of up to three years. About a year into the war the Confederates created a draft, and a year later, the Union did, too.

When the war finally ended in 1865, more than 1.1 million men and boys had been killed or wounded, the South was in ruins, and most soldiers just wanted to go home. Many, though, couldn't forget what they had been through during those five long years, and several years after the war ended soldiers on both sides formed veterans' organizations. For many years, the Grand Army of the Republic (Northern soldiers) and United Confederate Veterans (Southern soldiers) met for reunions. In 1913 more than 54,000 veterans of both organizations met for the largest Civil War veteran's reunion, which coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.

siege fighting

In earlier wars, battles were fought at close hand and victories and defeats were quick and decisive. New weapons developed during the Civil War changed the methods of battle to what is called siege fighting, where battles lasted for long periods of time—sometimes as long as several months. Troops often dug trenches and fortifications in the ground and stayed in them, fighting only sporadically and waiting for the other side to quit.

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