The American Civil War was fought basically with volunteer regiments. The regular Army of the United States in 1860 consisted only of ten regiments of infantry, four regiments of artillery, two regiments of dragoons, the regiment of mounted rifles, and two regiments of cavalry. In the early months of the conflict the Federal government added a regiment of cavalry and renumbered all the mounted regiments (the 1st and 2nd Dragoons, the Regiment of Mounted Rifles, the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Cavalry retitled respectively, the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th Cavalry). The War Department also created another regiment of artillery and nine new regular regiments, each to consist of three battalions of eight companies (the older regiments remaining each a single battalion of ten companies).
There were a number of proposals as to how the small regular army might be best employed. Some
argued that the formations should be broken up and the personnel assigned to the new volunteer formations: the men promoted noncommissioned officers, the noncommissioned officers promoted line officers, the line officers promoted field officers, and the field officers promoted to general rank. A plan very much like this had been drafted by John C. Calhoun when he had been Secretary of War during the administration of James Monroe. It was suggested that individual regular formations be assigned to volunteer brigades and divisions. This practice was followed more or less in the artillery, where one regular light battery was assigned to a volunteer artillery brigade. Major General (brevet Lieutenant General) Winfield Scott, commander in chief of the pre-war regular army, insisted that regular army formations, with the exception of the artillery, where the companies served independently as light artillery batteries throughout the conflict, be kept together as a final reserve. There were a substantial number of regular officers who, as a result of this decision, wished to leave their regiments to accept higher rank in the new volunteer formations, a practice encouraged by the various state governors, who realized the value of a regular subaltern drilling a new volunteer regiment as a field officer. The Federal War Department was very reluctant to allow this but was forced to do so ultimately by circumstance. There were a large number of Federal officers who held much higher volunteer rank than their regular rank during the war, a situation complicated further by the practice of granting brevet commissions in both the regular and volunteer service in reward for exemplary conduct.
A Federal volunteer regiment originated at the state level. State governors received requests from the Federal War Department on several occasions to provide a given number of regiments for Federal service. The governor would select a prominent individual he believed capable of gathering enough
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