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Confederate Army Organization



Both armies also had a compliment of quartermaster, engineer, and signal units as well as supply wagons organized as "trains". An army on the march was usually followed by miles and miles of wagons loaded with the equipments of war including food, ammunition, and medical supplies. At the top of the organizational list was the Army Headquarters. The commanding general required a personal staff to dictate orders and keep records of army movement. There were also clerks and assistants. The commanders of armies also had the privilege of a headquarters cook. Every army headquarters usually had a large compliment of staff officers, couriers, and a headquarters guard, which included an infantry battalion and a cavalry escort.

General Corps Information

  • I Corps - Army of Northern Virginia
  • I Corps - Army of Tennessee; Army of Mississippi
  • II Corps - Army of Northern Virginia
  • II Corps - Army of Tennessee; Army of Mississippi
  • III Corps - Army of Northern Virginia
  • III Corps - Army of Tennessee; Army of Mississippi
  • IV Corps - Army of Northern Virginia
  • Buckner's Corps - Army of Tennessee and Army of Mississippi
  • Forrest's Cavalry Corps - Army of Tennessee; Army of Mississippi
  • Pemberton's Corps - Army of Vicksburg
  • Reserve Corps - Army of Tennessee; Army of Mississippi
  • Kirby Smith's Corps - Army of East Tennessee; Army of Kentucky; Army of Tennessee
  • Stuart's Cavalry Corps - Army of Northern Virginia
  • Wheeler's Cavalry Corps - Army of Tennessee; Army of Mississippi

General (Corps)

  • Anderson's Corps (IV Corps)
  • Bragg's Corps (II Corps / Tennessee; Mississippi)
  • Breckenridge's Corps (Reserve Corps)
  • Cheatham's Corps (I Corps / Tennessee; Mississippi)
  • Early's Corps (II Corps / Northern Virginia)
  • Ewell's Corps (II Corps / Northern Virginia)
  • Hampton's Cavalry Corps (Stuart's Cavalry)
  • Hardee's Corps (I, II, III Corps / Tennessee; Mississippi)
  • A.P. Hill's Corps (III Corps / Northern Virginia)
  • D.H. Hill's Corps ( II Corps / Tennessee; Mississippi)
  • Hood's Corps (II Corps / Tennessee; Mississippi)
  • Jackson's Corps (II Corps / Northern Virginia)
  • Lee's Cavalry Corps (Stuart's Cavalry)
  • S.D. Lee's Corps (II Corps / Tennessee; Mississippi)
  • Longstreet's Corps (I Corps / Northern Virginia)
  • Polk's Corps (I,III Corps / Tennessee; Mississippi)
  • Stewart's Corps (III Corps / Tennessee; Mississippi)


Sniping, or sharpshooting, was a recognized psychological weapon at the outset of the Civil War. Sharpshooters/U.S. Volunteers was raised similarly, its companies mustered in individually in autumn 1861.

Many Union marksmen also saw action in the Eastern and Western campaigns, and though no records have been preserved, a Confederate sharpshooter unit was authorized by act of Confederate Congress in 1862.

But the formal muster of entire sharpshooting regiments in the north and south was found to be unwieldy. In correspondence with Rhode Island Gov. William Sprague September 19, 1862, Union Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton expressed the view of the general staff that snipers were best organized in units no larger than companies and attached to regular regiments for special deployment at a field general's order in a specific action. An approximation of this system was adopted in both Union and Confederate armies.

Armed with Sharp's rifles, Whitworth rifles, sporting arms, and custom-made, privately owned target weapons (some weighing over 30 lbs) Union and Confederate marksmen performed efficient service at Yorktown, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Chattanooga, Atlanta, Spotsylvania, the Wilderness, and Petersburg, and were valued in any protracted battle or small combat. The unpleasant results of this service and the moral climate of the day make finding specific records of sharpshooting duty a rarity.


Usually elected by the troops of a regiment and commissioned by President Jefferson Davis.
Paid $80.00 a month Reported to the colonel of his regiment


There were 1,526 seperate units in the military. These included regiments, legions, battalions, companies, or batteries. Of these regiments:

  • 642 infantry
  • 137 cavalry
  • 16 artillery
  • 227 seperate batteries


The Union Signal Corps never amounted to more than 3,000 officers and men; the Confederate Signal Corps, not so extensive or organized as the Union corps, had only about 1,500 men. Because of the small number of men involved and the secrecy of their work, little has been witten about them.

Duties of members of the Signal Corps: When a message is about to be sent, the flagman takes his station upon some elevated object and "calls" the station with which he desires to communicate by waving the flag or torch slowly to and fro. The operator, seated at the glass, watches closely the distant flag, and as soon as it responds by dipping, he is ready to send his dispatch. Holding the ain numbers, each figure or combination of figures standing for a letter. The flagman indicates each separate figure by an ingenious combination of a few simple motions.

There are a few syllables which are indicated by a single stroke of the flag; otherwise the word must be spelled out letter by letter. Experienced signal officers employ many abbreviations by omitting vowels, so that scarecely a single word, unless a very unusual one, is spelled out in full.
An ordinary message of a few lines could took about 30 minutes in the transmission.

The greatest recorded distance of a successful message transmission was 24 miles from Maryland Heights, Maryland (overlooking Harpers Ferry, West Virginia) to Sugarloaf Mountain, near Frederick, Maryland.

Typical Signalman's Kit: The kit would normally contain several flagstaffs, night torches with a fuel can, and several flags. The flags were always of 2 colors. A white flag with a red square, or red flag with a white square. The largest flags, 6 feet square, were used for long-distance work.

The founder of the Signal Corps was a New York physician named Albert J. Myer. While serving in the Army, he devised a system of simple flag wigwags by which operators could relay messages across miles of terrain.

At the start of the war, he was called to Washington, D.C. to set up a Signal Corps training school in nearby Georgetown and began outfitting telegraph units that would accompany Union armies in the field.

First use of the Signal Corps was during the Battle of Fredericksburg. Gen. Ambrose Burnside deployed the corps on the hills overlooking the battlefield. The Signal Corpsmen would send messages to Burnside headquarters in the rear. At the same time, signalmen with Burnside flashed orders over telegraph wires to command posts on his left and right flanks.

The use of the Signal Corps would profoundly affect later Civil War campaigns and change the way future wars would be fought.


Long Arms (Rifle-Muskets):

  • 1839 Patterns Musket (muzzle-loader, .753 caliber)
  • 1842 Patterns Musket (muzzle-loader, .753 caliber)
  • 1842 U.S. Musket (muzzle-loader, .69 caliber)
  • 1861 Springfield Rifle (muzzle-loader, .58 caliber)
  • Fayetteville Rifle (muzzle-loader, .58 calibar)
  • Richmond Rifle-Musket (muzzle-loader, .58 caliber)
  • 1855 Enfield Rifle (muzzle-loader, .577 caliber)
  • Austrian Rifle (muzzle-loader, .54 caliber)
  • Cook Infantry Rifle (muzzle-loader, .577 caliber)

Long Arms (Carbines and Musketoons):

  • 1860 Spencer Carbine (breech-loader, .52 caliber)
  • Richmond Carbine (muzzle-loader, .577 caliber)
  • Richmond Sharps Carbine (breech-loader, .52 caliber)

The single-shot muzzle-loading rifle was the weapon used by the vast majority of Civil War soldiers. Hardee's Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics, written in 1854 by future Confederate Maj. Gen. William J. Hardee, was the basic training manual for Union and Confederate armies. This pocket-sized book detailed the procedure for loading rifles using 20 separate motions in 9 steps.

Overview: The minnie` ball fired by these weapons was a cone-shaped lead bullet with a hollow base. The base expanded upon firing to fit tightly into the groves of the rifle's bore. Paper cartridges, premade in the Northern and Southern arsenals, contained a ball and the proper amount of powder to fire the weapon. A separate copper percussion cap containing half a grain of fulminate of mercury was the firing mechanism that set off the powder and fired the round. The small cap was placed on a nipple that had a hole through it to the breech.

Loading: With the butt of the rifle on the ground between his feet, the soldier took a paper cartridge out of his cartridge box, tore the paper with his teeth, and poured the powder into the barrel. (Because the paper cartridges had to be torn with the teeth, a soldier could not be in the infantry unless he had enough of the right teeth to do the job) The ball was then inserted the barrel and pushed down with the ramrod that was carried under the barrel. After the rammer was returned to its carrying groove, the soldier took a percussion cap from his pouch and placed it firmly on the nipple.

Firinig: The rifle was then ready to cock, aim, and fire. Pulling the trigger caused the hammer to crush the cap, which shot a flame through the nipple to the powder.

The best soldiers could load and fire a muzzle loader no more than 3 rounds in a minute, and because of the buildup of soot in the barrel, each successive round was harder to load. Sometimes soldiers would beat the rammer down the barrel with a rock because the ball fit so tightly in the dirty barrel.


  • 1860 Colt (6-shot, .44 caliber)
  • 1851 Colt Navy (6-shot, .36 caliber)
  • Rigdon, Ansley, & Co. (6-shot, .36 caliber)
  • Griswold & Gunnison (6-shot, .36 caliber)
  • Spiller & Burr (6-shot, .36 caliber)
  • Savage (6-shot, .36 caliber)

Field Weapons:

  • 1841 Howitzer (12lb. and 24lb.)
  • 1857 "Napolean" Light Howitzer (12Lb.)
  • Whitworth Gun (6Lb. and 12Lb. Rifled Cannon)
  • 1861 Ordnance Rifle (3-inch)

Heavy Artillery:

  • 1861 Rodman_8-inch
  • 1861 Rodman_10-inch
  • 1861 Parrot Gun (2.9-inch)
  • 1863 Parrot Gun (3-inch)
  • Heavy Seacoast Gun_32Lb.
  • Heavy Seacoast Gun_42Lb
  • Parrot Guns_10-inch

Mortars: Very few

Machine-Gun/Rapid-Fire Weapons

The Civil War brought many innovations to warfare, not the least of which were rapid-fire weapons that developed into what are today known as machine guns. Several different types of rapid-firing "ultimate weapons" were designed and produced throughout the war, although few saw much actual service.
As many as 50 of the .52-caliber breech-loading Billinghurst-Requa batteries, as they were called, were produced for the Union, and some were used in battles, though with limited effect. This gun used a light carriage to mount 25 rifled barrels side by side. When loaded, primed, and aimed, the gun was set off by a lanyard, and the barrels fired in sequence with a ripping sound.

The "Union" gun, or "coffee-mill gun" as it was also called, was operated by a crank. A hopper that held .58-caliber reusable steel bullets that fed into a rotating drum from which the bullets were mechanically loaded and fired and the cases ejected. Because the barrel became overheated from the rapid rate of fire, each gun was supplied with an extra barrel to be used while the other cooled. President Lincoln was so impressed with a demonstration of the coffee-mill gun in 1861 that he ordered 10 on the spot, at $1,300 each. These carriage-mounted weapons saw little service and were of little practical value.

The best machine gun produced during the war was the Gatling gun, which was carriage-mounted and crank-operated like the Union gun but featured six rotating barrels and could fire .58-caliber rounds 150 times a minute. The Union army bought no Gatling guns during the war, but privately purchased ones may have been used.

The single-barreled Williams gun was an innovative rapid-fire weapon developed in the South. This gun was actually a hand-cranked light artillery piece that fired 1.46-caliber rounds. It was the only one of the rapid-fire arms to utilize the gases from the fired round to help operate the mechanism.
Interesting Fact: Origen Vandenburg, a former general in the New York state militia, designed a volley-fire gun with anywhere from 85 to 451 barrels. When the Union showed no interest in his weapons, he sold them to the Confederacy.

Repeating rifles, delivering astonishing rates of fire, had been invented at the beginning of the war. The U.S. Army's stodgy Ordnance Department had dismissed the new inventions because they thought the rapid-firing rifles would cause the soldiers to waste ammunition and the operating mechanisms might be a maintenance problem. The Ordnance Department put its faith in the single-shot muzzle-loading rifled musket, a weapon that good soldiers could fire only 3 times a minute. A few units managed to equip themselves at their own expense with repeaters, but it was late in 1863 before many Union soldiers received Army-issued repeating rifles, and then only the cavalry, not the infantry, got the new weapons.
The Spencer and the Henry were the most popular repeating rifles. Both were breech-loading and fired new metallic cartridges with built-in rimfire primers. The bullets were loaded into tubular magazines that fed them to the breech, where a lever-action mechanism seated the bullet into the firing chamber. The mechanisms would extract the empty cartridges and, in the case of the Henry, would even cock the rifle.

A soldier with a repeater could fire 15 or more times a minute, and with the Spencer, quickly reload by replacing the spent magazines with full one carried in a special 13-tube cartridge box. Union soldiers equipped with repeating rifles enjoyed an enormous advantage over Confederates with muzzle loaders during the last year of the war. The more powerful Federals gained confidence, and the Confederates receiving the rapid fire grew more demoralized.

Interesting Fact: The new metallic cartridge, though more expensive to manufacture, had one great advantage over the old paper cartridges used in muzzle loaders: they were not affected by moisture.

Confederate Regular Army Units:

  • Artillery............ 3 regiments/ 22 battalions/ 2 companies/ 2 batteries
  • Cavalry........... 21 regiments/ 9 battalions/ 1 company/ 1 squadron
  • Infantry............ 9 regiments/ 3 battalions/ 2 companies
  • Engineer......... 7 regiments
  • Sharpshooter.. 1 regiment
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