Creating the Confederate Army

This entry is part 3 of 8 in the series The Western Theater Part One

Creating the Confederate Army

To understand the creation of the Confederate Army, one needs to understand the creation of the Confederacy itself. Starting with South Carolina, a total of seven states seceded from the Union. South Carolina began on December 20, 1860, followed by Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas from January 9 to February 1, 1861.

As each state left the Union, the began to recruit soldiers for their state militias. The states began to seize Federal property within their states. During this lame-duck period before the inauguration of President-elect Abraham Lincoln on March 4th, outgoing-President James Buchanan Formation of the Confederate States Armydeclared the states’ actions unconstitutional. However, he said that the Constitution gave neither the President nor the Congress the power to stop it.

The non-action of the Federal government allowed the states and eventually, the new Confederates States government the breathing space to recruit, equip and arm troops. On February 28, 1861, the Provisional Congress of the Confederacy created a Provisional Army of the Confederacy and gave the power for mustering state forces and volunteers to President Jefferson Davis.

The following day, Davis took control in the name of the Confederacy over South Carolina state forces who were threatening Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. On March 6th and March 9th, the Confederate Congress passed additional military legislation and created a more permanent Confederate States Army.

Based on the legislation enacted by the Confederate Congress, there were three army organizations in the Confederacy: the Provisional Army of the Confederate States, the Army of the Confederate States of America and the State Militias of the Confederate States.

The Provisional Army was the actual fighting force of the Confederacy. Virtually all regular, volunteer and conscripted men were members of this organization. They preferred this organization because they could achieve a higher rank in it than they could in the Regular Army. With the successful end of the war, it was intended that this force would be disbanded.

The Army of the Confederate States of America was the intended Regular Army of the Confederacy. Very few men were enrolled in this Uniforms of the Confederate States Armyorganization and it ultimately existed only on paper. Certain officers, such as Robert E. Lee and Samuel Cooper, the Adjutant General of the Confederate Army, were enrolled so that they could never be outranked by militia officers.

The State Militias were organized and controlled by the individual state governors of the Confederacy. The states recruited, equipped and armed each militia force. They were used to supplement the Confederate States Army and for home defense.

Jefferson Davis put out a call for 100,000 volunteers and the Army began organizing on April 27, 1861. This call was in a direct response to Lincoln’s call for 75,000 3-month volunteers on April 15th. By May 8th, a provision authorizing enlistments for war was enacted, and by August 8, 1861, the Confederate States called for 400,000 volunteers to serve for one or three year enlistments.

The backbone of the officer corps of the Confederate States Army was formed by the 313 officers who had been members of the pre-war United States Army. As in the North, men came from all walks of life to recruit and lead military units. In the early months of the war, the Confederate Army was in the same position as the Union Army. They lacked competent officers, equipment, weapons and supplies.

Confederate Soldiers in June of 1862Much of the supplies that the Confederate States acquired came from United States Arsenals and military depots scattered around the South. With the capture of Harpers Ferry Federal Arsenal in Virginia, the Confederate Army acquired the machines and tools needed to manufacture small arms. Despite an attempt to destroy them by Federal troops, these tooling was secured and shipped to Richmond.

The Confederate States Army was organized in much the same fashion as the United States Army. The smallest unit was the company with a nominal complement of 100 men. Ten companies were organized into a regiment with a nominal strength of 1,000 men, although death and disease greatly reduced this figure. Regiments were raised and equipped by individual states.

Brigades had four regiments, although as the war went on, there might be more regiments as the units were reduced in strength. Two to four brigades would form a division and two to four divisions usually formed a corps. Two to four corps would form an army. A single corps might operate as a small army when required. Jackson’s Valley Campaign of 1862 was conducted with a single corps.

A company was commanded by a captain with two or more lieutenants. Regiments were commanded by colonels with a lieutenant-colonel as second-in-command. Regiments had at least one major in the event that the colonel and/or the lieutenant-colonel were killed, wounded or otherwise disabled.

Brigades were commanded by brigadier generals, unless attrition moved a senior colonel or even a lieutenant-colonel into command. Major-generals commanded divisions and lieutenant-generals commanded corps. Armies of more than one corps were commanded by full generals.

Officers from the rank of colonel on down were generally elected by the men of their unit. In some cases non-commissioned officers were also elected by the men in their companies.




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