Civil War Wiki
Confederate States Army
Seal of the Confederate States of America.png
Seal of the Confederate States of America
Active 1861-1865
Country Confederate States of America
Type Army
Role Land military forces of the Confederate States
Size 500,000 - 2,000,000
Motto Deo Vindice (God will defend [or vindicate] us)
Confederate National Flag (after March 4, 1865) Confederate National Flag since Mar 4 1865.svg
March Dixie
Engagements American Civil War
Commanders President Jefferson Davis
Gen. Samuel Cooper
(Adjutant General and Inspector General of the Army)
Gen. Robert E. Lee
Battle Flag Battle flag of the US Confederacy.svg

The Confederate States Army (CS Army) was the army of the Confederate States of America during its brief existence from 1861 to 1865. It was established in two phases with provisional and permanent organizations, which existed concurrently.

  • The Provisional Army of the Confederate States (PACS) was authorized by Act of Congress on February 28, 1861, and began organizing on April 27. Virtually all regular, volunteer, and conscripted men preferred to enter this organization since officers could achieve a higher rank in the Provisional Army than they could in the Regular Army. If the war had ended successfully for them, the Confederates intended that the PACS would be disbanded, leaving only the ACSA.[1]
  • The Army of the Confederate States of America (ACSA) was the regular army, organized by Act of Congress on March 6, 1861. It was authorized to include 15,015 men, including 744 officers, but this level was never achieved. The men serving in the highest rank as Confederate States Generals, such as Samuel Cooper and Robert E. Lee, were enrolled in the ACSA to ensure that they outranked all militia officers.[1]

Members of all the Confederate States military forces, to include the Army, the Navy and the Marine Corps were often referred to as "Confederates", and members of the CS Army were referred to as "Confederate soldiers". Supplementing the CS Army were the various state militias:

  • Confederate States State Militias were organized and commanded by the state governments, similar to those authorized by the United States Militia Act of 1792.

Control and operation of the Confederate States Army was administered by the Confederate States War Department, which was established by the Confederate Provisional Congress in an act on February 21, 1861. The Confederate Congress gave control over military operations, and authority for mustering state forces and volunteers to the President of the Confederate States of America on February 28, 1861, and March 6, 1861. By May 8, a provision authorizing enlistments for war was enacted, and by August 8, 1861, the Confederate States, after being invaded[2] and attacked by the United States of America, called for 400,000 volunteers to serve for one or three years. By April 1862, the Confederate States of America found it necessary to pass a conscription act, which drafted men into PACS.


File:CW Arty M1857 Napoleon front.jpg

Southern Artillery Piece

Because of the destruction of any central repository of records in Richmond in 1865 and the comparatively poor record-keeping of the time, there can be no definitive number that represents the strength of the Confederate States Army.[citation needed] Estimates range from 500,000 to 2,000,000 men who were involved at any time during the war. Reports from the War Department began at the end of 1861 (326,768 men), 1862 (449,439), 1863 (464,646), 1864 (400,787), and "last reports" (358,692). Estimates of enlistments throughout the war were 1,227,890 to 1,406,180.[3]

The following calls for men were issued:

  • March 6, 1861: 100,000 volunteers and militia
  • January 23, 1862: 400,000 volunteers and militia
  • April 16, 1862, the First Conscription Act: conscripted white men ages 18 to 35 for the duration of hostilities[4]
  • September 27, 1862, the Second Conscription Act: expanded the age range to 18 to 45,[5] with implementation beginning on July 15, 1863
  • February 17, 1864, the Third Conscription Act: ages 17 to 50[6]
  • March 13, 1865, authorized up to 300,000 African American as troops but was never fully implemented.[7]

The CSA was initially a (strategically) defensive army, and many soldiers were resentful when Lee led the Army of Northern Virginia in an invasion of the North in the Antietam Campaign.


File:Robert Edward Lee.jpg

General Robert Edward Lee, famous Southern General

The army did not have a formal overall military commander, or general-in-chief, until late in the war. Confederate President Jefferson Davis, himself a former U.S. Army officer and U.S. Secretary of War, served as commander-in-chief and provided the strategic direction for Confederate land and naval forces. The following men had varying degrees of control:

  • Robert E. Lee was "charged with the conduct of military operations in the armies of the Confederacy" from March 13 to May 31, 1862. He was referred to as Davis' military adviser but exercised broad control over the strategic and logistical aspects of the Army, a role similar in nature to the current Chief of Staff of the United States Army. On June 1, he assumed command of the Army of Northern Virginia, which was considered the most important of all the Confederate field armies.
  • Braxton Bragg was similarly "charged with the conduct of military operations in the armies of the Confederacy" from February 24, 1864 (after he was relieved of field command following the Battle of Chattanooga) to January 31, 1865. This role was a military advisory position under Davis.
  • Lee was formally designated general-in-chief by an act of Congress (January 23, 1865) and served in this capacity from January 31 to April 9, 1865.

The lack of centralized control was a strategic weakness for the Confederacy, and there are few instances of multiple armies acting in concert across multiple theaters to achieve a common objective. (An exception to this was in late 1862 when Lee's invasion of Maryland was coincident with two other actions: Bragg's invasion of Kentucky and Earl Van Dorn's advance against Corinth, Mississippi. All three initiatives were unsuccessful, however.) Likewise an extreme example of "States Rights" control of CSA soldiers was Georgia Governor Joseph E. Brown, who not only reportedly tried to keep Georgia troops from leaving the State of Georgia in 1861 but also tried to keep them from CS Government control when Georgia was invaded in 1864.[citation needed]

Personnel organization[]

As in the Union Army, Confederate soldiers were organized by military specialty. The combat arms included infantry, cavalry and artillery.

Below major units like armies, soldiers were organized mainly into regiments, the main fighting unit with which a soldier would march and be deployed. Within each regiment were several companies, each commanded by a captain. Regiments were almost always raised within a single state, and were generally referred by number and state, e.g. 1st Texas, 12th Virginia, etc.

Regiments were usually grouped into brigades. However, brigades were changed easily as the situation demanded. The regiment was the main form of permanent grouping. Brigades were usually formed once regiments reached the battlefield, according to where the regiment might be deployed, and alongside which other regiments.

Ranks and insignia[]

Officer Rank Structure of the Confederate Army
General Colonel Lieutenant Colonel Major Captain First Lieutenant Second Lieutenant
File:CSAGeneral.png File:CSAColonel.png File:CSALtColonel.png File:CSAMajor.png File:CSA Captain Insignia.png File:CSA 1Lt.png File:CSA 2Lt.png

There were four (4) grades of general officer (general, lieutenant general, major general, and brigadier general), but all wore the same insignia regardless of grade. This was a decision made early in the conflict. The Confederate Congress initially made the rank of brigadier general the highest rank. As the war progressed, the other general-officer ranks were quickly added, but no insignia for them was created. (Robert E. Lee was a notable exception to this. He chose to wear the rank insignia of a colonel.) Only seven men achieved the rank of (full) general;[8] the highest ranking (earliest date of rank) was Samuel Cooper, Adjutant General and Inspector General of the CSA.

Officers' uniforms bore a braid design on the sleeves and kepi, the number of adjacent strips (and therefore the width of the lines of the design) denoting rank. The color of the piping and kepi denoted the military branch. The braid was sometimes left off by officers since it made them conspicuous targets. The kepi was rarely used, the common slouch hat being preferred for its practicality in the Southern climate.

Enlisted Rank Structure
Sergeant Major Quartermaster Sergeant Ordnance Sergeant First Sergeant
File:CSASergeantMajor.jpg File:Chevron - Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant.jpg File:CSAOrdSergeant.jpg File:CSA1Sergeant.jpg
Sergeant Corporal Musician Private
File:CSASergeant.jpg File:CSACorporal.jpg no insignia no insignia

Branch colors were used for color of chevrons. Blue for infantry, yellow for cavalry, and red for artillery. This could differ with some units, however, depending on available resources or the unit commander's desire. Cavalry regiments from Texas, for example, often used red insignia and at least one Texas infantry regiment used black.

The CSA differed from many contemporaneous armies in that all officers under the rank of brigadier general were elected by the soldiers under their command. The Confederate Congress authorized the awarding of medals for courage and good conduct on October 13, 1862, but war time difficulties prevented the procurement of the needed medals. To avoid postponing recognition for their valor, those nominated for the awards had their names placed on a Roll of Honor, which would be read at the first dress parade after its receipt and be published in at least one newspaper in each state.

Armies and prominent leaders[]

The CSA was composed of independent armies and military departments that were constituted, renamed, and disbanded as needs arose, particularly in reaction to offensives launched by the Union. These major units were generally named after states or geographic regions (in comparison to the Union's custom of naming armies after rivers). Armies were usually commanded by full generals (there were seven in the CSA) or lieutenant generals. Some of the more important armies and their commanders were:

Some other prominent Confederate generals who led significant units operating sometimes independently in the CSA included Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, James Longstreet, J.E.B. Stuart, Gideon Pillow, and A.P. Hill.



A group of Confederate soldiers-possibly an artillery unit captured at Island No. 10 and taken at POW Camp Douglas (Chicago); photograph possibly by D.F.Brandon.[9]

The supply situation for most Confederate Armies was dismal, even when they were victorious on the battlefield. Much like the Continental Army in the American Revolution, individual state governments were supposed to supply their soldiers, rather than the central government. The lack of central authority and effective railroads, combined with the frequent unwillingness or inability of Southern state governments to provide adequate funding, were key factors in the Confederate Army's demise.

As a result of these supply problems, as well as the lack of textile factories in the Confederacy and the successful Union naval blockade of Southern ports, the typical Confederate soldier was rarely able to wear the standard regulation uniform, particularly as the war progressed. While on the march or in parade formation, Confederate Armies often displayed a wide array of dress, ranging from faded, patched-together regulation uniforms; rough, homespun uniforms colored with homemade dyes such as butternut (a yellow-brown color), and even soldiers in a hodgepodge of civilian clothing. After a successful battle, it was not unusual for victorious Confederate troops to procure Union Army uniform parts from captured supplies and dead Union soldiers; this would occasionally cause confusion in later battles and skirmishes. The fact that individual states were expected to supply their soldiers also increased the types of uniforms worn by Confederate troops, as some states (such as North Carolina) were able to better-supply their soldiers, while other states (such as Texas) were unable for various reasons to adequately supply their troops as the war continued. Furthermore, each state often had its own uniform regulations and insignia, which meant that the "standard" Confederate uniform often featured a variety of differences based on the state the soldier came from. For example, uniforms for North Carolina regiments often featured a colored strip of cloth on their shoulders to designate what part of the service the soldier was in. Confederate soldiers also frequently suffered from inadequate supplies of shoes, tents, and other gear, and would be forced to innovate and make do with whatever they could scrounge from the local countryside.

Confederate soldiers were also faced with inadequate food rations, especially as the war progressed. By 1863 Confederate generals such as Robert E. Lee often spent as much time and effort searching for food for their men as they did in planning strategy and tactics. While Confederate officers were generally better-supplied and were normally able to wear a regulation officer's uniform, they often chose to share other hardships - such as the lack of adequate food - with their troops. Individual commanders often had to "beg, borrow or steal" food and ammunition from whatever sources were available, including captured Union depots and encampments, and private citizens regardless of their loyalties. Lee's campaign against Gettysburg and southern Pennsylvania (a rich agricultural region) was driven in part by his desperate need of supplies, especially food.

Not surprisingly, in addition to slowing the Confederate advance, such foraging aroused anger in the North and led many Northerners to support General Sherman's total warfare tactics as retaliation. Scorched earth policies by the Union Army, especially in Georgia, South Carolina and the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia in 1864, further reduced the capacity of the closely blockaded Confederacy to feed even its civilian population, let alone its Army. At many points during the war, and especially near the end, Confederate Armies were described as starving and, indeed, many died from lack of food and related illnesses. Towards more desperate stages of the war, the lack of food became a principal driving force for desertion.

African Americans in the Confederate Army[]

File:Black Confed-1.JPG

"Marlboro" African-American bodyservant to white Confederate soldier

"Nearly 40% of the Confederacy's population were unfree. the work required to sustain the same society during war naturally fell disproportionately on black shoulders as well. By drawing so many white men into the army, indeed, the war multiplied the importance of the black work force."[10] Even Georgia's Governor Joseph E. Brown noted that "the country and the army are mainly dependent upon slave labor for support."[11] Slave labor was used in a wide variety of support roles, from infrastructure and mining, to teamster and medical roles such as hospital attendants and nurses.[12]

The idea of arming slaves for use as soldiers was speculated on from the onset of the war, but not seriously considered by Davis or others in his administration.[13] Though an acrimonious and controversial debate was raised by a letter from Patrick Cleburne[14] urging the Confederacy to raise black soldiers by offering emancipation, it wouldn't be until Robert E. Lee wrote the Confederate Congress urging them that the idea would take serious traction. On March 13, 1865, the Confederate Congress passed General Order 14, and President Davis signed the order into law. The order was issued March 23, but only a few African American companies were raised. Two companies were armed and drilled in the streets of Richmond, Virginia, shortly before the besieged southern capital fell. Several African American soldiers, free and enslaved, served with the Confederate Army during the war, but the Confederate Government failed to recognize their contributions until this late time.


Total Servicemembers 1,050,000 (Exact number is unknown. Posted figure is median of estimated range from 600,000 – 1,500,000)

Battle Deaths (Death figures are based on incomplete returns) 74,524

Other Deaths (In Theater) 59,297

26,000 to 31,000 who died in Union prisons

Non-mortal Woundings (Confed.) Unknown

At the end of the war 174,223 men surrendered to the Union Army.[15]

See also[]

  • List of Confederate Regular Army officers‎
  • Military of the Confederate States of America
  • Confederate States Navy
  • Confederate States Marine Corps
  • Uniforms of the Confederate Military
  • Confederate Government Civil War units


  1. 1.0 1.1 Eicher, pp. 70, 66.
  2. Johnson, p. 19; Henderson, p. 83; Evans, Vol III, p. 38; Johnston (1961), p. 19.
  3. Eicher, p. 71.
  4. Eicher, p. 25.
  5. Eicher, p. 26.
  6. Eicher, p. 29.
  7. Official Records, Series IV, Vol. III, pp. 1161-62.
  8. Eicher, p. 807. There were seven full generals in the CSA; John Bell Hood held "temporary full general" rank, which was withdrawn by the Confederate Congress.
  9. [1]
  10. Levine, p. 62.
  11. Journal of the Senate at an Extra Session of the General Assembly of the State of Georgia, Convened under the Proclamation of the Governor, March 25th, 1863, p. 6.
  12. Levine, pp. 62-63.
  13. Levine, pp. 17-18.
  14. Official Records, Series I, Vol. LII, Part 2, pp. 586-92.


Further reading[]

External links[]

de:Confederate States Army es:Ejército de los Estados Confederados fr:Armée des États confédérés id:Tentara Konfederasi it:Forze armate degli Stati Confederati d'America ms:Angkatan Tentera Negeri Gabungan pl:Armia Skonfederowanych Stanów Ameryki pt:Exército dos Estados Confederados ru:Армия Конфедеративных Штатов Америки simple:Confederate States Army