Civil War Wiki

Confederate Army battle flag

The Confederate Regular Army (officially the Army of the Confederate States of America, or ACSA) was established in early 1861 to defend the newly-created Confederate States of America during the American Civil War. It was closely modeled after the Regular United States Army, using much of their structure and traditions. The Confederate Regular Army was intended to be the permanent, regular army force of the Confederacy in times of peace, in contrast to the much larger Provisional Army of the Confederate States, or PACS, which would have been disbanded if the South had achieved its independence.

Many former officers and enlisted men from the U.S. Army entered the ranks of the Confederate Regular Army at the start of the war, although most served primarily in the volunteer PACS. Always small in number, it never reached its authorized size as regulars were lost to casualties in battle, those who left for the volunteer service, or due to illnesses, some desertions, and other factors, and these men were usually not replaced. Regular units were frequently assigned to the volunteer units, and often consolidated together when their numbers grew too few.

Like all of the Confederacy's military forces, the Regular Army answered to its civilian leadership, in particular Jefferson Davis, the South's president and therefore "commander-in-chief" of the Army, Navy, and Marines in the Confederate States. The remaining regulars surrendered along with the volunteer service at the end of the war in 1865.

Origins and initial structure[]

When the American Civil War began in 1861, the only semi-organized bodies of soldiers available for use were the various Southern State Militias, and these would serve along side the PACS or often just within the boundaries of their own state. As with all new governments seeking international recognition, the Confederacy knew if it was to be considered a nation, it would have to at least give the impression of a permanent government with a permanent standing army; a Regular Army.[1] The War Department was organized by the Confederate Congress on February 21, the general staff for the Army six days later, and the Regular Army was organized on March 6.[2]

The Act of March 6 created the Regular Corps of Engineers, the Regular Corps of Artillery, and expanded on the staff departments that were created earlier on February 26. It also provided for the formation of six regular regiments of infantry and one of regular cavalry. Up to four brigadier generals were authorized by this legislation, then the highest rank in the Confederate forces, and on March 14 another brigadier was authorized.[3] This was to allow for the appointment by the President of an Adjutant & Inspector General at the rank. Three officers were appointed as brigadier generals in the regular army from the Act of March 6: Samuel Cooper, Robert E. Lee, and Joseph E. Johnston.[4]

Also on March 6 the U.S. Army's Army Regulations, 1857 was adopted as their own, simply replacing "United States of America" with "Confederate States of America" where necessary in its text. In addition, the Confederacy chose to enforce all U.S. military laws that did not contradict either their Constitution or any existing laws throughout the Southern States.[5]

Two of the included Articles of War needed to be altered: Article 61 dealt with brevet promotions, and Article 62 spelled out command seniority. Since the Confederacy's forces did not use brevets, Article 61's effects are not noteworthy, however Article 62 presented some problems.[6] It stated that command of a unit fell to the senior officer present, regardless of whether that officer was in the militia, or a regular or volunteer soldier, sailor, or marine. Hence an ACSA brigadier general (and all lesser officers) was outranked by any militia major general or a militia brigadier present with a senior date of rank. This caused large bodies of soldiers to be commanded by a political general and/or other inexperienced officers, and to rectify this legislation was passed on May 16. It changed a regular army brigadier to general (often styled "full general" in modern military writings) and this grade outranked all of the militia generals.[7]


Five officers were appointed as full generals in the regular army authorized by the Act of May 16: Cooper, Albert Sidney Johnston, Lee, Joseph E. Johnston, and Beauregard, who previously was a PACS brigadier. After A.S. Johnston was killed in action in April 1862, Braxton Bragg was appointed a full general, despite not having a prior regular army rank. Cooper was assigned as the Confederacy's Adjutant & Inspector General throughout the conflict.[8]



The exact size of the Confederate Army at any given time is not easy to discern, and has been debated ever since the end of the American Civil War. This is due several reasons, such as poor, incomplete, or missing recordkeeping, and to exaggerate the effectiveness of conscription.[9] Other factors include the Confederate Government's tendency to exaggerate strength and casualties as a means of propaganda as well as moral effect on its population and soldiers.

Reported strength of the Confederate Army, enlisted and officers
Aggregate size Date
326,768 December 21, 1861
318,011 January 1, 1862
328,049 June 30, 1862
449,439 December 31, 1862
465,584 January 1, 1863
473,058 June 30, 1863
464,646 December 31, 1863
472,781 January 1, 1864
413,311 June 30, 1864
400,787 December 31, 1864
439,675 January 1, 1865
358,692 last reports[9]



The Regular Cavalry
The Louisiana Regulars
The Maryland Regulars
The Regular Engineers


Many of the regular officers served in the volunteer service (PACS), most often as an officer with a higher rank than in the ACSA. This closely followed the pattern of the U.S. Army's practice with the Union Army. At least 68 of the regular officers died in combat or from wounds received in action during the war.[10]

Further reading[]

See also[]



  1. Weinert, p. 1.
  2. Eicher, p. 23.
  3. Weinert, p. 5; Eicher, p. 24; Wright, p. 9. Lwa read: "Section 2. That the five general officers provided by existing laws for the Confederate States shall have the rank and denomination of 'general' instead of 'brigadier general', which shall be the highest military grade known to the Confederate States..."
  4. Wright, pp. 46-7.
  5. Eicher, pp. 23-4.; Weinert, pp. 5-6.
  6. Weinert, p. 6.
  7. Weinert, p. 7; Eicher, p. 24.
  8. Wakelyn, p. 150; Warner, p. 62.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Eicher, p. 70.
  10. Weinert, pp. 119-26.