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Civil War Regiment

In the regular army there were enlisted during the war about 67,000 men. During the war there were also furnished volunteers and militia by States and Territories, which, after the first call, had not been called upon for quotas when general calls for troops were made. The total number of colored troops enlisted during the war was 180,097. The total number of men furnished by the States and Territories for the armies of the United States, after deducting those credited for service in the navy, will exceed 2,850,000 men.

President Lincoln began the war buildup in May 1861 with a proclamation of doubtful constitutionality. On the strength of his executive authority, he summoned thirty-nine regiments of volunteer infantry and one of cavalry to serve for three years. His next step was to authorize an addition of eight infantry regiments to the Regular Army. Somehow a ninth got included. Thereafter, the nineteen regiments in being - the 1st through the 19th - were the whole of the Regular infantry during the war. So neglected a part of the whole establishment were these nineteen that they were never able to attain their full authorized strength.

Prior to issuing his call, the President consulted the War Department as to the best. organization for the new Regular units. The Secretary of War, being overburdened, turned the matter over to Salmon P. Chase, Secretary of the Treasury, and loaned him three officers as technical advisors. The result was a recommendation in favor of the French structure. This included regiments of three battalions instead of one. Two battalions were supposed to take the field, the third to maintain a regimental depot for collecting and training recruits. Battalions of 800 men in eight companies were adopted as the most efficient fighting units because they were thought to be small enough to maneuver and to be controlled by the voice of the commanding officer, yet large enough to withstand attack by cavalry.

A battalion in the French system was the fighting unit, a regiment the unit of administration. The French felt that a regimental headquarters could administer more than one battalion, an arrangement which appealed to Americans because it eliminated some field officers and thus saved money. The new three-battalion organization, however, was not extended to the ten old regiments, which continued to comprise ten companies each, with regiment and battalion one and the same. The men in authority felt that there was no time to bother with reorganizing outfits already extant, when so many remained to be organized from scratch. Furthermore, the old, single-battalion regiment was hallowed by age and tradition. This meant that two different regimental organizations were tolerated in the Regular infantry, a dualism that might have caused much confusion had the Regular regiments loomed larger than they did in the whole infantry establishment.

  1. On April 15, 1861, President Lincoln issued his proclamation for 75,000 militia for three months. Under this call there were furnished by the loyal States 91,816 men.
  2. On May 3, 1861, the President issued another call for troops, which was confirmed by act of Congress, approved August 6, 1861. Under this call, and under acts approved July 22 and 25, 1861, 500,000 men were required ; and there were furnished for six months, 2,715 men ; for one year, 9,147 men; for two years, 30,950 men; and for three years, 657,868 men ; making a total of 700,680 men.
  3. Special authority was granted to the States of New York, Illinois, and Indiana, in May and June, 1862, to furnish men for three months' service.
  4. Under the call of July 2, 1862, for 300,000 men, for three years, there were furnished by the States and Territories 421,465 men.
  5. Under the call of August 4, 1862, for 300,000 militia for nine months' service, there were furnished by the States 87,588 men.
  6. Under the President's proclamation of June 15, 1863, for militia for six months' service, there were furnished by, and credited to, the States 16,361 men ; no quotas were made.
  7. Many men were furnished for a service of thirty days, notably so in the summer of 1863. How many men were thus furnished it is not practicable to state.
  8. October 17, 1863, and February 1, 1864, calls were made for 500,000 men, in the aggregate, for three years. In these calls there are embraced the men raised by draft in 1863, and under them there were furnished and credited 369,380 men.
  9. Under the call of March 14, 1864, for 200,000 men for three years' service, there were credited to the States 292,193 men.
  10. There were mustered into the United States service, between April 23 and July 18, 1864, for one hundred days' service, 83,612 militia.
  11. On the 18th July, 1864, 500,000 men were called for ; this call was reduced by the excess of credits on previous calls, and under it the States were credited with 386,461 men furnished
  12. Under the call of December 19, 1864, for 300,000 men, there were furnished 212.212 men. The necessity for more men ceased to exist before most of the States had completed their quotas.

Most infantrymen were volunteers. These volunteers were members of regiments raised and officered by the several states. Initially President Lincoln called for thirty-nine such outfits, but before the war was over more than 1,700 volunteer regiments served. This was not far from one hundred times as many as there were units of Regulars. The three-battalion organization was not extended to the volunteers because the states, which raised them, were thought to be too much accustomed to the old system to change. As a result, the volunteer units, like the first ten Regular regiments, contained ten companies in one battalion.

These regiments were variously numbered and designated by the several states, but in practice came to be called merely the "8th Indiana" or the "45th New York." Although patterned after the old regiments in overall organization, the state regiments borrowed their company structure from the new, that is, they had ninetyseven enlisted men, instead of eighty-four, plus one wagoner whom the Regulars did not have. As matters were arranged, therefore, there were three different regimental organizations in the infantry. The volunteer regiments aggregated 1,046 officers and men; the 1st through the 10th Infantry, 878; and the 11th through the 19th, 2,367. Actually the battalions of the latter ought to be .compared with the old regiments, since they were designed to act independently and approximated the size of the others. They contained a few more than 800 enlisted men.

Even though most of the volunteer infantrymen were raised and officered by the states, a few hundred units were not. Several types of volunteers were more directly linked to the United States than to any state, the earliest of these being two regiments of U.S. Sharpshooters (1st and 2d) organized in 1861. These two contained companies from several states, raised by the states. Their origin in more than one state was an uncommon attribute, but their real distinguishing feature was the manner in which they were officered. While the states appointed the company and field officers in ordinary volunteer units, the Federal government appointed them in the Sharpshooters and similar outfits.

The next type appeared when large-scale acceptance of Negro troops began in 1863. A number of battalions had started as state units, but with the exception of two Massachusetts regiments, all Negro outfits were finally mustered directly into Federal service, and were organized and officered under the authority of the United States and not of any particular state. Known at first as the Corps d'Afrique and by other names, these units came to be called U.S. Colored Troops by the spring of 1864. Indian regiments (1st-4th Indian Home Guards) were handled in the same way. In all, there were 138 regiments of Negro infantry and 4 of Indians. Except for these two races, diverse nationalities could and did intermingle in infantry units, although men of German, Irish, and Scandinavian extraction proudly associated together in exclusive regiments.

Yet another type of Federal volunteer emerged because casualties had reached such proportions that provision for the incapacitated, and replacements for them, had become critical problems. To solve these problems, the Invalid Corps was established in April 1863 and classed as infantry. It was composed of men who in the line of duty had become physically unfit for combat. Those who could handle a gun and make light marches were put in the 1st Battalion and were used for guard duty. The worse crippled formed the 2d Battalion and were used as nurses and cooks around hospitals. Six companies from the 1st Battalion and four from the 2d made up a regiment in the Corps after September 1863. In all, 24 regiments and 188 separate companies of invalids did duty, thus releasing able-bodied soldiers for combat service. In March 1864 - because the Corps' abbreviation, "IC," was confused with "Inspected Condemned" - the name was changed to Veteran Reserve Corps.

Finally, in 1864 six infantry regiments of U.S. Volunteers (1st-6th) were recruited for service on the frontiers (not against the Confederacy) from Confederate prisoners of war. Then in 1865, nine infantry regiments of U.S. Veteran Volunteers (1st-9th) were raised directly by the United States. Although all types of United States volunteers made up only a small fraction of the foot troops who served for the Union, they merit attention because of the intimate relationship between them and the Federal government, and because of the lack of vital connection between them and any state. This relationship foreshadowed the National Army of the twentieth century.

Years after the Civil War, Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield, who had commanded the Army of the Ohio under Sherman, said that the cumbersome regimental organization had only worked in the course of the war because the replacement system was faulty. What he meant was that the unwieldy regiments at the beginning of the conflict dwindled through casualties until they reached a size which a colonel and his staff could handle. The same attrition, of course, applied to the control of companies.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 01:36:49 ZULU