The Army of Northern Virginia: Lee's Army in the American Civil War, 1861-1865

By Philip Katcher | Go to book overview

The Rank and File

The Confederacy may have relied on the skill of its officers, but it depended completely on the will and loyalty of the soldiers in the ranks. Often ill-disciplined, these men were the heart and soul of the Southern cause.

The average Confederate soldier was rather more like the average Union soldier than he ever would have admitted. He came from a rural, middleclass background, was young, usually unmarried, with some formal education to a point, but strongly versed in his society's values. He was a Christian, but prejudiced against others not like him. He gambled and swore, but his religious beliefs generally kept these habits from overwhelming him. He drank when liquor was available, though it was mostly out of the reach of the rank and file. He griped all the time, about the lack of rations, the stupidity of officers, the weather, and long marches. But these gripes merely filled the time and did not reflect a deep-seated animosity against his situation; he was simply acting as soldiers have from the time of the armies of the Pharaohs. He went into the army sure of victory, an attitude that was reinforced in the early years when indeed it seemed every battle ended in Confederate success.

Yet there were also real differences between soldiers on the opposing sides. Kevin Ruffner's study of Marylanders who became junior grade officers in both armies demonstrates how the sides differed. He found that Marylanders who became Confederate officers were generally well-educated, from families that traced their roots to the colony's founding. They rarely had a working background, either skilled or unskilled. Marylanders who became junior officers in the Union Army tended to earn their livings as farmers or laborers, skilled or unskilled, with a lower educational standard. Many were not born in Maryland, a slave state, but rather came originally from neighboring Northern states. It was a war, in Maryland at least, of aristocrats against the working and middle classes. Once at war, Union Marylanders stuck with the job, even though they found it boring at times. Confederate Marylanders, on the other hand, having gone South

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The Army of Northern Virginia: Lee's Army in the American Civil War, 1861-1865
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Key to Maps 6
  • Foreword 7
  • Introduction 8
  • Part I - Creating the Machine 9
  • Background to War 11
  • Recruitment and Training 27
  • Nature of the War 43
  • Logistics 63
  • Part II - The Years of Attack 81
  • The First Manassas Campaign 83
  • Jackson's Valley Campaign 101
  • The Peninsula Campaign 119
  • The Second Manassas Campaign 139
  • The 1862 Maryland Campaign 155
  • Fredericksburg 173
  • Chancellorsville 191
  • Gettysburg 209
  • Part III - The Nature of the Army 229
  • Robert E. Lee 231
  • The Senior Command Structure 245
  • The Rank and File 259
  • The Army and the State Authorities 273
  • Part IV - The Years of Defense 285
  • The Winter of 1863-64 287
  • The Wilderness to Cold Harbor 301
  • Cold Harbor to Petersburg 315
  • The Final Campaign 329
  • Bibliography 345
  • Index 348
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