Grayback and Bluebellies
were the greatest American fighters,
but the worst American soldiers."
I have been unable to find the author of this quote, but it appropriately describes the Civil War soldier. The boys who fought The Civil War hold the distinction of being the first armies in history where the majority of soldiers came from civilian life.
The antebellum South was predominately rural where cotton was king and farming was the main occupation. The North had become industrialized, although the western most areas of the Union were farmland. Even in these far reaches, it is likely that one would be exposed to the city in some way, thanks to the railroad expansion. Southern armies were composed mostly of country boys, while northern armies had a much larger number of city boys in their ranks. Any and all occupations were represented on both sides from school teachers, to blacksmiths, to gamblers and even a few who listed themselves as gentlemen.
The Union armies had a stronger representation of different nationalities but is untrue that the majority were immigrants. The South to a lessor extent also could boast of English, Irish, German and even American Indians wearing gray.
In both the Confederate and the Union armies, the majority of soldiers were between the ages of nineteen and twenty- seven. However, both sides could claim of men into their fifties and sixties and the Union could boast of Curtis King who was eighty years young. King was a member of the 37th Iowa Infantry, organized specifically for guard duty and had 145 men in its ranks over the age of sixty.
The northern soldier had a little more schooling than the southern boy owing in part to a more established elementary school system. That is not to say the Graybacks were all illiterates. there were a number of college educated men in the ranks, but the average rebel was closer to the former than the latter in education.
Graybacks and Bluebellies were Americans and had many things in common: a common language, a common God, a common history and many of the same dreams. In this strange war of brother against brother, the similarities of the wearers of the blue and gray far outweigh the differences.
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