The Confederate Army In The Civil War

        A month before the Civil War broke out, the Confederate government took steps to raise 3 district armies. In time, 2 of these-militia enlisted for 12 months service and volunteers recruited for the duration of the conflict-became inextricable entwine, organizationally and administratively. Although only the militia was originally designated by the term, both forces became known as the Provisional Army of the Confederate States. The act of 6 mar. 1861 that organized these forces also provided for the establishment of the Army of the Confederate States of America, a counterpart to the U.S. Regular Army.
        At the outset, Confederate officials projected this Regular force to number about 10,000 officers and men, a figure that President Jefferson Davis later cited as proof that "the wish and policy" of his government "was peace." Early legislation called for this force to consist of a corps of engineers, 1 regiment of cavalry, 6 regiments of infantry, a corps of artillery (which would also handle ordinance duties) and 4 staff bureaus: the adjutant and inspector general's, the quartermaster general's, the commissary general's, and the medical departments. Later laws increased the number of cavalry and infantry regiments, one of the foot units being designated a Zouave outfit, as well as the size of the engineer corps and each staff bureau. No officer above the rank of brigadier general would be assigned to the combat arms, while each staff department was to be headed by a colonel.
        The chief value of this force was as an administrative arm into which former U.S. Army officers were accepted just before the shooting started. Intended as a peacetime establishment, it lost much of its utility once it became evident that militia and volunteers would carry the bulk of the South's combat burden and when new laws permitted Regular officers to hold the rank in the Provisional Army as well. When money appropriated for the raising, organizing, and equipping of Regular units was diverted to the Provisional, the recruiting of Regulars declined sharply. In consequence, that army attained a fraction of its intended size. Although the Official Records mention numerous Regular units (1 battery, 12 cavalry and 7 infantry regiments, and various independent companies of line and support troops), other sources indicate that only 750 officers and 1,000 enlisted men served in the Confederate Regular Army and that only 5 companies remained in existence through most of the war.
        Because of its political philosophy, the Confederacy could not easily form an effective field army. Confederate officials, though supporting state sovereignty, believed the new nation required a military establishment controlled by the central government to ensure organizational stability and facilitate recruitment, supply , and training. Even before the war broke out, they sought a small army of about 10,000, roughly equivalent to the Regular Army of the U.S. (previously mentioned), to be raised, maintained, and employed by the authorities in Richmond. Soon, however, it became clear that war would come before so complex a force could be formed. Therefore, on 6 Mar. 1861, the Confederate Congress set up a provisional army, comprised of militia enlisting for 12 months' service; later, nonmilitia volunteers made up the bulk of this force.
        Officially, the troops composing the Provisional Army of the Confederate states were made available to the government by consent of the southern governors, who retained authority over the raising, organizing, and maintaining of units, including the appointment of their officers. But in May 1861 President Jefferson Davis was granted the authority to accept volunteer units without state consent, to appoint their field officers, and to form and staff brigades and larger formations. Additional legislation, increasing the central government's authority over the army, lengthened enlistment terms to cover the duration of the war, implemented conscription, and organized government bureaus that effectively transferred unit recruiting and organization from the state capitals to Richmond.
        In effect, this army, designed to be an interim expedient became the virtually the sole Confederate fighting force.
Source: Mostly taken from "The Historical Times Encyclopedia of the Civil War."

This Page last updated 02/10/02

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