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Soldiers in the Union Army

Summary and Keywords

Soldiers enlisted in the Union Army from every state in the Union and the Confederacy. The initial volunteers were motivated to preserve the accomplishments of the American Revolution and save the world’s hope that democratic government could survive. They were influenced by their culture’s ideals of manhood and republican ideals of the citizen soldier. They served in regiments that retained close ties with their sending communities throughout the war.

Recruits faced a difficult adjustment period when their units were mustered into the US Army. The test of battle taught soldiers to value some drills and discipline, but many soldiers insisted that officers respect their independence and equality. Soldiers successfully resisted many aspects of formal military discipline. Army life exposed conflicts between soldiers who sought to create moral regiments and soldiers who displayed manliness through fighting and drinking. Establishing honor before peers was an important component of soldier life. Effective soldiering involved enduring the boredom and disease of camp, the rigors of marching, and the terror of battle. To survive, soldiers formed close bonds with their comrades, mastered self-care techniques to stay healthy, applied skills learned from their civilian occupations on the battlefield, and remained connected to their families and communities. Conscription changed the character of the Union Army. Officers tightened discipline over the influx of lower-class “roughs.”

Union soldiers generally demonized their enemies as inferior barbarians. Because of their interaction with slaves in the South, Union soldiers quickly shifted their support to emancipation. Although Christianity and ideals of civilized behavior placed some restraints on Union soldiers when they encountered southerners, they supported and implemented hard war measures against the South’s population and resources, and treated guerrillas and their supporters with particular brutality. In the election of 1864, Union soldiers voted to fight until the Confederacy was defeated.

Keywords: Union soldiers, citizen soldiers, military discipline, soldier motivation, US colored troops, soldier voting, camp life, soldier honor, soldier manhood, conscription in Union Army, Civil War combat, immigrants in Union Army

Citizen Soldiers and Initial Motivations

After Confederate authorities authorized the bombardment of Fort Sumter, South Carolina, and the US forces inside surrendered, President Abraham Lincoln called 75,000 state militia into federal service for ninety days to suppress insurrection. On May 3, 1861, he asked for 42,000 three-year volunteers, and in July the U.S. Congress authorized a million more. Eventually more than 700,000 men enlisted under these provisions.1

On the eve of the Civil War, Americans were steeped in the powerful cultural ideal of the citizen-soldier. Most Americans feared the existence of a numerically powerful professional army that could be used to consolidate tyrannical power and that operated on principles of hierarchy and subordination which were antithetical to republican values of equality and personal independence. Thus the professional army of the United States numbered fewer than 16,000 men in April 1861. Americans expected that when the need to defend the nation arose, male citizens, displaying the virtuous character formed through participation in republican institutions, would fulfill their duty to bear arms while remaining full members of the republic. This ideal was exemplified in the state volunteer militia companies that proliferated in northern states during the 1850s. These companies were democratic organizations that implemented principles of self-governance. Volunteers negotiated the terms of their enlistment, elected their officers, wrote the rules that governed their company, and believed they had a right to petition superior officers.2 The citizen-soldier ideal exerted a dominant influence over the initial volunteers of the Union Army.

A strong political commitment to the Union cause played a powerful role in the motivation of the men who enlisted in 1861–1862. Supporters of the Union believed they were defending the legacy of the American Revolution. Their heroic ancestors had founded a bastion of liberty and it was their duty to preserve it. Their diaries and letters asserted that the perpetuation of republican liberty in the world depended on the survival of the United States. Recent immigrants from Europe who volunteered for the Union Army viewed the war through the lens of the recent revolutions in their home countries. Southern slaveholders represented another form of aristocracy that endangered the civil liberties of men around the world. Immigrants also hoped that fighting for the cause would prove their ethnic groups’ worth to the American public. Nineteenth-century gender ideals also convicted young men of their duty to serve. Soldiering tested and proved courage, the attribute most Americans considered essential to manliness. War was a prime opportunity to earn glory, honor, and fame.3

Becoming a soldier in the Union Army was an individual decision rooted in the dynamics of family and community. The citizen soldier ideal proclaimed that republican women would willingly sacrifice husbands and sons for the cause and would contribute to the war effort through the emotional and material support they provided for soldiers, through personal and financial sacrifices that would sustain the home in the man’s absence, and through public displays of patriotism. The culture of sentimentalism provided meaning for the individual and family sacrifices necessary to a soldier’s service. Northerners believed that individuals with character could triumph over suffering. They believed the success of their cause depended on their moral superiority to the Confederacy, which rested not on battlefield bravery alone, but on the exemplary suffering of northern soldiers and on the volunteer efforts of northern citizens to respond to soldiers’ needs. The individual virtues necessary for victory had been borne and nurtured in the nation’s homes and families.4

Local communities generated the companies that became a soldier’s primary military and social unit in the Union Army.

Soldiers in the Union ArmyClick to view larger

Figure 1. Soldiers from Company G, 71st New York Volunteers.

Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-117312.

Prominent citizens would hold recruiting rallies, encourage enlistments, and organize companies of one hundred men. The enlisted men would then elect company officers (lieutenants and captains), who would then elect the field officers (major, lieutenant colonel, and colonel). Ten companies comprised a regiment. State governors appointed the field officers of a regiment, but usually ratified the election results. The regiment remained the basic unit of command, organization, and administration for the Union Army. Federal armies experienced frequent reorganization and changes of command at the brigade, division, and army level, a factor that tended to reinforce the regimental orientation of the Union Army. Training, drill, and discipline remained for the most part in the hands of regimental officers.5

Soldiers were loyal to their company and regiment because these small communities of men came largely from the same geographic area (town, city, or county). Soldiers in companies often shared the same cultural and economic background, although companies recruited in major cities or organized later in the war contained men from different ethnic backgrounds and social classes. The vast majority of immigrant volunteers served in units where they were mixed with native-born soldiers and a variety of other ethnics. A small minority of immigrants joined ethnic regiments that preserved their ethnic identity through language and traditions and proudly proclaimed the group’s heritage, although these regiments also resembled typical American units in fundamental ways.6

By the end of the war, Union soldiers hailed from every state and territory in the Union and the Confederacy. Thousands of men from Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and other southern states made dangerous journeys through the Appalachians to enlist in the Union Army. Thousands of Native Americans, members of Indian nations located in various states and the Indian Territory, served in regiments fighting in all the theaters of conflict. The accepted estimate of the composition of the Union Army is that 63 to 66 percent of soldiers were native-born white men, 25 to 28 percent were immigrants, and 9 percent were African Americans. Their average age was 23.5. Nearly half were farmers and farm laborers, 25 percent were skilled laborers, 15 percent were unskilled laborers, and 8 to 10 percent had a white-collar, commercial, or professional background.7

Training and Discipline

Recruits became soldiers at the state rendezvous camps where their regiments were organized and mustered into the federal service. Because the quality of field officers varied widely, so did the quality of initial training. Although governors appointed some qualified officers with previous military experience, other commands went to grossly incompetent men who received their position through political influence or the need to appease a certain constituency. The short term of initial enlistments, only three months, and the political nature of the inexperienced volunteer officers in state regiments combined to create a notable lack of discipline and training among Union regiments in the first few months of the war.8

The school of battle taught volunteer officers and soldiers the need for military discipline. At the Battle of First Bull Run in Virginia on July 21, 1861, undisciplined soldiers performed poorly and those whose enlistments were about to expire fled the battlefield. The federal government organized regiments comprised of men who had volunteered for two and three years. During the fall and winter of 1861–1862, once a unit was assigned to a bridge in the federal army, these officers and regiments were better trained and drilled. Army commanders implemented orders that disciplined recruits and weeded out incompetent volunteer officers through officers’ schools and exams. Thus many recruits who enlisted in the summer of 1861 had a full year to train before going into combat. Soldiers drilled six days a week with their company, practicing the tactical evolutions of linear formations and synchronous marching. These drills created automatic habits of movement which reduced the possibility for error in the excitement of battle. Marching and close order drills paid psychological dividends in combat conditions; acting in unison bonded soldiers and created a sense of belonging.9

Soldiers in the Union ArmyClick to view larger

Figure 2. Beaufort, S. C. 50th Pennsylvania Infantry in Parade Formation.

Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-DIG-cwpb-00741.

Union soldiers learned the value of drill, and although they complained about its monotony, they recognized its importance to performance in battle. But the widespread ideal of the citizen soldier inhibited other aspects of formal military discipline. Many volunteer soldiers deeply resented the army hierarchy and the expectation that they must submit to the authority of another man. They desired to retain the social equality that marked their manhood and supposedly characterized men in a free society. Union soldiers never granted automatic obedience to their officers, whom they often denigrated as “shoulder-strap gentry,” and they often only obeyed orders that fit with their own sense of duty and justice. It was common practice for privates to argue with officers about orders and to back talk to superiors. Demands to conform to military etiquette, such as touching the cap when meeting an officer, created strong resistance from soldiers who saw little relevance for the display of what they disparagingly termed “style.” This was an area of military discipline that was among the most difficult for officers to enforce.10

Officers in many regiments of the Union Army were unable to secure automatic and consistent obedience to their orders when the unit was not on the battlefield. Soldiers regularly engaged in mass resistance and mob action to redress grievances—such as the government holding a regiment past its termination date—or to protect the “rights” of other enlisted men. The most common reason for enlisted men to resist officers en masse was the application of corporal punishment. Soldiers were outraged when men were tied, gagged, or bucked to a tree, because these punishments degraded a soldier’s manhood and implied he was no better than a slave, particularly in the context of war against a slaveholding society.

Soldiers in the Union ArmyClick to view larger

Figure 3. Alfred R. Waud sketch of “Drunken soldiers tied up for fighting and other unruly conduct.”

Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsca-21215.

Soldiers who sighted such punishments often rescued the prisoner or tried to intimidate the officers or guards in charge. These actions could involve anywhere from a handful of men to over a hundred soldiers from different regiments.11

Most Union soldiers accepted authority when it was wielded in ways that they recognized as appropriate and they even insisted that quality officers mattered for the morale and fighting ability of a regiment. They respected and obeyed officers who honored their sense of equality. They agreed that a good officer looked out for his men’s welfare, did not put on airs of superiority, and led by example and personal courage. Soldiers directed particular antipathy at officers who were petty tyrants, meted out harsh punishments for minor infractions, and enforced regulations the soldiers defined as senseless. Once a Civil War volunteer officer earned respect, he was able to implement strict discipline and command obedience. The majority of soldiers ultimately agreed that some discipline and obedience were necessary for their success and survival.12

Morality, Immorality, and Honor in the Ranks

The Union Army was cohesive enough to face many desperate hours and to emerge triumphant after four years of war. But conflicts among soldiers relating to competing conceptions of morality and manhood pervaded the daily interactions of soldiers. Supporters of the Union believed that the survival of the republic, and victory on the battlefield, depended on the manhood of its citizen soldiers. But army life instead exposed the conflicts among men about what true manliness looked like in practice.

Many Union soldiers from all social classes believed that moral character was essential to true manhood and sought to create regiments that exemplified temperate and self-controlled behavior. They created organizations to promote morality within their companies. The most common were temperance societies that administered the “Pledge” to abstain from alcohol and sought general moral uplift through literary activities such as recitations, debates, and essay contests.13 A Christian worldview formed the thoughts and prompted the actions of a significant portion of Union soldiers. Most Christian soldiers believed the war was a punishment for the nation’s sins (although they disagreed on the nature of those sins), fused the Union cause with God’s purposes, and drew on their faith to overcome their fear of death and find the strength to face combat. They interpreted personal and national events through providential thinking: God was ultimately in control.14

Christian soldiers struggled against the temptations they encountered in the army, especially the lure of broken Sabbaths and unrestrained behavior, and they wrestled with the moral problem of killing other human beings. Army life initially drew some soldiers away from their faith. But the most comprehensive and recent history of religion and Civil War soldiers found that a series of revivals swept through the entire Union Army in 1862 and 1863, and the resulting transformation in the behavior of individuals and even entire regiments permanently improved the moral tone of the army.15

On the other hand, many Union soldiers from all social classes displayed their manliness through a culture of male camaraderie centered on boisterous noise, unruly behavior, and feats of prowess. They regularly engaged in fights and bouts of heavy drinking and believed that such behavior was compatible with good soldiering. Open confrontations between soldiers who sought moral regiments and those who resisted them were common in the Union Army. In the 11th New Jersey, for example, half of the soldiers joined a temperance society and held nightly prayer meetings. Another group of enlisted men formed an antitemperance society, “pledging themselves to destroy (by drinking) all the liquor they could get.” They created badges for their order and wore them on their uniforms; one was a grain of corn that represented commissary whiskey. For other Union volunteers, drinking was simply an acceptable form of entertainment that accompanied leisure activities. Men “made merry” while diverting themselves with hurdle races and competitions to catch greased pigs. Many immigrant soldiers came from cultures where drinking was an essential component of community life.16

Heavy and open drinking by soldiers of the Union Army remained a widespread problem throughout the war and impinged directly on military discipline. Intoxicated soldiers disrupted their units and spread disorder, especially when groups of soldiers indulged in periodic “sprees” of heavy drinking. Although some sprees occurred on no particular occasion, usually they capped either a long period of inactivity and boredom or the end of a campaign. Sprees inevitably led to boisterous behavior (such as yelling all night or singing ribald songs) and brawling. The sheer scale of disciplinary offenses, most of them a result of drinking, made it impossible for officers to curb soldiers’ behavior. Instead, they adjusted their expectations and relaxed the standards of army regulations and the Articles of War. Military discipline and justice became flexible to accommodate the changing reality of what the army could realistically expect from soldiers.17

Honor, meaning that self-worth is based on public reputation and the respect of others, was an essential attribute of manhood for many soldiers in the Union Army. Insults were a public shaming that required a public vindication of worth. Because of the community-based organization of the Union Army, a man’s term as a soldier could either establish his honor or bring him shame. Communities received word of men’s behavior in the army through letters and even newspaper reports. Soldiers knew that other men from their hometown wrote to parents, wives, sweethearts, and friends with news and gossip from the regiment. Whether a soldier possessed an honorable or shameful name among his military comrades affected for good or evil the reputation he carried in his civilian community. Soldiers in the Union Army regularly engaged in affairs of honor that followed a ritual pattern of speech and behavior. They responded to an insult with an immediate verbal challenge to fight. These episodes were performances to establish honor in front of the other soldiers who witnessed the exchange.18

Camps, Health, and Labor

A soldier’s life was one of monotony punctuated by intense physical and mental stress. During time in camp, soldiers coped with boredom and the omnipresent threat of disease. They combatted the former through writing and reading letters, talking with comrades, spreading rumors, playing games, participating in lecture and debating societies, gambling, drinking, and fighting. They battled the latter through habits of self-care. Union soldiers believed nature was directly responsible for the illnesses that sickened and killed them. They attributed their most common illnesses—diarrhea, dysentery, malaria, and typhoid fever—to “miasmas,” unhealthy vapors emanating from the lowlands, and weather shifts. Heat and cold, insects and vermin, took their toll on soldiers’ bodies. In response, many established routines of personal hygiene, protected themselves from the elements, supplemented their diets, eradicated pests on their bodies, and communicated with loved ones. Effective self-care techniques were critical to their survival. Because institutional health care and training about health were inadequate in the Union Army, whether or not soldiers cared for their own bodies shaped whether they could remain healthy and alive, and whether armies could effectively conduct campaigns.19

Clashing values regarding cleanliness and sanitation were on display in Union Army camps. Some soldiers went to incredible lengths to recreate the comforts of the genteel home amid war and to refine their camp’s appearance, including decorating it with flowers and garlands and arranging tents in ordered configurations.

Soldiers in the Union ArmyClick to view larger

Figure 4. Troops in formation at the Camp of the 44th New York Infantry near Alexandria, Virginia.

Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsca-32965.

Genteel soldiers derided those who inhabited disordered, dirty, and undecorated camps for both their moral failing and lack of military discipline. Other soldiers went to incredible lengths to defy the army’s regulations regarding cleanliness. When possible, soldiers were to bathe once or twice a week and wash their feet twice a week. Hair was to be short and beards neatly trimmed. But officers had to enforce such regulations through the use of punishments; in many regiments enlisted men were subjected to scheduled and supervised bathing. The widespread and open resistance to being clean among many Union soldiers reflected cultural conflicts in American society. Men who refused to bathe when they had the opportunity were men who in civilian life rejected the prevalent standard of gentility that required a clean appearance and refined behavior. Their persistent disobedience to requirements they saw as needless ended up consuming much of their officers’ time. Although soldiers differed in their practices regarding personal cleanliness, experienced soldiers recognized that clean equipment was necessary for effective battlefield performance, and thus most of them complied with the military’s standards regarding their weapons.20

The decision of thousands of soldiers to ignore army regulations regarding sanitation and to follow the habits learned from rural life had dire consequences for the Union Army. Army regulations required that latrines be placed 150 paces to the rear of enlisted men’s tents. But officers had trouble getting many men to use the designated toilet facilities; instead soldiers answered the call of nature wherever they found convenient. This was a pervasive problem, despite efforts to convince enlisted men that sanitation was directly related to health and the resort of some officers to mass arrests. Soldiers’ unhealthy practices contributed to the pollution of the water supply of army camps. Thus soldiers who did not develop habits of self-care and who resisted the army’s sanitary regulations contributed to the spread of disease, which was responsible for two-thirds of the mortalities in the Union Army.21

Whenever regiments encamped, sergeants and corporals assigned soldiers to fatigue duty (such as policing the grounds, hauling wood and water, and digging sinks), guard duty, or other tasks. Soldiers competed for the best of these jobs and often developed long-standing resentment over officers’ power to determine who worked, when they worked, and under what terms. Altercations between officers and enlisted men were often battles over the control of labor. Army life also created a “perilous soldier economy” characterized by a struggle over scarce resources. Irregular pay, inept quartermasters providing late and poor quality rations, charges on soldiers for clothing and lost equipment, and the extortionate prices at the stands of men who followed the armies to sell goods—“sutlers”—meant that some enlisted men stood on the brink of financial ruin. Soldiers hoped to support their families on their pay; the reality was that soldiers were often dependent on their families to supply their basic material needs through supplementary funds and boxes of provisions. The rank and file used the phrase “poor soldier” to describe themselves and to capture their sense of the army’s exploitation.22

Zones of War, Battle, and Pliable Courage

Soldiers served in varied zones of war and their experience depended on a number of factors, including branch of service (infantry, artillery, and cavalry); theater of deployment (eastern, western, trans-Mississippi, frontier); whether they were fighting Dakota Indians in Minnesota, guerrillas in Kentucky, or suppressing draft riots in northern cities; quality of the army and commanders to which they were assigned; and whether they were members of units that garrisoned Union fortifications and defenses, guarded railroad lines, or performed front-line duty. Union Army operations and occupation in the South created distinct zones. Soldiers often spent weeks or months in a “funnel zone” where the army concentrated the soldiers, supplies, animals, and equipment being pushed to the front. Soldiers in garrisoned towns enforced martial law and interacted daily with recalcitrant southern citizens; many became more ambivalent about the Union cause during this distasteful service. “No-man’s land” was the space between towns garrisoned by the Union Army and the frontier of Confederate authority. Soldiers in this zone participated in patrols, foraging detachments, and expeditions against guerrillas.23

The movement of armies across space created fluid battle zones. Effective soldiering involved enduring the rigors of marching and the terror of battle. Battle assaulted all of the senses and placed the body in a frenzied, chaotic environment that created dissonance and mental confusion. Soldiers reacted instinctively and impulsively in their first battles, but over time they learned the techniques of the soldier and the psychology of the warrior. Union volunteer soldiers persisted in battle through the bonds they forged with comrades in their companies; through the habits drill had instilled in them; and through the power that cultural ideals of courage, honor, and self-control had over their behavior.24

One study of raw recruits at the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862 found that the majority overcame their intense anxiety because the dense formations placed them in physical contact with their comrades, men they had already bonded with through community-based recruitment, and because the recruits found strength in their patriotic loyalty. As the battle unfolded, soldiers experienced anger and adrenaline-induced surges of what seemed to be superhuman strength, and ultimately they were able to kill without remorse. In the immediate aftermath of battle, soldiers experienced despondency while they buried men and witnessed the dreadful medical treatment of the wounded. But this feeling eventually dissipated, and to the surprise of the authors of the study, citizen soldiers emerged from combat as essentially the same men they were before.25

Drill mattered in the individual and unit performance of soldiers during battle. At Antietam in September 1862, the 16th Connecticut went into battle with only rudimentary drilling and only three weeks after being assigned to the corps. The regiment dissolved in disorder as it tried to get into position and lost almost 400 men from the first Confederate volley. In contrast, the 4th Rhode Island, a regiment with limited combat experience but nearly a year of drilling behind it, engaged the enemy on the same field for ten hours and suffered less than 100 casualties during the entire day.26 The background of Union soldiers reinforced the effectiveness of drill. Most were farmers and laborers whose pragmatism enabled them to develop a workmanlike approach to battle that focused on the tasks to be done, such as loading their weapons. Soldiers shaped and tamed combat by employing familiar models to think about and manage their experiences: combat was a “job,” bullets were “buzzing bees.” Veterans reached a point where they functioned normally in the environment of battle.27

Courage was a defining attribute of 19th-century manhood and it exerted a powerful hold over volunteer soldiers’ conduct during combat throughout the war. Courage intertwined two related traits of manhood, honor and self-control. Honor demanded that men maintain a public reputation; how a soldier behaved in battle was reported back to his community through the letters of his comrades. Men who displayed self-control under stressful circumstances were praised by other men as “cool.” Coolness in battle was a necessity for an honorable reputation. Soldiers who wrote home about their battle experiences bragged to their families about their self-possessed manner and reported on whether or not their officers had behaved with coolness.28

At times courage, comradeship, and drill could not overcome the physical and mental stresses induced by combat and soldiers succumbed to fear, exhaustion, and other assaults on their faculties. They straggled on the march, faked illnesses, disappeared during combat, or simply could not perform their duties. Veteran soldiers developed a flexible definition of courage that allowed for a range of behaviors. Combat stress took an especial toll on soldiers in the Army of the Potomac during the Overland Campaign in Virginia in 1864, an extended military operation where soldiers, unusually for the Civil War, endured weeks of fighting without a break. The army had been reorganized right before this campaign, which broke up its cohesion and command structure, and conscripts had replaced veterans who had not reenlisted when their three-year term of service expired. The constant combat, night marches, digging breastworks and trenches, poor nutrition, and lack of sleep produced clear physical symptoms and behaviors in soldiers: jumpiness, falling asleep at odd times, and firing weapons with ramrods still in them. Soldiers became so physically and mentally exhausted that they could not perform the maneuvers that their generals required of them in the culminating action of the campaign at Petersburg.29

Conscripts and Deserters

The composition of the Union Army changed when the U.S. Congress implemented conscription in March, 1863. Volunteering had waned in the summer of 1862 after Union military reverses induced a wave of war-weariness. In August, 1862, the War Department requisitioned state militiamen, threatened a militia draft if states did not meet their quotas, and created a formula that incentivized states to produce volunteers for three-year regiments. Although some states resorted to a militia draft, most met the quota by inducing volunteers through the payment of $100 bounties to those who enlisted for three years. States ultimately produced 421,000 three-year volunteers and 87,000 nine-month militiamen under the fall 1862 call for troops. But this did not meet the manpower needs of Union armies, and facing the prospect that the enlistments of two-year regiments that had been raised in 1861 expired in the summer of 1863, the Lincoln administration resorted to national conscription. The Enrollment Act declared that male citizens and those aliens who had filed for naturalization, aged 20–45, were eligible for the draft. The act was intended to stimulate volunteering; states were given a quota and fifty days to fill it with volunteers before a draft went into effect to fill what was left of the quota. Localities, states, and the federal government offered bounties to volunteers. Drafted men could pay a $300 commutation fee (a provision that was abolished in July 1864) or provide a substitute. Ultimately, 46,000 men were drafted into the Union Army, 118,000 arranged for substitutes, and nearly a million men enlisted or reenlisted during the two years that the draft operated.30

There was a widespread perception among the volunteers of 1861–1862 and among Union army officers that the conscripts and bounty men were undesirables who lacked the manly virtues of the citizen soldiers who had enlisted before the threats and inducements of the draft. Conscripts were disproportionately unskilled rural workers and other native-born citizens from the lowest socioeconomic classes in northern society. Half of the new soldiers who entered the army in 1863 were immigrants, the vast majority of whom came voluntarily as substitutes.31 The low social status of the conscripts called into question their manhood and whether they possessed the attributes necessary to make manly soldiers: a sound moral character, self-control, and courage. Volunteer soldiers and officers believed that the number of “roughs” increased after 1863. This term applied to hard and dangerous men who brought disorder, drunkenness, and violence to every company in the Union Army. Roughs engaged in brawls of enormous magnitude on transport ships, in camps, and on the march. Regimental record books indicate an increase in drinking, disorder in the camps, and gambling after conscripts entered Union regiments. The vast majority of regimental orders prohibiting such practices and taking dramatic steps against them occurred after 1863.32

The Union Army, with the approbation of most of its volunteer officers and soldiers, increased the severity of its discipline and its enforcement of authority over the conscripts and roughs entering the army after 1863. Officers were increasingly willing to use corporal punishment against subordinates and to shoot enlisted men who disobeyed orders. Regiments also implemented coercive mechanisms to force men to remain and fight on the battlefield. Sergeants were appointed as file closers and were posted in the rear of each company. It was their duty to see that the lines were closed and that no man left his place. File closers could use the bayonet, or if necessary, shoot men down. Some armies implemented designated units of provost guards to drive stragglers into line during a march with orders to use the bayonet and bullets freely.33 Although a core group of Union volunteers fought for the cause, thousands of other Union soldiers fought because of the overwhelming force used against them.

Although the Union Army effectively coerced soldiers, it also experienced a high desertion rate that weakened the war effort. Nearly 300,000 or 14.3 percent of the soldiers mustered into the army deserted, and this count does not include the unknown numbers who were absent without leave at any given time but returned to the army. Desertion rates increased in some armies after disastrous campaigns and during the tenure of unpopular commanders.34 An individual soldier’s decision to desert was rooted in his own “situational logic” and particular circumstances. He balanced the threat of execution if caught against the issues pulling him toward desertion, whether those were the poverty and suffering of his family, hatred of army life, isolation in his company, mental and physical health problems, or disillusionment with the cause.35 Some scholars have employed the concept of multifaceted loyalties to understand desertion. For soldiers who were committed to the Union, loyalty to family could trump loyalty to nation in circumstances where the family’s well-being was threatened.36 Desertion at times was an act of dissent against the war. Communities in the lumber region of Appalachian Pennsylvania, for example, opposed Republican policies and experienced the military conflict as an economic hardship because of poverty and a dispersed population in the region. They shielded deserters and resisted Federal authorities sent to arrest them.37

Ethnic and African American Soldiers

Ethnic minorities and African American soldiers had many experiences that were identical to native-born white soldiers, including drill, boredom, resentment of officers and struggles against military discipline, comradeship in companies and line of battle, pressure to exhibit courage, and connections to their families and home communities. However, they also faced stereotyping and discrimination from other soldiers and government institutions. Military service produced mixed results for minority groups; it could serve as a roadblock to integration or as a transformative moment in a man’s identity as an American citizen.38

Irish and German immigrants were the most visible of the Union Army’s ethnic soldiers. Irishmen rushed to the colors in 1861 and established a reputation for bravery. Irish soldiers viewed all aspects of the war in terms of its perceived effect on their Irish communities. Thus the support of many Irish American soldiers began to wane due to their perceived mistreatment in the army, the devastating casualty rates in the Irish Brigade, and government policies that seemed to oppose Irish interests, such as the Emancipation Proclamation and the provisions of conscription. Prejudice against the Irish resurfaced in the army. The stereotype of Irishmen as natural fighters, which had served them early in the war, later worked against them. Incidents of fighting between Irish and other units in the Union Army increased after 1863.39

Immigrant German soldiers, who had the additional burden of a language barrier, likewise faced nativist prejudices. After the Union loss at the Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863, the northern public scapegoated the majority-German Eleventh Corps and stereotyped German soldiers as cowards through the widely-used sobriquet “flying Dutchmen.” Nativist attacks on German courage and patriotism during the Civil War inhibited the assimilation of German immigrants into American society.40

The Union Army recruited African American soldiers after Congress authorized the president to do so in July, 1862. The next month, the Secretary of War granted permission for the commander of the Department of the South to recruit 5,000 freedmen on the coastal islands of South Carolina as soldiers. The War Department established the Bureau of Colored Troops in May 1863 and appointed Maj. Charles W. Foster to oversee the process of creating African American regiments. Ultimately, 170,000 black soldiers served in the Union Army under white commissioned officers.

Soldiers in the Union ArmyClick to view larger

Figure 5. Company E, 4th U.S. Colored Infantry, at Fort Lincoln, District of Columbia.

Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-DIG-cwpb-04294.

African-American men joined the Union Army for a variety of reasons, including the desire to fight for freedom, the desire to prove their equality and their manhood, the hope that service would earn citizenship, the coercion of military officials, and the promise of a soldier’s pay. Black soldiers faced widespread prejudice and discrimination. They were denied officers’ commissions (they could serve as corporals and sergeants), they were paid $10 a month instead of the $13 paid to white soldiers, they were generally assigned heavy labor and garrison duty rather than combat, and they faced mistreatment from white soldiers.

African American soldiers protested racial discrimination and insisted that white officers treat them with the respect and equality that white soldiers received. Soldiers revealed the racial element behind these demands with the language they used. One private who argued with a lieutenant insisted that “he was no slave to be driven.” An enlisted man who refused an order announced, “I am as good as a white man and I’ll be damned if I will be bossed over by any of them.” African American soldiers talked back to officers, refused to do duty, attempted to rescue men who were being punished, and acted to protect perceived rights, just as white soldiers did.41 Black regiments resisted unequal pay through a combination of strategies. There were mutinies in some regiments and in others black soldiers continued to perform their duties faithfully but refused to receive their pay. Officers harshly suppressed the mutinies and executed ringleaders but pressured their superiors to provide justice for their troops. The courageous performance of black soldiers in several battles during 1863 contributed to a shift in public attitudes that allowed Congress to pass legislation in June 1864 that equalized the pay of white and black soldiers. African Americans fought in the major military campaigns of 1864 and contemporaries pointed to their manly performance in battle as evidence that they had earned citizenship rights.

Army camps were the site of a new identity as an American citizen for many ethnic and African American soldiers. Service in the Union Army provided opportunities for education and a forum to demand inclusion in the political body of the United States based upon that service. Formal education was part of the regime in the U.S. Colored Troops. Most of its officers were educated and a large percentage of them were teachers and college graduates. Regiments established schools under the leadership of the chaplain and a few officers or hired civilians and paid them from company funds. Some units instituted awards for educational achievement or assigned spelling lessons as punishments for minor military infractions. Black soldiers made remarkable progress during the term of their enlistment: after just six months five hundred ex-slaves in one brigade could read and write, and in Company C of the 44th U.S.C.T., where only nine men were literate when they enlisted, the entire company could read and write when it was mustered out.42

Irish and African American service in the war ultimately modified America’s conceptual and legal notions of citizenship. The most thorough scholarly study of the subject demonstrates that black soldiers received equal treatment in the Union Army’s military justice system. Being able to participate in trials as witnesses and observing due process for the first time provided them with a training ground for citizenship. After the war, African American veterans drew on these experiences to craft demands for an inclusive definition. Irish American service in the war prompted the United States to accept and to defend on the international stage their claims that naturalized citizens were entitled to the same protections as native-born citizens.43

Hard War, Slavery, and Politics

Most Union soldiers willingly participated in the destruction of southern resources and the institution of slavery. From the war’s earliest days, Union soldiers described Rebels as a culturally inferior and barbarous enemy. They resented the southern people and blamed them for the war. Their early experiences with bitterly hostile southerners convinced them that conciliation policies which protected noncombatants would not work. They spoke of the South as a foreign country.44 These attitudes combined with the practical realities of a soldier’s life to shape their treatment of southern property. Soldiers on the march often outdistanced their supply trains, campaigns disrupted supply lines, and a few inept quartermasters could wreak havoc on the distribution of rations. Cold, hungry, and wet soldiers tore down farmer’s fences to build fires, foraged for chickens and eggs, and killed hogs. Soldiers particularly targeted local residents who were secessionists or who were wealthy. Food and fuel was the object of soldier foraging in the early months of the war; men rarely entered houses or stole personal property. When army commanders implemented hard war policies during 1862–1865 that intentionally targeted southern resources, Union soldiers destroyed property on an unprecedented scale and felt justified in their actions.

Soldiers in the Union ArmyClick to view larger

Figure 6. Sherman’s soldiers destroying a railroad at Atlanta, Georgia.

Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-DIG-cwpb-03391.

The basic moral values of Union soldiers and their desire to fight a “civilized” war imposed some restraints on their behavior toward noncombatants. Soldiers generally implemented a “directed severity” that targeted those they felt most deserved it and protected some private property. In several campaigns during 1864-1865, including Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman’s invasion of Georgia and the Carolinas, soldiers treated slaveholding elite women as enemies, entering homes and ransacking personal property in order to send a gendered message of northern male dominance and to break the will of the social class they held responsible for the war. Soldiers handled suspected guerrillas and their families with particular brutality, burning homes and terrorizing women, because they believed irregular warfare violated the customs of civilized war and its practitioners thus fell outside its boundaries.45

Union soldiers’ contact with slavery as they marched south revolutionized their attitudes and by late 1861 most of them supported emancipation as a war measure. Their advocacy was an important agent for change; descriptions of the condition of blacks living in slavery carried weight with their family and friends back home. Union soldiers also played an important role in slaves’ decision making. Early in the war, it was not clear to African Americans who would win and how supporters of the Union would treat them. They acted to seize freedom when signs were favorable that they would succeed. When Union armies advanced up the Virginia peninsula in the late spring of 1862, for example, some slaves tested the waters and ran to the Yankee lines. The overwhelmingly positive interactions slaves had with Union soldiers contributed to the surge of runaways to the Union Army in the following weeks.

Soldiers in the Union ArmyClick to view larger

Figure 7. Union Soldiers and African American Child at Mr. Foller’s Farm, Cumberland Landing, Virginia.

Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-DIG-cwpb-00288.

Some Union soldiers mistreated and abused African Americans they encountered, but many were willing to reconsider their racial prejudice. At the war’s end, a “critical mass” of white Union troops favored expanded rights for African Americans, although racial prejudice limited the extent of their support for racial justice.46

Soldier support for emancipation and a vigorous prosecution of the war solidified in their overwhelming support for the Lincoln administration and the Republican Party in the critical elections of 1864. When the Civil War began, Pennsylvania was the only state with a law on the books permitting soldiers to vote, but leaders in the Republican Party recognized that most soldiers advocated their war policies, and by 1864, Republican-dominated legislatures in nineteen northern states had enacted laws that enabled troops to vote in the field. The Union Army halted some military operations in November and furloughed thousands of soldiers to go home to vote in states that did not allow absentee balloting. In the presidential election, Abraham Lincoln won 78 percent of the soldier vote, and soldiers provided the margin of victory for Republicans in several key Congressional elections.47 The United States was the first nation to allow its soldiers to vote in an election during a civil war. When given this unique opportunity, Union soldiers voted to keep fighting until the Confederacy was defeated.

Discussion of the Literature

The first modern academic study of Union soldiers was Bell Irvin Wiley’s The Life of Billy Yank, a social history based on letters and diaries that provided an overview of a variety of topics such as motivation, camp life, morality, disease, battle, religion, and connections to family.48 Scholarship exploded decades later when historians focused on the questions of how soldiers’ cultural values shaped their experiences and whether or not their experiences altered their values. Gerald F. Linderman, using mainly postwar memoirs, argued that experience in combat, where death seemed random, caused soldiers to revise the Victorian ideal of courage that had motivated them early in the war. The army increased its institutional discipline to keep the disillusioned men fighting, and the embittered soldiers became estranged from the home front, where civilians still believed in the war’s initial ideals.49 James McPherson challenged these conclusions in a study that relied on a sample of the letters and diaries of Union volunteers and that focused on three categories of soldier motivation: initial, combat, and sustaining. McPherson found that an ideological commitment to the cause of liberty induced men to volunteer, helped them face combat, and kept them in the ranks over time. He found that courage remained a powerful force throughout the war and that soldiers remained connected to those at home.50 Lorien Foote, adding courts-martial records to the primary source base for studying Union soldiers, argued that experience in the Union Army exposed conflicting ideals of manhood and social class tension among soldiers. The original volunteers, many of them steeped in courage and honor, distrusted the manhood of the lower-class conscripts and roughs who entered the army after 1863, and Union officers targeted these men for strict discipline and harsh punishments.51 Foote’s study complicated the picture painted by Reid Mitchell, whose work emphasized the importance of Victorian gender ideals of self-control and domesticity for understanding Union soldiers.52

The questions of how Union soldiers coped with combat and how their war experiences altered their relationship to those who remained at home have continued to occupy an important place in the scholarly literature. Reid Mitchell argued that soldiers transformed their identities and psyches in the wake of traumatic experiences. They felt alienated from a public that could not understand what they had been through; their coping mechanism became an assertion of their own superiority in endurance and patriotism. Earl J. Hess, who has written the only thorough study of Union soldiers in combat, argued that most soldiers effectively managed their combat experience through physical contact with comrades, a pragmatic philosophy, and a flexible definition of courage. Regimental studies produced in the 2000s generally claimed that soldiers maintained close and sustaining connections with their families and sending communities. Important studies of Civil War veterans written by James Marten and Brian Matthew Jordan argue that many soldiers returned home with traumatic psychological wounds, were unable to move past their experiences, interpreted the war differently than those who had never fought, and had difficulty reintegrating into normal life.53

Historians have united behind a consensus that the republican values of soldiers undermined strict military discipline in the Union Army, although most soldiers were well-behaved and submitted to the discipline they believed was important for their success in battle. Stephen J. Ramold, who has written the most comprehensive study of the subject, argues that disorder and drinking was so endemic, and the scale of offenses so widespread, that officers were never able to implement the standards laid out in army regulations.54 Scholars who study Union soldiers’ interactions with southerners agree that by the end of the war the majority willingly engaged in destruction of property and blamed the southern population for continuing the war. Historians have examined the cultural and gender ideals that shaped soldiers’ treatment of southerners and that served at times to escalate and at times to restrain violence. Mark Grimsley concluded that concepts of civilization and morality placed important restraints on the behavior of a majority of soldiers. Lisa Tendrich Frank emphasizes that Union soldiers during Sherman’s march through Georgia treated slaveholding women as enemies and entered homes to send an explicit gendered message of northern male dominance intended to break women’s will.55

Historians who study immigrant and African American soldiers are divided over the question of whether or not service in the Union Army promoted assimilation and progress toward full citizenship rights. Susannah Ural and Christian Keller emphasize persistent nativism and the forces within immigrant communities that inhibited assimilation. Martin Őfele argues that most immigrants became “Americanized” by serving in integrated units within a national army fighting for national ideals. Christian G. Samito also believes that fighting in the Union Army strengthened the “American” identity of Irish and African American soldiers and gave them the tools to transform ideas about citizenship after the war. Keith P. Wilson argues that service in the war wrought fundamental transformations in African American’s culture and identity and that army camps became the locus of a new identity as an American citizen. Joseph T. Glatthaar’s seminal study of the U.S.C.T. remains the starting point for understanding race relations in the Union Army.56

Although historians agree that Union soldiers overwhelming supported Abraham Lincoln and the Republican Party in the elections of 1864, currently there is a sharp debate over the extent of soldier support for emancipation. James McPherson and Chandra Manning argue that their war experience transformed most soldiers into genuine antislavery emancipators. Gary Gallagher asserts that emancipation was a means, not an end, and remained subordinate to the cause of Union. Jonathan White’s controversial study argues that the resignation of Democratic soldiers after the Emancipation Proclamation, the use of courts-martial against Democratic officers, military coercion, and the number of soldiers who did not vote qualifies the generalization of overwhelming support for Lincoln.57

Primary Sources

The most important primary source materials on Union soldiers are their letters and diaries. These exist in abundance. The letters or diaries or both of countless individual Union soldiers have been published in their entirety by academic and trade presses, often with introductions and explanatory footnotes provided by expert Civil War historians. Manuscript collections that contain letters and diaries of Union soldiers exist in state and local archives across the country.58 The letters and diaries of an individual Union soldier are often found in an archive in his home state, but just as often an archive in a southern state has collected material on Union soldiers who participated in campaigns or served in an occupying force in that state. Significant manuscript collections are housed at the U.S. Army Military History Institute in Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania; The Huntington Library in San Marino, California; and the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. Soldiers produced and wrote their own regimental newspapers while in camp, a rich source for examining soldier attitudes and social life, which are now scattered in archival collections across the country.59

Official military records provide another important point of access to information about Union soldiers. Compiled service records and pension records, located at the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) in Washington, DC, and available in most cases on, often contain a surprising amount of material about a soldier’s service and the testimony of multiple witnesses. The NARA also houses the manuscript records of the Union Army during the Civil War. Record Group 94, Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, contains regimental order books, and Record Group 153, Records of the Bureau of Military justice, contains the text of tens of thousands of courts-martial of individual Union soldiers during the Civil War. Reading trials of soldiers charged with cowardice, disobedience, and a host of other crimes yields insight into the social life of soldiers as well as the relationship between officers and enlisted men.

Further Reading

Bledsoe, Andrew S. Citizen-Officers: The Union and Confederate Volunteer Junior Officer Corps in the American Civil War. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2015.Find this resource:

    Bruce, Susannah Ural. The Harp and the Eagle: Irish-American Volunteers and the Union Army, 1861–1865. New York: New York University Press, 2006.Find this resource:

      Foote, Lorien. The Gentlemen and the Roughs: Manhood, Honor and Violence in the Union Army. New York: New York University Press, 2010.Find this resource:

        Frank, Joseph Allen, and George A. Reaves. “Seeing the Elephant”: Raw Recruits at the Battle of Shiloh. New York: Greenwood, 1989.Find this resource:

          Frank, Lisa Tendrich. The Civilian War: Confederate Women and Union Soldiers during Sherman’s March. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2015.Find this resource:

            Glatthaar, Joseph T. The March to the Sea and Beyond: Sherman’s Troops in the Savannah and Carolinas Campaign. New York: New York University Press, 1985.Find this resource:

              Glatthaar, Joseph T. Forged in Battle: The Civil War Alliance of Black Soldiers and Their White Officers. New York: Free Press, 1990.Find this resource:

                Gordon, Lesley J. A Broken Regiment: The 16th Connecticut’s Civil War. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2014.Find this resource:

                  Grimsley, Mark. The Hard Hand of War: Union Military Policy toward Southern Civilians, 1861–1865. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995.Find this resource:

                    Hess, Earl J. The Union Soldier in Battle: Enduring the Ordeal of Combat. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1997.Find this resource:

                      Linderman, Gerald F. Embattled Courage: The Experience of Combat in the American Civil War. New York: Free Press, 1989.Find this resource:

                        Manning, Chandra. What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery and the Civil War. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007.Find this resource:

                          McPherson, James. For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.Find this resource:

                            Meier, Kathryn Shively. Nature’s Civil War: Common Soldiers and the Environment in 1862 Virginia. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013.Find this resource:

                              Mitchell, Reid. Civil War Soldiers: Their Expectations and Their Experiences. New York: Viking, 1988.Find this resource:

                                Mitchell, Reid. The Vacant Chair: The Northern Soldier Leaves Home. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.Find this resource:

                                  Öfele, Martin. True Sons of the Republic: European Immigrants in the Union Army. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2008.Find this resource:

                                    Ramold, Steven J. Baring the Iron Hand: Discipline in the Union Army. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2010.Find this resource:

                                      Raus, Edmund J. Banners South: A Northern Community at War. Kent, OH: The Kent State University Press, 2005.Find this resource:

                                        Samito, Christian G. Becoming American Under Fire: Irish Americans, African Americans, and the Politics of Citizenship during the Civil War Era. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2009.Find this resource:

                                          Smith, John David. Black Soldiers in Blue: African American Troops in the Civil War Era. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002.Find this resource:

                                            Wilson, Keith P. Campfires of Freedom: The Camp Life of Black Soldiers during the Civil War. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2002.Find this resource:

                                              Woodworth, Steven E. While God is Marching On: The Religious World of Civil War Soldiers. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2001.Find this resource:


                                                (1.) James M. McPherson and James K. Hogue, Ordeal by Fire: The Civil War and Reconstruction, 4th ed. (New York: McGraw Hill, 2010), 181.

                                                (2.) Ricardo A. Herrera, For Liberty and the Republic: The American Citizen as Soldier, 1775–1861 (New York: New York University Press, 2015).

                                                (3.) James M. McPherson, For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997); Andre M. Fleche, The Revolution of 1861: The American Civil War in the Age of Nationalist Conflict (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012).

                                                (4.) Frances M. Clarke, War Stories: Suffering and Sacrifice in the Civil War North (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011), 22, 53, 85; Lorien Foote and Kanisorn Wongsrichanalai, eds., So Conceived and So Dedicated: Intellectual Life in the Civil War Era North (New York: Fordham University Press, 2015), 1–18.

                                                (5.) Gerald J. Prokopowicz, All for the Regiment: The Army of the Ohio, 1861–1862 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001); Lorien Foote, The Gentlemen and the Roughs: Manhood, Honor, and Violence in the Union Army (New York: New York University Press, 2010), 9.

                                                (6.) William L. Burton, Melting Pot Soldiers: The Union’s Ethnic Regiments (Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1988).

                                                (7.) McPherson and Hogue, Ordeal by Fire, 386–387.

                                                (8.) Foote, Gentlemen and the Roughs, 9–10.

                                                (9.) Mark A. Weitz, “Drill, Training, and the Combat Performance of the Civil War Soldier: Dispelling the Myth of the Poor Soldier, Great Fighter,” Journal of Military History 62, no. 2 (1998): 263–289; Foote, Gentlemen and the Roughs, 10.

                                                (10.) Foote, Gentlemen and the Roughs, 154, 160–161.

                                                (11.) Foote, 154, 160–161.

                                                (12.) Foote, 168–169; McPherson, For Cause and Comrades, 53–57.

                                                (13.) Foote, Gentlemen and the Roughs, 20–22.

                                                (14.) George C. Rable, God’s Almost Chosen Peoples: A Religious History of the American Civil War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010); Lorien Foote, “Civil War Soldiers,” in Companion to the U.S. Civil War, vol. 1, ed. Aaron Sheehan Dean (New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014), 121.

                                                (15.) Steven E. Woodworth, While God is Marching On: The Religious World of Civil War Soldiers (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2001), 184–197, 218–225; Foote, “Civil War Soldiers,” 121.

                                                (16.) Foote, Gentlemen and the Roughs, 20–22.

                                                (17.) Foote, Gentlemen and the Roughs, 30; Steven J. Ramold, Baring the Iron Hand: Discipline in the Union Army (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2010); Foote, “Civil War Soldiers,” 122.

                                                (18.) Foote, Gentlemen and the Roughs, 77–80, 106.

                                                (19.) Kathryn Shively Meier, Nature’s Civil War: Common Soldiers and the Environment in 1862 Virginia (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013).

                                                (20.) Foote, Gentlemen and the Roughs, 50–53.

                                                (21.) Kathryn Shively Meier, “Organic Armies: Military Engagement with Nature during the American Civil War,” South Central Review 33, no. 1 (Spring 2016): 37–42; Foote, Gentlemen and the Roughs, 50–53.

                                                (22.) These concepts are presented in a manuscript written by Peter S. Carmichael entitled “The War for the Common Soldier.”

                                                (23.) Stephen V Ash, When the Yankees Came: Conflict and Chaos in the Occupied South, 1861–1865 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995), 76–77; William G. Thomas III, Kaci Nash, and Robert Shephard, “Places of Exchange: An Analysis of Human and Materiél Flows in Civil War Alexandria, Virginia,” Civil War History 62, no. 4 (2016): 362; Judkin Browning, “I am Not So Patriotic as I Was Once: The Effects of Military Occupation on the Occupying Union Soldiers during the Civil War,” Civil War History 55, no. 2 (2009): 217–243.

                                                (24.) Foote, “Civil War Soldiers,” 119.

                                                (25.) Joseph Allen Frank and George A. Reaves, Seeing the Elephant: Raw Recruits at the Battle of Shiloh (New York: Greenwood, 1989); Foote, “Civil War Soldiers,” 119.

                                                (26.) Weitz, “Drill, Training, and Combat Performance,” 279.

                                                (27.) Earl J. Hess, The Union Soldier in Battle: Enduring the Ordeal of Combat (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1997); Foote, “Civil War Soldiers,” 119–120.

                                                (28.) Foote, Gentlemen and the Roughs, 57–58.

                                                (29.) Carol Reardon, With a Sword in One Hand and Jomini in the Other: The Problem of Military Thought in the Civil War North (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012), 89–124.

                                                (30.) McPherson and Hogue, Ordeal by Fire, 273–274, 384–386.

                                                (31.) Tyler Anbinder, “Which Poor Man’s Fight? Immigrants and the Federal Conscription of 1863,” Civil War History 52, no. 4 (December 2006): 372.

                                                (32.) Foote, Gentlemen and the Roughs, 70.

                                                (33.) Foote, Gentlemen and the Roughs, 139.

                                                (34.) Ella Lonn, Desertion during the Civil War (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1998), 29–30, 149–150.

                                                (35.) Carmichael, “War for the Common Soldier.”

                                                (36.) The concept of multiple and competing loyalties is found in studies of Confederate deserters, which comprise the vast majority of the scholarship, but the concept could also be applied to Union deserters. See Mark S. Weitz, A Higher Duty: Desertion among Georgia Troops during the Civil War (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000); Scott King-Owen, “Conditional Confederates: Absenteeism among Western North Carolina Soldiers, 1861–1865,” Civil War History, 57, no. 4 (2011): 349–379.

                                                (37.) Robert M. Sandow, Deserter Country: Civil War Opposition in the Pennsylvania Appalachians (New York: Fordham University Press, 2009).

                                                (38.) Martin Öfele, True Sons of the Republic: European Immigrants in the Union Army (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2008).

                                                (39.) Susannah Ural Bruce, The Harp and the Eagle: Irish-American Volunteers and the Union Army, 1861–1865 (New York: New York University Press, 2006).

                                                (40.) Christian B. Keller, Chancellorsville and the Germans: Nativism, Ethnicity, and Civil War Memory (New York: Fordham University Press, 2007).

                                                (41.) Joseph T. Glatthaar, Forged in Battle: The Civil War Alliance of Black Soldiers and White Officers (New York: The Free Press, 1990), 113, 226–227; Foote, Gentlemen and the Roughs, 162–163.

                                                (42.) Glatthaar, Forged in Battle, 12–18, 226–227; Keith P. Wilson, Campfires of Freedom: The Camp Life of Black Soldiers during the Civil War (Kent: Kent State University Press, 2002); Foote, Gentlemen and the Roughs, 47.

                                                (43.) Christian G. Samito, Becoming American Under Fire: Irish Americans, African Americans, and the Politics of Citizenship during the Civil War Era (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2009).

                                                (44.) Reid Mitchell, Civil War Soldiers: Their Expectations and Their Experiences (New York: Viking, 1988); Foote, “Civil War Soldiers,” 117.

                                                (45.) Mark Grimsley, The Hard Hand of War: Union Military Policy toward Southern Civilians, 1861–1865 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 225; Lisa Tendrich Frank, The Civilian War: Confederate Women and Union Soldiers during Sherman’s March (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2015).

                                                (46.) Chandra Manning, What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007); Glenn David Brasher, The Peninsula Campaign & the Necessity of Emancipation: African Americans & the Fight for Freedom (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012).

                                                (47.) McPherson and Hogue, Ordeal by Fire, 492–493. For an alternative explanation of the soldier vote in these elections, see Jonathan White, Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2014).

                                                (48.) Bell Irvin Wiley, The Life of Billy Yank: The Common Soldier of the Union (Indianapolis: The Bobs-Merrill Company, 1952).

                                                (49.) Gerald F. Linderman, Embattled Courage: The Experience of Combat in the American Civil War (New York: Free Press, 1987).

                                                (50.) McPherson, For Cause and Comrades.

                                                (51.) Foote, Gentlemen and the Roughs.

                                                (52.) Reid Mitchell, The Vacant Chair: The Northern Soldier Leaves Home (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993).

                                                (53.) Reid Mitchell, Civil War Soldiers; Hess, Union Soldier in Battle; Edmund J. Raus, Banners South: A Northern Community at War (Kent, OH: The Kent State University Press, 2005); James Marten, Sing Not War: The Lives of Union & Confederate Veterans in Gilded Age America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011); Brian Matthew Jordan, Marching Home: Union Veterans and Their Unending Civil War (New York: Liveright, 2014).

                                                (54.) Ramold, Baring the Iron Hand.

                                                (55.) Grimsley, Hard Hand of War; Frank, The Civilian War.

                                                (56.) See endnotes 31–36.

                                                (57.) McPherson, For Cause and Comrades; Manning, What This Cruel War Was Over; Gary W. Gallagher, The Union War (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2012); White, Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln.

                                                (58.) The state and university archives with the most extensive collections of primary source material on Union soldiers include: the Connecticut Historical Society; the Chicago Historical Society; the Illinois State Historical Society; the Indiana Historical Society; the Kansas State Historical Society; the Massachusetts Historical Society; the Schoff Collection at Clements Library, University of Michigan; the Minnesota Historical Society; the New York State Library Special Collections (Albany, NY); the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University; the Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Libraries; the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collection Library at the University of Virginia; the Atlanta History Center; the Ohio Historical Society; the Vermont Historical Society; and the State Historical Society of Wisconsin.

                                                (59.) A list of regimental newspaper names and archival locations is found in Manning, What this Cruel War Was Over, 324–326.