Show Summary Details

Page of

Printed from Oxford Research Encyclopedias, American History. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 07 October 2022

Civil War Regimentslocked

Civil War Regimentslocked

  • Lesley J. GordonLesley J. GordonDepartment of History, University of Alabama

Summary

The regiment was the essential “building block” of Civil War armies. Assigned by states, most volunteer regiments were organized based on soldiers’ home residence and reflective of those local communities. Each branch of the army—infantry, artillery, and cavalry—formed into regiments with varying numbers of companies and overall strength. There were regular army regiments and units specially designated for African American troops. As the war dragged on, regimental strengths diminished dramatically. The Confederate Army tried to refill older units with conscripts and new recruits, while the Union created new regiments to replace depleted ones and later consolidated smaller ones. Neither side was entirely successful in restoring regiments to full authorized strength. Nonetheless, the regiment was more than a mode of organization—it was the prime source of identity and pride for volunteers and later veterans. While armies, divisions, and brigades were crucial to winning battles, and companies forged tight bonds of loyalty, it was the regiment to which most soldiers claimed a personal allegiance. Famed regiments like the 1st Minnesota Infantry Regiment, the 1st Texas Infantry Regiment, and the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment cited their battle honors and high casualty numbers as proof of their fighting prowess. After the war ended, veterans produced hundreds of regimental histories, recounting their battle service and seeking to claim a place in history. Although many historians dismiss these accounts as worthless for serious scholarly research, regimental histories offer rich firsthand accounts of the conflict. They also offer a vehicle for narrating the war in a form well familiar to the soldiers who experienced it.

Subjects

  • Colonial History

You do not currently have access to this article

Login

Please login to access the full content.

Subscribe

Access to the full content requires a subscription