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Confederate Living History Units

art by A. Jay SkiiOn 6 March 1861 the Confederate Provisional Congress established the Army of the Confederate States of America. This army, poorly organized when the war began, was soon overshadowed by the volunteer forces known officially as the Provisional Army.

On the outbreak of the American Civil War, 313 officers left the United States Army to join the Confederate Army. President Jefferson Davis called for 82,000 volunteers but this was clearly not enough and in August, 1861, the Confederate Congress authorized the recruitment of 400,000 men. It was the responsibility of the individual states to recruit these men.

On 28 February and 6 March the Confederate Congress gave the president control over military operations and the power to muster state forces and volunteers. On 8 May it authorized enlistments for the war, and on 8 August, after four more states had joined the Confederacy, it called for 400,000 volunteers to serve for either one or three years. In April 1862, congressmen passed the first conscription act, which drafted men directly into the Provisional Army.


The decentralized political structure of the Confederacy forced lawmakers to clarify its military chain of command from the start. On 16 May 1861 the Confederate congress established the rank of general to give Confederate commanders control over state troops. Under an act passed on 28 February 1861, the military gained the power to appoint major generals in the Provisional Army. Finally, in September 1862, Confederate legislators created the rank of lieutenant general in the Provisional Army.


At the beginning of 1862 Davis announced that the South could not win the war without conscription. In April, the Confederate Congress passed the Conscription Act which drafted white men between eighteen and thirty-five for three years' service.

Rank and Awards

In the Confederate Army all officers below the rank of brigadier were elected by the troops. There were no medals awarded as it was claimed they were all heroes and it would be wrong to single anyone out. The highest honor was to be mentioned in dispatches.

Some Not-So-Willing

Some soldiers in the Confederate Army was willing to defend the South from the Union Army but objected to offensive operations. When Robert E. Lee decided to take the war to the north in the summer of 1863, an estimated 50,000 men deserted. This number increased after the defeats at Vicksburg and Gettysburg. By the end of the war there were an estimated 100,000 deserters at large in the South.

The Confederacy faced serious challenges outfitting its troops and planning a vast military campaign throughout the Civil War. The government had little access to modern weaponry and was forced to hire privateers to run the Union blockade and purchase arms abroad. The fledgling government also faced the task of procuring shoes, clothing, and blankets for soldiers at a time when wool and leather were scarce. Furthermore, the region's dearth of railroads and canals made it difficult for the government to ship goods and to feed its troops. The South's weak infrastructure also affected Confederate military strategy. By 1863, horses and mules were scarce, which limited the mobility of the army's cavalry, artillery, and baggage trains. These difficulties were exacerbated by a divided leadership structure that limited prompt coordination between military departments. All of these challenges dictated how Confederate generals would wage war against Union leaders, who could draw recruits from a larger population and enjoyed access to better transportation and resources.

A total of 1,406,180 men enlisted in the Confederate Army during the war. An estimated 52,954 men who were killed in action, 21,570 died of their wounds and 59,297 were the victims of disease. At the end of the war 174,223 men surrendered to the Union Army.

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Civil War Living History Articles

Welcome to reenactor.Net's brand new articles section. Here you can post articles on how to improve your civil war impression, handy tips, events you've been too, even Civil War short stories. Let your mind and your pen go free! If you have anything to submit, please send it to Trish Furman-Leve. Thanks and enjoy!


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Start to Improve Your Civil War Impression Today

by Steve Bennett

It is the goal of every living historian to improve their impression. To capture the very essence of a Civil War solider is something all living historians should strive towards, not only to add to the authenticity of the event but also to the authenticity of our units and presentations to the public. However, in today's busy bustling society, many living historians can not seem to find the time or in some cases, the money, to work at improving our Civil War impressions. However, to believe that it takes tons of money and time to improve one's own impression is a myth that is far too common among living historians. By taking several small steps and actions, one can greatly improve their impression in very little time. Start improving your impression today:

Be More Generic

A major key to living history impressions today, particularly in the Civil War, has to do with how generic one's impression is. Basically in layman's terms, this means that many units and living historians today make their impressions far too specific. By making one's impression more common, to represent the common soldier, is to greatly improve the impression. Lose corps badges, and excess brass. Documents point out that brass indicating infantry, artillery, and cavalry were not standard issue, and had to be purchased separately by troops. So, the more generic the look, the better. By representing the common solider (unless a specific situation calls for something different) you will greatly improve your impression.

Wear Your Kit and Wear it Right

Another major facet to improving impression regards kit. After going to many reenactments, one finds that far too many living historians wear their gear wrong. The most common mistake seems to be people wearing their gear too low. In the 1860s troops (and most people in general) wore their pants and belts higher than is common now. To prove this, try marching any distance with your kit hanging low around your waist. Ouch! Do that, and you quickly realize soldiers must have wore their accoutrements high. Also, try and carry all of your kit. This means haversack, bedroll, backpack, tin cup, cartridge box, etc. Soldiers commonly went straight out of the march and deployed straight into battle, so there was not any major setting up of camps to leave their possessions at. Finally, don't overload yourself with gear. Period reports talk a lot about seeing all sorts of items (both issue and personal) scattered all over the roads after the pass of a marching army. Try and make your impression indicate some hard campaigning, which most troops both North and South did prior to battle.

Get the Right Stuff

Keep in mind when buying your equipment some things to look out for. By learning about sewing and shoes, you can keep a good eye out for what is quality fair and what isn't. Consider learning how to make your own uniform! You never know. In any case, some obvious ways to craft a good impression are to stick to one hundred percent natural materials, particularly wool and cotton. Certain thing like button holes should definitely be hand sewn, not machine sewn! You can get instructions on how to do this practically anywhere now, so no excuses! For buttons, buckles, etc, make sure you don't use stainless steel. Remember, when in doubt, get issue. Many soldiers did not have the luxury of home made or supplementary items (with a few exceptions in the personal belongings department of course, always nice to have some 19th Century toys...) This rule can be bent a little more for Confederate living historians however, whose possessions could usually be a mix of issue and homemade. When in doubt, research! This may sound like a huge, arduous process, but if you search out a few good period pictures you can easily craft your impression to be more authentic.


Weapons should also be appropriate for your unit. Unless you have a specific unit impression (Mississippi comes to mind) stick to three-band rifles and remember to authenticate them! This means break out the 'ole sandpaper and varnish and remove the plastic coating that "new" weapons come with. Remember to finish the musket correctly, and of course, modern markings and plates should be replaced with historically correct ones. Your weapon will probably turn out to be the most expensive part of your kit, and one of the most important. This area is crucial in order to improve your Civil War impression.


Finally, there are some things one can do personally that will greatly improve the authenticity of any Civil War impression. Firstly, lose weight. This will benefit you in the long term health wise, and it will also make you look more authentic. Most Civil War soldiers were light compared to today's society, but of course, this option of your impression is completely personal. Secondly, keep the hair short. Lice and grime was quite an issue throughout the Civil War, so soldiers in the ranks were forced to keep their hair short to prevent contracting the lice. If your portraying a Southern soldier, you might want to consider making your haircut somewhat dishevelled. Again, this area of your impression depends greatly on how seriously you take the Civil War! Beards are acceptable in a large range of variety and styles, so depending on the time of the year the event your attending is, your unit, and your preference, consider growing a "campaign" beard. Make sure it's authentic by finding a first source in the form of original pictures. Make sure things like modern watches, cigarettes, anything plastic out of your impression completely, or at the very least, hidden away in your haversack. Not everyone will take this to the extreme, and in the end is really a matter of preference. If you wish to carry some modern comforts with you, just don't hang wear them for all to see!

In Conclusion

These are only a few general suggestions you can use to improve your Civil War impression. This truly is only the tip of the iceberg of information on improving authenticity published today. To improve your impression in all living history areas, just remember two things. One, use common sense. If you follow your gut and try and imitate the pictures, you should turn out alright. Time and experience will allow you to craft your impression to good degrees the longer you stay in Living History. Finally, remember to have fun. This is, after all, not an occupation (though some of us wish it could be, but alas...) So go out there, read up at your library, and enjoy yourself. See you in the field!!!

-- Copyright 2001 by Steven Bennett

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Civil War Sutlers

Welcome to reenactor.Net's Civil War sutlery section. Here you can find various the locations of sutlers across North America and what they specialize in. If you have a submission, please send it to us. Thanks!!

American Civil War Sutlers
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Plowshare Forge -- Hand-forged, reproduction fighting knives at reasonable prices. Specializing in private purchase blades from both world wars and Confederate Bowie knives. Monthly specials and closeouts

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Civil War Research Sites and Links

Welcome to reenactor.Net's Civil War Research Sites and Links section.

Alas... this page is still a bit weak, but we're working on it! We plan to try and do a thorough rework one of these days, but this is a long slow process, so please have patience. We have checked most of these links and fixed them (well, there might be a bad one or two, but...). We have a LOT more to add! Also, we need some text with each link, so if this is your site, or you can write it for us, please, let us have a paprgraph on each link ;-) Send us the text (and which link it's for to

If you have a site we should be listing here, or know of a good Civil War website that we don't list, please fell free to let us know. Better yet, click the link below to use the add-link form! And Please feel free to report all broken links to us.

If you know a great Civil War site that isn't listed, or have the new link of a broken one below, please let us know by filling out the form here. Thanks!!!

American Civil War Homepage

American Civil War Page

American Civil War, The

Army of Virginia and the Army of the Potomac 1861-1865

Bob Koch's U. S. Civil War Site

Civil War Archive

Civil War Book News

Civil War Diaries

Civil War History

Civil War in Miniature

Civil War Lighthouse Chat

Civil War Medicine

Civil War Miscellany

Civil War Mysteries: Home of the Unknowns

Civil War Photography Center

Civil War Quiz Game

Civil War Series

Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System

Civil War Traveler

Eye of the Storm

Financing the Civil War

History Place: The U.S. Civil War 1861-1865

Images of the Civil War

Institute For Civil War Research

Jews in the Civil War

Last Salute

Malcolm's Civil War Battlefield Photos

McSwain's Civil War Relics

Mike's Civil War

Rosters and Military Sources

Scartoons: Racial Satire and the U.S. Civil War

Selected Civil War Photographs

Songs and Poems of the Union

Texts about the American Civil War from the Modern English Collection

This Week in the Civil War

Time Line of the Civil War

Trial of Captain Henry Wirz

U.S. Civil War Discussion Port

United States Civil War

US Smallpox Hospital - Minton House

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