Intro – American Civil War
The American Civil War was fought from 1861-1865 (19th century) between the Northern and Southern states of the U.S. Over these five years of the Civil War, an estimated 750,000 men died. This is the bloodiest war in American history and one we are still feeling the effects of to this day.
However, one question that many may wonder is who fought in the Civil War. What men volunteered and who was drafted to serve in the military? Where did these soldiers come from? In this article, we will address these questions and will look at who fought in the Civil War.
North and South
The Civil War saw the North, or the Union, fighting the Southern states, or the Confederacy. Seven states left the Union to form the Confederate States of America following the election of Abraham Lincoln.
After Fort Sumter was fired on and President Lincoln issued a call for volunteers to join the Union forces to suppress the rebellion, four more states seceded. These states that formed the Confederacy were South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina.
The Confederacy began to form a military and prepared for war with the Northern states of the United States. Upon the Southern states seceding, S.C. demanded that Fort Sumter be given over to the Confederate powers. However, Lincoln refused to recognize the Southern states. Confederate forces under P.G.T. Beauregard fired on the fort and the Civil War began.
The Confederate forces then clashed with the Northern states for the next five years until the Confederacy finally surrendered in 1865. This war brought about famous battles such as Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Bull Run, Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, Hampton Roads, and many, many more.
Eventually, in 1864, Ulysses S. Grant was elevated to Lieutenant General and was given command of the Union army. Grant launched his Overland Campaign and eventually defeated Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia, effectively ending the Civil War. This brought an end to the Confederate states and brought about the process of reconstruction, or reuniting the shattered nation.
Sadly for the nation, the anti-slavery Lincoln was killed just days after the end of the Civil War and his Vice President Andrew Johnson took power. He failed to reunite the nation and bring America back together. Abraham Lincoln did, however, make lasting changes to America before his death. A perfect example is the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th amendment.
Women Who Fought in the Civil War
The Civil War was fought primarily by American men. However, these were not the only people to serve in the military. An estimated 1,000 women served in the Civil War as combat soldiers.
These women would disguise themselves as men to slip into the ranks. Notable women who served were Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, Loreta Janeta Velazquez, and Sarah Edmonds. These women fearlessly fought side-by-side with their male counterparts.
Immigrants Who Fought in the Civil War
There was also a large number of immigrants who served in the Civil War. It is estimated that four million immigrants served. One million of these soldiers arrived from Ireland, half a million from German states, and over 250,000 from Britain. These immigrants fought fearlessly and gave their lives for the cause of their side.
Racial Groups that Fought in the Civil War
Not only did immigrants fight in the Civil War, but, many different racial groups within America fought as well. On the Union side, many African Americans served. However, there are no records of African Americans serving in the Confederacy.
This is not to say that an African-American never fired a gun at Union soldiers. However, there were no official black Confederate soldiers. Native Americans and Hispanic Americans also served as well.
States that Fought in the Civil War
There were a total of twenty states that were involved in the Civil War for the Union and that sent soldiers to fight. Very crucial were the border states that nearly sided with the South. Those states were as follows:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
These states organized units and sent them to fight in the Civil War. This is not to state that soldiers did not arrive and fight from the territories, as they certainly did. However, this list states the official states that were established and sent organized units to fight in the Civil War.
The Union Draft
Not every soldier who fought in the Civil War did so voluntarily. Some soldiers were drafted into the armed forces. Both North and South instituted a draft.
In 1863, the U.S. Congress passed the Conscription Act. This act made 20-45-year-old men register for a draft. However, for $300 or by finding someone to take your place, you could become exempt.
The Confederate States of America Draft
The Confederacy began its conscription before the North did. In 1862, all men ages 18-35 were ordered to fight in the army if they were selected. These ages were later expanded. Like the Union, in the South men could find a way around the draft through a fee or a substitute.
These conscription acts were not happily accepted by citizens of either the North or the South. There were riots and pushed back. The most famous event was the New York draft riots that occurred in July 1863.
These riots lasted for a total of five days and resulted in the death of hundreds. The violence of these riots often turned racial and focused on African-American citizens.
Summary of Who Fought in the Civil War
The Civil War was a brutal war that left a scar on America forever. While we typically think of the men who served, there were also many women and immigrants who also gave their lives serving in this war that ultimately brought America back together.
Many of those who served did not do so voluntarily as they were drafted into the army due to the passing of conscription acts.