The Confederate States Army
Officially the Confederate States Army was founded as a volunteer force by the Provisional Confederate Congress, with control of its operations in the hands of Provisional President Jefferson Davis in February 1861. The loss of records during and following the war make it difficult to estimate the total number who served in it, some believe that somewhere between 500,000 and 1.5 million while others propose 750,000 to 1,000,000 as more realistic numbers. In addition, an untold number of slaves were forced into service to build encampments, fortifications, roads, and other support needed for military operations.
The Confederate Army’s organization was based on that of the United States Army, unsurprisingly since many senior Confederate officers had served in the US Army at some point. The Army was made up of infantry, cavalry, and artillery and the basic unit of command was a company, theoretically made up of one hundred soldiers. Ten companies made a regiment. As the war went on and casualties were absorbed while replacements were scarce, most regiments sank to less than half their optimal size.
There were several field armies, which in the South were normally named for the region of their operation, as opposed to the Northern custom of naming them for major rivers. Robert E Lee commanded the largest Confederate Army, called the Army of Northern Virginia.
Regiments were raised, trained and supplied by the individual states and bore the name of their state and their regimental number, for example 4th Virginia. Eventually over 1,000 regiments were raised by the Confederate states for the army, in comparison the Union raised over 2,000.
In the early years of the war the Confederate Armies were successful in combat in the East, mostly in Virginia and Maryland, and less so in the west. Casualties were enormously high for both sides. Despite the long-lived legend of the Confederate’s esprit d’corps, by 1864 Jefferson Davis estimated that there were over 100,000 men then labeled as deserters in the South, having seen enough of war and the growing strength of the Union armies.