Veterans of the American Civil War

Veterans of the American Civil War established a slew of distinct veterans' organizations after the war. The men of a particular town or county made up some, while the survivors of specific armies, corps, regiments, or even companies constituted others, while some were made up of distinct groups like prisoners of war or members of the signal corps. However, only two organizations held sway.

The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), which was created in 1866 and peaked in membership twenty years later with 400,000 former Yankees, had 400,000 members by the 1880s. In 1889, a number of lesser organizations merged to become the United Confederate Veterans (UCV), which by 1900 had amassed 160,000 members.

Local "posts"

Local "posts" of the GAR and UCV were named after great general or local heroes and were organized at national, state, and local levels. To aid the GAR and UCV, a variety of "soldiers' newspapers" were printed. The American Tribune, National Tribune, and Ohio Soldier all published war memoirs, reunion reports, and pension information for GAR members, while the Confederate Veteran served as the UCV's official publication for forty years.

Fraternity, Charity and Loyalty were the GAR's three core values, and their motto was a perfect representation of them (priorities that were shared, in fact, by the UCV). During their monthly get-togethers and annual "encampments," which were open to family and friends, they would tell war stories, eat "soldiers' meals" of dried beans, hardtack, and coffee, and recreate military style camps and fights to fulfill the "Fraternity" part of the slogan.

The American Civil War begins

Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, was under threat from the Confederacy even before Lincoln took office in March 1861.

In response to Lincoln's command to send a ship to resupply Sumter, Confederate artillery opened fire on April 12, starting the Civil War. Fort Sumter was captured by the Confederates under the direction of Pierre G. T. Beauregard when its commander, Major Robert Anderson, surrendered after less than two days of bombardment. Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee were the next four states to join the Confederacy after Fort Sumter was captured. Missouri, Kentucky, and Maryland did not separate because of their proximity to the Confederacy, but their residents had a strong pro-Confederate stance.

The Union's overwhelming population

Railroad construction advantages over its Confederate counterparts

However, despite the Union's overwhelming population, manufacturing (including arms production), and railroad construction advantages over its Confederate counterparts, the Civil War was fought by two sides with strong military traditions and some of the country's best soldiers and commanders on both sides. It was important to them that their long-held traditions and institutions, like as slavery, were preserved.

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The post-Civil War experiences of veterans.

Union and Confederate veterans have a lot in common with modern-day American combatants. Yankees and Rebels, like WWII warriors known as "the Greatest Generation," showed tenacity and commitment in the face of adversity. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and physical infirmities plagued them, as they were stereotyped to be among Vietnam War veterans. In Iraq and Afghanistan, they were citizen-soldiers like the National Guardsmen and reservists who have borne a large part of the weight of the conflicts. Moreover, as is the case for the majority of American combat veterans, their service as soldiers was overshadowed by their time as veterans.

Numerous veterans

Veterans from both sides of the battle were prominent in post-war society, with an estimated 1.5 million Union and 600,000 Confederate veterans. That they occupied a majority of political positions is one thing. Numerous veterans from both sides served in state and municipal government positions, including governor, senator, and congressman positions during this time period. However, the value of veterans to American culture and the Civil War's legacies went far beyond their political clout.

Monuments to Civil War

Monuments to Civil War veterans may be found in town squares, cemeteries, and other public sites across the country by the 1880s. Although they were already being referred to as "old warriors," these men, who were in their forties and fifties at the time, were still very much a part of their communities. Veteran organizations and participation in holidays like Memorial Day and the Fourth of July made them well-known.

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American Civil War

Rare images depict the experiences of African-American troops in the American Civil War.

Veterans of the Confederacy

Veterans of the Confederacy and their fellow South Carolinians paid tribute to the valor and selflessness of the former Confederates.

In most areas, Confederate Memorial Day was observed on April 26, while it was observed later in the summer in several states. It had the same mixture of melancholy and joyous elements as its northern counterpart. About 180,000 African-American troops fought for the North to eradicate slavery, she would learn later. Free African American soldiers made up a tenth of the Union army by the end. A video interview with Willis shows him saying that during the Civil War, black troops weren't just defending their own liberation, they were also defending the liberation of their families and fellow African-Americans. "They believed in the importance of fighting for the cause." 40,000 Black Union soldiers had been killed by the end of the war in 1865, with sickness or disease killing three-quarters of them. There aren't many surviving accounts, but Willis' study turned up heartwarming tales of :

  • Black patriotism;
  • love;
  • and bravery.

"The Black Civil War Soldier: A Visual History of Conflict and Citizenship," her newly published book, illuminated these forgotten soldiers and their families through a vast archive of rarely-seen pictures from the Civil War.