Civil War Roots
Introduction - Militia - Conscription - General Military Information - US Units - Artillery - Battalions and Legions - Cavalry - Infantry - Misc. Alabama Units - Non-Alabama Units - Counties of Origin
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During the course of the American Civil War (or War Between the States), Alabama provided the following types and numbers of units to the Confederate cause:
- Sixty-one regiments of Infantry with Alabama state identification
- Fourteen regiments of Cavalry with Alabama state identification
- Twenty-seven batteries of Artillery with Alabama state identification
- Two independent battalions of Infantry with Alabama state identification
- Two independent battalions of Cavalry with Alabama state identification
- One regiment of Infantry with Confederate national identification
- Four regiments of Cavalry with Confederate national identification
- One independent battalion of Infantry with Confederate national identification
Generally, units having a 'Confederate national identification' were units composed of men from multiple states.
Alabama men were also to be found in units raised in all the neighboring states, as well as Missouri, Tennessee and Kentucky.
Alabama also provided troops to the Union cause:
- One regiment of Cavalry with Alabama state identification
- One regiment of Heavy Artillery with United States identification
- Six regiments of Infantry with United States identification
The artillery and infantry regiments were composed of freed slaves, enlisted into United States service, and credited as being Alabama organizations.
Before the war every state had a militia, the forerunner of today's National Guard. The Alabama militia was called the Alabama Volunteer Guard. This researcher has never done a definitive study of the AVG, but apparently it was composed of battalion-size units, composed of local companies raised within defined recruiting areas of the state. These AVG battalions were already organized, equipped, and trained (at least to some degree) before the outbreak of hostilities, and therefore deemed ready to be called into immediate service. A few were deployed outside the state almost at once, later to be consolidated with other similar-size units, and formed into regiments. Most however, were used as nucleus (or cadre) units, around which to form new volunteer regiments, prior to deployment. In both cases, upon consolidation these units took on the new regimental identification.
There are scant few records known to exist, concerning the pre-war and wartime Alabama militia, and the various local 'homeguard' companies that were organized at one time or another. The researcher is referred to local historical and genealogical societies for their assistance and recommendations.
The Enrolment Act of April 16, 1862, established the conscription act for military service. On April 21, 1862, the Confederate Congress enacted an amendment to the Enrolment Act exempting certain classes of persons. These were: Confederate or State officials, mail carriers, ferrymen on post-office routes, pilots, telegraph operators, miners, printers, ministers, college professors, teachers with twenty pupils or more, teachers of the deaf, dumb, and blind, hospital attendants, one druggist to each drug store, and superintendents and operatives in cotton and wool factories.
The act was modified on October 9, 1862 to include special details from the army to perform certain types of skilled labor. This was considered to be an exemption. The first details were for the manufacture of shoes but was extended to include: state militia officers, state and confederate clerks in the civil service, railway employees who were not common labor, steamboat employees, one editor and the necessary printers for each newspaper, those morally opposed to war, provided they furnished a substitute or paid $500 into the treasury, physicians, professors, and teachers who had been engaged in the profession for two years or more, government artisans, mechanics, and other employees, contractors and their employees furnishing arms and supplies to the state or the confederacy, factory owners, shoemakers, millers, tanners, blacksmiths, wagonmakers, and engineers. On every plantation where there were twenty or more negroes one white man was entitled to an exemption as an overseer.
In mid and late 1863 amendments were added to exempt mail contractors and drivers of post coaches and it was ordered that those exempt under the "Twenty-negro" law should pay $500 into the confederate treasury and also state officials exempted by the governor might also be exempt by the Confederate authorities. The law permitting the hiring of substitutes by men liable to service was repealed on December 28, 1863, and a few days later even those who had furnished substitutes were made subject to military duty.
Fleming states that, "The Enrolment Laws were necessary to make the people aware of the actual situation of the state of the war at that time. Upon the passage of the law all the loyal population liable to service made preparations to go to the front before being conscripted, which was deemed a disgrace, and at the close of 1862 saw practically all of them in the army. Those who entered after 1862 were boys and old men." He also is of the opinion that the best men were in the army and those that were left behind, mainly the malcontents and lingerers, formed the public opinion as they were the majority that had not left for military service. From them came the complaint about the favoritism toward the rich. The talk of a "rich man's war and a poor man's fight" originated with them, as the criticism of the "twenty-negro law". In the minds of the soldiers at the front there was no doubt that the slaveholder and the rich man were doing their full share. The wealthy young men volunteered, at first as privates or officers; the older men of wealth nearly all became officers, chosen by their men. Very few of the slaveholders and wealthy men tried to escape service; but when one did, he attracted more attention and called forth sterner denunciation than ten poor men in similar cases would have done. In fact few able-bodied men tried to secure exemption under the "Twenty-negro law". It would have been better for the Confederacy if more planters had stayed at home to direct the production of supplies, and the fact was recognized in 1864, when a "Fifteen-negro law" was passed by the congress and other exemptions of planters and overseers were encouraged.
This was extracted from "Civil War and Reconstruction in Alabama", by Walter L. Fleming and from the ORs of the War of the Rebellion.
With few exceptions, the units in both armies were rarely found to be at 'regulation strength'. Particularly as the war dragged on losses from combat, disease, administrative reassignments, and desertion, reduced the size of units dramatically. In Confederate service, long before war's end, it was common to 'consolidate' the survivors of multiple units to form a new unit, with a new unit identification. But from start to finish, most Civil War units were organized along the following general lines:
Company: Composed of 115 officers and other ranks when at full strength:
- One Captain
- Three Lieutenants, ranked 1st thru 3rd (3rd Lt. sometimes referred to as 'Ensign')
- Two Musicians, Fifer and Drummer
- Five Sergeants, ranked 1st thru 5th
- Four Corporals, ranked 1st thru 4th
- Eighty-One hundred Privates
Infantry and cavalry companies were identified by an alphabetical letter (within a regiment, Companies A-K, occasionally 'L' or 'M'. The letter 'J' was not used. Artillery companies were called Battery's, and were usually identified by the name of the original or 'current' Captain. Cavalry companies were sometimes referred to as a Troop.
Battalion: Composed of two or more companies, usually five.
Regiment: Composed of two battalions; usually ten companies, occasionally eleven or twelve. Confederate regiments were also frequently known by the name of either the original or 'current' regimental Colonel, as well as the official state/confederate identification. Example: 26th (O'Neal) Alabama Infantry Regiment.
Brigade: Composed of two to five regiments, usually four.
Division: Composed of two to five brigades, usually four.
Corps (always pronounced 'core'): Composed of two or more divisions, usually two.
(Field) Army: Composed of two or more corps, usually two.
- The Confederate government named field armies and battles after populated places and-or geographic regions. Example: The Army of Northern Virginia fought in the Battle of Sharpsburg (Maryland).
- The Federal government named field armies and battles after bodies of water. Example: The Army of 'the' Potomac fought in the Battle of Antietam Creek. (Today's trivia...both of these examples refer to the same battle!)
'Legions' were also to be found in Confederate service. Simply stated, this was a hybrid organization, composed of units representing all three fighting elements of an army; infantry, cavalry, and artillery under a single field commander. A unique concept in its time, it became the standard of organization for all modern armies, during World War Two. Confederate Legions were generally composed of two to four infantry battalions, one cavalry battalion, and one battery of artillery. Generally, by the end of 1863, Legions had ceased to exist, having been broken up, with their various battalions used to form new regiments within their respective branches of service.
1st Alabama Cavalry Battalion, Partisan Rangers - Reduced from 4 companies to 3; designated 18th Alabama Infantry Battalion, late 1862
1st Alabama Cavalry (Beall's) Battalion - Consolidated with 2nd Mississippi and Alabama Cavalry (Brewer's) Battalion and Co. "K", 2nd Mississippi Infantry Battalion; redesignated 8th Confederate Cavalry (Wade's) Regiment, May 1862.
* Also known as 12th Mississippi Cavalry Regiment; organized in Alabama
** Also known as 51st Alabama Infantry Regiment (Mounted)
** Also known as 51st Alabama (Partisan) Cavalry Regiment
Updated: - - Wednesday, 06-Jan-2010 18:16:15 MST