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Title: The numerical strength of the Confederate army
       an examination of the argument of the Hon. Charles Francis
              Adams and others

Author: Randolph H. McKim

Release Date: November 15, 2010 [EBook #34334]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


Produced by Patrick Hopkins and the Online Distributed
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Transcriber's Note


{Logo with letter "N"}





Late 1st Lieut, and A. D. C. 3d Brigade Army of Northern
Virginia. Author of "A Soldier's Recollections."

Exigui numero sed bello vivida virtus—Virgil

It will be difficult to get the world to understand
the odds against which we fought.

General Robert E. Lee



Copyright, 1912, by
The Neale Publishing Company


The distinguished soldier and critic whose name appears on the title page argues, as do various other Northern critics, that the usual Southern estimate of the strength of the Confederate army is too small by half. This conclusion is supported, they contend, both by the census of 1860, according to which there were at the very beginning of the war between the States nearly a million men in the Southern States of military age, and by the number of regiments of the several armies, as shown by the muster rolls of the Confederate army, captured on Lee's retreat from Richmond, and now stored among the archives in Washington. This second line of argument has been developed, among others, by two well-known military critics, Colonel Wm. F. Fox, in his monumental work entitled "Regimental Losses in the Civil War" (who concludes that the Southern Armies contained the equivalent of 764 regiments, of ten companies each), and by Thomas L. Livermore, Colonel of the 18th New Hampshire Volunteers, in his laborious and painstaking monograph, "Numbers and Losses in the Civil War in America," published in 1901.

Both these authors have had the advantage of studying the Muster Rolls of the Confederate army just alluded to, but General Marcus J. Wright, of the Adjutant General's Office, War Department, Washington, writes me that he knows of no Southern man who has ever examined these Rolls, although General T. W. Castleman of Louisiana has recently received permission to copy the Louisiana Rolls. Colonel Walter H. Taylor, of General Lee's staff was also permitted to examine some of the official returns of Lee's Army.

Although the author of the following pages has not had the opportunity of studying those precious Muster Rolls, he hopes that he has been able to show that the thesis maintained by the distinguished critics just mentioned rests on no sufficient foundation and ought to be rejected by careful thinkers.

The main points of my counter argument are these: 1. The lack of arms limiting the enrolment of soldiers the first year of the war. 2. The loss of one-fourth of our territory by the end of the first year. 3. The loss of control of the trans-Mississippi in 1863-4. 4. The enormous number exempted from enrolment for every sort of State duty, and for railroads and new manufacturing establishments made necessary by the blockade of our ports. 5. The opposition of some of the State governments to the execution of the Conscript law. 6. The comparative failure of the Conscript law. 7. The disloyalty of a part of our population. 8. The necessity of creating not only an army of fighters, but also an industrial army, and an army of civil servants out of the male population liable for military duty.

The character of the evidence available precludes a precise estimate of the actual strength of the Confederate army. As Colonel Walter H. Taylor, Lee's Adjutant General, says in a letter addressed to the author, "I regret to have to say that I know of no reliable data in support of any precise number, and have always realized that it must ever be largely a matter of conjecture on our side."

R. H. McK.

[Pg 9]


Charles Francis Adams holds a warm place in the hearts of the survivors of the Army of Northern Virginia, and, indeed, of all the Confederate Armies, not only because of his splendid tribute to General Robert E. Lee and to the army he commanded, but also because of his generous recognition of the high motives of the Southern people in the course they pursued in 1861.

It is therefore in the friendliest spirit that I undertake to question the accuracy of his conclusion as to the numerical strength of the Southern forces engaged during the four years of the War between the States. In his recent volume, "Studies Military and Diplomatic," p. 286, he states "that the actual enrollment of the Confederate Army during the entire four years of the conflict exceeded 1,100,000, rather than fell short of that number."

General Adams is of the opinion that it is a mistake to suppose that the Confederate States were crushed by overwhelming resources and numbers. He calls attention to the statement usually given by Southern writers, that[Pg 10] the South had on her muster rolls, from first to last, about 600,000 men, and refers to this as a "legend" (p. 287), "opposed to all reasonable assumption and unsupported by documentary evidence"; "based on assertion only" (p. 286).

His argument is chiefly a priori, and proceeds substantially thus: The census of 1860 shows there were upward of 5,000,000 white people in the States which subsequently seceded. This represents an arms-bearing population of 1,000,000 men between eighteen and forty-five years of age. To this he adds thirty per cent, for those males between sixteen and eighteen years, and between forty-five and sixty years of age—added by law, so he states, to the military population—making 300,000 more.[1] Now, further add twelve per cent.—or 150,000—for youths reaching, between May, 1861, and May, 1865, the age of sixteen years, and we have a total aggregate Confederate arms-bearing population of 1,450,000.[2] From this total General Adams deducts twenty per cent, for exempts of all classes.[Pg 11] "There were then remaining a minimum of 1,160,000 effectives, to which we must add men from the Border States 117,000; giving a total Confederate strength of 1,277,000." He says also: "The whole male arms-bearing population was thus put in arms."

Now I wish on the very threshold to acknowledge freely that this conclusion is not, in the opinion of General Adams, discreditable to the South, but the reverse. He holds that the Southern estimate of a total strength of only 600,000 with the Confederate colors, is discreditable to the spirit and the patriotism of our people. In his opinion a just appreciation of the virtue and self-sacrifice exhibited by the men of the South should lead us to accept the much higher estimate which he gives, not reluctantly, but freely and cheerfully. He thinks that we who contest it place the Southern people on a lower level of devotion than the Boers of South Africa.


He says, at p. 239 of his "Military Studies": "How was it under very similar circumstances with the South Africans? On Confederate showing, they are a braver, a more patriotic,[Pg 12] and self-sacrificing race!" He goes on to show that the Boers had in actual service more than 1 in 4 of their population; while, if it be true that there were only 600,000 Southern soldiers in the Confederacy, there was only 1 out of 12 at the front. This, he thinks, would be discreditable to Confederate manhood; he cannot believe that the Southerners of that period were a race of such "mean-spirited, stay-at-home skulkers."

In answer to this I shall undertake to show in the following pages that Mr. Adams' figures are very wide of the mark, so that the proportion of fighting men in the Confederate army was enormously greater than he admits in this passage, not less than 1 in 6 of the population. But the fact is that the conditions in the cases of the Boers and the Confederates were about as dissimilar as they well could be. In the one case there was a small, compact population, for the most part half civilized, and occupying a territory less than a quarter of that included in the Confederacy. They had no highly differentiated civilization to support. In the Confederacy there were eleven States, each of which was organized as a distinct government and each of which required a large number of men to fill its offices and to maintain its civilization. Large numbers of men were also needed, as I shall show, for[Pg 13] purposes of manufacture, and to supply the army with food and munitions of war. To compare a small community of 323,000 (Boers) with a nation of 5,000,000 whites, besides 3,000,000 blacks; a perfectly homogeneous people with one containing divers elements; a semi-civilized people with one whose civilization was highly differentiated; a people accustomed to live on the veldt in the saddle, with one dwelling largely in towns and cities and engaged in diversified occupations—is to make a comparison illusory in a high degree.

In confirmation of the preceding statement, I add the following passage from a letter addressed to me by my friend, Colonel Archer Anderson, of Richmond, Va.:

"My argument was that the comparison of the Confederates with the Boers was not fair, the Boers being at a primitive stage of civilization—a pastoral and agricultural people with no arts, no culture, and no wants beyond a bare subsistence. Such a people can call out a large proportion of its population, and in their case there was the particular advantage that through their relations to the great mining region operated by foreigners, they had accumulated a vast treasure and a great stock of European munitions of war, and for a long period were able to draw what they further[Pg 14] needed from Europe through their railway communication with the Portuguese port on Delagoa Bay. You have shown that the Confederates on the other hand were highly civilized, with national, State, and municipal institutions to maintain, and, being cut off from supplies from the outside world, obliged to extemporize varied manufactures of powder, cannon, small arms, clothing, shoes, hats, and every sort of material needed by their railway systems and their people at home as well as the armies in the field. The maintenance of civil government, and such a task of production over and above the yield of agriculture, required the abstraction of a vast number of men from military service."

It is instructive, in considering this argument to recall what a great historian tells us of the Helvetii, in their contest with Cśsar. He says,

"The whole population of the assembled tribes amounted to 368,000 souls, including women and children: the number that bore arms was 92,000." (Merivale, History of the Romans, vol. I, pp. 242-3.)

Here is a real historical parallel between two peoples at a not dissimilar stage of civilization. Their numbers were very nearly the same: in one case 323,000, in the other 368,000; and their fighting strength was about in the same propor[Pg 15]tion,—one in four of the population; 89,000 in one case, 92,000 in the other.

It may be added that if Mr. Adams is right in estimating the Southern armies at nearly 1,300,000 men, then we face the remarkable fact that a white population of a little more than 5,000,000 people sent to the front almost as many men as a population of over 22,000,000. For Colonel Livermore tells us there were 2,234,000 individuals in the United States army; but of these, 186,017 were negroes, 494,000 foreigners, and 86,000 from the Southern states; so that the North only sent into the field 1,467,083.

Judged then by the numerical standard, the patriotism and devotion of the Southern people, according to this showing, was to that of the North as four to one. And this takes no account of the many thousands who served the South as mechanics, laborers, etc.


It seems to be overlooked by General Adams, Colonel Livermore, and other persons, in their estimates of the population available for military purposes, that the Confederate States' Government had not only[Pg 16] to organize an army, but also to establish extensive manufacturing plants for the equipment of the army; for clothing, for harness, for saddles, for guns, powder, and ordnance; even for mining the ore which had to be worked up into iron for the Tredegar works and other similar plants within the limits of the Confederacy.

Again, a large contingent of men had to be retained as railway servants and government clerks, and for purposes of agriculture, for it must be remembered that not one in ten of the soldiers in the Confederate army was an owner of slaves, and therefore a very large proportion of the agriculture of the country had to be carried on by white men. It is also overlooked that the complicated machinery of civilized government had to be maintained in eleven States with the necessary officers and clerks pertaining to their administration. (This is one of the particulars in which the case of the Boer Republic differs so radically from that of the Southern Confederacy that the comparison between the two is quite illusory.) If, as General Adams insists, "the whole male arms-bearing was thus put in arms," one cannot but wonder who did all these things just enumerated?

When these things are taken into consideration, and the figures I shall present are care[Pg 17]fully examined, it will be seen that to have put 600,000 men into the armies of the South—men serving with the colors—instead of being discreditable to the patriotism of the Southern people was in reality a great achievement.

One of the most accomplished English military critics of our time, Colonel G. F. R. Henderson, author of the Life of Stonewall Jackson, writes on this aspect of the subject as follows:

"Not only had the South to provide from her seven millions of white population an army larger than that of Imperial France, but from a nation of agriculturists she had to provide another army of craftsmen and mechanics to enable the soldiers to keep the field. For guns and gun carriages, powder and ammunition, clothing and harness, gunboats and torpedoes, locomotives and railway plant, she was now dependent on the hands of her own people and the resources of her own soil. The organization of these resources scattered over a vast extent of territory, was not to be accomplished in the course of a few months, nor was the supply of skilled labor sufficient to fill the ranks of her industrial army." (Life of Stonewall Jackson, II, 253.)

Upon this striking passage one or two remarks may be appropriate. The distinguished critic tells us most truly that the South, by reason of[Pg 18] her isolated situation, had to provide two armies,—an army of fighters and an army of workers. He might have said she had to provide three armies; for besides the industrial army and the army of soldiers, she had to provide an army of civil servants to man the offices necessary to carry on not only the Confederate States government, but also the government of eleven separate States, with their highly differentiated organizations.

Our author calls attention to the fact that the fighting army of the South was larger than that of Imperial France. Let me add that, even if the Southern army numbered no more than 650,000 men, it was nearly double the army of Imperial Rome in the reign of Augustus. Radiating from the golden milestone in the forum to every point of the compass, that vast empire extended from the Pillars of Hercules to the banks of the Euphrates, and from the coasts of Britain to the borders of the great African desert. It comprehended among its subjects at least an hundred divers races, numbering about 85,000,000 people; and yet the historian tells us that the entire armies of the empire, exclusive of some battalions maintained in Rome[Pg 19] itself, did not exceed 340,000 men,[3] there being at the time among the citizens, exclusive of the subjects, 5,984,072 males of military age.

I have quoted Colonel Henderson's admiring comment on the size of the army the South was able to put in the field. In doing so I have not forgotten that he estimates that army at 900,000. But his judgment upon that point loses much of its weight when we observe that in two distinct passages in his Life of Stonewall Jackson he gives seven millions as the white population of the South, instead of five millions, as it actually was. This error may serve to show how easy it is for a foreign critic to be mistaken upon a question of statistics. Apart from the influence upon his judgment of his error as to the size of the white population, it is evident, from the passage quoted above, that Henderson included in the estimate of 900,000 many thousands of men detailed for the various industries he enumerates.[4]

I submit then that these preliminary considerations quite do away with the presumption that an army of only six hundred thousand men serving with the colors, would have been unworthy of the devotion or the patriotism of the Southern[Pg 20] people, or inadequate to what might have been expected of a nation of five millions of whites.

In other words, we enter upon our argument without any reasonable presumption against the conclusion which it is our purpose to defend. Whoever will fairly consider that the South had to provide out of her indigenous male population of military age, a fighting army, an industrial army, and an army of civil servants, will not be surprised if it shall appear from the evidence available that she was not able to muster in battle array more than six hundred thousand men.


We arrive at the result indicated above by several independent lines of evidence.

I.—Our figures are supported by the statements of a number of men who were in position to know what was the total effective strength of the Southern armies. Among them were General Cooper, adjutant-general of the Confederate armies, writing in 1869 (see "Southern Historical Society Papers," Vol. vii, p. 287); Dr. A. T. Bledsoe, Assistant Secretary of War; General John Preston, chief of the Conscription Bureau; Vice-President Alexander H. Stephens ("War[Pg 21] Between the States," 1870, Vol. ii, p. 630); General Jubal A. Early ("Southern Historical Papers," Vol. ii, p. 20); Dr. Joseph Jones (official report, June, 1890, "Southern Historical Society Papers," xix, 14), and General Marcus J. Wright—who now, however, puts the numbers at 700,000 ("Southern Historical Society Papers," xix, 254). I ask what better authorities on this subject could be named than the adjutant-general of the army, the Assistant Secretary of War, and the chief of the Conscription Bureau of the Confederate States?

In August, 1869, Dr. Joseph Jones sent to General Cooper a carefully prepared paper on this subject, asking his opinion as to the accuracy of the data contained therein. General Cooper replied that after having "closely examined" the paper he had "come to the conclusion, from his general recollection," that "it must be regarded as nearly critically correct." Is it credible that the adjutant-general of the army should have given as his opinion that this number—600,000,—was "nearly critically correct," if in fact there had been upon the rolls of the Confederate armies twice that number,—1,277,000 men,—as General Adams would have us believe?

II.—By adding together the Confederate prisoners in the hands of the United States at the[Pg 22] close of the war, 98,000;[5] the soldiers who surrendered in 1865, 174,223; those who were killed or died of wounds, 74,508; died in prison, 26,439; died of disease, 59,277; died from other causes, 40,000; discharged, 57,411; deserters, 83,372; we get a total of 613,230.

These figures as to the killed and died of wounds, and of disease, are taken from Fox's monumental work on regimental losses. He "conjectures" that nearly 20,000 must be added to the 74,508 given above, making 94,000; but gives no grounds for this.

III.—Again the official report of General S. Cooper, Adjutant General, dated March 1, 1862 (127 W. R. 963), states the aggregate of the Confederate armies, including armed and organized militia, officers and men, as

General Preston, Superintendent of Conscription, C. S. A., reports from February, 1862, to February, 1865 (W. R., series iv, Vol. iii, p. 1101):
Conscriptions (exclusive of Arkansas and Texas)81,993
Enlistments east of the Mississippi River.76,206
[Pg 23] Estimated conscriptions and enlistments west of the river and elsewhere 120,000

IV.—Now compare with these reports the following statement from the New York Tribune of June 26, 1867:

"Among the documents which fell into our hands at the downfall of the Confederacy are the returns, very nearly complete, of the Confederate armies from their organization in the summer of 1861 down to the spring of 1865. These returns have been carefully analyzed, and I am enabled to furnish the returns in every department and for almost every month from these official sources. We judge in all 600,000 different men were in the Confederate ranks during the war."

This was accompanied by a detailed tabular statement.

Is not this good secondary evidence as to the numbers of men in the Confederate Army, especially when we remember the statement of General Cooper, late adjutant-general of the Confederate armies? He says:

"The files of this office which could best afford this information [as to numbers] were carefully boxed up and taken on our retreat from Rich[Pg 24]mond to Charlotte, North Carolina, where they were, unfortunately, captured and, as I learn, are now in Washington." These files, be it remembered, have never been examined by any Southern writer.

Observe also that the "American Encyclopśdia" (1875), of which Mr. Charles A. Dana, late Assistant Secretary of War, U. S., was editor, quotes General Cooper's statement as to numbers, without comment, thus tacitly admitting the truth of that statement. Can it be justly said, in the light of these facts, that the estimate usually given by Southern writers is based on assertion only?[6]

V.—There is a fifth line upon which we are led to a very similar conclusion.

In the work of Lieutenant Colonel Wm. F. Fox, "Regimental Losses in the Civil War," we find the strength of the Confederate armies furnished by the seceded States and by the border States as well, reckoned as follows: 529 regiments and 85 battalions of infantry; 127 regiments and 47 battalions of cavalry; 8 regiments and 1 battalion of partisan rangers; 5 regiments and 6 bat[Pg 25]talions of heavy artillery, and 261 batteries of light artillery—in all equivalent to 764 regiments of 10 companies. In making this statement Colonel Fox assures his readers that "no statistics are given that are not warranted by the official records."

As to the size of the regiments we got some light from the following reports: The Confederate adjutant-general reports in March, 1862, an average strength of 823 men in 369 regiments and 89 battalions (127 W. R. 963). Beauregard's Corps (32 regiments) is reported Aug. 31, 1861, as numbering 1037 men to the regiment (5 W. R. 824). Longstreet's Virginia troops, June 23, 1862, averaged 754 men to the regiment. (14 W. R. 614, 615.) But more important is the legislation of the Congress. The Confederate Act of March 6, 1861, prescribed for infantry companies the number of 104, and for cavalry 72, which gives, for an infantry regiment (10 companies) 1040 men, and for a cavalry regiment 720 men—provided the ranks were full, which was by no means the rule but rather the exception. Observe now that in November, 1861, the War Department prescribed that no infantry company should be accepted with less than 64 men and no cavalry company with less than 60 and no artillery company with less than 70. On[Pg 26] this basis infantry regiments might number only 640 men and cavalry regiments only 600.

This marked change in the standard of the size of companies and regiments prescribed by the War Department in November, 1861, as compared with the Act of March, 1861, lowering the requisite number of men in an infantry regiment from 1040 to 640, and in a cavalry regiment from 720 to 600, is suggestive of the fact that it was not found easy to raise regiments of the size originally prescribed.

Now in calculating the strength of the Confederate army from the number of regiments, we shall probably approximate closely a correct result by taking the mean between the larger and smaller number just referred to. But the mean between 1040 and 640 is 840, and that between 720 and 600 is 660.

Applying this standard to Colonel Fox's statement of the troops in the entire Confederate army, we get the following result:

529 regiments of infantry, 840 each444,360
85 battalions infantry, 400 each34,000
127 regiments cavalry, 600 each76,200
47 battalions cavalry, 400 each18,800
261 batteries light artillery, 70 each16,270
[Pg 27]5 regiments heavy artillery, 800 each4,000
6 battalions heavy artillery, 400 each2,400
8 regiments partisan rangers, 700 each5,600
1 battalion partisan rangers350

The size of infantry and cavalry battalions and of regiments and battalions of heavy artillery in this calculation, as well as of the regiments of partisan rangers, is in each case suggested by that accomplished and experienced officer, Colonel Walter H. Taylor, adjutant-general on the staff of General Robert E. Lee. His figures may be rather high—certainly they are not too low. Of course such a calculation is necessarily only approximate, but the basis on which it is made appears reasonably reliable. To one who, like myself, had personal observation of the armies in Virginia from the first battle of Manassas to Appomattox, the standard of strength in regiments and battalions in the field above adopted, seems in conformity with the facts.


Turn we now to examine the estimate made by General Adams and quoted at the beginning of this paper.

But first let me say that I quite agree with him when he says that if the South had as many as[Pg 28] 600,000 men in arms she ought to have been unconquerable, and probably would have been so, but for the United States Navy.

That opinion was expressed by a distinguished Southern writer, Dr. Bledsoe, Assistant Secretary of War, in an article written about forty years ago. He said: "The decisive circumstance which robbed the South of the defensive advantage of its wide territory was the superiority of its enemy upon the water." All the water front of the Confederate States was "an exposed frontier," both ocean coasts and navigable rivers. The best authorities in the South have maintained the same view with practically unanimity; hence, in differing from Mr. Adams I am not influenced by a desire to account for our defeat by the overwhelming force of numbers opposed to us, but by the desire to establish the truth of history.


Now in making the calculation previously alluded to, it appears to me that our gallant and generous friend has overlooked some important considerations bearing on the problem discussed.

1.—During the first year of the war the Confederate Government could not have availed itself of even half a million of men for its armies, in[Pg 29]asmuch as it was utterly unable to arm and equip them. The supply of arms and of artillery was utterly inadequate for even half that number.[7] As the war progressed the muskets, the sabers, the cannon, used in the Confederate army, if examined, would have been found to have been in larger part captured on the field of battle. Pompey the Great is reported to have said, "I have only to stamp with my foot to raise legions from the soil of Italy." Had Jefferson Davis been able by a stamp of his foot to summon a million men to the Confederate colors in the spring of 1861, what advantage would it have been? He could not have armed them, even if he could have fed and clothed and transported them. As General Adams himself has said: "The strength of an army is measured and limited not by the census number of men available, but by the means at hand of arming, equipping, clothing, feeding, and transporting those men."

2.—General Adams appears to have overlooked the fact that by May, 1862, the Northern armies were in permanent occupation of middle[Pg 30] and west Tennessee, nearly the whole of Louisiana, part of Florida, the coasts of North and South Carolina, southeastern Virginia, much of northern Virginia, and practically the whole of that part of Virginia known as Western Virginia. The population thus excluded from the support of the Confederacy may be estimated conservatively at 1,200,000, leaving 3,800,000 to bear the burden of the war. Hence the estimate of the arms-bearing population in 1862, when the real tug began, would be not 1,000,000, but 760,000. Of this number, one-fifth, as General Adams admits, would be regularly exempt, i.e., 152,000; and many thousands more were detailed for various branches of industry. Doubtless during the first year thousands entered the Confederate army from this territory—a fair proportion of the 340,000 on the muster rolls in March, 1862; but the conscript law could not operate—never did operate—in this fourth of the Southern territory.

3.—The seceded States (including West Va.) furnished the Northern armies, according to the returns of the War Department, 86,000 men. I do not remember any mention of this by Mr. Adams, though he alludes to the statement that 316,000 men were furnished by Southern States to the Union armies, including the Border States, which did not secede. (The records of the War[Pg 31] Department show a total of white soldiers from all Southern States, including Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland, West Virginia, Delaware and District of Columbia, of 295,481.)

4.—It must be remembered that while the unanimity with which the Southern people supported the war has perhaps never been surpassed in so large a revolution, yet there was a large element of disloyalty, especially in the mountainous regions of the South. For instance, in the Valley of Virginia there were large numbers of Quakers and Dunkards, all opposed to war. There were also in that region the numerous descendants of the Hessian prisoners, who were not in sympathy with us. The number of Union men in the South who did not take up arms has been estimated at 80,000.

5.—It must also be remembered, as Dr. Bledsoe said in his article in the Southern Review, that "there was also a large element of baser metal,—men who begrudged the sacrifice for liberty and shirked danger."

6.—General Adams says that the Confederate States passed the most drastic conscript law on record—which may be true; but he is mistaken in supposing that this law was successfully executed. Thus, General Cobb writes, December, 1864, from Macon, Georgia, to the Secretary of[Pg 32] War: "I say to you that you will never get the men into the service who ought to be there, through the conscript camp. It would require the whole army to enforce the conscript law if the same state of things exist throughout the Confederacy which I know to be the case in Georgia and Alabama, and I may add Tennessee." (W. R., series iv, vol. iii, p. 964.)

Again, H. W. Walters, writing from Oxford, Mississippi, to the Department, December, 1864, says: "I regard the conscript department in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi as almost worthless." Yet again General T. H. Holmes reports to Adjutant-General Cooper as to North Carolina, April 29, 1864: "After a full and complete conference with Colonel Mallett, commandant of conscription, ... I am pained to report that there is much disaffection in many of the counties, which, emboldened by the absence of troops, are being organized in some places to resist enrolling officers." And General Kemper reports, December 4, 1864, that in his belief there were 40,000 men in Virginia out of the army between the ages of eighteen and forty-five. (W. R., series iv, vol. iii, p. 855.)

In support of his thesis that the whole military population was enrolled in the Confederate armies Colonel Livermore quotes a letter of General Lee,[Pg 33] urging the necessity of "getting out our entire arms-bearing population in Virginia and North Carolina." But this letter, written October 4, 1864, six months before the surrender, is strong evidence that up to that time the stringent conscript laws had failed to get out even in Virginia and North Carolina, "the entire arms-bearing population." (Livermore, "Numbers and Losses," p. 17.)

Colonel Livermore quotes another letter of General Lee, dated September 26, 1864, in confirmation of his opinion that the conscription laws were thoroughly enforced, in which General Lee speaks of the "imperious necessity of getting all our men subject to military duty in the field," and adds, "I get no additions." (Id. p. 17.) Is that statement consistent with the rigid and successful enforcement of the conscript law? Is it not rather the most conclusive evidence that it was not successfully enforced? Or is my Bœotian wit so dull that I cannot see the point? If so, I pray to be enlightened![Pg 34][8]

The statement is often made that the Confederate Conscription embraced all white males between 16 and 60 years of age. This is an error. The first Act, April 16, 1862, embraced men between 18 and 35 years; the second, of Sept. 27, 1862, men between 18 and 45 years; the third and last, of February 17, 1864, men between 17 and 50. Both General Adams and Colonel Livermore acknowledge this. Yet the latter rests his argument on the supposition that the Conscription gathered in all males between 16 and 60 years.

In further illustration of this subject, I may point out that one of the difficulties confronting the conscript officers was the opposition of the governors of some of the States, notably the Governor of Mississippi, the Governor of North Carolina, and the Governor of Georgia. Thus the doctrine of States' Rights, which was the bedrock of the Southern Confederacy, became a barrier to the effectiveness of the Confederate government! South Carolina passed an exemption law which nullified to a certain extent the conscript laws of the Confederacy, and Governor Vance of North Carolina proposed "to try title with the Confederate Government in resisting the claims of the conscript officers to such citizens of North Carolina as he made claim to for the proper administration of the State."[Pg 35]

"The laws of North Carolina," General Preston complains (W. R., iv, iii, p. 867), "have created large numbers of officers, and the Governor of that State has not only claimed exemption for those officers, but for all persons employed in any form by the State of North Carolina, such as workers in factories, salt-makers, etc."

"This bureau has no power to enforce the Confederate law in opposition to the ... claims of the State."

Governor Brown of Georgia forbade the enrollment of "large bodies of the citizens of Georgia." The number is supposed to have reached eight thousand men liable to Confederate service. General Preston complains in like strain of the action of the Governor of Mississippi.


There is an important report by General Preston in February, 1865 (W. R., iv, iii, pp. 1099-1011). In this he gives the number of exempts allowed by the Conscript Bureau in seven States, and parts of two States, east of the Mississippi as 66,586.

He then gives the agricultural details, details for public necessity, and for government service, contractors and artisans, a total of 21,414—the whole aggregating 87,990 men.[Pg 36]

In another report, already referred to, November, 1864, he gives the number of State officers exempted on the certificates of governors in nine States as 18,843. This, with the preceding, makes a grand total of 106,833.

These are exemptions under the Confederate States' law in seven States, and in parts of two States. They do not include the States west of the Mississippi. But in addition to these there were many thousand exemptions under purely State laws. We have no complete record of these last; but in the State of Georgia alone we have a record of 11,031 such exemptions.

7.—We must also consider the large numbers of men employed on the railroads, in the government departments, in State offices, and in the various branches of manufacture necessary for the support of the army and of the people; and in directing the agricultural labor of the slaves. Factories were started for making swords, bayonets, muskets, percussion caps, powder, cartridges, cartridge boxes, belts, and other equipment; for clothing, for caps and shoes, for harness and saddles, for artillery-caissons and carriages; for guns, cannon and powder.

I have already referred to the statement of General Kemper that in December, 1864, "the returns of the bureau, obviously imperfect and par[Pg 37]tial, show 28,035 men in the State of Virginia between eighteen and forty-five, exempt and detailed for all causes." The South having an agricultural population, it was necessary, as just said, when war came, to organize manufactories of every kind of equipment for the army.

After all, the most important question to determine is the number of men actually serving with the colors in the armies of the Confederate States. And even if we admit an enrollment in the Confederate army of 700,000, and reduce our estimates of exemptions and details for special work from 125,000 to 100,000, there remain apparently for service in the field only about 600,000 men; and that, I suppose, is what General Cooper and other Southern authorities had in mind.

We know approximately the respective numbers in the great battles of the war, and I submit that these numbers are far more consistent with the maximum of 600,000 serving with the colors than with the maximum of 1,200,000.[9] If, indeed, the Confederacy had been able to muster in arms a million two hundred thousand men, it is greatly to the discredit of their able generals that[Pg 38] never in any one battle were they able to confront the enemy with more than 80,000 men.

But our gallant and generous friend taxes us, as we have seen, with casting discredit upon the patriotism of the South by our claim that we had no more than six or seven hundred thousand men in the field. Is he justified in this opinion? Let us see how the matter stands.


In the month of May, 1862, as we have shown above, at least one-fourth of the Southern territory had been wrenched from the control of the Confederate Government. In the territory remaining there was in round numbers a population of about 3,800,000 souls. The military population then should have been 760,000.

To this must be added, by the extension of the military age down to seventeen, and up to fifty, ten per cent.—that is, in all, six additional years, 76,000.

[In this calculation I adopt Mr. Adams' ratio of[Pg 39] three-tenths by a supposed extension down to sixteen and up to sixty,—which gives in the light of the census returns about one-tenth for the actual extension provided by the law of February 17, 1864, viz. down to seventeen and up to fifty years.]

Then we must make a further addition (again adopting Mr. Adams' ratio), for youths reaching military age in four years, of twelve per cent. of the military population, or 91,200 men. This, with the age-extension addition—76,000—makes a total of 167,200, which, added to the original estimated population of 760,000, makes a grand total of 927,200.

To this number Mr. Adams would add the men furnished by the Border States to the Confederate army, viz. (as is alleged), 117,000, a grand available total of 1,044,200.

But this estimate of 117,000 men furnished the Confederate army by the Border States (Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri) cannot be relied upon as even approximately accurate. For example, it includes 20,000 men alleged to have been furnished by the State of Maryland. But a careful examination of all the Maryland organizations, including several companies in Virginia regiments, gives a total of only 4,580 from the State of Maryland; and this number must be[Pg 40] largely reduced by names duplicated through re-enlistments. Applying the ratio adopted by the War Department of the United States, we must deduct at least 920 men, which leaves a total of only about 3,500. Even this I believe to be too large. This item alone reduces the estimate of 117,000 to about 100,000. I will discuss this subject at length a little further on in this paper, and will only say here that there is good reason to believe 100,000 an excessive estimate of the number actually furnished to the Confederate colors by the Border States. Let us place the figure at 75,000 as a compromise. Then we should have:

Grand total of men available in the Southern States927,200
Furnished by the Border States 75,000
Total 1,002,200


Let us turn now to the deductions that have to be made from this number.

1.—On the ground of disloyalty we have no facts on which to base an estimate, hence the number must be left indeterminate, but it was certainly considerable. The chief of the Bureau of Education estimates the Appalachian mountaineers in the Southern States at present at[Pg 41] 3,000,000. They must therefore have been very numerous in 1861, and it is conceded that most of them were loyal to the Union. Some Southern writers estimate 80,000 as the number of Union men who refused and evaded service in the Confederate army. If there were only one million of these mountaineers, they would represent 160,000 men of military age and fitness.

2.—We must also deduct a large number for men exempted for various causes, besides the accepted exemption of twenty per cent. for physical and mental disability. Of this we have no complete statistics, but there are preserved in the War Department Records several documents which enable us to arrive at an approximate estimate.

Under the head of "Public Necessity" we find exemptions for railroad companies, telegraph companies, navigation companies, cotton and wool factories, paper mills, iron manufactories, foundries, printing establishments, fire department, police department, gas-works, salt manufactories, shoemakers, tanners, blacksmiths, millers, millwrights, ferrymen, wheelwrights, wagon-makers, express companies, equity, justice and necessity, indigent circumstances, and miscellaneous. (Id. p. 873.)

Thus General Preston, writing November 23,[Pg 42] 1864 (W. R., ser. iv. vol. iii, p. 850), says: "The governors of the States do not confine their certificates of exemption to officers, as that term seems to be used in the law, but extend them to all persons in the service of the State, or in any mode employed by State authority; and that authority is interposed to prevent the conscript officers from enrolling and assigning such persons to the Confederate service."

He gives a table (p. 851) of State officers exempted on certificates of the governors, and it appears that in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Florida there were 18,843 such exempts.

The civil officers exempted in the State of Georgia were 5,478, and militia officers 2,751. (See W. R., iv., vol. iii, p. 869.) In the same State the exempts for agricultural and necessary purposes reached the number of 4,156, making the total exemptions in that one State, 12,385. (Id. iv. iii. p. 873.)

General Preston also reports the number of State officers exempted in North Carolina, November, 1864, at 14,675 (Idem, p. 851).

There is a report in the same publication, p. 96, which gives the number of persons exempted by occupation, in Virginia, at 13,063. Thus in[Pg 43] these three States we have records of exemptions amounting to 40,123. I am unable to give the number of exemptions in the remaining eight seceded States; but if they were at all in proportion to what we find them in Virginia, Georgia, and North Carolina, then we must reckon the exemptions in the whole Confederacy as nearly 120,000, since the military population of those three States was only a little more than a third of the whole. These, be it observed, were not men detailed from the army, but exempted from enrollment.

3.—Estimate of men detailed for special work in the various branches of manufacture necessary for the support of the Army and people. Here we have a difficult problem, but some light is thrown upon it by the following report of men detailed in the State of Georgia (Idem. iv. iii. p. 874):

For agricultural purposes 957
For public necessities 1,264
For government purposes 629
For contractors 141
For artisans, mechanics, etc. 508
Total 3,499

[Pg 44]

And in Virginia we find this item:

Men detailed in departments 4,494
Total in these two States 7,993

From these figures of details in these States we may conservatively estimate the number of men detailed for various branches of work in the eleven States of the Confederacy as about 40,000.[10]

4.—The seceded States exclusive of West Va.,[Pg 45] according to the report of the War Department, furnished the United States armies with 55,000 men. These must also be deducted from the aggregate above stated.

5.—Then we must deduct, as General Adams acknowledges, from the aggregate number of men of military age as above (viz., 927,200, less 80,000 disloyal and 55,000 in U. S. army, leaving 792,200) twenty per cent. for those exempt on account of physical or mental disability, or 158,440. This is the usual percentage, though in the French and British armies it has been as high as thirty-three per cent.

6.—Natural death rate in two and a half years before being enrolled in army 11,055 (compare Livermore, p. 22).[11]

But it will be said, and justly, that although after May, 1862, at least one-fourth of the territory of the seceded States was not in control of the Confederate government, and therefore not available as a recruiting ground for its armies, nevertheless many thousands of men had enlisted in the Confederate armies previous to May, 1862. Now, it appears from General Cooper's official[Pg 46] report that the aggregate number of men and officers enrolled in March, 1862, was 340,250. And so our question is, How large a proportion of this number is to be credited to that part of the Confederacy which by May, 1862, was occupied by the Federal armies? If we assume that the part of the country thus occupied furnished as large a proportion as the rest of the Confederacy (a large assumption), then, as the population of the occupied part is estimated to have been about one-fourth of the whole, we may suppose that it furnished the Confederate army one-fourth of the total 340,000; that is to say, 85,000 men. This is probably a very large assumption, but it may be accepted for the purposes of our calculation.

To sum up this part of the argument: Let it be granted that there was an available military population, first and last, in that part of the Confederacy not occupied by the Federal armies, of 927,200,

To which may be added volunteers first year of war from territory occupied by Federal forces after May, 186285,000
And also men from Border States 75,000

[Pg 47] Deductions from this as follows:

Natural death rate in 2-1/2 years, before being enrolled in army, 2-1/2%11,055
Southern men in U. S. army 55,000
Disloyal, estimated 80,000
Exempt for physical and mental disability: 20% of the whole (after deducting the two previous items) viz. 792,200158,440
Leaving available aggregate 782,705[12]
Aggregate 1,087,200

Now let us remember that out of this available aggregate (exaggerated though I believe the number to be), there had to be created for the service of the Confederate State three armies,—an army of soldiers, an army of civil servants and an army of industrial and agricultural workers. If we put the strength of the fighting army at 620,000, there will remain for the other two armies 162,000 men,—and we have seen grounds[Pg 48] for believing that there were 40,000 soldiers detailed for special work, and 120,000 exempt as State officers, workmen in various occupations, agricultural and necessary purposes, mechanics, railway servants, etc. And it may be asked with confidence whether for all these manifold purposes one hundred and sixty-two thousand men can be considered an excessive or unreasonable number. To support the army in the field, to equip the civil governments of eleven great States, and to supply the life blood of civilization in a country of such vast extent as the Southern Confederacy, necessarily absorbed the energies of a great number of men.


But General Adams supports his opinion by figures taken from a recent work, "The South in the Building of the Nation." He is thus able to show on the authority of Southern writers themselves, an aggregate estimate of 944,000 enlistments in the Confederate armies—to which he adds 117,000, as the number claimed to have been furnished the Confederate army from the four Border States, making a grand total of 1,061,000 men.[Pg 49]

Now, even if the numbers furnished by these Southern writers could be accepted as approximately accurate, the result would be quite different from what General Adams figures. For let me call attention to a memorandum issued by the War Department, U. S. A., May 15, 1905, in which I find this statement: "It is estimated from the best data now obtainable that the re-enlistments in the army during the Civil War numbered 543,393" (p. 4), which is about twenty per cent. of the whole. This number, the military secretary says, must be deducted from the total number of enlistments (2,778,304) to get the actual number of men who were enrolled.

Now, if we apply this same principle and proportion to the alleged enlistment of 944,000 men in the Southern army, we should deduct for re-enlistment 188,800; leaving as the actual number of enlisted men, all told, with the colors and not with the colors, 756,200. And further, though we have no accurate figures concerning the number of men detailed for duties of various kinds,—as clerks, skilled mechanics, gunsmiths, teamsters, cooks, etc.; also details in the medical, quartermaster, commissary, and other supply departments; and as apothecaries, physicians, teachers, nurses, agriculturists, railroad employees, etc.,—we know they numbered many thousands, so that[Pg 50] this number—756,200—must be greatly reduced.

It has, indeed, been argued that we cannot make the deduction which the War Office claims in estimating the number of men in the Union armies, as stated above, for the reason that the twelve-months' men in the Confederate armies "were all retained in service for the war" by the Act of April 16, 1862. Again, it is insisted that "substantially all of the regiments enrolled in 1861 remained in service to the end of the war." "It may, then, be assumed that in effect the term of service of all who entered the Confederate armies continued from the time they entered until the end of the War, May 4, 1865." (See Livermore, "Numbers and Losses," p. 52, 53.)

The best way to test the soundness of this conclusion is to look into the actual record of some of the troops, to see whether or not they did re-enlist. If they did, then the same opportunity for error in counting them twice offered itself as in the case of the Union enlistments.

I cite then a few examples of re-enlistment, established beyond doubt.

1. The first Maryland Infantry, spring of 1862.

2. Rodes' Brigade at Yorktown, spring of 1862; the fifth, sixth and twelfth Alabama and twelfth Mississippi regiments.[Pg 51]

"They retained their corporate identity, but not simply continued over. At any rate, some men in them did not remain." (Colonel J. W. Mallet, February 16, 1912.)

3. Bonham's South Carolina regiment enlisted for six months. Re-enlisted 1861. (Statement of Colonel Hilary Herbert.)

4. General Dickinson, late Secretary of War, remembers regiments which were enlisted for three months, and then re-enlisted.

5. The Eighth Alabama, Colonel Hilary Herbert. He says:

"The men stepped out one by one and re-enlisted, all but one man, and he exercised the liberty which all had, of declining to re-enlist. This was in January, 1864."

I quote also an order of General Lee's on the subject, February 3, 1864: "The Commanding General announces with gratification the re-enlistment of the regiments of this army for the war, and the reiteration of the war regiments of their determination to continue in the army until independence is achieved." The fact of re-enlistment then is absolutely established. In fact practically all of the twelve-months' volunteers re-enlisted in 1862.[Pg 52]


But it can be shown, I think beyond contradiction, that the numbers given by the representatives of the various States which Mr. Adams quotes from "The South," and from other Southern publications, are enormously exaggerated.

We may test the accuracy of this estimate of theirs briefly as follows: The total military population of the 11 seceded States in 1861 was 984,475, not taking into account that about one-fourth of our territory and population became unavailable for recruiting purposes within one year of the breaking out of the war. If we add one-tenth for the extension of the military age by Confederate law down to 17 and up to 50, we have 98,447; and, if we add 12 per cent. for youths reaching military age in four years, we have 118,137, aggregating 1,201,518. But from this we must deduct, as military writers agree, 20 per cent. for men exempt for physical and mental disability, viz., 240,303, which leaves available for military duty in the four years of the war, through the whole extent of the Southern territory, 961,215. Now, if we accept the figures of the State historians, we have 935,000 enrolled in the Confederate Army; and the reports of the[Pg 53] United States War Department state that, exclusive of West Virginia, there were 55,000 soldiers in the Union Army from these same Southern States, which makes an aggregate of 990,000 men furnished to both armies, which, it will be observed, is nearly 30,000 more than the entire military population! Without going any further, this shows that there has been serious error in the above estimates of Confederate enrollment.

But there are several other matters to be considered. In the first place, by the spring of 1862 at least one-fourth of the territory of the seceded States was under the control of the United States Army; and, therefore, that much of the territory was not available as a source of supply for the Confederate Army. This cuts off nearly one-fourth of the military strength. Calculated on this basis, the writers alluded to make the aggregate of Southern soldiers more than 200,000 in excess of the entire military population!

Again, the conscript law, drastic as it was, was very imperfectly executed, as those in charge of it at the time amply testified. The opposition of the Governors of Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina to the conscript law will be remembered. We must also remember that thousands of men were employed on the railroads, in the Government departments and in[Pg 54] various branches of manufacture necessary for the support of the army and the people, and also for agricultural labor. It must also be remembered that there were thousands of men in all the Confederate States exempted by State authority.

If these things are considered, it becomes plain that the previously quoted estimates of the several States of the Confederacy cannot possibly be accepted as at all near the real facts.

Let us now compare these estimates of the Southern writers quoted with the military population of some of the States:

The military population of Virginia in 1861, exclusive of West Virginia, is estimated by Livermore at116,000
Add one-tenth for extension of military age down to seventeen and up to fifty11,600
Add twelve per cent. for youths maturing to seventeen in four years13,920
Deduct exempts for physical and mental defects, twenty per cent.28,304
Available military population 113,216

But the representative writer in "The South" puts the number of men furnished by Virginia to[Pg 55] the Southern armies at 175,000, which is 61,784 more than the available military population! Could there be a more palpable reductio ad absurdum?[13]

Besides, as I have shown, in Virginia and all the States there were large numbers of men exempt as State officers. This considerably increases the twenty per cent. which Colonel Fox says are in all countries exempted from military service.

Take next Florida:

Her military population in 1861 was 15,739
Add one-tenth for extension of military age down to seventeen and up to fifty 1,573
Add twelve per cent. for youths attaining seventeen years in four years 1,888
Deduct exempts, twenty per cent. 3,840
Available military population 15,360

But the writer quoted by Mr. Adams states that Florida furnished 15,000 to the Confederate[Pg 56] States army, and the War Office records show that she furnished the Union army 1,270; making a total of 16,270, which is 900 more than the entire available military population!

Georgia.—Military population in 1861 was 111,005
Add one-tenth for extension of military age down to seventeen and up to fifty 11,100
Add twelve per cent. for youths attaining seventeen years in four years 13,320
Total 135,425
Deduct twenty per cent. for exempts 23,085
Available military population 112,340

But the alleged enrollment in the Confederate States army is 120,000, which is 7,110 more than the available military population, making no allowance for the failure of the conscript officers to put into the army every man liable to military duty, and none for the thousands exempt from service.

North Carolina.—Military population was 115,369
Add one-tenth for the extension of military age down to seventeen and up to fifty 11,500
[Pg 57]Add twelve per cent. for youths maturing to seventeen years in four years 13,800
Total 140,669
Deduct twenty per cent. for exempts 28,133
Leaving available 112,536

Alleged Confederate enrollment 129,000; furnished to the Union army, 3,156; total, 132,156; which is 19,620 more than the available military population, although in one-fourth of the State the conscript law could not be executed, and although many thousands were exempted from service by State law.

South Carolina.—Military population 55,046
Add one-tenth as above 5,504
Add twelve per cent. as above 6,605
Total 67,155
Deduct twenty per cent. 13,231
Leaving available 53,924

The alleged Confederate enrollment was 75,000, which is more than 21,000 in excess of the total number of men available for service, though here also there were thousands of State exemptions.[Pg 58]

Mississippi.—Military population 70,295
Add one-tenth for extension of military age 7,029
Add twelve per cent. for youths maturing to military age in four years 8,435
Total 85,759
Deduct twenty per cent. for exempts 17,151
Leaving available 68,608

The alleged Confederate enrollment was 70,000, and furnished to the United States army 515, which is nearly 2,000 more than the total military population, taking no account of the large number of exempts and of the failure to execute the conscript act.

Alabama.—Military population was 99,667
Add one-tenth for the extension of military age down to seventeen and up to fifty 11,500
Add twelve per cent. for youths maturing to seventeen years in four years 11,796
Total 121,959
Deduct twenty per cent. for exempts 24,391
Leaving available 97,568

[Pg 59]The alleged Confederate enrollment was 90,000, and furnished to the Union army, 2,576, making a total of 92,576; which is within 5,000 of the total available, taking no account of the large number exempted for State officers and other causes, and taking no account, either, of the number of men who could not be reached by the conscript officers.

Tennessee.—Military population 159,353
Add one-tenth as before 15,935
Add twelve per cent. as before 19,222
Total 194,510
Deduct twenty per cent. 38,902
Leaving available 155,608

The alleged Confederate enrollment was 115,000, and the State furnished the Union army 31,092, a total of 146,092, which is within 9,000 of the total available military population, without taking account of the men not reached by the conscript officers, and, further, taking no account of the fact that so large a part of the State was in occupation of the Federal armies.

As to Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana, it is enough to say that they were in that Trans-Mississippi Department of which the Confederate[Pg 60] Government lost control in July, 1863. Hence, it is not surprising that even those inflated estimates of the number of men furnished the Confederate army fall far short of the estimated military population. In Arkansas, however, the estimate comes within 5,000 of the total available,—58,289 out of 63,665.

In the light of the facts just stated we must conclude that the Southern writers quoted by General Adams have, in their zeal for the honor and glory of their several States, greatly overestimated the number of men contributed by the same to the Confederate armies. This would be more probable a priori, than that the leading men in the Confederate army and Government who were at the sources of information, and who ought to have been well informed, should have so enormously underestimated the strength of the armies of the South; but the tests to which we have now submitted the figures given by these State historians demonstrate their error beyond the possibility of doubt. They must be cut down by several hundred thousand. A large element of this error is to be found, as I have suggested, in the failure to observe the great number of re-enlistments that undoubtedly took place, especially in 1862, when the terms of service of nearly all the Confederate regiments expired.[Pg 61] This duplication, in the opinion of the military Secretary of the United States, reduces the total by twenty per cent.

As a sample of how errors creep into reports of numbers, it is stated (W. R., ser. iv., vol. iii, p. 96) as to a certain number of conscripts, "We find some men were reported three times." And again (Id. p. 99) that the "Adjutant-General's report contains an error in which he has accounted for 14,000 men twice."

Let it be observed, finally, that when we have reached a reasonably probable conclusion of the men enlisted in the Confederate armies during the four years of war, we must then proceed to ascertain, if we can, the probable number of these enlisted men who were detailed for various duties and occupations ancillary to the support of the government and the army. And only when this number has been deducted from the total enlistments will we have ascertained the probable number of men actually serving with the colors and making up the fighting force of the Confederacy.


It is a difficult problem to determine with any degree of probability how many men were con[Pg 62]tributed to the armies of the Confederacy by the Border States. The factors by which it might be solved do not seem to be within reach. At least, I have not been able to possess myself of them. There lies before me a printed "List of Regiments and Battalions in the Confederate States' Army, 1861-1865." According to this there were furnished by Missouri 21 battalions and 79 regiments; by Kentucky 16 battalions and 26 regiments; by Maryland 2 infantry regiments and 4 battalions, 4 batteries; also the Maryland Line, of various arms. But, upon inspection, it appears that this "Maryland Line" was formed of those regiments and battalions and batteries previously enumerated.

General Charles Francis Adams, following Colonel Livermore, tells us there were 238 full regiments from the Border States in the Confederate army, besides 132 lesser organizations. On the other hand, Colonel Fox, in his well-known work, "Regimental Losses in the Civil War," credits the Border States with having sent into the Confederate army only 21 regiments and 4 battalions of infantry; 9 regiments and 5 battalions of cavalry, and 11 batteries of light artillery. As to numbers, he estimates them at "over 19,000" (p. 552).

These estimates and numbers of Colonel Fox[Pg 63] look strange beside the estimate of 117,000 and 125,000, as given by some Southern writers. We have already stated that in "The South in the Building of the Nation," Maryland is credited with having furnished 20,000 men to the Confederate army. How wide of the mark this statement is, may be seen by inspecting the following total of organizations of Maryland men in the Confederacy:

First Maryland Infantry, number of men 782
Second Maryland Infantry 627
Company B, Twenty-first Virginia, Colonel L. Clarke 109
One company, Thirteenth Virginia Lanier Guards, estimated 75
One company, Sixty-first and Sixty-second Virginia, estimated 65
Total Infantry 1,658
First Maryland, Colonel Ridgeley Brown 74
Company K, First Virginia; transferred in August, 1864, to First Maryland 197
Lieutenant Harry Gilmour Battalion, estimated 250
Colonel Sturgis Davis Battalion, estimated 100
[Pg 64] One Maryland Company in Seventh Virginia, estimated 75
One Maryland Company in Thirty-fifth Virginia, Colonel Elijah White 103
One Maryland Company in Forty-third Virginia, Colonel Mosby, estimated 75
Total cavalry 674
Colonel Snowden Andrews 204
Second Maryland, Captain Griffin 197
Third Maryland, Colonel Rowan, Captain Ritter 350
In Western Army, Fourth Maryland, Chesapeake, Captain Brown, Captain Chew 137
Captain Brethed, Horse Artillery (a Maryland battalion, though mustered into service as Virginian) 75
Baltimore Heavy Artillery, estimated 100
Marylanders at Charleston, South Carolina, estimated 225
Total artillery 1,288
Grand total 4,580

These figures are compiled from the muster[Pg 65] rolls, with the exception of those "estimated." It is to be observed that a very large proportion of the men in the Second Maryland Infantry were those who had previously served in the First Maryland Infantry; so that there is a good deal of duplication there by reŽnlistment. On the other hand, there were many individual Marylanders in various regiments accredited to other States. We have also the names of 137 Marylanders who were officers in various other commands.

The estimate above alluded to, of 20,000 Marylanders in the Confederate service, rests apparently upon no better basis than an oral statement of General Cooper to General Trimble, in which he said he believed that the muster rolls would show that about 20,000 men in the Confederate army had given the State of Maryland as the place of their nativity. How many were citizens of Maryland when they enlisted does not appear. Obviously many natives of Maryland were doubtless in 1861 citizens of other States, and could not therefore be reckoned among the soldiers furnished by Maryland to the Confederate armies.

As to the estimates furnished by writers in "The South" concerning the number of men furnished the Confederacy from the Border[Pg 66] States, viz., Kentucky, 30,000; Missouri, 60,000; West Virginia, 7,000; the same unintentional exaggeration doubtless exists here as I have shown in regard to the numbers alleged to have been furnished by the seceded States. Unfortunately it is not possible to be definite in stating the numbers furnished by the Border States. When we observe the discrepancy between Colonel Fox's 19,000, President Tyler's 117,000, and Colonel Livermore's 143,000, it becomes clear that the whole subject is involved in uncertainty. I incline to the opinion that 50,000 is nearer the actual numbers in the Southern army from these Border States than 100,000; but for the sake of argument I leave the number 75,000, as stated above.[14]

Before concluding this branch of the subject I would call attention to the following remark made by Mr. Charles Francis Adams in his "Military Studies," p. 282. He says "that the States named [meaning Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, West Virginia] sympathiz[Pg 67]ing, as at the time the Southern authorities claimed, most deeply with the Confederacy should have furnished over 316,000 recruits to the Federal army, and only 117,000 to that of the Confederacy is, to say the least, deserving of remark,—it calls for explanation." Again he says: "It would be not unnatural to assume that these States furnished an equal number of recruits to the Confederacy." (Id. p. 238.)

This statement is sufficiently amazing. On the contrary, would it not be most unnatural to assume that these four States, occupied and controlled from end to end by the Federal armies, should have furnished as many men to the Confederate army as to the Federal army, notwithstanding the enormous difficulties of passing through the lines? Although there was much sentiment favorable to the Confederacy in these four States, I fear there cannot be any doubt that the preponderance of sentiment was in favor of the Union; and he must be blind who does not recognize the fact that the difficulties in the way of a young man desiring to enlist in the Southern army, while his State was occupied by the Federal forces, were enormously great.


There are two remarks of General Adams to[Pg 68] which, before closing, I should like to call attention. He states that the foreigners in the Union army were more than counterbalanced by our drastic conscription ("Military Studies," p. 246). Now it appears from official reports that there were 494,000 foreigners in the Union army, so that he must have supposed that the conscription law produced about 500,000 soldiers. It actually produced, east of the Mississippi, 81,992 men from February, 1862, when the first law was passed, to February, 1865. We cannot suppose that the additions from the States west of the Mississippi—Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas—could have been even one-fourth as numerous. The military population was about one-third as large, but by 1863 that territory was overrun by the Federal armies. But if we put these at 20,000, we have only 101,992, instead of the half million which Mr. Adams supposes. And if we should add the 76,000 men which the conscription officers, magnifying their diligence, guessed had been driven into the army by enlistment to avoid conscription we would then have only 177,993.

Again, General Adams says:

"As respects mere numbers, it is capable of demonstration that at the close of the struggle the preponderance was on the side of the Confed[Pg 69]eracy, and distinctly so. The Union at that time had, it is said, a million men on its muster rolls.... It might possibly have been able to put 500,000 men into the fighting line. On the other side ... the fighting strength of the Confederacy cannot have been less than two-thirds its normal strength. The South should have been able to muster, on paper, 900,000 men." (Idem, pp. 241-2.)

Compare this statement of what the South should have been able to muster with the consolidated abstract of the latest returns of the Confederate army showing what she was able to muster. This is the record:

Officers and men in all the Confederate armies, February, 1865, aggregate for duty, 160,000; aggregate present and absent, 358,000 (W. R., iv. iii. p. 1182).

General Marcus Wright, an expert authority, estimates the strength of the Confederate army at the close of the war thus:


And of the Union army thus:[Pg 70]

Present 797,807
Absent 202,700
Total 1,000,507

If General Adams is right, one cannot but ask, where were the other 542,000 men, over and above the 358,000 shown by the official report alluded to have been on the rolls? The 90,000 men in Northern prisons will not help the situation, for they were not exactly available as part of the "fighting strength of the Confederacy." Compare also the fact that there were mustered out of the Union army at the end of the war 1,034,000 men; and there were, in all the Confederacy, surrendered Confederate soldiers to the number of 174,000 only, and this included all who were paroled, whether in hospital, or at their homes, as well as those in arms.

In conclusion I am reminded of the words of General Lee in a letter to General Jubal A. Early, shortly after the war, "It will be difficult to get the world to understand the odds against which we fought."

Still I cannot help thinking that the statements of the adjutant-general of the Confederate armies in his official reports, and the testimony of Gen[Pg 71]eral Lee himself in regard to the numbers in his army, will ultimately be considered by the world more reliable than the a priori estimates of even so careful and honest an investigator as Colonel Livermore.

When immediately after the surrender at Appomattox General Meade asked General Lee how many men he had in his army, the latter replied that he had on his entire front, from Richmond to Petersburg, not more than 29,000 muskets. "Then," said General Meade, "we had five to your one." On the whole I think we may still claim for the armies of the Southern Confederacy the encomium penned by Virgil nearly two thousand years ago:

"Exigui numero, sed bello vivida virtus."[Pg 72]


The arguments adduced in the preceding pages are believed by the writer to be valid and sufficient to refute the conclusion reached by Colonel Livermore, the Hon. Charles Francis Adams, and others, that there was in the Confederacy a "minimum of 1,160,000 effectives, to which we must add 117,000 men from the Border States, giving a total Confederate strength of 1,277,000." I have not attempted to give definite figures as to the actual enrollment in the Southern armies. My argument is of necessity largely based on the probabilities of the situation,—it does not profess to be demonstrative, or final. But "probability is the guide of life"; and I believe I have blazed a path by which future students of the subject, having before them the muster rolls of the Confederate army will be able to reach more definite conclusions in this important subject—conclusions, however, not seriously at variance with those stated in these pages.[15]


[1] Gen. Adams says: "Computations based on the census returns tend to show that at the very lowest estimate the increase of time of military service would represent an increase of at least 30 per cent. in effectives." Id. p. 284.

[2] Our critic has made an error here: 12 per cent, of 1,000,000, i.e., 120,000, so that his aggregate should be 1,420,000.

[3] See Merivale's History of the Romans, III, 416, and IV, 298 and 343, and V. 386.

[4] In the first edition of Col. Henderson's work, cited above, he actually stated that the element of foreigners in the Southern armies was almost as large as in the Northern armies!

[5] Gen. Marcus J. Wright puts this number at only 65,387. But cf. Mansfield's Life of Grant, p. 338.

[6] See a valuable discussion of our subject in a pamphlet entitled "Acts of the Republican Party," by Cazenove G. Lee, who wrote under the nom de plume of "C. Gardner," Winchester, Va., 1906, pp. 59-69.

[7] I acted as adjutant of the Third Brigade A. N. Va., in the Gettysburg campaign. Even then, in the third year of the war, and in that best equipped army, the returns showed only 1480 muskets to 1941 men in the brigade. One-fourth of the command was without arms.

[8] "The Government, at the opening of 1864, estimated that the Conscription would place four hundred thousand men in the field." Lee did not share this belief. By the end of the year it was, in his opinion, "diminishing, rather than increasing, the strength of his army."—Letter of Dec. 31, 1864. See "R. E. Lee, Man and Soldier," p. 591, by Thos. Nelson Page.

[9] Thus, to quote that able and expert authority Gen. Marcus J. Wright: Battles around Richmond (1862), Lee, 80,835; McClellan, 115,249. At Antietam, Confederates, 35,255; Federals, 87,164. At Fredericksburg, Confederates, 78,110; Federals, 110,000. At Chancellorsville, Confederates, 57,212; Federals, 131,661. At Gettysburg, Confederates, 64,000; Federals, 95,000. At the Wilderness, Confederates, 63,981; Federals, 141,160.

[10] A consideration of the portentous difference between the number of men borne on the regimental rolls and the number actually available on the battlefield, suggests that it may be in large degree accounted for by the number of men detailed for service in the industrial army.

Thus in the army of Northern Virginia just before Fredericksburg, Nov. 20, 1862:

Aggregate present and absent 153,773
Aggregate present for duty 86,569

Soon after Gettysburg:

1863:Present and absent 109,915
Present for duty 50,184

Before Wilderness campaign:

1864:Present and absent 98,246
Present for duty 62,925

On reaching Petersburg, July 10, 1864:

Present and absent 135,805
Present for duty 68,844

As to exemptions it was customary to exempt farmers who engaged to raise a certain amount of corn.

Again the practice was extensively pursued of granting furloughs for recruiting service. Such men continued to be borne on the rolls of their commands in the field.

[11] Aggregate available military population 792,000, of which 350,000 in the army January, 1862. Above figure is 2-1/2 per cent. of remainder, viz. 442,000.

[12] Col. Livermore's method of computation, if applied to the true available number 760,000, with additions and deductions noted above, yields a very similar result, about 790,000. See his book, p. 23, but note on p. 21 an error of calculation, where instead of 265,000 he should give 246,872.

[13] The ten per cent. addition for extension of military age is too high an estimate in this and the following tables, when we remember that the conscript law lowering the age to seventeen and raising it to fifty did not go into operation until February 17, 1864, by which time the territory of the Confederacy was greatly contracted.


War Department,
Washington, May 18, 1912.

Dear Dr. McKim,
    I think your estimate of 50,000 as representing the total number of troops furnished by the Border States is about correct. It can never be definitely ascertained.

Very truly yours,
Marcus J. Wright.

[15] I have not in this Monograph taken account of an argument sometimes put forward, drawn from the alleged fact that the census of 1890 showed that there were then living 432,020 Confederate and 980,724 United States soldiers (or including sailors and marines 1,034,073). But the Report on Population, 1890, Part II, p. clxxii, states that the figures first quoted are approximate only, and "have not been subjected to careful revision and comparison." No positive conclusion, therefore, can be drawn from them. Their unreliability is shown by the fact that at that very time the War Department estimated that there were then living 1,341,332 Federal soldiers.

Transcriber's Corrections

Following is a list of significant typographical errors that have been corrected.

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Confederate army, by Randolph H. McKim


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