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Preface 3.2: records of the War between the States

Marcus J. Wright, Brigadier-General, C. S.A., Agent of the United States War Department for the Collection of military Records
The war which was carried on in the United States in 1861-5, called “The War of the rebellion,” “The Civil War,” “The War of secession,” and “The War between the States,” was one of the greatest conflicts of ancient or modern times. Official reports show that 2,865,028 men were mustered into the service of the United States. The report of Provost-Marshal General Fry shows that of these 61,362 were killed in battle, 34,773 died of wounds, 183,287 died of disease, 306 were accidentally killed, and 267 were executed by sentence. The Adjutant-General made a report February 7, 1869, showing the total number of deaths to be 303,504.

The Confederate forces are estimated from 600,000 to 1,000,000 men, and ever since the conclusion of the war there has been no little controversy as to the total number of troops involved. The losses in the Confederate army have never been officially reported, but the United States War Department, which has been assiduously engaged in the collection of all records of both armies, has many Confederate muster-rolls on which the casualties are recorded. The tabulation of these rolls shows that 52,954 Confederate soldiers were killed in action, 21,570 died of wounds, and 59,297 died of disease. This does not include the missing muster-rolls, so that to these figures a substantial percentage must be added. Differences in methods of reporting the strength of commands, the absence of adequate field-records and the destruction of those actually [103]

South Carolina men in blue, spring 1861 These officers of the Flying Artillery we see here entering the Confederate service at Sullivan's Island, Charleston Harbor, still wearing the blue uniforms of their volunteer organization. It was one of the state militia companies so extensively organized throughout the South previous to the war. South Carolina was particularly active in this line. After the secession of the State the Charleston papers were full of notices for various military companies to assemble for drill or for the distribution of arms and accoutrements. Number 2 of this group is Allen J. Green, then Captain of the Columbia Flying Artillery (later a Major in the Confederate service). No. 4 is W. K. Bachman, then a 4th Lieutenant, later Captain in the German Volunteers, a state infantry organization that finally entered the artillery service and achieved renown as Bachman's Battery. No. 3 is Wilmot D. de Saussure; No. 7 is John Waites, then Lieutenant and later Captain of another company. After 1863, when the Confederate resources were waning, the Confederate soldiers were not ashamed to wear the blue clothing brought in by the blockade runners.

Two years afterward Confederate Uniforms at Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863.--According to a Northern authority, Lee's veterans in 1863 were “the finest infantry on earth!” In this picture we see three of them taken prisoners at Gettysburg and caught by the camera of a Union photographer. These battle-stained Confederates had no glittering uniforms to wear; they marched and fought in any garb they were fortunate enough to secure and were glad to carry with them the blankets which would enable them to snatch some rest at night. Their shoes — perhaps taken in sheer necessity from the dead on the field — worn and dusty as we see them, were unquestionably the envy of many of their less fortunate comrades. Lee could only make his daring invasion of the North in 1863 by severing his connection with any base of supplies; and, unlike Sherman in his march to the sea, he had no friendly force waiting to receive him should he prove able to overcome the powerful army that opposed him. “Never,” says Eggleston, “anywhere did soldiers give a better account of themselves. The memory of their heroism is the common heritage of all the people of the great Republic.”

[104] made are responsible for considerable lack of information as to the strength and losses of the Confederate army. Therefore, the matter is involved in considerable controversy and never will be settled satisfactorily; for there is no probability that further data on this subject will be forthcoming.

The immensity and extent of our great Civil War are shown by the fact that there were fought 2,261 battles and engagements, which took place in the following named States: In New York, 1; Pennsylvania, 9; Maryland, 30; District of Columbia, 1; West Virginia, 80; Virginia, 519; North Carolina, 85; South Carolina, 60; Georgia, 108; Florida, 32; Alabama, 78; Mississippi, 186; Louisiana, 118; Texas, 14; Arkansas, 167; Tennessee, 298; Kentucky, 138; Ohio, 3; Indiana, 4; Illinois, 1; Missouri, 244; Minnesota, 6; California, 6; Kansas, 7; Oregon, 4; Nevada, 2; Washington Territory, 1; Utah, 1; New Mexico, 19; Nebraska, 2; Colorado, 4; Indian Territory, 17; Dakota, 11; Arizona, 4; and Idaho, 1.

It soon became evident that the official record of the War of 1861-5 must be compiled for the purposes of Government administration, as well as in the interest of history, and this work was projected near the close of the first administration of President Lincoln. It has continued during the tenure of succeeding Presidents, under the direction of the Secretaries of War, from Edwin M. Stanton, under whom it began, to Secretary Elihu Root, under whose direction it was completed. Colonel Robert N. Scott, U. S. A., who was placed in charge of the work in 1874, prepared a methodical arrangement of the matter which was continued throughout. Officers of the United States army were detailed, and former officers of the Confederate army were also employed in the work. The chief civilian expert who continued with the work from its inception was Mr. Joseph W. Kirkley. The total number of volumes is 70; the total number of books, 128, many of the volumes containing several separate parts. The total cost of publication was $2,--858,514.67. [105]

The last to lay down arms Recovered from oblivion only after a long and patient search, this is believed to be the last Confederate war photograph taken. On May 26, 1865, General E. Kirby Smith surrendered the troops in the Trans-Mississippi Department. Paroled by that capitulation these officers gathered in Shreveport, Louisiana, early in June to commemorate by means of the camera their long connection with the war. The oldest of them was but 40. The clothes in which they fought were worn to tatters, but each has donned the dress coat of an unused uniform carefully saved in some chest in the belief that it was to identify him with a victorious cause and not as here with a lost one. The names of those standing, from left to right, are: David French Boyd, Major of Engineers; D. C. Proctor, First Louisiana Engineers; unidentified; and William Freret. The names of those seated are: Richard M. Venable; H. T. Douglas, Colonel of Engineers; and Octave Hopkins, First Louisiana Engineers.


In view of the distrust with which the South for a while naturally regarded the efforts made by the Government to procure the records of the Confederacy, the work of the department to obtain this material at first met with slight success.

In 1878, the writer, a Confederate officer, was appointed as agent of the War Department for the collection of Confederate archives. Through his efforts the attitude of the Southern people became more cordial, and increased records were the result. By provision of Congress, certain sets of the volumes were distributed, and others held for sale at cost.

The history of this official record is mentioned in these pages as it indicates a wide-spread national desire on the part of the people of the United States to have a full and impartial record of the great conflict, which must form, necessarily, the basis of all history concerned with this era. It is the record of the struggle as distinguished from personal recollections and reminiscences, and its fulness and impartial character have never been questioned. The large number of these volumes makes them unavailable for general reading, but in the preparation of “The photographic history of the Civil War” the editors have not only consulted these official reports, but give the equally permanent testimony of the photographic negative. Therefore, as a successor to and complement of this Government publication, nothing could be more useful or interesting than “The photographic history of the Civil War.” The text does not aim at a statistical record, but is an impartial narrative supplementing the pictures. Nothing gives so clear a conception of a person or an event as a picture. The more intelligent people of the country, North and South, desire the truth put on record, and all bitter feeling eliminated. This work, it is believed, will add greatly to that end. [107]

Young artillerists of the Confederacy, 1868 This remarkable Confederate photograph instantly recalls Lincoln's oft-quoted saying that “war robbed both the cradle and the grave.” Charleston was, throughout the war, active in providing for her own defense, and the women of the city constantly busied themselves in making flags and uniforms for the troops. This home company was much better equipped than the troops in the field at this stage of the war. The youth of some of the men here is noticeable. The standard-bearer is a mere boy — hardly sixteen. As early as April 16, 1862. the Confederate Congress conscripted all men over 18 and under 45 to serve during the war. The Charleston artillery, because Charleston was one of the principal ports for blockade runners, was well equipped with guns and ammunition. At many critical moments, as at Gettysburg, Confederate batteries in the field ran entirely out of ammunition, hence artillerymen stationed near the source of supply were most fortunate.


Prisoner exchanges.

At the close of the war, Camp Fisk was established near Vicksburg for the general exchange of prisoners captured during the operations of the armies in the West. Here we see one of the daily meetings of the officers on both sides for this purpose. The Federal transport Sultana was busily engaged during the spring of 1865 in carrying the released Federal soldiers from Vicksburg to the North on their way to their homes. In the second picture we see her at Helena wharf loaded with the last shipment of paroled Union soldiers to the number of 2,134. The same day, April 27, 1865, she arrived at Memphis. While steaming along some 90 miles above that point, her boilers suddenly exploded and she sunk almost immediately. During the war the levees on both sides of the river had been so demolished that all the bottom lands were inundated, and at this point were covered with water to a width of 50 miles. But few of the ill-fated Union soldiers managed to save their lives. About 1,900 of them perished. A survivor relates that while clinging to a log with three other men, one committed suicide rather than endure the agony caused by the icy water. At Memphis the Federal authorities gathered all the floating bodies they could. Many were found as far below the scene of the disaster as Helena.

The last exchange. Camp Fisk, four mile Bridge (Vicksburg), April, 1865

The ill-fated Sultana, Helena, Arkansas, April 27, 1865


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