Military History/Civil War



I am working on a research project and I have a few questions.
My research is based on the time frame of approximately 1862-1865.
Here are my questions.

1. On average income, what would be the type of pistol a Southern Civilian would carry either concealed or open, during the time of either Federal or Confederate occupation.?

2. How often on average, did the military on either side during the American Civil War, use civilians for military needs. ie, supply, convoys, scouts, etc?

3. If a civilian was used for matters regarding military service, would he or she necessarily be armed by the forces using the services?

4. Where would one find records, as in names of civilians who were used for such purposes?

5. What type of vehicle would be used to carry heavy loads of ammunition, arms, and possibly currency?

Thank you for your answers.

ANSWER: William:

It really depends on what area you are talking about.  By that, I mean guns were not normally carried at all in the eastern states and probably not very often even as far west as St. Louis.  Don't be fooled by the movies.  Even the Pinkertons did not carry openly, they carried pocket guns.  If you research the firearms of the period there were numerous pocket gun designs for just that purpose.  Small hammers and minimal triggers to prevent snagging and accidental discharge while carried in the pocket.  Remember this as in the days BEFORE copper or brass cartridges were common.  Cap and ball were still the order of the day.  A civilian who carried would most likely have carried a small bore, .32 or .36 pistol of some sort.  During occupation of a former city in rebellion, carrying would most likely have led to the resident being suspected of being a sympathizer or partisan.  States like Maryland, Tennessee and cities like New Orleans occupied by the north, I don't think you would have found many civilians walking around with weapons on display.  That was pretty much the stuff of Hollywood.
Did people have guns, yes, but remember most of the people out west were farmers not gun slingers.  Even cowhands may not have worn a side arm, maybe carried one in their saddle bag.  Have you ever worn a 5 lb gun on your hips and tried to do any physical activity?  It is a pain in the ass.  Besides a rifle is 10 times more effective in 9 out of ten instances than a pistol.  

The military utilized Suttlers to run some of the commissary type functions in established areas.  They sold dry goods and the like to the soldiers.  As the armies got more professional, remember they were essentially all state militia regiments to start with different uniforms and equipment, they also implemented more established supply and commissariat-quartermaster functions.  You can imagine early in the war some of the southern gentlmen who raised regiments probably had quite a retinue and fed their men quite well, and the animosity it might have raised between other regiments of more modest means from other rural areas of the south.  While some civilians filled a para-military role and for spying there were limitations.  In the Shenandoah Valley where I came from, Mosby's Raiders have legendary status.  They raided Federal lines of communication up and down the valley and acted as scouts for the Army of N. Va.  However they were also part of the formal military known as the 43rd Battalion, Virginia Cavalry.  The famous Mr. Anderson as depicted in the movie Gettysburg was a scout/spy, but as I said, regional accents and the sparse population during that period would have made a stranger nosing around the object of suspicion, except in major cities.  Even today people notice a stranger when they come into a small town, how much more so it would have been back when going 50 miles from home for most people would have been very unusual in deed?
Later in the war, quartermaster would have seen to all wagon train and supply functions.  Cavalry would have done all the scouting especially during the campaigns where deep penetration took place in the south.  Reconnassance in force would have been used for scouting or reconnoitering.  Not so early in the war say from 1861-63 when things were still pretty chaotic.

Probably not.  Remember early in the war soldiers brought their own guns, or the regiment supplied them.  Standardization came about as attrition of weapons took place in the early battles.  Lost or destroyed guns were replaced by standard types.  Check out some of the relic sites and you will be amazed by the number of different types of bullets used on a single battlefield, especially early in the war.  Later, things got standardized to simplify supply.  Both sides used essentially the same service rifle, just made by different armories, the Springfield 1855 in .58 caliber and Enfield rifled muskets.  The first was the design made at the Springfield Armory in Springfield, Mass. The second the Enfield was of British manufacture in .577 caliber and could use the Federal .58 ammunition.  900,000 were imported during the war.  There was also the Lorenz and Whitworth rifles in use by the confederates.  The Whitworth used a hexagonal bullet like the cannon of the same name giving it superior accuracy.
I would suspect that a civilian if supplied with arms by either side, would have recieved weapons of secondary standing, probably a smoothbore musket or carbine.  It would really depend on what time of the war.  Early, volunteer regiments showed up armed with whatever the state armory had, smooth bore muskets of War with Mexico vintage.  Some civilians might have preferred to arm themselves with more up to date weapons but would have had to provide their own ammunition.

See here for a selection of civilian and service revolvers.  Notice the number of pocket guns like the one that killed Lincoln.  The SW Revolver could also be carried in a pocket.  The Lemat was popular with Confederate Cavalry officers, the lower barrel ws loaded with a shotgun shell.

Suttlers and wagon drivers might have been armed with a Musketoon, originally designed for Dragoon troops, but proved to be inaccurate(the springfield version was not even designed with sights).  So users would load it with buckshot.  Those that could afford it might purchase a carbine or repeating rifle if they were available a the time.  

If you recall, later, civilians accompanying cavalry troops during the indian wars carried their own weapons.  Two civilians killed during the Fetterman Fight outside Ft. Phil Kearny both carried Spencers and gave a good account of themselves before being overwhelmed and killed as evidenced by frozen blood pools surrounding their position.

Alas, finding civilians in government service might be very difficult and might require use of diaries and secondary sources.  Those who saw that service may have in large part been considered "camp followers" and followed the troops to where they had semi permenent camps such as during the winter encampments when the war all but stopped.

Wagons were of a standardized type.  This has some really interesting facts about wagons of the day that most people do not know, thanks to Hollywood.  The number of wagons used is truly phenomenal as would be the fodder necessary to feed that many animals.  For wagons with Sherman on his March, he would have had 30,000 mules simply for the wagons, not to mention horses for artillery and cavalry.  Can you imagine the amount of manure and human waste in the area of operations and the flies!  No wonder disease was the leading cause of death.

But probably every civilian type of wagon was used depending on the time of the war and the current theater conditions and avilability.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you again for all the answers above.

How often would either side abandon previously held areas?


Would they patrol them after they had been abandoned?

Probably the most frequently fought over area was the Shenendoah Valley of Virginia.  Some of the towns like Winchester, Strasburg and Front Royal were occupied by the different armies as many as thirty times.

In the valley, come winter, the armies would bivouac in areas near a town.  Stonewall Jackson, and his division of the Army of N. Virgina encamped outside a town called Mount Jackson (now relation) and the picket line or line between the armies was along Stoney Creek the creek that ran through my father's home town.  The main road that ran through the valley at the time is now US 11.  Interstate 81 runs parallel to that, but the blasted through hills to make it.  Hills that were topographic barriers during the 1800's.  There is a place called Narrow Passage where Narrow Passage Creek enters the South Fork of the Shenandoah River and creates a a ravine that forms a bottle neck where the creek and river meet and the road, US 11 then known as the Valley Pike (a turn pike named for the post or pike on which a horizontal arm sat preventing passage until you paid a toll).  More than a few cavalry engagements were fought there as units from one army was delaying the other pursuing army so they could take up better positions after a fight.  Narrow Passage is just south about 5 miles from the town of Woodstock, and about a mile from my father's home which I now own.

So this is the reason that so much emphasis is placed on the fighting in Virginia, it affected more people in the relatively densely populated East as compared to the sparsely populated theater in the west.  The west proved decisive, but the human cost was borne more in the east.

There are two types of strategies of war fighting, raiding and persistent.  Raiding is just that, you raid an area, destroy your enemies lines of communications, supply depots, towns and cities.  The second is where you occupy territory, you stay, or persist in your occupation.

The north pursued a persistent war strategy.  They invaded and occupied except in the case of Georgia and the Carolinas in the last year of the war.  Generally the north occupied,as they did in the border states of Arkansas, Kentucky, Maryland and in the city of New Orleans.  In Virginia they tried that, occupying Newport News and Norfolk but failing in most other attempts.  Which is why Strasburg and Winchester and Front Royal changed hands so many times.  These towns are just south of the Rappahanock River which formed a geographic barrier, a great defensive one.  So the armies withdrew if they were in an untenable position, when the other side out maneuvered them.  This was relatively easy in the Valley which was bounded by two Ne-SW running ridges pointing at Washington and Baltimore, and only had two or three passes crossing to the eastside piedmont, which is where Fredricksburg, Chancelorsville, Richmond and Alexandria lie.  This sea sawing back and forth was to gain advantage.  The Federal forces would march south the Confederates would go out to meet them and drive them back.  The incompetence of the Federal commanders, a lot of which early in the war were political appointees, with little or no military competence, plagued the North until the last few years. Even Grant when he became General of the Army was plagued with political appointees at senior positions.  It was only the last few years of the war when Grant was in command of all the Union Armies, were competent generals given command.  Sherman in the West, Sheridan in the Valley, Thomas in Tennessee for example.  Total war was declared.  The Valley referred to as the "bread basket of the Confederacy" fed most of the urban areas of Virginia and that is why Lee and the government in Richmond dedicated a division to keeping the Federals out, plus it served as a dagger pointing at DC.  It is no accident that Lee moved the Army of N. Va. up the Valley on both his attempts to invade the North (Maryland and Pennsylvania) to carry the war north and give them a taste of what the south had been enduring. He was stopped on his first attempt at Antietam, Maryland at the Rappahanock, and on his second at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  In both cases the ridges of the Valley and control of the passes allowed him to move his army and supply wagon trains north unobserved by Federal cavalry.

No, areas abandoned were not patrolled in the sense you mean.  A town like Edinburg Va., which sits on Stoney Creek had pickets posted to alert of any movements by the other side.  Remember the scene in the movie Gods and Generals, where the two pickets meet in the river and exchange tobacco and coffee?  That would have been Stoney Creek at the place and time depicted, the winter of 1862.  Cavalry would be sent out scouting areas between armies to observe and look for movement.  The Cavalry were the eyes of the army.  Mosby's rangers active in the Valley were great at this and contributed to the success of the South in soundly beating the North there until the last years of the war, when Sheridan marched through the Valley and burned or destroyed everything.  Sheridan told his men he wanted the Valley in such a state that "If a crow were to fly its length, he would have to bring his own provender(supplies)".  He succeeded in his aim and broke the Confederate hold on the Valley in the process a the Battle of Cedar Creek and Tom's Brook where Custer and others routed the Confederate Laurel Brigade cavalry and chased them to and through Woodstock.  The aftermath chase was called the "Woodstock Races".

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Keith H. Patton


I can answer questions pertaining to weapons and tactics, personalities, battles, and strategies in european and U.S. history.


I was a history major, and had done extensive research in the subject area. I have designed and tested numerous computer games for various
historical periods.

B.A History M.S. Science
I have had the opportunity to live abroad and walk numerous battlefields both in the United States, Europe, and the Pacific.

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