Confederate brigades composed of 3-Battalion Regiments ?

Joined
Aug 7, 2019
Hi everyone !
Dealing with effective numbers of troops in the Civil War is a tough job, especially with the Confederacy. Last year, I started to work on a board/wargame depicting the military aspect of the war in the Western and Eastern fronts when I suddenly realized how painful it would be to get each piece of information about the military units, from regimental level to a company-level.

I therefore simplified it and then I thought about the historical accuracy : I have read on a web article (maybe on Wikipedia) that, at the beginning of the war, each Confederate regiment would have been composed of three battalions, each composed of 5 or 6 companies (Cos.).

This attempt to assemble a huge amount of men at a regimental level never succeed, for I didn't find any information about a 3-battalion regiment during the war, excepting Hilliard's Alabama Legion, composed of three infantry battalions, one artillery (turned to infantry) battalion and one cavalry battalion (a total of five battalions, numbering almost 3,000 men according to ranger95.com).

Meanwhile, this gave me an idea : trying to create orders of battle with a three-battalion regimental structure.
Perhaps the number of Cos. would have been fixed between 9 (minimum) and 12 (maximum) per regiment, meaning that each battalion would be composed of 3 to 4 Cos. The maximum strength of a single regiment would be fixed between 360 (min.) and 720 (max.).

Several benefits must be pointed out with such a peculiar organization =
- depleted Cos. could be merged easily within a single battalion, or regiment.
- the total number of regiments will be reduced.
- the maximum strength of a single regiment would be increased.
- with less subordinates, field communication would be improved with better effects on tactical movements.
- the possibility to detach strong troops easily to a secondary front.

I took the example of Alabamian regiments of the Army of Northern Virginia during the Peninsula Campaign, just before the Seven Days Battles :
(= the numbers which are used below were calculated from Brett Schulte's OOBs website, by multiplying the PFD number by 0.85, because some 15% of the soldiers composing each unit are not supposed to participate in the fight).

* Alabamians in D. H. Hill's Division

- 5th Regiment (380) / 6th Regiment (620) / 12th Regiment (290) from Rodes' Brigade = 1,290

- - - 5th (New) Alabama Infantry Regiment (640) = 1st Battalion (220, 4 Cos.) / 2nd Battalion (210, 4 Cos.) / 3rd Battalion (210, 4 Cos.)
- - - 6th (New) Alabama Infantry Regiment (650) = 1st Battalion (230, 4 Cos.) / 2nd Battalion (210, 4 Cos.) / 3rd Battalion (210, 4 Cos.)

- 13th Regiment (350) / 26th Regiment (210) from Rains' Brigade = 560

- - - 13th (New) Alabama Infantry Regiment (560) = 1st Battalion (200, 4 Cos.) / 2nd Battalion (180, 4 Cos.) / 3rd Battalion (180, 4 Cos.)
- - - [+ approximately 2 Cos. of 50 men from the 26th Alabama would join the unit in the end of 1862 ]

From five average regiments, a brigade of three strong regiments could be formed under the command of Brigadier-General Robert E. Rodes.
The process could be used for the other Alabamian units of the ANV, to increase the strength of Rodes' Brigade (for example, the 3rd and the 4th Alabama Regiments, reinforced by the Cos. of the 44th Alabama Regiment).

- 3rd Regiment (520) / 4th Regiment (390) / 44th Regiment (390) = 1,300

- - - 3rd (New) Alabama Infantry Regiment (650) = 1st Battalion (230, 4 Cos.) / 2nd Battalion (210, 4 Cos.) / 3rd Battalion (210, 4 Cos.)
- - - 4th (New) Alabama Infantry Regiment (650) = 1st Battalion (230, 4 Cos.) / 2nd Battalion (210, 4 Cos.) / 3rd Battalion (210, 4 Cos.)

The 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th Alabama Infantry Regiments would be gathered under the command of Robert E. Rodes, numbering 2,590 effective soldiers, while the 13th would be transferred to Archer's Tennessee brigade.

Result : June 1862

RODES' BRIGADE : BG Robert E. Rodes (2,590, 4 new regiments formed out of 6 old regiments)
- - - 3rd Alabama I.R. : Col. Cullen A. Battle (650, 3 x 4 Cos.)
- - - 4th Alabama I.R. : Col. Evander M. Law (650, 3 x 4 Cos.)
- - - 5th Alabama I.R. : Col. Christopher C. Pegues (640, 3 x 4 Cos.)
- - - 6th Alabama I.R. : Col. John B. Gordon (650, 3 x 4 Cos.)

At Gettysburg, if the Brigade enters the fight with historical numbers (multiplied by 0.85), the result would be :

LAW'S (RODES') BRIGADE : BG Evander M. Law (1,760 effectives, collected from the historical 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 12th and 44th Alabama Infantry Regiments)
- - - 3rd Alabama I.R. : Col. Cullen Battle (450) = 1st Battalion (150, 3 Cos.) / 2nd Battalion (150, 3 Cos.) / 3rd Battalion (150, 3 Cos.)
- - - 4th Alabama I.R. : Col. Pinckney D. Bowles (450) = 1st Battalion (150, 3 Cos.) / 2nd Battalion (150, 3 Cos.) / 3rd Battalion (150, 3 Cos.)
- - - 5th Alabama I.R. : Col. Josephus Hall (410) = 1st Battalion (150, 3 Cos.) / 2nd Battalion (130, 3 Cos.) / 3rd Battalion (130, 3 Cos.)
- - - 6th Alabama I.R. : Col. James N. Lightfoot (450) = 1st Battalion (150, 3 Cos.) / 2nd Battalion (150, 3 Cos.) / 3rd Battalion (150, 3 Cos.)

Even if the regiments have reduced numbers compared to the Seven Days, they still forming a strong brigade providing enough power and fluidity to an assault on the heights of Gettysburg. If the units suffers again, the 5th Alabama could be disbanded and its Cos. would merge with the three other regiments.

From my point of view, this military idea was certainly a sound one and would have turned the Confederate Army into a modern and functional military organisation. But I can imagine how difficult it is to manage such numbers and units, with seniority feuds between officers, with the restriction of the "States Rights" policy, etc. If the Confederacy had a strong central military administration, associated with an old military education among the population, this project may have work and might have influence modern armies.
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
I think the thing that has to be realized is that in a three-battalion structure the functional unit there is the battalion - a unit of about 500 men in a six-company structure - and that below a certain size a unit on the Civil War battlefield effectively loses utility. You see a lot of this late-war where even regiments are unable to operate as single units in anything remotely resembling independent operations, and so effectively a division consists of a small number of brigades (which are the smallest units that get manoeuvred independently by that point). If you had a "three battalion regiment" which was down to 450 men then functionally speaking it would act as a single consolidated unit because 150 men is far too small to use as an independent battlefield formation.
(Specifically, the minimum requirement to be able to actually use the drill book properly is about 200 men - below that you're off the bottom of the scale - and by Gettysburg IIRC at least one Union brigade was operating as a single consolidated battlefield unit as the regiments had shrunk too much to do this.)


If you have a multi-battalion regimental structure which retains any kind of relevance (by which I mean they keep the regiments filled up so that each battalion is large enough to use effectively on the battlefield as a combat battalion) then what you have is a smaller number of larger regiments - to a greater extent than the historical, in which the Confederates kept refilling their units but did not do so to this degree.
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Practically speaking, the organization used in the Civil War (where the tactical battalions were usually regiments or small brigades and were between 200 and 1,200 men, ideally larger rather than smaller) is the appropriate one for the weaponry and tactics they were using. There are little corrections that can be made, but on the gross organizational scale it's about right.

It's definitely possible to modernize, but for this to be really worth it you either need a fundamental modernization in tactics (which is to say, proper light infantry drill for everyone and consequently more training time and a cadre of trained personnel to get it started) or an alteration in weapons capabilities (i.e. rifle training) or you need to use the methods of the French Revolutionary armies (which are 60-70 years old at this time but are a light infantry focused doctrine that doesn't need lots of drill)

For the first (proper light infantry drill) then three-battalion regiments is one way to organize it (as this means a three-wing structure, and individual British infantry battalions of around 600-1000 operated in three wings so each wing was 200-350).

For the second (alteration in weapons capabilities) the focused drill with the touch of elbows becomes less important so you don't necessarily need the size of battalion which fits with the drill book.

And for the third (revolutionary methods) you need to think bigger, not smaller. Mixed order effectively means that you want organizations of several thousand men making most of the battlefield movements - think in terms of a cloud of skirmishers confronting the enemy along the whole battle line to fix them, then heavy company or battalion columns pushing through the skirmishers (and being joined by them) to punch into the enemy.
 
Joined
Aug 7, 2019
(Specifically, the minimum requirement to be able to actually use the drill book properly is about 200 men - below that you're off the bottom of the scale - and by Gettysburg IIRC at least one Union brigade was operating as a single consolidated battlefield unit as the regiments had shrunk too much to do this.)
I totally agree, but were the 200 men PFD or effectives ? In my examples, I reduced the size of each unit by 15%, which means that the three-battalion regiments contains more men on paper (Law's (Rodes') Brigade would have 2,070 PFD at Gettysburg, with more than 500 men by regiment).

If the project was adopted, more regiments would have been disbanded to form such strong battalions but I fear that the soldier's proudness will suffer this kind of merging. To prevent this, I propose this following solution :
- the battalions composing the 6th Alabama could be numbered : 61st, 62nd and 63rd Alabama Battalions
- the battalions composing the 13th Alabama could be numbered : 131st, 132nd and 133rd Alabama Battalions
- etc.

The 5th will be disbanded to reinforce the remaining units.

1) June 1862

- Rodes' Brigade (2,590)
- - - 3rd Alabama (870)
- - - - - 31st Battalion (290)
- - - - - 32nd Battalion (290)
- - - - - 33rd Battalion (290)
- - - 4th Alabama (860)
- - - - - 41st Battalion (300)
- - - - - 42nd Battalion (280)
- - - - - 43rd Battalion (280)
- - - 6th Alabama (860)
- - - - - 61st Battalion (300)
- - - - - 62nd Battalion (280)
- - - - - 63rd Battalion (280)

2) June 1863

- Law's Brigade (1,760)
- - - 3rd Alabama (600)
- - - - - 31st Battalion (300)
- - - - - 32nd Battalion (300)
- - - 4th Alabama (580)
- - - - - 41st Battalion (290)
- - - - - 42nd Battalion (290)
- - - 6th Alabama (580)
- - - - - 61st Battalion (290)
- - - - - 62nd Battalion (290)

An average brigade would be composed of 2 to 3 regiments instead of 4 to 6 historically.
An average regiment would be composed of 2 to 3 battalions (400 to 1,050 effectives).
Each battalion would number 200 to 350 effectives (5 Companies).
Each companie would number 40 to 70 effectives.

If the strength of a regiment is below the minimum quota (less than 400 men with two battalions), the two battalions can be merged and transferred to another unit, keeping the regiment integrity at a lower scale.

For example : the 3rd Alabama is depleted by battle losses and sickness. Its total strength is now 320, with two battalions.
The 31st and 32nd battalions merge into one single unit, renamed the 63rd (New) Battalion, which can be transferred to the 6th Regiment as its third battalion.

Does it sound realistic ?
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
I totally agree, but were the 200 men PFD or effectives ? In my examples, I reduced the size of each unit by 15%, which means that the three-battalion regiments contains more men on paper (Law's (Rodes') Brigade would have 2,070 PFD at Gettysburg, with more than 500 men by regiment).
200 men on the battlefield, is my understanding. So effectives.


Does it sound realistic ?
It sounds like something that could happen, but I suspect it would lead to a lot of organizational headaches in practice. For example there were only three Florida regiments in the Gettysburg AoNV (2nd, 5th, 8th) and only one Arkansas (3rd), plus only three Tennessee. This means that shuffling companies around to maintain the battalion size is going to result in cross-state regiments.


I think what it amounts to is a lot of extra faff on the organizational level for no real actual benefit.
 

C.J.

Private
Joined
Oct 3, 2020
What if the Union tried this? Seems to make sense to me that the Union army would organize the volunteers the same way it organized the regular army whit i think 2 battleans per regiment?
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
What if the Union tried this? Seems to make sense to me that the Union army would organize the volunteers the same way it organized the regular army whit i think 2 battleans per regiment?
The idea of multi-battalion regiments was a thing that the Union army did during the war, with the new regiments, and it never managed to recruit enough to fill them out anyway.
 
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Location
Germany
The idea of multi-battalion regiments was a thing that the Union army did during the war, with the new regiments, and it never managed to recruit enough to fill them out anyway.

New Regular Army regiments, that is, only a few. However they didn`t just raise three-battalion regiments but, while planning to have those, following regulations they recruited first and established more companies and eventually battalions once they had enough men for minimal authorized strength for them. And not enough recruits indeed, I don´t know if any of those regiments managed to have a third battalion during the war.
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
New Regular Army regiments, that is, only a few. However they didn`t just raise three-battalion regiments but, while planning to have those, following regulations they recruited first and established more companies and eventually battalions once they had enough men for minimal authorized strength for them. And not enough recruits indeed, I don´t know if any of those regiments managed to have a third battalion during the war.
The issue is that the only time the Union army tried creating multi-battalion regiments it kind of didn't fill them out properly.

US 11-19th inf battalions were established for 8 companies, each with 97 enlisted men, the company captain and 2 subalterns. On paper the regiment was supposed to raise 3 battalions, but only 4 ever formed a 3rd battalion (none filled), and some never formed all the companies of the 2nd battalion.


I think there's another important issue here, which is that the more regiments there are the more chance there is for people to have regimental positions. The definition of regiment anyway is an organization which has enough companies for the regimental status (which comes with colours etc. and is prestigious) and so there's an incentive for the formation of as many units of regimental size as possible. That being said it is plausible that the establishment for regiments would be larger, though I suspect you'd need to make that decision really early (in April 1861) as otherwise they just copy what they're already doing.
 
Joined
Aug 9, 2011
Location
Lockhart, Texas
I tried to follow the train of posts here and confess to confusion. I will say that Hood's Texas Brigade at the Battle of the Wilderness, charged forward in the nick of time for Lee, with four regiments of maybe 200 effectives per regiment, with no consolidated regiments. Their elan made the numbers enough to plug the hole. Something to chew on. But then I'm a Texan and had an ancestor in that bunch that day.
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
I tried to follow the train of posts here and confess to confusion. I will say that Hood's Texas Brigade at the Battle of the Wilderness, charged forward in the nick of time for Lee, with four regiments of maybe 200 effectives per regiment, with no consolidated regiments. Their elan made the numbers enough to plug the hole. Something to chew on. But then I'm a Texan and had an ancestor in that bunch that day.
200 per regiment is about as small as you can get as a single tactical battalion (i.e. the smallest size for which the drill book can be followed and make sense). But the Texan brigade at that point was probably small enough that it operated as one or two tactical battalions for the whole brigade.

To explain terms here:


A regiment is an organization with its own colours etc.
A battalion (organizational) is any group of two or more administrative companies which is smaller than a regiment.
A battalion (tactical) is a formation that manoeuvres according to the drill book on the battlefield (usually 200 men or more, but usually less than 1,000). It is actually possible for a single full strength regiment of 10 companies to operate as two tactical battalions (of five companies each) for example, but typically in the early-mid war each regiment formed one tactical battalion. Late war brigades would often combine regiments to produce tactical battalions.
 
Joined
Aug 9, 2011
Location
Lockhart, Texas
I'm not a student of Union organization, but have closely looked at a few consolidated Texas Confederate infantry regiments. In particular, the consolidated 6th-10th-15th Texas in the Army of Tennessee in Cleburne's Division. While the three regiments were consolidated, all three Companies A were combined into a single Company A with a single set of company officers. The surplus were transferred elsewhere. That didn't work so well, (I can't find any primary sources to verify, but I'm assuming they operated with three platoons in each company, instead of two during this time.) so when the 10th Texas was pulled out of the consolidation and returned to independent status, the 6th and 15th Texas 'halves' of the consolidated regiment, abandoned the first plan and each regiment 'reconsolidated' its ten companies into six companies of 6th Texas men and four companies of 15th Texas men. That worked better.

By the way, my novel Whittled Away tracks the 6th Texas through the whole war from Arkansas Post and then prison camp, to the AOT and finally to Franklin and Nashville. It was a long war with zero replacement soldiers, and from which two of their fifty-three original enlisted men made it home to San Antonio.
 
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