Did the average Confederate soldier fight in more battles than his Northern counterpart?

DR_Hanna

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#1
Been cruising all the threads comparing Southern soldiers/armies to Northern soldiers/armies in terms of military training, fighting spirit, comparative casualty numbers, desertions, etc.

There really doesn't seem to be a lot of clear difference in actuality.

However, Northern Armies were more numerous (more armies and more soldiers in them), had more turnover (Southerners weren't allowed to go home when their enlistments were up), and portions of Northern armies seemingly were not committed to battles for various reasons.

When I follow the battle history of many Southern regiments I am struck by how many important battles a Southern soldier could claim to have participated in.

It occurs to me that the Southern soldier might have fought on average in more battles than an average Yank soldier did.

Has any research been done in this area?
 

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#2
That's an interesting question. The life of the common soldier is one of those subjects I find especially interesting and, while I've read maybe ten books dealing with that, I've don't recall having seen anybody address your question head-on. Your reasoning seems sound to me and I'd guess the answer would be 'yes'.

I hope one of our more educated members will chime in and enlighten us with some of those miraculously-produced digital quotes from obscure texts.
 

jackt62

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#3
I can't cite specific quotes, but my understanding is that the Southern soldier fought in more engagements than his Northern counterpoint. This might be partly because the northern armies had generally longer lines of communication than the south, thereby requiring that many northern soldiers needed to be assigned at one time or another to non-combat duty, such as guarding railroads and other supply depots.
 

Pat Young

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#6
Weren't they also cases of Northern 90 day men who ended up having to serve longer?
I am sure there were many cases of Union troops kept days or weeks after their terms expired, but the Confederates were required to stay in the army more or less en masse and not for a few weeks, but for years.
 

Eric Calistri

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#7
Without running the numbers, and I'm not aware of anyone who has, I'd say yes. If we look at 1864 the U.S. went to great effort to get the 3 year men who had enlisted in 1861 to stay on through furloughs, bonuses, and the "veteran" designation given to units meeting re enlistment quota. Still they lost a lot of these men, replacing them with a lot of new levees. On the CS side, terms of enlistment did not end, anyone not dead, disabled or fortunate enough to get an exemption stayed on.
 

David Knight

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#8
possibly more northern forces to rotate in and out of the campaigns? units could rotate, refit, get new recruits, rotate back in again? Good question...I have no clue, just throwing darts...
Whilst I think the original questioners suggestion is true. I thought that the Union tended to raise new regiments rather than post new recruits to already formed units?
 

Patrick H

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#10
I agree with John Winn that you've posed an excellent question--one I'd never thought much about. It has been interesting to read what some of our more seasoned and knowledgable members have to say. Thanks for launching this thread.
 
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#11
I would think so. I would imagine the average Confederate soldier was in it for the duration unless severely wounded and sent home or killed or taken prisoner.
The Confederate soldier didn't have a choice since his enlistment was extended for the duration, regardless of the terms when he signed up.

R
 
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#12
Generally speaking, the Confederate soldier would have seen more combat since, once enlisted, he was in for the duration, barring injury or death.

In the Union army, there were 2 year regiments, 3 year regiments, and nine-month regiments. In addition, militia units were called up for several months at a time a few times during the war. There simply was a greater likelihood that the Union soldier would go home at some point before the war was over.

R
 

ole

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#13
Whilst I think the original questioners suggestion is true. I thought that the Union tended to raise new regiments rather than post new recruits to already formed units?
Have read the same thing many times, David. Seems that, at least in the earlier years, the Union tended to accept green regiments while half-strength veteran regiments remained undermanned.

The chief wrong in that is that the vets' experience might well have extended the lives of the greenies.
 

jackt62

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#14
Have read the same thing many times, David. Seems that, at least in the earlier years, the Union tended to accept green regiments while half-strength veteran regiments remained undermanned.

The chief wrong in that is that the vets' experience might well have extended the lives of the greenies.
I think that the Union preferred creating new green regiments so that state governors could appoint their own political friends and allies as colonels and brigadiers to those newly created positions. Of course, this did not do the half-strength veteran regiments any good.
 

AUG

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#15
Whilst I think the original questioners suggestion is true. I thought that the Union tended to raise new regiments rather than post new recruits to already formed units?
Once their enlistments were up men who chose to would reenlist as veterans and new troops would take the place of those who left. I've heard many say before that the "Union tended to disband old regiments and raise new ones" but that's not entirely true. Though new ones were raised with new recruits, most of the old ones remained intact throughout the war, thanks to the many veterans who decided to reenlist in 1864.
 

David Knight

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#16
Once their enlistments were up men who chose to would reenlist as veterans and new troops would take the place of those who left. I've heard many say before that the "Union tended to disband old regiments and raise new ones" but that's not entirely true. Though new ones were raised with new recruits, most of the old ones remained intact throughout the war, thanks to the many veterans who decided to reenlist in 1864.
Thanks for this. It makes more sense to keep established regiments up to strength and use the experience of the old hands however young they were. It seems that political/nepotistic appointments were the scourge of all armies in the 19th Century from whatever country.
 

JCM6395

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#17
I would think the Confederates troops were in more fights than their Union counterparts. That doesn't make them more committed than Billy Yank...just the Union had more troops to move around.

I know the veteran regiments continued to recruit throughout the war....I'm sure those recruits stood a better chance at surviving it all with the vets by their side.....but the new greenie regiments, were they trained by veteran officers and NCO's? That would at least give them some inkling of what to expect.
 
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Carronade

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#18
There were regiments like the Pennsylvania Reserves who went home in the middle of the Overland campaign because their enlistments expired, or the 2nd Maine who (mostly) were discharged even as the army was marching towards Gettysburg, so apparently the Union never made provision for involuntary extension of enlistments (as others have noted, they did give incentives for troops or regiments to extend or re-enlist).

The Union did have a propensity for creating new regiments, but there were cases of veteran regiments being kept up to strength. Some of the monuments at Gettysburg reference two thousand or more men serving in a regiment at some point in the war. I recall reading that Vermont was particularly conscientious about replenishing its units.

The Confederate policy of extending enlistments for the duration may have seemed harsh, but it was a realistic war measure, no worse than conscripting men who hadn't enlisted at all.
 

jackt62

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#19
Does anybody have information on the actual number of conscripted soldiers, both North and South? I had read that even after both armies resorted to the draft, by 1865, conscripts were only about 15% to 20% of the total number of those under arms. I thought that many ended up volunteering to get bounty money rather than wait to be drafted.
 

Georgia Sixth

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#20
This is an interesting question. If Sam Watkins' memoir was accurate, then he participated in a mind-boggling number of large engagements and was lucky to have survived. If his experience was typical, then surely the southern soldier fought in more battles than his northern counterpart. BUT...this was hardly the case in the Trans-Mississippi, where transportation infrastructure was virtually nil. I've read the memoirs of a guy who was in one of my ancestors' units (27th Arkansas) and his account is filled with long marches from one point to another only to arrive after they were needed. In fact, they were only involved in two significant battles during 3 years: Jenkin's Ferry and Pleasant Hill.
 

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