Did the Union or Confederacy Produce Better All-Around Soldiers?

lurid

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#1
From my experience in the USMC, the south enlisted the most people but the north and Midwest produced more quality than quantity. I really don't know about the CW, except that maybe at the beginning the south might had the better quality soldier, but during the middle and end of the war it was the north. In all fairness to the south, a lot were conscripted and we all know a lot of times conscription constituted dissent. Subsequently, desertion was prevalent and it started to fall apart. It seemed like morale picked up momentum for the Union rank & file as the war progressed. Nevertheless, at the start of the war who had the better trained soldiers?
 

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JeffBrooks

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#2
The South was a more militarized society than the North was. There were more private military academies such as Virginia Military Institute in the South than there were in the North, which meant that it was easier for the South to produce competent leaders on the regimental level than it was for the North. Both sides were mostly rural societies, but the South was more so, which meant that a higher proportion of their people were used to riding horses, hunting, and roughing it in the outdoors.

So, "better trained" is not really correct, since the ordinary enlisted men on both sides were not trained in warfare at the conflict's beginning. But we might conclude that, initially, the South had better soldier material in terms of their men. This advantage did not last long, though, as the seasoning of actual fighting quickly developed the Union men into soldiers equally as formidable as their Southern counterparts.
 

gary

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#3
I don't think the south was more "militarized" than the north. Certainly the militia movement gained popularity after the Nat Turner rebellion, but the North also had a lot of organization themselves including the German refugees from the failed 1848 Turner Rebellion and the zouaves that were inspired by Elmer Ellsworth.

The fabled Yankee shopkeeper and factory worker ignored the fact that there were no shortage of farmers in the North and that the midwestern states were virtually no different from their southern counterparts. Largely rural, they hunted and fished and were familiar with firearms too. Confederate private William Fletcher mentions it his book, Rebel Private Front and Rear. Both armies in 1861 were struggling to learn and if the Confederates were that good, they would have chased the Army of the Potomac into Washington, D. C after First Mansassas.
 

lurid

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#4
The South was a more militarized society than the North was. There were more private military academies such as Virginia Military Institute in the South than there were in the North, which meant that it was easier for the South to produce competent leaders on the regimental level than it was for the North. Both sides were mostly rural societies, but the South was more so, which meant that a higher proportion of their people were used to riding horses, hunting, and roughing it in the outdoors.

So, "better trained" is not really correct, since the ordinary enlisted men on both sides were not trained in warfare at the conflict's beginning. But we might conclude that, initially, the South had better soldier material in terms of their men. This advantage did not last long, though, as the seasoning of actual fighting quickly developed the Union men into soldiers equally as formidable as their Southern counterparts.
Did either side have some sort of boot camp, or eventually implement some training course prior to combat?
 
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#5
From my experience in the USMC, the south enlisted the most people but the north and Midwest produced more quality than quantity. I really don't know about the CW, except that maybe at the beginning the south might had the better quality soldier, but during the middle and end of the war it was the north. In all fairness to the south, a lot were conscripted and we all know a lot of times conscription constituted dissent. Subsequently, desertion was prevalent and it started to fall apart. It seemed like morale picked up momentum for the Union rank & file as the war progressed. Nevertheless, at the start of the war who had the better trained soldiers?
Just to muddy the waters a bit the Union Army included 104k Southern white men per "Lincoln's Loyalists Union Soldiers from the Confederacy" Richard Current North East University Press. Also the Union Army had over 150 k Southern born black soldiers.
Has a general rule other then the Sharpshooter battalions on both sides the training standards of both armies was rather poor with some exceptions.
Has far has overall performance both sides were more or less equal. The Union soldiers tended to be better fed so that might give them a bit if an edge.
Leftyhunter
 
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#6
At the beginning I would have to give the Confederacy the advantage as far as the martial abilities of the average solider is concerned. The average Johnny Reb grew up in a rural environment where shooting, long hikes and hard outdoor labor made him more used to the rigors of life in the field than Billy Yank, especially in the Eastern theater. As the war progressed, the fighting abilities of both sides became more even and by the end of the war, the advantage would probably have swung towards Billy Yank since Confederate manpower was resorting to filling their ranks with old men and boys in some cases.

I read somewhere where a military officer stated that if he had a combined force with Southern infantry and Union artillery he would whip any army in the world. This might be exaggerating a bit but the skill levels of the American armies in this conflict increased to make them efficient fighting machines by the middle years of the Civil War.
 

thomas aagaard

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#7
The average Johnny Reb grew up in a rural environment where shooting, long hikes and hard outdoor labor made him more used to the rigors of life in the field than Billy Yank, especially in the Eastern theater.
You are overestimating how common this was in the south and underestimating how common it was in the north.
It is way more a east/west issue than north/south.

The typical soldier was a farmer. Both north and south.
And plenty of soldiers on both sides had no experience with firearms at all. (Especially military grad firearms.)

If you live as a poor white man in SC, you would not be going hunting anywhere. All the land would be owned by the big plantations.

The south had 3 advantages.
1. the military academies gave them more regimental level officers with experience. (when done compared to the total size of the armies)
2. the militia system was more developed because of the fear of a slave rebellion.
3. They started to mobilize two month before the Union did.
(and men signed up for a year from the start. So no wasted resources on 3 month men)
 

WJC

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#8
at the start of the war who had the better trained soldiers?
At the start of the war, there were few trained soldiers. Perhaps the best at that time- both officers and enlisted- were still a part of the U. S. Army. That changed as both sides started forming armies so that in time they became roughly equal.
There used to be an oft-repeated claim that 'the South had the best generals'. I believe that was wrong. Like their armies, the generals were largely equal.
 
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#9
The War effort on both sides required and enlisted as many warm bodied breathing men as they could obtain. Training and equipment were only considered after the fact. Many units had no arms to train with or well trained leaders at first. The men who hunted for substance on both sides probable fared better off then others. Both sides learned the art war by participating and surviving.
 

jackt62

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#10
The question probably needs to be looked at during different periods of the war and even specific units. The south started with certain advantages (as have been mentioned previously by thomasaagaard. But by the middle or conclusion of the conflict, there were probably insignificant differences between the fighting forces of both sides. In terms of military organization, the Union cavalry was definitely in last place at the start but made tremendous strides in tactics and weapons, equipment, and organization by the spring of 1863.
 

E_just_E

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#11
Did either side have some sort of boot camp, or eventually implement some training course prior to combat?
When the regiments initially mustered in, they spent a certain period in a camp training before they joined an army. This included arms training and regimental movement exercises at the parade grounds. The extend of the period a newly formed regiment spent in camp was varied.
 
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#13
When the regiments initially mustered in, they spent a certain period in a camp training before they joined an army. This included arms training and regimental movement exercises at the parade grounds. The extend of the period a newly formed regiment spent in camp was varied.
Some more then others. General Thomas was through in training recruits at Camp Dick Robertson in Kentucky. One Union soldier from North Carolina stated he had something less then two weeks training before being sent to the front line. Unfortunately for soldiers on both sides trading was not given the importance it would have in future wars.
Leftyhunter
 

ucvrelics

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#14
In all my US Army years I would take the Southern boys when we were divvying up troops and they never let me down in combat. Not to say the yankees would have been any better or worse but I knew what I was getting with a Good Ole Boy from The South.

Oh almost forgot. To answer your question The Confederacy.
 
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#15
Firearms are the great equalizer a bullet fired by a green recruit could still kill a veteran regardless how much training he had.
Yes but during combat conditions the green recruit of the ACW era is not likely to hit his target. Even to this day well trained law enforcement officers can't always hit a target at 9 feet.
Leftyhunter
 
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#16
Yes but during combat conditions the green recruit of the ACW era is not likely to hit his target. Even to this day well trained law enforcement officers can't always hit a target at 9 feet.
Leftyhunter
It was comradeship that kept them in the ranks not training , Fighting alongside your brother your neighbour or the lad you went to school with imo.

The ACW is unique because it was made up of army's of volunteers the only way of learning was to experience battle at first-hand.

No amount of training could prepare you for the horror of war or combat.

On a side note you didn't have to be well trained in firearms as you never saw where you bullet was landing anyway and as most engagements would be covered in smoke at 80-150 yards so it didn't matter as long as you fired and reloaded you were doing your job.
 
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#17
Early in the war the Confederacy had the advantage due to more active pre-war activities with militia and troops having been called up sooner, but later when the troops on both sides were no longer "green alike" I don't think there was any difference man-for-man. Except for early in the war the men on both sides came from mostly similar backgrounds and had a similar level of training (both deficient by the standards of the great powers of Europe).

Differences in quality between opposing armies after the first year of the conflict were nearly always due to one side having leadership that was clearly superior to the other. It was about the men at the top, not the rank-and-file.

The Army of the Potomac struggled with Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia before Grant and Meade because it did not have a good answer for Lee. Swap the commanders at Chancellorsville, with Lee in federal blue and Hooker in rebel gray, and the AoP probably wins.

The Confederate Army of Tennessee did nothing but lose throughout the war not because the rank-and-file were not equal to their Union opponents, but because commanders like Braxton Bragg and John Bell Hood were not the equal to Grant, Sherman, Thomas, and (Chickamauga aside) Rosecrans.

Most of the battlefield losses in the Civil War, regardless of the side being walloped, were a case of lions being lead by donkeys.
 
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#18
It was comradeship that kept them in the ranks not training , Fighting alongside your brother your neighbour or the lad you went to school with imo.

The ACW is unique because it was made up of army's of volunteers the only way of learning was to experience battle at first-hand.

No amount of training could prepare you for the horror of war or combat.

On a side note you didn't have to be well trained in firearms as you never saw where you bullet was landing anyway and as most engagements would be covered in smoke at 80-150 yards so it didn't matter as long as you fired and reloaded you were doing your job.
True enough that in the ACW has a general rule most soldiers were from the same community. Of course many exceptions to that rule has regiments often recruited out of state . The 3rd North Carolina Mounted Infantry Union for example had many out of state troops.
True the antebellum army was tiny at only 16k men mostly scattered along the West. Both armies had to start from scratch.
I will have to politely disagree about marksmanship. European armies were much better trained in marksmanship. Even if enemy troops are obscured by smoke shooting over their heads won't help much.
Leftyhunter
 
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thomas aagaard

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#19
Later in the war there was a very clear difference.
The CS refiled existing regiment.
The US organised new regiments. (Wisconsin being a clear exception)

The result is that CSA regiments was larger than US regiments with the same experience.
And New US regiments was way less effective than experienced units.
 

jackt62

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#20
This raises an interesting question about refilling vs. organizing new regiments. For sure, refilling existing regiments as was the southern practice, allowed experienced fighting units to absorb newcomers without disrupting the units' combat efficiency, yet allowing recruits to rely on battle-hardened veterans for aid and training. Despite this, I wonder if there is any data or information on whether this made any material difference to the fighting ability of the respective armies.
 



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