The Union in the Civil
During the American
the Federal Government was generally referred to as the Union,
although the terms “United States,” “Federals,” the “North,” and
“Yankee,” were also used. Supported by 20 Free States and five Border
States, the Union was comprised of:
Later, West Virginia separated from
Virginia and became part of the Union on June 20, 1863.
joined the Union during the war, becoming a state on October 31, 1864.
Border States: These states were
actually slave states which did not declare their secession from the
*In Kentucky and
factions declared for the South and those states were claimed by the
Confederacy, but had both Union and
Confederate state governments
The Union was opposed by 11 Southern slave
states that had declared a secession to join together to form the
Confederate States of America.
began in April 1861, there were only 16,000 men in the U.S. Army, and
many of these were Southern officers who resigned to join the
Confederate States Army. With a drastic shortage of men,
Lincoln called on the states to raise a force of 75,000 men
for three months to put down the "insurrection." Though
thought the war would be brief, he was wrong, and on July 22, 1861,
Congress authorized a volunteer army of 500,000 men.
Initially, the call for volunteers was
easily met by abolitionists, patriotic Northerners and many
immigrants, enlisting for a steady income. However, when it was
apparent that it would take more than 90 days to put down the
insurrectionists, the Federal Government began to offer bounties to
volunteers and instituted a draft.
There were many people living in the
Border States who opposed secession and supported the Union. These men
were called “Unionists,” though they were often referred to by
Southerners as "Homemade Yankees." Nearly 120,000 “Unionists served in
the Union Army during the
and every Southern state raised Unionist regiments.
During the war, the Lincoln administration
wrestled with the idea of authorizing the recruitment of black troops.
However, by mid-1862, with the declining number of volunteers and the
need for more troops, the Union Army pushed the Government into
allowing African-Americans to serve. By the end of the war, about
179,000 black men served as soldiers in the By the end of the
almost 200,000 black men served as soldiers in the U.S. Military.
Another type of soldier also served the Union
-- somewhat unusual, these troops were Confederate soldiers
Galvanized Yankees. In the midst of the
the United States was also dealing with another issue -- that of the many
emigrants heading westward. With their troops in the last stages of
fighting the conflict with the South, it was a difficult task to protect
the many pioneers on the trails and combat Indian uprisings. As early as 1862, Colonel James Mulligan
discovered that many Confederate prisoners did
not wish to be exchanged, were willing to join the Union army,
illegally enlisted former Confederates to be used on the front lines.
This became even more apparent in 1863,
when the prisoner exchange system broke down and the imprisoned men had no
hope of release until the end of the war.
As the need for troops in the American West became more critical, the
experiment of enlisting Confederate
prisoners became a topic of discussion in the U.S. War Department. In
1864, President Lincoln endorsed the enlisting of ex-Confederates,
who could win their freedom by swearing their allegiance to the Union and
enlisting in the Union
Army. However, due to doubts of their ultimate loyalty, they were almost
always assigned to posts far from the
battlefields, in posts in the
West. Numbering about 6,000 men, there
were six regiments of U.S. volunteers during 1864 and 1865. Despite the
varied origins of these thousands of men who were "Galvanized” during
the war, each had the chance to prove his loyalty to the United States and were a valuable presence at a time and place in which they were
Union Generals Winfield Scott, George
McClellan, Nathaniel Banks, and John Wool, by B.B. Russell, 1861.This image available for
photographic prints and downloads
In total, at least two and a half million men
served the Union Army, most of which were volunteers.
The Union Army was composed of numerous
organizations, which were generally organized geographically. The soldiers
themselves were Soldiers were organized by military specialty, such as
infantry, cavalry, and artillery. The operations of the Union were divided
into five geographic regions known as theaters, including the
Lower Seaboard Theater
and Gulf Approach,
Pacific Coast Theater,
Trans-Mississippi Theater, and the
Several noted men served in as
Generals-in-Chief of the Union Army during the
including Winfield Scott,
McClellan, Henry W. Halleck, and
Ulysses S. Grant. Notable field commanders were William Rosecrans, George
Henry Thomas and
The Union had several advantages from the
start, including three-fourths of the nation’s wealth, heavy
industrialization which provided weapons and supplies, and nearly five
times the white population of the Confederate states.
had less devastating effects on the North than the South, as most of the
battles occurred on Southern soil. However, there were conflicts in the
Confederates raided northern states in hopes of deteriorating the
The Union Army fought and eventually defeated
the smaller Confederate States Army during the war which lasted from 1861
to 1865. Of the 2,213,363 men who served in the Union Army during the war,
364,511 died in combat, or from injuries sustained in combat, disease, or
other causes, and 281,881 were wounded. This was more than one out of
every four Union soldiers killed or wounded. For the South; however, it
was even worse with one in three Southern soldiers were killed or wounded.
In total, 620,000 soldiers died during the
or about two percent of American population.
of America, updated August, 2017.
Campaigns of the Civil War
The Civil War
Civil War Timeline & Leading Events
The Confederate States of America
Finally home after the Civil War, by
Trevor McClurg, 1866.
This image available for
photographic prints and downloads
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