Union Army

Army of the United States of America
Flag of the United States of America (1863-1865).svg
Flag of the United States from 1863 until 1865 (35 states/stars)
Active February 28, 1861 – May 26, 1865
(4 years, 2 months and 4 weeks)
Country United States
Type Army
Part of U.S. Department of War
March " Battle Hymn of the Republic"
Engagements

American Indian Wars)
American Civil War (1861-1865)

Commanders
Commander-in-Chief 16th President of the United States - Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865)
17th President Andrew Johnson (1865)
General-in-Chief 1st: Winfield Scott
2nd: George B. McClellan
3rd: Henry W. Halleck
Final: Ulysses S. Grant
Washington, District of Columbia. Officers of 3d Regiment Massachusetts Heavy Artillery (1865)
General George B. McClellan with staff & dignitaries (from left to right): Gen. George W. Morell, Lt. Col. A.V. Colburn, Gen. McClellan, Lt. Col. N.B. Sweitzer, Prince de Joinville (son of King Louis Phillippe of France), and on the very right - the prince's nephew, Count de Paris
The 21st Michigan Infantry, a regiment serving in the Western Theater.
Union private infantry uniform, from plate 172 of the "Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies," containing illustrations of uniforms worn by Union and Confederate soldiers during the American Civil War

The Union Army or Federal Army was the land force that fought for the Union during the American Civil War, 1861 to 1865. It included the permanent regular army of the United States, which was augmented by massive numbers of temporary units consisting of volunteers as well as conscripts. The Union Army fought and defeated the Confederate Army during the war. At least two and a half million men served in the Union Army; almost all were volunteers. About 360,000 Union soldiers died from all causes; 280,000 were wounded and 200,000 deserted.

History

Formation

Recruiting poster for the 1st Battalion New York Mounted Rifles

When the American Civil War began in April 1861, there were only 16,367 men in the U.S. Army, including 1,108 commissioned officers. Approximately 20% of these officers, mostly Southerners, resigned and joined the Confederate army. [1] In addition, almost 200 West Point graduates who had previously left the Army, including Grant, Sherman, and Bragg, would return to service at the outbreak of the war. This group's loyalties were far more sharply divided, with 92 doning Confederate gray and 102 putting on the blue of the Union Army. The U.S. Army consisted of ten regiments of infantry, four of artillery, two of cavalry, two of dragoons, and three of mounted infantry. The regiments were scattered widely. Of the 197 companies in the army, 179 occupied 79 isolated posts in the West, and the remaining 18 manned garrisons east of the Mississippi River, mostly along the Canada–United States border and on the Atlantic coast.

With the Southern slave states declaring secession from the Union, and with this drastic shortage of men in the army, President Abraham Lincoln called on the states to raise a force of 75,000 men for three months to put down the insurrection. Lincoln's call forced the border states to choose sides, and four seceded, making the Confederacy eleven states strong. The war proved to be longer and more extensive than anyone North or South had expected, and on July 22, 1861, Congress authorized a volunteer army of 500,000 men.

The call for volunteers initially was easily met by patriotic Northerners, abolitionists, and even immigrants who enlisted for a steady income and meals. Over 10,000 Germans in New York and Pennsylvania immediately responded to Lincoln's call, and the French were also quick to volunteer. As more men were needed, however, the number of volunteers fell and both money bounties and forced conscription had to be turned to. Nevertheless, between April 1861 and April 1865, at least two and a half million men served in the Union Army, of whom the majority were volunteers.

It is a misconception that the South held an advantage because of the large percentage of professional officers who resigned to join the Confederate army. At the start of the war, there were 824 graduates of the U.S. Military Academy on the active list; of these, 296 resigned or were dismissed, and 184 of those became Confederate officers. Of the approximately 900 West Point graduates who were then civilians, 400 returned to the Union Army and 99 to the Confederate. Therefore, the ratio of Union to Confederate professional officers was 642 to 283. [2] (One of the resigning officers was Robert E. Lee, who had initially been offered the assignment as commander of a field army to suppress the rebellion. Lee disapproved of secession, but refused to bear arms against his native state, Virginia, and resigned to accept the position as commander of Virginian C.S. forces. He eventually became the commander of the Confederate army.) The South did have the advantage of other military colleges, such as The Citadel and Virginia Military Institute, but they produced fewer officers. Though officers were able to resign, enlisted soldiers didn´t have this right; which meant that they usually had either to desert or to wait until their enlistment term was over in order to join the Confederate States Army. While the total number of those is unknown, only 26 enlisted men and non-commissioned officers of the regular army are known to have legally left the army to join the Confederate army when the war began. [3]

Major organizations

The Union Army was composed of numerous organizations, which were generally organized geographically.

Military division
A collection of Departments reporting to one commander (e.g., Military Division of the Mississippi, Middle Military Division, Military Division of the James). Military Divisions were similar to the more modern term Theater; and were modeled close to, though not synonymous with, the existing theaters of war.
Department
An organization that covered a defined region, including responsibilities for the Federal installations therein and for the field armies within their borders. Those named for states usually referred to Southern states that had been occupied. It was more common to name departments for rivers (such as Department of the Tennessee, Department of the Cumberland) or regions ( Department of the Pacific, Department of New England, Department of the East, Department of the West, Middle Department).
District
A subdivision of a Department (e.g., District of Cairo, District of East Tennessee). There were also Subdistricts for smaller regions.
Army
The fighting force that was usually, but not always, assigned to a District or Department but could operate over wider areas. Some of the most prominent armies were:

Each of these armies was usually commanded by a major general. Typically, the Department or District commander also had field command of the army of the same name, but some conflicts within the ranks occurred when this was not true, particularly when an army crossed a geographic boundary.

The regular army, the permanent United States Army, was intermixed into various formations of the Union Army, forming a cadre of experienced and skilled troops. They were regarded by many as elite troops and often held in reserve during battles in case of emergencies. This force was quite small compared to the massive state-raised volunteer forces that comprised the bulk of the Union Army.

Personnel organization

Private Samuel K. Wilson (1841–1865) of the Sturgis Rifles, Illinois Volunteer Infantry, 1862

Soldiers were organized by military specialty. The combat arms included infantry, cavalry, artillery, and other such smaller organizations such as the United States Marine Corps, which, at some times, was detached from its navy counterpart for land based operations. The Signal Corps was created and deployed for the first time, through the leadership of Albert J. Myer.

Below major units like armies, soldiers were organized mainly into regiments, the main fighting unit with which a soldier would march and be deployed with, commanded by a colonel, lieutenant colonel, or possibly a major. According to W. J. Hardee's "Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics" (1855), the primary tactics for riflemen and light infantry in use immediately prior and during the Civil War, there would typically be, within each regiment, ten companies, each commanded by a captain, and deployed according to the ranks of captains. Some units only possessed between four and eight companies and were generally known as battalions. [4] Regiments were almost always raised within a single state, and were generally referred by number and state, e.g. 54th Massachusetts, 20th Maine, etc.

Regiments were usually grouped into brigades under the command of a brigadier general. However, brigades were changed easily as the situation demanded; the regiment was the main form of permanent grouping. Brigades were usually formed once regiments reached the battlefield, according to where the regiment might be deployed, and alongside which other regiments.

Leaders

The champions of the Union - 1861 lithograph by Currier & Ives
Noncommissioned officers of the 93rd New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment

Several men served as generals-in-chief of the Union Army throughout its existence:

The gap from March 11 to July 23, 1862, was filled with direct control of the army by President Lincoln and United States Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, with the help of an unofficial "War Board" that was established on March 17, 1862. The board consisted of Ethan A. Hitchcock, the chairman, with Department of War bureau chiefs Lorenzo Thomas, Montgomery C. Meigs, Joseph G. Totten, James W. Ripley, and Joseph P. Taylor. [5]

Scott was an elderly veteran of the War of 1812 and the Mexican–American War and could not perform his duties effectively. His successor, Maj. Gen. McClellan, built and trained the massive Union Army of the Potomac, the primary fighting force in the Eastern Theater. Although he was popular among the soldiers, McClellan was relieved from his position as general-in-chief because of his overcautious strategy and his contentious relationship with his commander-in-chief, President Lincoln. (He remained commander of the Army of the Potomac through the Peninsula Campaign and the Battle of Antietam.) His replacement, Major General Henry W. Halleck, had a successful record in the Western Theater, but was more of an administrator than a strategic planner and commander.

Ulysses S. Grant was the final commander of the Union Army. He was famous for his victories in the West when he was appointed lieutenant general and general-in-chief of the Union Army in March 1864. Grant supervised the Army of the Potomac (which was formally led by his subordinate, Maj. Gen. George G. Meade) in delivering the final blows to the Confederacy by engaging Confederate forces in many fierce battles in Virginia, the Overland Campaign, conducting a war of attrition that the larger Union Army was able to survive better than its opponent. Grant laid siege to Lee's army at Petersburg, Virginia, and eventually captured Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy. He developed the strategy of coordinated simultaneous thrusts against wide portions of the Confederacy, most importantly the Georgia and Carolinas Campaigns of William Tecumseh Sherman and the Shenandoah Valley campaign of Philip Sheridan. These campaigns were characterized by another strategic notion of Grant's-better known as total war—denying the enemy access to resources needed to continue the war by widespread destruction of its factories and farms along the paths of the invading Union armies.

Grant had critics who complained about the high numbers of casualties that the Union Army suffered while he was in charge, but Lincoln would not replace Grant, because, in Lincoln's words: "I cannot spare this man. He fights."

Among memorable field leaders of the army were Nathaniel Lyon (first Union general to be killed in battle during the war), William Rosecrans, George Henry Thomas and William Tecumseh Sherman. Others, of lesser competence, included Benjamin F. Butler.

Union victory

The decisive victories by Grant and Sherman resulted in the surrender of the major Confederate armies. The first and most significant was on April 9, 1865, when Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Grant at Appomattox Court House. Although there were other Confederate armies that surrendered in the following weeks, such as Joseph E. Johnston's in North Carolina, this date was nevertheless symbolic of the end of the bloodiest war in American history, the end of the Confederate States of America, and the beginning of the slow process of Reconstruction.

Other Languages
العربية: جيش الاتحاد
français: Union Army
한국어: 북군
italiano: Union Army
日本語: 北軍
norsk: Union Army
polski: Armia Unii
Simple English: Union Army
中文: 联邦军