Little Known Facts about the Civil War

What follows are a few little known facts about the Civil War era. Most Americans think they know all about the "War between the States" simply because they are Americans. In fact, the real story -- not the one in most textbooks -- is crammed with little known facts. Information has been drawn from multiple sources for this report.

Lincoln did not believe that whites and blacks could live together in peace. He had planned 
to relocate the entire black population of the United States to Central America. 

Sickness accounted for a full one-third of all casualties in the Civil War. The 12th 
Connecticut Regiment entered the war with a compliment of 1,000 men. Before it entered 
its first engagement, sickness had reduced its strength to 600 able bodied soldiers.

There were more than 10,000 soldiers serving in the Union Army that were under the age 
of 18. 

Union and Confederate forces stationed at Fredericksburg during the winter of 1862 traded 
items by constructing small boats and floating them back and forth across the Rappahannock 

General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate forces, traveled with a pet hen that 
laid one egg under his cot every morning. 

Approximately 130,000 freed slaves became Union soldiers during the war. 

The artillery barrage at the battle of Gettysburg during Pickett’s charge was heard over 100 
miles away in Pittsburgh. 

The famous Confederate blockade - runner, the C.S.S. Alabama, never entered a Confederate 
port during the length of her service. 

The first civilian killed by the abolitionist John Brown and his cohorts at Harper’s Ferry was a 
free black man. 

During the Civil war a person who had been drafted could hire a substitute. This bounty 
system was exploited by so called “bounty jumpers”. These men would hire out to more than 
one draftee and then make a hasty exit once they were paid. The record for bounty –jumping 
was held by John O’Connor. He admitted to hiring himself out 32 times before being caught. He 
received a 4 year prison term. 

Black soldiers were paid $10 per month while serving in the Union army. This was $3 less 
than white soldiers. 

Approximately 2,000 men served in the 26th North Carolina Regiment during the course of 
the Civil War. With Lee’s surrender at the Appomattox courthouse, there were only 131 men left 
to receive their paroles. 

According to the U. S. Census, the population of the United States in 1860 numbered 
31,443,321 persons. Of these, approximately 23,000,000 were in the 22 Northern states and 
9,000,000 in the 11 Southern states. Of the latter total, 3,500,000 were slaves.  

At one time or another, the Northern armies numbered 2,100,000 soldiers. The Southern 
armies were considerably smaller. The total dead on both sides was about 500,000.  

Of the 364,000 on the Union side who lost their lives, a third were killed or died of wounds and 
two-thirds died of disease.  

The chance of surviving a wound in Civil War days was 7 to 1; in the Korean War, 50 to 1.  

About 15 percent of the wounded died in the Civil War; about 8 percent in World War I; about 
4 percent in World War II; about 2 percent in the Korean War.  

There were 6,000,000 cases of disease in the Federal armies, which meant that, on an average, 
every man was sick at least twice.  

The diseases most prevalent were dysentery, typhoid fever, malaria, pneumonia, arthritis, and 
the acute diseases of childhood, such as measles, mumps, and malnutrition.  

The principal weapon of the war and the one by which 80 percent of all wounds were produced 
was a single-shot, muzzle-loading rifle in the hands of foot soldiers.  

Most wounds were caused by an elongated bullet made of soft lead, about an inch long, 
pointed at one end and hollowed out at the base, and called a "minie" ball, having been invented 
by Capt. Minié of the French army.  

Fully armed, a soldier carried about seven pounds of ammunition. His cartridge box contained 
40 rounds, and an additional 60 rounds might be conveyed in the pocket if an extensive battle 
was anticipated.  

The muzzle-loading rifle could be loaded at the rate of about three times a minute. Its maximum 
range was about 1000 yards.  

Most infantry rifles were equipped with bayonets, but very few men wounded by bayonet 
showed up at hospitals. The conclusion was that the bayonet was not a lethal weapon. The 
explanation probably lay in the fact that opposing soldiers did not often actually come to grips 
and, when they did, were prone to use their rifles as clubs.  

Artillery was used extensively, but only about 10 percent of the wounded were the victims of 
artillery fire.  

Besides the rifle and cannon, weapons consisted of revolvers, swords, cutlasses, hand grenades, 
Greek fire and land mines.  

Many doctors who saw service in the Civil War had never been to medical school, but had 
served an apprenticeship in the office of an established practitioner.  

In the Peninsular campaign in the spring of 1862, as many as 5000 wounded were brought into 
a hospital where there were only one medical man and five hospital stewards to care for them.  

The first organized ambulance corps were used in the Peninsular campaign and at Antietam.  

In the battle of Gettysburg, 1100 ambulances were in use. The medical director of the Union 
army boasted that all the wounded were picked up from the field within 12 hours after the battle 
was over. This was a far cry from the second battle of Bull Run, when many of the wounded 
were left on the field in the rain, heat, and sun for three or four days.  

Eighty percent of all wounds during the Civil War were in the extremities.  

The first U. S. Naval hospital ship, the Red Rover, was used on the inland waters during the 
Vicksburg campaign.  

Some authorities accredit the 26th North Carolina Regiment with having incurred the greatest 
loss in a single battle recorded in the Civil War. At the Battle of Gettysburg, it lost 708 of its 
men, or approximately 85 percent of its total strength. In one company of 84 men, every man 
and officer was hit. The orderly sergeant who made out the report had a bullet wound through 
both legs. 

During the Battle of Murfreesboro (Stone's River), the Union artillery fired 20,307 rounds and the 
infantry exhausted over 2,000,000 rounds. The total weight of the projectiles fired was in excess 
of 375,000 pounds. 

Approximately 6000 battles, skirmishes, and engagements were fought during the Civil War. 

Did you know that in the Civil War, General Stonewall Jackson walked around with his right 
hand in the air to balance the blood in his body? Because he was right-handed, he thought that 
his right hand was getting more blood than his left, and so by raising his hand, he’d allow the 
excess blood to run into his left hand. He also never ate food that tasted good, because he 
assumed that anything that tasted good was completely unhealthy.

During the Civil War, glasses with colored lenses were used to treat disorders and illnesses. 
Yellow-trimmed glasses were used to treat syphilis, blue for insanity, and pink for depression. 
Thus we get the term, To see the world through rose-colored glasses.

Centuries before and decades after the Civil War, including the war itself, doorways were wide, 
not because of the width of women’s skirts, but so coffins could be passed through, with a 
pallbearer on either side.

Did you know that the average American in the 1860’s could not afford to paint his house, and a 
painted house was a sign of affluence? In order to keep up appearances, they used cedar 

Did you know that when a woman mourned for her husband in the 1860’s, she spent a minimum 
of two-and-a-half years in mourning? That meant little or no social activities: no parties, no 
outings, no visitors, and a wardrobe that consisted of nothing but black. (Shame on Scarlet 
O’Hara) The husband, when mourning for his wife, however, spent three months in a black suit.

Surgeons never washed their hands after an operation, because all of the blood was assumed 
to be the same.

Did you know that during the Victorian era, the dead were either laid out in their parlors, or, as 
the Southerners preferred, in their bedrooms? There was no such thing as a funeral home; 
death was a part of life, and the dead remained in the house up until they were buried. The 
tradition of flowers around the coffin comes from the Victorians trying to hide the scent of the 

Did you know that when a child died, parents would have a photograph taken of the child? They 
wanted to preserve the memory for as long as possible. A lot of photographs taken of sleeping 
children are actually of deceased sons or daughters.

After the Battle of Gettysburg, the discarded rifles were collected and sent to Washington to be 
inspected and reissued. Of the 37,574 rifles recovered, approximately 24,000 were still loaded; 
6,000 had one round in the barrel; 12,000 had two rounds in the barrel; 6,000 had three to ten 
rounds in the barrel. One rifle, the most remarkable of all, had been stuffed to the top with 
twenty-three rounds in the barrel.

Did you know that President Lincoln had a mild form smallpox (varioloid) while he gave the 
Gettysburg Address. On the train back to Washington he quipped, “Now I have something that 
I can give everybody.”

Did you know that President Lincoln’s favorite tune was “Dixie”?

The Civil War was also known as The Brothers’ War, the War for the Union and the War of the 

General Nathan Bedford Forrest, CSA, had twenty-nine horses shot from beneath him during 
the war years.

One of the most popular questions park rangers get when giving tours around Civil War 
battlefields is: “Did the soldiers have to fight around all of these monuments?” They could only 
smile and say yes: They knew exactly were to die.

Did you know that during the Civil War, including the times before and after, it was legal and 
socially acceptable for a man to beat his wife, provided that the instrument used in the beating 
was no thicker that his thumb? Thus we get the term: Rule of thumb.

Did you know that during the Battle of Gettysburg, pennsylvania, the only civilian to die was 
twenty-year-old Mary Virginia "Jennie" Wade, who was shot through the heart while making 

Did you know that not all battles of the Civil War were fought in the South? The Confederates 
actually managed to sneak all the way up to Vermont to fight, via Canada.

Did you know that germs were unheard of during the Civil War, and men would drink out of 
water that thirty yards upstream, a man relieved himself in?

Did you know that during the Civil War, muzelloading rifles were preferred over the faster firing 
breachloaders? The breachloading rifle was invented in 1803 and had been issued by the army 
in 1825. They were discontinued and all government research stopped in 1840, however, 
because it was thought that the soldiers would waste ammunition.

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© 2005-2011  Diane Siniard