By the time Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865, to his Union counterpart, Ulysses S. Grant, at the Appomattox Court House in Virginia, more than half a million Americans had been killed in the nation’s four-year Civil War. In their wake, they left behind a trail of swords and shoulder arms, uniforms and headgear, and mountains of often heart-wrenching correspondence.

The decorations created to honor those who fought in the conflict were produced and bestowed both during and after the war. Although President Lincoln signed a bill authorizing a Medal of Honor at the end of 1861, the first one was not awarded until 1862 to Jacob Parrott and others who had hijacked a Confederate train known as The General. Eventually, more than 1,500 Medals of Honor were awarded to Union soldiers, many posthumously.

After the war, veterans groups such as the Grand Army of the Republic created badges and medals to honor its members. The United Confederate Veterans produced similar pieces for its members, and by the end of the 19th century, the two groups organized numerous reunions, which were attended by mixtures of the former combatants. In the late 19th century, another group, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, gave its Southern Cross of Honor to Confederate veterans.

The arms used in the Civil War are also of high interest to militaria collectors. Shoulder arms manufactured at Union armories such as the one in Springfield, Massachusetts, included the Model 1855 and 1861 rifle-muskets. These arms were designed for fixed bayonets, which are also collected. Companies such as Colt and Sharps also made rifles, while some soldiers chose to purchased their own Henry and Spencer rifles.

After the supply of arms in U.S. armories in the South had been exhausted, the Confederacy imported many of its weapons from aboard, although arms were made at armories in Richmond, Virginia, and Fayetteville, North Carolina. Arms were also manufactured at a private armory called Cook & Brother, which was based in New Orleans until it was forced by Union occupation to move to Athens, Georgia.

In fact, both sides imported rifles from the U.K. (the Enfield Model 1853 rifle-musket was widely used) and Austria (the Lorenz). As for hand guns, some Confederate troops are thought to have used the pistols made at the Palmetto Armory in the 1850s in South Carolina. Union troops used the Colt Army Model 1860 and Colt 1851 Navy Revolver, while members of the Confederate calvary carried Kerrs imported from England.

Edged weapons were also ubiquitous. Sabers sheathed in protective iron scabbards hung from leather belts—the U.S. Model 1840 was produced in both artillery and calvary styles, although many historians believe these blades did more damage to horses and the troops that rode them than their enemies. In general, sabers carried by Confederate soldiers such as those made at the Palmetto Armory in Columbia, South Carolina, and the ones produced by Thomas, Griswold & Co. of New Orleans are the most highly sought...

Swords were more suited to officers, medical staff, and musicians, especially dress swords. Very small numbers of cased, ceremonial, presentation swords were given to officers for successes on the battlefield—some of these were even produced by New York jeweler Tiffany & Co. Then there were the cutlasses, from the relatively common U.S. Model 1860 naval cutlass made by Ames Mfg. Co. of Chicopee, Massachusetts to Confederate naval cutlasses stamped with the letters "CSN."

When it came to uniforms, the Union had the advantage. Most soldiers were issued blue flannel sack coats, which had just four brass buttons on their fronts and were manufactured in Philadelphia and Cincinnati. Few have survived. More plentiful are the shell jackets, which had a dozen buttons and brocade around the collar, and chasseur coats, which were lined with cotton, featured decorative piping, and had epaulettes on the shoulders. Frock coats, some double breasted, were longer and worn by enlisted men and officers alike.

One of the most distinctive uniforms was worn by regiments of Zouaves, who were French North Africans hired by the Union. Their dark-blue coats were decorated with heavy red brocade and sported dozens of brass buttons. The Zouave even had their own rifles, which were made by Remington.

Gray Confederate uniforms wore out even faster than the blue Union sack coats. Soldiers in the North Carolina Infantry had the best uniforms since they came from a textile-producing state. But keeping the troops supplied with anything, let alone fancy uniforms, was a difficult task—at one point, when North Carolina mills ran out of gray dye for their Confederate uniforms, they used blue instead, with predictably disastrous results on the battlefield.

For headgear, men on both sides of the conflict wore forage caps, the most common of which for Union troops was the leather-visored Model 1853. The fronts of these caps above the visor was tall enough to show off one's regimental insignia, although sometimes crossed swords or a bugle would be sewn to the top of the hat. Hardee hats, often decorated with an ostrich plume, were worn by those in the calvary, while slouch hats were favored by officers as well as enlisted men. Many of the Zouave wore a felt fez topped by a blue or gold tassel on their heads.

Collectors who haven't the room or means to acquire uniforms and headgear often focus on buttons. Manufacturing techniques included one-piece, two-piece, and "staff" buttons, which have an extra rim detail holding the two button pieces together. Buttons are often sold as "dug" or "non dug," which refers to whether or not they have been excavated. Cast buttons bearing the stamp of the confederacy, "CSA," are among the most sought-after. Other buttons, North and South, bore state markings, initials, and seals.

Another highly collected area of Confederate clothing are belt buckles and plates. There were hundreds of styles, designating the wearer’s affiliation with the Confederacy (CSA or just CS) or state. Brass, iron, and pewter were the most common materials; foundries in Atlanta and Richmond made most of them, but thousands were also imported from England.

Two other areas of collecting for Civil War enthusiasts are photographs and correspondence. The Civil War was the first U.S. conflict to be meticulously documented by photographers, foremost among them Mathew Brady. Most of these were ambrotypes, in which the negative is made on a glass plate. It took two photographers to produce the images, which were developed in darkroom wagons under trying, battlefield conditions.

Equally remarkable are the Civil War letters that have survived, which in the South were mailed using Confederate stamps. Furloughs were restricted on both sides, so soldiers often had lots of time of their hands to pour out their hearts of the conditions in the camps—the dust in summer, the mud and cold in winter. And if they were really lucky, and survived to see the day, they received a letter back in reply.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

The Civil War

The Civil War

Paul McWhorter’s amazing reference site tells the story of the Civil War through high resolution scans of Harpers… [read review or visit site]

myArmoury.com

myArmoury.com

This resource for historic arms and armour collectors provides exhaustive information on modern reproductions (cust… [read review or visit site]

Mikes Tanks

Mikes Tanks

Mike Seeber’s extensive collection of over 500 diecast tanks and military vehicles, dating back to WWII. Browse b… [read review or visit site]



Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Original Civil War Us M1858 Infantry Hardee Hat With Eagle Badge, Plume & CordRare Civil War Era Side Knife With Slightly Curved Blade-steer Horn HandleNice "union" Liquor Flask With Firing Cannon And Flag, Clasped HandsLrg Antique T Bailey, Civil War Ship North America, O/c Oil Painting NrAntique Civil War Era D Guard Bowie KnifeAntique Us Civil War Ames 1865 Calvary SwordOriginal Civil War Knife Bayonet Sword Scabbard Used In The Battle Of GettysburgOld Rare Vintage Antique Civil War Relic 24 Pounder Confederate Cannonball CsaNumbered Civil War M1851 Belt Plate W/separate Wreath On Buff Leather Waist BeltRare: Civil War C.s. Witworth Cannon Shell*** Vintage Civil War Horstmann Model 1840 Medical Staff Officers Sword ***Civil War Union Soldier In Uniform Holding A Pistol Cased 1/6th Plate Tintype1860s Civil War *navy Ironclad Gunboat Uss Louisville* By Mcpherson & Oliver LaOriginal Civil War Used Dug Pepperbox RevolverOriginal: Civil War / Indian War 36th Pa. Union Officers KepiGreat Civil War 12 Pounder Cannon And Limber Scale Model-metal And Wood- 1/8Original Civil War Bulls Eye CanteenCivil War Confederate Officer Soldier Armed Colts Kia Ambrotype Half Plate PhotoOriginal Civil War Shoulder Mounted Holster For 1851 Colt Or 1860 Army RevolverNice English Made Civil War Era Bowie Knife - WashingtonianRare Pair Of Civil War Era Officer Spurs With Engraved Star On EachConfedrate Southern Cross Of Honor Ucv ItemsRare Orig Civil War Era Army / Navy Quality Double Gear Battle Rattle - NiceHuge Old Antique Bowie Knife. Sheffield ?? Civil War N.c.o.brass Sword Handle !!Rare Civil War Era Confederate Pigskin Revolver Holster - 11" Long -gettysburgM 1851 Leather Cavalry Sword Belt Buckle Civil War UsedGreat Civil War Era U S Officer's Sword/saber- With Ornate GuardRoby 1864 U.s Civil War Sword Saber And ScabbardRare Civil War Era Saleman's Sample U S Naval Sword And ScabbardCivil War Era Pocketwatch W/ Fancy Silver & Gold Dial And Fine Silver CaseCivil War Veteran Gar Cartridge Box 24th National Encampment Boston 1890 -no Res1865 Civil War Soldier Letters Correspondence From Camp Prison & Battle FieldUs Civil War M1860 Cavalry Sword 1862 Mansfield & Lamb ForestdaleCivil War Model 1860 Light Cavalry Saber Sword R B 1348 On Guard B281Rare Civil War Era Bullet In Wood From Devil's Den-gettysburg-coaOriginal Civil War 1840 Cavalry Saber By Scarce Maker Schnitzler & Kirschbaum Cdv Of African-american Civil War Hospital Steward And Sergeant Major- 20th UsctOriginal Union Canteen With Tin Spout And SlingRare Civil War Era Artillery Cinder Glasses Wire Mesh Green Glass / With CaseFantastic Civil War Era Officer's Quality " Us " Marked Small Butcher Knife Civil War Bullseye Canteen Marked New Jersey OriginalDug U.s. 3" Parrott Shell From May 1862 Seven Pines, Va. Battlefield. Civil War1850 Ames Mfg. Co. SwordSuperb Civil War Era U S Belt Buckle With Arrow Belt Attachments1860s Civil War *young Drummer Boy Jimmy Doyle* 18th Usi Wounded @ ChickamaugaCivil War Cdv: General Edw. Ferrero W 9th Corps Badge / Colored Troops.Civil War Drummer Boy John Clem With Revolver By Morse Of Nashville TennesseeRare Civil War Era Maryland Confedrate-hand Written Parody- Star Spangled BannerCivil War Bullet Collection Assembled In The 50's & 60's Md & Va With KeyUnion Civil War Officers & Soldiers At Lookout Mountain Tennessee Civil War CdvGreat Civil War Era Colt Pistol Cylinder Found Gettysburg -found Devil.s Den Civil War Relics - Ginger Beer Bottle,buttons, Cannon Ball, Bullets, Clay Pipes Identified 41st Wisconsin U.s. Civil War Officer Non Regulation Sword & ScabbardCivil War Veteran Gar Canteen 27th National Encampment Indianapolis Indiana 1893Old Rare Vintage Antique Civil War Relic Virginia Veteran's Reunion Plate.Civil War Us Springfield Musket Sling-watervliet Arsenal-guaranteed OriginalCdv - Civil War Soldier - Taken In Charleston, S. C.Ca 1860's Civil War Cdv Armed Union Infantry Soldier W/enfield By Sweet & MorganGreat Civil War Era Tin Milita Canteen-many Used By ConfederatesCivil War Artillery 12 Pound Cannon Ball Robbins Scott County Tenn Start Shot Fs

Recent News: Civil War

Source: Google News

Kevin Feige Almost Quit Marvel Over 'Civil War' Disagreements
/FILM, September 4th

It seems Captain America: Civil War caused its own lower-case civil war at Marvel Studios. A new report says Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige threatened to quit over disagreements with Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter about the ballooning ...Read more

CC hosting traveling Civil War exhibit
Hometownlife.com, September 4th

Detroit Catholic Central High School will host Lincoln: the Constitution and the Civil War, a traveling exhibition, for six weeks beginning Sunday, Sept. 13. The exhibition was organized by the National Constitution Center and the American Library...Read more

25 years after 'The Civil War,' Ken Burns finally made his dream movie
Washington Post, September 4th

This piece is the first in a series, continuing next week, about Ken Burns, the legacy of “The Civil War,” and race and politics in America. “The Civil War” is a landmark of American documentary film. Forty million people watched the nine-part series...Read more

Learn about Lincoln at Civil War meeting
Post-Bulletin, September 4th

Derek and D.J. Lee will present "The Lincoln Telegrams," telling how Lincoln used the telegraph service during the Civil War, and Larry Binkovitz will present "Lincoln's Life in the News," showing contemporary newspaper articles about Lincoln and his life...Read more

Paul Theroux: Deep South still feels American Civil War pain
Telegraph.co.uk, September 4th

In my ignorance, I had believed the Delta to be solely the low-lying estuary of the Mississippi river, round about and south of New Orleans, the River delta of the maps. But it isn't so simple. The Delta is the entire alluvial sprawl that stretches...Read more

The Hulk's too big for 'Captain America: Civil War,' but this is where he may be
HitFix, September 3rd

Recently, the team breakdowns for the upcoming “Captain America: Civil War” were revealed and, as expected, The Hulk was not involved on either side of the ideological split between Iron Man and Captain America. Of course, Spider-Man and Scarlet Witch ...Read more

Where does the Confederate flag still fly? At Huntington Beach Civil War Days ...
OCRegister, September 3rd

The Confederate Army leaves the field after winning the battle, for now, against the Union during a previous reenactment at Huntington Beach Civil War Days, commemorating the Civil War. MINDY SCHAUER, , MINDY SCHAUER, THE ORANGE COUNTY ...Read more

Mark Ruffalo Reveals The Hulk Was in Captain America: Civil War But Marvel is ...
ComingSoon.net, September 3rd

It's been a point of discussion for many months now among fans and even Mark Ruffalo himself – is The Hulk going to show up in Captain America: Civil War? Following his disappearance at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron, fans were eager to find out ...Read more