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]

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    

Authenic Civil War Union Junior Officer Infantry Frock Coat Antique Cased Tintype Armed Civil War Soldier Kepi Musket Cartridge Box Union UsAntique Photo In Case Civil War Army Pistol Revolver Lafauchaux Dbl Armed OhioExcellent Civil War Musical Tintype Of A Confident Young Horn Playing Officer !!General Robert E Lee Signed ~ Confederate Civil War ~ Coded Letter ~ Civil War Confederate Texas Militia Tin Drum Canteen With Red Painted StarCivil War Cavalry Sword And Scabbard Ames 1863Pair Antique Swords For Repair Civil War Cavalry Saber Magnificent Armed Standing Confederate Rebel Soldier Civil War ¼ Plate Tintype !Ca1861 Pro Union Civil War & Ambrotype Photographer Broadside / Advertising Sign1/6 Plate Ruby Ambrotype Of A Young Union ArtillarymanAuthentic Us 1864 Civil War Sword Saber Large Antique 1866 Hand Colored Civil War Map Od Case & Co Seat Of The War NrAntique Civil War Us Belt Buckle, W.h. Smith Brooklyn, & Belt, Brass Oval Us1861 Possible Ames Civil War Navy SwordBeautiful Perfect Dug Civil War Us Buclke With Provenance Story Neat Relic W CoaSmall Antique 6-draw Brass & Wood 19thc Pocket Telescope, NrAntique Civil War Era Soldier Id'd ? "bullseye" Canteen Porter & Booth Phila. Civil War Musician With Ots Horn, Cdv By Warren & Johnson Of Washington D.c.Civil War Union Veterans Grand Army Republic Gar Post 86 Dept Massachusetts FlagAntique 1860's 1/4 Plate Civil War Soldier In Full Uniform Tintype Photograph NrAmbrotype Of Young Civil War Soldier With Sword And KnifeUlysses S. Grant - 18th Us President - Authentic Autographed Requisiton DocumentAntique Civil War Union Soldier Cavalryman Hardee Hat & Wife Tinted PhotographPretty Dug Civil War Eagle Breastplate With Provenance Story Neat Relic W CoaOriginal Us Civil War M1860 Roby Cavalry Trooper Saber SwordCivil War Bible Flag (original)Us Civil War Model 1860 Field & Staff Officers Sword 24 PicturesHuge Civil War Confederate D-guard Bowie-battle Of Franklin,tenn-lotz House Original Emerson & Silver Nco Sword Dated 1863 With Matching Metal ScabbardAntique Confederate Dixie Marked Sword - Spanish Origin - Rebel Civil War SouthVery Rare Civil War Era Sword Grips. IvoryCivil War Soldier Veteran Outdoors Tintype Photo Uniform Musket Gar MedalUsa Hospital Department, Julius Tiencken, Surgical Set, Civil War Medicine Rare4 Antique 19thc Cw Period Miniature Round Gutta Percha Tintype Photograph CasesOriginal Civil War Era Boots Wardensville, WvPresentaion Grade? D Gaurd For Civil War Light Artillery Sword Massive Civil War Fighting Bowie Type Knife Made From Sword BladeCivil War Cavalry Sword And ScabbardDug Cs Cast "i" Button Dug Civil War Relic Dalton GaOriginal British M1848 Brunswick Enfield Bayonet W/arsenal Marks No ScabbardOriginal Civil War Era 58 Caliber Bayonet Marked U S And ScabbardOriginal Cdv Three Officers - Photographer Alex GardnerCivil War, Double Armed Union Army Calvaryman,iowa, Guta Percha CaseOriginal 15" Civil War Cavalry Picket Pin - ExcellentCivil War Soldier Tintype In Uniform With KepiLarge Civil War Saber Sword1887 First Maine Cavalry Regiment Gettysburg Fredericksburg Union Confederate Isaacs & Campbell Confederate Script I Civil War Button Relic Dug Centreville Va6 Antique Civil War Period Gutta Percha Oreo Cases, Round Tintype Photographs FDug Civil War Union Belt Plate Battle Of Olustee Florida-nice-must SeeCivil War Bugle Mouth Piece Dug RelicSpringfield 1842 Musket Cut Down Stock & Trigger Guard Gun Parts Civil War1869 Antique Civil War Harper's Pictorial History C.s.a. Maps Lincoln BattlesPre-civil War 1848 Belgium / British Brass Handle Sword Bayonet C7639 RareAustrian Lorenz Musket StockOriginal Springfield Model 1842 Musket Lock 1845 Date Civil War Gun Part Civil War Knife Hobo Fork And Spoon Signed C.w.b C.of 57Civil War Letter 1865 Day Of Abraham Lincoln Assassination Death Niles MichiganAntique Civil War Us Navy Spencer Repeating Rifle Bayonet

Recent News: Civil War

Source: Google News

Adams Library Exhibiting Massive Civil War-Era Flag, July 25th

ADAMS, Mass. — A flag that flew over a Civil War battle ship will be on display at the Adams Free Library beginning this Sunday. The 24-foot-long American flag has been stored away in a back room for decades. The Adams Historical Society is sponsoring ...Read more

Graffiti and the Civil War
New York Times (blog), July 25th

“It was really the grunts who were out there marking time,” says Edie Wallace, a Hagerstown, Md., historian who has researched and spoken about Civil War graffiti near Harpers Ferry and Antietam. “The graffiti allows you to get into the minds of these...Read more

Poll results: Most readers believe Civil War was about states' rights, not slavery
The Huntsville Times -, July 25th

It says something profound about the nation's bloodiest and most divisive war that almost 150 years after its end passions still run deep about its cause. Of course I'm talking about the Civil War. I kicked up those passions Wednesday when I posted...Read more

Civil War troops march back into Lombard this weekend
Suburban Life Publications, July 25th

Sixteen exchange students will get to experience that feeling as both patrons and volunteers during the Lombard Historical Society's Fourth Annual Sweet's Civil War Reenactment today through Sunday at Four Seasons Park. This is the second year ...Read more

Historic Civil War Battle Sites Have a Mobile App
ABC News, July 25th

"We developed the Battle of Atlanta mobile application in order to provide a 21st century version of the historical markers that mark sites of the Battle of Atlanta and other Civil War landmarks around the city," said Dr. Daniel Pollock, a physician...Read more

Civil War tour to visit NC historic sites in October
Fayetteville Observer, July 24th

An exclusive, behind-the-scenes Civil War Sesquicentennial Bus Tour, with esteemed historian Mark Bradley serving as the on-board guide, is scheduled to hit the road in late October. The planned Oct. 24-26 tour will provide an educational lesson on key ...Read more

The American civil war
The Economist, July 24th

He was a “modern Attila”, who continued to campaign ruthlessly against the Indians and their buffalo when, after the civil war ended, he took responsibility for the security of America's transcontinental railway, then under construction. After Grant...Read more

Civil War buff recreates armies and dioramas
Newsday, July 23rd

A house on Partridge Avenue has been overrun by armies in blue and gray -- all at the hand of homeowner Dennis Larkin, a 79-year-old Navy veteran. For the past four decades, Larkin has been making 1/32 scale dioramas of the War Between the States and ...Read more