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    

Confederate Civil War Soldier Captain Ambrotype Photograph 1/6 Plate W/fur? Hat,Original Civil War Union Massachusetts First Lieutenant Infantry Frock CoatBeautiful Original Civil War Soldier's " Sny " Belt Buckle - State Of New York*** Very Nice Civil War Tintype Union Soldier *** Antique Civil War Union Soldier W/ Dagger & Revolver 1/4 Ambrotype Photo W/ Case19thc Antique Mad Scientist Frosted Civil War Era Sharpshooter Gun Amber GlassesGreat Civil War Era Military Drum With RopesCivil War Confederate Lousiana State Seal Belt Buckle / Plate ~ ExcavatedSuperb Orig Civil War Model 1850 Officer Sword Belt W/ Sabre Belt Plate -hangers*** Civil War Dug Relic Us Belt Plate Nice ***1861-65 Civil War Capt. Sword 17th Wisconsin Comp. ERare Make Naval Navy Officer Sword Usn American Pre Civil War Antique DaggerOrig Civil War 1863 Dated -maker Ames -dahlgren Navy Bayonet With ScabbardBargain 100% Original Civil War Era Union Officer's Frock Coat - Needs RestoreCivil War Confederate D Guard Bowie KnifeCivil War Officers KepiUs C. Roby M-1850 Foot Officers Sword Civil War Original No ReserveCivil War Confederate Enlisted Mans Standard Frame Belt Buckle Plate Dug Relic Very Nice Dug Civil War Relic Union Army Us Box Plate With Hooks IntactAntique Civil War Cdv Union Infantry Soldier Corporal W Weapon Bayonet Photo Yqz*** Civil War Confederate Officers Riding Spur ***Very Rare Spanish Modelo 1860 Sword Machete Cuban Civil Guard Matching ScabbardCivil War Cdv: Rebel Confederate General William Terry, Virginia Photographer.Superb Civil War Era Gettysburg Relic Found Central Penn-bullet In Court GavelCivil War Era Naval Officer's Sword - Superb Naval Etching -exc Leather Scabbard1863 Civil War Military Portrait Gallery Antique Union Army Navy Illustrated VtgCivil War SwordAntique Civil War Union Soldier Officer Sgt W/ Hardee Hat Ambrotype Photo W/caseStriking Civil War Era Model 1860 Cavalry Saber And Scabbard-no MarkingsCivil War Percussion Cap Box. Possibly Confederate. Great ConditionRare Confederate M1841 Type Ii Mississippi Rifle Saber Bayonet With ScabbardCivil War Bowie Knife 13 7/8" Edward Barnes & Sons Confederate Or UnionVintage Civil War Cap Box Collectibles Military Equipiment Artillery Gear1859 Maynard Primer Us Springfield Lock On Damaged StockUcv United Confederate Veterans Reunion " Csa Camp # 3 "wood Bucket - GettysburgConfederate Civil War Soldier With Gun And Knife TintypeBlue Wool Cavalry Officer Saddle Cloth,shabraque,mcclellan SaddleConfederate 2 Cdv Photos Stonewall Jackson In Uniform Mourning At His Grave Civil War Cdv: Full-standing 14th Brooklyn Soldier W Corps Badge On Cap.Original 13 1/2" Civil War Cavalry Picket Pin " Us " Marked - ExcellentAntique Early 1900's Hand Made Civil War Map Collection Gettysburg Picketts YqzTintype Civil War Identified Brothers 20th Ny Cavalry 2x Armed 1860 Colt RelicOriginal Civil War Era Brass Eagle Saddle Pommel1862 Confederate Imprint Civil War Sheet Music W/ Bonnie Blue Flag On CoverNantucket Massachusetts Soldiers Sanitary Fair Civil War Token G. Washington NgcOriginal Civil War Us Belt Plate With Belt And C.s. Storms Percussion Cap Box Antique Civil War Era Long Wilkinson United States Navy Shark Skin Sword BladeCivil War Era Naval Officer's Sword - Superb Naval Etching -exc Clean BladeAntique Tintype Photograph Of A Group Of 6 Soldiers - Civil War*** Ohio Civil War Officer Cdv With Staff & Field Sword *** Antique Young Civil War Union Soldier Boy Frock Coat Photo 1/6 Tintype In CaseRare Civil War Era Complete Cannon Lanyard With U S Marked HandleAntique Civil War Union Cavalry Officer Soldier & Man Photo 1/4 Tintype In CaseOrig Moh Type 3 Civil War Gar Grand Army Of The Republic Badge Medal Wings UpCdv Photo Confederate Gen William Terry Wytheville Virginia Stonewall BrigadeMr Fancy Cancel 65 Civil War Patriotic House Uncle Sam Built Rare Three Recorded1866 Confederate States Of America U.s. Civil War South C.s.a. History SlaveryAntique Civil War Union Soldier Cdv Photograph W Long Flintlock Gun, Bayonet Yqz1913 Battle Of Gettysburg Reunion Of Civil War Veterans Medal Badge Missouri Vintage Civil War Bayonet Collectibles Military Edged Weapons Swords Blades

Recent News: Civil War

Source: Google News

Run down Civil War monument in jeopardy, has Abe Lincoln ties
WQAD.com, October 22nd

A run-down Civil War monument in front of the Rock Island County courthouse has ties to Abraham Lincoln. The tribute to those who died in the war was dedicated in Rock Island back in 1869, the names of local soldiers etched on all four sides. In July...Read more

“Women's roles during the Civil War” topic of discussion
Fremont News Messenger, October 22nd

The Hayes Presidential Center will present “Women's' Roles during the Civil War” at the next History Roundtable with Mike Gilbert from 10-11:30 a.m. Saturday at the Hayes Museum. Cost is $5. Call 419-332-2081, ext. 239 to register. Gilbert, a retired...Read more

Syrian Civil War ISIS: Assad Capitalizing On Airstrikes Against Islamic State
International Business Times, October 22nd

The Syrian civil war rages on while the United States and its allies focus on stopping the spread of the Islamic State group. President Bashar Assad is capitalizing on the diversion by trying to strengthen his hold near Damascus and Aleppo, the two...Read more

Lipscomb's Civil War Tour Suggests Something for Nashville's Future
Nashville Scene, October 22nd

In general, I find the Civil War to be tedious, boring, and sad. It's not my favorite historical era — give me the weirdos of Jacksonian America or the ghost-lovers of the Victorian age — but it's such a big part of Nashville's history that I try not...Read more

The top 10 civil war novels
The Guardian, October 22nd

National wars foster unity; civil wars are defined by its collapse. And that makes for great storytelling. Division means tension, choice - the things that stories feed on. It's not surprising that the civil wars of history have been fertile ground for...Read more

Ken Robison to launch Civil War book
Great Falls Tribune, October 21st

The book is a follow-up to Robison's “Montana Territory and the Civil War: A Frontier Forged on the Battlefield.” In his new book, Robison looks at a dozen veterans of the Confederate army who came to Montana during or after the Civil War. “I was...Read more

Does Marvel Need Spider-Man for the Civil War Movie? - IGN Keepin' Reel ...
IGN, October 20th

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U - Smash Bros. Wii U & Mortal Kombat X Reveal - IGN Daily Fix. 2:36 MIN · AC: Unity's Equal Resolution & Crew Delay - IGN Daily Fix. Assassin's Creed Unity - AC: Unity's Equal Resolution & Crew Delay - IGN Daily Fix. 3:52 MIN ...Read more

Marvel's Civil War Is a Far-Right Paranoid Fantasy—and a Mess. Can the ...
Slate Magazine (blog), October 20th

Next summer, Marvel Comics will reboot the 2006 Civil War storyline, in which a superhero registration law divides heroes into two camps: The pro-registration side, led by Iron Man, and the anti-registration side, led by Captain America. This coincides...Read more