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Why is it the Union Army
Civil War Encyclopedia >> Questions about the Civil War
Civil War Encyclopedia >> Armies - Union
Civil War Encyclopedia >> Armies - Confederate


Why do historians use the term Union Army and not the U. S. Army?

The term Union Army arose because only part of the army during The Civil War was the United States Army. Only 19 regiments, including the 1st through 10th Infantry, 1st through 4th Artillery, 1st through 5th Cavalry and a battalion of engineers comprised the roughly 16,000 men in the U. S. Army. At the outbreak of the Civil War, most of the United States Army was west of the Mississippi. Roughly 36% of these "regulars" were Southern. As Southern states seceded, the Southerners had a choice to make, whether to stay with the U. S. Army or return to their state militia. A majority chose to return to their home states.

To the 16 regiment core of the U. S. Army members of the state militias and volunteers were added. The U. S. Army chose to keep the original regiments together and form new regiments with the other men. The term U. S. Army can technically only be applied to U. S. soldiers and not members of the state militia or the volunteers. By the end of the war, more than 67,000 men had served in the "regular" army (never more than 42,000 at one time) while more than 2,000,000 men served as volunteers and militia.

Not surprising, the rate of disease in Old Army regiments was significantly less than in units of the U. S. Army organized during the Civil War (6th Cavalry, 5th Artillery or 11th through the 19th Infantry), which maintained levels of illness roughly equivalent to the volunteers and state militia. While the rate of disease among Old Army regulars may not be surprising, the rate of desertion probably is. According to Civil War statistician Frederick Dyer the rate of desertion was 2.5 times the rate of desertion in the volunteers. Dyer attributes the higher rate to the assignments given to the regulars, normally leading the most dangerous attacks.

A similar situation occurred in the Confederate States, where the Convention of Seceding States created a Provisional Army on February 28, 1861. A week later, it created the Army of the Confederate States of America. Although both armies continued, it was the Provisional Army that held most of the men. The term Confederate Army also includes the state militia, which the South also used.

Links appearing on this page:

Convention of Seceding States
February 28
February, 1861
The Civil War

Civil War Encyclopedia >> Questions about the Civil War
Civil War Encyclopedia >> Armies - Union
Civil War Encyclopedia >> Armies - Confederate

Why is it the Union Army was last changed on - May 11, 2010
Why is it the Union Army was added on - December 22, 2007



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