The average Confederate soldier was a young man in his early 20s, unshaven, unkempt, gaunt, but tough from months of difficult living. The Rebel soldier’s woolen hat and uniform was grey, ragged form either having been worn too long, or having been “handed down” from a dead soldier. It was not uncommon for the uniforms to be ill-fitting, with sleeves either too short or too long, and to have buttons missing. In addition to this uncomfortable outfit, the soldier wore a white shirt. Those lucky enough to have a fitting pair of shoes would often nail horseshoes to them to prevent the soles from wearing down. While the confederate soldier’s appearance was often shabby, it was his spirit which led him to the charge.
The Rebel soldier carried a flint-lock rifle or a musket, also known as Confederate Springfields. He kept his ammunition in a cartridge box attached to the right of his belt. He also carried a small rolled-up blanket, a haversack, a cloth-covered canteen, a tin cup, and a small frying pan. As the war went on, more and more Rebels carried Enfield rifles which they had taken from dead Union soldiers. Once a Confederate had acquired such a rifle, he would wear its bayonet in a scabbard attached to the right of his belt.
As the war progressed, the Rebels who had been cut off from their suppliers by rail and sea, Not only did they run out of ammunition, but having not eaten meat in weeks, many fell ill from fatigue and starvation. Furthermore, Confederate soldiers were poorly funded, and would sometimes have to wait months before being compensated for their service, which meant their families, left behind and waiting for support, would often go months without eating. While the vast majority of Rebel soldiers were Caucasian, their ranks also included women (posing as men), and Native Americans like the Choctaw Indians in Oklahoma.
The Confederate soldier was a man who fought for his ideals, not because he had been drafted. Even if many of those ideals may be offensive by today’s standards, we must still respect the integrity of these men; after all, war itself, the loss of human life, is an abomination. There were fewer deserters amongst the Confederates than the Union forces, but those who did abandoned the fight out of desperation, tired of starving, being away from their families (sometimes their parents since many were still teenaged boys), and afraid to die. Some deserted to go protect their wives and children from Indians who were rumored to have been attacking farmhouses. Those who were caught deserting would either be hung or executed by firing squad, but some were spared, only to be branded with a hot iron and thrown out of camp.
There are very few photographs of Confederate soldiers taken while they were still alive. Photography was expensive, and most people could only afford being photographed posthumously. But we suspect most of the photos taken of dead Confederate fighters were not taken for the purpose of remembering the individuals, but remembering victory over them.
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