Book Review: Armies in Gray: The Organizational History of the Confederate States Army in the Civil War


by Dan C. Fullerton

Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2017. Pp. xiv, 1,340. Notes. $199.00. ISBN: 0807165980

Manpower Availability in the Confederate Army

This work is the result of the efforts of Prof. Fullerton (Army Command and General Staff College) to understand why the numbers of troops assigned to a command was always much higher on paper than the numbers that it was able to bring to the battlefield. He covers the organization and evolution of the army, including provides a master order of battle of the Confederate field armies for each quarter from June of 1861 through to the end of the war. For each quarter, he gives us a detailed order of battle, with numbers, and with an accounting of the strength of the various component commands -- both on paper and in actual numbers present -- at the time of their surrender.

This work is important because it shows how a command, even such an important one as the Army of Tennessee or the Army of Northern Virginia, always seemed to have had greater numbers on its rolls than it managed to bring to the battlefield.

In this very well-documented treatment, Fullerton details how the various armies and other major commands often had to send units – from individual regiments, to brigades and divisions, and even entire army corps – on ancillary missions, which made them unavailable for service at critical moments action, such as when, in the Spring of 1863, Robert E. Lee dispatched James Longstreet’s First Army Corps to support operations against Union forces ensconced on the coast of southeastern Virginia, and thus had to fight the Battle of Chancellorsville with little more than half his army.

Fullerton also reminds us that many state militia and local defense forces are often not included in available documents, and at times even in accounts of battles, which also makes determining actual numbers engaged difficult. But Fullerton does not discuss the “bookkeeping” methodology of the Confederate Army, that is, how it counted its personnel, a matter which also had an impact on the numbers of men committed to action. A man might be carried on the rolls as active, while actually being in hospital, on leave, under arrest, or on detached duty, and thus not available for combat.

Nevertheless, by examining this question, one which affected both sides, Armies in Gray, is an immensely useful reference for anyone seriously interested in the Civil War.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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