American Military History: Iconic Civil War Generals

The American Civil War fought between the years 1861 to 1865 was one of the most bloody wars on U.S. soil. A total of eleven Southern slave states seceded from the United States of America to form the Confederate States of America, otherwise known as the Confederacy . Jefferson Davis, the Confederacy statesman and leader, engaged in battles over its independence from the U.S. The U.S. federal government consisted of twenty Northern free states, which had previously abolished slavery. The abolitionist states were referred to as the Union, and gained a popular base that outnumbered the South. The American Civil war waged for over four years, creating a grisly battleground that mostly took part in the South. Once the Confederacy surrendered, slavery became outlawed throughout the nation, which restored the Union to its original status. The Reconstruction era pummeled through the unresolved issues that lasted for generations.


Confederate Generals

Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard

Pierre Gustave Toutant (P.G.T.) Beauregard was born in Louisiana, and became an American military officer. More specifically, P.G.T. Beauregard was the Confederate States Army General during the American Civil War. Beauregard trained as a civil engineer, and served as an engineer during the Mexican-American War. Soon after the South's secession, Beauregard was promoted as the first brigadier general for the Confederacy. In fact, he commanded the battle at Charleston, South Carolina at the start of the Civil War in 1861, and defeated the North at the First Battle of Bull Run in Manassas, Virginia. Beauregard's poor professional relationship with Jefferson Davis and other leading commanders detracted his strategy during the war. After the Confederacy's surrender, Beauregard led a prosperous life because of his contributing role in the Louisiana Lottery.

Braxton Bragg

Braxton Bragg, a career United States Army officer, was promoted to a general in the Confederate States Army, and became a prominent commander in the Western Theater of the American Civil War. Braxton Bragg also became the adviser to the Confederate's President Jefferson Davis. Bragg's earlier career began as an artillery officer in the Mexican-American War. Bragg had a reputation for criticizing his superiors, which later evolved into a resignation after series of posts in the Indian Territory. Bragg trained soldiers in the Gulf Coast region during the American Civil War, which garnered the necessary attention that would have him commanding the Army of Mississippi. Bragg's most notable achievement during the Civil War started with a retreat in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and then led to a counterattack that brutally marred the Union Army. Bragg fought against his subordinates throughout the Civil War, which may have led to his unsuccessful defenses against the North.

Jubal Early

Jubal Anderson Early was formerly a lawyer before becoming a general for the Confederacy during the American Civil War. Jubal Early served under Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee during the entire war. Early led the command of an infantry corps in key battles associated with the Valley Campaigns of 1864, such as the raid on Washington D.C. Early's articles for the Southern Historical Society established the Lost Cause point of view has garnered long-term attention in the literary and cultural fields of study.

Nathan Bedford Forrest

Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate lieutenant-general during the American Civil War, was most notable for his self-education and innovation during the war. Forrest was a leading Confederate advocate during the postwar years. In fact, he was the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, an ultra-secretive organization that launched a series of attacks on blacks and Republicans during the Reconstruction era. Forrest was unique in comparison to his peers. He had accumulated vast wealth as a planter, real estate investor, and slave trader prior to the war. He was also one of the few officers to enlist in either army as a private, and then bumped up to commander before the war's end. Forrest was nicknamed the Wizard of the Saddle because of his doctrine to mobilize forces. Jefferson Davis expressed his disappointments regarding the misuse of Forrest's talents.

Ambrose Powell Hill

Ambrose Powell (A.P.) Hill was a Confederate general during the American Civil War, and rose to fame as the commander of Hill's Light Division. Hill became one of Stonewall Jackson's empowered subordinates, and commanded an infantry corps under Robert E. Lee in the Army of Northern Virginia. Unfortunately, A.P. Hill died before the war's end.

John Bell Hood

John Bell Hood, a Confederate general during the American Civil War, developed a reputation for bravery and reckless aggressiveness. Hood was also one of the best commanders in the Confederate States Army; however, his effectiveness began to dwindle as the war continued to progress. In fact, his career suffered badly after embarrassing defeats in the Atlanta and Franklin-Nashville Campaigns. John Bell Hood's education at the United States Military Academy qualified him as a junior officer for both the cavalry and infantry corps. Hill's aggressive reputation was established during the Seven Days Longstreet in 1862. Hill's left arm was severely wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg, which essentially rendered his arm useless. Hill was injured again at the Battle of Chickamauga, which led to the amputation of his right leg. Hill's career came to end after leading his men through Alabama and into Tennessee, where a massive frontal assault demolished his army in what is now referred to as the Battle of Franklin.

Wade Hampton III

Wade Hampton II was a Confederate cavalry leader during the American Civil War, and eventually became the 77th Governor of South Carolina and U.S. Senator. Hampton was reserved regarding the Confederate's secession and abolitionism; however, the Union's legislation and his personal loyalty to his home state drove him to fight for the Confederacy. He resigned from the Senate and joined the South Carolina militia as a private. Hampton's unit was coined as "Hampton's Legion," which embodied six different infantry corps. Hampton embodied the necessary traits of a cavalryman, despite his lack of military experience. After a few combat battles under Stonewall Jackson, Hampton was promoted to brigadier general in the Army of Northern Virginia. Hampton was severely wounded in the Peninsula Campaign of 1862, but managed to survive until finding the proper medical treatment. Hampton was promoted to major-general and received full command of his cavalry division. Hampton surrendered to the Union along with Joseph E. Johnston at the Bennett Place in Durham, North Carolina.

Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson

Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson, a Confederate general during the American Civil War, was probably the most renowned Confederate commander after Robert E. Lee. Stonewall Jackson's career the Valley Campaign in 1862. He served as an infantry corps commander in the Army of Northern Virginia under Robert E. Lee. Stonewall Jackson was shot by Confederate pickets at the Battle of Chancellorsville during 1863. He died eight days later after his arm amputated due to complications of pneumonia.

Joseph E. Johnston

Joseph E. Johnston, a career U.S. Army officer who served in the Mexican-American and Seminole Wars, was known as one of the highest ranked officers in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. Joseph E. Johnston was originally trained as a civil engineer at the U.S. Military Academy, where he served in Florida, Texas, Kansas, and actively fought in the Mexican-American War. Johnston achieved the status of brigadier general and Quartermaster General of the U.S. Army. Johnston resigned when Virginia seceded from the Union, and enlisted into the Confederacy. Johnston's efforts were spent due to unforeseen disagreements with Confederate President Jefferson Davis; however, he also failed to display aggressiveness, which was a pitfall to the Confederate's hope for success.

Joseph Kershaw

Joseph Kershaw was a lawyer, judge, and Confederate general in the American Civil War. Kershaw commanded the Second South Carolina Volunteer Infantry corps and engaged in the First Battle of Bull Run. Kershaw was promoted to brigadier general in 1862, and commanded a brigade under Robert E. Lee's Army of Virginia and Maryland Campaigns. Joseph Kershaw served in the Battle of Gettysburg before transferring with lieutenant general James Longstreet. Kershaw commanded a division between Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and the Cold Harbor.

Robert Edward Lee

Robert Edward Lee, a renowned career military officer who commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia during the American Civil War, was the son of an American Revolutionary War hero, Henry Lee III. Robert E. Lee was a graduate of West Point, and became a top-notch officer and combat engineer in the United States Army for over thirty-two years, which qualified him to join the Confederate cause. Lee was commanding the Confederate Army before the end of the war. Lee became the post-Civil War icon of the South's "Lost Cause."

James Longstreet

James Longstreet, a premiere Confederate general of the American Civil war who served under General Robert E. Lee as a corps commander, engaged in battle by the Army of Northern Virginia in the Eastern Theater. Longstreet was often regarded as the finest corps commander in the Army of Northern Virginia, and perhaps on either side of the war. Longstreet's talents contributed victories at the Second Bull Run, Fredericksburg, and Chickamauga. Longstreet also chucked out a great performance during the Seven Days Battles, and the Battle of Antietam. His disagreement with General Lee during the Battle of Gettysburg led to a disastrous infantry assault commonly referred to as the Pickett's Charge. His post-war career as U.S. diplomat, civil servant, and administrator garnered him special attention from his old friend, President Ulysses S. Grant.

Robert E. Rodes

Robert E. Rodes began as a colonel for the Confederate States Army of the Alabama Infantry under General Richard S. Ewell. Rodes started his combat at the First Battle of the Bull Run before receiving a promotion in 1861 to major-general. Rodes was severely wounded in the Peninsula Campaign at the Battle of Seven Pines, which subsequently relieved his duty to the defenses at Richmond, Virginia until fully recovering. Rodes returned before Robert E. Lee's invasion of the North in 1862. Rodes suffered a second injury against the Union assault on "Bloody Lane" during a skirmish at Antietam. Rodes underwent the role as division commander of Stonewall Jackson's infantry corps. Rodes' division remained immobilized for two days during the Battle of Gettysburg. Rodes died before the war's end.

 J.E.B. Stuart

James Ewell Brown Stuart, a U.S. Army officer from Virgina, and Confederate States Army general during the American Civil War, was addressed by friends and family as "JEB," given by the initials in his name. Stuart was a renowned cavalry commander due to his cultivation of the cavalier image. J.E.B. Stuart was the trusted eyes and ears of Robert E. Lee during the American Civil War. Stuart graduated from west Point in 1854 before serving in Texas and Kansas as veteran against the frontier conflicts against the Native Americans. Jeb first served under Stonewall Jackson in Shenandoah Valley before playing his role in the Army of Northern Virginia before his premature death.

Earl Van Dorn

Earl Van Dorn held a career in the United States Army as an officer, and fought during the Mexican-American War. Dorn served as a Confederate general during the American Civil War, most notably for his defeats at Pea Ridge and Corinth in 1862. Van Dorn was short, impulsive, and highly emotional; however, he was a fantastic painter, poet, horse rider, and womanizer, which led to public criticism right before his murder.

Union Generals

Don Carlos Buell

Don Carlos Buell, a United States Army officer, fought in the Seminole, Mexican-American, and American Civil Wars. Buell relentlessly led the Union armies in the Shiloh and Perryville pivotal battles. However, the nation was infuriated over his failure to defeat the outnumbered Confederate armies after Perryville, and his inability to secure East Tennessee. Scholars agree that Buell was a brave and industrious leader, but his cautiousness and rigidness brought on the challenges he faced in 1862 where he was relieved of field command.

Ambrose Burnside

Ambrose Everett Burnside, an American soldier, railroad executive, Rhode Island politician, industrialist, and Union Army general during the American Civil War, conducted several campaigns in North Carolina and East Tennessee before facing defeat in the bleak Battle of Fredericksburg and Battle of the Crater. The distinctive style known as "sideburns" was derived from Ambrose Burnside's last name.

Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th President of the United States of America who served between 1869 and 1877, served as military commander during the American Civil War and the post-war Reconstruction era. Under Ulysses S. Grant's command, the Union defeated the Confederate States of America military and effectively ended the Confederacy. Grant fought in the Mexican-American War alongside brilliant Army Generals Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott.

Rutherford B. Hayes

Rutherford Birchard Hayes, the Nineteenth President of the United States who served between 1877 and 1881, oversaw the end of the Reconstruction era and the United States entry into the Second Industrial Revolution. Hayes attempted to reconcile the divisions that led to the American Civil War unsuccessfully. Hayes was wounded five times during the American Civil Wars, which resulted to his promotion to Major General after the Battle of South Mountain.

Joseph Hooker

Joseph Hooker, a United States Army officer, fought during the Mexican-American War, and served as a major-general in the Union Army during the American Civil War. Hooker was defeated by the Confederate General Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863. Hooker was nicknamed the "Fight Joe" during the American Civil War because of a civilian clerical error.

George B. McClellan

George Brinton McClellan, a major-general during the American Civil War, organized the Army of Potomac and briefly served as the general-in-chief of the Union Army. McClellan's Peninsula Campaign in 1862 was a failure that resulted in retreats from attacks by General Robert E. Lee of the Confederate Army. President Abraham Lincoln removed McClellan from command after questioning some of his tactical strategies during the war.

Irvin McDowell

Irvin McDowell, an American Army officer who served for the Union during the American Civil War, was given command over the Army of Northeastern Virginia. He was promoted to brigadier general because of his mentor's influence, Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase. McDowell's premature offensive attack against the Confederate Army in Northern Virginia fell through an embarrassing rout at the First Battle of Bull Run due to inexperience.

George Meade

George Gordon Meade, a United States Army officer and civil engineer, fought in the Second Seminole War and the Mexican-American War. Meade served as a Union general during the American Civil War, rising up the ranks from brigade to the Army of the Potomac. Meade is best known for his defeat of the Confederate General Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.

Nelson A. Miles

Nelson A. Miles was a lieutenant in the 22nd Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and was commissioned to lieutenant colonel in 1862 after the Battle of Antietam. He participated in the Battle of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and the Appomattox Campaign. Miles was wounded four times in battle, and was awarded honorary grade of brevet brigadier general.

William Rosecrans

William Starke Rosecrans, an inventor, oil and coal company executive, politician, and United States Army officer who served for the Union during the American Civil War, is prominently well-known for his victories at the Western Theater battles before his defeat at the Battle of Chickamauga in 1863.

Philip Sheridan

Philip Henry Sheridan, a United States Army officer and Union general in the American Civil War, was noted for his rapid rise to major-general and his close relationship with Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant. Ulysses S. Grant transferred Sheridan from command of a single infantry division to the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac. He defeated the Confederate Army in the Shenandoah Valley, where the economic infrastructure of the Valley was destroyed. Sheridan used scorched earth tactics to accomplish his victories.

William T. Sherman

William Tecumseh Sherman, an American soldier, businessman, author, and educator, served as a Union Army General during the American Civil War during 1861 to 1865. Sherman received recognition for his military strategy and criticism of the scorched earth policies he implemented during his engagement in total war with the Confederate States of America. Some historians regard him as the "first modern general." Sherman served under Ulysses S. Grant.