Possibly identified in 2012 as Alonzo F. Thompson of Company C, 84th New York Infantry Regiment, (earlier known as 14th Regiment New York State Militia). The young soldier is wearing a Union zouave uniform with bayoneted 1855 rifle musket with initials A.T. on stock.
– Courtesy Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs, Library of Congress/Source: Martinez, Ramona. “Photo Mystery Solved, Then Doubted, Then Deciphered, Thanks to Readers”; http://www.npr.org/blogs/pictureshow/2012/04/17/150801239/ –

The young men of a divided nation answered the call of war 160 years ago, and their youthful visages before going to battle still haunt us today.

At 4:30 a.m., on April 12, 1861, Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard ordered his batteries at Fort Johnson to begin their bombardment of the Union-held Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. Thirty-four hours later, at 2:30 p.m., on April 13,  the fort’s commander, Maj. Robert Anderson, officially surrendered Fort Sumter to Beauregard and the Confederacy. America’s greatest conflict to date had begun. No sooner had the smoke cleared on the shot heard round the world from Fort Sumter than the call to arms rang across the divided Republic, and young men—North and South—answered its deadly ring.

At the time the War Between the States began, the divided nation’s two armies enlisted numbers were similar, about 200,000 each. By the time Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered, five Aprils later, 2.1 million soldiers and sailors had worn the Union blue and 880,000 had donned the Confederate gray. Half a million of the soldiers who fought in the war were foreign-born, including over 200,000 German and 150,000 Irish-born men. In 1860, four million Black Americans were still enslaved, but by the end of the conflict, 180,000 African American soldiers served in 166 Union Army regiments. The majority who fought on both sides were volunteers.

The average age of a Yankee soldier was almost 26, while statistics do not exist for the Southern rebels. Recent statistics have raised the casualty total from the long-accepted 620,000 killed to 850,000 Union and Confederate soldiers who perished in the war. Two out of three who died in service of the North or South expired from disease rather than battle.

Today, 160 years later, most of the names of the men and their loved ones in the photographs may have been forgotten, but their personal sacrifice, Blue or Gray, North or South, white or black, has not. We honor their courage, one and all. Yet, in honoring them, we remember Stephen Crane’s reflective words from The Red Badge of Courage:

“So it came to pass that as he trudged from the place of blood and wrath his soul changed. He came from hot plowshares to prospects of clover tranquility, and it was as if hot plowshares were not. Scars faded as flowers.”

“He had, of course, dreamed of battles all his life—of vague and bloody conflicts that had thrilled him with their sweep and fire.” —Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage

A Confederate soldier with musket, Horstman & Sons sword bayonet, pistol, and Bowie knife All Images Courtesy Library of Congress, circa 1861-1865, Unless Otherwise Noted


A 10th Kentucky Union cavalryman with stocked Colt pistol, Remington revolver, and cavalry saber


Private William Anthony Holland of Co. K, 10th Virginia Cavalry Regiment with Bowie knife and Colt Army Model 1860 revolver


A Union soldier holding his Company F forage cap with Colt pistol and cavalry sword


An unidentified Union or Confederate soldier wearing a Company K field cap with musket


A Virginia 57th Regiment C.S.A. soldier with Bowie knife and single-shot pistol


The United States Colored Troops were created in 1863. After volunteering, a Black soldier posed with his weapons in front of a painted backdrop at Benton Barracks, Saint Louis, Missouri.


A Union soldier with Colt revolver and slouch hat on his knees


A Union soldier sports a bib-front battle shirt with fez, a Model 1855 rifle musket and a pepperbox revolver.


A Union cavalryman with saber, Burnside carbine, Colt revolver and Hardee hat


Some soldiers, such as this Union soldier, posed with their wives before being deployed.


North and South, the armies had marching bands and this Union enlisted man had his portrait made with his over-the-shoulder saxhorn.


An unusually tall Confederate soldier stood with his musket and pistol in what appears to be a homemade uniform.


In a rare photo, a Maryland freedman U.S.C.T. soldier sat with his wife and daughters before being deployed, circa 1863-65.


With his pistol tucked in his belt, a Union soldier poignantly points to a map of his Army’s strategic target, the Confederate state of Virginia.


A youthful Union soldier with a bayoneted musket


Nearly 30,000 American Indians served in the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War.


A rare wartime photograph of a Confederate enlisted man, Pvt. C.R. Bataile, who served with Col. John S. “Rip” Ford’s Texas cavalry command and fought at Palmito Ranch, circa 1862-63
– Courtesy DeGolyer Library, SMU –


An Ohio Volunteer cavalryman with his well-decorated Hardee hat with insignia


Escaped Alabama slaves, brothers Baldy (left) and George Guy joined the Union’s 1st Alabama Infantry of African Descent at Corinth, Mississippi, in 1863.


Approximately 40,000 boys and men served as drummers in the Civil War. The youngest drummer boy was nine years old.


A Black Union soldier with pistol and knife, 1862-65


A Union soldier sat for his portrait with his faithful companion, who might also have been a regimental mascot.

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