Monday, December 7, 2015

Family Life in 19th-Century America

Last week I discovered a fascinating book by James M.Volo and Dorothy Denneen Volo called Family Life in 19th-Century America.

Union Troops
The authors have compiled an amazing amount of information about life in the 1800s that will be of interest to students of the American Civil War. The work was first published in 2007 so it taps into a great deal of recent research. Family Life in 19th-Century America presents some interesting statistics on the "Common Soldiers" of the Civil War.

  • The Federal Army contained about 2.2 million men and the Confederate forces were between 1.0 and 1.5 million.
  • About 75% of each army was composed of infantry, 15% cavalry, and 7% artillery. The remaining 3% were engineers, medical personnel, teamsters, and other ancillary personnel. Officers represented 10% of each army.
  • The average age at enlistment was just under 26 years in the Union Army and just over 26 years in the Confederate Army.
  • The average size and weight of Federal recruits was 5'8" and 145 pounds. This is a little taller than the 5'4" I have seen in other books.
  • Married men composed 29% of the Northern Army and 36% of the Southern Forces.
  • Northern soldiers were better educated than their Southern counterparts.
  • Most of the soldiers were farmers and the second largest group were skilled laborers. 
  • Officers came from the ranks of professional and white-collar occupations.
  • Foreign-born men composed between 20 and 25% of the Union Army but only 4 to 5% of the Confederate troops.
  • Germans were the largest group of foreigners (200,000) to serve in the Union Army, followed by Irish (150,000), and British and Canadian (50,000).
  • Boys under 16 were allowed to serve as soldiers in both armies. More than 40,000 may have served. The Federal Army contained 300 boys aged 13 or younger and 24 who were 10 or younger.
Confederate Artillery at
Charleston, SC in 1863

The data reveal some unexpected results. Unfortunately, information for the Confederate forces is not as complete as for the Union troops.

(Source: Volo, James M. and Volo, Dorothy Denneen, Family Life in 19th-Century America, 180-186.)


Unknown said...

I have a question regarding the webpage which discusses the Colored Troops. What is the source of the image of the Colored Troops diorama, which features a black soldier bearing the US Flag on the top of a hill? I would like to visit the site where the diorama is located.

- Alan Skerrett (

Allen Mesch said...

I think this is Honey Hill in Oklahoma. It's a four hour drive from Dallas. You might want to check out