10 Facts About The American Civil War (Part One) - History Key

10 Facts About The American Civil War (Part One)

1.   A 10 year old boy was the youngest soldier in the American Civil War and the oldest had 80 years.

John Lincoln Clem was born on August 13, 1851. At age 10 he ran away after his mother’s death and he tried several times to enrol. He was rejected many times because of his age. Eventually he succeeded and started as a drummer boy in the Union Army. After the Civil War, J. L. Clem stayed in the army where he builds a military career.

Curtis King was born on July 7, 1783 as a son of a Revolutionary War Veteran. John was married a couple of times, owned several farms and had approximately 12 children (9 sons and 3 daughters). At the age of 80, C. King was mustered as a Private in Company C, 37th Iowa Volunteer Infantry becoming the oldest recorded man to serve the Union Army. His discharge took place on March, 1863. He was described as one of the most efficient men of his regiment.

2.   Women were not allowed to enrol the army, but more than 400 women fought disguised as men

Loreta Janeta Velazquez (Harry T. Buford)
Loreta Janeta Velazquez (Harry T. Buford) © Library of Congress/Image Source: Wikipedia


Women are playing important roles in war. In the American Civil War women were contributing in many ways. From spies, advocates, soldiers, nurses, women were having incredible roles in the war. Most of them were supplying the troops with food, money, medical supplies and clothing. But some of them enrolled in army, disguised as men. More than 400 documented cases of women can be found.

3.   Elmira was a prison camp during the Civil War and had observation towers built for citizens. They paid 15¢ to look at the inmates

 Medical Care at Elmira Prison Camp in Civil War
Medical Care at Elmira Prison Camp in Civil War © Image Source: Wikipedia

Elmira prison was a prison camp constructed in New York State during the American Civil War. It was specially created to house captive the Confederate soldiers. The prison was used from July 6, 1864, until July 11, 1865. During this time 2,970 prisoners died from poor sanitary conditions, cold, malnutrition and diseases.  After the War, each survivor prisoner was given a train ticket to home. The last survivor left the prison on September 27, 1865. In short time the camp was transformed to a farming land.

4. Mississippi and South Carolina had more slaves than free people in 1860.

In 1860 the total population of the U.S. was around 30 million people from which almost 4 million were slaves. 19 out of 36 states had no slaves during the American Civil War. Mississippi and South Carolina were the only two states which had more slaves than free people: 430,000 slaves out of 790,000 total population in Mississippi and 400,000 slaves out of 700,000 total population in South Carolina. In this two states, more than 45% of the families held slaves.

5.   In 1860 were living around 4 million slaves in the South. They worth at the time more than 2 billion $

In the same year when Abraham Lincoln was elected, the slave population was nearly four million. The ratio between free and enslaved Americans was around 7:1. The free colored persons were nearly to half a million and the percentage of families owning slaves was around 8%. The slavery started to end hardly and the human rights were equal for everybody only after J.F. Kennedy was elected.

6. A Mercury based compound was used in Civil War to treat headaches and syphilis.

Calomel is a mercury mixture of honey, chalk and licorice. It was used by both Union and Confederate armies to treat almost anything. After several intoxication, loss of teeth, excessive salivation, facial deformities and deaths among the soldiers, William Hammond (Union Surgeon General) informed that the mercury is poisonous and ordered the removal of it. After his action, W. Hammond was sent on a protracted “inspection tour” to the South, which removed him from office. A few months later a court-martial found him guilty of “irregularities” in the purchase of medical furniture.

7.   The national rate of divorce increased by 150% after 20 years from the American Civil War

Before the Civil War, divorce statistics were not officially recorded. Here and there, divorce happened on occasion, but the spouse had a “stigmata” attached after the action. After the Civil War, women had more freedom and from an economically point of view, had more opportunities. The main factor why the divorce rate increased so much it was the freedom of speech and more rights for woman. In a matter of fact, between 1867 and 1879 the national rate of divorce was 3% while between 1985 and 1990 was around 50%.

8.   In the Battle of Chancellorsville a soldier found out that his cartridges were filled with dirt, therefore he was a victim of a corrupt government

 Gen. Joseph Hooker and Gen. Robert E. Lee
Gen. Joseph Hooker and Gen. Robert E. Lee © Julian Vannerson/The Library of Congress Prints/Image Source: Wikipedia

The Battle of Chancellorsville was an important battle from the American Civil War in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. General Robert E. Lee had his greatest victory during the War. He fought an enemy force twice the size of his own, defeating Union Gen. Joseph Hooker.

9.   Prisoners were forced to stay naked at Camp Douglas and blankets weren’t allowed. This was a solution to prevent escape, but many confederates froze to death.

Camp Douglas was one of the largest prison camps during the American War. The camp was used at first as a training camp for volunteer regiments, but in 1862 became a prisoner camp. During the war, many prisoners escaped or tried to escape. As a solution to prevent escape, prisoners were forced to stay naked. Because of this solution, many prisoners froze to death.

10. The Gatling gun was invented during the American Civil War

Patent drawing for R.J. Gatling's "battery gun", 9 May 1865/ Gatling Guns in Action
Patent drawing for R.J. Gatling’s “battery gun”, 9 May 1865/ Gatling Guns in Action © Burke John/Image Source: Wikipedia

Designed by Dr. Richard Gatling in 1861, the Gatling gun was one of the best-known early rapid-fire weapons. Dr. Richard Gatling created the gun in order to reduce the number of death by combat and disease. The potential of this weapon was noticed immediately. General Horatio Wright wrote a report about the weapon: “I have examined the invention known as the Gatling gun and it seems to me to possess much merit.”

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