In the previous article I discussed the role of adjutants in the 19th century U.S. Army. The dedicated efforts of those staff officers ensured that current Old Army researchers have the detail-rich unit and garrison information. Accordingly, an adjutant’s duty was documenting the activities and personnel of their assigned unit. In April 1866, Colonel Henry B. Carrington forwarded the Official History of the 18th United States Infantry, 1861-1865 to the Adjutant General’s Office. Compiled by regimental adjutant, 1st Lieutenant Frederick Phisterer, the history provides data significant to understanding Old Army demographics.
Three Regiments in One
The 18th was one of nine regular army infantry regiments (11th-19th) formed in 1861. Modeled on the French regimental system, each regiment consisted of three 8-company battalions (designated 1st-3rd). In actuality, each battalion functioned as a regiment, each with their own command and staff positions and set of records.
The history prepared by Phisterer documented the enlistment of 4,778 men between July 1, 1861 and December 31, 1865. His effort received high praise from senior officers for its thoroughness and completeness. It includes the names and dates of enlistment of the nearly 5,000 men who joined the regiment during the Civil War period, monthly itineraries of the 24 companies, and biographies of the regiment’s officers. Moreover, the history lists the names, dates of appointment, and notes (i.e. death, wounds, demotion, etc.) of the 657 noncommissioned officers who served with the unit. Perhaps the most the interesting information contained in the book are the demographics of the enlisted men. Some of that information is presented below.
Old Army Demographics, Occupations From Actor to Woodchopper
Although a regular army unit, the 18th could easily claim to be an Ohio regiment. Of the 4,778 men who joined the unit, 1,320 (28%) claimed Ohio as their birth state. Officers organized and trained the recruits at Camp Thomas, Ohio, just north of Columbus. Over 1,000 recruits enlisted at Columbus alone; an additional 43 recruiting stations throughout Ohio also swelled the ranks. The high number of Ohio-born men in the regiment is no doubt attributed to its formation in that state.
About 33% of the ranks claimed foreign birth places with the majority from western Europe. Of the foreign-born, Ireland and Germany led with 1,002. Canada, Newfoundland, and New Brunswick accounted for 156 enlistees. Additionally, a few soldiers claimed Cuba, Australia, and “on the sea” as birthplaces.
Occupations From Actor to Woodchopper
In many ways, the composition of the regiment was a microcosm of the nation. The 108 different occupations, noted by enlistees, reflected the diversity. Not surprisingly, 35% of the soldiers listed their occupation as farmer thereby reflecting the agrarian nature of the economy. The 1,679 farmers therefore led all occupations. Laborer, soldier, carpenter, blacksmith, shoemaker, boatman, clerk, sailor, and musician rounded out the top ten occupations represented in the regiment. However, numerous other occupations filled the ranks such as physicians, lawyers, an actor, a showman, and one “gentleman”. In short the 18th Infantry included a wide range of unskilled and skilled professions.
The Personal Cost of Old Army Service
The 18th Infantry fought and bled at several of the prominent battles in the Civil War Western Theater, namely the sieges of Corinth (1862) and Atlanta (1864) and battles of Stones River (1862/1863), Chickamauga (1863), Resaca (1864), and Kennesaw Mountain (1864). Throughout most of the Civil War, the 18th Regulars served in the 14th Army Corps alongside battalions from fellow regular army infantry regiments (15th, 16th, and 19th) and numerous volunteer units. The latter included the 11th Michigan and 69th Ohio infantry regiments.
Attrition, common to all military units of the era, affected the regiment. As of December 31, 1865 the unit lost 64% of its enlisted men owing to a variety of reasons. Most, 1,052, deserted. Just over 200 men died outright in battle or succumbed to wounds while 330 died from disease. Only 14% received honorable discharges for successfully completing their term of enlistment. Moreover, a high number of men (582) received early discharge for disability. Interestingly, 29 men were still listed as missing in action as of December 1865.
The statistics listed in the 18th Infantry history provide a fine basis for compiling Old Army demographics. Do you have any idea for a “By the Numbers” or other Old Army article? We’d love to hear it. Send your suggestions through the Contact Us page.