During the American Civil War (1861-1865), the Confederate States Army (CSA), also known as the Confederate Army or the Southern Army, fought on the side of the Confederate States of America (commonly referred to as the Confederacy) in an effort to secure the region’s independence from the Union and preserve slavery in the South.
On April 9 (officially April 12), and April 18, 1865, respectively, the principal Confederate armies, the Army of Northern Virginia under General Robert E. Lee, and the remnants of the Army of Tennessee and several minor divisions under General Joseph E. Johnston, surrendered to the United States (officially April 26).
Between April 16 and June 28, 1865, other Confederate armies surrendered. More than 100,000 Confederate soldiers had deserted by the end of the war, and this number could have risen as high as a third of all Confederate soldiers.
Although there were four distinct ranks of general officers:
- Lieutenant General
- Major General
- Brigadier General
All wore the same insignia. This choice was made at the outset of the war.
At first, the position of brigadier general was the highest in the Confederacy, as established by the Congress. The remaining general-officer levels were swiftly added as the conflict progressed, but no insignia were made for them.
Famous Confederate Generals
1. Robert E. Lee
Robert Edward Lee (January 19, 1807 – October 12, 1870) was a Confederate general who commanded the whole Confederate States Army in its last days of the American Civil War.
He led the Confederacy’s most powerful army, the Force of Northern Virginia, from 1862 to 1865 and was hailed as a skilled tactician for his efforts.
Lee was a brilliant leader and military engineer for the United States Army for a full three decades. At the United States Military Academy, he finished first in his graduating class. The patriarch of the Lee family was a veteran of the Revolutionary War named Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee III.
He rose to fame during the Mexican-American War and later served as Superintendent of the United States Military Academy. Irrelevantly, Lee wed Mary Anna Custis Lee, a descendant of George and Martha Washington. Despite his moral misgivings, Lee supported the law of slavery and owned hundreds of slaves.
Also Read: Famous Union Generals
Even though he wanted to keep the country together and was offered a high command position in the Union, Lee followed the lead of his home state of Virginia and joined the Confederacy in 1861. A key military advisor to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, he also participated in a handful of skirmishes during the first year of the Civil War.
After Joseph E. Johnston was wounded during the Peninsula Campaign in June 1862, Lee seized command of the Army of Northern Virginia. During the Seven Days Battles, he was able to force George B. McClellan’s Union Army of the Potomac out of Richmond, the Confederate capital.
Lee defeated Union soldiers led by John Pope in the Second Battle of Bull Run in August. Although he initially attacked Maryland in September, the deadly but ultimately pointless Battle of Antietam compelled him to retire to Virginia.
Lee won decisive victories at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville before attempting his second invasion of the North in the summer of 1863, during which he was soundly defeated by the Army of the Potomac under George Meade at the Battle of Gettysburg.
Before taking command of the Union forces the next spring, General Ulysses S. Grant led his army in the brief and ultimately fruitless Bristoe Campaign that same October.
Before the long Siege of Petersburg, there were the bloody but ultimately useless battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania; in April 1865, Grant took Richmond and decimated much of Lee’s force, leading to Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House.
2. Stonewall Jackson
Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson (January 21, 1824–May 10, 1863) was the second most famous Confederate general behind Robert E. Lee.
He took part in practically every military operation in the Eastern Theater of the war up until the day he died, and his efforts helped swing the balance of several critical Civil War engagements.
Many military historians consider him to be among the best tacticians in American history. Research into his techniques is still under progress.
Jackson graduated from West Point, the United States Military Academy, in 1846. On the territory that is now Virginia, he was born (now West Virginia).
His service in the United States Army during the Mexican-American War (1846–1848), particularly during the Battle of Chapultepec, garnered him high honors. He taught at the Virginia Military Institute from 1851 to 1861, and his pupils hated him the entire time.
3. P.G.T. Beauregard
Pierre Gustave Toutant-Beauregard (May 28, 1818 – February 20, 1893) was a Confederate military officer of Louisiana Creole ancestry who led the attack on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, thus sparking the American Civil War.
P. G. T. Beauregard was a name he rarely used, but it is the one by which he is most known today. G. T. Beauregard was the only name he ever signed his correspondence with.
A West Point graduate, Beauregard put his knowledge of military and civil engineering to good use as an engineer officer during the Mexican-American War.
After serving as the superintendent of the United States Military Academy for a year in 1861, he resigned from the Union Army to become the first brigadier general of the Confederate States Army after Louisiana seceded.
On April 12, 1861, he was in charge of manning the defenses of Charleston, South Carolina as the Civil War broke out. In Manassas, Virginia, three months later, he won the First Battle of Bull Run.
Following his military service, Beauregard returned to his home state of Louisiana, where he amassed a fortune as a railroad executive and promoter of the Louisiana Lottery while simultaneously fighting for civil rights for African Americans, including the ability to vote.
4. J.E.B. Stuart
James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart, a general in the Confederate States Army, was born in Virginia on February 6, 1833, and died there on May 12, 1864. His first and middle names formed the abbreviation “Jeb,” which he and his friends and family used almost exclusively.
Stuart was a well-known cavalry commander who was an expert at using horses in offensive operations and in reconnaissance.
Despite his carefree reputation, his service as Robert E. Lee’s trusted eyes and ears boosted Southern morale and helped turn the tide of the war (red-lined gray cape, the yellow waist sash of a regular cavalry officer, hat cocked to the side with an ostrich plume, red flower in his lapel, often sporting cologne).
In 1854, Stuart graduated from West Point and went on to serve in the United States Army in Texas and Kansas. Stuart had fought Native Americans on the frontier and witnessed the carnage of Bleeding Kansas prior to his involvement in the capture of John Brown at Harpers Ferry.
He resigned his commission and joined the Confederate Army after his home state of Virginia seceded, first serving in the Shenandoah Valley under Stonewall Jackson and then rising through the ranks of the Army of Northern Virginia to become a key figure in every major battle until his death.
5. Joseph Johnston
American military officer Joseph Eggleston Johnston (February 3, 1807 – March 21, 1891) distinguished himself throughout the Mexican-American War (1846–1848) and the Seminole Wars.
He joined the Confederate States Army not long after Virginia seceded from the Union and quickly advanced through the ranks to become a major general.
Johnston and Robert E. Lee both attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, and both graduated as civil engineers. The Sunshine State, the Lone Star State, and the Wheat State all saw his service to our country. In 1860, he held the rank of brigadier general as Quartermaster General of the United States Army.
Johnston’s efficacy during the American Civil War was diminished due to his disagreements with Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy. He lost almost all of the battles he led personally.
At the First Battle of Bull Run in July 1861, he was the senior Confederate commander despite P.G.T. Beauregard being his subordinate.
Upon returning to civilian life, Johnston quickly rose through the ranks to executive positions in the railroad and insurance businesses. He was elected as a Democrat to the House of Representatives, but he served for only one term.
His career in government began when Grover Cleveland appointed him commissioner of the railroad department. Johnston died of pneumonia ten days after attending Sherman’s burial in the pouring rain.
6. James Longstreet
In the American Civil War, James Longstreet (January 8, 1821 – January 2, 1904) was a prominent Confederate officer and General Robert E. Lee’s primary subordinate, whom Lee affectionately referred to as his “Old War Horse.”
He was a corps commander in Lee’s Eastern Theater Army of Northern Virginia and worked briefly with Braxton Bragg’s Western Theater Army of Tennessee.
A veteran of the Mexican-American War, Longstreet served in the United States Army after graduating from West Point. He married his first wife, Louise Garland, while recovering from a thigh wound sustained at the Battle of Chapultepec.
He was stationed in the American Southwest frontier for the entirety of the 1850s. Longstreet joined the Confederate cause after resigning his commission from the United States Army in June 1861.
At the First Battle of Bull Run, he had a relatively modest part, but he did lead the Confederate forces to an early victory at Blackburn’s Ford in July.
After World War II, Longstreet had a fruitful career in government service, serving in many diplomatic and administrative capacities for the United States.
Slowly but surely, Longstreet’s legacy has been reevaluated since the late 20th century. Several researchers have concluded that he was one of the best Civil War generals in terms of strategy and tactics.
7. William (Bloody Bill) Anderson
William T. Anderson, often known as “Bloody Bill” Anderson, was an American soldier who became one of the deadliest and most infamous guerilla leaders for the Confederacy during the American Civil War (c. 1840–October 26, 1864).
Missouri and Kansas were the targets of Anderson’s gang of volunteer partisan raiders, who went after Union sympathizers and federal soldiers.
Anderson’s father was murdered by a judge who had formerly been a friend but had since switched loyalties to the Union.
There he murdered many Union soldiers and robbed passing passengers. During the first months of 1863, he joined the Confederate guerrilla outfit Quantrill’s Raiders, which mostly operated in the area straddling Kansas and Missouri.
The enmity between Anderson and Quantrill began to fester in late 1863, while Quantrill’s Raiders spent the winter in Sherman, Texas. Anderson may have falsely accused Quantrill of murder, leading to his capture by Confederate officials.
Since then, Anderson has led his own band of raiders back to Missouri, where he has become the most feared guerilla in the state, plundering and killing a considerable number of Union soldiers and civilian sympathizers. Missouri’s Confederate sympathizers, in contrast to their Union counterparts, justified his brutality.
Historians have disagreed on how to characterize Anderson, with some viewing him as a sadistic, psychotic killer and others placing his acts in the context of the prevailing lawlessness and despair of the era and the brutalizing influence of war.
8. George Pickett
During the American Civil War, veteran United States Army officer George Edward Pickett (January 16, 1825 – July 30, 1875) switched sides and became a major general in the Confederate States Army.
Pickett’s Charge, a fruitless and brutal Confederate offensive on the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg, carries his name, and he is best remembered as one of its commanders.
To Pickett’s chagrin, his division was the last to reach the battlefield during the Gettysburg Campaign. But on the last day of the fight, July 3, it joined two other Longstreet divisions in an unsuccessful assault on Union fortifications.
Pickett ordered the execution of 22 Union soldiers from North Carolina in February 1864 for desertion after an unsuccessful attack on New Bern. His division was completely annihilated and lost at the Battle of Five Forks, bringing an unceremonious end to his military career.
9. A.P. Hill
Confederate general Ambrose Powell Hill Jr. died on April 2, 1865; he was born on November 9, 1825. To avoid confusion with another Confederate general named Daniel Harvey Hill, he is commonly referred to by his initials, A. P. Hill.
Hill, a lifelong Virgilian, was a veteran United States Army officer who had participated in the Mexican-American War and the Seminole Wars.
He rose to prominence early in the American Civil War as the leader of the “Light Division” in the Seven Days Battles and eventually became one of Stonewall Jackson’s most capable lieutenants, making his mark at Cedar Mountain, Second Bull Run, Antietam, and Fredericksburg in 1862.
After Jackson was killed in action at Chancellorsville in May 1863, Hill was promoted to lieutenant general and given command of the Third Corps of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Hill would go on to lead the corps during the Gettysburg Campaign and the fall operations of 1863.
Throughout 1864 and 1865, he was sick and unable to lead the corps until the very end of the war, when he was slain leading the Union Army’s advance at the Third Battle of Petersburg.
10. Nathan Bedford Forrest
During the American Civil War, Nathan Bedford Forrest (July 13, 1821 – October 29, 1877) was a renowned Confederate Army general. From 1867 to 1869, he also served as the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
Prior to the war, Forrest built a large fortune as a cotton plantation owner, horse and cattle trader, real estate broker, and slave trader.
He joined the Confederate Army in June 1861 as a private and rose through the ranks to become a general despite having no prior experience in the military.
Forrest, a skilled cavalry commander, was put in charge of an entire corps and tasked with developing innovative strategies for mobile armies.
To this day, Forrest remains a divisive character in Southern racial history due to his central participation in the slaughter of several hundred Union soldiers at Fort Pillow, the bulk of whom were black, and his role after the war as a leader of the Klan.