A Soldier’s Life in the Civil War

By Emile Bautista

When the Civil War began, many people rushed to join a side in the war. No one was aware of the long struggle ahead. No one expected a 4 year war where more than half a million people died. The Civil War turned out to be a very bloody conflict.

America: History of our Nation: Beginnings through 1877 (Prentice Hall)

Life as a soldier wasn’t so great. There were a lot of soldiers that were homesick, hungry, bored, sick, or wounded. When soldiers weren’t training they were cleaning up the camp. Also people got sick a lot and medicine wasn’t as good as it is nowadays. One disease was caused by malnutrition in the soldier’s diet. Soldiers ate hardtack. Hardtack was like a cracker that you had to crack open with a rock or rifle. The only worse thing than being in battle was being in a prison camp. These camps were overcrowded and diseases could spread as fast as a yawn. Prisoners weren’t fed enough and often got depressed. The mortality rate in camps was very high. Captured African American Union soldiers weren’t treated as prisoners of war, instead they were killed or sent to work as slaves.

Desertion started to become a problem in the war. Many people were returning back even though the war was not over. Both armies started to draft people. Rich people could get out of going to war if they were drafted. They could pay a large sum of money, own many slaves, or hire someone to fight in their place. The draft now only applied to poor people. Many people rioted against the draft.

America: History of our Nation: Beginnings through 1877 (Prentice Hall)

Lastly, soldiers didn’t have fun in battle. People constantly got wounded. Many generals still favored the charges into front lines. This tactic did not work very well anymore. New cannons and rifles ripped through charging enemies. A small wound in battle could be very serious. The wound could get infected and the doctors would have to amputate the wound if it was on an arm. Harder to find wounds were risky to get out because doctors didn’t have all the supplies they needed to operate safely.

America: History of our Nation: Beginnings through 1877 (Prentice Hall)

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