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The Gentlemen and the RoughsViolence, Honor, and Manhood in the Union Army$
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Lorien Foote

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780814727904

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814727904.001.0001

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“The Thick-Fingered Clowns”

“The Thick-Fingered Clowns”

Social Status and Discipline

(p.119) 5 “The Thick-Fingered Clowns”
The Gentlemen and the Roughs

Lorien Foote

NYU Press

This chapter examines how Civil War officers governed the rank and file. It demonstrates a clear pattern of interactions between officers and privates that began in a very small number of regiments and spread to include seemingly most regiments in the Union army during 1863. It shows that discipline in the Union army became more stringent over time and that its severity was targeted on the post-1862 conscripts. The reason for this was their widespread distrust of the conscripts, bounty men, and substitutes. A core group of volunteers fought for the cause; thousands of other Union soldiers fought because they had to. Without the overwhelming force used against them—on the transports south and on the battlefield—they would not have fought. The use of force and the conflict among officers, roughs, and immigrants changed the Union army. By 1864–1865 it looked more like the antebellum regular army, which had long reflected the social divisions of civilian life.

Keywords:   Union army, Civil war, social class, military officers, army discipline, conscripts, social conflict

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