What’s a Soldier? Who’s a Soldier?

One of the flash points in the ongoing (and seemingly never-ending) debate over “black Confederates” is the definition of a “soldier.”  I’m not quite sure why that is.  A soldier in the Civil War enlisted or was conscripted to service for a period of time.  That term of service varied (there were 90 day terms, nine month terms [Stannard’s Vermonters at Gettysburg], and terms of one, two, and three years), and sometimes there was a debate as to a term’s precise length (state service versus federal service, for example).  On the whole, however, everyone at the time seemed to understand the definition of a soldier as someone who had enlistment papers, was listed on the unit roster and classified as a soldier, and so on, with additional documentation for officers.  One would identify such soldiers in federal service, for example, by examining what are called “Combined Service Records.”

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