Of all the states that elected to secede during the American Civil War, which one had the largest number of citizens who actually fought for the Confederacy? I would also be interested if anyone could find which state had the largest number of casualties.
One would think that the answer was Virginia (the most populous Confederate state), but the answer apparently was North Carolina on both counts (contribution and casualties).
As far as Union states go, this table seems to provide accurate information. However, the info on Confederate army is very incomplete. You can find statements that North Carolina supplied the most soldiers (125,000) to the Confederate army all over the Internet. The original source seems to be a speech from 1904 by Hon. Theodore F. Davidson in Raleigh:
She [North Carolina] was next to the last state to secede from the Union, and in February, 1861 she voted against secession by 30,000 majority; yet, with a military population of 115,365, the State of North Carolina furnished to the Confederate army 125,000 men. . .Of the ten regiments on either side which sustained the heaviest loss in any one engagement during the war, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey furnished one each, and North Carolina furnished three. North Carolina furnished from first to last one fifth of the entire Confederate army, and at the surrender at Appomattox, one-half of the muskets stacked were from North Carolina.
Given the nature of this speech, it is probably not the most reliable source of information - and it doesn't actually claim directly that North Carolina supplied more soldiers than any other state. In fact, if you search hard enough you will also find statements about Tennessee and Texas as the states that contributed the most soldiers to the Confederate army (not backed by numbers). For comparison one would need to at least look at the number of soldiers supplied by Virginia but that number is very hard to find.
I finally found the book The numerical strength of the Confederate army from 1912 which lists the stated numbers of enrollment into the Confederate army:
- Virginia: 175,000
- Florida: 15,000
- Georgia: 120,000
- North Carolina: 129,000
- South Carolina: 75,000
- Mississippi: 70,000
- Alabama: 90,000
- Tennessee: 115,000
The book goes on to compare these numbers with the actual population and comes to the following conclusion:
In the light of the facts just stated we must conclude that the Southern writers quoted by General Adams have, in their zeal for the honor and glory of their several States, greatly overestimated the number of men contributed by the same to the Confederate armies. This would be more probable a priori, than that the leading men in the Confederate army and Government who were at the sources of information, and who ought to have been well informed, should have so enormously underestimated the strength of the armies of the South; but the tests to which we have now submitted the figures given by these State historians demonstrate their error beyond the possibility of doubt. They must be cut down by several hundred thousand. A large element of this error is to be found, as I have suggested, in the failure to observe the great number of re-enlistments that undoubtedly took place, especially in 1862, when the terms of service of nearly all the Confederate regiments expired.[Pg 61] This duplication, in the opinion of the military Secretary of the United States, reduces the total by twenty per cent.
For us this means: If you look at the "official" numbers then the state that supplied the most soldiers was Virginia. The sources claiming otherwise apparently took the statement "North Carolina supplied many soldiers" and turned it into a superlative. As to the real numbers: I'm not sure whether they are known by now, I couldn't find anything resembling a reliable source.
Just to back up Wladimir's post of the inaccuracy of the numbers. Josh Howard a North Carolina Historian stated in this article
"The time has come to get it right," said Josh Howard, a research historian with the Office of Archives and History in Raleigh. "Nobody has gone through man by man looking for the deaths."
North Carolina is only believed to have sacrificed the most men to the war. The article linked above is from 2010 where he set out to figure out if this was true or not. However as of now he has completed a study that attempts to put the myth to rest.
After a year+ of work it looks like he came to a conclusion. He states that the North Carolina death toll would be closer to 32000-35000. Also when taking into account the inaccuracy of other military records from other states it looks like North Carolina still comes out on top.
From this article
In all likelihood, North Carolina still ranks first in fallen Confederates. If records in Raleigh are wrong, it’s a good bet the rest of the Southern states have inaccurate counts, too. Second-place Virginia, also reviewing its count, is moving much closer to North Carolina in the number of dead.
He also concludes that:
But both Howard and Purser admit the numbers will never be 100 percent accurate.
Extra Interesting Info:
He did debunk the myth that the first casuality for the south was that of soldier from North Carolina.
A Virginia captain beat Pvt. Henry Lawson Wyatt, a 19-year-old from Tarboro, to the grave by nine days;
"Which Confederate state supplied the most troops" and "fought for the Confederacy" are slightly different questions. Tennessee actually supplied the second largest total of troops--more than North Carolina--from any Confederate state. But more than 30,000 of those fought on the Union side. (And not including 20,000 African-Americans.)
An issue which may be particular to East Tennessee is that many men served both sides. In my research on Hawkins County, Tennessee, I have so far found that nearly 8% of the men who served in Confederate regiments at first later served in Union regiments. While a few joined US Volunteer regiments for frontier duty, most deserted their Confederate TN regiment and enlisted in a Union TN regiment.