It's common knowledge that the American Civil War was fought by amateur soldiers.
DISCIPLINE & TRAINING OF SOLDIERS Rather than learning in training camp, Civil War regiments had to learn to fight on the battlefield. The training of regiments was lacking and consisted mainly of the manual of arms, little target practice, company and regimental drills in basic maneuvers and brigade drill and skirmishing tactics. Division drill or mock combat was a rare occurrence. Many regiments went into combat only three weeks after being organized.
Before the first Battle of Manassas General McDowell wants more time to prepare his troops Lincoln responds
It is true that you are green, but they are green also; you are all green together.
My question regards the leadership of those soldiers.
When Abraham Lincoln made his initial call for 75,000 troops April 15, 1861 existing laws required him to rely on states to select and provide those troops to the union. Congress had not authorized this call up and the Union treasury could not afford it. So the Union was forced to rely on the States for the troops, supplies, transport and to a large extent leadership of its army.
April 1861-November 1863 Page 9
The Ohio Governor spoke of his embarrassment he felt at every step from the lack of practical military experience in his staff, and of his desire to have one on whom he could properly throw the details of military work.
The answer to the Ohio Governor's request for anybody with military experience was General George McClellan a 1846 graduate of the Military Academy, who was 19 when the Mexican-American War began and 21 when it ended. McClellan had risen to the rank of Captain before resigning his commission in Jan 16, 1857. McClellan would go from Captain in 46, to the Civilian president of a railroad 60 to major general in the Union Army 1861, where he out ranked all but 75 year old, Lt. General Winfield Scott in May of 1861 at the age of 34.
Ulysses S. Grant graduated from West Point in 1843, was a logistics officer at 23 years old when the Mexican-American War began and saw some limited action before it ended. Grant who resigned his commission as a Captain, July 31, 1854 for being drunk on duty. He would end the Civil War in command of all Union Forces but in April 1861, when Lincoln called up his first 75,000 troops was working for his younger brother in the family leather goods business.
Two of the most famous and accomplished Southern cavalry offices of the American Civil War were General Nathan Bedford Forrest and Colonel John Mosby, both of whom started the civil war as enlisted men with no military experience.
What was the experience level of officers during the American Civil war?
Gort the Robot:
There are lots of big civil war names with that experience In particular, two you mention, McClellan and Grant, saw real combat experience there. So did Robert E. Lee.
McClellan was 19 when the Mexican American war began( Apr 25, 1846) and 21 when it concluded. He did see "real" combat there, but would you really call him experienced general to lead all of your nations armed forces based upon experience he had when 21 years old?
Grant too saw "real" combat in the Mexican American war. He got into a few calvary charges. But he was still a logistics officer for most of that war. 23 when that war began. Hardly the kind of experience one would claim in making one an experienced General of the Armies.