Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Do you know the difference between a company and a regiment?

I didn't enjoy history class when I was growing up and have only grown to appreciate it in the past decade or so. Now, I love watching war movies and visiting war sites. But, I was really confused as I read over a 1911 Civil War Questionnaire today. This one is for a brother of my great, great grandfather, James B Dickson (1840-1902). James didn't live long enough to participate in some questionnaires that went out for the 50th anniversary of the start of the war, but two of his brothers did.

Photo of Pointe du Hoc from our visit to the beaches of Normandy, France
Yesterday, I received the questionnaire for his brother, William Porter Dickson (1842-1926). I was disappointed that the biographical memoranda was almost empty. The military supplement, however, had a lot of information. But, as I read it, I was confused!

William Porter Dickson's 1911 Confederate Military Service Memoranda Supplement Form

Above you'll find the first page of this military supplement. So, he signed up in Kentucky and evidently fought with people from Tennessee. And he says at one point he's part of "Company D" under Jno. Hill and in another that he's a part of the 12th Tennessee Infantry. I was confused. Who did he fight with? And, where can I find more information about them? 

Then I understood.... this document was saying that he was a part of company D and that he was part of the 12th regiment. So, what's a company? And what's a regiment? (Maybe I haven't watched enough war movies!) For me, the next step was to Google the answers.

I found a page called "Army Organization" at Shotgun's Home of the Civil War page. Basically, the company is the smallest unit with the head of the company being a captain. William P Dickson reported that there were 108 men in his company, which is within the normal size.

A regiment is usually comprised of ten companies, though some have twelve. The head of a regiment is a colonel. There are also lieutenant colonels and majors. 

The regiments join together to form brigades, and the brigades join together to form divisions. According to the site: "Theoretically, company strength was 100; regiment, 1,000; brigade, 4,000; and division, 12,000." Of course, these numbers were just 'in theory', but it gives you a framework for how they fit together and an idea of how many men were in each organization.

After figuring out that I needed to look for the 12th Tennessee Infantry Regiment, I was able to find a webpage which gave me more information. It lists the ten companies that form his regiment, including company D from Gibson County. It lists each company's captain along with the colonel in charge of the regiment. The information lined up fairly well with the information William had given nearly fifty years later.

To me, the most interesting part of this questionnaire was second page which lists the battles in which his company was engaged. He listed eight battles and my next step is to learn more about each of these!

Do we share common ancestors? I'd love to talk! Please write me at drleeds@sbcglobal.net


  1. Dana,
    Thank you for this post. I have been a history buff forever. It was my favorite class all the way through school. That being said, I had no idea what the difference was between a company and a regiment. Your explanation was excellent and now I have a clear picture in my mind.
    Thanks so much.

    1. I'm glad it helped you, Diane! I think this will be very helpful as I look at more Civil War records.

  2. I happen to be working on some Civil War soldiers for a project at Wikitree and this came up in my search. Great post.


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