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They were regarded by many as elite troops and often held in reserve during battles in case of emergencies.
This force was quite small compared to the massive state-raised volunteer forces that comprised the bulk of the Union Army. The combat arms included infantry, cavalry, artillery, and other such smaller organizations such as the United States Marine Corps, which, at some times, was detached from its navy counterpart for land based operations. Hardee's "Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics" (1855), the primary tactics for riflemen and light infantry in use immediately prior and during the Civil War, there would typically be, within each regiment, ten companies, each commanded by a captain, and deployed according to the ranks of captains.
When the American Civil War began in April 1861, there were only 16,000 men in the U. Army, and of these many Southern officers resigned and joined the Confederate army. With the Southern slave states declaring secession from the Union, and with this drastic shortage of men in the army, President Abraham Lincoln called on the states to raise a force of 75,000 men for three months to put down the insurrection.
Lincoln's call forced the border states to choose sides, and four seceded, making the Confederacy eleven states strong.
It was more common to name departments for rivers (such as Department of the Tennessee, Department of the Cumberland) or regions (Department of the Pacific, Department of New England, Department of the East, Department of the West, Middle Department).