Top 5 Civil War Confederate Army Leaders

Okay, so the Confederacy was pro-slavery among other things. Discussion on this side of the coin can become heated, controversial, whatever. But one thing is for sure, no matter the “right” side or “wrong” side, each power has reasons behind its military strategy. Whether the reasons are based on religion, money, power, political gain, expansion, etc. there are reasons that each side has for making a military move.

top civil war confederate leaders

Top Civil War Confederate Leaders.

During the Civil War, America was still so young, so new, and full of promise and possibilities. We Americans were not the first nation or society to enslave others for our gains. There are many others, and many other societies that were willing to sell their own into slavery. While slavery was the main basis for the Civil War, political factors definitely played a big role in the Confederacy’s and the Union’s military decisions.

While the Union’s victory oversaw the end of the Civil War, the Confederates’ conviction in the belief of their correct action is insurmountable. The Armed Forces of the Confederacy were actually many fielded armies at the time, the most famous being the Army of Northern Virginia, which was led by General Robert E. Lee. He is just one of quite a few top Army leaders.

So here it is, the list of the top 5 Confederate Army leaders:

5.  Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston was a Confederate general who never suffered a direct defeat during the Civil War. And although he never suffered a direct defeat, his effectiveness as a military leader was obstructed in part by a long-standing dispute with Confederate States President Jefferson Davis.

4.  General Braxton Bragg was a North Carolina native and served as a career officer in the United States Army and later as a general in the Confederate States Army. He also later went on to serve as Confederate President Jefferson Davis’s military adviser.

3.  General Samuel Cooper is little known in the fact that he was the highest-ranking general of the Confederate Army. He served in the Mexican-American War and the Second Seminole War as a United States officer. Upon his joining of the Confederate States Army, Cooper was given a commission as brigadier general and ended up serving as both Adjutant General and Inspector General of the Confederate States Army. Because he was one of only seven appointed to the rank of full general and appointed first and earliest, this is what made him the highest ranking general during the Civil War; he reported directly to President Jefferson Davis.

2.  President of the Confederate States, Jefferson Davis: Jefferson Davis served as Senator of Mississippi and also as Secretary of War, and although he shunned the leading role of presidency and was very hesitant to accept nomination, he later went on to become the president of the Confederate States of America. He also served as the Commander in Chief of the army and navy during the Civil War, and actually went on to appoint Robert E. Lee with a minor position as his personal military adviser.

1.  So here we are at #1…guess who? That’s right, General Robert E. Lee. He served as Major General of Virginia’s land and naval forces, brigadier general, and Commanding Departments of Northwestern Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, among other duties.

These are the top 5 Confederate Army leaders as I have studied in American History and through my own research. While the men on this list had trying times during their careers, they all have resignation at some point in common. But when it came to duty during the American Civil War, they stood up and did their jobs—some more effectively than others, but these men worked with the limitations of their time. If there is someone I have not included or someone that should take a place in the top 5 Confederate Army leaders list, please feel free to include them in the comments section.

Also, if you have any other comments, suggestions or questions, please post them below. Thank you.

About the Author: Lauren is a stay at home mom currently working from home as a freelance writer. She is certified in Education with a background in education, writing, and tutoring to help students develop their educational skills. She comes from a military family and writes articles about education, military life, and personal development.


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13 thoughts on “Top 5 Civil War Confederate Army Leaders”

  1. Oh yes, you can’t forget Robert E. Lee! I actually dated a guy who was named after Lee, and needless to say his family was a little rough. Which might be why I didn’t marry the guy (ha!)

    But aside from that, all of the above mentioned Civil War Confederate Army Leaders were great men, did great things and fought long and hard for our country. The rich history that our country has is inevitably awesome and fun to dive into. If we hadn’t had such memorable events and individuals to commemorate, I wonder where our country would be. Just a thought!

  2. We also can’t leave out General P.G.T. Beauregard, who earned a name quickly with his capture of Fort Sumpter in South Carolina, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. He continued his success with victory at the First Battle of Bull Run in Virginia, during which another famous name led a Virginia brigade into battle at a key moment–Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson.

    1. General Beauregard is definitely another famous Civil War Confederate army Leader. From what I read online he was the first Confederate Brigadier General and he commanded the defenses of Fort Sumter, not the capture of it. He was also an author, inventor and politician: a very prominent man.

      Thanks for adding him to my list of top five Civil War Confederate Army leaders.

  3. That is a good list. Thanks. For people who are interested in Civil War history, southern Missouri is packed with battlefields. The city of Carthage, Missouri claims to be the site of some of the first casualties, when local militia opened fire on federal troops. Missouri was a split state during the CW and ended up being the location of some of the most intense fighting. The City of Carthage used to sponsor a marathon race, which was a fun weekend of running and historic sightseeing. The Carthage marathon might still be in operation, but it’s been 20 years since I first ran it.

    1. I never knew there was so much fighting in Missouri during the Civil War. I’ll have to stop by and visit Carthage the next time I am driving through Missouri.


      1. Missouri is full of Civil war memories. I lived in Lebanon, Mo and the St Louis area before I made my way here to Puerto Rico. The State was very split between their beliefs which caused many problems. I used to collect and sell many civil war relics and antiques. If you are a collector of Civil War memorabilia, I suggest stopping at the many antique shops all throughout Missouri as you travel through.

        Just a quick story on my Civil War antique collecting. I had purchased a cap-lock buffalo gun for a very reasonable price of $50. It had been damaged, but had a beautiful tiger maple stock. I cleaned it up and put it in my antique booth for $800. A few months later, a gentleman called me wanting to give me $500 for it which I promptly accepted. He claimed he wanted to study it, because he had a “feeling.” He was a History professor at Columbia University. To make a long story short, that gun was originally a flint-lock and is one of only five known original Pennsylvania Militia guns. It is now in the Bass Pro Museum in Springfield Missouri and marked priceless. If only I would have known….

  4. I found this article very interesting and it’s a topic you don’t hear very much about. This of course is because the South was pro-slavery as you aptly pointed out at the beginning of the post.

    I didn’t know that Johnston never lost a military engagement in which he was the general. That’s fascinating and in my opinion should raise his stock on your list. A disagreement with Jefferson Davis shouldn’t hurt the rank of someone who, for lack of a better term, is undefeated.

    I’d also say that, like others who’ve commented, I think Stonewall Jackson would have been not only a great addition to the list, but almost a necessary addition.

  5. As a first sergeant in a cavalry unit, I would be remiss if I did not put in a vote for J. E. B. Stuart. He was audacious and aggressive, as befits a cavalryman, and although he tended to be a bit flamboyant for my taste, he got the job done. During both the Peninsula and Maryland Campaigns he embarrassed the Union Army by completing circumnavigating its forces, and when Stonewall Jackson was wounded at Chancellorsville, Stuart took over temporarily as commander of Jackson’s infantry corps. He took a lot of flak in his day (and subsequently from some historians) in the wake of the Gettysburg campaign when he fell victim to a surprise Union cavalry strike at Brandy Station, depriving Lee of his reconnaissance assets and–in the opinion of some–causing the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg. Stuart was eventually killed in action at the Battle of Yellow Tavern against his Union counterpart, Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan. Stuart was eventually honored by having a medium tank named for him–ironically enough by the British, who used Lend-Lease U.S. M3s in the North Africa campaign.

  6. This is a great list of Confederate Generals during the Civil War, Lauren. If I could add one person it would definitely be “Stonewall” Jackson. He is one of my favorite Confederate Generals of all time. He had a great reputation, exceptional leadership skills and a proven track record.

    Thanks for the guest post.

    Chuck Holmes

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