©Tara Sheffer-Archie 2008 All rights reserved.
William H. Burns was born sometime in 1839. The exact month and day are not documented. He enlisted in the Confederate States Army in May of 1862 at the age of 23. He became a 2nd Lieutenant in Company B of the 52nd Virginia Infantry. More likely than not, he probably personally worked under General Robert E. Lee in battle, being that Lee had a large role in men of this area. William Burns lost his life in the line of action on May 6, 1864. He was lied to rest in a small cemetery in Waynesboro, VA. His place of enlistment is still unknown, but apparently Waynesboro was his home place.
General Robert E. Lee and Samuel Cooper began serving as full Generals in 1861. The Confederate States Army was organized by Act of Congress on March 6, 1861, authorized to include 15, 015 men, including 744 officers, although it was reported the level of officers was never reached.
The Confederate States Army was a strategically defensive Army. Many soldiers were resentful when General Lee lead the Army of Northern Virginia in an incasion of the North in the Antietam Campaign. As many as 50,000 deserted during the start of Antietam, claiming their enlistments were for defense of their homeland, not invasion. After the losses of Vicksburg and Gettysburg the number grew to 100,000. Commanding the Nothern Virginia were Joseph E. Johnston, Gustavus W. Smith, and Robert E. Lee. They commanded the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Calvary Corps also.
Calls for men:
March 6, 1861 – 100,000 men and miltia
January 23, 1862 – 400,000 men and militia
April 16, 1862 – First Conscription Act. Conscripted white men ages 18-35 for the duration of hostilities.
September 27, 1862 – 2nd Conscription Act for ages 17-50
March 13, 1865 – Authorized up to 300,000 African Americans as troops. That number was also never reached.
Reports from the War Department show numbers enlisted as:
End of 1861 – 326,768, 1862 – 449,439, 1863 – 464,646, 1864 – 400,787, Last reports show 358,692
*Estimates of enlistments throughout the war were 1,227,890 to 1,406,180
Oddly, numbers increased for enlisted men for three years, then steadily and dramatically dropped in the last two years of the Civil War.