The Armies of 1918

Unlike most civil wars, the old army had not held together, so the early Russian Civil War was not an uprising against a government which controlled the military. Forces were tiny and of uncertain politics.

The Soviet forces, not yet the Red Army, were mix of:

The disparate nature of these forces and the lack of shared objectives made control a real issue. The lack of experienced commanders made this even worse. Units would frequently refuse orders, and outright mutinies were commonplace.

While small, these forces still massively outnumbered the Whites, who formed around :

But the Whites were at least led by officers who knew what they were doing, and followed a chain of command, which compensated for their tiny numbers and lack of equipment. Their biggest problem was that they were isolated from each other in a sea of Red, and so much of their early campaigning was to join forces or to find a safe place to recruit.

At this point the Cossacks were not aligned politically to the Whites. They had generally returned to their stanitsas after the war and it took a while before they started to form anti-revolutionary groups of any size.

With the fall of Germany and Austria, the largest and strongest groups were the various nationalist factions. In the Baltics, Caucasus and Poland they quickly seized control, only to mostly squabble with each other. The Ukraine had some of the largest forces, but they were mostly independent outfits run by Atamans, and were very poor militarily (even by the standards of the time).

With "armies" of a thousand men being a large force, there were no front lines. Operations were to seize suitable towns, and much of the fighting took place along railway lines in order to ensure supply. The period is sometimes referred to as the "Railway War" (sometimes badly translated as the "Echelon War", because the trains that they lived in and fought from were eshelona).

While fighting from trains, these were not the armoured beasts of later in the war. They might have a gun or two on board and some MGs, but not yet armour.