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American Civil War
American Civil War Montage 2.jpg
Top left: Rosecrans at Stones River, Tennessee; top right: Confederate prisoners at Gettysburg; bottom: Battle of Fort Hindman, Arkansas
Date April 12, 1861 – April 9, 1865 (last shot ended June, 1865)
Location Principally in the Southern United States
Result Union victory; Reconstruction; slavery abolished; national government strengthened; South impoverished
 United States of America (Union)  Confederate States of America (Confederacy)
President: Abraham Lincoln
Union Leaders
President: Jefferson Davis
Confederate Leaders
2,100,000 1,064,000
Casualties and losses
110,000 killed in action
360,000 total dead
275,200 wounded
93,000 killed in action
260,000 total dead
137,000+ wounded

The American Civil War (1861–1865), also known as the War Between the States as well as several other names, was a civil war in the United States of America. Eleven Southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America (the Confederacy). Led by Jefferson Davis, they fought against the United States (the Union), which was supported by all the free states and the five border slave states.

In the presidential election of 1860, the Republican Party, led by Abraham Lincoln, had campaigned against the expansion of slavery beyond the states in which it already existed. The Republican victory in that election resulted in seven Southern states declaring their secession from the Union even before Lincoln took office on March 4, 1861. Both the outgoing and incoming US administrations rejected the legality of secession, considering it rebellion.

Hostilities began on April 12, 1861, when Confederate forces attacked a US military installation at Fort Sumter in South Carolina. Lincoln responded by calling for a volunteer army from each state, leading to declarations of secession by four more Southern slave states. Both sides raised armies as the Union assumed control of the border states early in the war and established a naval blockade. In September 1862, Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation made ending slavery in the South a war goal,[1] and dissuaded the British from intervening.[2]

Confederate commander Robert E. Lee won battles in the east, but in 1863 his northward advance was turned back after the Battle of Gettysburg and, in the west, the Union gained control of the Mississippi River at the Battle of Vicksburg, thereby splitting the Confederacy. Long-term Union advantages in men and materiel were realized in 1864 when Ulysses S. Grant fought battles of attrition against Lee, while Union general William Sherman captured Atlanta, Georgia, and marched to the sea. Confederate resistance collapsed after Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.

The American Civil War was one of the earliest true industrial wars in human history. Railroads, steamships, mass-produced weapons, and various other military devices were employed extensively. The practices of total war, developed by Sherman in Georgia, and of trench warfare around Petersburg foreshadowed World War I. It remains the deadliest war in American history, resulting in the deaths of 620,000 soldiers and an undetermined number of civilian casualties. Victory for the North meant the end of the Confederacy and of slavery in the United States, and strengthened the role of the federal government. The social, political, economic and racial issues of the war decisively shaped the reconstruction era that lasted to 1877.


Causes of secession

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The coexistence of a slave-owning South with an increasingly anti-slavery North made conflict likely, if not inevitable. Abraham Lincoln did not propose federal laws against slavery where it already existed, but he had, in his 1858 House Divided Speech, expressed a desire to "arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction."[3] Much of the political battle in the 1850s focused on the expansion of slavery into the newly created territories.[4][5][6] All of the organized territories were likely to become free-soil states, which increased the Southern movement toward secession. Both North and South assumed that if slavery could not expand it would wither and die.[7][8][9]

Southern fears of losing control of the federal government to antislavery forces, and Northern resentment of the influence that the Slave Power already wielded in government, brought the crisis to a head in the late 1850s. Sectional disagreements over the morality of slavery, the scope of democracy and the economic merits of free labor versus slave plantations caused the Whig and "Know-Nothing" parties to collapse, and new ones to arise (the Free Soil Party in 1848, the Republicans in 1854, the Constitutional Union in 1860). In 1860, the last remaining national political party, the Democratic Party, split along sectional lines.

Both North and South were influenced by the ideas of Thomas Jefferson. Southerners used the states' rights[10][11][12] ideas mentioned in Jefferson's Kentucky Resolutions to defend slavery. Northerners ranging from the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison to the moderate Republican leader Lincoln[13] emphasized Jefferson's declaration that all men are created equal. Lincoln mentioned this proposition in his Gettysburg Address.

Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens said[14] that slavery was the chief cause of secession[15] in his Cornerstone Speech shortly before the war. After Confederate defeat, Stephens became one of the most ardent defenders of the Lost Cause.[16] There was a striking contrast[15][17] between Stephens' post-war states' rights assertion that slavery did not cause secession[16] and his pre-war Cornerstone Speech. Similarly, Confederate President Jefferson Davis also reversed his original position, that the central cause of the war was the issue of slavery, arguing after the war that states' rights was its principal cause. While Southerners often used states' rights arguments to defend slavery, sometimes roles were reversed, as when Southerners demanded national laws to defend their interests with the Gag Rule and the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. On these issues, Northerners wanted to defend their states' rights.[18]

Almost all the inter-regional crises involved slavery, starting with debates on the three-fifths clause and a twenty-year extension of the African slave trade in the Constitutional Convention of 1787. The 1793 invention of the cotton gin by Eli Whitney increased by fiftyfold the quantity of cotton that could be processed in a day and greatly increased the demand for slave labor in the South.[19] There was controversy over adding the slave state of Missouri to the Union that led to the Missouri Compromise of 1820, the Nullification Crisis over the Tariff of 1828 (although the tariff was low after 1846,[20] and even the tariff issue was related to slavery),[21][22][23] the gag rule that prevented discussion in Congress of petitions for ending slavery from 1835–1844, the acquisition of Texas as a slave state in 1845 and Manifest Destiny as an argument for gaining new territories where slavery would become an issue after the Mexican–American War (1846–1848), which resulted in the Compromise of 1850.[24] The Wilmot Proviso was an attempt by Northern politicians to exclude slavery from the territories conquered from Mexico. The extremely popular antislavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) by Harriet Beecher Stowe greatly increased Northern opposition to the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850.[25][26]

John Brown being adored by an enslaved mother and child as he walks to his execution on December 2, 1859.

The 1854 Ostend Manifesto was an unsuccessful Southern attempt to annex Cuba as a slave state. The Second Party System broke down after passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, which replaced the Missouri Compromise ban on slavery with popular sovereignty, allowing the people of a territory to vote for or against slavery. The Bleeding Kansas controversy over the status of slavery in the Kansas Territory included massive vote fraud perpetrated by Missouri pro-slavery Border Ruffians. Vote fraud led pro-South Presidents Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan to support the pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution and to attempt to admit Kansas as a slave state.[27]

Violence over the status of slavery in Kansas erupted with the Wakarusa War,[28] the Sacking of Lawrence,[29] the caning of Republican Charles Sumner by the Southerner Preston Brooks,[30][31] the Pottawatomie Massacre,[32] the Battle of Black Jack, the Battle of Osawatomie and the Marais des Cygnes massacre. The 1857 Supreme Court Dred Scott decision allowed slavery in the territories even where the majority opposed slavery, including Kansas.

US Postage Stamp, 1958 issue, commemorating the Lincoln and Douglas debates.

The Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858 included Northern Democratic leader Stephen A. Douglas' Freeport Doctrine. This doctrine was an argument for thwarting the Dred Scott decision that, along with Douglas' defeat of the Lecompton Constitution, divided the Democratic Party between North and South. Northern abolitionist John Brown's raid at Harpers Ferry Armory was an attempt to incite slave insurrections in 1859.[33] The North-South split in the Democratic Party in 1860 due to the Southern demand for a slave code for the territories completed polarization of the nation between North and South.

Other factors include sectionalism, which was caused by the prosperity and growth of slavery in the cotton South while slavery was phased out of Northern states and steadily declined in the border states that lacked cotton. Historians have debated whether economic differences between the industrial Northeast and the agricultural South helped cause the war. Most historians now disagree with the economic determinism of historian Charles Beard and argue that Northern and Southern economies were largely complementary.[34] There was the polarizing effect of slavery that split the largest religious denominations (the Methodist, Baptist and Presbyterian churches)[35] and controversy caused by the worst cruelties of slavery (whippings, mutilations and families split apart). The fact that seven immigrants out of eight settled in the North, plus movement of twice as many whites leaving the South for the North as vice versa, contributed to the South's defensive-aggressive political behavior.[36]

The election of Lincoln in 1860 was the final trigger for secession.[37] Efforts at compromise, including the "Corwin Amendment" and the "Crittenden Compromise", failed. Southern leaders feared that Lincoln would stop the expansion of slavery and put it on a course toward extinction. The slave states, which had already become a minority in the House of Representatives, were now facing a future as a perpetual minority in the Senate and Electoral College against an increasingly powerful North.



Support for secession was strongly correlated to the number of plantations in the region. States of the Deep South, which had the greatest concentration of plantations, were the first to secede. The upper South slave states of Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Tennessee had fewer plantations and rejected secession until the Fort Sumter crisis forced them to choose sides. Border states had fewer plantations still and never seceded.[38][39][40] As of 1850 the percentage of Southern whites living in families that owned slaves was 43 percent in the lower South, 36 percent in the upper South and 22 percent in the border states that fought mostly for the Union.[40]

85 percent of slaveowners who owned 100 or more slaves lived in the lower South, as opposed to one percent in the border states.[40] Ninety-five percent of African-Americans lived in the South, comprising one third of the population there as opposed to one percent of the population of the North. Consequently, fears of eventual emancipation were much greater in the South than in the North.[41]

The US Supreme Court decision of 1857 in Dred Scott v. Sandford added to the controversy. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney's decision said that slaves were "so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect".[42] Taney then overturned the Missouri Compromise, which banned slavery in territory north of the 36°30' parallel. He stated, "[T]he Act of Congress which prohibited a citizen from holding and owning [enslaved persons] in the territory of the United States north of the line therein is not warranted by the Constitution and is therefore void."[43] Democrats praised the Dred Scott decision, but Republicans branded it a "willful perversion" of the Constitution. They argued that if Scott could not legally file suit, the Supreme Court had no right to consider the Missouri Compromise's constitutionality. Lincoln warned that "the next Dred Scott decision"[44] could threaten Northern states with slavery.

Abraham Lincoln said, "This question of Slavery was more important than any other; indeed, so much more important has it become that no other national question can even get a hearing just at present."[45] The slavery issue was related to sectional competition for control of the territories,[46] and the Southern demand for a slave code for the territories was the issue used by Southern politicians to split the Democratic Party in two, which all but guaranteed the election of Lincoln and secession. When secession was an issue, South Carolina planter and state Senator John Townsend said that, "our enemies are about to take possession of the Government, that they intend to rule us according to the caprices of their fanatical theories, and according to the declared purposes of abolishing slavery."[47] Similar opinions were expressed throughout the South in editorials, political speeches and declarations of reasons for secession. Even though Lincoln had no plans to outlaw slavery where it existed, whites throughout the South expressed fears for the future of slavery.

Southern concerns included not only economic loss but also fears of racial equality.[48][49][50][51] The Texas Declaration of Causes for Secession[52][53] said that the non-slave-holding states were "proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color", and that the African race "were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race". Alabama secessionist E. S. Dargan warned that whites and free blacks could not live together; if slaves were emancipated and remained in the South, "we ourselves would become the executioners of our own slaves. To this extent would the policy of our Northern enemies drive us; and thus would we not only be reduced to poverty, but what is still worse, we should be driven to crime, to the commission of sin."[54]

Beginning in the 1830s, the US Postmaster General refused to allow mail which carried abolition pamphlets to the South.[55] Northern teachers suspected of any tinge of abolitionism were expelled from the South, and abolitionist literature was banned. Southerners rejected the denials of Republicans that they were abolitionists.[56] The North felt threatened as well, for as Eric Foner concludes, "Northerners came to view slavery as the very antithesis of the good society, as well as a threat to their own fundamental values and interests."[57]

During the 1850s, slaves left the border states through sale, manumission and escape, and border states also had more free African-Americans and European immigrants than the lower South, which increased Southern fears that slavery was threatened with rapid extinction in this area. Such fears greatly increased Southern efforts to make Kansas a slave state. By 1860, the number of white border state families owning slaves plunged to only 16 percent of the total. Slaves sold to lower South states were owned by a smaller number of wealthy slave owners as the price of slaves increased.[58]

Even though Lincoln agreed to the Corwin Amendment, which would have protected slavery in existing states, secessionists claimed that such guarantees were meaningless. Besides the loss of Kansas to free soil Northerners, secessionists feared that the loss of slaves in the border states would lead to emancipation, and that upper South slave states might be the next dominoes to fall. They feared that Republicans would use patronage to incite slaves and antislavery Southern whites such as Hinton Rowan Helper. Then slavery in the lower South, like a "scorpion encircled by fire, would sting itself to death."[59] A few secessionists mentioned the tariff issue along with slavery, but these were rare. Among other reasons, slavery represented much more money than the tariff.[59] However, a few libertarian economists place more importance on the tariff issue.[60] There were non-slavery related causes of secession, but they had little to do with tariffs or states' rights.

Secession begins

Status of the states, 1861.
      States that seceded before April 15, 1861       States that seceded after April 15, 1861       Union states that permitted slavery       Union states that banned slavery       Territories
The Union: blue, yellow (slave);
The Confederacy: brown
*territories in light shades; control of Confederate territories disputed

Secession of South Carolina

South Carolina did more to advance nullification and secession than any other Southern state. South Carolina adopted the "Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union" on December 24, 1860. It argued for states' rights for slave owners in the South, but contained a complaint about states' rights in the North in the form of opposition to the Fugitive Slave Act, claiming that Northern states were not fulfilling their federal obligations under the Constitution. All the alleged violations of the rights of Southern states were related to slavery.

Secession winter

Before Lincoln took office, seven states had declared their secession from the Union. They established a Southern government, the Confederate States of America on February 4, 1861.[61] They took control of federal forts and other properties within their boundaries with little resistance from outgoing President James Buchanan, whose term ended on March 4, 1861. Buchanan said that the Dred Scott decision was proof that the South had no reason for secession, and that the Union "was intended to be perpetual", but that "the power by force of arms to compel a State to remain in the Union" was not among the "enumerated powers granted to Congress".[62] One quarter of the U.S. Army—the entire garrison in Texas—was surrendered to state forces by its commanding general, David E. Twiggs, who then joined the Confederacy.

As Southerners resigned their seats in the Senate and the House, secession later enabled Republicans to pass bills for projects that had been blocked by Southern Senators before the war, including the Morrill Tariff, land grant colleges (the Morill Act), a Homestead Act, a trans-continental railroad (the Pacific Railway Acts), the National Banking Act and the authorization of United States Notes by the Legal Tender Act of 1862. The Revenue Act of 1861 introduced the income tax to help finance the war.

The Confederacy

Seven Deep South cotton states seceded by February 1861, starting with South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. These seven states formed the Confederate States of America (February 4, 1861), with Jefferson Davis as president, and a governmental structure closely modeled on the U.S. Constitution. Following the attack on Fort Sumter, President Lincoln called for a volunteer army from each state.

Within two months, four more Southern slave states declared their secession and joined the Confederacy: Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee. The northwestern portion of Virginia subsequently seceded from Virginia, joining the Union as the new state of West Virginia on June 20, 1863. By the end of 1861, Missouri and Kentucky were effectively under Union control, with Confederate state governments in exile.

The Union states

Twenty-three states remained loyal to the Union: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin. During the war, Nevada and West Virginia joined as new states of the Union. Tennessee and Louisiana were returned to Union military control early in the war.

The territories of Colorado, Dakota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Washington fought on the Union side. Several slave-holding Native American tribes supported the Confederacy, giving the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) a small bloody civil war.

Border states

The border states in the Union were West Virginia (which was separated from Virginia and became a new state), and four of the five northernmost slave states (Maryland, Delaware, Missouri, and Kentucky).

Maryland had numerous pro-Confederate officials who tolerated anti-Union rioting in Baltimore and the burning of bridges. Lincoln responded with martial law and called for troops. Militia units that had been drilling in the North rushed toward Washington, DC and Baltimore.[63] Before the Confederate government realized what was happening, Lincoln had seized firm control of Maryland and the District of Columbia, by arresting all the Maryland government members and holding them without trial.

In Missouri, an elected convention on secession voted decisively to remain within the Union. When pro-Confederate Governor Claiborne F. Jackson called out the state militia, it was attacked by federal forces under General Nathaniel Lyon. After the Camp Jackson Affair Lyon chased the governor and the rest of the State Guard to the southwestern corner of the state. (See also: Missouri secession). In the resulting vacuum, the convention on secession reconvened and took power as the Unionist provisional government of Missouri.[64]

Kentucky did not secede; for a time, it declared itself neutral. When Confederate forces entered the state in September 1861, neutrality ended and the state reaffirmed its Union status, while trying to maintain slavery. During a brief invasion by Confederate forces, Confederate sympathizers organized a secession convention, inaugurated a governor, and gained recognition from the Confederacy. The rebel government soon went into exile and never controlled Kentucky.[65]

After Virginia's secession, a Unionist government in Wheeling asked 48 counties to vote on an ordinance to create a new state on October 24, 1861. Returns were received from 41 of the 48 counties,[66] and a minority turnout voted heavily in favor of the new state, at first called Kanawha but later renamed West Virginia, which was admitted to the Union on June 20, 1863. Jefferson and Berkeley counties were annexed to the new state in late 1863.[67] The western counties of Virginia had voted nearly 2 to 1[68] against secession, though 24 of the 50 counties had voted for secession.[69] Soldier numbers from West Virginia were about evenly divided between the Confederacy and the Union.[70]

A similar Unionist secession attempt occurred in East Tennessee, but was suppressed by the Confederacy. Jefferson Davis arrested over 3000 men suspected of being loyal to the Union and held them without trial.[71]


A Roman Catholic Union army chaplain celebrating a Mass

Over 10,000 military engagements took place during the war, 40% of them in Virginia and Tennessee.[72] Since separate articles deal with every major battle and many minor ones, this article only gives the broadest outline. For more information see List of American Civil War battles and Military leadership in the American Civil War.

The Beginning of the War, 1861

Lincoln's victory in the presidential election of 1860 triggered South Carolina's declaration of secession from the Union. By February 1861, six more Southern states made similar declarations. On February 7, the seven states adopted a provisional constitution for the Confederate States of America and established their temporary capital at Montgomery, Alabama. A pre-war February Peace Conference of 1861 met in Washington in a failed attempt at resolving the crisis. The remaining eight slave states rejected pleas to join the Confederacy. Confederate forces seized most of the federal forts within their boundaries. President Buchanan protested but made no military response apart from a failed attempt to resupply Fort Sumter using the ship Star of the West, which was fired upon by South Carolina forces and turned back before it reached the fort.[73] However, governors in Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania quietly began buying weapons and training militia units.

On March 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln was sworn in as President. In his inaugural address, he argued that the Constitution was a more perfect union than the earlier Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, that it was a binding contract, and called any secession "legally void".[74] He stated he had no intent to invade Southern states, nor did he intend to end slavery where it existed, but that he would use force to maintain possession of federal property. His speech closed with a plea for restoration of the bonds of union.[75]

The South sent delegations to Washington and offered to pay for the federal properties and enter into a peace treaty with the United States. Lincoln rejected any negotiations with Confederate agents because the Confederacy was not a legitimate government, and that making any treaty with it would be tantamount to recognition of it as a sovereign government.[76] However, Secretary of State William Seward engaged in unauthorized and indirect negotiations that failed.[76]

Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, Fort Pickens and Fort Taylor were the remaining Union-held forts in the Confederacy, and Lincoln was determined to hold Fort Sumter. Under orders from Confederate President Jefferson Davis, troops controlled by the Confederate government under P. G. T. Beauregard bombarded the fort with artillery on April 12, forcing the fort's capitulation. Northerners rallied behind Lincoln's call for all the states to send troops to recapture the forts and to preserve the Union. With the scale of the rebellion apparently small so far, Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers for 90 days.[77] For months before that, several Northern governors had discreetly readied their state militias; they began to move forces the next day.[78] Liberty Arsenal in Liberty, Missouri was seized eight days after Fort Sumter.

US Postage Stamp, 1894 issue, honoring William T. Sherman

Four states in the upper South (Tennessee, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Virginia), which had repeatedly rejected Confederate overtures, now refused to send forces against their neighbors, declared their secession, and joined the Confederacy. To reward Virginia, the Confederate capital was moved to Richmond.[79] The city was the symbol of the Confederacy. Richmond was in a highly vulnerable location at the end of a tortuous Confederate supply line. Although Richmond was heavily fortified, supplies for the city would be reduced by Sherman's capture of Atlanta and cut off almost entirely when Grant besieged Petersburg and its railroads that supplied the Southern capital.

Anaconda Plan and blockade, 1861

1861 cartoon of Scott's "Anaconda Plan"

Winfield Scott, the commanding general of the U.S. Army, devised the Anaconda Plan[80] to win the war with as little bloodshed as possible. His idea was that a Union blockade of the main ports would weaken the Confederate economy; then the capture of the Mississippi River would split the South. Lincoln adopted the plan, but overruled Scott's warnings against an immediate attack on Richmond.

In May 1861, Lincoln enacted the Union blockade of all Southern ports, ending regular international shipments to the Confederacy. When violators' ships and cargoes were seized, they were sold and the proceeds given to Union sailors, but the British crews were released. By late 1861, the blockade stopped most local port-to-port traffic. The blockade shut down King Cotton, ruining the Southern economy. British investors built small, fast "blockade runners" that traded arms and luxuries brought in from Bermuda, Cuba and the Bahamas in return for high-priced cotton and tobacco.[81] Shortages of food and other goods triggered by the blockade, foraging by Northern armies, and the impressment of crops by Confederate armies combined to cause hyperinflation and bread riots in the South.[82]

On March 8, 1862, the Confederate Navy waged a fight against the Union Navy when the ironclad CSS Virginia attacked the blockade. Against wooden ships, she seemed unstoppable. The next day, however, she had to fight the new Union warship USS Monitor in the Battle of the Ironclads.[83] The battle ended in a draw, which was a strategic victory for the Union in that the blockade was sustained. The Confederacy lost the Virginia when the ship was scuttled to prevent capture, and the Union built many copies of Monitor. Lacking the technology to build effective warships, the Confederacy attempted to obtain warships from Britain. The Union victory at the Second Battle of Fort Fisher in January 1865 closed the last useful Southern port and virtually ended blockade running.

Eastern Theater 1861–1863

A Union Regimental Fife and Drum Corps

Because of the fierce resistance of a few initial Confederate forces at Manassas, Virginia, in July 1861, a march by Union troops under the command of Maj. Gen. Irvin McDowell on the Confederate forces there was halted in the First Battle of Bull Run, or First Manassas,[84] McDowell's troops were forced back to Washington, D.C., by the Confederates under the command of Generals Joseph E. Johnston and P. G. T. Beauregard. It was in this battle that Confederate General Thomas Jackson received the nickname of "Stonewall" because he stood like a stone wall against Union troops.[85]

US Postage Stamp, 1937 issue, honoring Robert E. Lee and Thomas 'Stonewall' Jackson

Alarmed at the loss, and in an attempt to prevent more slave states from leaving the Union, the U.S. Congress passed the Crittenden-Johnson Resolution on July 25 of that year, which stated that the war was being fought to preserve the Union and not to end slavery.

Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan took command of the Union Army of the Potomac on July 26 (he was briefly general-in-chief of all the Union armies, but was subsequently relieved of that post in favor of Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck), and the war began in earnest in 1862. Upon the strong urging of President Lincoln to begin offensive operations, McClellan attacked Virginia in the spring of 1862 by way of the peninsula between the York River and James River, southeast of Richmond. Although McClellan's army reached the gates of Richmond in the Peninsula Campaign,[86][87][88] Johnston halted his advance at the Battle of Seven Pines, then General Robert E. Lee and top subordinates James Longstreet and Stonewall Jackson[89] defeated McClellan in the Seven Days Battles and forced his retreat. The Northern Virginia Campaign, which included the Second Battle of Bull Run, ended in yet another victory for the South.[90] McClellan resisted General-in-Chief Halleck's orders to send reinforcements to John Pope's Union Army of Virginia, which made it easier for Lee's Confederates to defeat twice the number of combined enemy troops.

Emboldened by Second Bull Run, the Confederacy made its first invasion of the North. General Lee led 45,000 men of the Army of Northern Virginia across the Potomac River into Maryland on September 5. Lincoln then restored Pope's troops to McClellan. McClellan and Lee fought at the Battle of Antietam[89] near Sharpsburg, Maryland, on September 17, 1862, the bloodiest single day in United States military history.[91] Lee's army, checked at last, returned to Virginia before McClellan could destroy it. Antietam is considered a Union victory because it halted Lee's invasion of the North and provided an opportunity for Lincoln to announce his Emancipation Proclamation.[92]

Confederate dead behind the stone wall of Marye's Heights, Fredericksburg, Virginia, killed during the Battle of Chancellorsville, May 1863

When the cautious McClellan failed to follow up on Antietam, he was replaced by Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside. Burnside was soon defeated at the Battle of Fredericksburg[93] on December 13, 1862, when over twelve thousand Union soldiers were killed or wounded during repeated futile frontal assaults against Marye's Heights. After the battle, Burnside was replaced by Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker. Hooker, too, proved unable to defeat Lee's army; despite outnumbering the Confederates by more than two to one, he was humiliated in the Battle of Chancellorsville[94] in May 1863. He was replaced by Maj. Gen. George Meade during Lee's second invasion of the North, in June. Meade defeated Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg[95] (July 1 to July 3, 1863), the bloodiest battle of the war, which is sometimes considered the war's turning point. Pickett's Charge on July 3 is often recalled as the high-water mark of the Confederacy, not just because it signaled the end of Lee's plan to pressure Washington from the north, but also because Vicksburg, Mississippi, the key stronghold to control of the Mississippi, fell the following day. Lee's army suffered 28,000 casualties (versus Meade's 23,000).[96] However, Lincoln was angry that Meade failed to intercept Lee's retreat, and after Meade's inconclusive fall campaign, Lincoln decided to turn to the Western Theater for new leadership.

Western Theater 1861–1863

While the Confederate forces had numerous successes in the Eastern Theater, they were defeated many times in the West. They were driven from Missouri early in the war as a result of the Battle of Pea Ridge.[97] Leonidas Polk's invasion of Columbus, Kentucky ended Kentucky's policy of neutrality and turned that state against the Confederacy. Nashville and central Tennessee fell to the Union early in 1862, leading to attrition of local food supplies and livestock and a breakdown in social organization.

Most of the Mississippi was opened to Union traffic with the taking of Island No. 10 and New Madrid, Missouri, and then Memphis, Tennessee. In May 1862, the Union Navy captured New Orleans[98] without a major fight, which allowed Union forces to begin moving up the Mississippi. Only the fortress city of Vicksburg, Mississippi, prevented Union control of the entire river.

General Braxton Bragg's second Confederate invasion of Kentucky ended with a meaningless victory over Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell at the Battle of Perryville,[99] although Bragg was forced to end his attempt at invading Kentucky and retreat due to lack of support for the Confederacy in that state. Bragg was narrowly defeated by Maj. Gen. William Rosecrans at the Battle of Stones River[100] in Tennessee.

The one clear Confederate victory in the West was the Battle of Chickamauga. Bragg, reinforced by Lt. Gen. James Longstreet's corps (from Lee's army in the east), defeated Rosecrans, despite the heroic defensive stand of Maj. Gen. George Henry Thomas. Rosecrans retreated to Chattanooga, which Bragg then besieged.

The Union's key strategist and tactician in the West was Ulysses S. Grant, who won victories at Forts Henry and Donelson (by which the Union seized control of the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers); the Battle of Shiloh;[101] and the Battle of Vicksburg,[102] which cemented Union control of the Mississippi River and is considered one of the turning points of the war. Grant marched to the relief of Rosecrans and defeated Bragg at the Third Battle of Chattanooga,[103] driving Confederate forces out of Tennessee and opening a route to Atlanta and the heart of the Confederacy.

Trans-Mississippi Theater 1861–1865

Guerrilla activity turned much of Missouri into a battleground. Missouri had, in total, the third-most battles of any state during the war.[104] The other states of the west, though geographically isolated from the battles to the east, saw numerous small-scale military actions. Battles in the region served to secure Missouri, Indian Territory, and New Mexico Territory for the Union. Confederate incursions into New Mexico territory were repulsed in 1862 and a Union campaign to secure Indian Territory succeeded in 1863. Late in the war, the Union's Red River Campaign was a failure. Texas remained in Confederate hands throughout the war, but was cut off from the rest of the Confederacy after the capture of Vicksburg in 1863 gave the Union control of the Mississippi River.

Conquest of Virginia and End of War: 1864–1865

At the beginning of 1864, Lincoln made Grant commander of all Union armies. Grant made his headquarters with the Army of the Potomac, and put Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman in command of most of the western armies. Grant understood the concept of total war and believed, along with Lincoln and Sherman, that only the utter defeat of Confederate forces and their economic base would bring an end to the war.[105] This was total war not in terms of killing civilians but rather in terms of destroying homes, farms, and railroads. Grant devised a coordinated strategy that would strike at the entire Confederacy from multiple directions. Generals George Meade and Benjamin Butler were ordered to move against Lee near Richmond, General Franz Sigel (and later Philip Sheridan) were to attack the Shenandoah Valley, General Sherman was to capture Atlanta and march to the sea (the Atlantic Ocean), Generals George Crook and William W. Averell were to operate against railroad supply lines in West Virginia, and Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks was to capture Mobile, Alabama.

Union forces in the East attempted to maneuver past Lee and fought several battles during that phase ("Grant's Overland Campaign") of the Eastern campaign. Grant's battles of attrition at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor[106] resulted in heavy Union losses, but forced Lee's Confederates to fall back repeatedly. An attempt to outflank Lee from the south failed under Butler, who was trapped inside the Bermuda Hundred river bend. Grant was tenacious and, despite astonishing losses (over 65,000 casualties in seven weeks),[107] kept pressing Lee's Army of Northern Virginia back to Richmond. He pinned down the Confederate army in the Siege of Petersburg, where the two armies engaged in trench warfare for over nine months.

Grant finally found a commander, General Philip Sheridan, aggressive enough to prevail in the Valley Campaigns of 1864. Sheridan defeated Maj. Gen. Jubal A. Early in a series of battles, including a final decisive defeat at the Battle of Cedar Creek. Sheridan then proceeded to destroy the agricultural base of the Shenandoah Valley,[108] a strategy similar to the tactics Sherman later employed in Georgia.

Meanwhile, Sherman marched from Chattanooga to Atlanta, defeating Confederate Generals Joseph E. Johnston and John Bell Hood along the way. The fall of Atlanta on September 2, 1864, was a significant factor in the reelection of Lincoln as president.[109] Hood left the Atlanta area to menace Sherman's supply lines and invade Tennessee in the Franklin-Nashville Campaign.[110] Union Maj. Gen. John Schofield defeated Hood at the Battle of Franklin, and George H. Thomas dealt Hood a massive defeat at the Battle of Nashville, effectively destroying Hood's army.

A dead soldier in Petersburg, Virginia 1865, photographed by Thomas C. Roche.

Leaving Atlanta, and his base of supplies, Sherman's army marched with an unknown destination, laying waste to about 20% of the farms in Georgia in his "March to the Sea". He reached the Atlantic Ocean at Savannah, Georgia in December 1864. Sherman's army was followed by thousands of freed slaves; there were no major battles along the March. Sherman turned north through South Carolina and North Carolina to approach the Confederate Virginia lines from the south,[111] increasing the pressure on Lee's army.

Lee's army, thinned by desertion and casualties, was now much smaller than Grant's. Union forces won a decisive victory at the Battle of Five Forks on April 1, forcing Lee to evacuate Petersburg and Richmond. The Confederate capital fell[112] to the Union XXV Corps, composed of black troops. The remaining Confederate units fled west and after a defeat at Sayler's Creek, it became clear to Robert E. Lee that continued fighting against the United States was both tactically and logistically impossible.

Confederacy Surrenders

Map of Confederate territory losses

Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia on April 9, 1865, at the McLean House in the village of Appomattox Court House.[113] In an untraditional gesture and as a sign of Grant's respect and anticipation of peacefully folding the Confederacy back into the Union, Lee was permitted to keep his officer's saber and his horse, Traveller. On April 14, 1865, President Lincoln was shot. Lincoln died early the next morning, and Andrew Johnson became President.

Events leading to Lee's surrender began with the capture of key Confederate officers Richard S. Ewell and Richard H. Anderson on April 6, following Confederate defeat at the battle of Sayler's Creek. On April 8, Union cavalry under Major General George Armstrong Custer destroyed three trains of Confederate supplies at Appomattox Station, leading to the surrender of General Lee the next day.[114] General St. John Richardson Liddell's army surrendered after the loss of the Confederate fortifications at the Battle of Spanish Fort in Alabama, also on April 9.

Unaware of the surrender of Lee, on April 16 the last major battles of the war were fought at the Battle of Columbus, Georgia and the Battle of West Point. Both towns surrendered to Wilson's Raiders.

On April 21, John S. Mosby’s raiders of the 43rd Battalion Virginia Cavalry was disbanded, and on April 26, General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered his troops to Sherman at Bennett Place in Durham, North Carolina. Surrendering on May 4 and 5 were the Confederate departments of Alabama, Mississippi and East Louisiana regiments and the District of the Gulf. The Confederate President was captured on May 10 and the surrender of the Department of Florida and South Georgia happened the same day. Confederate Brigadier General "Jeff" Meriwether Thompson surrendered his brigade the next day and the day following saw the surrender of the Confederate forces of North Georgia.

On June 23, 1865, at Fort Towson in the Choctaw Nations' area of the Oklahoma Territory, Stand Watie signed a cease-fire agreement with Union representatives, becoming the last Confederate general in the field to stand down. The last Confederate ship to surrender was the CSS Shenandoah, whose officers did not know of the end of the war until August 2. Not wanting to surrender to Federal authorities, the ship's commander plotted a course for the country of his ship's birth, so that they surrendered on November 6, 1865, in Liverpool, England.[115] These surrenders marked the conclusion of the American Civil War.

Slavery during the war

At the beginning of the war, some Union commanders thought they were supposed to return escaped slaves to their masters. By 1862, when it became clear that this would be a long war, the question of what to do about slavery became more general. The Southern economy and military effort depended on slave labor. It began to seem unreasonable to protect slavery while blockading Southern commerce and destroying Southern production. As one Congressman put it, the slaves "...cannot be neutral. As laborers, if not as soldiers, they will be allies of the rebels, or of the Union."[116] The same Congressman—and his fellow Radical Republicans—put pressure on Lincoln to rapidly emancipate the slaves, whereas moderate Republicans came to accept gradual, compensated emancipation and colonization.[117] Copperheads, the border states and War Democrats opposed emancipation, although the border states and War Democrats eventually accepted it as part of total war needed to save the Union.

In 1861, Lincoln expressed the fear that premature attempts at emancipation would mean the loss of the border states, and that "to lose Kentucky is nearly the same as to lose the whole game."[118] At first, Lincoln reversed attempts at emancipation by Secretary of War Simon Cameron and Generals John C. Frémont (in Missouri) and David Hunter (in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida) to keep the loyalty of the border states and the War Democrats.

Lincoln warned the border states that a more radical type of emancipation would happen if his gradual plan based on compensated emancipation and voluntary colonization was rejected.[119] Only the District of Columbia accepted Lincoln's gradual plan, and Lincoln mentioned his Emancipation Proclamation to members of his cabinet on July 21, 1862. Secretary of State William H. Seward told Lincoln to wait for a victory before issuing the proclamation, as to do otherwise would seem like "our last shriek on the retreat".[120] In September 1862 the Battle of Antietam provided this opportunity, and the subsequent War Governors' Conference added support for the proclamation.[121] Lincoln had already published a letter[122] encouraging the border states especially to accept emancipation as necessary to save the Union. Lincoln later said that slavery was "somehow the cause of the war".[123] Lincoln issued his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, and his final Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. In his letter to Hodges, Lincoln explained his belief that "If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong ... And yet I have never understood that the Presidency conferred upon me an unrestricted right to act officially upon this judgment and feeling ... I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me."[124]

Since the Emancipation Proclamation was based on the President's war powers, it only included territory held by Confederates at the time. However, the Proclamation became a symbol of the Union's growing commitment to add emancipation to the Union's definition of liberty.[125] Lincoln also played a leading role in getting Congress to vote for the Thirteenth Amendment,[126] which made emancipation universal and permanent.

Enslaved African Americans did not wait for Lincoln's action before escaping and seeking freedom behind Union lines. From early years of the war, hundreds of thousands of African Americans escaped to Union lines, especially in occupied areas like Nashville, Norfolk and the Hampton Roads region in 1862, Tennessee from 1862 on, the line of Sherman's march, etc. So many African Americans fled to Union lines that commanders created camps and schools for them, where both adults and children learned to read and write. The American Missionary Association entered the war effort by sending teachers south to such contraband camps, for instance establishing schools in Norfolk and on nearby plantations. In addition, nearly 200,000 African-American men served as soldiers and sailors with Union troops. Most of those were escaped slaves.

Confederates enslaved captured black Union soldiers, and black soldiers especially were shot when trying to surrender at the Fort Pillow Massacre.[127] This led to a breakdown of the prisoner exchange program[128] and the growth of prison camps such as Andersonville prison in Georgia,[129] where almost 13,000 Union prisoners of war died of starvation and disease.[130]

In spite of the South's shortage of soldiers, most Southern leaders — until 1865 — opposed enlisting slaves. They used them as laborers to support the war effort. As Howell Cobb said, "If slaves will make good soldiers our whole theory of slavery is wrong." Confederate generals Patrick Cleburne and Robert E. Lee argued in favor of arming blacks late in the war, and Jefferson Davis was eventually persuaded to support plans for arming slaves to avoid military defeat. The Confederacy surrendered at Appomattox before this plan could be implemented.[131]

The Emancipation Proclamation[132] greatly reduced the Confederacy's hope of getting aid from Britain or France. Lincoln's moderate approach succeeded in getting border states, War Democrats and emancipated slaves fighting on the same side for the Union. The Union-controlled border states (Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland, Delaware and West Virginia) were not covered by the Emancipation Proclamation. All abolished slavery on their own, except Kentucky and Delaware.[133] The great majority of the 4 million slaves were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, as Union armies moved South. The 13th amendment,[134] ratified December 6, 1865, finally made slavery illegal everywhere in the United States, thus freeing the remaining slaves--65,000 in Kentucky (as of 1865),[135] 1,800 in Delaware, and 18 in New Jersey as of 1860.[136]

Historian Stephen Oates said that many myths surround Lincoln: "man of the people", "true Christian", "arch villain" and racist. The belief that Lincoln was racist was caused by an incomplete picture of Lincoln, such as focusing on only selective quoting of statements Lincoln made to gain the support of the border states and Northern Democrats, and ignoring the many things he said against slavery, and the military and political context within which such statements were made. Oates said that Lincoln's letter to Horace Greeley has been "persistently misunderstood and misrepresented" for such reasons.[137]

Blocking international intervention

The Confederacy's best hope was military intervention into the war by Britain and France against the Union.[138] The Union, under Lincoln and Secretary of State William H. Seward worked to block this, and threatened war if any country officially recognized the existence of the Confederate States of America (none ever did). In 1861, Southerners voluntarily embargoed cotton shipments, hoping to start an economic depression in Europe that would force Britain to enter the war in order to get cotton. Cotton diplomacy proved a failure as Europe had a surplus of cotton, while the 1860–62 crop failures in Europe made the North's grain exports of critical importance. It was said that "King Corn was more powerful than King Cotton", as US grain went from a quarter of the British import trade to almost half.[139]

When Britain did face a cotton shortage, it was temporary, being replaced by increased cultivation in Egypt and India. Meanwhile, the war created employment for arms makers, iron workers, and British ships to transport weapons.[140]

Charles Francis Adams proved particularly adept as minister to Britain for the U.S. and Britain was reluctant to boldly challenge the blockade. The Confederacy purchased several warships from commercial ship builders in Britain. The most famous, the CSS Alabama, did considerable damage and led to serious postwar disputes. However, public opinion against slavery created a political liability for European politicians, especially in Britain. War loomed in late 1861 between the U.S. and Britain over the Trent Affair, involving the U.S. Navy's boarding of a British mail steamer to seize two Confederate diplomats. However, London and Washington were able to smooth over the problem after Lincoln released the two.

In 1862, the British considered mediation—though even such an offer would have risked war with the U.S. Lord Palmerston reportedly read Uncle Tom’s Cabin three times when deciding on this.[141] The Union victory in the Battle of Antietam caused them to delay this decision. The Emancipation Proclamation further reinforced the political liability of supporting the Confederacy. Despite sympathy for the Confederacy, France's own seizure of Mexico ultimately deterred them from war with the Union. Confederate offers late in the war to end slavery in return for diplomatic recognition were not seriously considered by London or Paris.

Victory and aftermath

Comparison of Union and CSA[142]
Union CSA
Total population 22,100,000 (71%) 9,100,000 (29%)
Free population 21,700,000 5,600,000
1860 Border state slaves 400,000 NA
1860 Southern slaves NA 3,500,000
Soldiers 2,100,000 (67%) 1,064,000 (33%)
Railroad miles 21,788 (71%) 8,838 (29%)
Manufactured items 90% 10%
Firearm production 97% 3%
Bales of cotton in 1860 Negligible 4,500,000
Bales of cotton in 1864 Negligible 300,000
Pre-war U.S. exports 30% 70%
US Postage Stamps, 1938 issue, honoring Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson and Ulysses S. Grant
Andersonville National Cemetery is the final resting place for the Union prisoners who perished while being held at Camp Sumter.

Historians have debated whether the Confederacy could have won the war. Most scholars emphasize that the Union held an insurmountable long-term advantage over the Confederacy in terms of industrial strength and population. Confederate actions, they argue, only delayed defeat. Southern historian Shelby Foote expressed this view succinctly: "I think that the North fought that war with one hand behind its back...If there had been more Southern victories, and a lot more, the North simply would have brought that other hand out from behind its back. I don't think the South ever had a chance to win that War."[143] The Confederacy sought to win independence by out-lasting Lincoln; however, after Atlanta fell and Lincoln defeated McClellan in the election of 1864, all hope for a political victory for the South ended. At that point, Lincoln had succeeded in getting the support of the border states, War Democrats, emancipated slaves and Britain and France. By defeating the Democrats and McClellan, he also defeated the Copperheads and their peace platform.[144] Lincoln had found military leaders like Grant and Sherman who would press the Union's numerical advantage in battle over the Confederate Armies. Generals who did not shy from bloodshed won the war, and from the end of 1864 onward there was no hope for the South.

On the other hand, James McPherson has argued that the North’s advantage in population and resources made Northern victory likely, but not inevitable. Confederates did not need to invade and hold enemy territory to win, but only needed to fight a defensive war to convince the North that the cost of winning was too high. The North needed to conquer and hold vast stretches of enemy territory and defeat Confederate armies to win.[145]

Also important were Lincoln's eloquence in rationalizing the national purpose and his skill in keeping the border states committed to the Union cause. Although Lincoln's approach to emancipation was slow, the Emancipation Proclamation was an effective use of the President's war powers.[146]

The Confederate government failed in its attempt to get Europe involved in the war militarily, particularly England and France. Southern leaders needed to get European powers to help break up the blockade the Union had created around the Southern ports and cities. Lincoln's naval blockade was 95% effective at stopping trade goods, as a result, imports and exports to the South declined significantly. The abundance of European cotton and England's hostility to the institution of slavery, along with Lincoln's Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico naval blockades, severely decreased any chance that either England or France would enter the war.

The more industrialized economy of the North aided in the production of arms, munitions and supplies, as well as finances, and transportation. The table shows the relative advantage of the Union over the Confederate States of America (CSA) at the start of the war. The advantages widened rapidly during the war, as the Northern economy grew, and Confederate territory shrank and its economy weakened. The Union population was 22 million and the South 9 million in 1861. The Southern population included more than 3.5 million slaves and about 5.5 million whites, thus leaving the South's white population outnumbered by a ratio of more than four to one.[147] The disparity grew as the Union controlled an increasing amount of southern territory with garrisons, and cut off the trans-Mississippi part of the Confederacy. The Union at the start controlled over 80% of the shipyards, steamships, riverboats, and the Navy. It augmented these by a massive shipbuilding program. This enabled the Union to control the river systems and to blockade the entire southern coastline.[148] Excellent railroad links between Union cities allowed for the quick and cheap movement of troops and supplies. Transportation was much slower and more difficult in the South which was unable to augment its much smaller rail system, repair damage, or even perform routine maintenance.[149] The failure of Davis to maintain positive and productive relationships with state governors (especially governor Joseph E. Brown of Georgia and governor Zebulon Baird Vance of North Carolina) damaged his ability to draw on regional resources.[150] The Confederacy's "King Cotton" misperception of the world economy led to bad diplomacy, such as the refusal to ship cotton before the blockade started.[151] The Emancipation Proclamation enabled African-Americans, both free blacks and escaped slaves, to join the Union Army. About 190,000 volunteered,[152] further enhancing the numerical advantage the Union armies enjoyed over the Confederates, who did not dare emulate the equivalent manpower source for fear of fundamentally undermining the legitimacy of slavery. Emancipated slaves mostly handled garrison duties, and fought numerous battles in 1864–65.[153] European immigrants joined the Union Army in large numbers, including 177,000 born in Germany and 144,000 born in Ireland.[154]


Northern leaders agreed that victory would require more than the end of fighting. It had to encompass the two war goals: secession had to be repudiated and all forms of slavery had to be eliminated. They disagreed sharply on the criteria for these goals. They also disagreed on the degree of federal control that should be imposed on the South, and the process by which Southern states should be reintegrated into the Union.

Reconstruction, which began early in the war and ended in 1877, involved a complex and rapidly changing series of federal and state policies. The long-term result came in the three Reconstruction Amendments to the Constitution: the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery; the Fourteenth Amendment, which extended federal legal protections equally to citizens regardless of race; and the Fifteenth Amendment, which abolished racial restrictions on voting. Reconstruction ended in the different states at different times, the last three by the Compromise of 1877.

For further details on how the protections of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments were subverted, see:


Monument in honor of the Grand Army of the Republic, organized after the war.

Slavery effectively ended in the U.S. in the spring of 1865 when the Confederate armies surrendered. All slaves in the Confederacy were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, which stipulated that slaves in Confederate-held areas were free. Slaves in the border states and Union-controlled parts of the South were freed by state action or (on December 6, 1865) by the Thirteenth Amendment. The full restoration of the Union was the work of a highly contentious postwar era known as Reconstruction. The war produced about 1,030,000 casualties (3% of the population), including about 620,000 soldier deaths—two-thirds by disease.[156] The war accounted for roughly as many American deaths as all American deaths in other U.S. wars combined.[157] The causes of the war, the reasons for its outcome, and even the name of the war itself are subjects of lingering contention today. About 4 million black slaves were freed in 1861–65. Based on 1860 census figures, 8% of all white males aged 13 to 43 died in the war, including 6% in the North and an extraordinary 18% in the South.[158][159] About 56,000 soldiers died in prisons during the Civil War.[160] One reason for the high number of battle deaths during the war was the use of Napoleonic tactics such as charges. With the advent of more accurate rifled barrels, Minié balls and (near the end of the war for the Union army) repeating firearms such as the Spencer repeating rifle and a few experimental Gatling guns, soldiers were devastated when standing in lines in the open. This gave birth to trench warfare, a tactic heavily used during World War I.


  1. ^ Frank J. Williams, "Doing Less and Doing More: The President and the Proclamation—Legally, Militarily and Politically," in Harold Holzer, ed. The Emancipation Proclamation (2006) pp. 74–5.
  2. ^ Howard Jones, Abraham Lincoln and a New Birth of Freedom: The Union and Slavery in the Diplomacy of the Civil War (1999) p. 154.
  3. ^ Abraham Lincoln, House Divided Speech, Springfield, Illinois, June 16, 1858.
  4. ^ Shelby Foote, The Civil War: Fort Sumter to Perryville, p. 34.
  5. ^ Glenn M. Linden (2001). Voices from the Gathering Storm: The Coming of the American Civil War. United States: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 236. ISBN 0842029990.,M1. "Prevent, as far as possible, any of our friends from demoralizing themselves, and our cause, by entertaining propositions for compromise of any sort, on slavery extension. There is no possible compromise upon it, but which puts us under again, and leaves all our work to do over again. Whether it be a Mo. Line, or Eli Thayer's Pop. Sov. It is all the same. Let either be done, & immediately filibustering and extending slavery recommences. On that point hold firm, as with a chain of steel. – Abraham Lincoln to Elihu B. Washburne, December 13, 1860" 
  6. ^ Let there be no compromise on the question of extending slavery. If there be, all our labor is lost, and, ere long, must be done again. The dangerous ground—that into which some of our friends have a hankering to run—is Pop. Sov. Have none of it. Stand firm. The tug has to come, & better now, than any time hereafter. – Abraham Lincoln to Lyman Trumbull, December 10, 1860.
  7. ^ James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, pp. 241, 253.
  8. ^ Declarations of Causes for: Georgia, Adopted in January 29, 1861; Mississippi, Adopted in 1861 (no exact date found); South Carolina, Adopted in December 24, 1860; Texas, Adopted in February 2, 1861.
  9. ^ The New Heresy, Southern Punch, editor John Wilford Overall, September 19, 1864 is one of many references that indicate that the Republican hope of gradually ending slavery was the Southern fear. It said in part, "Our doctrine is this: WE ARE FIGHTING FOR INDEPENDENCE THAT OUR GREAT AND NECESSARY DOMESTIC INSTITUTION OF SLAVERY SHALL BE PRESERVED."
  10. ^ David Potter, The Impending Crisis, pp. 33–50. Potter argued that the states rights theory of causes (p. 33) and various cultural and economic "causes" can't be separated from the slavery issue.
  11. ^ Jefferson Davis' Resolutions on the Relations of States, Senate Chamber, U.S. Capitol, February 2, 1860, From The Papers of Jefferson Davis, Volume 6, pp. 273–76. – Davis states' rights argument for slavery in the territories is as follows: Resolved, That the union of these States rests on the equality of rights and privileges among its members, and that it is especially the duty of the Senate, which represents the States in their sovereign capacity, to resist all attempts to discriminate either in relation to person or property, so as, in the Territories – which are the common possession of the United States – to give advantages to the citizens of one State which are not equally secured to those of every other State."
  12. ^ J.L.M. Curry: The Perils and Duty of the South – Speech Delivered in Talladega, Alabama, November 26, 1860 – This was one of many Southern states' rights arguments for defending slavery.
  13. ^ Lincoln's Speech in Chicago, December 10, 1856 in which he said, "We shall again be able not to declare, that 'all States as States, are equal,' nor yet that 'all citizens as citizens are equal,' but to renew the broader, better declaration, including both these and much more, that 'all men are created equal.'"; Also, Lincoln's Letter to Henry L. Pierce, April 6, 1859.
  14. ^ From Alexander Stephens' Cornerstone Speech, March 21, 1861, The Athenaeum, Savannah Georgia – 'The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution – African slavery as it exists amongst us – the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the "rock upon which the old Union would split." He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the "storm came and the wind blew." Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery – subordination to the superior race – is his natural and normal condition. [Applause.] '
  15. ^ a b Stampp, The Causes of the Civil War, pp. 152–153 (Cornerstone Speech). Stampp said Stephens' Cornerstone Speech "was in striking contrast to his postwar constitutional interpretation."
  16. ^ a b Stampp, The Causes of the Civil War, p. 32 (A Constitutional View of the Late War Between the States) Stampp used the following quote to illustrate the fact that, after Confederate defeat, Stephens argued that the war was caused not by slavery but by states' rights controversies: "It is a postulate, with many writers of this day, that the late War was the result of two opposing ideas, or principles, upon the subject of African Slavery. Between these, according to their theory, sprung the 'irrepressible conflict,' in principle, which ended in the terrible conflict in arms. Those who assume this postulate, and so theorize upon it, are but superficial observers. That the war had its origin in opposing principles, which in their action upon the conduct of men, produced the ultimate conflict of arms, may be assumed as an unquestionable fact. But the opposing principles which produced these results in physical action were of a very different character from those assumed in the postulate. They lay in the organic Structure of the Government of the States ... between the supporters of a strictly Federative Government, on the one side, and a thoroughly National one, on the other."
  17. ^ James McPherson, This Mighty Scourge p. 4. McPherson writes, "After the war, however, Davis and Stephens changed their tune. By the time they wrote their histories of the Confederacy, slavery was gone with the wind – a dead and discredited institution. To concede that the Confederacy had broken up the United States and launched a war that killed 620,000 Americans in a vain attempt to keep four million people in bondage would not confer honor on their lost cause.
  18. ^ James McPherson, This Mighty Scourge, pp. 3–9. Speaking of alternative explanations for secession, McPherson writes (p.7), "While one or more of these interpretations remain popular among the Sons of Confederate Veterans and other Southern heritage groups, few professional historians now subscribe to them. Of all these interpretations, the state's-rights argument is perhaps the weakest. It fails to ask the question, state's rights for what purpose? State's rights, or sovereignty, was always more a means than an end, an instrument to achieve a certain goal more than a principle.
  19. ^ The People's Chronology, 1994 by James Trager.
  20. ^ Allan Nevins, Ordeal of the Union: A House Dividing – 1852–1857, pp. 267–269.
  21. ^ Freehling, Prelude to Civil War, p. 297; Willentz p. 388 – On March 13, 1833, Rhett said, "A people, owning slaves, are mad, or worse than mad, who do not hold their destinies in their own hands... Every stride of this Government, over your rights, brings it nearer and nearer to your peculiar policy. ... The whole world are in arms against your institutions … Let Gentlemen not be deceived. It is not the Tariff – not Internal Improvement – nor yet the Force bill, which constitutes the great evil against which we are contending... These are but the forms in which the despotic nature of the government is evinced – but it is the despotism which constitutes the evil: and until this Government is made a limited Government... there is no liberty – no security for the South."
  22. ^ As early as 1830, in the midst of the Nullification Crisis, Calhoun identified the right to own slaves as the chief southern minority right being threatened: "I consider the tariff act as the occasion, rather than the real cause of the present unhappy state of things. The truth can no longer be disguised, that the peculiar domestick [sic] institution of the Southern States and the consequent direction which that and her soil have given to her industry, has placed them in regard to taxation and appropriations in opposite relation to the majority of the Union, against the danger of which, if there be no protective power in the reserved rights of the states they must in the end be forced to rebel, or, submit to have their paramount interests sacrificed, their domestic institutions subordinated by Colonization and other schemes, and themselves and children reduced to wretchedness." – Ellis, Richard E. The Union at Risk: Jacksonian Democracy, States' Rights, and the Nullification Crisis (1987), p. 193; Freehling, William W. Prelude to Civil War: The Nullification Crisis in South Carolina 1816–1836. (1965), p. 257; Ellis p. 193. Ellis further notes that "Calhoun and the nullifiers were not the first southerners to link slavery with states’ rights. At various points in their careers, John Taylor, John Randolph, and Nathaniel Macon had warned that giving too much power to the federal government, especially on such an open-ended issue as internal improvement, could ultimately provide it with the power to emancipate slaves against their owners’ wishes."
  23. ^ John Niven, John C. Calhoun and the Price of Union, p. 197 – The author said the following about Calhoun's description of the tariff issue: "Finally, the root of the nullification crisis was exposed. What had begun as a reaction to a depression in the cotton states, a slump that had been particularly severe in South Carolina, had rapidly resolved itself into an all-encompassing fear on the part of a majority of the planter elite class that the growing industrialization of the North, expressing itself politically through the majority will, would eventually demand emancipation, heedless of the social consequences."
  24. ^ William E. Gienapp, "The Crisis of American Democracy: The Political System and the Coming of the Civil War." in Boritt ed. Why the Civil War Came 79–123.
  25. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry pp. 88–91.
  26. ^ Most of her slave owners are "decent, honorable people, themselves victims" of that institution. Much of her description was based on personal observation, and the descriptions of Southerners; she herself calls them and Legree representatives of different types of masters.;Gerson, Harriet Beecher Stowe, p. 68; Stowe, Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin (1953) p. 39.
  27. ^ David Potter, The Impending Crisis, pp. 201–204, 299–327.
  28. ^ David Potter, The Impending Crisis, p. 208.
  29. ^ David Potter, The Impending Crisis, pp. 208–209.
  30. ^ Fox Butterfield; All God's Children p. 17.
  31. ^ David Potter, The Impending Crisis, pp. 210–211.
  32. ^ David Potter, The Impending Crisis, pp. 212–213.
  33. ^ David Potter, The Impending Crisis, pp. 356–384.
  34. ^ Kenneth M. Stampp, The Imperiled Union: Essays on the Background of the Civil War (1981) p 198; Woodworth, ed. The American Civil War: A Handbook of Literature and Research (1996), 145 151 505 512 554 557 684; Richard Hofstadter, The Progressive Historians: Turner, Beard, Parrington (1969).
  35. ^ James McPherson, Drawn With the Sword, p. 11.
  36. ^ James McPherson, "Antebellum Southern Exceptionalism: A New Look at an Old Question," Civil War History 29 (September 1983).
  37. ^ David Potter, The Impending Crisis, p. 485.
  38. ^ James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom 1988 p 242, 255, 282–83. Maps on p. 101 (The Southern Economy) and p. 236 (The Progress of Secession) are also relevant.
  39. ^ David Potter, The Impending Crisis, pp. 503–505.
  40. ^ a b c William W. Freehling, The Road to Disunion: Secessionists at Bay 1776–1854, pp. 17-19. Freehling also said that as of 1850, 21 percent of border state blacks were free, as opposed to two percent in the lower South, and that over half of the South's manufactured goods were made in the border states, while less than a fifth of the total was produced in the lower South.
  41. ^ James McPherson, Drawn with the Sword, p. 15.
  42. ^ David Potter, The Impending Crisis, p. 275.
  43. ^ Roger B. Taney: Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857).
  44. ^ First Lincoln Douglas Debate at Ottawa, Illinois August 21, 1858.
  45. ^ Abraham Lincoln, Speech at New Haven, Conn., March 6, 1860.
  46. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry, p. 195.
  47. ^ John Townsend, The Doom of Slavery in the Union, its Safety out of it, October 29, 1860.
  48. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry, p. 243.
  49. ^ David Potter, The Impending Crisis, p. 461.
  50. ^ William C. Davis, Look Away, pp. 130–140.
  51. ^ William W. Freehling, The Road to Disunion, p. 42.
  52. ^ A Declaration of the Causes which Impel the State of Texas to Secede from the Federal Union, February 2, 1861 – A declaration of the causes which impel the State of Texas to secede from the Federal Union.
  53. ^ Winkler, E. "A Declaration of the Causes which Impel the State of Texas to Secede from the Federal Union.". Journal of the Secession Convention of Texas. Retrieved 2007-10-16. 
  54. ^ Speech of E. S. Dargan to the Secession Convention of Alabama, January 11, 1861, in Wikisource.
  55. ^ Schlesinger Age of Jackson, p. 190.
  56. ^ David Brion Davis, Inhuman Bondage (2006) p 197, 409; Stanley Harrold, The Abolitionists and the South, 1831–1861 (1995) p. 62; Jane H. and William H. Pease, "Confrontation and Abolition in the 1850s" Journal of American History (1972) 58(4): 923–937.
  57. ^ Eric Foner. Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil War (1970), p. 9.
  58. ^ William W. Freehling, The Road to Disunion: Secessionists Triumphant 1854–1861, pp. 9–24.
  59. ^ a b William W. Freehling, The Road to Disunion, Secessionists Triumphant, pp. 269–462, p. 274 (The quote about slave states "encircled by fire" is from the New Orleans Delta, May 13, 1860).
  60. ^ Mark Thornton and Robert B. Ekelund, Jr., Tariffs, Blockades, and Inflation: The Economics of the Civil War.
  61. ^ James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, p. 254.
  62. ^ President James Buchanan, Message of December 8, 1860 online.
  63. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry, pp. 284–287.
  64. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry, pp. 290–293.
  65. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry, pp. 293–297.
  66. ^ Curry, Richard O. "A House Divided", pp. 149-50.
  67. ^ Lewis, Virgil "History and Government of West Virginia", 1973 ed., p. 191.
  68. ^ West Virginia – a History, Otis K. Rice and Stephen W. Brown, p. 116 – The authors state that of the 47 members of the Virginia Convention of 1861 that were from West Virginia, 32 opposed secession, 11 were in favor of secession, and four did not vote. The four that did not vote later signed the ordinance of secession.
  69. ^ Curry, ibid., pp. 142-47.
  70. ^ Linger, James Carter, "Confederate Military Units of West Virginia", Tulsa, OK, 2002 ed., pp. 59–81; Ambler, Charles "Disfranchisement in West Virginia", Yale Review, 1905, p. 38, "About twenty thousand men, coming chiefly from the "loyal" region, joined the Federal armies. The number accredited the State is about thirty-two thousand, but many of these came from Ohio and Pennsylvania. There were also many re-enlistments.";Reid, Whitelaw "Ohio in the War", Vol. 2, p. 3, "In the course of the war she furnished...large parts of five regiments credited to the West Virginia contingent...
  71. ^ Mark Neely, Confederate Bastille: Jefferson Davis and Civil Liberties 1993 pp. 10–11.
  72. ^ Gabor Boritt, ed. War Comes Again (1995) p. 247.
  73. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry, pp. 234–266.
  74. ^ Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address, Monday, March 4, 1861.
  75. ^ Lincoln, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861.
  76. ^ a b David Potter, The Impending Crisis, pp. 572–573.
  77. ^ James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, p. 274.
  78. ^ Massachusetts in the Civil War, William Schouler, 1868 book republished by Digital Scanning Inc, 2003 – See the account at [1].
  79. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry, pp. 276–307.
  80. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry, pp. 333–335.
  81. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry, pp. 378–380.
  82. ^ Heidler, 1651–53.
  83. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry, pp. 373–377.
  84. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry, pp. 339–345.
  85. ^ James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, p. 342.
  86. ^ Shelby Foote, The Civil War: Fort Sumter to Perryville, pp. 464–519.
  87. ^ Bruce Catton, Terrible Swift Sword, pp. 263–296.
  88. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry, pp. 424–427.
  89. ^ a b McPherson, Battle Cry, pp. 538–544.
  90. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry, pp. 528–533.
  91. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry, pp. 543–545.
  92. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry, p. 557–558.
  93. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry, pp. 571–574.
  94. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry, pp. 639–645.
  95. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry, pp. 653–663.
  96. ^ James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, p. 664.
  97. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry, pp. 404–405.
  98. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry, pp. 418–420.
  99. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry, pp. 419–420.
  100. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry, pp. 480–483.
  101. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry, pp. 405–413.
  102. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry, pp. 637–638.
  103. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry, pp. 677–680.
  104. ^ "Civil War in Missouri Facts". 1998. Retrieved 2007-10-16. 
  105. ^ Mark E. Neely Jr.; "Was the Civil War a Total War?" Civil War History, Vol. 50, 2004 pp 434+
  106. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry, pp. 724–735.
  107. ^ James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, pp. 741–742.
  108. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry, pp. 778–779.
  109. ^ James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, pp. 773–776.
  110. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry, pp. 812–815.
  111. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry, pp. 825–830.
  112. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry, pp. 846–847.
  113. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry, pp. 848–850.
  114. ^ Davis, To Appomattox – Nine April Days, 1865, pp. 298, 322, 331–333, 359
  115. ^ Katcher, History of the American Civil War 1861-1865, p. 195
  116. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom p. 495.
  117. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry pp. 355, 494–6, quote from George Washington Julian on 495.
  118. ^ Lincoln's letter to O. H. Browning, September 22, 1861
  119. ^ Lincoln, the War President: The Gettysburg Lectures (Gettysburg Civil War Institute Books) by Gabor S. Boritt (Editor), pp. 52–54. The article is by James McPherson.
  120. ^ Stephen B. Oates, Abraham Lincoln: The Man Behind the Myths, p. 106.
  121. ^ Images of America: Altoona, by Sr. Anne Francis Pulling, 2001, 10.
  122. ^ Letter to Greeley, August 22, 1862
  123. ^ Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865 – Here Lincoln states, "One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it."
  124. ^ Lincoln's Letter to A. G. Hodges, April 4, 1864
  125. ^ James McPherson, The War that Never Goes Away
  126. ^ James McPherson, Drawn With the Sword, from the article Who Freed the Slaves?
  127. ^ Bruce Catton, Never Call Retreat, p. 335.
  128. ^ Civil War Topics
  129. ^ "Blacks labored in Andersonville". Washington Times. November 12, 2009.
  130. ^ James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, pp. 791–798.
  131. ^ James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, pp. 831–837.
  132. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry, pp. 557–558, 563.
  133. ^ Harper, Douglas (2003). "SLAVERY in DELAWARE". Retrieved 2007-10-16. 
  134. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry, pp. 840–842.
  135. ^ Lowell Hayes Harrison and James C. Klotter, A New History of Kentucky (1997) p 235, the number in late 1865.
  136. ^ U. S. Census of 1860.
  137. ^ Stephen B. Oates, Abraham Lincoln: The Man Behind the Myths, 1984, Harper & Row.
  138. ^ James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, pp. 546–557.
  139. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry p. 386.
  140. ^ Allen Nevins, War for the Union 1862–1863, pp. 263–264.
  141. ^ Stephen B. Oates, The Approaching Fury: Voices of the Storm 1820–1861, p. 125.
  142. ^ Railroad mileage is from: Chauncey Depew (ed.), One Hundred Years of American Commerce 1795–1895, p. 111; For other data see: 1860 US census and Carter, Susan B., ed. The Historical Statistics of the United States: Millennial Edition (5 vols), 2006.
  143. ^ Ward 1990 p 272
  144. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry, pp. 771–772.
  145. ^ James McPherson, Why did the Confederacy Lose?
  146. ^ Fehrenbacher, Don (2004). "Lincoln's Wartime Leadership: The First Hundred Days". University of Illinois. Retrieved 2007-10-16. 
  147. ^ Crocker III, H. W. (2006). Don't Tread on Me. New York: Crown Forum. p. 162. ISBN 9781400053636. 
  148. ^ McPherson 313–16, 392–3
  149. ^ Heidler, David Stephen, ed. Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social, and Military History (2002), 1591–98
  150. ^ McPherson 432–44
  151. ^ Heidler, David Stephen, ed. Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social, and Military History (2002), 598–603
  152. ^ "Black Regiments". Retrieved 2007-10-16. 
  153. ^ Ira Berlin et al., eds. Freedom's Soldiers: The Black Military Experience in the Civil War (1998)
  154. ^ Albert Bernhardt Faust, The German Element in the United States (1909) p. 523 online
  155. ^ Eric Foner, Reconstruction – America's Unfinished Revolution – 1863–1877, Harper & Row, 1988
  156. ^ Nofi, Al (2001-06-13). "Statistics on the War's Costs". Louisiana State University. Retrieved 2007-10-14. 
  157. ^ James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, p. xix (from the introduction by C. Vann Woodward as of 1988).
  158. ^ Lambert, Craig (May–June 2001). "The Deadliest War". Harvard Magazine. Retrieved 2007-10-14. 
  159. ^ Richard Wightman Fox (2008)."National Life After Death".
  160. ^ "U.S. Civil War Prison Camps Claimed Thousands". National Geographic News. July 1, 2003.


  • Beringer, Richard E., Archer Jones, and Herman Hattaway, Why the South Lost the Civil War (1986) influential analysis of factors; The Elements of Confederate Defeat: Nationalism, War Aims, and Religion (1988), abridged version
  • Catton, Bruce, The Civil War, American Heritage, 1960, ISBN 0-8281-0305-4, illustrated narrative
  • Davis, William C. The Imperiled Union, 1861–1865 3v (1983)
  • Donald, David et al. The Civil War and Reconstruction (latest edition 2001); 700 page survey
  • Eicher, David J., The Longest Night: A Military History of the Civil War, (2001), ISBN 0-684-84944-5.
  • Fellman, Michael et al. This Terrible War: The Civil War and its Aftermath (2nd ed. 2007), 544 page survey
  • Foote, Shelby. The Civil War: A Narrative (3 volumes), (1974), ISBN 0-394-74913-8. Highly detailed military narrative covering all fronts
  • Katcher, Philip. The History of the American Civil War 1861-5, (2000), ISBN 0 600 60778 X. Detailed analysis of each battle with introduction and background
  • McPherson, James M. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (1988), 900 page survey of all aspects of the war; Pulitzer prize
  • James M. McPherson. Ordeal By Fire: The Civil War and Reconstruction (2nd ed 1992), textbook
  • Nevins, Allan. Ordeal of the Union, an 8-volume set (1947–1971). the most detailed political, economic and military narrative; by Pulitzer Prize winner
    • 1. Fruits of Manifest Destiny, 1847–1852; 2. A House Dividing, 1852–1857; 3. Douglas, Buchanan, and Party Chaos, 1857–1859; 4. Prologue to Civil War, 1859–1861; 5. The Improvised War, 1861–1862; 6. War Becomes Revolution, 1862–1863; 7. The Organized War, 1863–1864; 8. The Organized War to Victory, 1864–1865
  • Rhodes, James Ford. History of the Civil War, 1861–1865 (1918), Pulitzer Prize; a short version of his 5-volume history
  • Savage, Kirk, Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in Nineteenth-Century America. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1997. (The definitive book on Civil War monuments.)
  • Ward, Geoffrey C. The Civil War (1990), based on PBS series by Ken Burns; visual emphasis
  • Weigley, Russell Frank. A Great Civil War: A Military and Political History, 1861–1865 (2004); primarily military
Reference books and bibliographies
  • Blair, Jayne E. The Essential Civil War: A Handbook to the Battles, Armies, Navies And Commanders (2006)
  • Carter, Alice E. and Richard Jensen. The Civil War on the Web: A Guide to the Very Best Sites- 2nd ed. (2003)
  • Current, Richard N., et al. eds. Encyclopedia of the Confederacy (1993) (4 Volume set; also 1 vol abridged version) (ISBN 0-13-275991-8)
  • Faust, Patricia L. (ed.) Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (1986) (ISBN 0-06-181261-7) 2000 short entries
  • Esposito, Vincent J., West Point Atlas of American Wars online edition 1995
  • Heidler, David Stephen, ed. Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social, and Military History (2002), 1600 entries in 2700 pages in 5 vol or 1-vol editions
  • Resch, John P. et al., Americans at War: Society, Culture and the Homefront vol 2: 1816–1900 (2005)
  • Tulloch, Hugh. The Debate on the American Civil War Era (1999), historiography
  • Wagner, Margaret E. Gary W. Gallagher, and Paul Finkelman, eds. The Library of Congress Civil War Desk Reference (2002)
  • Woodworth, Steven E. ed. American Civil War: A Handbook of Literature and Research (1996) (ISBN 0-313-29019-9), 750 pages of historiography and bibliography online edition
  • American National Biography 24 vol (1999), essays by scholars on all major figures; online and hardcover editions at many libraries
  • McHenry, Robert ed. Webster's American Military Biographies (1978)
  • Warner, Ezra J., Generals in Blue: Lives of the Union Commanders, (1964), ISBN 0-8071-0822-7
  • Warner, Ezra J., Generals in Gray: Lives of the Confederate Commanders, (1959), ISBN 0-8071-0823-5
  • Berlin, Ira, et al., eds. Freedom's Soldiers: The Black Military Experience in the Civil War (1998)
  • Hess, Earl J. The Union Soldier in Battle: Enduring the Ordeal of Combat (1997)
  • McPherson, James. For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War (1998)
  • Wiley, Bell Irvin. The Life of Johnny Reb: The Common Soldier of the Confederacy (1962) (ISBN 0-8071-0475-2)
  • Wiley, Bell Irvin. Life of Billy Yank: The Common Soldier of the Union (1952) (ISBN 0-8071-0476-0)
Primary sources
  • Commager, Henry Steele (ed.). The Blue and the Gray. The Story of the Civil War as Told by Participants. (1950), excerpts from primary sources
  • Hesseltine, William B. ed.; The Tragic Conflict: The Civil War and Reconstruction (1962), excerpts from primary sources

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to American Civil War article)

From Wikiquote

The American Civil War (1861–1865), also known as the War Between the States and several other names, was a civil war in the United States of America. Eleven Southern slave states declared their secession from the U.S. and formed the Confederate States of America (the Confederacy). Led by Jefferson Davis, they fought against the U.S. federal government (the "Union"), which was supported by all the free states and the five slaveholding border states.



  • It is a revolution; a revolution of the most intense character; in which belief in the justice, prudence, and wisdom of secession is blended with the keenest sense of wrong and outrage, and it can no more be checked by human effort for the time than a prairie fire by a gardener’s watering pot.
    • Judah P. Benjamin, Senator from Louisiana, on the secession movement in the South (1860). Reported in Allan Nevins, The Emergence of Lincoln (1950), p. 387.
  • We know that if Mexico is acquired, the South will demand it for slavery and the North for free institutions. We must forego, for the present, new conquests, unless the love of acquisition is stronger than the love of domestic peace.

    Suppose it to be conceded that the Constitution should be amended, what amendment will satisfy the South? Nothing less than the protection of slavery in the territories. But our people have pronounced against it. All who voted for Mr. Lincoln or Mr. Douglas — over 3,300,000 citizens — voted against this claim. Less than 1 million voted for it. Should the great majority yield to a meager minority, especially under threats of disunion? This minority demand that slavery be protected by the Constitution. Our fathers would not allow the word 'slave' or 'slavery' in the Constitution, when all the states but one were slaveholding. Shall we introduce these words when a majority of the states are free and when the progress of civilization has arrayed the world against slavery? If the love of peace, and ease, and office should tempt politicians and merchants to do it, the people will rebel. I assure you, whatever may be the consequence, they will not yield their moral convictions by strengthening the influence of slavery in this country.

    Recent events have only deepened this feeling. The struggle to establish slavery in Kansas; the frequent murders and mobbings, in the South, of Northern citizens; the present turbulence and violence of Southern society; the manifest fear of freedom of speech and of the press; the danger of insurrection; and now the attempt to subvert the government rather than submit to a constitutional election — these events — disguise it as you may, have aroused a counterirritation in the North that will not allow its representatives to yield, merely for peace, more than is prescribed by the letter and spirit of the Constitution. Every guarantee of this instrument ought to be faithfully and religiously observed. But when it is proposed to change it, to secure new guarantees to slavery, to extend and protect it, you awake and arouse the antislavery feeling of the North to war against slavery everywhere....

    Without disrespect to South Carolina, it would be easy to show that Shay's Rebellion and the Whiskey Insurrection involved the government in greater danger than the solitary secession of South Carolina. But the movement becomes imposing when we are assured that several powerful states will very soon follow in the lead of South Carolina; and when we know that other states, still more powerful, sympathize with the seceding states, to the extent of opposing, and perhaps resisting, the execution of the laws [of the United States] in the seceding states....

    Disunion is war! God knows, I do not threaten it, for I seek to prevent it in every way possible. I speak but the logic of facts, which we should not conceal from each other....

    If war results, what a war it will be! Contemplate the North and South in hostile array against each other. If these sections do not know each other now, they will then.

    We are a nation of military men, naturally turbulent because we are free, accustomed to arms, ingenious, energetic, brave, and strong. The same qualities that have enabled a single generation of men to develop the resources of a continent would enable us to destroy more rapidly than we have constructed....

    How can we avert a calamity at which humanity and civilization shudder? I know no way but to cling to the government framed by our fathers, to administer it in a spirit of kindness but, in all cases, without partiality to enforce the laws.... Let us cling to each other in the hope that our differences will pass away, as they often have in times past. For the sake of peace, for the love of civil liberty, for the honor of our name, our race, our religion, let us preserve the Union, loving it better as the clouds grow darker. I am willing to unite with any man... who is willing to rely on the Constitution as it is for his rights, and who is willing to maintain and defend the Union under all circumstances, against all enemies, at home or abroad.
    • Rep. John Sherman (Republican-Ohio), letter to Philadelphians (December 22, 1860). He sent a copy to his brother, William Tecumseh Sherman, who would later command the Union armies in the West.
  • If the confederacy is broken up, the government is dissolved, and it behooves every distinct community, as well as every individual, to take care of themselves.

    When disunion has become a fixed and certain act, why may not New York disrupt the bands which bind her to a venal and corrupt master.... Amid the gloom which the present and prospective condition of things must cast over the country, New York, as a free city, may shed only light and hope of a future reconstruction of our once blessed confederacy.
    • New York City Mayor Fernando Wood, address to the City Council, recommending that, with the Southern states seceding from the United States, New York City should become an independent city-state (1861).
  • Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern states that, by the accession of a Republican administration, their property and peace and personal security are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension....

    I hold that, in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution, the Union of these states is perpetual. Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all national governments. It is safe to assert that no government proper ever had a provision in its organic law (constitution) for its own termination. Continue to execute all the express provisions of our national Constitution, and the Union will endure forever....

    Plainly, the central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy. A majority, held in restraint by the constitutional checks and limitations... is the only true sovereign of a free people. Whoever rejects it does of necessity fly to anarchy or to despotism....

    No State upon its mere motion can lawfully get out of the Union.... There needs to be no bloodshed or violence; and there shall be none, unless it be forded upon the national authority....

    In your hands, my dissatisfied countrymen, and not in mine is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without yourselves being the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the government, while I have the most solemn one to 'preserve, protect, and defend' it.

The First Shots Are Fired: Fort Sumter (April 12, 1861)

  • Fort Sumter has been on fire. [Union Army Major] Anderson [the commanding officer of Fort Sumter] has not yet silenced any of our guns.... But the sound of these guns makes regular meals impossible.
    • Diary of Mary Boykin Chesnut, a resident of Charleston, South Carolina (1861).
  • Showers of [cannon] balls... and shells... poured into the fort in one incessant stream, causing great flakes of masonry to fall in all directions. When the immense mortar shells, after sailing high in he air, came down in a vertical direction and buried themselves in the parade ground, their explosion shook the fort like an earthquake.
    • Major Abner Doubleday (1861). Doubleday was second-in-command at Fort Sumter and briefly commanded Union troops at Gettysburg in July 1863. He was later credited with establishing the rules of baseball.

The North Responds to the Attack on Fort Sumter

  • Monday dawned, April 15. Who that saw that day will ever forget it! For now... there rang out the voice of Abraham Lincoln calling for seventy-five thousand volunteers for three months. They were for the protection of Washington and the property of the government... This proclamation was like the first peal of a surcharged thunder-cloud, clearing the murky air. The... whole North arose as one man.

    Hastily formed companies marched to camps of rendezvous, the sunlight flashing from gun-barrel and bayonet.... Merchants and clerks rushed out from stores, bareheaded, saluting them as they passed. Windows were flung up; and women leaned out into the rain, waving flags and handkerchiefs. Horsde-cars and omnibuses halted for the passage of the soldiers, and cheer upon cheer leaped forth from thronged doors and windows....

    I have never seen anything like this before. I had never dreamed that New England... could be fired with so warlike a spirit.
    • Mary Ashton Livermore, observing the mustering of troops in Boston (1861).
  • We, on our side, are praying to [God] to give us victory, because we believe we are right; but those on the other side pray to Him, look for victory, believing they are right. What must He think of us?
  • Forward to Richmond!
    • Demand of the New York Tribune that the Federals start attacking the Confederates (1861).
  • We shall crush out this rebellion as an elephant would trample on a mouse.
    • Overconfident Union supporter at the start of the Civil War (1861).

The South Responds to the Start of the Civil War

  • If Virginia stands by the old Union, so will I. But if she secedes,... then I will follow my native state with my sword and, if need be, with my life.
    • U.S. Army Colonel Robert E. Lee, before Virginia joined the Confederacy (1861).
  • With all my devotion to the Union and the feeling and loyalty and duty of an American citizen, I have not been able to make up my mind against my relatives, my children, my home. I have therefore resigned my commission in the Army, and save in defense of my native State — with the sincere hope that my poor services may never be used — I hope I may never be called on to draw my sword.
    • Robert E. Lee of Virginia, Colonel, U.S. Army, on resigning his commission (1861). He was soon appointed to the Virginia Militia and later headed the Confederate Army.
  • Just throw three or four shells among these blue-bellied Yankees and they'll scatter like sheep.
    • Anonymous overconfident Confederate supporter (1861).

War Aims

  • We seek no conquest. All we ask is to be left alone.
    • Confederate President Jefferson Davis, on the war aims of the Confederacy (1861).
  • We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
    • President Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address (1863).

The First Major Battle: Bull Run (July 21, 1861)

  • Woh-who-ey! Who-ey!
    • The "Rebel Yell" shouted by Confederate troops in the attack (1861).
  • There is nothing like it on this side of the infernal region. The peculiar corkscrew sensation that it sends down your backbone under these circumstances can never be told. You have to feel it.
    • A Union soldier, on the Rebel Yell (1861).
  • Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer. There is Jackson standing like a stone wall! Rally behind the Virginians.
    • Confederate Gen. Bernard Elliott Bee at the First Battle of Bull Run, in a comment that gave Gen. Thomas Jonathan Jackson the nickname "Stonewall" (1861).
  • Soon the slopes... were swarming with our retreating and disorganized forces, while riderless horses and artillery [horse] teams ran furiously through the flying crowd. All further efforts were futile. The words, gestures, and threats of our officers were thrown away upon men who had lost all presence of mind, and only longed for absence of body [from the field of battle].
    • Union Colonel Andrew Porter, on the rout of the initially-overconfident Federal troops that ended the Battle of Bull Run (1861).
  • It is best for the country and for mankind that we make peace with the rebels, and on their own terms...
    • Advice for President Lincoln from Horace Greeley, publisher of the New York Tribune, following the Union defeat at Bull Run (1861).

The Peninsula Campaign (April-July 1862)

  • My dear McClellan: If you don't want to use the army, I would like to borrow it for a while. Yours respectfully, A. Lincoln.
    • Pres. Lincoln, unsent letter to Gen. George McClellan, the inactive commander of the Federal Army of the Potomac (1862).
  • I was left alone on horseback, with my men dropping around me.... My field [staff] officers... were all dead. Every horse ridden into the fight, my own among them, was dead. Fully one half of my line officers and half my men were dead or wounded.

The Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia (December 13, 1862)

  • A chicken could not live on that field when we open on it.
    • General E.P. Alexander, Lee's engineer and superintendent of artillery, before the Union attack on Fredericksburg (1862); reported in Bim Sherman, The Century (1886), p. 617.
  • Gone were the proud hopes, the high aspirations that swelled our bosoms a few days ago.... [The army] has strong limbs to march and meet the foe, stout arms to strike heavy blows, brave hearts to dare — but the brains, the brains! Have we no brains to use the arms and limbs and eager hearts with cunning?
    • Union Army private William Lusk, letter home after the Union defeat at Fredericksburg, blaming Gen. Ambrose Burnside, commander of the Union Army of the Potomac. The Federal attacks against high ground south of the Rappahannock River, strongly held by the Confederates, cost it 12,000 casualties (1862).

The Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (July 1863)

  • Our army held the war in the hollow of their hand and they would not close it.
    • President Lincoln, regretting the failure of Union Army commanders to destroy the Confederate Army before it could recross the Potomac and retreat into the safety of northern Virginia (1863).

The Siege of Vicksburg (June-July 1863)

  • If you can't feed us, you had better surrender, horrible as the idea is, than suffer this noble army to disgrace themselves by desertion.
    • A Confederate soldier besieged at Vicksburg to the Confederate commander (1863).

The Eastern Front (1863-1865)

  • I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer.
    • Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, during the campaign in Virginia (May 11, 1864), commanding Union forces, on his intention to keep up offensive operations in Virginia, in contrast with his predecessors.
  • This is not war, this is murder.
    • Confederate general after viewing Union dead in the Battle of Cold Harbor (June 3, 1864).
  • We have met a man this time, who either does not know when he is whipped, or who cares not if he loses his whole army.
    • Southern officer, reflecting on Grant, the new Northern commander (1864).
  • Leave nothing to invite the enemy to return.... Let the valley be left so that crows flying over it will have to carry their rations long with them.
    • Federal Commander Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, instructions for Gen. Philip Sheridan for his invasion of the Shenandoah Valley in northwestern Virginia (1864).
  • If [Georgians] raise a howl against my barbarity and cruelty, I will answer that war is war, and not popularity-seeking. If they want peace, they and their relatives must stop the war.
    • Gen. William T. Sherman (1864), whose Western Army invaded Georgia and waged total war against the Confederacy, destroying cities and property along a band 60 miles wide during his march to the seacoast at Savannah (September-December 1864).
  • I beg to present you, as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah.
    • General Sherman to President Lincoln (December 22, 1864), following his capture of the seacoast city of Savannah, Georgia.

Lee's Surrender to Grant at Appomattox Court House (April 9, 1865)

  • Let all the men who claim to own a horse or mule [with the Confederate Army] take the animals home with them to work their little farms."
    • Grant to Lee at Appomattox (1865).
  • This will do much toward conciliating our people."
    • Lee to Grant, on the latter permitting Confederate troops take their horses home to be farm animals (1865).
  • At a little before 4 o'clock General Lee shook hands with General Grant... and with Colonel Marshall left the room.... Lee gazed sadly in the direction of the valley beyond where his army lay — now an army of prisoners....

    All [Union officers present] appreciated the sadness that overwhelmed him, and he had the personal sympathy of everyone who beheld him at this supreme moment of trial....

    "General Grant... saluted him by raising his hat. He was followed in this act of courtesy by all our officers present; Lee raised his hat respectfully and rode off to break the sad news to the brave fellows whom he had so long commanded....

    The news of the surrender had reached the Union lines, and the firing of salutes began at several points, but the general sent orders at once to have them stopped, and used these words...: 'The war is over, the Rebels are our countrymen again, and the best sign of rejoicing after the victory will be to abstain from all demonstrations in the field.'
    • Gen. Horace Porter, account of the Confederate Surrender at Appomattox Court House (April 9, 1865).
  • I have done for you all that it was in my power to do. You have done all your duty. Leave the result to God. Go to your homes and resume your occupations. Obey the laws and become as good citizens as you were soldiers.
    • General Robert E. Lee to the men of the Army of Northern Virginia, following the surrender (1865).

The War on the Home Front

  • The war has stimulated the genius of our people and directed it to the service of our country. Sixty-six new inventions relating to engines, implements, and articles of warfare have been illustrated in our columns....

    Other departments of industry have also been well represented. Our inventors have not devoted themselves exclusively to the invention of destructive implements; they have also cultivated the arts of peace.
    • Scientific American magazine, year-end summary for 1861.
  • We have reproached the South for arbitrary conduct in coercing their people; at last we find we must imitate their example. We have denounced their tyranny for filling their armies with conscripts, and now we must follow their example. We have denounced their tyranny in suppressing freedom of speech and the press, and here, too, in time, we must follow their example. The longer it is deferred the worse it becomes.

    I say with the press unfettered as now we are defeated to the end of time. 'Tis folly to say the people must have news.
    • Letter from Union Gen. William T. Sherman to his brother John Sherman (1863).

The Antiwar Movement in the North

  • How are you my Abe? Is the list nearly filled
    Of the sick men and dying of wounded and killed
    Of widows and tears, or orphans unfed
    Of poor honest white men struggling for bread?
    'Dear Devil,' quoth Abe, 'I'm doing my best
    To promote the interest of you and the rest.
    • "Abe's Visitor," a poem published in a Democrat newspaper in Pennsylvania.
  • I will not consent to put the entire purse of the country and the sword of the country into the hands of the executive, giving him despotic and dictatorial power to carry out an object which I avow before my countrymen is the destruction of their liberties and the overthrow of the Union of these states....

    The charge has been made against us — all who are opposed to the policy of this administration and opposed to this war — that we are for 'peace on any terms.' It is false.... I am for peace, and would be, even if the Union could not be restored... because without peace, permitting this administration for two years to exercise its tremendous powers, the war still existing, you will not have one remnant of civil liberty left among yourselves. The exercise of these tremendous powers, the apology for which is the existence of this war, is utterly incompatible with the stability of the Constitution and of constitutional liberty.
    • Rep. Clement L. Vallandingham (D-Ohio), leader of the “Copperhead" antiwar Democrats, in a speech to the Democrat Union Association of New York (1863).

The War and Slavery

  • On the face of this wide earth, Mr. President, there is not one... intelligent champion of the Union cause who does not feel... that the rebellion, if crushed tomorrow, would be renewed if slavery were left in full vigor... and that every hour of deference to slavery is an hour of added and deepened peril to the Union.
  • If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and it is not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could do it be freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that.
    • Pres. Lincoln, reply to Horace Greeley (1862).
  • We the colored citizens of Queens County, N.Y., having met in mass meeting... take the present opportunity to express our opinions most respectfully and freely....
    Why not declare slavery abolished and favor our peaceful colonization in the Rebel states, or some portion of them?... We would cheerfully return there and give our most willing aid to deliver our loyal colored brethren and other Unionists from the tyranny of rebels to our government."
    • Petition of the Colored Citizens of Queens County (1862).

African Americans Recruited for the Army

  • Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letters. U.S.; let him get an edge on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket, and there is no power on earth which can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship.
    • Frederick Douglass, whose sons Charles and Lewis served in the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, commanded by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (1862).
  • Many persons believed, or pretended to believe, and confidently asserted, that freed slaves would not make good soldiers; they would lack courage, and could not be subjected to military discipline. Facts have shown how groundless were these apprehensions.
  • We congratulate the American people upon your reelection by a large majority. If resistance to the slave power was the reserved watchword of your first administration, the triumphant war cry of your reelection is 'Death to slavery.'

    From the commencement of the titanic American strife, the workingmen of Europe felt instinctively that the star-spangled banner carried the destiny of their class....

    The workingmen of Europe feel sure that as the American War of Independence initiated a new era of ascendancy for the middle class, so the American antislavery war will do for the working classes. They consider it an earnest of the epoch to come that it fell to the lot of Abraham Lincoln, the single-minded so of the working class, to lead his country through the matchless struggle for the rescue of an enchained race and the reconstruction of a social world.
    • Letter of the Communist International to President Lincoln (1864).
  • Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step over the ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never! -- All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a Thousand years. At what point, then, is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.
    • President Lincoln (1861).

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