American Civil War

American Civil War

The American Civil War, also known as the War of Secession or The United States Civil War, was a civil war waged in the United States from 1861 to 1865 between the Union and the Confederates.  Its main cause was the long controversy over the enslavement of blacks. The conflict broke out in April 1861, when separatist forces attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina shortly after Abraham Lincoln took office as President of the United States. Union loyalists in the North, which also included some geographically western and southern states, proclaimed support for the Constitution, faced the secessionists of the Southern Confederate States, who defended the states’ rights to maintain slavery.

Date April 12, 1861 – May 9, 1865
Place Southern Region of the United States, Northeast Region of the United States, Western Region of the United States, Atlantic Ocean
Denouement Union Victory:


  • Dissolution of the Confederate States
  • Territorial integrity of the United States preserved
  • Slavery abolished
  • Beginning of the Reconstruction Era
  • Approval and ratification of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution of the United States
United States Confederate States
  •  Abraham Lincoln (Commander-in-Chief)
  •  Ulysses S. Grant
  •  William T. Sherman
  •  David Farragut
  •  George B. Mcclellan
  •  Henry Halleck
  •  Joseph Hooker
  •  George Meade

and others…

  •  Jefferson Davis (Commander-in-Chief)
  •  Robert E. Lee
  •  Joseph E. Johnston
  •  P. G. T. Beauregard
  •  Albert S. Johnston 
  •  Braxton Bragg

and others…

2 200 000:


  •  Army
  •  Marine corps
  •  Union Navy
  •  Navy Recipe

698,000 (peak)

750 000 – 1 000 000:


  •  Army
  •  Confederate United States Marine Corps
  •  Navy

360,000 (peak)

  • 110,000+ killed in action/injuries
  • 230 000+ killed by accidents/illnesses
  • 25 000 – 30 000 killed in Confederate prisons

365 000+ total dead

  • 282,000+ injured
  • 181 193 captured

Total: 828 000+ low

  • 94,000+ killed in action/injuries
  • 26 000 – 31 000 killed in Union prisons

290 000+ total dead

  • 137,000+ injured
  • 436 658 captured

Total: 864 000+ low

  • 50,000 free civilians killed
  • 80 000+ dead slaves (diseases)
  • Total: 616 222 – 1 000 000+ dead

In February 1861, of the thirty-four states of the country, seven slavers of the South were declared by their governments as segregated, creating the Confederate States of America, which organized a rebellion against constitutional government. The Confederates grew up to encompass at least most of the territories of eleven states, and also claimed Kentucky and Missouri for statements from secessionists fleeing Union authority but without territory or population, had full representation in the Confederate Congress during the Civil War. The remaining two, Delaware and Maryland, were invited to join the Confederates, but nothing substantial developed due to the intervention of Union troops.

The Confederate States have never been diplomatically recognized by the United States government or any foreign country. States that remained loyal to the United States were known as the Union. The Union and the Confederates quickly recruited armies of volunteers, also resorting to conscription to fill the growing casualties. Intense fighting during the four-year war has left between 620,000 and 750,000 people dead, which is still the largest number of military casualties in the United States among all the other combined wars the country has waged.

Its end occurred on April 9, 1865, when Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at the Battle of Appomattox Court House. Confederate generals from the Southern states followed suit, with the last land surrender taking place on June 23. Much of the south’s infrastructure has been destroyed, especially transport systems. The Confederacy collapsed, slavery was abolished and more than four million black slaves were freed. During the Era of Reconstruction that followed the war, national unity was slowly restored, the national government expanded its power, and civil and political rights were granted to freed black slaves through amendments to the Constitution. The American civil war is one of the most studied and written events about the history of that country.

Overview of the American civil war

Flag of the Union
Union flag

In the 1860 presidential election, the Republicans, led by Abraham Lincoln, supported the prohibition of slavery in all the United States Territories. Southern states saw this as a violation of their constitutional rights and as the first step in a grand Republican plan to abolish slavery. The three pro-Union candidates jointly received an overwhelming majority of 82% of the nationally cast votes: The Votes of Republican Lincoln centered on the North, the votes of Democrat Stephen A. Douglas were distributed nationally and John Bell’s votes of the Constitutional Union were centered on Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia.

The Republican Party, dominant in the North, secured a simple majority of popular votes and a majority of national electoral votes; thus, Lincoln was elected president constitutionally. He was the first Republican Party candidate to win the presidency. However, before his inauguration, seven slave states with cotton-based economies declared secession and formed the Confederates. The first 6 to declare secession had the highest proportions of slaves in their populations, with an average of 49%. Of those states whose legislatures decided to separate, the top 7 voted with majorities divided by Unionist candidates Douglas and Bell (Georgia with 51% and Louisiana with 55%), or with considerable minorities for these unionists (Alabama with 46%, Mississippi with 40%, Florida with 38%, Texas with 25% and South Carolina, who voted in the Electoral College without a popular vote for president). Of these, only Texas held a referendum on secession.

Confederate Army Flag
Confederate Army Flag

Eight remaining slave states continued to reject secession requests. Outgoing Democratic President James Buchanan and the new Republicans rejected secession as illegal. Lincoln’s inaugural address on March 4, 1861, declared that his government would not start a civil war. Speaking directly to the “Southern States,” he tried to calm his fears of any threat to slavery, reaffirming, “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the United States where it exists. I believe I have no legal right to do so and I have no inclination to do so”. After Confederate forces took numerous federal forts within the territory claimed by the Confederates, compromise efforts failed and both sides prepared for war. The Confederates assumed that European countries were so dependent on “King Cotton” that they would intervene, but none did and none recognized the new Confederate States of America.

Hostilities began on April 12, 1861, when Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter. While in the Western Theater, the Union made significant permanent gains in the Eastern Theatre, the battle was inconclusive between 1861 and 1862. Later, in September 1862, Lincoln published the Emancipation Proclamation, which made the end of slavery a goal of war. To the west, in the summer of 1862, the Union destroyed the Confederate River Navy, then much of its Western armies, and took Over New Orleans. The successful Vicksburg Siege of the Union in 1863 divided the Confederates in two on the Mississippi River.

In 1863, the Confederate incursion of Robert E. Lee in the North ended in the Battle of Gettysburg. Western successes led to the command of Ulysses S. Grant of all Union armies in 1864. In violation of an increasingly tight naval blockade of Confederate ports, the Union has gathered the resources and manpower to attack the Confederates from all directions, leading to Atlanta’s fall toward William Tecumseh Sherman and his march to the sea. The last significant battles took place around the Siege of Petersburg. Lee’s escape attempt ended with his surrender at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. While the military war was coming to an end, the nation’s political reintegration would take another 12 years, known as the Reconstruction Era.

Confederate Flag, "Stars and Bars"
Confederate Flag, “Stars and Bars”

The American Civil War was one of the first industrial wars. Railways, telegraphs, steamships and iron ships and weapons were mass-produced were employed extensively. The mobilization of civilian factories, mines, shipyards, banks, transportation and food supplies foreshadowed the impact of industrialization in World War I, World War II, and subsequent conflicts. It remains the deadliest war in American history. From 1861 to 1865, an estimated 620,000 to 750,000 soldiers died, along with an undetermined number of civilians. According to one estimate, the war killed 10% of all men in the North between the age of 20 and 45 and 30% of all white men in the South between the age of 18 and 40.

Causes of secession

The causes of secession were complex and have been controversial since the beginning of the war, but most academics identify slavery as a central cause of war. James C. Bradford wrote that the issue was further complicated by historical revisionists, who tried to offer a variety of reasons for the war. Slavery was the central source of growing political tension in the 1850s. The Republican Party was determined to prevent any spread of slavery, and many Southern leaders threatened secession if Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 election. After Lincoln won, many Southern leaders felt that disunity was their only option, fearing that loss of representation would undermine their ability to promote pro-slavery acts and policies.


Map of States showing two types of Union states and two stages of secession and territories
Status of the States in 1861
 States that separated before April 15, 1861
 States that separated after April 15, 1861
 States of the Union that allowed slavery
 States of the Union prohibiting slavery

Slavery was one of the main causes of disunity. Although there were opposing views even in the States of the Union, most northern soldiers were indifferent to the subject of slavery, while the Confederates fought the war primarily to protect a southern society of which slavery was an integral part. From an anti-slavery standpoint, the question was primarily about whether the slavery system was an anachronistic evil that was incompatible with republicanism. The strategy of anti-slavery forces was to contain, stop expansion and thus put slavery on the path of gradual extinction. The interests of slaves in the South denounced this strategy as a violation of their constitutional rights. Southern whites believed that the emancipation of slaves would destroy the Southern economy, due to the large amount of capital invested in slaves and the fear of integrating the black ex-slave population.

In particular, the Southerners feared a repeat of the “horrors of Santo Domingo”, in which almost all whites, including men, women, children, and even many who sympathized with abolition, were killed after the successful slave revolt in Haiti. Historian Thomas Fleming points to the historical phrase “a disease in the public mind” used by critics of this idea and proposes that it contributed to segregation in the Jim Crow era after emancipation. These fears were exacerbated by John Brown’s recent attempt to instigate an armed slave rebellion in the South.

Slavery was illegal in much of the North and was banned in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It was also disappearing in the border states and cities of the South but was expanding into the highly lucrative cotton districts of the rural South and Southwest. Subsequent writers of the American Civil War analyzed several factors that explain the geographical division.

Territorial crisis

Between 1803 and 1854, the United States achieved a vast expansion of territory through purchase, negotiation and conquest. At first, the new states excavated in these territories that entered the Union were divided equally between the slave and free states. Pro- and anti-slavery forces clashed over the territories west of the Mississippi.

With the conquest of northern Mexico, west of California, in 1848, the interests of slave owners hoped to expand into these lands and perhaps also to Cuba and Central America. The interests of the “free soil” of the North have vigorously sought to reduce any further expansion of slave territory. The 1850 Compromise on California balanced a free-land state with stronger fugitive slave laws for a political settlement after four years of conflict in the 1840s. But states admitted after California were all free: Minnesota (1858), Oregon (1859) and Kansas (1861). In the southern states, the issue of territorial expansion of slavery to the West has again become explosive. Both the South and the North came to the same conclusion: “The power to decide the issue of slavery for the territories was the power to determine the future of slavery itself”.

In 1860, four doctrines emerged to answer the question of federal control in the territories, and all claimed that they were sanctioned by the Constitution, implicitly or explicitly. The first of these “conservative” theories, represented by the Constitutional Union Party, argued that the Missouri Compromise compromises the distribution of territory to the North by free ground and to the South by slavery should become a constitutional mandate. The Crittenden Commitment of 1860 was an expression of this vision.

The second doctrine of congressional preeminence, advocated by Abraham Lincoln and the Republican Party, insisted that the Constitution did not bind legislators to a policy of balance, that slavery could be excluded in a territory, as was done in the Northwest Act of 1787 at the discretion of Congress; thus, Congress could restrict human slavery, but never establish it. Wilmot Proviso announced this position in 1846.

Senator Stephen A. Douglas proclaimed the doctrine of territorial or “popular” sovereignty, which stated that settlers in a territory had the same rights as in the States of the Union to establish or destabilize slavery as a purely local issue. The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 legislated this doctrine. In the Kansas Territory, years of pro- and anti-slavery violence and political conflict arose; the House of Representatives in Congress voted to admit Kansas as a free state in the early 1860s, but its admission to the Senate was postponed until January 1861, after the 1860 elections, when southern states began to leave.

The fourth theory was defended by Mississippi Senator Jefferson Davis, one of the state’s sovereigns (“rights of the states”), also known as “Calhoun doctrine”, in honor of South Carolina political theorist and statesman John C. Calhoun. Rejecting arguments in favor of federal authority or autonomous government, state sovereignty would authorize states to promote the expansion of slavery as part of the Federal Union under the United States Constitution. “Rights of states” was an ideology formulated and applied as a means of promoting the interests of slaves through federal authority. As the historian Thomas L. points out. Krannawitter, “the South’s demand for federal protection of slaves represented a demand for an unprecedented expansion of federal power”. These four doctrines comprised the dominant ideologies presented to the American public on the affairs of slavery, territories, and the Constitution of the United States before the 1860 presidential election.

Rights of states

The South argued that, just as each state decided to join the Union, a state had the right to separate, leave the Union at any time. The Northerners (including President Buchanan) rejected this notion in opposition to the will of the Founding Fathers, who said they were establishing a perpetual union. Historian James McPherson writes about the rights of states and other explanations unrelated to slavery:

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 argument of states’ rights is perhaps the weakest. Can’t ask the question, the rights of states for what purpose? The rights of states, or sovereignty, have always been more of a means than an end, an instrument for achieving a certain goal more than a principle.


Sectionism resulted from the different economies, social structures, customs and political values of the North and South. Regional tensions surfaced during the War of 1812, resulting in the Hartford Convention, which manifested the North’s dissatisfaction with a foreign trade embargo that disproportionately affected the industrial North, the Three-Fifths Commitment, the dilution of Northern power by new states, and a succession of Southern presidents.

Sectionism steadily increased between 1800 and 1860, while the North, which eliminated slavery, industrialized, urbanized and built prosperous farms, while the deep South focused on agriculture planted on the basis of slave labor, along with subsistence agriculture for poor whites. In the 1840s and 1850s, the question of accepting slavery (under the pretext of rejecting bishops and slave-owning missionaries) divided the country’s largest religious denominations (the Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian churches) into separate northern and southern denominations.

Historians debated whether economic differences between the mainly industrial North and the mainly agricultural South helped cause the war. Most historians now disagree with historian Charles Beard’s economic determinism in the 1920s and emphasize that the northern and southern economies were largely complementary. Although socially different, the sections benefited economically.


Slave owners preferred low-cost manual labor without mechanization. The North’s manufacturing interests supported tariffs and protectionism, while Southern planters demanded free trade. Southern-controlled Democrats in Congress wrote tariff laws in the 1830s, 1840s, and 1850s and continued to reduce rates, so rates in 1857 were the lowest since 1816. The Republicans called for an increase in tariffs in the 1860 elections. The increases were only enacted in 1861 after the Southerners resigned their seats in Congress. The tariff issue was a complaint from the North. However, neo-Confederate writers claimed it as a complaint from the South. Between 1860 and 1861, none of the groups that proposed compromises to prevent secession raised the tariff issue. The panfletists of the North and South rarely mentioned the fare.

Nationalism and honor

Nationalism was a powerful force in the early 19th century, with famous spokesmen such as Andrew Jackson and Daniel Webster. While virtually all Northerners supported the Union, the Southerners were divided between those loyal to all the United States (called “Unionists”) and those loyal mainly to the Southern region and then to the Confederates. C. Vann Woodward said of this last group:

A great slave society … it had grown and miraculously flourished in the heart of a completely bourgeois and partially puritanical republic. He renounced his bourgeois origins and painfully elaborated and rationalized his institutional, legal, metaphysical and religious defenses… When the crisis came, he chose to fight. It proved to be the struggle of death of a society that fell into ruin.

Perceived insults to the collective honor of the South included the enormous popularity of Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) and the actions of abolitionist John Brown in attempting to incite a slave rebellion in 1859.

As the South moved toward Southern nationalism, the North’s leaders were also becoming more country-facing and rejected any notion of division of the Union. The Republican national election platform of 1860 warned that Republicans regarded disunity as treason and would not tolerate it: “We denounce these threats of disunity … how to deny the vital principles of a free government and as a declaration of contemplated treason, which is the imperative duty of an indignant people severely rebuke and silence forever”. The South ignored the warnings: The Southerners did not realize how ardor the North would struggle to keep the Union together.

Lincoln election

The election of Abraham Lincoln in November 1860 was the final trigger of secession. Commitment efforts, including the “Corwin Amendment” and the “Crittenden Commitment,” failed. Southern leaders feared that Lincoln would stop the expansion of slavery and put it on the path to extinction. The slave states, which had already become a minority in the House of Representatives, now faced the future as a perpetual minority in the Senate and Electoral College, against an increasingly powerful North. Before Lincoln took office in March 1861, seven slave states declared their secession and came together to form the Confederates.

According to Lincoln, the people had shown that they can succeed in establishing and administering a republic, but a third challenge faced the nation, maintaining a republic based on the popular vote against an attempt to overthrow it.

Outbreak of war

Secession crisis

The election of Abraham Lincoln prompted the South Carolina legislature to convene a state convention to consider secession. Before the war, South Carolina did more than any other Southern state to promote the notion that a state had the right to overturn federal laws and even separate itself from the United States. The unanimously convened convention voted in favor of separation on December 20, 1860 and adopted the “Declaration of Immediate Causes That Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union”.

He argued for the rights of states to slave owners in the South, but contained a complaint about the rights of states in the North in the form of opposition to the Fugitive Slaves Act, claiming that the Northern states were not fulfilling their federal obligations under the Constitution. The “cotton states” of Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas followed suit, ending in January and February 1861.

Among the secession ordinances approved by the individual states, the three, Texas, Alabama and Virginia, specifically mentioned the situation of the “slave states” in the hands of the abolitionists of the North. The other do not mention the issue of slavery and are often brief announcements of the dissolution of ties by legislatures. However, at least four states, South Carolina, Mississippi, Georgia, and Texas, also went through lengthy and detailed explanations of their causes for secession, all of which attributed the blame directly to the movement to abolish slavery and the influence of this movement on northern state politics. The Southern states believed that slave ownership was a constitutional right because of the Fugitive Slave Clause of the Constitution.

These states agreed to form a new federal government, the Confederate States of America, on February 4, 1861. They took control of federal forts and other properties within their limits with little resistance from outgoing President James Buchanan, whose term ended on March 4, 1861. Buchanan said Dred Scott’s decision was proof that the South had no grounds for secession and that the Union “intended to be perpetual,” but that “the power of the force of arms to compel a state to remain in the Union” is not among the “listed powers granted to Congress.” A quarter of the United States Army was the garrison in Texas, was handed over in February 1861 to state forces by its commanding general, David E. Twiggs, who then joined the Confederates.

When the Southerners resigned their seats in the Senate and House, the Republicans succeeded in passing bills that were blocked by southern senators before the war. This included the Morrill Tariff, land concession colleges (Morrill’s Law), Homestead Law, the transcontinental railroad, the National Bank Act, and the authorization of The United States Notes under the Legal Bidding Act of 1862. The Revenue Act of 1861 introduced the income tax to help finance the war.

On December 18, 1860, the Crittenden Compromise was proposed to reinstate Missouri’s line of commitment by constitutionally prohibiting slavery in territories north of the line, securing it to the South. The adoption of this compromise would likely have prevented the secession of all southern states except South Carolina, but Lincoln and the Republicans rejected it. It was then proposed to hold a national referendum on the compromise.

Republicans again rejected the idea, although most Americans and Southerners probably voted in favor. A February 1861 Peace Conference held before the war, meeting in Washington, D.C.C., proposing a solution similar to the Crittenden Compromise, was rejected by Congress. Republicans proposed an alternative compromise not to interfere in slavery where it existed, but the South considered it insufficient. However, the remaining eight slave states rejected applications for Confederate assistance after a two-to-one vote at Virginia’s First Secessionist Convention on April 4, 1861.

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 previous Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, which was a binding contract, and called any secession “legally null.” He had no intention of invading the southern states, nor intended to end slavery where it existed, but said he would use force to maintain ownership of federal property.

The government would make no move to recover postal service agencies, and if it resisted, mail delivery would end up on state lines. Where popular conditions did not allow peaceful enforcement of federal law, United States officials and judges would be removed. No mention was made of gold bars lost from the United States in Louisiana, Georgia and North Carolina. He stated that it would be the Policy of the United States to charge only import duties at its ports; there could be no serious injuries in the South to justify the armed revolution during his rule. His speech ended with an appeal to the restoration of the bonds of union, appealing to the “mystical chords of memory” that united the two regions.

The South sent delegations to Washington, D.C. and offered to pay for federal property and sign a peace treaty with the United States. Lincoln rejected any negotiations with Confederate agents because he claimed that the Confederates were not a legitimate government and that making any treaty with it would amount to recognizing it as a sovereign government. Secretary of State William H. Seward, who at the time considered himself the true governor or “prime minister” behind the throne of the inexperienced Lincoln, engaged in unauthorized and indirect negotiations that failed. President Lincoln was determined to keep all remaining strong ones occupied by the Union: Fort Monroe in Virginia, Fort Pickens, Fort Jefferson and Fort Taylor in Florida, and Fort Sumter, located, in South Carolina.

Battle of Fort Sumter

Fort Sumter was located in the port of Charleston, South Carolina. The garrison was moved there to avoid incidents with local militias on the streets of the city. Abraham Lincoln told his commander, Major Robert Anderson, to wait until he was shot. Confederate President Jefferson Davis ordered the surrender of the fort. Anderson gave a conditional response that the Confederate government rejected and Davis ordered General P. G. T. Beauregard attacked the fort before a relief expedition could arrive. He bombed Fort Sumter from April 12-13, forcing his capitulation.

The attack on Fort Sumter brought the North together in defense of American nationalism. Historian Allan Nevins stressed the importance of the event:

“Sumter’s thunder produced a surprising crystallization of northern sentiment… Anger swept the earth. On all sides, news of mass meetings, speeches, resolutions, proposals to support companies, the grouping of companies and regiments, the determined action of governors and legislatures emerged”.

Union leaders incorrectly assumed that only a minority of Southerners were in favor of secession and that there were a large number of Unionists in the South that could be relying on. If the Northerners had realized that most Southerners favored secession, they might have hesitated to try the enormous task of conquering a united South.

Lincoln asked all states to send forces to recover the fort and other federal property. The scale of the rebellion seemed small, so he called only 75,000 volunteers for 90 days. The governor of Massachusetts had state regiments on trains that headed south the next day. In western Missouri, local secessionists seized the Liberty Arsenal. On May 3, 1861, Lincoln convened 42,000 additional volunteers over a three-year period.

Four central and southern states had repeatedly rejected Confederate openings, but now Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas and North Carolina refused to send forces against their neighbors, declared their secession and joined the Confederates. To reward Virginia, the Confederate capital was moved to Richmond, Virginia.

The attitude of border states

Map of the Secession of the United States in 1863. The Union vs. the Confederates
Map of the Secession of the United States in 1863. The Union vs. the Confederate
 States of the Union
 Union territories that do not allow slavery
 Border states of the Union, which allowed slavery

(One of these states, West Virginia, was created in 1863)

 Confederate States
 Union territories that allowed slavery (claimed by the Confederates) at the beginning of the war, but where slavery was banned by the United States in 1862

Maryland, Delaware, Missouri, and Kentucky were slave states that opposed secession and coerced the South. West Virginia then joined them as an additional border state after it separated from Virginia and became a State of the Union in 1863.

The territory of Maryland surrounded the capital of the United States, Washington, D.C., and could cut it off from the North. There were numerous anti-Lincoln officers who tolerated anti-army riots in Baltimore and the burning of bridges, both with the aim of preventing the passage of troops to the South. The Maryland legislature voted overwhelmingly (53–13) to remain in the Union, but also rejected hostilities with its Southern neighbors, voting to close Maryland’s rail lines to prevent them from being used for war. Lincoln responded by establishing martial law and unilaterally suspending habeas corpus in Maryland, along with sending militia units from the North.

Lincoln quickly took control of Maryland and the District of Columbia, capturing many prominent figures, including arresting one-third of Maryland’s general assembly members on the day he met again. All were held without trial, ignoring a decision by The President of the Chief Justice of the United States, Roger B. Taney, a Maryland native, that only Congress (not the president) could suspend the habeas corpus (Ex Part Merryman). In fact, federal troops arrested a prominent Baltimore newspaper editor, Frank Key Howard, grandson of Francis Scott Key, after he criticized Lincoln in an editorial for ignoring the Supreme Court’s decision.

In Missouri, an elected convention on secession voted decisively to remain in the Union. When pro-Confederate Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson summoned the state militia, it was attacked by federal forces under General Nathaniel Lyon, who pursued the governor and the rest of the State Guard to the southwest corner of the state (see also: Secession of Missouri). In the resulting vacuum, the convention on secession met again and took power as Missouri’s provisional Unionist government.

Kentucky did not split up; for a while, declared himself 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 in 1861, Confederate sympathizers organized a secession convention, formed in the shadow of the Confederate Government of Kentucky, elected a governor and gained Confederate recognition. Its jurisdiction extended only to the Confederate commonwealth battle lines and was definitively exiled after October 1862.

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. An electoral turnout of 34% passed state law (96% approved). The inclusion of 24 secessionist counties in the state and the guerrilla war that followed involved about 40,000 federal troops during much of the war. Congress admitted West Virginia to the Union on June 20, 1863. West Virginia provided between 20,000 and 22,000 troops to the Confederates and the Union.

An attempt at Unionist secession took place in eastern Tennessee but was suppressed by the Confederates, who arrested more than 3,000 men suspected of being loyal to the Union. They were detained without trial.

General features of war

The Civil War was a contest marked by the ferocity and frequency of the battle. Over the course of four years, 237 named battles were fought, as were many other smaller actions and skirmishes, often characterized by their bitter intensity and high lows. In his book The American Civil War, John Keegan writes that “The American Civil War was one of the fiercest wars ever fought.” With no geographic objectives, the only target for each side was the enemy’s soldier.


When the first seven states began organizing a Confederacy in Montgomery, the entire United States Army had only 16,000 men. However, the governors of the North began mobilizing their militias. The Congress of The Confederate States of America authorized the new nation to receive up to 100,000 troops sent by the governors in February. In May, Jefferson Davis was pressuring 100,000 armed men for a year or a duration, and this was answered in kind by the United States Congress.

In the first year of the war, the two sides had far more volunteers than they could effectively train and equip. After the initial enthusiasm disappeared, it was not enough to trust the cohort of young people who came of age each year and wanted to join. Both sides used a recruitment bill as a device to encourage or force volunteering; relatively few were drafted and served. The Confederates passed a bill in April 1862 for young people aged 18 to 35; slave superintendents, government officials and clerics were exempt. The U.S. Congress followed in July, authorizing a draft of the militia within a state where it could not meet its quota with volunteers. European immigrants joined the Union Army in large numbers, including 177 000 born in Germany and 144 000 born in Ireland.

When the Emancipation Proclamation came into force in January 1863, former slaves were vigorously recruited by the states and used to meet state quotas. States and local communities have offered increasingly high cash bonuses to white volunteers. Congress tightened the law in March 1863. The men selected in the draft could provide substitutes or, by mid-1864, pay switching money. Many eligible people gathered their money to cover the cost of anyone who was summoned.

The families used the substitute provision to select which man should join the army and which one should stay at home. There was a lot of evasions and open resistance to the project, especially in Catholic areas. The riot in New York City in July 1863 involved Irish immigrants who had been registered as citizens to increase the vote of the city’s Democratic political machine, without realizing that it made them responsible for the project. Of the 168,649 men hired to the Union through the project, 117,986 were substitutes, with only 50,663 remaining who had their personal services recruited.

Both in the North and South, the bills were highly unpopular. In the North, about 120,000 men escaped military service, many of them fleeing to Canada and another 280,000 soldiers defected during the war. At least 100,000 Southerners defected, or about 10%. In the South, many men temporarily defected to care for their grieved families and then returned to their units. In the North, the “reward jumpers” enlisted to get the generous bonus, abandoned themselves, and then returned to a second recruiting station under a different name to re-sign up for a second bonus; 141 were caught and executed.

From a tiny border force in 1860, the Union armies and the Confederates had become the “largest and most efficient armies in the world” within a few years. European observers at the time rejected them as amateurs and not professionals, but the British historian John Keegan concluded that each exceeded the French, Prussian and Russian armies of the time, and if it were not for the Atlantic, he would have threatened any of them with defeat.


The number of women who served as soldiers during the war is estimated between 400 and 750, although a precise count is impossible because women had to disguise themselves as men.

The women also served on the Union Red Rover hospital ship and took care of Union and Confederate troops in field hospitals.

Mary Edwards Walker, the only woman to receive the Medal of Honor, served in the Union Army and received the medal for her efforts in treating the wounded during the war. Her name was excluded from the Army Medal of Honor in 1917 (along with more than 900 other men receiving the Medal of Honor); however, it was restored in 1977.


Perman and Taylor (2010) write that historians think twice about why millions of men seemed so eager to fight, suffer, and die over four years:

Some historians emphasize that Civil War soldiers were moved by political ideology, holding firm beliefs about the importance of freedom, Union or state rights, or about the need to protect or destroy slavery. Others point to less openly political reasons to fight, such as the defense of home and family, or honor and brotherhood to be preserved as they fight alongside other men. Most historians agree that no matter what a soldier thought when he entered the war, the combat experience deeply affected him and sometimes altered his reasons for continuing the fight.


At the beginning of the Civil War, a parole system operated. The captives agreed not to fight until they were officially traded. Meanwhile, they were kept in camps administered by their army. They were paid, but were not allowed to perform any military function. The exchange system collapsed in 1863, when the Confederates refused to exchange black prisoners. After that, some 56,000 of the 409,000 prisoners of war died in prisons during the war, accounting for almost 10% of the deaths in the conflict.

Marine tactics during the American Civil War

The small United States Navy in 1861 was rapidly expanded to 6,000 officers and 45,000 men by 1865, with 671 ships, with a tonnage of 510,396. Its mission was to block Confederate ports, take control of the river system, defend itself from Confederate invaders on the high seas, and be ready for a possible war with the Royal Navy. Meanwhile, the main riverside war was fought in the West, where a series of large rivers gave access to the heart of the Confederates. The United States Navy eventually gained control of the Southern Red, Tennessee, Cumberland, Mississippi, and Ohio rivers. In the East, the Navy supplied and moved army forces and occasionally bombed Confederate facilities.

Modern navy evolves

The Civil War occurred during the early stages of the industrial revolution. Many marine innovations emerged during this period, mainly the advent of the iron-coated warship. It all started when the Confederates, knowing they had to meet or match the Union’s naval superiority, responded to the Union Blockade by building or converting more than 130 vessels, including 26 iron plates and floating batteries. Only half would serve in active service. Many were equipped with sheep bows, creating “ram fever” among Union squads, wherever they threatened. But in the face of the overwhelming superiority of the Union and the Iron-clothed warships of the Union, they were unsuccessful.

In addition to the ocean warships coming from the Mississippi, the Union Navy used wood paneling and armored cannons. Shipyards in Cairo, Illinois and St. Louis built new steam vessels modified for action.

The Confederates experimented with the CSS Hunley submarine, which did not work satisfactorily, and built an iron ship, the CSS Virginia, which was based on the reconstruction of a union sunken ship, the Merrimack. In its first foray on March 8, 1862, CSS Virginia inflicted significant damage on the Union’s wooden fleet, but the next day the Union Iron Monitor arrived to challenge it in the Chesapeake Bay. In three hours the Battle of Hampton Roads resulted in a draw, but proved that the iron ships were effective warships. Shortly after the battle, the Confederates were forced to sink CSS Virginia to prevent their capture, while the Union built many copies of the USS Monitor. In the absence of technology and infrastructure to build effective warships, the Confederates tried to obtain warships from Britain.

Union blockade

In early 1861, General Winfield Scott had drawn up the “Anaconda Plan” to win the war with as little bloodshed as possible. Scott argued that a Union blockade of major ports would weaken the Confederate economy. Abraham Lincoln adopted parts of the plan but overruled Scott’s caution in about 90 days of volunteers. But public opinion, however, demanded an immediate attack by the army to capture Richmond.

In April 1861, Lincoln announced the Union blockade of all southern ports; commercial ships could not obtain insurance and regular traffic ended. The South erred in not exporting the cotton before the blockade was effective; by the time they realized the mistake, it was too late. The King Cotton was dead, as the South could export less than 10% of its cotton. The blockade closed the Confederate’s 10 seaports with railroads that moved almost all cotton, especially New Orleans, Mobile and Charleston. In June 1861, warships were stationed in the main ports of the South, and a year later, nearly 300 ships were in service.

Lock runners

British investors built small, steam-powered fast-blocking corridors that exchanged weapons and luxuries brought from Britain through Bermuda, Cuba and the Bahamas in exchange for expensive cotton. Many of the ships were designed for speed and were so small that only a small amount of cotton came out. When the Union Navy seized a blockade corridor, the ship and cargo were sold, with proceeds given to Navy sailors; the captured crew members were mostly British and were released.

Economic impact

The Economy of the South almost collapsed during the war. There were several reasons for this: the severe deterioration of food supply, especially in cities, the failure of southern railways, the loss of control of major rivers, the fodder of the armies of the North, and the seizure of animals and plantations by the Confederate armies.

Most historians agree that blocking was an important factor in ruining the Confederate economy; however, Wise argues that the lock runners provided only a lifeline to allow Robert E. Lee continued to struggle for additional months, thanks to new supplies of 400,000 rifles, lead, blankets and boots that the domestic economy could no longer provide.

Surdam argues that the blockade was a powerful weapon that ended up ruining the Economy of the South, at the cost of few lives in combat. Practically, the entire Confederate cotton crop was useless (although it was sold to Union merchants), costing the Confederates their main source of income. Critical imports were scarce and coastal trade was also largely shut down. The measure of the blockade’s success was not the few ships that escaped, but the thousands who never tried it. Merchant ships owned by Europe could not obtain insurance and were too slow to avoid the blockade, so they stopped going to Confederate ports.

To fight an offensive war, the Confederates bought ships from Britain, converting them into warships and invading Union merchant ships in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Insurance rates skyrocketed and the United States Flag virtually disappeared from international waters. However, the same ships were caught with European flags and continued without risk of being summing up. After the war, the United States demanded that Britain pay for the damage caused and Britain paid $15 million in 1871, (equivalent to $315 million in 2019).


Although the Confederates expected Britain and France to join them against the Union, this was never likely, and so they tried to bring Britain and France as mediators. The Union, under Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of State William H. Seward, you worked to block this, and you threatened war if any country officially recognized the existence of the Confederate States of America. In 1861, southerners voluntarily embartured cotton shipments, hoping to start an economic depression in Europe that would force Britain into the war to obtain cotton, but that did not work. Worse still, Europe sought other cotton suppliers, which they considered superior, hindering the recovery of the South after the war.

Cotton diplomacy was a failure, as Europe had a surplus of cotton, while the failures in the 1860-1862 harvest in Europe made northern grain exports of critical importance. It also helped to drive Europe’s opinion away from the Confederates. “King Corn was said to be more powerful than King Cotton”, as the grains of the United States went from a quarter of British trade in imports to almost half. When Britain faced a cotton shortage, it was temporary, being replaced by increased cultivation in Egypt and India. Meanwhile, the war has created jobs for British arms manufacturers, railways and ships to carry weapons.

Lincoln’s government failed to appeal to European public opinion. Diplomats explained that the United States was not committed to ending slavery and instead repeated legalistic arguments about the unconstitutionality of secession. Confederate representatives, on the other hand, have been much more successful in ignoring slavery, focusing on the struggle for freedom, commitment to free trade and the essential role of cotton in the European economy. The European aristocracy was “absolutely cheerful in pronouncing the American disaster as proof that the whole experiment in popular government has failed. European government leaders welcomed the fragmentation of the ascendant American Republic”.

The United States diplomat in Britain, Charles Francis Adams, was particularly skilled and convinced Britain not to boldly challenge the blockade. The Confederates bought several warships from commercial shipbuilders in Britain (CSS Alabama, CSS Shenandoah, CSS Tennessee, CSS Tallahassee, CSS Florida and others). The most famous, the CSS Alabama, caused considerable damage and led to serious disputes in the post-war period. However, public opinion against slavery created a political responsibility for politicians in Britain, where the anti-slavery movement was powerful.

The war arose in late 1861 between the United States and Great Britain over the Trent Affair, involving the boarding of the United States Navy on the British ship RMS Trent and the seizure of two Confederate diplomats. However, London and Washington, D.C. managed to ease the problem after Lincoln freed them both. In 1862, the British considered mediation between North and South, although even this offer risked war with the United States. British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston would have read Uncle Tom’s Cabin three times when deciding on it.

The Union’s victory in the Battle of Antietam led them to postpone this decision. The Emancipation Proclamation over time would reinforce the political responsibility of supporting the Confederates. Despite sympathy for the Confederates, France’s intervention by Mexico ended up desuading them from the war with the Union. Confederate offers at the end of the war to end slavery in exchange for diplomatic recognition were not seriously considered by London or Paris. After 1863, the Polish revolt against Russia further distracted the European powers and ensured that they remained neutral.

Oriental Theater

The Eastern Theater refers to military operations east of the Appalachian Mountains, including the states of Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, District of Columbia, and the coastal fortifications and ports of North Carolina.


Potomac Army

Major General George B. McClellan took command of the Potomac Union Army on July 26 (he was briefly general-in-chief of all Union armies, but was subsequently relieved of that post in favor of Major General Henry Halleck), and the war began in earnest in 1862. The Union strategy of 1862 required simultaneous four-axis advances:

  1. McClellan would lead Virginia’s main push toward Richmond;
  2. Ohio forces would advance through Kentucky to Tennessee;
  3. The Missouri Department was heading south along the Mississippi River;
  4. The westernmost attack would originate in Kansas.

Army of Northern Virginia

The main Confederate force in the Eastern Theater was the Army of Northern Virginia. The Army originated as the Confederate Army of the Potomac, organized on June 20, 1861, from all operational forces in Northern Virginia. On July 20 and 21, the Shenandoah Army and Harpers Ferry District forces were added. Northwest Confederate Army units were merged into the Confederate Potomac Army between March 14 and May 17, 1862. The Confederate Potomac Army was renamed the Northern Virginia Army on March 14. The Peninsula Army was merged into it on April 12, 1862.

When Virginia declared its secession in April 1861, Robert E. Lee chose to follow his home state, despite his desire for the country to remain intact and an offer from a High Command of the Union.

Lee’s biographer, Douglas Southall Freeman, claims that the army was given Lee’s final name when he issued orders taking command on June 1, 1862. However, Freeman admits that Lee corresponded with Brigadier General Joseph E. Johnston, his predecessor in command of the army, before that date and referred to Johnston’s command as the Army of Northern Virginia. Part of the confusion stems from Johnston’s command of the Northern Virginia Department (on October 22, 1861) and the name Army of Northern Virginia can be seen as an informal consequence of the department’s name. Jefferson Davis and Johnston did not adopt the name, but it is clear that the organization of the units on March 14 was the same organization that Lee received on June 1 and is therefore generally referred to today as the Army of Northern Virginia, even if this is correct only in retrospect.

On July 4, at Harpers Ferry, Colonel Thomas J. Jackson designated J. And. B. Stuart to command all the cavalry companies of the Shenandoah Army. He finally commanded the Cavalry of the Army of Northern Virginia.


First Bull Run

In one of the first highly visible battles, in July 1861, a march of Union troops under the command of Major General Irvin McDowell on Confederate forces led by General P. G. T. Beauregard, near Washington, D.C. was repelled in the First Battle of Bull Run (also known as The First Battle of Manassas).

The Union had the upper hand at first, almost pushing Confederate forces that held a defensive position in a defeat, but Confederate reinforcements dwindling. Joseph E. Johnston arrived from the Shenandoah Valley by rail, and the course of the battle quickly changed. A brigade of Virginians under the relatively unknown general brigade of the Virginia Military Institute, Thomas J. Jackson maintained his position, which resulted in the receipt of his famous nickname “Stonewall“.

McClellan Peninsula Campaign; Jackson Valley Campaign

Under strong insistence from President Abraham Lincoln to initiate offensive operations, George B. McClellan attacked Virginia in the spring of 1862 through the Virginia Peninsula between the York River and the James River, southeast of Richmond. McClellan’s army reached the gates of Richmond in the Peninsula Campaign.

Also in the spring of 1862, in the Shenandoah Valley, Stonewall Jackson led his Valley Campaign. Employing audacity and fast and unpredictable movements on the inland lines, Jackson’s 17,000 men marched 1,040 km in 48 days and won several smaller battles by successfully involving three Union armies (52,000 men), including Those of Nathaniel P. Banks and John C. Frémont, preventing them from reinforcing the Union’s offensive against Richmond. The speed of Jackson’s men earned the nickname “Foot Cavalry“.

Johnston interrupted McClellan’s advance at the Battle of Seven Pines, but he was wounded in the battle and Robert E. Lee has taken over his commanding position. General Lee and top subordinates James Longstreet and Stonewall Jackson defeated McClellan at the Battle of the Seven Days and forced his withdrawal.

Second Bull Run

The Northern Virginia Campaign, which included the Second Battle of Bull Run, ended in another victory for the South. McClellan resisted general-in-chief Henry Halleck’s orders to send reinforcements to John Pope’s Union Army in Virginia, which made it easier for Lee’s Confederates to defeat twice the number of combined enemy troops.


Encouraged by the Second Bull Run, the Confederates made their first invasion of the North with the Maryland Campaign. General Lee led 45,000 northern Virginia army men across the Potomac River in Maryland on September 5. Lincoln then restored John Pope’s troops to McClellan. McClellan and Lee fought at the Battle of Antietam near Sharpsburg, Maryland, on September 17, 1862, the bloodiest day in U.S. military history. Lee’s army, finally controlled, returned to Virginia before McClellan could destroy him. Antietam is considered a Union victory because it disrupted Lee’s invasion of the North and provided an opportunity for Lincoln to announce his Emancipation Proclamation.

First Fredericksburg

When the cautious McClellan failed to keep up with Antietam, he was replaced by Major General Ambrose Burnside. Burnside was soon defeated at the Battle of Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862, when more than 12,000 Union soldiers were killed or wounded during repeated futile frontal attacks against Marye’s Heights. After the battle, Burnside was replaced by Major General Joseph Hooker.


Hooker also proved incapable of defeating Lee’s army; despite surpassing the Confederates by more than two to one, his Chancellorsville Campaign proved ineffective and he was humiliated at the Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863. Chancellorsville is known as Lee’s “perfect battle” because his risky decision to divide his army in the presence of a much larger enemy force resulted in a significant Confederate victory. General Stonewall Jackson was hit in the arm by accidental friendly fire during the battle and subsequently died of complications. Lee said, “He lost his left arm; but I lost my right arm.”

The fiercest fight of the battle, and the second bloodiest day of the Civil War, occurred on May 3, when Lee launched several strikes against the Union’s position in Chancellorsville. That same day, John Sedgwick advanced down the Rappahannock River, defeated the small Confederate force at Marye’s Heights at the Second Battle of Fredericksburg, and then moved west. The Confederates fought a successful action at the Battle of Salem Church.


General Hooker was replaced by Major General George Meade during North Lee’s second invasion in June. Meade defeated Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg. This was the bloodiest battle of the war and was called the turning point of the war. Pickett’s Charge on July 3 is often considered the Confederate watermark because it signaled the collapse of serious Confederate victory threats. Lee’s army suffered 28,000 casualties (against 23,000 from Meade). However, Lincoln was angry that Meade did not intercept Lee’s retreat.

Western Theater

The Western Theater refers to military operations between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River, including the states of Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee, as well as parts of Louisiana.


Tennessee Army and the Cumberland Army

The Union’s main forces in the Western Theater were the Tennessee Army and the Cumberland Army, which received the new ones from two rivers, the Tennessee River and the Cumberland River. After George Meade’s inconclusive autumn campaign, Abraham Lincoln turned to the Western Theatre for new leadership. At the same time, the Confederate fortress of Vicksburg surrendered, giving the Union control of the Mississippi River, permanently isolating the Confederates from the western side and producing the new leader Lincoln needed, Ulysses S. Grant.

Tennessee Confederate Army

The main Confederate force in the Western Theater was the Confederate Army of Tennessee. The army was formed on November 20, 1862, when General Braxton Bragg renamed the former Mississippi Confederate Army. While Confederate forces had numerous successes in the Eastern Theatre, they were defeated many times in the West.

Battles during the American Civil War

Fort Henry and Fort Donelson

The Union’s chief strategist and tactician in the West was Ulysses S. Grant, who won victories at Fort Henry (February 6, 1862) and Donelson (February 11-16, 1862), earning the nickname “Unconditional Surrender”, where the Union took control of the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers. Nathan Bedford Forrest gathered about 4,000 Confederate soldiers and drove them to escape across the Cumberland River. Thus, Nashville and central Tennessee fell to the Union, leading to shortages of local supplies and livestock and a collapse in social organization.

Leonidas Polk’s invasion of Columbus ended Kentucky’s neutrality policy and turned against the Confederates. Grant used Andrew hull foote’s river transport and gunboats to threaten the Confederate “Gibraltar of the West” in Columbus, Kentucky. Although he was rejected at Belmont, Grant interrupted Columbus. The Confederates, without their own gunboats, were forced to retreat and the Union took control of western Kentucky and opened Tennessee in March 1862.


At the Battle of Shiloh (Pittsburg Landing) in Tennessee in April 1862, the Confederates made a surprise attack that pushed Union forces into the river at nightfall. Overnight, the Navy secured additional reinforcements and Grant countered. Grant and the Union won a decisive victory in the first battle with the high rates of casualties that were repeated several times. The Confederates lost Albert Sidney Johnston, considered their best general before the emergence of Robert E. Lee.

Union Navy captures Memphis

One of the Union’s first objectives in the war was to capture the Mississippi River in order to halve the Confederates. The Mississippi River was opened to Union traffic to the southern border of the Tennessee River with the capture of Number Ten Island and New Madrid, Missouri, and then Memphis, Tennessee.

In April 1862, the Union Navy captured New Orleans. “The key point of the river was New Orleans, the largest port in the South and the largest industrial center. The Union Navy under David Farragut passed through Confederate defenses south of New Orleans. Confederate forces abandoned the city, giving the Union a critical anchor in the Deep South, which allowed Union forces to begin climbing the Mississippi River. Memphis fell to Union forces on June 6, 1862, and became an essential base for further advances to the South along the Mississippi River. Only the fortress city of Vicksburg, Mississippi, prevented Union control of the entire river.


Braxton Bragg’s second invasion of Kentucky on the Heartland Confederate Offensive included early successes such as Edmund Kirby Smith’s triumph at the Battle of Richmond and the capture of Kentucky’s capital Frankfort on September 3, 1862. However, the campaign ended with a senseless victory over Major General Don Carlos Buell at the Battle of Perryville. Bragg was forced to end his attempt to invade Kentucky and retreat due to a lack of logistical support and a lack of infantry recruits for the Confederates in that state.

Stones River

Bragg was defeated by Major General William Rosecrans at the Battle of Stones River in Tennessee, the culmination of the Stones River Campaign.


Naval forces assisted Ulysses S. Grant in the long and complex Vicksburg Campaign, which resulted in the surrender of the Confederates at the Battle of Vicksburg in July 1863, which cemented Union control over the Mississippi River and is considered one of the turning points of the war.


The only Confederate victory in the West was the Battle of Chickamauga. After the successful Tullahoma Campaign of Rosecrans and Bragg, reinforced by Lieutenant General James Longstreet (Lee army in the east), he defeated Rosecrans, despite the heroic defensive position of Major General George Henry Thomas.

Third Chattanooga

Rosecrans retired to Chattanooga, which Bragg besieged in the Chattanooga Campaign. Grant marched to Rosecrans’ relief and defeated Bragg at the Third Battle of Chattanooga, causing Longstreet to abandon his Knoxville Campaign and expel the Confederate forces from Tennessee and opening a route to Atlanta and the heart of the Confederates.

Trans-Mississippi Theater


The Trans-Mississippi Theater refers to military operations west of the Mississippi River, not including areas bordering the Pacific Ocean.



The first battle of the Trans-Mississippi Theater was the Battle of Wilson’s Creek. The Confederates were expelled from Missouri at the beginning of the war as a result of the Battle of Pea Ridge.

The extensive guerrilla war characterized the Trans-Mississippi region, as the Confederates lacked troops and logistics to support regular armies that could challenge Union control. Traveling Confederate gangs, such as the Quantrill’s Raiders, terrorized the camp, hitting military installations and civilian settlements. The Sons of Liberty and the Order of the American Knights attacked pro-Union people, elected officials, and unarmed uniformed soldiers. These supporters could not be entirely expelled from the state of Missouri until a regular Union infantry division was involved. In 1864, these violent activities undermined the national anti-war movement that was organized against the re-election of Abraham Lincoln. Missouri not only stayed in the Union, but Lincoln got 70% of the vote for re-election.

New Mexico

Numerous small-scale military actions in southern and western Missouri sought to control the Indian Territory and the Territory of New Mexico for the Union. The Battle of Glorieta Pass was the decisive battle of the New Mexico Campaign. The Union repelled Confederate incursions into New Mexico in 1862, and the exiled Arizona government retreated to Texas. In the Indian Territory, a civil war broke out within the tribes. Some 12,000 Indian warriors fought for the Confederates and smaller numbers for the Union.  One of the most prominent Cherokees was Brigadier General Stand Watie, the last Confederate general to surrender.


After the fall of Vicksburg in July 1863, General Edmund Kirby Smith in Texas was informed by Jefferson Davis that he was no longer expecting help east of the Mississippi River. Although he did not have the resources to defeat the Union armies, he built a formidable arsenal in Tyler, Texas, along with his own Edmund Kirby Smith economy, a virtual “independent fiefdom” in Texas, including railroad construction and international smuggling. The Union, in turn, did not involve it directly. His Red River Campaign in 1864 to take Shreveport, Louisiana, was a failure and Texas remained in the hands of the Confederates during the war.

Lower Bank Theatre


The Lower Bank Theater refers to military and marine operations that occurred near the coastal areas of the southeast: in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas) as well as the southern part of the Mississippi River (Port Hudson and South). The Union’s nature activities were dictated by the Anaconda Plan.


South Carolina

One of the first battles of the war was fought in Port Royal Sound, south of Charleston. Much of the war along the Coast of South Carolina focused on the capture of Charleston. In attempting to capture Charleston, the Union military attempted two approaches, overland over the James or Morris Islands or through the harbor. However, the Confederates were able to fend off every attack from the Union. One of the most famous ground attacks was the Second Battle of Fort Wagner, in which the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment participated. The Union suffered a serious defeat in that battle, losing 1,500 men, while the Confederates lost only 175.


Fort Pulaski, off the coast of Georgia, was one of the first targets of the Union Navy. After the capture of Port Royal, an expedition was organized with troops of engineers under the command of Captain Quincy Adams Gillmore, forcing a Confederate surrender.


In April 1862, a Union naval task force commanded by Commander David Dixon Porter attacked Forts Jackson and St. Louis. Philip, who protected the approach by the river to New Orleans from the south. While part of the fleet bombed the forts, other vessels forced a break in the river’s obstructions and allowed the rest of the fleet to climb the river into the city. A Union army force commanded by Major General Benjamin Butler landed near the forts and forced their surrender. Butler’s controversial command in New Orleans earned the nickname “Beast“.

The following year, the Gulf Union Army, commanded by Major General Nathaniel Prentice Banks, besieged Port Hudson for nearly eight weeks, the largest siege in U.S. military history. The Confederates tried to defend themselves with the Bayou Teche Campaign, but surrendered after Vicksburg. These two surrenders gave the Union control over the entire Mississippi.


Several small skirmishes were fought in Florida but without major battles. The largest was the Battle of Olustee in early 1864.

Conquest of Virginia

In early 1864, Abraham Lincoln made Ulysses S. Grant commander of all Union armies. Grant made his headquarters with the Potomac Army and placed Major General William Tecumseh Sherman in charge of most Western armies. Grant understood the concept of total war and believed, along with Lincoln and Sherman, that only the total defeat of Confederate forces and their economic base would end the war. It was an all-out war, not killing civilians, but taking supplies and supplies and destroying houses, farms, and railways, which Grant said “would otherwise have been supported by secession and rebellion. I believe that this policy exerted a material influence to accelerate the end.”

Grant developed a coordinated strategy that would attack the entire Confederacy from various directions. Generals George Meade and Benjamin Butler were ordered to move against Robert E. Lee near Richmond, General Franz Sigel (and later Philip Sheridan) would attack the Shenandoah Valley, General Sherman would capture Atlanta and march into the sea (the Atlantic Ocean), Generals George Crook and William W. Averell was expected to operate against railroad supply lines in West Virginia, and Major General Nathaniel Prentice Banks would capture Mobile, Alabama.

Grant’s Overland Campaign

Ulysses S. Grant’s army departed in the Overland Campaign with the aim of attracting Robert E. Lee to a Richmond defense, where they would try to stop and destroy the Confederate Army. The Union Army first tried to pass Lee and fought several battles, mostly in Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House, and Cold Harbor. These battles resulted in heavy losses on both sides and forced Lee’s Confederates to retreat repeatedly. At the Battle of Yellow Tavern, the Confederates lost J. And. B. Stuart.

An attempt to outflank Lee from the south failed under Butler, who was trapped within the bend of the Bermuda Hundred River. Each battle resulted in setbacks for the Union that mirrored what they had suffered from previous generals, although, unlike previous generals, Grant fought rather than retreat. Grant was tenacious and continued to press Lee’s army in Northern Virginia back to Richmond. As Lee prepared for an attack on Richmond, Grant unexpectedly turned south to cross the James River and began the prolonged Siege of Petersburg, where the two armies engaged in trench warfare for more than nine months.

Sheridan Valley Campaign

Ulysses S. Grant finally found a commander, General Philip Sheridan, aggressive enough to prevail in the Valley campaigns of 1864. Sheridan was initially repelled at the Battle of New Market by former Vice President of the United States and Confederate General John C. Breckinridge. The Battle of New Market was the Confederates’ last major victory in the war and included an indictment of teenage cadets from the Virginia Military Institute. After redoubling his efforts, Sheridan defeated Major General Jubal Early in a series of battles, including a final decisive defeat at the Battle of Cedar Creek. Sheridan then destroyed the shenandoah valley agricultural base, a strategy similar to the tactics Sherman later employed in Georgia.

Sherman Sea March

Meanwhile, William Tecumseh Sherman moved from Chattanooga to Atlanta, defeating Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston and John Bell Hood along the way. The fall of Atlanta on September 2, 1864, secured the re-election of Abraham Lincoln as president. Hood left the Atlanta area to turn around and threaten Sherman’s supply lines and invade Tennessee in the Franklin–Nashville Campaign. Union Major General John Schofield defeated Hood at the Battle of Franklin, and George Henry Thomas faced Hood in a massive defeat at the Battle of Nashville, effectively destroying Hood’s army.

Leaving Atlanta and its supply base, Sherman’s army marched with a destination to the unknown, destroying about 20% of Georgia’s farms in its “March to the Sea.” He arrived at the Atlantic Ocean in Savannah, Georgia, in December 1864. Sherman’s army was followed by thousands of freed slaves; there were no great battles throughout the March. Sherman turned north through South Carolina and North Carolina to approach the Confederate Virginia lines from the South, increasing pressure on Robert E’s army. Lee.

The Waterloo of the Confederates

Robert E’s army. Lee, reduced by desertion and casualties, was now much smaller than that of Ulysses S. Grant. A last Confederate attempt to break Union control over Petersburg failed in the decisive Battle of Five Forks (sometimes called “The Confederate Waterloo”) on April 1. This meant that the Union now controlled the entire perimeter around Richmond-Petersburg, completely cutting off the Confederates. Realizing that the capital was lost, Lee decided to evacuate his army. The Confederate capital fell to the 25th Union Corps, composed of black troops. The remaining Confederate units fled west after a defeat at Sayler’s Creek.

Confederate Surrender

Initially, Robert E. Lee did not intend to surrender but planned to regroup in the village of Appomattox Court House, where supplies were supposed to be waiting, and then continue the war. Ulysses S. Grant chased Lee and stood in front of him, so that when Lee’s army arrived at Appomattox Court House, they would be surrounded. After an initial battle, Lee decided that the fight was lost and surrendered his Northern Virginia Army on April 9, 1865, at McLean House. In a non-traditional gesture and as a sign of Grant’s respect and anticipation of peacefully restoring the Confederate States to the Union, Lee was allowed to keep his sword and horse, Traveller.

On April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth, a Southern sympathizer. Lincoln died early the next morning and Andrew Johnson became president. Meanwhile, Southern Confederate forces surrendered when news of Lee’s surrender reached them. On April 26, 1865, General Joseph E. Johnston delivered about 90,000 Men of the Tennessee Confederate Army to Major General William Tecumseh Sherman at Bennett Place, near present-day Durham, North Carolina. It proved to be the greatest surrender of Confederate forces, effectively ending the war. President Andrew Johnson officially declared a virtual end to the uprising on May 9, 1865; President Jefferson Davis was captured the next day. On June 2, Edmund Kirby Smith officially surrendered his troops to the Trans-Mississippi Department. On June 23, the Cherokee leader Stand Watie became the last Confederate general to surrender his forces.

Victory and Consequences of the Union


The causes of the war, the reasons for its outcome and even the name of the war itself are today matters of persistent dispute. The North and West got rich, while the once-rich South was poor for a century. The national political power of slave owners and the wealthy of the South has ended. Historians are less sure of the results of post-war reconstruction, especially in relation to the second-class citizenship of the freedmen and their poverty.

Historians debated whether the Confederates could have won the war. Most scholars, including James M. McPherson argues that the Confederate victory was at least possible. McPherson argues that the North’s advantage in population and resources made the North’s victory likely, but not guaranteed. He also argues that if the Confederates had fought using unconventional tactics, it would be easier to hold on long enough to exhaust the Union.

The Confederates did not need to invade and maintain enemy territory to win, but they only needed to wage a defensive war to convince the North that the cost of victory would be too high. The North needed to conquer and maintain vast expanses of enemy territory and defeat Confederate armies to win. Abraham Lincoln was not a military dictator and could only continue to fight the war as long as the American public supported the continuation of the war.

The Confederates sought to gain independence from the enduring Lincoln; however, after Atlanta fell and Lincoln defeated George B. McClellan in the 1864 elections, all hopes of a political victory for the South are over. At this point, Lincoln had won the support of Republicans, war Democrats, border states, emancipated slaves, and the neutrality of Britain and France. By defeating the Democrats and McClellan, he also defeated the Copperheads and their peace platform.

Many scholars argue that the Union had an insupertable long-term advantage over the Confederates in strength and industrial population. Confederate actions, they argue, only delayed defeat. Civil War historian Shelby Foote expressed this view succinctly: “I think the North fought this war with one hand behind its back … If there were more victories from the South and more, the North would simply have brought the other hand behind its back. I don’t think the South had a chance to win this war”.

A minority view among historians is that the Confederates lost because, like E. Merton Coulter put it, “people didn’t make enough strength and enough time to win.” According to Charles H. Wilson, in The Collapse of the Confederacy, “internal conflict must be prominent in any explanation of the defeat of the Confederates.” The Marxist historian Armstead Robinson agrees, pointing to a class conflict in the Confederate Army between slave owners and the largest number of non-owners. He argues that non-slave-owning soldiers were bitter about fighting to preserve slavery and fought with less enthusiasm. He attributes the main Confederate defeats in 1863 in Vicksburg and Missionary Ridge to this class conflict.

However, most historians reject the argument. James M. McPherson, after reading thousands of letters written by Confederate soldiers, found a strong patriotism that continued to the end; they really believed they were fighting for freedom. Even when the Confederates were visibly collapsing between 1864 and 1865, he says most Confederate soldiers were fighting hard. Historian Gary W. Gallagher quotes General William Tecumseh Sherman who, in early 1864, commented, “Demons seem to have a determination that cannot be but admired.” Despite the loss of slaves and wealth, with the famine looming, Sherman continued, “I still see no signs of disappointment from some war-weary defectors, but the masses have decided to fight it”.

Comparison between the Union of the Confederates, 1860–1864
  Year Union Confederate
Population 1860 22 100 000 (71%) 9 100 000 (29%)
1864 28 800 000 (90%) 3 000 000 (10%)
Free 1860 21 700 000 (81%) 5 600 000 (19%)
Slaves 1860 490 000 (11%) 3 550 000 (89%)
1864 insignificant 1 900 000
Soldiers 1860–1864 2 100 000 (67%) 1 064 000 (33%)
Railway miles 1860 21 800 (71%) 8 800 (29%)
1864 29 100 (98%) insignificant
Factories 1860 90% 10%
1864 98% 2%
Production of weapons 1860 97% 3%
1864 98% 2%
Cotton bales 1860 insignificant 4 500 000
1864 300 000 insignificant
Exports 1860 30% 70%
1864 98% 2%

Also important was Lincoln’s eloquence in rationalizing the national purpose and his ability to keep border states committed to the cause of the Union. The Emancipation Proclamation was an effective use of the President’s war powers. The Confederate government failed in attempting to involve Europe in war militarily, particularly in Britain and France. The South’s leaders needed to obtain European powers to help break the blockade that the Union had created around southern ports and cities. Lincoln’s naval blockade was 95% effective in stopping the trade in goods; as a result, imports and exports to the South fell significantly. The abundance of European cotton and Britain’s hostility to the institution of slavery, along with Lincoln’s naval blockades in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, severely diminished any chance of Britain or France going to war.

Historian Don Doyle argued that the Union’s victory had a major impact on the course of world history. The Union’s victory energized popular democratic forces. A Confederate victory, on the other hand, would mean a new birth of slavery, not freedom. Historian Fergus Bordewich, following Doyle, argues that:

“The Victory of the North has decisively proved the durability of democratic government. Confederate independence, on the other hand, would have established an American model of reactionary politics and racial repression that would likely cast an international shadow in the 20th century and perhaps beyond”.

Scholars debated the effects of the war on political and economic power in the South. The prevailing view is that the elite southern planters maintained their powerful position in the South. However, a 2017 study challenges this, noting that while some southern elites maintained their economic status, the turbulence of the 1860s would create greater opportunities for economic mobility in the South than in the North.


The war resulted in at least 1,030,000 casualties (3% of the population), including some 620,000 soldier deaths two-thirds from disease and 50,000 civilians. Binghamton University historian J. David Hacker believes that the number of soldier deaths was approximately 750,000, 20% higher than traditionally estimated, and possibly as high as 850,000. The war was responsible for more American deaths than in all other United States wars combined.

Based on 1860 census data, 8% of all white men between the age of 13 and 43 died in the war, including 6% in the North and 18% in the South. Some 56,000 soldiers died in prison camps during the war. An estimated 60,000 men were amputated in the war.

The dead of the Union Army, totaling 15% of the more than two million who served, were divided as follows:

  • 110 070 killed in action (67 000) or killed by injuries (43 000);
  • 199 790 died of diseases (75% were due to war, the rest would have occurred in civilian life anyway);
  • 24,866 died in Confederate prison camps;
  • 9 058 killed by accidents or drownings;
  • 15,741 unknown deaths;
  • 359,528 total dead.

In addition, there were 4,523 deaths in the Navy (2,112 in battle) and 460 in the Marines (148 in battle).

Black troops made up 10% of the number of deaths in the Union, totaling 15% of deaths from diseases, but less than 3% of those killed in battle. Losses among African Americans have been high in the last year and a half and of all reported casualties, approximately 20% of all African Americans enlisted in the military lost their lives during the Civil War. Notably, his mortality rate was significantly higher than white soldiers:

[We] found, according to the revised official data, that of the little more than two million soldiers in the United States Volunteers, more than 316,000 died (of all causes), or 15.2%. Of the 67,000 troops of the Regular Army (white), 8.6%, or not exactly 6,000, died. Of the approximately 180,000 black troops in the United States, however, more than 36,000 died, or 20.5%. In other words, the “mortality rate” among black Troops of the United States in the Civil War was 35% higher than that of other troops, despite the fact that the former were not enrolled until eighteen months after the beginning of the conflict.

Confederate records compiled by historian William F. Fox lists 74,524 dead and 59,292 killed by injuries and illnesses. Including Confederate estimates of losses in battles where there are no records would bring the number of Confederate dead to 94,000 killed in action, injuries and illnesses. Fox complained, however, that the records were incomplete, especially during the last year of the war, and that battlefield reports probably underestimated the deaths (many men counted as wounded in the battlefield reports subsequently died from injuries). Thomas L. Livermore, using Fox’s data, put the number of non-Confederate deaths in combat at 166,000, using the official estimate of deaths in the Union from illnesses and accidents and a comparison of the Union and Confederate enlistment records for a total of 260,000 deaths. However, this excludes the 30,000 deaths of Confederate troops in prisons, which would bring the minimum number of deaths to 290,000.

The U.S. National Park Service uses the following numbers in its official count of war losses:

Union: 853 838

  • 110 100 killed in action
  • 224,580 killed by disease
  • 275,154 injured in action
  • 211 411 captured (including 30,192 who died as prisoners of war)

Confederates: 914 660

  • 94,000 killed in action
  • 164 000 killed by disease
  • 194 026 injured in action
  • 462 634 captured (including 31,000 who died as prisoners of war)

Although the numbers of 360,000 deaths of Union armies and 260,000 for the Confederates have been commonly cited, they are incomplete. In addition to many Confederate records being absent, partly as a result of Confederate widows not reporting the deaths because they were ineligible for benefits, both armies counted only troops who died during their service, not the tens of thousands who died of injuries or illnesses after being discharged. This usually happened only a few days or weeks later. Francis Amasa Walker, superintendent of the 1870 census, used general census and surgeon data to estimate a minimum of 500,000 Union military deaths and 350,000 Confederate military deaths, for a total of 850,000 soldiers. Although Walker’s estimates were originally discarded because of the 1870 census sub-account, it was later found that the census was only 6.5% off and that the data Walker used would be roughly accurate.

Analyzing the death toll using census data to calculate the deviation from the standard mortality rate of men of combat age suggests that at least 627,000 and a maximum of 888,000, but probably 761,000 soldiers, died in the war. This would divide into approximately 350,000 Confederate military deaths and 411,000 Union military deaths, passing through the proportion of Union battle losses to the Confederates.

Deaths among former slaves proved to be much more difficult to estimate due to the lack of reliable census data at the time, although they were considerable since former slaves were freed or escaped in large numbers in an area where the Union Army lacked enough shelter, doctors or food for them. Professor James Downs of the University of Connecticut says that tens to hundreds of thousands of slaves died during the war due to disease, starvation or exposure and that if those deaths are counted in the total war, the death toll will exceed 1 million.

The losses were much greater than during Mexico’s recent defeat, which saw about 13,000 deaths in the United States, including fewer than 2,000 killed in the battle between 1846 and 1848. One reason for the high number of deaths in battles during the war was the continued use of tactics similar to those of the Napoleonic Wars at the turn of the century, such as the military charge. With the advent of more accurate rifle pipes, Minié balls and (almost at the end of the war for the Union Army) repeat firearms such as the Spencer Repeating Rifle and the Henry Repeating Rifle, the soldiers were shot down while in open-air queues. This led to the adoption of trench warfare, a fighting style that defined much of World War I.

The wealth accumulated in slaves and slavery for the 3.5 million blacks of the Confederates effectively ended when the armies of the Union arrived; almost all were released by the Emancipation Proclamation. Slaves in border states and those located in some former Confederate territory occupied before the Emancipation Proclamation were released by state action or (on December 6, 1865) by the Thirteenth Amendment.

The war destroyed much of the wealth that existed in the South. All accumulated investment in Confederate bonds was lost; most of the banks and railways were bankrupt. The income per person in the South fell to less than 40% of that of the North, a condition that lasted until the 20th century. The South’s influence in the previously considerable Federal Government decreased greatly until the second half of the 20th century. The complete restoration of the Union was the work of a highly controversial postwar era known as the Reconstruction Era.


Slavery as a matter of war

Although not all Southerners found themselves struggling to preserve slavery, most officers and more than a third of Robert E’s army rank. Lee had close family ties to slavery. For northerners, in contrast, the motivation was mainly to preserve the Union, not to abolish slavery. Abraham Lincoln consistently made preserving the Union the central goal of the war, although he increasingly saw slavery as a crucial issue and made ending it an additional goal. Lincoln’s decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation angered peace democrats (“Copperheads“) and war Democrats, but energized most Republicans. By warning that free blacks would flood the North, the Democrats won the 1862 elections but did not gain control of Congress. Republicans’ counter-argument that slavery was the main pillar of the enemy gained constant support, with Democrats losing decisively in the 1863 elections in northern Ohio, when they tried to resurrect anti-black sentiments.

Emancipation Proclamation

The Emancipation Proclamation allowed African-Americans, free blacks and fleeing slaves to join the Union Army. About 190,000 volunteered, further increasing the numerical advantage that the Union armies enjoyed over the Confederates, who dared not emulate the equivalent source of labor for fear of fundamentally undermining the legitimacy of slavery.

During the Civil War, feelings about slaves, enslavement, and emancipation in the United States were divided. In 1861, Abraham Lincoln feared that premature attempts at emancipation would mean the loss of border states and that “losing Kentucky is almost the same as losing the whole game”. Copperheads and some war Democrats opposed emancipation, although the latter accepted it as part of the total war needed to save the Union.

At first, Lincoln reversed attempts to emancipate Secretary of War Simon Cameron and General John C. Frémont (in Missouri) and David Hunter (in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida) to maintain the loyalty of border states and war Democrats. Lincoln warned border states that a more radical type of emancipation would happen if their gradual plan based on compensated emancipation and voluntary colonization was rejected. But only the District of Columbia accepted Lincoln’s gradual plan, enacted by Congress. When Lincoln told his office about his proposed Emancipation Proclamation, William H. Seward advised Lincoln to wait for a victory before distating it, as doing the opposite would seem “our last cry of retreat.” Lincoln laid the groundwork for public support in an open letter published in the journal of abolitionist Horace Greeley.

In September 1862, the Battle of Antietam provided this opportunity, and the subsequent Conference of War Governors added support to the proclamation. Lincoln issued his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, and his final Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. In your letter to Albert G. Hodges, Lincoln explained his belief that “if slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong… And yet I never understood that the Presidency would give me an unrestricted right to act officially on this judgment and feeling. … I claim not to have controlled events, but I clearly confess that the events have controlled me”.

Lincoln’s moderate approach succeeded in inducing border states, war democrats, and emancipated slaves to fight for the Union. Union-controlled border states (Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland, Delaware, and West Virginia) and union-controlled regions around New Orleans, Norfolk, and elsewhere were not covered by the Emancipation Proclamation. All abolished slavery on their own, except Kentucky and Delaware.

Because the Emancipation Proclamation was based on the President’s war powers, it included only the territory held by the Confederates at the time. However, the Proclamation has become a symbol of the Union’s growing commitment to add emancipation to the definition of freedom of the Union. The Emancipation Proclamation greatly reduced the Confederates’ hopes of getting help from Britain or France. By the end of 1864, Lincoln was playing a leading role in getting Congress to vote on the Thirteenth Amendment, which made emancipation universal and permanent.

Texas v. White

Texas v. White, 74 U.S. 700 (1869) the United States Supreme Court ruled that Texas had remained a state since it joined the Union, despite allegations that it has joined the Confederate States of America; the court also argued that the Constitution did not allow states to unilaterally part with the United States and that secession ordinances, and all acts of the legislatures of the sectioning states intended to carry out such ordinances were “absolutely null” under the Constitution.

Reconstruction Era

Reconstruction began during the war, with the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863, and continued until 1877. He understood several complex methods to solve the outstanding problems of the consequences of the war, the most important of which were the three “Reconstruction Amendments” of the Constitution, which remain in force until the present day: 13 (1865), 14 (1868) and 15 (1870). From the Union’s point of view, the objectives of reconstruction were to consolidate the Union’s victory on the battlefield by bringing the Union together; ensure a “Republican form of government for former Confederate states; and permanently end slavery and prevent the status of semi-slavery.

President Andrew Johnson adopted a lenient approach and saw the achievement of the main objectives of the war, accomplished in 1865 when each ex-rebel state repudiated secession and ratified the Thirteenth Amendment. The Radical Republicans demanded proof that Confederate nationalism was dead and that slaves were truly free. They emerged after the 1866 elections and undid much of Johnson’s work. In 1872, the “Liberal Republicans” argued that the objectives of the war had been achieved and that Reconstruction should end. They ran for president in 1872 but were defeated decisively. In 1874, Democrats, mainly from the South, took control of Congress and opposed any Reconstruction. The 1877 Compromise ended with a national consensus that the Civil War was finally over. With the withdrawal of Union troops, however, the whites regained control of all southern legislatures; Jim Crow’s period of deprivation of rights and legal segregation was about to begin.

Post-war politics

The Civil War would have a huge impact on American politics in the coming years. Many veterans on both sides were subsequently elected to political office, including five Presidents of the United States: Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Benjamin Harrison and William McKinley.

Memory and historiography of the American Civil War

The Civil War is one of the central events of American collective memory. There are numerous statues, celebrations, books and collections of archives. The memory includes military affairs, treatment of soldiers, living and dead, aftermath of war, depictions of war in literature and art, evaluations of heroes and villains, and considerations of the moral and political lessons of war. The latest theme includes moral assessments of racism and slavery, heroism in combat, and heroism behind the lines and issues of democracy and minority rights, as well as the notion of a “Freedom Empire” that influences the world.

Professional historians paid much more attention to the causes of the war than to the war itself. Military history has developed widely outside academia, leading to a proliferation of solid studies by non-academics who know primary sources well, pay close attention to battles and campaigns, and write to the general public rather than the small academic community. Bruce Catton and Shelby Foote are among the best-known writers. Virtually all major figures of the war, North and South, had a serious biographical study. Deeply religious Southerners saw the hand of God in history, which demonstrated His wrath for their sins, or His rewards for their sufferings. Historian Wilson Fallin examined the serums of white and black Baptist preachers after the War. The white preachers of the South said:

God punished them and gave them a special mission, to maintain orthodoxy, strict biblicalism, personal piety, and traditional race relations. Slavery, they insisted, had not been sinful. Before, emancipation was a historical tragedy and the end of Reconstruction was a clear sign of God’s favor.

In sharp contrast, black preachers interpreted the Civil War as:

The gift of God’s freedom. They appreciated opportunities to exercise their independence, worship in their own way, affirm their worth and dignity, and proclaim the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. Above all, they could form their own churches, associations, and conventions. These institutions offered self-help and racial uplift, and provided places where the gospel of deliverance could be proclaimed. As a result, black preachers continued to insist that God would protect them and help them; God would be their rock in a stormy land.

Lost Cause

The memory of the war in the white South crystallized in the myth of the “Lost Cause”: that the Confederate cause was just and heroic. The myth has shaped regional identity and race relations for generations.  

Alan T. Nolan notes that the Lost Cause was expressly “a rationalization, a cover-up to claim the name and fame” of those who rebelled. Some claims revolve around the insignificance of slavery; some appeals highlight cultural differences between North and South; the military conflict of Confederate actors is idealized; in any case, secession was considered legal. Nolan argues that the adoption of the Lost Cause perspective facilitated the reunification of North and South, excusing the “virulent racism” of the 19th century, sacrificing African-American progress in the reunification of a white man. He also considers the Lost Cause “a caricature of the truth. This caricature completely misrepresented and distorts the facts of the matter” in all cases.

Beard Historiography

The economic determinism and political power presented forcefully by Charles Beard and Mary Ritter Beard in The Rise of American Civilization (1927) was highly influential among historians and the general public until the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. The Beard’s minimized slavery, abolitionism and morality issues. They ignored constitutional issues of states’ rights and even ignored American nationalism as the force that ultimately led to victory in the war. In fact, fierce combat itself was ignored only as an ephemeral event. Much more important was the calculation of class conflict. Beard’s announced that the Civil War was really:

[A] social cataclysm in which capitalists, workers and farmers from the North and West drove the aristocracy from southern plantations from power in the national government.

Beard’s own abandoned their interpretation in the 1940s and became extinct among historians in the 1950s, when scholars began to emphasize slavery. However, Beard’s themes still echo among the writers of Lost Cause.

Preservation of battlefields

Early efforts to preserve and memorialize the Civil War battlefields took place during the war itself with the establishment of National Cemeteries in Gettysburg, Mill Springs, and Chattanooga. Soldiers began erecting markers on the battlefields from the First Battle of Bull Run in July 1861, but the oldest surviving monument is the Hazen, erected on the Stones River near Murfreesboro, Tennessee, in the summer of 1863 by soldiers of Union Colonel William Babcock Hazen marked the spot where they buried their dead at the Battle of Stones River.

In the 1890s, the United States Government established five Civil War battlefield parks under the jurisdiction of the Department of War, beginning with the creation of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Parks in Tennessee and the Antietam National Battlefield in Maryland in 1890. Shiloh National Military Park was created in 1894, followed by Gettysburg National Military Park in 1895 and Vicksburg National Military Park in 1899. In 1933, these five parks and other national monuments were transferred to the jurisdiction of the National Park Service of the United States.

The modern civil war battlefield preservation movement began in 1987 with the founding of the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites (APCWS), a base organization created by Civil War historians and others to preserve battlefield lands by acquiring them. In 1991, the original Civil War Trust was created in the mold of the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Foundation, but failed to attract corporate donors and soon helped manage the disbursement of the Commemorative Civil War revenues from the U.S. Mint designated for the preservation of battlefields.

Although the two non-profit organizations have united in several battlefield acquisitions, ongoing conflicts have led the boards of the two organizations to facilitate a merger, which took place in 1999 with the creation of the Civil War Preservation Trust. In 2011, the organization was renamed, again becoming the Civil War Trust. After expanding its mission in 2014 to include the battlefields of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, the nonprofit became the American Battlefield Trust in May 2018, operating with two divisions, the Civil War Trust and the Revolutionary War Trust. From 1987 to May 2018, the Trust and its predecessor organizations, along with their partners, preserved 49,893 acres of battlefield land by acquiring conservation properties or servitudes in more than 130 battlefields in 24 states.

The five major Civil War battle parks operated by the National Park Service (Gettysburg, Antietam, Shiloh, Chickamauga/Chattanooga and Vicksburg) had a total of 3.1 million visitors in 2018, down 70% from 10.2 million in 1970. Participation in Gettysburg in 2018 was 950,000, a decline of 86% since 1970.

Commemoration of the Civil War

Grand Army of the Republic (Union)
Grand Army of the Republic (Union)


United Confederate Veterans
United Confederate Veterans

The American Civil War was commemorated in various capacities, from the reenactment of battles, statues and erected memorial halls, films being produced, stamps and Civil War-themed coins being released, which helped shape public memory. This varied advent occurred in greater proportions on the 100th and 150th anniversaries. Hollywood’s opinion of the war was especially influential in straining public memory, as seen in film classics such as The Birth of a Nation (1915), Gone with the Wind (1939) and, more recently, Lincoln (2012). Ken Burns produced a notable PBS television series titled The Civil War (1990). It was digitally remastered and re-released in 2015.

Technological significance

Numerous technological innovations during the Civil War had a major impact on 19th-century science. The Civil War was one of the earliest examples of an “industrial war”, in which technological power is used to achieve military supremacy in a war. New inventions, such as trains and telegraphs, transporting soldiers, supplies, and messages at a time when horses were considered the fastest way to travel. It was also in this war when the countries first used air warfare in the form of reconnaissance balloons, with a significant effect.

In the Civil War, it saw the first action involving iron-clad steam warships in the history of the naval war. Repeating firearms, such as the Henry rifle, Spencer rifle, Colt rifle, Triplett & Scott carbine, and others, first appeared during the Civil War; they were a revolutionary invention that would soon replace single-shot firearms, as well as the first appearances of rapid-fire weapons and machine guns such as the Agar machine gun and the Gatling.

The American Civil War in popular culture


  • The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (1881) by Jefferson Davis
  • The Red Badge of Courage (1885) by Stephen Crane
  • The Private History of a Campaign That Failed (1885) by Mark Twain
  • Texar’s Revenge, or, North Against South (1887) by Jules Verne
  • “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” (1890) by Ambrose Bierce
  • Gone with the Wind (1936) by Margaret Mitchell
  • Shiloh (1952) by Shelby Foote
  • North and South (1982) by John Jakes
  • Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All (1989) by Allan Gurganus


  • The Birth of a Nation (1915, United States)
  • The General (1926, United States)
  • Operator 13 (1934, United States)
  • Gone with the Wind (1939, United States)
  • The Red Badge of Courage (1951, United States)
  • The Horse Soldiers (1959, United States)
  • Shenandoah (1965, United States)
  • The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966, Italy/Spain/France)
  • The Beguiled (1971, United States)
  • Glory (1989, United States)
  • The Civil War (miniseries) (1990, United States)
  • Gettysburg (1993 film) (1993, United States)
  • The Last Outlaw (1993 film) (1993, United States)
  • Cold Mountain (2003, United States)
  • Gods and Generals (2003, United States)
  • North and South (miniseries)
  • Lincoln (2012, United States)
  • 12 Years a Slave (2013, United States)
  • Free State of Jones (2016, United States)
  • The Gettysburg Address (film) (2017, United States)


  • Battle Hymn of the Republic
  • John Brown’s Body
  • Battle Cry of Freedom
  • Dixie’s Land
  • “Johnny Reb” (1959) written by Merle Kilgore, sung by Johnny Horton
  • “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” (1969) written by Robbie Robertson, sung by The Band

Video games

  • North & South (1989, France)
  • Sid Meier’s Gettysburg! (1997, United States)
  • Sid Meier’s Antietam! (1999, United States)
  • American Conqest: Divided Nation (2006, United States)
  • Forge of Freedom: The American Civil War (2006, United States)
  • The History Channel: Civil War – A Nation Divided (2006, United States)
  • Ageod’s American Civil War (2007, United States/France)
  • History Civil War: Secret Missions (2008, United States)
  • Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood (2009, United States)
  • Darkest of Days (2009, United States)
  • Victoria II (2011, United States)
  • Ageod’s American Civil War II (2013, United States/France)
  • Ultimate General: Gettysburg (2014, Ukraine)
  • Ultimate General: Civil War (2016, Ukraine

References (sources)