The Civil War | HistoryNet MENU

The Civil War

Facts, Events & Information about The American Civil War: 1861-1865

First Battle of Bull Run Kurz & Allison
First Battle of Bull Run Kurz & Allison

Civil War Facts


Eastern Theater, Western Theater, Trans-Mississippi, Gulf Coast, Sioux Uprising



Soldiers Engaged

Union: over 2,100,000

Confederate: over 1,000,000

Civil War Casualties

Union: over 350,000

Confederate: over 250,000

See Details Of Civil War Casualties


Union Victory

Civil War Pictures

The Civil War was the first war that was widely photographed. Many American Civil War Images, Pictures and Photos have survived.

See our Civil War Pictures

Civil War Maps

The Civil War made wide use of battle maps.

View our Civil War Maps

Civil War Timeline

See a timeline of events of the Civil War from 1860-1865. See events by year and important Civil War dates.

View our Civil War Timeline

Civil War Battlefields

The battlefields of the Civil War cross the nation, and made famous many previously unknown towns, crossroads and farms like Antietam Creek, Shiloh and Gettysburg.

View more Civil War Battlefields

More Civil War Facts

To view more Civil War facts and FAQs, please view our Civil War Facts page

Civil War Articles

Explore articles from the History Net archives about the Civil War

» See all American Civil War Articles

Civil War Summary: The American Civil War, 1861–1865, resulted from long-standing sectional differences and questions not fully resolved when the United States Constitution was ratified in 1789. With the defeat of the Southern Confederacy and the subsequent passage of the XIII, XIV and XV amendments to the Constitution, the Civil War’s lasting effects include abolishing the institution of slavery in America and firmly redefining the United States as a single, indivisible nation rather than a loosely bound collection of independent states.


It was a war that saw many “firsts.” The long list of Civil War firsts include America’s first income tax, the first battle between ironclad ships, the first extensive use of black soldiers and sailors in U.S. service, the first use of quinine to treat typhoid fever, America’s first military draft, and many others. There were advances in medical treatment, military tactics, the chaplain service, and other fields. Over the course of the Civil War weapons ranged from obsolete flintlocks to state-of-the-art repeaters. During the Civil War, women took on new roles, including running farms and plantations and spying; some disguised themselves as men and fought in battle. All of the nation’s ethnic groups participated in the war, including Irish, Germans, American Indians, Jews, Chinese, Hispanics, etc.

Other Names for the Civil War

Northerners have also called the Civil War the War to Preserve the Union, the War of the Rebellion (War of the Southern Rebellion), and the War to Make Men Free. Southerners may refer to it as the War Between the States or the War of Northern Aggression. In the decades following the conflict, those who did not wish to upset adherents of either side simply called it The Late Unpleasantness. It is also known as Mr. Lincoln’s War and, less commonly, as Mr. Davis’ War.

Troop Strength and Casualties

Between April 1861 and April 1865, an estimated 1.5 million troops joined the war on the side of the Union and approximately 1.2 million went into Confederate service. An estimated total of 600,000 were killed in action or died of disease. More than twice that number were wounded but survived at least long enough to muster out. Casualties of the Civil War cannot be calculated exactly, due to missing records (especially on the Southern side) and the inability to determine exactly how many combatants died from wounds, drug addiction, or other war-related causes after leaving the service. An untold number of civilians also perished, primarily from disease as entire towns became hospitals.

Naval Battles

Most naval actions occurred on rivers and inlets or in harbors, and include history’s first clash between two ironclads, the USS Monitor and CSS Virginia (a captured and converted ship formerly called the Merrimac), at Hampton Roads, Virginia, on March 9, 1862. Other actions include the Battle of Memphis (1862), Charleston Harbor (1863), and Mobile Bay (1864), and the naval sieges of Vicksburg in 1862 and again in 1863. The most famous clash between ocean-going warships was the duel between USS Kearsarge and CSS Alabama off Cherbourg, France, June 19, 1864. Throughout the war, the Union had a decided advantage in both numbers and quality of naval vessels.

The War Between The States Begins

On April 10, 1861, knowing that resupplies were on their way from the North to the federal garrison at Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina, provisional Confederate forces in the city demanded the fort’s surrender. The fort’s commander, Major Robert Anderson, refused. On April 12, the Confederates opened fire with cannon. At 2:30 p.m. the following day, Major Anderson surrendered.

On April 15, Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to put down the Southern rebellion, a move that prompted Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas and North Carolina to reverse themselves and vote in favor of session. (Most of the western section of Virginia rejected the session vote and broke away, ultimately forming a new, Union-loyal state, West Virginia.)

The United States had always maintained only a small professional army; the nation’s founders had feared a Napoleon might rise up and use a large army to overthrow the government and make himself a dictator. Many graduates of the U.S. Army’s military academy, West Point, resigned their commissions in order to fight for the South—this was especially true in the cavalry arm, but no members of the artillery “went South.” The Lincoln Administration had to rely on large numbers of volunteers from the states and territories.

In Richmond, Virginia, the President of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis, faced a similar problem in raising and equipping armies. Neither side expected a war of long duration. Volunteers were asked to serve for 90 days. “One big battle, and it’ll be over,” was the commonly expressed belief on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line. Southerners thought Northerners too weak and cowardly to fight. Northerners thought a dependence upon slave labor had rendered Southerners too weak both physically and morally to present a serious battlefield threat. Both sides were due for a rude awakening.

The Challenges of North and South

To win the war would require Lincoln’s armies and navy to subdue an area from the East Coast to the Rio Grande, from the Mason-Dixon Line to the Gulf of Mexico. To prevent a Northern victory, the South would have to defend that same large area, but with a smaller population and less industry than the North could ultimately bring to bear. A short war would favor the South, a long one the North.

Theaters of War

Actions in the war were divided into the Eastern Theater, primarily comprised of Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the coast of North Carolina. The Atlantic Coast farther south was the Lower Seaboard Theater. The Western Theater began west of the Alleghenies (West Virginia excepted) and continued to the Mississippi River, but it also included the interior of the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida. Events farther west are considered to have occurred in the Trans-Mississippi Theater and the Far West.


The first inland clash between significant bodies of troops occurred on the morning of June 3, 1861, when 3,000 Union volunteers surprised 800 Confederates at Philippi in (West) Virginia. Lasting less than half an hour, the affair would barely qualify as a skirmish later in the war, but the Union victory there and subsequent ones in the region elevated the reputation of Major General George B. McClellan, commander of the Department of the Ohio.

Read More in America’s Civil War Magazine

Subscribe online and save nearly 40%!!!

The first real battle took place July 21, 1861, on the hills around Bull Run creek outside Manassas, Virginia, a railroad junction some 30 miles south of the Northern capital at Washington City (Washington, D.C.) and about 90 miles north of the Confederate capital at Richmond on July. It is known as the First Battle of Bull Run (Northern name) or the First Battle of Manassas (Southern name). During the war, the North named battles for the nearest body of water, and the South used the name of the nearest town.

The Union army made progress early in the battle, but Confederate reinforcements arrived late in the day from the Shenandoah Valley and routed the Federals. The unfortunate Union commander, Irvin McDowell, was made the scapegoat and was replaced with an officer who had some victories to his credit: George Brinton McClellan.

On September 10, a Union victory at Carnifax Ferry in the Big Kanawha Valley of (West) Virginia virtually ended Confederate control in most of the western counties, although there would be raids and guerilla warfare there. A successful naval invasion of North Carolina took place in August.

The Western Theater saw only minor skirmishing. Kentucky was attempting to remain neutral and had vowed to take sides against whichever side first moved troops into it. That was the Confederacy, which felt compelled to establish Mississippi River forts and establish camps within the state to repel any attempted Union move south.

Near Springfield, Missouri, in the Trans-Mississippi, the South won a major battle on August 10, 1861. The Battle of Wilson’s Creek, also known as the Battle of Oak Hills, saw some 12,000 Confederates defeat less than 5,500 Union soldiers and take control of southwestern Missouri, but the Southerners did not immediately pursue northward. The Union commander, Nathaniel Lyon, was killed, the first Federal general to die in action during the war. The South had already lost Brigadier General Robert S. Garnett in a skirmish at Carrick’s Ford, (West) Virginia, and Brigadier General Bernard E. Bee at First Manassas. After Wilson’s Creek, Confederate forces won another Missouri victory at the First Battle of Lexington, September 13–20, 1861.

During the fall and winter, both sides swelled their ranks, trained troops, and obtained additional weapons, food and equipment, and horses and mules for the coming year’s campaigns.


If 1861 had disabused Americans north and south of the notion this would be a short war, 1862 showed how terrible its cost in human life would be, beginning with the two bloody days of the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee and continuing through a series of battles in Virginia and America’s bloodiest single day, the Battle of Antietam in Maryland.

The year saw the first clash between ironclad warships, in the Battle of Hampton Roads. Lincoln announced his Emancipation Proclamation. The South found two heroes: Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, for his Shenandoah Valley Campaign, and Robert E. Lee, who took command of the main Confederate army. Lincoln would be hard-pressed to find a commander Lee could not out-general. Farther south along the Atlantic Coast, Federals captured territory in North and South Carolina and Georgia, but lost a chance to shorten the war when they were turned back at the Battle of Secessionville, South Carolina.

In the Western Theater, Union forces made deep penetrations into Dixie, beginning the year along the Ohio River and finishing it in control of Middle and West Tennessee, with outposts in Mississippi. Even New Orleans was under the Stars and Stripes again.

Beyond the Mississippi, initial Confederate successes in New Mexico territory were nullified by a defeat at Glorietta Pass. Texans lynched 50 Unionists in what became known as the Great Hanging at Gainesville and attacked German immigrants trying to leave the state, executing nine of the wounded after the Battle of the Nueces.

In August, starving Sioux Indians in Minnesota, angered because they’d not received badly needed payments promised by their treaty, began an uprising that killed at least 113 white men, women and children. Three hundred Sioux were sentenced to hang, but Lincoln cut that number to 38—still the largest mass execution in U.S. history.

Antietam and Shiloh

If 1861 had disabused Americans north and south of the notion this would be a short war, 1862 showed how terrible its cost in human life would be, beginning with the two bloody days of the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee and continuing through a series of battles in Virginia and America’s bloodiest single day, the Battle of Antietam in Maryland. September saw simultaneous Confederate invasions into Maryland and Kentucky in September. Neither, however, was long lived.

The year 1862 ended—and the new year would begin—with another bloodbath, on the banks of Stones River outside Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Overall, the scales were still nearly balanced between the two sides in their struggle to restore the Union or to establish a Southern Confederacy.


The tide of war shifted noticeably in favor of the Union in 1863, despite a brilliant victory by Robert E. Lee in the Battle of Chancellorsville, a battle that cost the life of his daring lieutenant Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. Lee then suffered a major defeat at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in early July. The victor, George Gordon Meade, did not pursue aggressively, and the Confederate “Gray Fox” escaped to fight another day. The two antagonists met again in November in a confused, inconclusive affair known as the Mine Run Campaign.

Battle of Chancellorsville

On April 17, the Army of the Potomac, under yet another commander, Maj. Gen. Joseph “Fighting Joe” Hooker, attempted to outflank Lee at Fredericksburg by crossing the Rappahannock and Rapidan rivers above the town. In response, Lee divided his force, leaving part of it to guard the river at Fredericksburg. On April 30, Hooker and Lee collided near a mansion called Chancellorsville in a densely thicketed area of woods known as The Wilderness. After a brilliant flank attack that disorganized Hooker’s right, Lt. Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson was mortally wounded by his own men in the darkness. He died May 10. Lee, learning the Federals had captured Fredericksburg, divided his force again and defeated them at Salem Church. Hooker gave up the campaign and withdrew on the night of May 5–6. The Battle of Chancellorsville is regarded as Lee’s most brilliant victory. Read more about the Battle of Chancellorsville.

Vicksburg, Chickamauga, and Chattanooga

The “Confederate Gibraltar,” Vicksburg, Mississippi, fell to Ulysses S. Grant on July 4 after a 47-day siege. Confederates won their greatest victory in the Western Theater at the Battle of Chickamauga in September, but failed to capitalize on it and in late November were routed from the hills above Chattanooga, opening the road to Atlanta for the Union’s Western armies. Grant was placed in command of all Western armies, a prelude to an even greater promotion that would come the following spring.

Two massacres marked 1863. In response to raids by Shoshoni Indians in the Idaho Territory of the far northwest, U.S. troops under Col. Patrick E. Connor attacked the camp of Chief Bear Hunter on January 29. A number of Shoshoni women, children and old men were killed along with Hunting Bear’s warriors in the Bear River Massacre (Massacre at Boa Ogoi). On August 21, Confederate guerrillas under Captain William C. Quantrill sacked and burned Lawrence, Kansas, a center for pro-Union, anti-slavery Jayhawkers and Redlegs, killing 150–200 men and boys.


In mid-June, Lee led his Army of Northern Virginia into Maryland and Pennsylvania in his second invasion of the North, hoping to take pressure off Virginia’s farms during the growing season and seeking a victory on Northern soil. His men encountered the Army of the Potomac, now under George Gordon Meade, at a crossroads town in southeastern Pennsylvania on July 1. Capturing the town but failing to take the high ground around it, Lee assailed the Union flanks the next day. The fighting on the Union left was particularly costly to both sides, memorializing Little and Big Round Top, Devil’s Den, the each Orchard and the Wheatfield. On the right, the Confederates nearly broke through on Culp’s and Cemetery hills before being repulsed. On July 3, Lee made perhaps his greatest mistake of the war, ordering a frontal attack across open ground against the Union center on Cemetery Ridge. Known as “Pickett’s Charge” for the commander of the largest Confederate division involved, George Pickett, the attack failed, leaving thousands of Southern soldiers dead and wounded. On Independence Day, a wagon train of wounded over 14 miles long began Lee’s retreat. With the Confederate’s loss of Vicksburg, Mississippi, that same day, July 4, 1863, is often described as the turning point of the Civil War. Read more about the Battle Of Gettysburg

Read More in Civil War Times Magazine

Subscribe online and save nearly 40%!!!

The year also saw an event unique in American history. Counties of western Virginia had refused to leave the Union when the state seceded in 1861. On June 20, 1863, West Virginia entered the Union as the 35th state, although the U.S. Constitution requires a mother state’s permission before a new state can be carved out of it.

At the end of 1863, both sides still had significant forces, and the Confederates enjoyed good defensive terrain in Virginia and North Georgia. If they could inflict enough losses on their Northern opponents, they might win at the ballot box what they could not on the field of battle: Lincoln was vulnerable and in the 1864 elections might be replaced by a Democrat who would make peace with the Confederacy.


Since the beginning of the war, Lincoln had sought in vain for a general who understood that destroying the Confederate armies in Virginia was more important than capturing Richmond, and who wouldn’t turn back in the face of a defeat in battle. He believed he’d found that man in Ulysses S. Grant, who was put in charge of all Union armies in March 1864. “Unconditional Surrender” Grant proved Lincoln right, but the cost in lives led many, including the president’s wife, Mary, to call the general a “butcher.”

The Wilderness

Following his promotion, Grant attached himself to the North’s largest army, the Army of the Potomac, while leaving George Gordon Meade, the victor of Gettysburg, in command of that force. On May 2, the Army of the Potomac crossed Virginia’s Rapidan River. Three days later, it collided with Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in a wooded area thick with underbrush, known as The Wilderness, near the old Chancellorsville battlefield, site of Lee’s most brilliant victory. There was no such clear-cut outcome this time. After two blood-soaked days of close-quarters fighting, Grant maneuvered his army to outflank Lee’s right. Lee anticipated the move, and the two armies tore at each other again for two weeks in May around Spotsylvania Courthouse. Again, Grant sidestepped, and again Lee met him in the Battle of the North Anna. Grant intended to “fight it out along this line if it takes all summer,” and the two armies clashed again and again, moving ever southward. At Cold Harbor, Grant made one of the worst mistakes of his career, suffering 7,000 casualties within 20 minutes while Lee’s losses were negligible. Eventually, the Federals maneuvered their opponents so close to Richmond and Petersburg—a town essential to the Confederates’ supply line—that Lee had to give up his ability to maneuver and settle into trench warfare. The siege of Richmond and Petersburg had begun. Read more about the Battle Of The Wilderness

Petersburg and Richmond

On July 30, the Union exploded a mine beneath a portion of the Confederate works around Petersburg. A tardy advance by a large number of Union soldiers into the 30-foot-deep crater it created allowed the Southerners time to recover. They poured fired into the densely packed Federals; eventually, the fighting was hand-to-hand. Angered by the blast and the presence of black troops, the Confederates gave no quarter and the Battle of the Crater resulted in 4,000 Union casualties for no gain. Read more about the Battle Of Petersburg

Although much of Lee’s army was tied down in the defense of Richmond and Petersburg, other portions resisted Union advances in the Shenandoah Valley. After a victory at Lynchburg in June, Jubal A. Early took his Army of the Valley across the Potomac and boldly marched on the Northern capital at Washington, D.C. A desperate delaying action on July 9 at Monocacy, Maryland, by an outnumbered force under Lew Wallace—the future author of Ben Hur—bought the capital time to prepare. When Early attacked Fort Stevens outside the city on July 11—12, President and Mrs. Lincoln came out to watch the fighting. After Early retired back down the Shenandoah Valley, Grant ordered Philip Sheridan to lay waste to the Valley. On October 9, Early surprised Sheridan’s camps on Cedar Creek near Winchester. Sheridan galloped to the sound of the guns, arriving in time to halt the Union rout and crushed the Confederates, effectively ending Early’s ability to take offensive actions to protect the Valley.

When Grant went east his friend and subordinate, William Tecumseh Sherman, took command of the armies of the Tennessee and the Cumberland at Chattanooga. While Grant bludgeoned and sidestepped his way toward Richmond, Sherman was slugging through the mountains of North Georgia. There, Confederate general Joseph Johnston made superb use of terrain to slow the Federal advance. After a series of clashes followed by maneuvers around Johnston’s defenses, Sherman lost patience and ordered a frontal assault on Kennesaw Mountain that cost 3,000 Union lives compared with 1,000 for the Confederates. But gradually, his armies closed in on the rail center of Atlanta. Finally, on September 2, Sherman’s men entered Atlanta after the Confederate army, now under the command of John Bell Hood, evacuated the town, setting fire to it before leaving.

The capture of Atlanta was one of the most crucial events of the war. The South’s last remaining hope was that war-weary Northern voters might turn Lincoln out of the White House in the November elections and replace him with a Peace Democrat. The Democrats had nominated George B. McClellan, the former commander of the Army of the Potomac, as their candidate. The party made many missteps during the campaign, and for the first time ever, the North allowed soldiers to vote in the field. Both of those contributed to Lincoln winning a second term, but had Sherman not taken Atlanta, the long casualty rolls from Grant’s Overland Campaign and the on-going stalemate around the Confederate capital might have been enough to convince Northerners to “give peace a chance” and vote against Lincoln and the war.

Sherman’s March To The Sea

Sherman left Atlanta November 15 on his march to the sea. Along the way, he intended to “make Georgia howl,” letting his men live off the land and burning all they couldn’t take with them. He reached Savannah by Christmas, leaving a 60-mile wide swath of ashes, wrecked railroads and utter destruction behind him. Read more about Sherman’s March To The Sea

In an attempt to pull Sherman back into Tennessee, John Bell Hood swung the Army of Tennessee through upper Alabama and struck north for Nashville. Sherman detached George Thomas and the Army of the Cumberland to deal with him. At the town of Franklin, Hood ordered frontal assaults that after five hours of intense fighting, left his army in tatters; five generals were dead. Hood’s reduced force then besieged Nashville—the most heavily fortified city in America after Washington, D.C. After an ice storm melted, Thomas came out of his works and finished the job of shattering the Confederate army. Its remnants withdrew to Tupelo, Mississippi.

Read More in Civil War Times Magazine

Subscribe online and save nearly 40%!!!

In the spring of 1864, Nathan Bedford Forrest began an expedition that reached Paducah, Kentucky, on the Ohio River before rampaging against Federal installations in West Tennessee. Stories that his men massacred Union soldiers, particularly members of the United States Colored Troops captured at Fort Pillow, a poorly designed Mississippi River fort north of Memphis, gained instant credence in the North, but two official inquiries were unable to reach a conclusion about what had actually happened. At New Johnsonville, Tennessee, Forrest gained the distinction of commanding the only cavalry group ever to defeat gunboats, when they sunk or frightened crews into scuttling four ships.

On the Gulf Coast of Alabama on August 5, Admiral David G. Farragut steamed into the Battle of Mobile Bay with 18 ships. Tradition has it that when he was warned about torpedoes (mines) in the bay he responded, “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” After Farragut’s ships defeated the unfinished ironclad CSS Tennessee, Union infantry captured forts Gaines and Morgan, sealing off the mouth of the bay, but the city of Mobile remained defiant.

By the end of 1864, the Confederacy had nothing left but courage and tenacity. With Lincoln’s re-election, no viable hope remained for a negotiated peace. The smoke rising above Georgia and the thousands of bodies strung out from Nashville to Atlanta to Petersburg and the gates of Washington said there would be no military victory. Legislators of North Carolina pressed Jefferson Davis to make peace before their state suffered Georgia’s fate but to no avail. The South would fight on, no matter cost.


The noose around the Confederacy was strangling it. In mid-January Fort Fisher in North Carolina fell to a combined land and naval force. The port city of Wilmington followed a month later. Sherman’s bummers were advancing north. When they reached South Carolina, where the rebellion had begun, any bit of restraint they may have shown elsewhere was pitched aside. By February 20, the state capital of Columbia was captured; fires destroyed much of the city, but whether they were set deliberately by Sherman’s troops or by retreating Confederates or accidentally by Union soldiers celebrating with too much alcohol has been long debated. Sherman’s men continued on through North Carolina, setting fire to the pine forests that played an important role in the state’s economy. What remained of the Confederate forces, once more under the command of Joseph Johnston, was far too small to stop the juggernaut.

Outside Petersburg, Virginia, Lee launched a costly failed attack against the besiegers’ Fort Steadman on March 25. When Federals under Phil Sheridan captured the crossroads at Five Forks, cutting Lee’s supply line, he withdrew from the Petersburg–Richmond trenches and headed southwest, hoping to link up with Johnston coming up from the south. Before leaving Richmond, the Confederates set fire to the town. On April 9, at Appomattox Courthouse, after discovering Federals had beaten him to a supply cache, he surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Grant. Despite his nickname of “Unconditional Surrender” Grant and his policy of waging total war against the South to end the rebellion, Grant offered generous terms, realizing this surrender would virtually end the war.

Johnston surrendered to Sherman at Bentonville, North Carolina, on April 26. Sherman extended even more generous terms than Grant had but endured the embarrassment of having to go back to Johnston with harsher conditions. Between Lee and Johnston’s surrenders, an event had occurred that reduced the North’s compassion toward their proud, defeated enemies.

Lincoln Assassinated

On the night of April 14, John Wilkes Booth, a staunchly pro-slavery Confederate sympathizer, slipped into the President’s Box at Ford’s Theater in Washington and fired a single bullet into the back of Abraham Lincoln’s head. Lincoln died the next morning, the first American president to be assassinated. Booth was shot weeks later while trying to escape from a barn in Virginia. All those captured who were believed to be his co-conspirators in the plot were hanged, including Mary Surratt, who owned the boarding house where the plotters met.

Jefferson Davis, who had escaped Richmond, was captured in Georgia on May 10 and imprisoned for two years at Fortress Monroe, Virginia, before being released on $100,000 bond.

One after another, the remaining Confederate forces surrendered. Their last army in the field was surrendered by Cherokee Chief Stand Watie in Indian Territory (Oklahoma) on June 23.

The Last Battle

The last land battle, a Confederate victory, occurred May 12–13 at Palmito (or Palmetto) Ranch in south Texas, where word of Lee’s surrender had not yet been received. Far across the Atlantic on November 6, 1865, the sea raider CSS Shenandoah surrendered to a British captain; had the ship’s crew surrendered in America, they risked hanging as pirates.

Read More in America’s Civil War Magazine

Subscribe online and save nearly 40%!!!

On Christmas Day, 1868, President Andrew Johnson issued an amnesty proclamation to all former Confederates, including Jefferson Davis. Only one Confederate was executed, Henry Wirtz, commander of the notorious prison camp at Andersonville. Officially known as Fort Sumter, Andersonville was the largest prison camp in the south and was infamous for its ill treatment of Union prisoners who lacked adequate food and medicine. Southerners have long protested that the death rate in Northern prison camps was higher than that of Andersonville, and Wirtz should not have been punished for war crimes. Learn more about the Andersonville Prison Camp


There were numerous causes that led to the Civil War, many of which developing around the fact that the North was becoming more industrialized while the South remained largely agrarian. Some causes of the Civil War include:

States’ Rights

Missouri Compromise

Dred Scott Decision

John Brown

Abolitionist Movement

Slavery In America

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Underground Railroad

» See A Full List Of Civil War Causes


There were over fifty major land battles and over ten thousand skirmishes, engagements and other military actions fought during the Civil War. The first major battle was the First Battle of Bull Run and the last major battle was Appomattox Courthouse. Major Battles include:

Battle Of Bull Run Battle Of Gettysburg

Battle Of Fredericksburg

Seven Days Battle

Battle Of Petersburg

Battle Of Chickamauga

Battle Of Antietam

Second Battle Of Bull Run

Battle Of Vicksburg

Battle Of Shiloh

Battle Of Atlanta

Battle Of Chancellorsville

Cold Harbor

Appomattox Court House Battle

» See A Full List Of Civil War Battles



Several hundred generals were commissioned during the American Civil War in the Union and Confederate armies. These men led the troops into the battles that would ultimately decide the outcome of the war. Prominent Civil War Generals include:

Confederate Generals


Union Generals:

» See A Full List Of Civil War Generals



Weapons were the instruments of war in the Civil War and often played a critical role in deciding many battles. Great advances came in the rifle, muskets, artillery, cannon and bullets, including the Minie Ball. Weapons used in the Civil War include:

Civil War cannon

Civil War guns

Civil War swords

Minie Ball

» Read more about Civil War Weapons


Women Of The War

Women played an important role in the Civil War, playing the role of authors, as was the case of Harriet Beecher Stowe, abolitionists, civil rights activists, and nurses. Prominent Civil War women include:

Mary Todd Lincoln

Harriet Tubman

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Civil War Nurses

» Read more about Civil War Women



There were two main armies engaged in the Civil War were the Union Army and the Confederate Army. But there were other notable armies within them including the Army of The Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia. Some prominent Civil War armies include:

Union Army

Confederate Army

Army Of The Potomac

Army Of Northern Virginia


Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln was the central figure of the Civil War. His election as President in 1860 on a platform of anti-slavery was a catalyst for southern states’ secession. He led the nation through the troubled years of 1861 until his assassination in 1865, just before the war ended.

» Read more about Abraham Lincoln



The total number of casualties in the Civil War is not known precisely as records were not accurately kept during the era. Most sources put the total casualties on the Union and Confederate sides at between 640,000 and 700,000.

» Read more about Civil War Casualties


Sherman’s March

Sherman’s March to the Sea refers to the Savannah Campaign by General William Tecumseh Sherman which took place November to December, 1864. It is noted not only for its military success but for the sheer destruction inflicted on the south.

» Read more about Sherman’s March


Emancipation Proclamation

The Emancipation Proclamation, was issued by Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863. Delivered soon after the union victory at the battle of Antietam, it freed all slaves in confederate states. The proclamation proved a great motivator for the northern war effort and gave the war a higher purpose.


The Gettysburg Address

The Gettysburg Address, written by Abraham Lincoln and delivered after the battle of Gettysburg at the battlefield, is one of the most famous speeches in American History.

» Read more about The Gettysburg Address



The common soldier of the Civil War varied greatly. Most were farmers, aged 18 to 29. Most were white protestants though African Americans made up roughly 10 percent of the Union army. Most earned 11 dollars per month.

» Read more about Civil War Soldiers



The uniforms for the soldiers of the Civil War are generalized between the blue for the Union and grey for Confederates, but there were many variations depending on location and time period.

» Read more about Civil War Uniforms



The Confederacy is the name commonly given to the Confederate States of American which existed from 1860-1865 throughout the Civil War. It was started when southern states seceded from the Union after the election of Abraham Lincoln. The Confederate President was Jefferson Davis.

» Read more about the Confederacy
» Read more about Jefferson Davis


Slavery In America

Slavery in America started in the early 17th Century with most slaves coming from Africa and being used in agriculture production. By the 18th Century, the Abolitionism movement began in the north and caused a divide between the northern and southern states. This divide came to the forefront with the election of Abraham Lincoln, who ran on an anti-slavery platform.

» Read more about Slavery In America


Civil War Flags

There were many different flags used during the Civil War. On the Union side, there were both 33 star flags and 34 star flags after Kansas was admitted to the Union in 1861. On the Confederate side, there were three national flags as well as the more recognizable confederate battle flag. Additionally, each corps, divisions, brigades, regiments, and even individual companies carried their own unique flags.

» Read more about Civil War Flags


African Americans In The War

African Americans served many roles in the Civil War. In the Union army, over 179,000 African Americans served, with more serving in the Navy and in various support roles. In the Confederacy, African Americans remained slaves and their role was limited mostly to labor positions. Also, figures like Frederick Douglass were active abolitionists before and during the Civil War.



The Reconstruction Period generally refers to the period just after the Civil War, from 1865 to 1877. Reconstruction period was as harsh as the war on the Southern states and that they never fully regained their standing. The period of Reconstruction was important to build equal standing among the states and to regain trust.

» Read more about the Civil War Reconstruction Period

Civil War Articles From History Net Magazines

Articles 1

All Things VicksburgThe Union’s eight-month struggle to conquer Vicksburg, Miss., culminated in a 47-day siege that ended on July 4, 1863—one day after the Federal triumph at Gettysburg. Terrence Winschel, former chief historian at Vicksburg National Military Park, has written nine Civil War books, including Triumph and Defeat: The Vicksburg Campaign, first published in 1999. We recently …
Abraham Lincoln Library and MuseumThe Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum at Lincoln Memorial University houses one of the world's largest collections of artifacts, books, and manuscripts related to the 16th President of the U.S.
Was playwright George H. Booth related to John Wilkes Booth?Tell me about George H. Booth (b. 1840 Chicopee Falls, MA and d. 1927 Madrid, IA): Was he related to John Wilkes Booth? His play, The Drunkard’s Dream, is in the Library of Congress; did he have other published works? Craig Krouch ? ? ? Dear Mr. Krouch, As far as I can determine, George …
‘Civil War: The Untold Story’ – Interview with filmmaker Chris Wheeler'Civil War: The Untold Story' examines the war in the Western Theater. Photo by Justin Koehler Civil War: The Untold Story is a five-hour documentary from Great Divide Pictures, which has produced award-winning historical documentaries such as How the West Was Lost and visitor center films for several Civil War National Parks. Currently scheduled to …
How in the world did they shoot Stonewall Jackson?It’s one of the best-known stories of the Civil War: Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson is accidentally shot by his own men during the Battle of Chancellorsville and then dies a few days later. His death, perhaps, alters the course of the war itself.
‘Saving Lincoln’ – Movie ReviewThe independent film 'Saving Lincoln' is a small, shining gem, a movie with heart and brains about Abraham Lincoln and his friend and bodyguard Ward Hill Lamon.
American Experience: The Abolitionists"American Experience: The Abolitionists" is a compelling, 3-part series on the rise, fracturing, decline, resurgence and ultimate triumph of the movement to make all Americans free.
What If…What if “Stonewall” Jackson had been with the Army of Northern Virginia at Gettysburg? Nathan Bedford Forrest had been given command of an army in the Western Theater? Joseph E. Johnston had not been wounded at Seven Pines on May 31, 1862? Abraham Lincoln had not called for 75,000 volunteers to suppress the rebellion on …
Major General Adelbert Ames: Forgotten Man of the 20th MaineJune Issue Extra: Adelbert Ames preceded Joshua Chamberlain as colonel of the 20th Maine
Emory Upton and the Shaping of the U.S. ArmyHow one soldier’s combat experiences and study of the world's great military powers led to a tactical revolution
MHQ Reviews: Cain at GettysburgHistorynet Image MHQ Home Page Cain at Gettysburg By Ralph Peters. 432 pp. Forge, 2012. $25.99. Reviewed by Noah Andre Trudeau I confess to being a fan of Civil War fiction involving real battles. Over the years I’ve come to recognize three types. One alters some aspect of the engagement that changes the outcome, then …
Union at ShilohA letter from Pvt. William Christie, 1st Minnesota Battery, to his father. Christie’s battery lost three men killed and six men wounded. I supposed you have heard of the great battle on the 6th and 7th of this month. You will be proud to know that we were in the front of the battle, and …
Louisa May Alcott Goes to WarEager to support the North, the budding author volunteered for a fledgling corps of female nurses
A vast rebel conspiracy on the Great LakesA speculative rendering of the Canadian merchant Georgian, by Gregory Proch The Georgian started its life as a merchant steamer, but Confederate agents in Canada had darker plans The quiet streets of Toronto stretched away from Dr. James Bates, disappearing into a darkened maze of brick walls and peaked roofs. He glanced furtively over his …
Ron Maxwell Interview – ‘Gods and Generals’ Extended Director’s CutA HistoryNet exclusive interview with director Ron Maxwell about the extended director's cut of his film Gods and Generals, now available on DVD and Blu-Ray.
Is It MosbyIs this a previously unknown portrait of the Gray Ghost?
The Day New York Tried to SecedeA bird's-eye view of pre-war New York displays the shipping commerce that made the city rich. Image courtesy of Library of Congress. A NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: Because of a production problem, a portion of this article was omitted from the January 2012 issue of America’s Civil War. It follows here in full. During the …
We Are All RebelsA Louisiana youth wages a personal war with the Yankees on his doorstep Aleck Mouton was 10 years old, barefoot and Confederate to the core when he confronted Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks, who had just invaded the tiny south Louisiana town of Vermilionville. One of the first properties Banks’ Union soldiers reached on the morning …
My Thoughts Be BloodyMy Thoughts Be Bloody: The Bitter Rivalry Between Edwin and John Wilkes Booth That Led to an American Tragedy by Nora Titone Free Press, 2010, $30 This new book by first-time author Nora Titone is so intrepidly original in its research and interpretations that intense arguments and heated debates are certain to accompany its inevitable …
Two Virginias Two Civil WarsTwo Virginias, two Civil Wars? The state in the forefront of war remembrance still argues over what happened The state of Virginia has been back in the news, again at war with itself and again over issues relating to the Civil War. On the one hand, the state’s diverse Sesquicentennial Commission masterfully organized its annual …
Camp Misery ExcavationStudents snag chance to probe ‘Camp Misery’ As if the indignity of losing at Fredericksburg were not enough, 100,000 Union soldiers (and 90,000 of their counterparts from the South) settled in to spend the winter along the banks of Virginia’s Rappahannock River at a site that would become known tellingly as Camp Misery. The savage …
The Civil War in the New York TimesThe New York Times Complete Civil War, 1861-1865 Edited by Harold Holzer and Craig L. Symonds Black Dog & Leventhal Publishing, 2010, $40 It is no stretch to say the New York Times was the nation’s most powerful newspaper during the Civil War. The paper’s youthful founder and editor, Henry Jarvis Raymond, had inroads not …
Segways appear at Fredericksburg NMPSegways slipping silently across the battlefield might resemble the charge of the very, very light brigade, but the two-wheel, stand-up scooters could be an ideal way for tourists to inspect hallowed Civil War sites. Beginning in June, the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park offered Segway tours of the Spotsylvania Court House Battlefield, where a …
Antietam RememberedA veteran of Antietam spent his life collecting accounts of the war’s most horrific fighting
What if Lee had been a Yankee?A video giving an opinion of what would have happened had General Robert E. Lee had been a Yankee. To view the video, click here.
Civil War MemoryHarold Holzer explores revisionism and Civil War memory
Soldiering to Citizenship in the Civil WarBecoming American Under Fire: Irish Americans, African Americans, and the Politics of Citizenship During the Civil War Era by Christian G. Samito, Cornell University Press, 2010, $39.95 Christian Samito’s Becoming American Under Fire is a superb study of the expansion of citizenship during the Civil War era. He proves that through active defense of the …
Dred Scott vs. the LawHe signed documents with an “X” and left no known recorded quotes or memoir of his experiences. Yet because of his determination to be free, we know his name: Dred Scott, the intrepid slave who battled an unjust system through a Supreme Court case that shook the United States to its core.Dred Scott. Library of …
Lynchburg Town Song  Lynchburg Town chorus 1: Going down to town, I’m going down to town, Going down to the Lynchburg Town, To take my tobacco down.   chorus 2: Times a-getting hard, Money getting sca’ce, Pay me for them tobacco, boys, And I will leave this place.   Massa had an old gray horse, Took him …
Putting a face on the burden of war: Lincoln Face MorphWorry over a nation torn apart etched itself in the visage of Abraham Lincoln.
The Last Photo of LincolnWhen Abraham Lincoln’s remains arrived in New York City on April 24, 1865, hundreds of thousands of its once-antagonistic citizens gathered to mourn him.
Decision 1864(PLACE CURSOR OVER MCCLELLAN’S AND LINCOLN’S HEADS AND LISTEN) As the war-weary Union anticipated the upcoming presidential election, beleaguered incumbent Abraham Lincoln faced the prospect of losing his office to the man he had fired as commander of the Army of the Potomac less than two years before. Lincoln’s reelection wasn’t the only thing at …
Digging deeply into the earthworks at PetersburgIn the Trenches at Petersburg: Field Fortifications & Confederate Defeat by Earl J. Hess University of North Carolina Press, 2009 New biographies that focus on Civil War–era figures inevitably face the dilemma of how to interpret race, politics and equality in light of our own changing attitudes. No Civil War figure can possibly live up …
Riverside resort threatens Harpers Ferry’s viewshedA developer hoping to build a resort near Harpers Ferry, W.Va., faces several regulatory roadblocks. The developer, Rattling Springs Associates of McLean, Va., has submitted plans for a 50-room lodge and as many as 60 cottages along the banks of the Potomac River, not far from Harpers Ferry National Historical Park and the 19th-century downtown. …
Tennessee town memorializes Nathan B. Forrest’s horseIn the annals of American history, no war has produced as many famous horses as the Civil War: Traveller, Little Sorrel and Rienzi are among the best known, but there are others. Confederate Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, for example, rode several great mounts, including his loyal horse Roderick. At the March 1863 Battle of …
Lincoln Gets BuzzedLooking notably robust near his 56th birthday, Abraham Lincoln sat for this portrait by an un­known photographer around February 1865.
Lincoln or BustAbraham Lincoln posed for several famous photographs at Alexander Gardner’s Washington, D.C., gallery on November 8, 1863: one with his private secretaries John Nicolay and John Hay, and another full-face close-up that showed the steely-eyed president staring directly into the camera. The pictures were taken just 11 days before Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, adding …
Mary Liked the Clean-Shaven LookIn February 1861, longtime Illinois residents Abraham and Mary Lincoln moved their family to Washington, D.C., where the new president took up residence in the war-riven White House armed with a reassuring new image: that of a bearded statesman. Lincoln had begun growing his now-iconic whiskers only weeks after winning the 1860 election.   By …
The Angola Train WreckNearly 50 people died and many more injured in the 1867 train wreck known as the Angola Horror. John D. Rockefeller narrowly missed being one of them.
Timeline: The Abolition of the Slave TradeWilliam Wilberforce waged a long campaign to convince Britain to abolish the slave trade.
British Textiles Clothe the WorldHow did Britain come to dominate the global production of cloth?

By Claire Hopley

Second Battle of Manassas: Union Major General John Pope Was No Match for Robert E. LeeBrash, bombastic John Pope tempted fate by returning to the old battleground at Manassas. He thought he had caught Robert E. Lee napping. He was wrong.
America’s Civil War: Horses and Field ArtilleryWorking side by side with soldiers, horses labored to pull artillery pieces into battle. Without them, field artillery could not have been used to such deadly effect.
Battle of Stones River: Philip Sheridan’s Rise to Millitary FameWhen Braxton Bragg's Confederates swooped down on the Federals at Stones River, only one division stood between the Rebels and calamitous defeat. Fortunately for the Union, that division was commanded by Phil Sheridan.
John C. Calhoun: He Started the Civil WarIf one person could be called the instigator of the Civil War, it was John C. Calhoun -- genius pragmatist, and racist.
Weaponry: The Rifle-Musket and the Minié BallThe Civil War's deadliest weapons were not rapid-fire guns or giant cannon, but the simple rifle-musket and the humble minié ball.
Gas Balloons: View From Above the Civil War BattlefieldLed by pioneering balloonist Thaddeus Lowe, daredevil aeronauts on both sides of the war took to the skies in flimsy balloons to eyeball their opponents' every move. Soldiers on the ground often did not take kindly to the unwanted attention.
Vicksburg: The Campaign That Opened the Mississippi (Book Review)Reviewed by Mike Oppenheim By Michael B. Ballard University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 2004 Popular writers tell us the Confederacy successfully fought off the Union until July 1863. Then came Vicksburg and Gettysburg, after which defeat became inevitable. Meant to satisfy both sides, this traditional view pays too much attention to the stalemate in …

Articles 2

USS Monitor: The Crew Took Great Pride in Serving on the Famous ShipThe crew of Swedish Inventor John Ericsson's Monitor took great pride in serving on the renowned 'cheese box on a raft.'
Battle of Resaca: Botched Union AttackWilliam Tecumseh Sherman waited expectantly to hear that his accomplished young protégé, James B. McPherson, had successfully gotten astride the railroad at Resaca and cut off the Confederate line of retreat. Hours went by with no word from McPherson. What was 'Mac' doing in Snake Creek Gap?
Abraham Lincoln: Tyrant, Hypocrite or Consummate StatesmanThe key to understanding Abraham Lincoln's philosophy of statesmanship is that he always sought the meeting point between what was right in theory and what could be achieved in practice.
Book Review: Bloody Bill Anderson: The Short, Savage Life of a Civil War Guerrilla (by Albert Castel and Thomas Goodrich): CWTBloody Bill Anderson: The Short, Savage Life of a Civil War Guerrilla, by Albert Castel and Thomas Goodrich, Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, 800-732-3669, 192 pages, $24.95. Americans like to think of their Civil War as a gentlemen’s disagreement, remarkably free from the barbarity and senseless killing that characterized revolutions in other parts of the world. …
Book Review: The Union Must Stand: The Civil War Diary of John Quincy Adams Campbell, Fifth Iowa Volunteer Infantry (edited by Mark Grimsley and Todd D. Miller): ACWThe Union Must Stand: The Civil War Diary of John Quincy Adams Campbell, Fifth Iowa Volunteer Infantry, edited by Mark Grimsley and Todd D. Miller, University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, 2000, $38.   The outpouring of Civil War-era diaries and memoirs continues unabated. Fueled by the historiographical trend in recent years of examining the common …
Banners to the Breeze: The Kentucky Campaign, Corinth and Stones River (by Earl J. Hess) : ACWBanners to the Breeze: The Kentucky Campaign, Corinth and Stones River, by Earl J. Hess, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000, $32.   The year 1862 proved critical for Confederate fortunes in the Western theater. It began with a series of disasters, as Union forces penetrated the Confederacy’s defensive network by capturing the river strongholds …

Articles 3

Articles 4

Articles 5

Articles 6

Articles 7

Articles 8

Articles 9

Articles 10

Articles 11