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Confederacy

Information, Summary and Articles about the Confederate States during the American Civil War

Confederacy Facts

Confederate States

South Carolina
Mississippi
Florida
Alabama
Georgia
Louisiana
Texas
Virginia
Arkansas
Tennessee
North Carolina

Confederacy President

Jefferson Davis
Vice President: Alexander Stephens

Conferate Capital

Montgomery, Alabama (to May 1861)
Richmond, Virginia (May 1861-1865)

Confederacy Articles

Explore articles from the History Net archives about Confederacy

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The Confederacy, when used within or in reference to North America, generally means the Confederate States of America. It is also called the Southern Confederacy and refers to 11 states that renounced their existing agreement with others of the United States in 1860–1861 and attempted to establish a new nation in which the authority of the central government would be strictly limited and the institution of slavery would be protected. Secession from the existing Union led to the American Civil War, a bloody, four-year struggle that left much of the South in ashes and ended its hope of creating a new confederacy of states on the North American continent.

Differences Between North and South

For at least three decades leading up to the schism the northern and southern regions of the United States had been growing farther apart. The North became increasingly industrialized and found a ready source of inexpensive labor in the swarms of European immigrants, particularly the Irish and Germans who came in large numbers during the potato famine in those countries. The North was more inclined toward having the federal government pay all or part of the costs of internal improvements such as canals, railroads, and lighthouses.

The South remained primarily agrarian and its large farms, or plantations, depended predominately on slave labor. It opposed federal money being spent for internal improvements because at the time tariffs were the primary source of federal income. High tariffs protected the industrial goods of the North but not the cotton and tobacco of the South, where the tariffs only raised the cost of imported goods Southerners depended on.

The slave-holding states of the South drew closer to each other and farther from their Northern brethren. They feared that if slavery were not permitted to expand into new territories acquired by the United States, the South and its concerns would lose political power in the nation’s capital. A new political party, the Republicans, wanted to prevent the spread of slavery beyond where it existed, and many Republicans were radical abolitionists hoping to end slavery everywhere in America. The election of Republican Abraham Lincoln to the presidency and the success of his party in the 1860 election was the catalyst that led Southern states to carry out what they had long threatened to do—leave the Union.

The Confederacy Established

South Carolina was the first to secede, on December 20, 1860, followed by Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas. On February 8, 1861, representatives of those states announced the formation of the Confederate States of America, with its capital at Montgomery, Alabama. Jefferson Davis of Mississippi—a Mexican War hero and former secretary of war—was chosen as president. His vice president was Alexander Stephens of Georgia, who had served in the U.S. House of Representatives.

After Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to suppress the Southern rebellion, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia also seceded and joined the Confederacy, except for 48 counties of western Virginia that broke away and formed the Union-loyal state of West Virginia. Non-states affiliated with the Confederacy were the Confederate Territory of Arizona and members of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory (Oklahoma). Once Virginia joined the Confederacy, the national government was transferred to the city of Richmond there.

The Confederate Constitution

The constitution of the Confederacy adopted March 11, 1861, was based on that of the United States—was, in fact, virtually the same document in most respects and often used the same language verbatim—but included provisions that specifically addressed some of the issues that had led to the North–South schism.

Among the differences, the president would serve a single, six-year term, rather than four years with the possibility of succeeding himself, and would have the power of line-item veto that would allow him to strike portions of bills passed by Congress while approving the rest of the bill. Members of the cabinet would be made non-voting members of Congress.

States’ Rights

To insure the rights of the individual states would take precedence over the power of the central government, the Confederate government could not levy protective tariffs; direct and capitation taxes and taxes on exports were restricted. The ability to make internal improvements was limited to matters regarding ports and harbors, lighthouses, and dredging rivers. The government of the Confederacy could not overrule the decisions of state courts. No consensus was ever reached about creating a Supreme Court or what form it would take, so none was ever established.

The states were permitted to maintain their own armies. They were given greater ability to amend the national constitution.

Treason would "consist only in levying war against (the Confederate States), or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort."

Slavery in the Confederate Constitution

Article IX, Section 4 prohibited any law "denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves"; sections 1 and 2 prohibited "The importation of negroes of the African race from any foreign country other than the slaveholding States or Territories of the United States of America" and gave the Congress power to prohibit "the introduction of slaves from any State not a member of, or Territory not belonging to, this Confederacy."

Article IV guaranteed the right of citizens to travel with their slaves and other property without risk of having their right of ownership impaired. No slave or other person held in service could become free as a result of escaping to another state. Any new territories were required to recognize slavery "as it now exists in the Confederate States." Many Southerners expected to conquer and colonize Cuba and other states of the Caribbean and Central America.

Effects of the Confederate Constitution

By limiting the power of the central government, the founders of the Confederacy also limited its ability to make war. States could refuse use of their militia to the Confederate government and sometimes did if they felt the men were needed for defense at home. The constitution also severely restricted the government’s ability to raise money, a situation made more acute by the expense of war. Inflation soared, resulting in "bread riots" in many places, including the capital of Richmond.

On April 2, 1865, that capital fell to Union forces. President Davis and his cabinet fled with the treasury; he intended to reestablish the government west of the Mississippi, but on May 10 he was captured near Irwinville, Georgia.

The Confederacy had lasted barely four years. Whether it could have ultimately been successful had it won the war or if there had been no war is questionable. Even within its brief lifetime, some states of the Confederacy were already threatening to secede from it over dissatisfaction with the Davis Administration.


 

Articles Featuring Confederacy From History Net Magazines

Coming Apart From the Inside: How Internal Strife Brought Down the Confederacy

By David J. Eicher

Jefferson Davis sat in his second-floor study in the Confederate White House in Richmond and stared blankly into the adjacent room. For all the hard work he had put in managing the war and difficult and disagreeable colleagues, disaster still seemed to be in the offing that fall of 1861. The papers on his desk didn’t help his mood; they simply reminded him of a score of arguments about to bubble over between his generals and bureau chiefs and the icy reception with which he had recently been met by the Confederate Congress.

Jefferson Davis faced a staggering challenge: How was he to forge a true nation that could wage war against the United States from a bickering hodge-podge of states that favored keeping their own identity and whose representatives seemed to take delight in challenging his every idea?

For more than a century the politicians and generals on the Confederate side have been lionized as noble warriors who heroically fought for an honorable cause that had little chance of succeeding. In reality, the Confederate leadership was rife with infighting. Davis argued with the Confederate House and Senate, state governors and his own cabinet. Senators threatened one another with physical violence. Some were brutal drunks, others hopeless idealists who would not bend even when it meant the difference between victory and defeat. Commanders were often assigned not on the basis of skill but because of personal connections.

Debates over such issues as whether the Confederacy needed a Supreme Court dragged on, squandering time that would have been better spent on making sure the troops were well fed. Davis frequently interfered with generals in the field, micromanaging their campaigns and playing favorites, ignoring the chain of command and placing trust in men who were utterly incompetent.

Some states, led by their governors, wanted to set themselves up as separate nations, further undermining a unified war effort. Tensions were so extreme that the vice president of the Confederacy refused to live in the same state as Davis—and this while they were trying to win a war.

Davis knew his political existence and those of his colleagues had been built on the concept of states’ rights. To have a chance at winning the war, however, he needed sweeping administrative and military central powers. The Confed-erate States of America needed to act as one.

The internal war between Davis and Congress erupted quickly. On Nov-ember 8, 1861, Davis’ war clerk, John B. Jones, wrote in his diary, “No Executive had ever such cordial and unanimous support.” By the summer of 1862, however, he reported “murmurs” against the president. Secretary of the Navy Stephen Mallory remarked in August how Congress seemed unhappy with Davis and that a “spirit of opposition” was growing. Meanwhile, South?Carolina Senator Lawrence Keitt openly termed Davis “a failure.”

Field officers also joined in the attacks against Davis. Robert A. Toombs, a Georgia politician who had briefly served as Davis’ secretary of state, was now a brigadier general hoping to win the war by killing Yankees rather than arguing in Richmond. He frequently shared his frustrations with fellow Georgian Alexander H. Stephens, the vice president, including comments like, “As [to] the assignment of Smith’s regiment, [Secretary of State Judah P.] Benjamin wrote me that the President instructed him to suggest to me to call Genl. [Joseph E.] Johnston’s attention to it; that he was commander of both corps of the army. I replied to Benj[amin] that I had good reasons to know that fact, ‘and in common with the army, not without reasons to lament it.’ I never knew as incompetent [an] executive officer. As he has been to West Point, tho’, I suppose he necessarily knows everything about it. We are doing nothing here, and will do nothing. The army is dying….Set this down in your book, and set down opposite to it its epitaph, ‘died of West Point.’ ”

A week later, Toombs turned his ire more directly toward the president. “Davis is here,” he confided to Stephens. “His generals are fooling [him] about the strength of our force in order to shield their inactivity. [Davis] talks of activity on the Potomac but I fear he does not feel it strong enough to move this inert mass.”

Colonel Thomas W.?Thomas of the 15th?Georgia also derided Davis, writing that “Pres. Davis was up the other day and reviewed about 12,000 troops at Fairfax Court House. There was not a single cheer, even when some one in the crowd among the staff called out for three cheers there was not a single response, everything was as cold as funeral meats.”

The volatile issue of conscription soon shattered relations between Davis, Congress and the state governors. Virginia Governor John Letcher declared conscription “the most alarming stride towards consolidation that has ever occurred,” but conceeded he would not fight Davis because the alternative would be ruin. Not so Georgia Governor Joe Brown, who believed that the draft was a measure aimed at destroying the states. “If the State Regiments are broken up, and the conscripts belonging to them forced into other organizations against their consent,” Brown told Davis, “it will have a very discouraging effect….This Act, not only disorganizes the military system of all the States, but consolidates almost the entire military system of the State in the Confederate Executive, with the appointment of the officers of the militia, and enables him at his pleasure, to cripple or destroy the civil government of each State, by arresting, and carrying into the Confederate Service, the officers charged by the State Constitution.”

Davis was incensed. “I have received your letter,” he wrote Brown, “informing me of your transfer of the Georgia State troops to General [Alexander] Lawton commanding Confederate forces at Savannah suggesting that there be as little interference as possible on the part of the Confederate authorities with the present organization of those troops….Interference with the present organization of companies, squadrons, battalions, or regiments tendered by Governors of States, is specially disclaimed.” So began a bitter fight.

Davis never knew where or when the next divisive issue would pop up. Governer Henry Rector of Arkansas fueled the Confederacy’s internal problems, for example, when he wanted to pull his state away from the Confederacy in the summer of 1862. His state would not, Rector declared in a proclamation, “remain a confederate State, desolated as a wilderness.”

Rector threatened to build “a new ark and launch it on new waters, seeking a haven somewhere, of equality, safety, and rest.” Responding to Rector’s proclamation, Governor Francis Lubbock of Texas wrote the president, reassuring him as best he could that support would come from the Deep South. “This is no time for bickerings, heart-burnings, and divisions among a people struggling for existence as a free Government,” Lubbock wrote.

The issue persisted throughout that year, and Davis lectured Congress at the beginning of 1863 that “You can best devise the means for establishing that entire cooperation of the Sate and central governments which is essential to the well-being of both….”

His admonition fell on deaf ears, for on February 5, 1863, the Senate heard a proposed amendment to the Confederate constitution that would allow an aggrieved state to secede from the Confederacy. “It shall do so in peace,” read the proposal, “but shall be entitled to its pro rata share of property and be liable for its pro rata share of public debt to be determined by negotiation.” The plan was referred to the Judicial Committee. Two days later senators failed to recommend the amendment, and the idea was dropped as being too dangerous.

Sickly Vice President Alexander Stephens was another snake in the grass Davis had to deal with. Early in the war, Stephens had returned to his home in Crawfordville Ga., to conspire and orchestrate a campaign against the president. “What is wanting in Richmond is ‘brains,’ Howell Cobb, a Georgia general officer who had been president of the Confederate Provisional Congress and a likely candidate for Davis’ job, wrote to the vice president. “I did not find the temper and disposition of Congress as bad as I expected, but there is a lamentable want of brains and good sound common sense.”

Lawrence Keitt wrote his wife that he had heard “Toombs is on the stump in Geo., and is arraigning Davis in a terrible manner.” He added: “I have always feared the divisions, which I saw would spring up among us. You cannot have liason—connexion [sic]—unity—among a planting community. Too many Revolutions have shipwrecked upon internal division. This Revolution proves that canonized imbecility is but a straw before the wrath of masses—it seems to be a law of humanity that generation after generation must rescue its liberties from the insidious grasp of a foe without or within. In our case, we have to seize them from both foes—we have a worthless government, and are reduced to the humiliation of acknowledging it, because we cannot, with safety, shake it.”

In early 1864, senators introduced a bill to use blacks in the military, opening up another avenue of internal debate. The bill was referred to committee, and by order of the Senate leadership the committee was discharged from considering the bill on February 5. Meanwhile, in the House, William Porcher Miles, chairman of the Military Affairs Committee, reported that he believed the act to employ slaves and free blacks would increase the army by 40,000 men. John Baldwin of Virginia wanted to exempt any free blacks engaged in food production, particularly in the Shenandoah Valley.

Ethelbert Barksdale of Mississippi objected, saying that free blacks “are a blot upon our [cause], and pernicious to our slave population….[Baldwin] says to the free negro, you shall not bear the burdens of this war—while [the white citizen] must take his place in the army.” After further argument and slight massaging of the language, the bill was passed. A discussion about whether or not African Americans would in fact be armed and whether slaves would be emancipated in compensation, like so many other thorny policy and military decisions the South needed to make, was deferred.

By May 1864, with a Union army driving into the Wilderness, members of Congress were thrown into a near panic, and legislators introduced a flurry of contradictory resolutions, amendments and joint agreements. Some members resolved that a congressional company be formed to go out and join the fight. Others wanted to evacuate Richmond and move the government to a place of safety. In opposition to that, a number of congressmen argued that the public needed to be kept calm, and a formal declaration should be passed that stated there was absolutely no danger.

A clutch of harried congressmen pressed to exempt those over 50 from service, a proviso that would have included many Congressmen. Another contingent of lawmakers conversely argued that everyone available would be needed to defend Richmond.

Still others took the floor to suggest that no time existed to refer any response to the Military Affairs Committee, which would only delay any action, or that Congress should rely on the president to tell it what it should do. The Confederacy’s leaders were going round and round in debate while Ulysses S. Grant and the Army of the Potomac pounded deeper into Virginia and William T. Sherman’s legions continued to drive on Atlanta.

To make matters worse for the Southern cause that hot summer, the loyalty of state governors to the cause seemed to be splintering. The greatest trouble was growing in Georgia, where the disenchanted Stephens had set up camp.

The vice president had a friendship, not surprisingly, with a cranky anti-administration newspaper editor, Henry Cleveland, who ran the Augusta Constitutionalist. The two struck up a long, detailed correspondence in which they openly discussed what they perceived as the president’s incompetence and what ought to be done about it.

The two men also discussed the idea of a peace conference. They believed such an event could wrest responsibility for conduct of the war from the hands of Davis and restore tranquility to the beleaguered South.

On June 8, Cleveland wrote Stephens: “Since my second letter to you, I have received your last, and confess that I did suppose you had hope of terms from Lincoln. For my self (from reasons I will some day give you) I am satisfied that the States can to day get terms and good terms, but Mr. Davis never can.” Continued Cleveland, “No human power can change Mr. Davis, and consequently, no human power can save the Confederacy from war and speeches. I am satisfied that the immediate secession of Georgia from the Confederate States would be the best thing we could do, and am equally satisfied that nine-tenths of the people of Georgia will follow the lead of the Administration, until our cause is beyond the hand of resurrection….The Stars and Stripes will float over the Government works in Augusta before a year expires, and Mr. Davis be dead or in exile….To win this fight, under this Administration, would be a result without a reason—an effect without a cause. Is this treason? I am afraid you will think so, but it is difficult to look back at all we have suffered, and see blood and life and desperate valor thrown away, and still think calmly.”

Local politics and business intervened to muzzle Cleveland’s public discontent. “A letter from Henry Cleveland informs me that the majority of the stock of the Constitutionalist is now owned by Administration men,” wrote Georgia Governor Joe Brown, a fellow conspirator, “and that he will be obliged to change his course, keep silent, or be ousted. Could not enough of the stock be purchased to control and keep the paper on the right lines?”

Despite the shift, more and more Southerners picked up on an increasing and tangled web of conspiracy in Georgia. “Our Vice President is a dangerous man,” Brig. Gen. Thomas C. Hindman wrote his friend Louis Wigfall, a powerful anti-Davis senator, “the more so because of his stealthy policy and his bogus reputation for fairness and honesty. I consider him the head of a faction that is ready to betray the Confederacy and sell the blood of the Army. ‘Crushing him out’ is doing God’s service.”

In Richmond, meanwhile, the second session of the Second Congress of the Confederate States of America began on November 7, 1864. On that day Davis sent a long message to Congress covering many urgent points that needed to be faced. In many ways it was a last attempt for turnaround and cooperation on a variety of issues that the president felt were sinking the Confederacy if left unresolved. But Congress failed to act decisively on nearly every one of them.

The Confederacy was on its last legs as 1865 began. Siege operations around Petersburg ground on, sapping the remaining resources and supplies that could be brought to bear against the Union army. General John Bell Hood’s disastrous campaign in Tennessee had effectively eliminated the Army of Tennessee from further meaningful service in the war. A combined Federal Army and Navy operation was closing in on Wilmington, N.C., the last open Confederate port, and the Lincoln administration had decisively won the election.

The Confederate Congress finally decided to act, doing something of which Davis disapproved—developing peace proposals. As early as January 12, the House passed a resolution to send a peace commission to Washington. The next day Davis reported to the House that an old nemesis, Congressman Henry Foote of Tennessee, with whom Davis had nearly once dueled, had been arrested on his way to Washington. Foote had been detained at Occoquan, Va., while trying to cross the lines on a private peace mission to the Yankee capital. A special committee was appointed to investigate Foote, and it expelled him from the house.

Once the war all but ended in April, the turmoil that had kept the Confederacy continually unsettled was missing from many histories written by Southern politicians and generals. Few wanted to face up to the fact that internal strife had contributed to the Confederacy’s ruin. Soon after the Confederate surrender, Southern historians began massaging the political facts to make their leaders look better.

Those revisionists included Davis himself, who even changed the notes of his wartime secretary, Burton Harrison. Davis reworked the claim that he had been “among the keenest and most sagacious of them all in his endeavour to precipitate secession upon the country” to “in his assertion of the rights of the States under the Constitution and of the right of Secession—although the records of Congress show that he cherished the utmost devotion to the Union and consistently opposed extremists of all parties who were endeavouring to precipitate actual secession.”

In his first inaugural address, Davis said he was “prophesyzing [sic] peace, but threatened that the enemies of the South would be compelled to ‘smell Southern powder, and feel Southern steel.’” He slightly altered that declaration after the war by saying that he was expressing a desire to maintain peaceful relations with the states that had remained in the Union and was asserting that all the seceding states desired was “to be let alone.” The threat that they would make the enemies of the South “smell Southern powder and feel Southern steel” would occur only if war were forced upon them.

Davis’ postwar embellishments described a harmonious environment that never existed and ignored the bitter squabbles that took place among those who needed to cooperate in order for the Confederacy to succeed. The roll call included men such as Alexander Stephens, Henry Foote and Robert Toombs—Southern leaders who held the principles of states’ rights and slavery higher than the existence of their own creation, the Confederate States of America.


This article was written by David J. Eicher and originally published in the January 2008 issue of Civil War Times Magazine. For more great articles, subscribe to Civil War Times magazine today!

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Nicholas Biddle:The Civil War's First BloodJust days after Fort Sumter, a pro-Confederate mob in Maryland turned ex-slave Nicholas Biddle into the war's first casualty.
Decision 1864:Hawks vs. Doves—Sound Familiar?The Democratic and Republican platforms are highlighted in the presidential race of 1864.
Stumbling in Sherman's PathStandard histories of Major General William T. Sherman’s celebrated March to the Sea invariably portray the Confederacy’s response as inconsequential. Such broad generalizations may assuage wounded Southern pride, but they also rewrite history.
The 9 Lives of General John Brown GordonIndestructible Confederate general John B. Gordon survived multiple wounds and serious illnesses during the Civil War. From First Manassas to Appomattox, he proved nothing could keep a good man down.
Field Guide Vicksburg: Gibraltar of the ConfederacyTake a photographic tour of the National Military Park at Vicksburg, Mississippi, with this collection of photos of monuments and terrain at the "Confederate Gibraltar."
Reimaginining the SouthA Southerner learns the skeleton in her family closet wore a coat of Union blue.
Daniel Sickles: An Unlikely Union GeneralThe Civil War salvaged Dan Sickles' career and saved him from financial ruin.
USS Galena: De-evolution of a WarshipThe ironclad USS Galena failed to live up to its "impervious" reputation and ended its career as a wooden-walled warship, but it saved lives at the Battle of Mobile Bay.
Grenade!: The Little-Known Weapon of the Civil WarGrenades were used in the Civil War from Vicksburg to Petersburg, but they were often as dangerous to their users as to their targets.
America's Civil War: Arming the South With Guns From the NorthConfederate battlefield victories depended in part on supplies of Northern weapons, particularly early in the war. William J. Hardee and Paul J. Semmes were sent North to procure those guns.
At Washington's Gates: Jubal Early's Chance to Take the CapitolIn July 1864, Lt. Gen. Jubal Early led a Confederate army to the gates of Washington. What stopped him from capturing the Northern capital and its president, Abraham Lincoln?
American Indian Sharpshooters at the Battle of the Crater

Lieutenant Freeman S. Bowley was fighting for his life in the man-made hellhole that was the Petersburg Crater when he noticed that the former slaves in his company of the 30th United States Colored Troops were not the only men …

General Bragg's Impossible Dream: Take KentuckyThe 1862 invasion of Kentucky had great promise, but disappointing results.

By Frank van der Linden

USS Monitor: A Cheesebox on a RaftSwedish-born John Ericsson's fight to get the U.S. Navy to accept his "cheesebox-on-a-raft" design for ironclads was almost as tough as the resulting duel between the Monitor and the Virginia (Merrimac).
America's Civil War: Colonel Benjamin Grierson's Cavalry Raid in 1863Colonel Grierson, who led the raid, lacked the flair of Confederate counterparts like J.E.B. Stuart, but his intelligence and creativity made him an excellent leader. After his raid succeeded, illustrators for Northern newspapers like Harper's Weekly gave him a dashing image to match his accomplishments.

By Bruce J. Dinges

America's Civil War: Little Round Top RegimentsRenowned for their valorous stand at Gettysburg, the Little Round Top Regiments saw many more days of combat, glory and horror before the Civil War ended.
Battle of Santa Rosa IslandWhen Confederate troops set out to retaliate against Union soldiers at Fort Pickens, they began a comedy of errors that was played out in the sand dunes of Santa Rosa Island. The stakes were no laughing matter -- control of the port city of Pensacola.

By Gary R. Rice

America's Civil War: The Fall of RichmondWhile Jefferson Davis and his stunned Cabinet crowded onto a refugee-jammed train, thousands of less exalted Richmond residents wandered the fire-reddened streets of the capital.

By Ken Bivin

America's Civil War: Expedition to Destroy Dismal Swamp CanalEager to improve the regiment's somewhat tarnished reputation, Colonel Rush Hawkins' 9th New York Zouaves set off through North Carolina's Dismal Swamp to attack the canal at South Mills. What followed was not exactly what Hawkins had in mind.

By Joseph F. von Deck

Battle of WaynesboroughAt Waynesborough, Georgia, Fighting Joe Wheeler's Rebels get a rough time from a very unlikely foe -- Brig. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick.

By Angela Lee

Battle of Peachtree CreekNear the sluggish creek on the outskirts of Atlanta, new Confederate commander John Bell Hood struck the first 'manly blow' for Atlanta,living up to his lifelong reputation as a fighter--but accomplishing little. It would be a bad omen for all Hood's subsequent campaigns.

By Phil Noblitt

Battle of Pea RidgeConfederate General Earl Van Dorn expected to march breezily through Missouri, capture St. Louis and fall on Ulysses S. Grant in Tennessee. But at Elkhorn Tavern in northern Arkansas, an outnumbered Union force had other ideas.

Battle of Dinwiddie Court HouseUlysses S. Grant sent his trusted cavalry commander Phil Sheridan to flank Robert E. Lee out of Petersburg. The crossroads hamlet of Dinwiddie Court House soon became the focal point for one of the most pivotal cavalry battles of the war.

By Mark J. Crawford

Battle of Cold HarborNot until World War I would so many men die in so little time. Why didn't Northerners hear about Grant's botched battle of Cold Harbor?

By David E. Long

James Longstreet: Robert E. Lee's Most Valuable Soldier

The words resonate through Confederate history like an unwelcome truth. As General Robert E. Lee made preparations for an assault on the center of the Union line at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863, his senior subordinate, Lieutenant General James Longstreet, …

Battle of Shiloh: Shattering MythsEvents that have been distorted or enhanced by veterans and early battlefield administrators have become part of the accepted story of the April 1862 battle -- until now. Case in point: The Sunken Road wasn't.
Battle of Fisher's HillGeneral George Crook's flank attack at Fisher's Hill swept down on the Rebel left like a force of nature.
Siege Of Corinth By Henry Halleck in 1862For one Union general -- Henry Halleck -- the march into Mississippi continued straight on to Washington.
Ephraim Dodd: An American Civil War Union PrisonerShould a Texas Ranger expect justice or death from his Union captors?
Thomas A. Botts: An American Civil War Confederate PrisonerConfederates who survived the harsh conditions of Elmira Prison looked back fondly on one fellow inmate who did not: a good-natured man with an odd sense of style and a nickname to match.
CSS Albemarle: Confederate Ironclad in the American Civil WarAn unstoppable confederate war machine -- Albemarle -- finally meets its match against Union raiders.
Champ Ferguson: An American Civil War Rebel GuerrillaWhen Rebel guerrilla Champ Ferguson showed up at your house, you could be sure of one thing: you were about to die.
Rufus Pettit: American Civil War Union Prison InspectorUnion prison inspector Rufus Pettit had ways of making people talk--even innocent people.
Baltimore & Ohio Railroad: The Union's Most Important Supply LineThe Baltimore & Ohio Railroad survived numerous hardships of the Civil War in its service to the Union.
USS Indianola: Union Ironclad in the American Civil WarThe powerful Union ironclad Indianola was jinxed from the start--poor design and bad morale made the vessel an accident waiting to happen. Near Vicksburg, she ultimately fulfilled her ill-starred destiny.
Confederacy's Canadian Mission: Spies Across the BorderStealing secrets and causing trouble, Rebel spies in Canada waged a risky underground war across the Union's northern frontier.
Ely Parker: Iroquois Chief and Union OfficerA lifelong friend and trusted aide of Ulysses S. Grant, Ely Parker rose to the top in two worlds, that of his native Seneca Indian tribe and the white man's world at large. Through the Civil War and Reconstruction he strove to serve both worlds as best he could.
Account Of The Battle of ChickamaugaOverconfident and overextended, the Union Army of the Cumberland advanced into the deep woods of northwest Georgia. Waiting Confederates did not intend for them to leave. At Chickamauga Creek, the two sides collided.
American Civil War: The New Bern RaidJohn Wood's swashbucklers set out to seize a Union fleet.
American Civil War: The 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry RegimentThe Twenty-Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment included two future presidents and an Army Commander.
Lew Wallace's American Civil War CareerLong before he published Ben-Hur, Lew Wallace rose from a career as an obscure small-town Indiana lawyer to take a prominent role in the Civil War.
Battle of Palmetto Ranch: American Civil War's Final BattleUnion Colonel Theodore H. Barrett gave the dying Confederacy the satisfaction of one last victory.
Battle of Sailor's CreekThe April 6, 1865 Battle of Sailor's Creek constituted one of the darkest days in the Army of Northern Virginia's history.
America's Civil War: Images of Peace at AppomattoxEvery picture tells a different story about Lee's surrender.
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 Antietam: Taking Rohrbach Bridge at Antietam CreekWhile Union commander George McClellan fumed and the Battle of Antietam hung in the balance, a handful of Rebels held off Federal troops at 'Burnside Bridge.'
Battle of Champion's HillWith Ulysses S. Grant's army steadily menacing Vicksburg, Confederate General John Pemberton left the town's comforting defenses to seek out the enemy army. Too late, he found it, at Champion's Hill.

America's Civil War: Union Soldiers Hanged in North CarolinaEight months after Major General George E. Pickett led his famous charge, he hanged Union prisoners in North Carolina.
Battle of Shiloh: The Devil's Own DayAt a small Methodist meeting house in southwestern Tennessee, Union and Confederate armies met for a 'must-win' battle in the spring of 1862. No one, however, expected the bloodbath that ensued. It was, said General William Sherman, 'the Devil's own day.'
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.
J.E.B. Stuart's RevengeA stolen hat and wounded pride spurred Southern cavalryman J.E.B. Stuart into action. His vengeance would be swift, daring, and--unexpectedly--funny.
Union General Judson KilpatrickUnion General Judson Kilpatrick was flamboyant, reckless, tempestuous, and even licentious. In some respects he made other beaux sabreurs like fellow-cavalrymen George Custer and J. E. B. Stuart seem dull.
Battle of Wilson's CreekThe Battle of Wilson's Creek helped to keep a critical border state out of the Confederacy.
Father John B. Tabb: Aboard Confederate Blockade RunnersFather John B. Tabb, an unreconstructed Rebel to the end, had served the Confederacy aboard blockade runners.
Battle of Ball's BluffConfederate soldiers drove inexperienced Union troops acting on faulty intelligence into the Potomac River like lemmings.
Brigadier General Thomas F. MeagherBrigadier General Thomas F. Meagher, the colorful leader of the Irish Brigade, fought many battles--not all of them with the enemy.
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.
'The Birth of a Nation': When Hollywood Glorified the KKKNinety years after its first screening and 100 years after the publication of the novel that inspired it, D.W. Griffith's motion picture continues to be lauded for its cinematographic excellence and vilified for its racist content. The film came from Griffith's personal vision, and as such it reflected the strengths and weaknesses of the man himself.
America's Civil War: Guerrilla Leader William Clarke Quantrill's Last Raid in KentuckyWhen Confederate fortunes plummeted in Missouri, fearsome guerrilla leader William Clarke Quantrill and his band of hardened killers headed east to terrorize Union soldiers and civilians in Kentucky. It would be Quantrill's last hurrah.
Firebrand in a Powder Keg: Nathaniel Lyon in St. LouisWhen secession fever threatened Missouri, a hotheaded gesture by a Yankee touched off riots but helped keep the state in the Union.
America's Civil War: Front Royal Was the Key to the Shenandoah ValleyThe pretty little town of Front Royal, in the Shenandoah Valley, had a strategic value that belied its size. As Stonewall Jackson knew, it was the key to the valley, the state of Virginia and the war itself.
America's Civil War: Pre-dawn Assault on Fort StedmanLed by select groups of sharpshooters, the weary, muddy troops of the Army of Northern Virginia made one last desperate push to break out of Petersburg.
An Eyewitness Account of the Evacuation of Richmond During the American Civil WarConfederate express agent James P. Hawkins got caught up in the evacuation of Richmond.
Immortal 600: Prisoners Under Fire at Charleston Harbor During the American Civil WarKnowingly exposing helpless prisoners to artillery fire seems unconscionable. War, however, has a way of fostering inhumane behavior.
Major General George Stoneman Led the Last American Civil War Cavalry RaidEven as General Robert E. Lee was surrendering at Appomattox, a vengeful Union cavalry horde led by Maj. Gen. George Stoneman made Southern civilians pay dearly for the war. It was a last brutal lesson in the concept of total warfare.
Lieutenant Colonel Horace C. Porter: Eyewitness to the Surrender at AppomattoxLieutenant Colonel Horace C. Porter provides a firsthand account of Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House in April 1865.
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.
37th North Carolina Infantry Regiment in the American Civil WarThe service of the 37th North Carolina epitomized the grit and determination of Tar Heel fighters.
America's Civil War: Louisiana Native GuardsThe black and mixed-race troops of the Louisiana Native Guards offered to serve both South and North.
Battle of Gettysburg: Fighting at Little Round TopThe Battle of Gettysburg, and perhaps the fate of the Union, was decided in one hour of desperate fighting on the rocky ledges of Little Round Top.
Life at West Point of Future Professional American Civil War OfficersWhether they spent their energy studying or sneaking off to Benny Havens's tavern, the future professional officers of the Civil War left West Point with enough stories for a lifetime -- and an enduring common bond.
First Battle of Bull Run: The U.S MarinesWith hordes of eager Confederates gathering at Manassas, panicky Union commanders massed whatever forces they could in the nation's capital. Among those answering the call were the U.S. Marines. Manassas, however, would not be one of their shining moments.

Captain George S. Blake Saved the USS Constitution'Old Ironsides,' flagship of the U.S. Navy, beats a hasty retreat in the face of secessionist plots.
Sullivan Ballou: The Macabre Fate of a American Civil War MajorMajor Sullivan Ballou gained fame for the poignant letter he wrote to his wife before the First Battle of Bull Run. Not so well known is that after he was mortally wounded in that fight, Confederates dug up, decapitated and burned his body.
Eyewitness to America's Civil War: William W. PattesonTeenager William W. Patteson fled his Virginia farm and fought at the Battle of Cedar Mountain.
Dr. Samuel A. MuddWhen John Wilkes Booth knocked on Samuel Mudd's front door, he knew who was going answer.
America's Civil War: Union General Phil Sheridan's ScoutsCivil War Union General Phil Sheridan put together a group of daring scouts who wore Rebel uniforms and captured Confederate irregulars, dispatches and generals.
America's Civil War: John Mosby and George Custer Clash in the Shenandoah ValleyWhen Civil War's John Singleton Mosby's Partisan Rangers clashed with George A. Custer's Union Cavalry, the niceties of war were the first casualty. Reprisal and counter reprisal became the order of the day.
Battle of Chickamauga: Union Regulars Desperate StandCivil War Brigadier General John King's disciplined brigade of Union Regulars found itself tested as never before at Chickamauga. For two bloody days, the Regulars dashed from one endangered spot to another, seeking to save their army from annihilation.
John Hill Hewitt: Dixie's Original One-Man BandJohn Hill Hewitt did it all. He played three instruments. He penned poems and essays, and staged theater productions. And he churned out one hit tune after another.
Harry Macarthy: The Bob Hope of the ConfederacyHe could make tired soldiers laugh, and his 'Bonnie Blue Flag' churned southern audiences into a frenzy. That was why Harry Macarthy was loved from one end of the confederacy to the other.
Madame Loreta Janeta Velazquez: Heroine or HoaxerMadame Loreta Janeta Velazquez wrote a controversial memoir disclosing her activities as a double agent and brave soldier during the Civil War.
America's Civil War: Digging to Victory at VicksburgTo the armies at Vicksburg, picks, shovels and manual labor proved as valuable as bullets and bombshells.
America's Civil War: Struggle for St. LouisThe dark clouds of civil war gathered over the nation as two aggressive factions -- the Wide-Awakes and the Minutemen -- plotted to gain political control of Missouri and its most important city, St. Louis. As is often the case, political power began at the end of a gun.
Battle of Kernstown: Stonewall Jackson's Only DefeatA furious Stonewall Jackson watched impotently as his proud Confederates stumbled down the hillside at Kernstown, Va. 'Give them the bayonet,' Jackson implored -- but no one obeyed.
Second Battle of Winchester: Richard Ewell Takes CommandOne month after Stonewall Jackson's death at Chancellorsville, Robert E. Lee turned to Stonewall's trusted lieutenant, Richard Ewell, to cover his invasion of the North. Was 'Old Bald Head' up to the challenge?
Battle of VicksburgUlysses S. Grant thought his formidable Army of the Tennessee could take Vicksburg from a 'beaten' foe by direct assault. He was wrong, thanks to near-impregnable fortifications, renewed Southern spirit, and surprisingly suspect Northern generalship.
America's Civil War: Missouri and KansasFor half a decade before the Civil War, residents of the neighboring states of Missouri and Kansas waged their own civil war. It was a conflict whose scars were a long time in healing.
America's Civil War: Battle for KentuckyIt had been almost one month since Confederate General Braxton Bragg had pulled off an organizational masterpiece--four weeks since the first troop trains had rumbled into Chattanooga, Tennessee, completing an improbable 800-mile odyssey.
Abraham Lincoln: Deciding the Fate of 300 Indians Convicted of War Crimes in Minnesota's Great Sioux UprisingEven as the Civil War intensified, President Abraham Lincoln faced the aftereffects of a bloody Indian war in Minnesota. More than 300 men faced execution, but the death sentences required the president's approval.
Battle of Waynesboro: Jubal Early and Phil Sheridan Meet For the Last TimeWith his once-formidable army reduced to a mere shadow of its former self, Confederate General Jubal Early pulled up at Waynesboro to face his old nemesis, Phil Sheridan, for the last time.
The Dahlgren Papers RevisitedThe mystery surrounding documents detailing a Union plan to murder Jefferson Davis is put to rest by historian Stephen W. Sears.
America's Civil War: Rebel's Stand at Drewry's BluffWhile Union Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan's Army of the Potomac slowly advanced on Richmond in May 1862, the Union Navy made its own play to seize the Confederate capital.
Grierson's Raid During the Vicksburg CampaignU.S. Grant, bogged down outside Vicksburg, needed a diversion to ease his way. He got just that from a music teacher turned cavalryman--one who hated horses, at that.
General Barlow and General Gordon Meet on Blocher's KnollOn July 1, 1863, two generals, one badly wounded, allegedly met. The veracity of that encounter, now part of Civil War lore, has long been debated.
Billy Yank and Johnny Reb: On the Road to AtlantaBell Irvin Wiley -- the late dean of common-soldier studies -- works his storytelling magic in this 1964 profile of the extraordinary men who grappled for Georgia's key city.
Who Was the Common Soldier of America's Civil WarCommon Soldier of the Civil War. Here's what the statistics tell us.

 

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