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The Civil War

America suffered its greatest losses in this conflict involving its own people. While the North and South were bound by a common goal during the American Revolution, the issue of slavery became increasingly divisive, culminating in fracturing relations between the two regions.

Signs of trouble emerged as early as 1820, when the Missouri Compromise attempted to solve permanently the issue of whether or not slavery would be allowed to expand into territories newly acquired by the United States. The subsequent Compromise of 1850 similarly failed to arrive at a satisfactory solution to the issue.

The election of an anti-slavery president, Abraham Lincoln, in 1860, led South Carolina to set the precedent for secession from the Union. Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas quickly followed South Carolina’s example, and the Confederate States of America was formed.

Warfare broke out when federal troops were moved to Fort Sumter, South Carolina, and Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard obeyed orders to fire on the fort on April 12, 1861. Four more states seceded, creating an 11-state Confederacy.

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Over the next five years, Americans would fight Americans in some of the most tragic battles in U.S. history. Early combat resulted in Confederate victories, including Beauregard's defeat of Union General Irvin McDowell at the first battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861. In 1862, Confederate commander Robert E. Lee foiled G.B. Mcclellan's Peninsular Campaign, but in September of that year, Lee's Antietam Campaign was checked by McClellan. The battle would be remembered as the bloodiest day of the war. Lincoln drafted the Emancipation Proclamation soon afterwards, but the year ended with a Union defeat at Fredericksburg on December 13.

The spring of 1863 brought a resounding Confederate victory at Chancellorsville (May 2-4, 1863), but Lee lost his ablest general, "Stonewall" Jackson. Confederate fortunes finally turned for the worse when Lee undertook the disastrous Gettysburg Campaign (June-July 1863).

In the meantime, the Union navy had blockaded the Southern coast, and Admiral D.G. Farragut had captured New Orleans in April 1862. In the West, Grant's victory at Fort Donelson in February 1862 was followed by a drawn-out battle at Shiloh on April 6 and 7.

In the final phases of the war, Grant forced Lee toward Richmond in his Wilderness Campaign (May-June 1864), and besieged Petersburg. Union General William T. Sherman won the Atlanta Campaign (May-September 1864) and led a destructive march through Georgia to the sea. The Confederates evacuated Richmond after P.H. Sheridan's victory at Five Forks on April 1, 1865. All his escape routes cut off, Lee was forced to surrender to Grant at Appomattox on April 9, 1865. The Union had only enjoyed victory for a few days when President Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, but the Union had been preserved, and the seceded states were readmitted after a period of Reconstruction.

All told, over 600,000 individuals lost their lives by the time the Confederates surrendered in 1865. Although slavery was abolished and the Union was restored, the Civil War's legacy, and issues of racial inequality, continue to haunt the United States.
West Point Atlas

Find detailed maps of important Civil War locations and events.

Eastern Theater
Western Theater


Commemoration of this pivotal battle includes, articles, photos and links to related resources. History Archive
Peruse biographies of some of this war's famous participants. Discussions
Chat with others about the Civil War.

Veterans Stories
Read first-hand accounts from actual participants in the war.

Civil War Movies
Visit the Marketplace for a full selection.

Museums and Memorials
Find contact information for Civil War museums across the nation.


Related Links

Civil War @
Purchase merchandise and read about the conflict between the states.
Project provides a detailed chronology with images, information on the culture, historical remnants, and pertinent documents.

This Week in the Civil War
Presents the events of the war in a digestible weekly format.

America's Civil War
The University of the South presents varied interpretations of the war and features period schematics for some of the major engagements.

Rutgers University Libraries
Resource covers the battles and the people of the war, and offers comprehensive links to other sites.

Making of America
Cornell University offers access to the official war records of the era.

United States Civil War Center - Offers a comprehensive and organized directory of nearly six thousand links.

Civil War Home Page - Locate photos, documents, and letters from the war, in addition to information on reenactments and historical bed-and-breakfasts.

National Archives and Records Administration
Search a database of documents, maps and other archival collections related to the Civil War.
Resource offers recipes and cooking techniques of the soldiers, excerpts from the Columbia encyclopedia, and overviews of the major battles and key participants.

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