The American Civil War

The cornerstone of the American Civil War was laid with the Constitution after the Declaration of Independence, when Member States were given the decision to uphold slavery itself. So the country divided into a negative north and a practicing south. When Abraham Lincoln became a person who wanted to abolish slavery across the United States, tensions erupted and led to the most lucrative war on American soil.





When the constitution of the new United States of America was drafted in 1787, it was left to the member states themselves whether they continued to allow or abolish slavery. As a result, the seven northern states abolished slavery, and the six southern states, which had their economic focus on cotton, tobacco, and sugar cane production and thus relied on slave labor, continued to maintain slavery.

At the time of the admission of further states, attention was also paid to whether they retained slavery or not. The Southerners feared over time that the balance between advocates and opponents would be unfavorable. Especially in 1857, when the Supreme Court declared the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which was intended to regulate the balance between advocates and opponents, as unconstitutional, and finally, in 1860, Abraham Lincoln elected a president who wanted to abolish slavery, the southern states began to move from the north separate. A war now seemed the only way to unify the United States.


Konföderierten Flagge

Confederate flag


Nordstaaten Flagge

Northern States flag




The beginning of the war:

With the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln and his political idea to abolish slavery completely, the southern states began to separate from the north. The first country that left the Union was South Carolina on December 20, 1860. In early 1861, ten more states followed the exit and joined the Confederation with Richmond, in Virginia, as the capital city. The election as President of the new Confederation won Jefferson Davis.


Abraham Lincoln, der damalige Präsident der Vereinigten Staaten

Abraham Lincoln, the then President of the United States


Jefferson Davis, Präsident der Konföderierten Staaten

Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States


Even before the war, the situation was unbalanced. The northern states together had a population of around 23 million, and the south population was just over 9 million, including nearly 3 million slaves. Economically and structurally, the south was clearly inferior to the north. Since at the time of the division, the US Army was only 16,000 strong and this army now also divided between the two states, both sides had to build a new force from volunteers and the respective militias of the member states.

The first shots of the Civil War fell on April 12, 1861, when Confederate units fired at Union fort Sumter in South Carolina. As a result, the Union began to use its ships to blockade the Confederate port cities.

Already at the beginning of the war, the Commander in Chief of the Union Army urged a quick push on the Confederate capital Richmond, which is just 160 kilometers south of Washington D.C. was. The leadership for this company was given to General Irvin McDowell, who marched south with his inexperienced soldiers. In July 1861, he met for the first time on a hastily built Confederate army between the River Bull Run and the knot Manassas. Although the Union troops had the surprise effect on their side, but the soldiers of the Confederate organized under the leadership of Colonel Thomas J. Jackson quickly the defense, so no breakthrough was possible. The counter-attack pushed the Union troops back and Jackson was promoted to General.

Until 1862, further battles by the military leadership of the Union showed that this war was not to be won as quickly as hoped. As the advance on Richmond came to a standstill in recent months, the Union opened a second front in the west under the leadership of Ulysses S. Grant. Through his offensive he succeeded in a short time to conquer some forts of the Confederates, also capitulated to the city of Nashville. When Grant was waiting with his soldiers at Shiloh for the approaching Ohio army to reinforce his army, Confederate General Albert S. Johnston attacked on April 6, 1862. Although Grant could be pushed back first, but when the Ohio Army arrived at night, he could launch a counter-offensive and drive out the Confederate Army. After the victory at Shiloh control of the important Mississippi fell to the Union.

After the advance of the Union troops on the East Coast was brought to a halt by Virginia on Richmond, came in the second half of 1862 again movement in the front, as the Confederate General Robert E. Lee first a new offensive of the Unio army under General George B. McClellan in defended the "seven-day battle" and won another victory in the second Battle of Bull Run. After the victory, Lee planned to push his army north. Although McClellan learned of the planned invasion to the north, but he reacted too slowly, leaving enough time for Lee to regroup his troops behind the river Antietam in Maryland. When the two armies met on September 17, 1862, McClellan hesitated again and did not deploy his entire troop, but held back about 20,000 in reserve. Although he could win the battle, but it was not possible for him to destroy the Confederate army, also Lee could withdraw the next day with his remaining army. McClellan's army alone lost around 12,000 soldiers during this battle.

After his defeat, General Lee had to give up his offensive to the north, but also an offensive of the Union troops on Richmond in December was repulsed. This did not succeed in getting any side in Virginia the upper hand.


Commanders of the Union Army:



Commanders of the Confederate Army:



Politische Übersicht der Staaten im Bürgerkrieg

Political overview of the states in the civil war




The strengthening of the northern states:

After two years of war, neither the Union nor the Confederation had a decisive breakthrough. As the commanders began to realize that a quick victory was no longer in sight, both sides embarked on a long war of attrition.

In order to replenish its troops with fresh soldiers, on January 1, 1863, the President of the Northern States, Abraham Lincoln, issued the Declaration of Emancipation, in which all slaves, including those living in the southern states, were declared free. By this decree his troops could be increased by another 200,000 volunteers, although the black soldiers were paid less and could not be raised to the rank of officer.


Schwarze Soldaten der Unionsarmee

Black soldiers of the Union Army


The first campaign in the second half of the civil war was launched by Confederate General Lee, who wished to carry the war to the northern territories. He marched on with his troops in Pennsylvania and was able to win a great victory over the Northern Army on the way to Chancellorsville. After 2 months, however, his offensive was ended at the 3-day Battle of Gettysburg. At the same time, after a long siege, the Union was able to take over the city of Vicksburg on the Mississippi River, interrupting supplies to Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas.

In the course of the year 1863, the personal and economic superiority of the northern states slowly became apparent. The naval blockade of the Union warships stopped imports and exports from the southern states, which had their economic focus on trade.


Karte des amerikanischen Bürgerkrieg

Map of the American Civil War


In March 1864 the decision should finally be made. Union General Grant put forward a plan to invade the Eastern Army to Virginia and attack the Southern Army of General Lee. Meanwhile, the West Army was supposed to push southeast out of Tennessee toward Georgia and encircle the South in a pincer motion. Lincoln agreed to the plan and also issued the instructions that no prisoner exchange should be carried out to bleed the staff of the Southern personnel and that the war must be conducted with all necessary severity. The character of the battles in this way changed dramatically towards the end of the Civil War, as open battles between the armies were less, the civilian casualties increased and entire cities were razed to the ground according to the principle of scorched earth.

In May 1864 began the offensive of the northern states. The Virginia campaign was associated with heavy losses on both sides. Despite the victories of the Union Army at Wilderness and Spotsyvania and in June at Cold Harbor, the lines of the Southern Army could not be broken. General Grant now swung his troops around the Confederate capital of Richmond, crossed the River James and wanted to attack the city from the south. However, Confederate troops, who entrenched themselves in Petersburg, confronted him. It began a 9-month siege.

The campaign was better in the West under the leadership of General Sherman, who was able to take Atlanta with his Union troops in August. After Lincoln's decree before the offensive, he left his soldiers heading east from Georgia eastward for an 80-kilometer-long strip of devastation. He then sent his troops back north to encircle the Confederate armies.

The danger of encirclement led Confederate General Lee to withdraw his troops from Petersburg, refrained from defending Richmond and wanted to unite his soldiers with the remaining ones who were already fighting in North Carolina against the Sherman Union forces. But he had left with his retreat for too long time, so that the Union troops conquered on April 2, 1865 Petersburg, took a day later Richmond and his troops to follow suit.

On April 8, 1865, the Union and Confederate troops clashed at Appomattox Court House. General Lee saw the hopelessness of the fight and capitulated with his troops. This ended the civil war.


Infografik Unabhängigkeitskrieg und Bürgerkrieg

Infographic War of Independence and Civil War




Consequences of war:

The consequences of the war were severe for both sides. The northern states had about 360,000 fallen soldiers, the southern states about 258,000. In addition, the already weak economy of the southern states had completely collapsed, many cities and businesses had been destroyed.

The southern states were occupied by troops of the Union, public offices were no longer allowed to be executed by leading Confederates. The soldiers of the Southern Army had to swear their oath of allegiance now to the Union.

The Declaration of Emancipation, issued on January 1, 1863 by Abraham Lincoln, was included as the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. The 14th Amendment, which allowed former slaves American citizenship from 1868, also became a major criterion for re-admission to the Union, which had to be recognized by the Southern States.

5 days after the capitulation of the Southern States, Abraham Lincoln was killed by a fanatical supporter of the Confederation on April 15, 1865 in a theater in Washington by a headshot.




Interesting to know:
The American Civil War was the first conflict that was almost completely accompanied by the new technology of photography and film technology.

After the war, the secret society of the KuKluxKlan developed in the former Confederate states. He initially hunted down entrepreneurs from the northern states, whom they accused of wanting to profit from the defeat of the South. In addition, they acted with extreme brutality against blacks, mainly in the southern states. The federal government still exists today.






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The Civil War Trilogy Box Set

The Civil War Trilogy Box Set: With American Homer: Reflections on Shelby Foote and His Classic The Civil War: A Narrative (Modern Library) Slp Har/Pa Edition

On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, the Modern Library publishes Shelby Foote’s three-volume masterpiece in a new boxed set including three hardcovers and a new trade paperback, American Homer: Reflections on Shelby Foote and His Classic Civil War: A Narrative, edited by and with an introduction from Pulitzer Prize winner Jon Meacham and including essays by Michael Beschloss, Ken Burns, Annette Gordon-Reed, and others.

Random House publisher Bennett Cerf commissioned southern novelist Shelby Foote to write a short, one-volume history of the American Civil War. Thirty years and a million and a half words later—every word having been written out longhand with nib pens dipped into ink—Foote published the third and final volume of what has become the classic narrative of that epic war.

As he approached the end of the final volume, Foote recounted this scene in a letter to his friend, the novelist Walker Percy: “I killed Lincoln last week—Saturday, at noon. While I was doing it (he had his chest arched up, holding his last breath to let it out) some halfassed doctor came to the door with vols I and II under his arm, wanting me to autograph them for his son for Xmas. I was in such a state of shock, I not only let him in; I even signed the goddam books, a thing I seldom do. Then I turned back and killed him and had Stanton say, ‘Now he belongs to the ages.’ A strange feeling, though. I have another 70-odd pages to go, and I have a fear they’ll be like Hamlet with Hamlet left out. Christ, what a man. It’s been a great thing getting to know him as he was, rather than as he has come to be—a sort of TV image of himself, with a ghost alongside.”

When Percy read the final book, he wrote to Foote: “It’s a noble work. I’m still staggered by the size of the achievement. . . . It is The Iliad.”

A selection of these letters, along with essays by Jon Meacham, Michael Beschloss, Ken Burns, Annette Gordon-Reed, Michael Eric Dyson, Julia Reed, Robert Loomis, Donald Graham, John M. McCardell, Jr., and Jay Tolson, are included in American Homer, the bonus paperback book available only in the Modern Library boxed set of The Civil War. 

Shelby Foote’s tremendous, sweeping narrative of the most fascinating conflict in our history—a war that lasted four long, bitter years, an experience more profound and meaningful than any other the American people have ever lived through—begins with Jefferson Davis’s resignation from the United States Senate and Abraham Lincoln’s departure from Springfield for the national capital. It is these two leaders, whose lives continually touch on the great chain of events throughout the story, who are only the first of scores of exciting personalities that in effect make The Civil Wara multiple biography set against the crisis of an age.

Four years later, Lincoln’s second inaugural sets the seal, invoking “charity for all” on the Eve of Five Forks and the Grant-Lee race for Appomattox. Here is the dust and stench of war, a sort of Twilight of the Gods. The epilogue is Lincoln in his grave, and Davis in his postwar existence—“Lucifer in Starlight.” So ends a unique achievement—already recognized as one of the finest histories ever fashioned by an American—a narrative that re-creates on a vast and brilliant canvas the events and personalities of an American epic: the Civil War.

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Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era

Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era 1st Edition

Filled with fresh interpretations and information, puncturing old myths and challenging new ones, Battle Cry of Freedom will unquestionably become the standard one-volume history of the Civil War.

James McPherson's fast-paced narrative fully integrates the political, social, and military events that crowded the two decades from the outbreak of one war in Mexico to the ending of another at Appomattox. Packed with drama and analytical insight, the book vividly recounts the momentous episodes that preceded the Civil War--the Dred Scott decision, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry--and then moves into a masterful chronicle of the war itself--the battles, the strategic maneuvering on both sides, the politics, and the personalities. Particularly notable are McPherson's new views on such matters as the slavery expansion issue in the 1850s, the origins of the Republican Party, the causes of secession, internal dissent and anti-war opposition in the North and the South, and the reasons for the Union's victory.

The book's title refers to the sentiments that informed both the Northern and Southern views of the conflict: the South seceded in the name of that freedom of self-determination and self-government for which their fathers had fought in 1776, while the North stood fast in defense of the Union founded by those fathers as the bulwark of American liberty. Eventually, the North had to grapple with the underlying cause of the war--slavery--and adopt a policy of emancipation as a second war aim. This "new birth of freedom," as Lincoln called it, constitutes the proudest legacy of America's bloodiest conflict.

This authoritative volume makes sense of that vast and confusing "second American Revolution" we call the Civil War, a war that transformed a nation and expanded our heritage of liberty.

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The Civil War: A Visual History

The Civil War: A Visual History Hardcover – March 21, 2011

Produced with the Smithsonian Institution and released in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of the start of the war, The Civil War is the definitive visual history to one of the most defining moments in our country's history.

Comprehensive timelines, revealing first-person accounts by soldiers and civilians, key political and military leaders, as well as examinations of broader topics, such as transportation, the economy, and the treatment of wounded soldiers, make The Civil War a must-have for anyone interested in the history of the Civil War.

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The American War: A History of the Civil War Era

The American War: A History of the Civil War Era 1st Edition

In The American War, renowned historians Gary W. Gallagher and Joan Waugh provide a fresh examination of the Civil War, its aftermath, and enduring memory in a masterful work that prize-winning historian William C. Davis calls, “easily the best one-volume assessment of the Civil War to date.”

Nothing had prepared Americans for the fury that ensued when eleven slaveholding states seceded and formed the Confederacy in 1860-1861. Four years of fighting claimed more than 1.4 million casualties, directly affected the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians, and freed four million enslaved black people. The durability of the Union was confirmed, and the social and economic system based on slavery lay in ruins.

By investigating this crucial period through the eyes of civilians, celebrated leaders, and citizen soldiers, readers interested in the Civil War era will gain a profound understanding of the dramatic events, personalities, and social and economic processes that caused the war, enabled the Union to prevail, and forever transformed the United States. It also will help readers understand why, more than 150 years after Appomattox, it remains impossible to grasp the larger sweep of U.S. history without coming to terms with the American War.

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