The Civil War grew out of longstanding tensions and disagreements about American life and politics. For more than 80 years, people in the Northern and Southern states had been debating the issues that ultimately led to war: economic policies and practices, cultural values, the extent and reach of the Federal government, and, most importantly, the role of slavery within American society.
Against the backdrop of these larger issues, individual soldiers had their own reasons for fighting. Their motivations often included a complex mix of personal, social, economic and political values that didn't necessarily match the aims expressed by their respective governments.
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Lincoln Home National Historic Site
When the South decided to secede from the Union on the eve of the Civil War in 1860, perhaps no political figure was more adamant than Abraham Lincoln himself about why this was dangerous - not just for America, but the world. Read more
Wilson's Creek National Battlefield
Local residents of the Wilson's Creek, Missouri area in 1861 were a microcosm of the divided nation, bringing with them different backgrounds and beliefs about slavery and Union. For example, John Ray and his wife, Roxanna, whose farm would be in the midst of the battle, were slave owning Southerners, though they supported the Union. Read more
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Following the controversial Compromise of 1850, which admitted California to the union as a free state, politics were intense and heated. Pro-slavery State Supreme Court Judge Terry and staunch anti-slavery candidate Senator Broderick took their disagreement beyond words. Two shots fired, one man dead, two causes continued to battle. Read more