Engraving of a slave being whipped.

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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