• Photo of cannon at Antietam National Battlefield

    The Civil War

The Civilian Experience

of Gettysburg resident looking at Lutheran Theological Seminary.

After being mere spectators at the war's early battles, civilians in the war zone later would become unwilling participants and victims of the war's expanding scope and horror.

In response to the hardships imposed upon their fellow citizens by the war, governments and civilians on both sides mobilized to provide comfort, encouragement, and materiel goods. On the other hand, the Confederate government failed almost completely to care for the families of its soldiers.

Stories from The Civilian Experience

Showing results 11-15 of 16

  • Homestead National Monument of America

    The Homestead Act

    Poster promoting western lands

    Signed into law by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, the Homestead Act encouraged westward migration and settlement by providing 160-acre tracts of land west of the Mississippi at little cost, in return for a promise to improve the land. Read more

  • Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine

    The Pratt Street Riot

    Frank Leslie's Illustrated print of the Pratt Street Riot

    The April 19, 1861 riots in Baltimore showed the country how divided the border states were and strengthened Union resolve to save the capital from secessionists. Many prints and newspaper depictions of the event, varying greatly in accuracy, rolled off Northern printing presses. Read more

  • Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park

    Walt Whitman at Chatham

    Photo of Walt Whitman

    Walt Whitman, one of America's greatest poets of the 19th century, came to Fredericksburg's Chatham Manor to search for his wounded brother in the aftermath of the Battle of Fredericksburg. The wounded men he encountered changed him profoundly and led him to serve as a nurse for the remainder of the war. Read more

  • War to the Hilt

    Photo of Union troops at Arlington House

    The Civil War ushered in a new era of warfare in which the effects of war were felt beyond the battlefield, including confiscation of civilians' personal property, holding prisoners for strategic purposes, and scorched earth military policy. Read more

  • Women Amidst War

    Photo of women at a house on the Cedar Mountain battlefield

    The extreme demands of wartime industry and the loss of traditional family breadwinners to military service caused hardship, but also presented opportunities to women for employment, volunteerism, and activism that previously had been unavailable to them. While many of these gains would be temporary, the Civil War nonetheless represents an important step forward in American society's view of the role of women. Women were increasingly seen (and saw themselves) as the foundation of the respective war efforts-sustainers of the will to fight - or to desert. Read more