The Military Experience

Painting of Union troops attacking Confederate Fort Gregg near Petersburg, Va.

The battles and campaigns of the Civil War were waged over four years across a front spanning 2,000 miles. Leaders on both sides improvised and innovated, trying to achieve a decisive battlefield victory. New technologies forced changes in tactics that evolved warfare and transformed the experience of soldiers in the field and navies on the waters.

Despite the massive military effort and the innovations on both sides, ultimately it became clear that the Civil War would not be settled on the battlefield alone. Military victories could not resolve a conflict between two sides mobilized against one another politically, socially, philosophically, economically, and emotionally.

Showing results 21-25 of 70

  • Slave family seated in front of their house

    Although the abolition of slavery emerged as a dominant objective of the Union war effort, most Northerners embraced abolition as a practical measure rather than a moral cause. The war resolved legally and constitutionally the single most important moral question that afflicted the nascent republic, an issue that prevented the country from coalescing around a shared vision of freedom, equality, morality, and nationhood. Read more

  • Gulf Islands National Seashore

    Exceeding Expectations

    Photo of African American soldier

    During the fight for freedom, African American soldiers were forced to deal with discrimination on a regular basis. For no other reason than possessing a different skin color, these men were perceived to be inferior troops. Yet over several fierce fights, men such as the Louisiana Native Guard proved their worth. Read more

  • Fort Scott National Historic Site

    Forgotten Warriors

    Painting of Creek Chief Opotheyehala

    During the Civil War, Native Americans that enlisted in the United States Army found themselves the subject of discrimination. Yet through bravery, pride, and determination these individuals not only fought to earn the respect of their white compatriots, but to protect their homeland. Read more

  • Fort Monroe National Monument

    Fort Monroe and the "Contrabands of War"

    Wartime print of Fort Monroe

    In the early months of the Civil War, slaves were fleeing to Union lines seeking freedom but emancipation was not yet a stated war aim of President Lincoln. At Fort Monroe, General Benjamin Butler came up with a creative solution to this difficult situation. Read more

  • Fort Smith National Historic Site

    Fort Smith's United States Colored Troops

    Presentation of colors to the 20th United States Colored Infantry

    Although African-Americans served in every previous American war, it was through the decisions of specific commanders. In a controversial move, the War Department called for all Union commanders to receive black soldiers into the Union forces. This official action led to the formation of the 11th Regiment United States Colored Troops, among others, in the fall of 1863. Read more

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