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 26-30 of 52

  • General George McClellan on his horse

    For a Civil War general, a horse could be much more than just transportation and a better view of the battlefield. A brave, dignified mount could be a symbol of authority and inspire the troops almost as much as the man in the saddle. Read more

  • Fort Sumter National Monument

    Robert Small's Journey to Freedom


    In Civil War Charleston, slave Robert Smalls commandeered a Confederate vessel, piloting it to freedom and embarking on a journey that ultimately led him to the halls of Congress. Read more

  • Antietam National Battlefield

    September Suspense

    Photograph of President Lincoln meeting with General McClellan at Antietam

    The Union and the Confederacy during September 1862 Read more

  • Modern photograph of a medicine kit from the Civil War

    When the war began, medical practitioners did not know the exact cause of many diseases or the mechanisms of infection, and were only beginning to understand the benefits of cleanliness and good sanitation in disease prevention and healing. As a result, two out of every three deaths in the Civil War were caused by disease rather than injury. Caregivers like Clara Barton, the "Angel of the Battlefield," brought food and supplies to the soldiers and inspired new hope and life to the injured. Read more

  • Lithograph of Battle of Antietam

    In September 1862 Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee changed the course of the Civil War. By crossing the Potomac River he moved from defending the south and its people to invading northern territory. He hoped that a major victory on Union soil would encourage European recognition of the Confederacy, crush northern morale, and force President Lincoln to sue for peace. As the Union Army of the Potomac scrambled to meet the Southern threat, President Lincoln hoped that Lee's invasion would lead to a U Read more

1 of 11