• Photo of cannon at Antietam National Battlefield

    The Civil War

The Military Experience

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.

Stories from The Military Experience

Showing results 6-10 of 51

  • Abraham Lincoln: The War Years 1861-1865

    Abraham Lincoln and General George McClellan following the Battle of Antietam

    No president up to that point in American history was called on to be commander-in-chief like Abraham Lincoln. From monitoring the War Department telegraph office to selecting of commanding generals and developing military strategy, Lincoln guided the nation through its darkest hour. Read more

  • African Americans at the Siege of Petersburg

    Photo of United States Colored Troops at review in Washington, D.C.

    Petersburg, Virginia was a major supply hub for the Confederacy during the Civil War. Interestingly, half the population of this city, whose rail lines would prove so essential to the survival of Richmond, was comprised of both free African Americans and slaves. As the war closed in on this community, these individuals would play a critical role. Read more

  • Fort Davis National Historic Site

    African Americans in the Frontier Army

     Painting showing African American soldiers in New Mexico in the 1870s

    Following the Civil War, permanent African American regiments were constructed in the United States Army. Although segregated due to race, these regiments served with honor and distinction, and helped to tame the Wild West. Read more

  • An Innovative Technology of War

    Union signal station on Antietam battlefield

    Among the technical innovations to come out of the Civil War were advancements in the methods the armies had to communicate among themselves. Signal flags, torches and rockets were used to pass along messages and reconnaissance, while codes and ciphers ensured that the messages wouldn't be intercepted and read by the enemy. Read more

  • Born of Earnest Struggle

    Photograph of unnamed Union African American troops

    When the Civil War began President Lincoln's primary concern was preventing the fracturing of the nation. But in 1862, with a shaky northern economy, fading optimism for victory, and growing fears of foreign intervention, Lincoln began to see freeing the slaves, not as a constitutional dilemma or a moral choice, but as a way of regaining momentum in the war. Read more