• Photo of cannon at Antietam National Battlefield

    The Civil War


Photo of Confederate President Jefferson Davis

An enormous range of beliefs flowed across the political landscape of pre-Civil War America, and this is reflected in the rise and fall of a dozen different political parties that tried and failed to find a unifying political strategy that would end sectional strife. Only the events of April 12, 1861 would clarify this landscape and politicians of every description welcomed it… at first.

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  • Judah P. Benjamin

    Photo of Judah Benjamin

    A close personal friend of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Judah P. Benjamin served the Confederate cause as its Attorney General, Secretary of War and Secretary of State. Following the surrender of the Confederacy Benjamin fled to England and spent the rest of his life in exile, never returning to the United States. Read more

  • John C. Breckinridge

    Photo of John Breckinridge

    In 1856, John C. Breckinridge became the youngest vice president in U.S. history as the running mate of James Buchanan and four years later he lost the presidency to Abraham Lincoln. Siding with the Confederacy despite his native Kentucky remaining in the Union, Breckinridge rose to the rank of major general and became Confederate Secretary of War during the final weeks of the conflict. Read more

  • John C. Calhoun

    Photo of John Calhoun

    John C. Calhoun was one of the most powerful politicians and political theorists in South Carolina history. Throughout his 40 year career he served as a Congressman, Secretary of War, Senator, Vice President, and Secretary of State. Learn more about how Calhoun's views on slavery and states' rights polarized America and helped in propelling a nation towards civil war. Read more

  • Simon Cameron

    Photo of Simon Cameron

    Lifting himself from humble beginnings as an orphan in Pennsylvania, Simon Cameron would one day become a central voice in the Republican Party and an outspoken opponent to slavery. Read more to find out how one man's political ambitions and desire for power led to freedom for the enslaved. Read more

  • Salmon P. Chase

    Photo of Salmon Chase

    U.S. Senator from Ohio, Governor of Ohio, Treasury Secretary under President Lincoln, and sixth Chief Justice of the United States, Salmon P. Chase was one of the most prominent members of the new Republican Party, warned of the "Slave Power conspiracy" and created the slogan "Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men." Read more