Reconciliation, Commemoration, and Preservation

Turn of the century post card showing elderly Union and Confederate veterans in uniform, draped in United States flag.

In the wake of the bloodiest, most destructive war of the century, the North and South sought political and cultural reconciliation. Soldiers on both sides sought to reconcile with former enemies by recognizing and commemorating their shared sacrifice. The Reconstruction-era goal of equality for Americans of color was largely abandoned by white Americans.

The varied efforts at commemoration and preservation by succeeding generations illustrate society's evolving values and views on the Civil War.

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  • Petersburg National Battlefield

    A Nation's Need - Poplar Grove National Cemetery

    Photo of Poplar Grove National Cemetery, with flags decorating graves for Memorial Day

    After the Battle of Petersburg the dead were buried in shallow graves, most without grave markers. One year after the war ends a National Cemetery was established so that those Union soldiers who fell in the battle may be properly honored. Read more

  • Antietam National Battlefield

    Antietam National Cemetery

    Photo of Antietam National Cemetery in the fall

    Following the Battle of Antietam in 1862, there were few cemeteries to inter the dead. Shallow graves were dug to quickly bury the remains of the battle, yet a permanent solution was needed. The result was Antietam National Cemetery, the final resting place for United States troops that had fallen during the Maryland Campaign. Read more

  • Woodcut image of an African American male slave in chains

    The Civil War culminated eighty years of sectional tensions - tensions begot at various times and places by debate over economic policies and practices, cultural values, the extent and reach of the Federal government, but, most importantly, the role of slavery within an American society striving for identity and economic strength on the world stage. Read more

  • Photo of freshly buried marked and unmarked graves near Petersburg, Va.

    The somber aftermath of Civil War battles introduced Americans--North and South--to death on an unprecedented scale and of an unnatural kind, often ending in an unmarked grave far from home. Neither individuals, nor institutions, nor governments were prepared to deal with death on such a massive scale, for never before or since have we killed so many of our own. The Civil War revolutionized the American military's approach to caring for the dead, leading to our modern culture of reverence for military death. Read more

  • Photo of Daniel Chester French at work in his studio, with his sculpture of the seated Abraham Lincoln in the background

    From the design of the memorial to the artwork and sculpture displayed within its wall, the Lincoln Memorial reveals America's esteem for Abraham Lincoln and its grief at this premature death. Read more

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