• Photo of cannon at Antietam National Battlefield

    The Civil War


The Civil War touched every person and influenced every institution more profoundly than any other event in American history. Over half a million young Americans gave their lives fighting for or against the effort by Southern states to secede from the Union and preserve a society based on slave labor. Not only were civilians deeply scarred by the war, but no aspect of society, economy, or political system was spared.

  • John Steuart Curry's

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    Bleeding Kansas

    Bloodshed In the Kansas Territory Link

  • Photo of the clock tower at Michigan State University, the nation's first land grant college.

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    Abraham Lincoln and the West

    Westward, Ho! Link

  • President Lincoln is surrounded by a number of his generals, including Scott, McClellan, Meade, Grant and Sheridan,

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    Abraham Lincoln: The War Years 1861-1865

    Leadership in the Darkest Days Link

  • Painting of Union gunboats shelling Fort Donelson on February 14, 1862

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    Severing the Confederate Artery

    Union Success Along the Cumberland River Link

  • A close-up photo of the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial, with Shaw on horseback accomapnying his 54th Massachusetts Infantry.

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    The Robert Gould Shaw Memorial

    Sacrifice Memorialized Link

  • Photo of a prairie homestead.

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    The Homestead Act

    Free soil! Free land! Link

  • Painting of the Irish Brigade assault at the Battle of Fredericksburg, December 13, 1862

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    Irish Soldiers in the Union Army

    From one contested land to another Link

  • Wartime photo of Chimborazo Hospital

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    Chimborazo Hospital

    The Hospital on the Hill Link

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  • Photo of slave with large scars on his back from repeated whippings


    The Civil War culminated 80 years of sectional tension over economic policies, the reach of the Federal government and, most importantly, the role of slavery in American society.

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  • Painting showing troops attacking during the Battle of Shiloh

    The Military Experience

    Strategy, tactics, technology, and humanity were all tools for winning the battles of the Civil War.

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  • Painting of Gen. William T. Sherman overseeing his troops tear up railroad tracks while a nearby building burns.

    The Changing War

    The Civil War wasn’t just a military effort but a social, economic, and political revolution.

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  • Ornate lithograph with picture of Abraham Lincoln, U.S. flags and the text of the Emancipation Proclamation

    Emancipation and the Quest for Freedom

    The abolition of slavery became one of the primary objectives of the Union’s Civil War efforts.

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  • Color print of Union troops attacking during the Battle of Fredericksburg; painting by Don Troiani, www.historicalartprints.com

    Ethnicity, Race, and the Military

    Soldiers of color in the North and several distinct immigrant groups on both sides played significant roles during the Civil War.

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  • Painting of a woman reading to a wounded soldier in the hospital

    Women Amidst War

    The Civil War represents an important step forward in American society’s view of the role of women.

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  • A woman, her slave and a Confederate soldier under fire in Vicksburg, Miss.

    The Civilian Experience

    Civilians started out as mere spectators to the Civil War, but as it dragged on, became unwilling participants and victims.

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  • Wartime photograph of Tredegar Ironworks in Richmond, Va.

    Industry and Economics

    A dramatic indication to the world of America’s future economic potential, both sides mobilized industry to an unprecedented degree during the Civil War.

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  • Painting of John Brown and the clashing of pro- and anti-slaver forces in pre-war Kansas; courtesy Kansas State Historical Society

    The Ordeal of the Border States

    The existence of divided populations in Border States had a profound impact on both the Union and Confederate strategy – both political and military.

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  • Painting showing the driving of the final spike in the Pacific Railroad

    The War and Westward Movement

    Both native tribes and the Confederacy saw the Civil War as a chance to claim land west of the Mississippi, prompting the Union to respond with various measures.

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  • Color engraving of elderly African American man casting a ballot in an election


    The Civil War initiated immense changes that redefined both the nature of American society and acted as a point of departure for a struggle for equal civil and human rights.

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  • Modern painting of Robert E. Lee signing surrender at Appomattox while Ulysses S. Grant watches


    The post-Civil War years were a struggle over the meaning of freedom, with Northerners, Southerners and formerly enslaved people adopting divergent views.

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  • Modern photograph of monument at Antietam National Battlefield

    Reconciliation, Commemoration, and Preservation

    The way Americans remember, preserve and commemorate the Civil War has evolved over time.

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  • Wartime photograph of the Dunker Church on the Antietam battlefield.

    Death and Dying

    With cumulative deaths exceeding 620,000, the somber aftermath of Civil War battles introduced Americans – North and South – to death on an unprecedented scale.

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  • Photo of National Guard escorting African American student into Little Rock Central High School

    Civil War to Civil Rights

    Although a huge achievement, emancipation was only the starting point of the African American quest for true equal rights.

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