Stories

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.

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

    Causes

    The Civil War culminated 80 years of sectional tension over economic policies, the reach of the Federal government and...

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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. 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 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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  • Union troops attacking during the Battle of Fredericksburg; by Don Troiani, 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...

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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...

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  • Painting of John Brown; 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...

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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...

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

    Consequences

    The Civil War initiated immense changes that redefined both the nature of American society and acted as a point of departure

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

    Reconstruction

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

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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...

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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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