Southeast Archeological Center a
  • 3D Rendering of Shiloh Mound

    Southeast Archeological Center

    Cultural Resources National Park Service

Outline: The United States Through the 19th and 20th Centuries

Natural Setting | Paleoindian | Archaic | Woodland | Mississippian | Caribbean Prehistory
European Exploration | American Independence and Westward Expansion | The U.S. Through the 19th and 20th Centuries

Painting entitled, "Loading Meal at Eelbeck" (Painting by Martin Pate).
"Loading Meal at Eelbeck" (Southeast Archeological Center - National Park Service).

The United States Through the 19th and 20th Centuries

Forced Removal of American Indians | American Civil War |
Reconstruction | America as a World Power | Great Depression
Further Reading


Forced Removal of American Indians


Cherokee Trail of Tears Commemorative Park
(One of the few documented sites on the actual Trail of Tears)
Trail of Tears Links
(Links to other Trail of Tears sites)

The Federal Indian Removal Policy
Early in the 19th century, the United States felt threatened by England and Spain, who held land in the western continent. At the same time, American settlers clamored for more land. Thomas Jefferson proposed the creation of a buffer zone between U.S. and European holdings, to be inhabited by eastern American Indians. This plan would also allow for American expansion westward from the original colonies to the Mississippi River.

Between 1816 and 1840, tribes located between the original states and the Mississippi River, including Cherokees, Chickasaws, Choctaws, Creeks, and Seminoles, signed more than 40 treaties ceding their lands to the U.S. In his 1829 inaugural address, President Andrew Jackson set a policy to relocate eastern Indians. In 1830 it was endorsed, when Congress passed the Indian Removal Act to force those remaining to move west of the Mississippi. Between 1830 and 1850, about 100,000 American Indians living between Michigan, Louisiana, and Florida moved west after the U.S. government coerced treaties or used the U.S. Army against those resisting. Many were treated brutally. An estimated 3,500 Creeks died in Alabama and on their westward journey. Some were transported in chains.


Park associated with Native American removal:


The American Civil War (1861-1865)

Artillery on the battlefield at Antietam.
Artillery on the battlefield at Antietam, Maryland (National Park Service).

Archeologists excavating at the Andersonville site.
Archeologists excavate a Civil War era site (Southeast Archeological Center - National Park Service).

Sketch of the Confederate prison at Andersonville.
Prisoner's sketch of the Confederate prison at Andersonville in Georgia (Southeast Archeological Center - National Park Service).

A grave for Confederate soldiers in North Carolina.
A grave for Confederate soldiers in North Carolina (Southeast Archeological Center - National Park Service).

Union officers with a 3-inch ordnance rifle.
Union officers with a 3-inch ordnance rifle (Southeast Archeological Center - National Park Service).

The battlefield at Shiloh in Tennessee.
The battlefield at Shiloh in Tennessee (National Park Service).

Depiction of the battle between the "USS Monitor" and "CSS Virginia".
Depiction of the battle between the "USS Monitor" and the "CSS Virginia" (U.S. Naval Historical Center).


Southeast Archeological Center's Civil War Archeology Page
(Links to various National Park Service sites dealing with the Civil War)
(Another extensive source of material concerning this period in American history)
The Civil War Artillery Page
(The Civil War Artillery Page provides a wealth of information concerning artillery of the Civil War era)
Civil War Women
(Primary sources concerning women during the Civil War era)
Florida in the Civil War
(Site describing Florida's involvement in the Confederacy)
Rare Maps of the American Civil War
(Site containing scanned maps from this period)
Archeology at the Battlefield of Monroe's Crossroads, North Carolina
(Information regarding this battle site where war was waged near the end of the conflict)
Archeology at Andersonville
(Focuses on archeological investigations conducted at the Civil War prison of Andersonville in southern Georgia)
Echoes from the Past: The Archeology of Fort Pulaski
(Site describing the archeology related to Civil War era Fort Pulaski)
The Immortal 600
(Site dedicated to the memory of these Confederate prisoners-of-war)

The Nation Divides
Sectionalist tensions reached a fever pitch with the election of Abraham Lincoln as president. The first southern state to act was South Carolina. South Carolina had had a long tradition of secessionist tendencies dating back to the American Revolution and the Nullification Crises. The state voted to remove itself from the Union in December 1860. On December 26, 1860, fearing that his Union forces would be cut off, Major Robert Anderson moved his troops from Fort Moultrie on Sullivans Island to Fort Sumter (Fort Sumter National Monument) in Charleston harbor. After Anderson's men left, Fort Moultrie was occupied by forces under the command of Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard). Tensions increased all over the South where states' rights advocates conflicted with Federal authorities over ownership of Federal property. In January 1861, Federal forces at Pensacola, Florida moved into Fort Pickens (Gulf Islands National Seashore). Confederate militia seized Fort Pulaski, Georgia (Fort Pulaski National Monument).

Neither side was willing to make the first move towards war. An uneasy stalemate lasted as long as President Abraham Lincoln did not resupply or reinforce Fort Sumter (Fort Sumter National Monument). Lincoln, who was born in the south (Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site) did not wish to see the war escalate. However, on April 6, 1861, Lincoln announced that he would provision the fort, still hoping to avert war. The Confederate leaders felt that this was unacceptable and fired on the fort on April 12, 1861. Union General Winfield Scott devised a plan to defeat the South. The plan, later known as the Anaconda Plan, was to blockade the southern coastline, use naval action on rivers, and conduct land battles to slowly cut the South into increasingly smaller sections.

War in the East
Thirty-four hours after the bombardment of Fort Sumter (Fort Sumter National Monument) began, Major Anderson surrendered to the Confederates. The fort was then occupied by Confederate troops and would remain in their possession until near the end of the war (Ward et al. 1990). The Confederate defenders of Fort Pulaski (Fort Pulaski National Monument), at the mouth of the Savannah River, felt that they were safe from any Union threat. Robert E. Lee made a tour of the fort and pronounced it capable of withstanding any siege. Lee's first military assignment had been at Fort Pulaski (Fort Pulaski National Monument) and he was aware of its strengths. However, Lee did not take into account the effect that rifled cannon would have on masonry forts. In November 1861, Captain Quincy Gillmore was placed in charge of the siege of Fort Pulaski (Fort Pulaski National Monument) (Lattimore 1970). Gillmore's forces placed several batteries of rifled cannons on Tybee Island, Georgia, approximately one mile from Fort Pulaski. On the morning of April 11, 1862, having the other siege elements in place, the Union guns opened fire. The fire of the rifled cannons breached the brick wall in two places. Gillmore then targeted the powder magazine forcing the Confederate defenders to surrender (Anderson 1995).

War in the West
West of the Appalachian Mountains, the land and river portion of the Anaconda Plan was implemented. The first strikes were at Fort Donelson (Fort Donelson National Battlefield And Cemetery) and Shiloh (Shiloh National Military Park And Cemetery), Tennessee. Both of these battles were devastating defeats for the Confederacy.

Prison exchange programs broke down as hostilities increased. The Union, realizing that this was more of a hardship for the Confederacy (which, unlike the Union, could not easily replace lost soldiers), finally refused to exchange. Many prisoner-of-war camps were built in both the North and the South, with the most infamous of all at Andersonville Prison, Georgia (Andersonville National Historic Site). The Confederacy was having trouble feeding and caring for its own, much less captured enemy soldiers. Both sides established military prisons that were ill suited for the numbers of prisoners, poorly supplied, and poorly maintained. The poor conditions at Andersonville Prison resulted in the death of almost 25 percent of the men held there. Today, Andersonville National Historic Site commemorates prisoners of war everywhere.

In April of 1862, the Confederacy was defeated at Shiloh, Tennessee (Shiloh National Military Park). Shiloh was the first of many defeats that the Confederate Army defending Tennessee would face, ending with the loss of Atlanta, Georgia.

It was almost a year after the fall of Fort Donelson before the Union army reached Stones River near Murfreesboro, Tennessee (Stones River National Battlefield and Cemetery). This battle was a huge fray where the Confederate Army was thrown repeatedly against the Union army in a series of uncoordinated attacks. In the end, however, the Confederates were defeated and forced to retreat. The commander of the Union forces, William Rosecrans, had ordered the contruction of an earthen fortress at Stones River. This was the largest earthen works built during the Civil War.

The Union army continued its plan with the capture of Vicksburg, Mississippi (Vicksburg National Military Park). The Union forces, under the command of General Ulysses S. Grant, laid siege to the city of Vicksburg, which surrendered on July 4, 1863 after receiving word that Lee had retreated at Gettysburg. This completed the Union hold on the Mississippi River.

The same two armies clashed again at Chickamauga, Georgia and Chattanooga, Tennessee (Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park) in June 1863. With the railhead at Chattanooga secure, the Union army began its move south while the Confederates fought a series of delaying actions north of Atlanta, Georgia. Each time the Confederates stopped to defend themselves, the Union army flanked them. However, at Kennesaw Mountain (Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park), they could not break the Confederate line. Still, the Confederates were forced to draw closer to Atlanta. The Union army entered Atlanta on September 2, 1864. From Atlanta, General William T. Sherman cut a path of destruction to Savannah. He then turned north and captured Columbia, South Carolina. The fall of Columbia, the capital of South Carolina, and the approach of Sherman's forces, led to the capture of Charleston and the surrender of Fort Sumter (Fort Sumter National Monument), where the war had begun.

Naval Action
Naval activity during the Civil War can be divided into three types. These were blockading, blockade-running, and river action. The blockade of southern ports was a major portion of the Anaconda Plan.

The need for coaling stations for the blockade fleet led to much of the early action in the war, such as the siege of Fort Pulaski, Georgia (Fort Pulaski National Monument). Ironclads, following the design of the U.S.S. Monitor, eventually rendered much of the Confederate fleet obsolete. Since the Confederate navy was of little consequence, the Union was free to move its monitor-class vessels up and down the coastline. During one such movement, while being towed, the U.S.S. Monitor sank off the coast of Cape Hatteras.

The first significant use of Union gunboats was made at Fort Henry and Fort Donelson, Tennessee (Fort Donelson National Battlefield and Cemetery). The Confederate high command knew that they would have to defend the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers. The ideal location for a fort was in Kentucky, north of the Tennessee state line, where the two rivers merge. However, since both sides initially accepted the neutrality of Kentucky, this obligated the Confederacy to build two forts in Tennessee where the rivers were over 13 miles apart. The forts constructed were Henry on the Tennessee River and Donelson on the Cumberland River (Peterson 1968).

The Confederacy began constructing earthworks at Forts Henry and Donelson in the fall of 1861. Both earthworks were to be constructed in such a manner as to best defend against both naval and infantry forces. However, progress on the earthworks was slow due to the shortage of slave laborers, who were already occupied at the undermanned iron works in the area. Although additional slave labor from northern Alabama was employed, the fortifications were still not completed by February 1862. As hostilities increased, the neutrality of Kentucky was eventually violated. The holding of the two forts then became extremely important since the side that controlled the rivers would control all of Kentucky and western Tennessee, and con-sequently have open waterways on which to move troops and supplies.

On February 2, 1862, General Ulysses S. Grant began the movement of forces toward an engagement with Forts Henry and Donelson. The fleet, commanded by Flag Officer Foote, and two infantry divisions attacked and captured Fort Henry. During the attack some 2,500 men from Fort Henry were able to escape to Fort Donelson. After Foote's successful venture at Fort Henry, Grant's army began marching toward Fort Donelson.

Fort Donelson was commanded by Brigadier General John B. Floyd. Under his command were Brig. Generals Gideon Pillow and General Simon B. Buckner, and a cavalry commanded by Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest. Grant began attacking Fort Donelson in small engagements on February 12, but a full scale attack was postponed because Foote's gunboats had not yet arrived. Waiting for the gunboats and reinforcements, Grant made camp. On February 13, Foote engaged the water batteries with little success. The Confederate water batteries however, did have some success, crippling three ironclads and wounding Foote. The Union naval boats were forced to withdraw, many of them floating down the Cumberland out of control.

Following this battle, Floyd realized that the Confederate forces at Fort Donelson were needed to join General Albert Johnston's forces for the defense of Nashville. Pillow's infantry, some 10,000 men, and Forrest's cavalry, attacked the Union's right flank under the command of General John A. McClermand, in order to open the road to Nashville. McClermand's forces, not expecting an attack, were pushed back after seven hours of battle, opening the road to Nashville. Confederate forces then pulled back into their rifle pits while Union Brig. General C.F. Smith's division was sent against Confederate forces at Eddyville Road. After several counter attacks by Confederate forces, Smith was able to gain the rifle pits, controlling the road. When this plan to free the Confederate forces failed, Floyd and Pillow decided that it was too late to escape. During the night, the Confederate generals met at the Dover Hotel to discuss their precarious situation. It was decided that terms of surrender would be discussed with the Union commanders. Forrest refused to surrender his cavalry to the Union army and escaped that night across Lick Creek with both his cavalry and those men who also chose not to surrender. Floyd and Pillow also escaped, fleeing to Nashville, leaving Buckner in command of the Confederate forces.

The following morning General Buckner met with General Lew Wallace, a subordinate of General Grant, at the Dover Hotel and discussed terms of surrender. Grant had given orders that only an unconditional surrender would be accepted, and on February 16, 1862, some 14,000 Confederate soldiers surrendered to Grant's command. It was at that time that Grant got the nickname "Unconditional Surrender" Grant.

By July 1, 1862, all of the Mississippi River was in Union hands except Vicksburg, Mississippi (Vicksburg National Military Park). The Confederate defenders placed artillery on the high bluffs above the river. While the Union gunboats were in position to attack the fortress, General Grant's soldiers were not in a position to lay siege until May 18, 1863 (NPS 1986). After a month and a half, on July 4, 1863, following the news that Lee was defeated at Gettysburg, Vicksburg surrendered.

Underwater Archeology Related to the Civil War


Preserving the USS Monitor
(Description of NOAA efforts to record and raise this historic ship)
The Official Site of the Hunley
(Describes the excavation of the CSS Hunley)
U.S. Navy & Confederate Shipwreck Project
(Site exploring Civil War era ships in Florida waters)
Underwater Archeology
(The Southeast Archeological Center's page on this subject)

The Civil War affected the naval activities of coastal areas all across the Southeast, whether involved in blockading (and running those blockades), ship-to-shore engagements, or major assaults. Parks in the Southeast that have known or potential resources reflecting Civil War maritime history include Fort Sumter National Monument, where the initial assault on, and removal of, Union forces precipitated the War Between the States. Ships running past the Union forces, which blockaded Charleston harbor, and those that continuously fired upon Fort Sumter also may have left archeological remains. At Gulf Islands National Seashore, ship-to-shore engagements, as well as major landings, occurred throughout the war at both units in Florida and Mississippi. Also to be noted are the remains of the USS Cairo at Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi, a reminder of the riverine naval actions during the war, such as those that took place on the Mississippi River at Fort Donelson and the Tennessee River at Pittsburg Landing (Shiloh National Military Park).


Parks associated with the Civil War:

The Reconstruction Era (1865-1877)


Reconstruction Era Documents
(List of primary documents from Rutgers University)

Following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson (commemorated at Andrew Johnson National Historic Site) became the 17th president of the United States (1865-1869). During his escape from Washington, Lincoln's killer, John Wilkes Booth, broke a leg that was later set by the unwitting Dr. Samuel Mudd. For this act Mudd was sent to prison, where a significant portion of his sentence was served at Fort Jefferson (Dry Tortugas National Park).

The emancipation of the slaves radically changed the country. Before the Civil War, many southern towns were accented by lavish mansions, such as Melrose at Natchez National Historical Park and Grey Columns at Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site. While these two mansions survived the war, their subsequent history could not be more diverse. Melrose mansion was retained in private ownership while Grey Columns mansion became part of a school for ex-slaves. In 1881, the citizens of Tuskegee, Alabama, decided to provide blacks with a normal school using the former mansion. Booker T. Washington, a graduate of Hampton Institute in Virginia, accepted the position as its first president and set an immediate precedent for leadership in black education.


Parks associated with Reconstruction:


America Becomes a World Power (1865 - 1914)

Battery Hambright at Fort Pulaski, which was built after the Civil War.
Battery Horace Hambright was built to defend the coast during the Spanish-American War (National Park Service).

Following the Civil War, the United States became a world power. This is primarily reflected in the modifications of the coastal defense system. The system that proved to be inadequate during the Civil War was upgraded beginning in the 1890s in response to pressures leading to the Spanish-American War (1898). Forts, such as Fort Moultrie (Fort Sumter National Monument) and Fort Pickens (Gulf Islands National Seashore) were modified using enormous amounts of iron and concrete. Breechloading retractable guns replaced the muzzle loaders. Modifications continued through the two world wars. However, as with every weapon system, coastal defense batteries and forts were eventually rendered obsolete by airplanes, radar, satellites, and other electronic counter measures.

Underwater Archeology Related to Economic Development

Business and industry development is exempified by many of the more recent (i.e., post-Civil War) shipwrecks known to exist in southeast coastal parks. In Biscayne National Park for instance, the extractive industries of sponging and lobster trapping have left substantial remains that reflect the livelihood of the first settlers to south Florida. Another extractive industry of considerable impact to the development and settlement of south Florida was the business, both legitimate and otherwise, of wrecking, whereby stranded and imperiled ships and their cargoes were brought back into commerce by the efforts of professional salvors of the late nineteenth- and early twentieth centuries. Also extant in the park, and representing a unique type of housing construction, are the still standing structures known as Stiltsville, soon to become relics of a past way of life. Although it has not become an issue to date, at some point the theme of insurance, involving questions of marine insurance, ownership, and the development of the marine insurance industry, may come into play concerning historic wrecks within the boundaries of this and other parks in the Southeast.

Shipping and transportation are represented by all merchant and cargo vessels wrecked within park waters. At Biscayne National Park several sites that come to mind are the wrecksites of the steamboat St. Lucie, the locally famous mail packet and coastal transport wrecked in the historic hurricane of 1906, and the Lugana and the Alicia, two of the last vessels ever worked by Southeast Florida wreckers. Many cargo vessels are known to lie within the boundaries of Cape Hatteras National Seashore and Cape Lookout National Seashore, and at least one large lumber vessel is known to lie within the waters of Gulf Islands National Seashore. At Dry Tortugas National Park, near Fort Jefferson, the remains of the 1907 Windjammer wreck, the Killean, still lie exposed at low water. Thanks to the mapping done by the NPS Submerged Cultural Resources Unit (SCRU), this wrecksite provides an especially exhilarating interpretive dive for visitors trained in diving.


Parks associated with America's increasing world presence:


The Great Depression and the New Deal (1929 - 1941)

The Great Depression and the New Deal had a profound effect on parks in the Southeast. As a part of the New Deal, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) were created. The CCC worked in many parks, restoring them to their perceived appearance. Under the WPA, buildings, roads, trails, and housing were constructed. Under the direction of professional archeologists, WPA/CCC members also conducted systematic archeological excavations and conducted guided tours at many large prehistoric sites (Ocmulgee National Monument) within the region. Virtually all parks established prior to 1940 hosted CCC activities.


Parks associated with the Great Depression and New Deal:

Further Reading

Cover of "A New Deal for Southeastern Archaeology" by Edwin A. Lyon.
"A New Deal for Southeastern Archaeology" by Edwin A. Lyon.


In Those Days
(In Those Days is an oral history from elderly African Americans in Elbert County, Georgia, and Abbeville County., South Carolina)
Fiery Dawn
(Popular history about the Civil War battle at Monroe's Crossroads)
Cavalry Clash
(Staff ride written for the battle at Monroe's Crossroads)
The Civil War Battle at Monroe's Crossroads
(Technical report regarding excavations at the Monroe's Crossroads battle site)
The Search for Battery Halleck
(Report on excavations at Battery Halleck near Fort Pulaski, Georgia)

On the Forced Removal of American Indians:

Jahoda, Gloria L.
•1995 The Trail of Tears: The Story of the Indian Removals, 1813-1855. Random House Value Publishing, New York.

McLoughlin, William G.
•1994 After the Trail of Tears: The Cherokee's Struggle for Sovereignty, 1839-1880. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill.

On the American Civil War:

Geier, Clarence R., and Stephen R. Potter, eds.
•2001 Archaeological Perspectives on the American Civil War. University Press of Florida, Gainesville.

On Reconstruction:

Smith, John David
•1998 Black Voices from Reconstruction, 1865-1877. University Press of Florida, Gainesville.

On the Great Depression and the New Deal:

Lyon, Edwin A.
•1996 A New Deal for Southeastern Archaeology. University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa.

Return to the Formation of a New Nation