Learning Objectives:

Explain the strengths and weaknesses of the combatants. What factors led to northern victory and southern defeat?

To what degree did slavery justify the war to Northerners/Southerners? Would a different approach to emancipation have led to a different result?

Discuss the impact of military life and wartime experiences on Confederate/Union soldiers.

Discuss "King Cotton Diplomacy." What might the South have done differently to gain foreign recognition or support? How would that support have changed the war's outcome?


Making sense of documentary photography

Making sense of photos

Analyzing Nineteenth Century Daguerreotypes

Daguerreotypes at Harvard

Making sense of documentary photography

Camera goes to Civil War

Civil War photographers

Civil War Photography

Photos: 3 part series: In Focus by Alan Taylor in The Atlantic magazine

Special features:

Washington Post Special Series on the 150th anniversary in 2011 of the start of the Civil War

New York Times Special Series: Opinionator--Disunion

Ken Burns' Civil War PBS
[use a lot of clips from here]

Civil War cartoons

Ken Burns

Episode Guide


Photo gallery



See separate wiki page

War aims

North: Preserve the Union. Not free the slaves

South: Preserve slavery==the southern way of life

Names used to describe each side:

North=Federals=Yankees=Union=Billy Yank=Blue

South=Confederates=Rebels=Secessionists=Johnny Reb=Gray

Key Leaders/Generals

Meet the Civil War Commanders interactive

Civil War Generals


Abraham Lincoln (see section below)

Ulysses Grant (Encyclopedia of Virginia)

Ulysses Grant (Today in History, Library of Congress)

Ulysses Grant obituary (New York Times)

William Tecumseh Sherman (PBS)

George Meade (Encyclopedia of Virginia)

George McClellan (Encyclopedia of Virginia)


Meet the Civil War Commanders interactive

Confederate States of America

Jefferson Davis (Encyclopedia of Virginia)

Robert E. Lee (Encyclopedia of Virginia)

Robert E. Lee

Robert E. Lee obituary (New York Times)

Stonewall Jackson (Encyclopedia of Virginia)

Stonewall Jackson (Finding Dulcinea)

Stonewall Jackson (Today in History, Library of Congress)

J.E.B. Stuart (Encyclopedia of Virginia)

Abraham Lincoln segment:

Lincoln 200th anniversary.

History Now Lincoln's Civil Religion
History Now Lincoln's Religion

History Now. Interactive History Lincoln in the Media

Civil War side comparisons interactive

Northern advantages:

Larger population
Greater industrial production
More railroads and canals

Southern advantages:

Greater emotion

Rare Footage of Civil War Veterans Doing the Rebel Yell

The Birth of 'Dixie' (New York Times)

Excellent military commanders

Union military strategy

Let's look at one result of the Union naval blockade

American Memory Timeline: Civil War
Click on "Presentations"
Click on "American Memory Timeline"
Click on "The Civil War and Reconstruction"
Click on "The South During the Civil War"
Read the article entitled "At Christmas People Did Not Have Luxuries"

Confederate military strategy

Offensive defensive:

a. Attack when possible
b. Mostly play defense
c. Use interior lines of transportation
d. Concentrate its forces at crucial points of Union attack

What else could the Confederates have done to win the war?

Union diplomatic strategy

Lincoln tried hard to prevent Britain and France from aiding the Confederacy

Lincoln Foreign Affairs (Miller Center, University of Virginia)

Trent Affair (Historian of the State Department)

Preventing diplomatic recognition of the Confederacy (Historian of the State Depaartment)

Trent Affair (New York Times)

Confederate diplomatic strategy

"King Cotton" diplomacy

Hoped that Britain and France would aid South to get southern cotton
It did not happen
Both countries developed other supply sources

See also:

Book review of A World on Fire
How Britain almost supported the Confederacy

Military Life

a. Soldiers had to deal with mass violence, live on little food and sleep, and endure all kinds of weather.

b. Rifle and the minie ball. Straight–ahead charges were stupid in light of the more effective killing range of the rifle and the power of the minie ball.

Life of the Civil War Soldier in the Army

The life of a Civil War soldier - North Carolina Digital History

Civil War camp life

American Memory Timeline: Civil War soldiers

Women Soldiers and nurses

Women soldiers in the Civil War (National Archives magazine)

Disney movie: Mulan

Women in the Civil War

National Museum of Civil War Medicine

American Memory Timeline: Civil War
Click on "Presentations"
Click on "American Memory Timeline"
Click on "The Civil War and Reconstruction"
Click on "The North During the Civil War"
Click on the article entitled "Women in the Union Armies"

Diary of a Civil War Nurse
Website review: Diary of a Civil War Nurse

Black Union soldiers

Racism in the Union army was strong.
Black soldiers in the Union army (120,000) fought for acceptance from their white comrades


Was God on the side of the North?
Religion in the North during the Civil War (National Humanities Center)

Was God mad at the South because of slavery?
Religion in the South during the Civil War (National Humanities Center)

Lincoln and the Mormons -

Onward Christian Soldiers -
YMCA, Civil War, Second Great Awakening

Rabbi-Chaplains of the Civil War -


a. Lincoln's approach

Hoped to achieve a peace treaty compromise with the South
Tried to balance conflicting parts of his Republican party coalition
Radical Republicans wanted immediate emancipation
Others (especially border slave states) did not
Set his priority to preserve the Union, not end slavery
But needed to keep Britain and France from aiding the Confederacy

See also:

Emancipation Proclamation (Today in History, Library of Congress)

b. Jefferson Davis's approach

Preserving Confederate independence was the key
Would free the slaves if it preserved Confederate independence
An effort was made to emancipate: too little, too late

The Civil War and emancipation (Africans in America)
Emancipation Proclamation

Civil War Maps

Civil War animated maps

Interactive Map Military Campaigns of the Civil War

Major Battles of the Civil War

Map of the Civil War, 1861-1862

Bull Run. South won. Southerners confident. Stonewall Jackson.

Animated Map: Bull Run/Manassas

See also:

Bull Run (Today in History, Library of Congress)

The First Battle of Bull Run: What Happened? (New York Times)
In-depth analysis--with excellent maps--by noted historian Gary Gallagher.

Stonewall Jackson profile (Finding Dulcinea)

Shiloh. Union barely won. General Grant removed from command. Large casualties revealed the horrible nature of modern warfare.

Animated Map: Shiloh

Battle of Shiloh (New York Times)

Cyrus F. Boyd: A Union Soldier at Shiloh

Henry Morton Stanley: A Confederate Soldier at Shiloh

You're General Grant at the Battle of the Shiloh

Antietam. Battle a draw. First time South invaded North. Antietam and Gettysburg the only major battles outside the South.

Antietam (Today in History, Library of Congress)

Animated Map: Antietam

Fredericksburg (December 1862). Union lost big. Made 14 charges against well–entrenched Confederates.

Animated Map: Fredericksburg

Map of the Civil War, 1863-1865

Chancellorsville (May 1863). Confederates won battle. But lost their great general, Stonewall Jackson.

Animated Map: Chancellorsville

May 2, 1863 | Stonewall Jackson Shot by His Own Men at Chancellorsville (New York Times)

Vicksburg (July 1863). Union victory. Union gained complete control of Mississippi River. Western part of Confederacy cut off.

Vicksburg (Today in History, Library of Congress)

Animated Map: Vicksburg

Gettysburg (July 1863)

Animated Map: Gettysburg

Second time South invaded North.
Union victory. "High tide" of Confederacy.
Turning point of the war for the South.

Ist day: Union took the high ground; Jeb Stuart's cavalry arrived too late.

2nd day: Rebels tried to take Big and Little Round Tops but Union held.

3rd day: Pickett's hopeless charge against the middle of Union lines.

Gettysburg (Today in History, Library of Congress)
[the three days]

Battle of Gettysburg Begins (Finding Dulcinea, On This Day)

Choices and Commitments: The Soldiers at Gettysburg (National Park Service)

Gettysburg Address

Gettysburg Address (Today in History, Library of Congress)

Reenactment of Gettysburg Address
(Read by Jeff Daniels)

President Lincoln Delivers Gettysburg Address (Finding Dulcinea, On This Day)

Text of Gettysburg Address

Battle of Atlanta (1864). Union victory. Ensured Lincoln's reelection.

Animated Map: Atlanta

Sherman's March through Georgia

Union victory
Sherman operated in deep South
Across Georgia: Atlanta to Savannah
Destroyed everything in a path 50 miles wide, 200 miles long

Sherman's March to the Sea (Eyewitness to History)

American Memory Timeline: Civil War
Click on "Presentations"
Click on "American Memory Timeline"
Click on "The Civil War and Reconstruction"
Click on "The South During the Civil War"
Then read the article entitled "Sherman's Army Plunders a Georgia Plantation"

Dec. 22, 1864 | Gen. Sherman Completes March to the Sea, Offers Savannah as a 'Christmas Gift' (New York Times)

Grant's overland campaign pursuing Lee's army to Richmond

Animated Map: Grant's overland campaign

Appomattox (9 April 1865).

Appomatox (Today in History, Library of Congress)

Confederate Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union Ulysses S. Grant
Lincoln assassination: 14 April 1865

Jefferson Davis captured (Today in History, Library of Congress)

Legacy of the Civil War

Total deaths 620,000===(360,000 North; 260,000 South)

But new evidence may raise that total at least 20% higher:

Civil War Toll Up by 20 Percent in New Estimate (New York Times)

Four million slaves in the South were free. What to do about them?