The American Civil War



  • The American Civil War (18611865) occurred after eleven Southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America. Led by Jefferson Davis, the Confederacy fought against the United States (the Union), which was supported by all the free states (where slavery had been abolished) and by five slave states that became known as the border states.

  • Hostilities began on April 12, 1861, when Confederate forces attacked a U.S. military installation at Fort Sumter in South Carolina. Lincoln responded by calling for a volunteer army from each state to recapture federal property.

  • Both sides raised armies as the Union assumed control of the border states early in the war and established a naval blockade. In September 1862, Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation made ending slavery in the South a war goal, and dissuaded the British from intervening.

  • Confederate commander Robert E. Lee won battles in the east, but in 1863 his northward advance was turned back with heavy casualties after the Battle of Gettysburg.

  • In the west, the Union gained control of the Mississippi River after their capture of Vicksburg, Mississippi, thereby splitting the Confederacy in two.

  • The Union  capitalized on its long-term advantages in men and material and by 1864  Ulysses S. Grant fought battles of attrition against Lee, while Union general William Tecumseh Sherman captured Atlanta and marched to the sea. Confederate resistance ended after Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.

  • The American Civil War is the deadliest war in American history, resulting in the deaths of 620,000 soldiers and an undetermined number of civilian casualties. Ten percent of all Northern males 2045 years of age died, as did 30 percent of all Southern white males aged 1840.

  • Victory for the North meant the end of the Confederacy and of slavery in the United States, and strengthened the role of the federal government. The social, political, economic and racial issues of the war decisively shaped the reconstruction era that lasted to 1877.



  • Class 1 - Prelude to War - What were the West Pont and Mexican American War connections? What happened at Harpers Ferry? What were the causes of the Civil War? Where and when did the war begin?

  • Class 2 - The Leaders - Who were the men and women who played important roles in the American Civil War?

  • Class 3 - The Battles -  What were the major battles?

  • Class 4 - Texas in the Civil War - What Civil War battles were fought in Texas?  What role did Texans play in the War?

  • Class 5 - The Soldier's Life - What were the conditions and hardships facing soldiers during the war?  What did they eat? What did they do for recreation?

  • Class 6 - Reliving the War - How can we learn more about the Civil War?  What role do re-enactors and living historians play? What are some of the ways that you can become involved?






Return to Classes Page

Revised 10/02/2013