The Civil War at a Glance

Questions

  1. What were the main causes of the American Civil War?
  2. When did the war begin?
  3. When did the war end?
  4. How many soldiers served in the Union and Confederate armies?
  5. Why do some battles have two names?
  6. How many casualties occurred in the war?
  7. What were the largest battles?
  8. What battles had the highest number of casualties?
  9. How many African Americans fought in the war?
  10. How many Medals of Honor were awarded during the war?
  11. How many states were in the Union and Confederacy?
  12. Who were the Presidents of the Union and Confederacy?
  13. Which states had the most battles?
  14. Who were the Union's and Confederacy's greatest generals?
  15. What were the most important battles?
  16. What were the sizes of the military units of the Union and Confederate armies?
  17. What were the greatest naval battles of the Civil War?
  18. What weapons were used by Civil War soldiers?
  19. What were the most notorious Civil War POW camps?
  20. Why did the South loose the war?
  21. Who was Clara Barton?
  22. What two battles changed the technology of war?
  23. What were the most common causes of military deaths?
  24. What was the the "Great Train Chase?"
  25. What types of artillery were used in the war?
  26. Why were Union victories in the west and the fall of New Orleans significant to the Union cause? 
  27. Why were there so many deaths in the Civil WarWhy were there so many deaths in the Civil War?
  28. Ask a Question

1. What were the main causes of the American Civil War?

The major causes of the American Civil War were slavery and States' Rights.  Conflicts between the North and South focused on slavery.  The North had virtually done away with slavery soon after the Revolutionary War, but the South continued to use slaves to support its agriculturally based economy.  The South turned to the issue of States' Rights to maintain the institution.  The South claimed the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution allowed them to continue the practice. 

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2. When did the war begin?

The official start of the war was on April 12, 1861 when Confederate shore gun batteries began shelling Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.  The fort was surrendered to General P. G. T. Beauregard after a 34-hour bombardment.

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3. When did the war end?

On April 9, 1865 General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General U. S. Grant at Appomattox Court House.  Three days later, the Army of Northern Virginia surrendered their weapons and returned home.  On April 18, 1865, Confederate General Joseph Johnston surrendered to General William T. Sherman in at the Bennett House in North Carolina. The last battle occurred on May 12-13, 1865 when Confederate forces under Col. John S. “Rip” Ford defeated Col. Theodore H. Barrett's combined troops at Palmito Ranch, TX Stand Watie, the only Indian who was a general in the Civil War, is the last Confederate general to surrender on June 23rd.

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4. How many soldiers served in the Union and Confederate armies?

According to the American Research Data Base there were 2,822,689  soldiers in the Union armed forces.  The Confederate figures show 1,435,623 combatants. New York supplied 401,220 troops to the Union cause while Virginia provided 214,185 to the Southern cause. Records indicate that 189,879 African Americans served in the army and navy.

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5. Why do some battles have two names?

Many of the 2,255 officially recognized engagements have multiple names. The reason for this was explained by General Daniel Harvey Hall. "The troops of the North came mainly from cities, towns, and villages, and were, therefore, impressed by some natural object near the scene of the conflict and named the battle from it.  The soldiers from the South were chiefly from the country and were, therefore, impressed by some artificial object near the field object near the field of action." 

Union
Name
Confederate
Name
Battle Web Site
Antietam Sharpsburg

Antietam, MD

Bull Run Manassas

Manassas (First Bull Run), VA I
Manassas (Second Bull Run), VA II

Chaplin Hills Perryville

Perryville, KY

Logan's Cross Roads Mill Springs

Mill Springs, KY

Olustee Ocean Pond

Olustee, FL

Pea Ridge Elkhorn Tavern

Pea Ridge, AR

Pittsburgh Landing Shiloh

Shiloh, TN

Stones River Murfreesboro

Stones River, TN

Wilson's Creek Oak Hills

Wilson's Creek, MO

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6. How many casualties occurred in the war?

Federal government records indicate that slightly more than 350,000 Union soldiers died from various causes during the Civil War.  The Confederate deaths aren't as comprehensive as Union deaths but an estimate is 245,000.

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7. What were the largest battles?

According to Donald Cartmell, author of Civil War 101, the following engagements were the largest battles/campaigns of the Civil War.

Battle Union Confederate Total
Seven Days 91,169 95,482 186,651

Fredericksburg, VA I

106,007 72,497 178,504

Chancellorsville, VA

118,000 59,500 177,500

Cold Harbor, VA

108,000 59,000 167,000

Wilderness, VA

101,895 61,025 162,025

Gettysburg, PA

83,289 75,054 158,343

Spotsylvania Court House, VA

83,000 50,000 133,000

Chickamauga, GA

58,222 66,236 124,458

Antietam, MD

75,316 40,000 115,316

Manassas (Second Bull Run), VA II

62,000 48,527 110,527

Shiloh, TN

62,682 40,335 103,017

Petersburg, VA II

63,797 41,499 105,296

Chattanooga, TN III

56,359 46,156 102,515

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8. What battles had the highest number of casualties?

Rank Battle Union Confederate Total
1 Gettysburg, PA 23,000 28,000 51,000
2 Chickamauga, GA 16,170 18,454 34,624
3 Spotsylvania Court House, VA 18,000 12,000 30,000
4 Wilderness, VA 18,400 11,400 29,800
5 Chancellorsville, VA 14,000 10,000 24,000
6 Shiloh, TN 13,047 10,699 23,374
7 Stones River, TN 13,249 10,266 23,515
8

Antietam, MD

12,400 10,320 22,720
9 Manassas (Second Bull Run), VA II 13,830 8,350 22,180
10 Vicksburg, MS 10,142 9,091 19,233

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9. How many African Americans fought in the war?

Records indicate that 189,879 African Americans served in the army and navy.

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10. How many Medals of Honor were awarded during the war?

The Medal of Honor was first issued during the Civil War, and since it was the only military award for valor during that war, 1,527 medals were awarded.

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11. How many states were in the Union and Confederacy?

There were 19 states that were loyal to the Union and 11 states that joined the Confederacy.  Four border states, Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri were border states that had not aligned with either the Union or Confederacy in 1861.  West Virginia joined thee Union in

Number

Union

Confederate

Border

1 California Alabama Delaware
2 Connecticut Arkansas Kentucky
3 Illinois Florida Maryland
4 Indiana Georgia Missouri
5 Iowa Louisiana  
6 Kansas Mississippi  
7 Massachusetts North Carolina  
8 Maine Tennessee  
9 Michigan Texas  
10 Minnesota South Carolina  
11 New Hampshire Virginia  
12 New Jersey    
13 Nevada*    
14 New York    
15 Ohio    
16 Oregon    
17 Pennsylvania    
18 Rhode Island    
19 Vermont    
20 West Virginia**    
21 Wisconsin    

Notes:

           * In 1864, Nevada became the 36th state to enter the union, and the phrase "Battle Born" on the state flag reflects the state's entry on the Union side during the Civil War.

         ** West Virginia broke away from Virginia during the Civil War and was admitted to the Union as a separate state on June 20, 1863. 

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12. Who were the Presidents of the Union and Confederacy?

Abraham Lincoln was President of the United States of America and Jefferson Davis was President of the Confederate States of America.

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13. Which states had the most battles?

There were 2,255 officially recognized engagements during the Civil War. 

State Battles* ABPP  Battles**
Virginia 519 123
Tennessee 298 38
Missouri 244 27
Mississippi 186 16
Arkansas 167 17
Kentucky 138 11

Louisiana

118 23
Georgia 108 27
North Carolina 85 20
West Virginia 80 15

Notes:

           * Civil War 101, Donald Cartmell, p. 17.

           ** Civil War Battle Summaries by State - The American Battlefield Protection

                Program - ABPP

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14. Who were the Union's and Confederacy's greatest generals?

As you might expect, this is a subject of great discussion among Civil War historians.

For the Confederates, General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson is usually ranked first followed by General Robert E. Lee.  Then it gets interesting.  General Albert Sidney Johnston was considered the South's best until his death at Shiloh.  General James Longstreet like Jackson, was considered one of Lee's stalwarts until his post-war membership in the Republican party.  The best cavalry officers were General J.E.B. Stuart and General Nathan Bedford Forrest.  Others that should be mentioned are General General P.G.T. Beauregard and General John Bell Hood.

On the Union side, General Ulysses S. Grant, was considered the best along with his good right hand, General William T. Sherman.  Obviously, folks in Georgia don't share this conviction about "Uncle Billy."  Generals George Thomas and Winfred Scott Hancock performed ably in many significant battles. Before his death on the first day at Gettysburg, General John F. Reynolds was considered a leading candidate to replace General Hooker as commander of the Army of the Potomac.  We should also include include General George B. McClellan and General Hooker for their organizational and training skills.  The best cavalry officers were General John Buford  and General Philip H. Sheridan. 

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15. What were the most important battles?

The American Battlefield Protection Program classifies 45 battles as A Rated.  These battles are considered to have had a decisive influence on a campaign and a direct impact on the course of the war.  Of these 45, the Confederacy won 13 and the Union won 30, and two were indecisive.  From these we have selected our list of the top ten.

Rank Battle Comment
1

Fort Sumter, SC I
April 12-14, 1861

Where the shooting war began.

2

Gettysburg, PA
July 1-3, 1863

Lee's second invasion of the North stopped.
3

Manassas (First Bull Run), VA I
July 21, 1861

Both sides realized that the war was going to be long and bloody.
4 Gaines' Mill, VA
June 27, 1862

Lee's victory saved Richmond for the Confederacy in 1862.

5 Chancellorsville, VA
April 27-May 4, 1863
Lee's greatest victory as Confederate forces defeat Hooker's larger Union army. Stonewall Jackson dies from wounds caused by friendly fire.
6

Fort Donelson, TN
February 11-16, 1862

Grant secures the Kentucky for the Union and opens the way into Tennessee.

7

Five Forks, VA
April 1, 1865

Union victory forces Lee to abandon Petersburg and Richmond.
8

Franklin, TN II
November 30, 1864

John Bell Hood destroys the Army of Tennessee.
9

Antietam, MD
September 16-18, 1862

Lee's first invasion of the North stopped.
10 Vicksburg, MS
May 18-July 4, 1863
Grant's victory splits the Confederacy.

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16. What were the sizes of the military units of the Union and Confederate armies?

Unit Union Army Confederate Army
Company 34-40 35-40
Regiment 350-400 350-400
Brigade 800-1,700 1,400-2,000
Division 3,000-7,000 6,000-14,000
Corps 12,000-14,000 24,000-28,000

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17. What were the greatest naval battles of the Civil War?

The Battle of Hampton Roads better known as the Battle between USS Monitor and CSS Virginia has to be first for most Civil War analysts.

Admiral David Farragut's victories at Forts Jackson & Philip, LA,  New Orleans, and Mobile Bay would be important Union naval victories. 

Combined operations in the West featured Union victories at New Madrid/Island No. 10, MO, Fort Henry, TN and Fort Donelson, TN.

The Union Navy blockaded the Atlantic and Gulf Coast of the Confederate States of America to prevent the passage of trade goods, supplies, and arms to and from the Confederacy.  This blockade produced engagements involving the CSS Albemarle and CSS Alabama.

The battle between the CSS Hunley and USS Housatonic. The  Hunley was a submarine of the Confederate States of America that demonstrated both the advantages and the dangers of undersea warfare. The Hunley was the first submarine to sink an enemy warship, although the submarine was also lost following the successful attack.

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18. What weapons were used by Civil War soldiers?

During the Civil War, small arms included muskets, which were smoothbore, long-barreled shoulder arms; rifles, shoulder guns with spiral grooves cut into the inner surface of the barrel; carbines, short-barreled rifles; and handguns, including pistols and revolvers. Like artillery, small arms also were designated by their caliber, mode of loading (breech or muzzle), and maker. The principal small arms on both sides were the .58 caliber Springfield musket and the .69 caliber Harpers Ferry Rifle, both muzzle loading arms that fired the deadly mini ball.

Bayonets, sabers, swords, short swords, cutlasses, Bowie knives, pikes, and lances, classified as "edged weapons," appeared in considerable profusion during the Civil War. Although they served to decorate their original possessors and delight modern collectors, they inflicted few casualties.

All firearms larger than small arms are known as artillery or cannon. Although there were dozens of different types of cannon used during the Civil War, they all fell into one of two categories: smoothbore or rifled cannon. They were further designated by the weight of their projectile (12-pounder, 24-pounder, 32-pounder, etc.), the caliber or size of their bore diameter (3-inch, 8-inch, 10-inch), method of loading (breech or muzzle), and often their inventor or the factory in which they were made (i.e. Dahlgren, Napoleon, Rodman, Parrott, Whitworth). A further distinction involved the path of their trajectories: guns had a flat trajectory, mortars a high, arching path, and a howitzer a trajectory between the other two.

[Source: Weapons of the American Civil War]

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19. What were the most notorious Civil War POW camps?

The list usually starts with the notorious Union POW camp at Andersonville Libby Prison in Richmond was another infamous camp for Union prisoners.  Confederate prisoners suffered as much as there Union counterparts in camps such as Elmira Prison in New York, Camp Douglas in Illinois and Point Lookout Prison in Maryland.

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20. Why did the South loose the war?

The South lost the Civil War because it was smaller and less industrialized than the North as illustrated in the following table.

Category North South
Size of Military 2,200,000 1,064,000
Population, millions 19.0 12.1 of which 4.0 were slaves
Railroads, miles 20,000 9,000
Factories 100,500 20,600
Revolver Production* 974,100 8,475
Cavalry Carbine Production* 315,529 19,293
Infantry Firearms* 1,449,369 62,326

Notes: * Texas Civil War Museum

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21. Who was Clara Barton?

Clara Barton (December 25, 1821 – April 12, 1912) was a pioneer American teacher, nurse, and humanitarian. She has been described as having a "strong and independent spirit" and is best remembered for organizing the American Red Cross. In April 1862, after the First Battle of Bull Run, Barton established an agency to obtain and distribute supplies to wounded soldiers. She was allowed to ride in army ambulances to provide comfort to the soldiers and nurse them back to health. She lobbied the U.S. Army bureaucracy to bring her own medical supplies to the battlefields. In July 1862, she obtained permission to travel behind the lines and brought help during the sieges of Petersburg and Richmond. In 1864 she was appointed by Union general Benjamin Butler as the "lady in charge" of the hospitals at the front of the Army of the James. In 1865, President Abraham Lincoln placed Barton in charge of the search for the missing men of the Union Army.  She worked with a former prisoner Dorence Atwater, who compiled a list of 13,000 names of the dead at Andersonville Prison, to mark the graves. 

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22. What two battles changed the technology of war?

The Battle of Hampton Roads made wooden warships obsolete.

The Union bombardment of Fort Pulaski demonstrated that masonry fortifications were vulnerable to the new technology of rifled artillery.

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23. What were the most common causes of military deaths?

The leading causes of wounds during battle in the Civil War, were muskets and pistols (93%), artillery (5%) and bayonets and sabers (1%).  

According to some estimates more than twice as many men died from illnesses than from enemy fire. Slightly more than 350,000 Union soldiers died from various causes.  A generally accepted estimate of Confederate deaths is 150,000 dead of disease and 95,000 killed or mortally wounded in combat.

Other sources put the Union deaths at 110,070 battle deaths and 250,152 from disease and other causes for a total of 360,222.  Confederate deaths were estimated at 94,000 battle deaths and 164,000 from disease and other causes for a total of 258,000.

In addition, some historians estimate that up to 50,000 Confederate citizens died during the war.

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24. What was the the "Great Train Chase?"

The Great Locomotive Chase or Andrews' Raid was a military operation that occurred April 12, 1862, in northern Georgia. A team of Union Army raiders planned to seize a train on the vital Western & Atlantic Railroad, which ran from Atlanta, GA, to Chattanooga, TN and destroy bridges so that Confederate troops and supplies could not be moved to Chattanooga, TN. In order to implement their plan, volunteers lead by James J. Andrews, a civilian spy, stole a train powered by a locomotive called the General. The train's conductor, William Allen Fuller, chased the General by foot and handcar. At Etowah, Fuller spotted the Yonah and with it chased the raiders north, all the way up to Kingston. At Kingston, Conductor Fuller got on the William R. Smith and headed north to Adairsville. The tracks two miles south of Adairsville were broken by the raiders, so Fuller had to run the distance by foot. At Adairsville, Fuller took command of the southbound locomotive Texas and chased the General. The Union raiders were pursued by other locomotives, and captured, with some being executed as spies. Some of Andrews' Raiders became the first recipients of the Medal of Honor.

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25. What types of artillery were used in the war?

There were two general types of artillery weapons used during the Civil War: smoothbores and rifles. Smoothbores included howitzers and guns.

Although there were dozens of different types of cannon used during the Civil War, they all fell into one of two categories: smoothbore or rifled cannon. They were further designated by the weight of their projectile (12-pounder, 24-pounder, 32-pounder, etc.), the caliber or size of their bore diameter (3-inch, 8-inch, 10-inch), method of loading (breech or muzzle), and often their inventor or the factory in which they were made (i.e. Dahlgren, Napoleon, Rodman, Parrott, Whitworth). A further distinction involved the path of their trajectories: guns had a flat trajectory, mortars a high, arching path, and a howitzer a trajectory between the other two.

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26. Why were Union victories in the west and the fall of New Orleans significant to the Union cause? 

The Union victories in the west at Ft. Donelson, Shiloh, Island No. 10, Corinth, Vicksburg, and New Orleans were part of Winfield Scott's Anaconda plan.  The victories in the west served the western states of Texas and Arkansas from the Confederacy.  This restricted the flow of men and supplies from these states to support the Confederate efforts in the East.

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27. Why were there so many deaths in the Civil War?

The answer is really composed of two parts.  Men were killed and wounded during the battlefield because commanders on both sides were using tactics used in the Mexican War. Generals tend to "fight the last war" or use tactics that were successful in the past. 

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The generals used tactics that were developed in the Mexican War which did not take into account the latest technology.  Key in this area was the use of the rifled barrel.  The smoothbore musket could only fire 150 yards while the rifled musket could fire 250 yards.  This meant that soldiers in defensive positions could hit targets 100 yards (one football field) further away.  The generals were slow to adapt to the technology.

Another factor in the high mortality rate was the care given to wounded soldiers. According to some estimates more than twice as many men died from illnesses than from enemy fire. Slightly more than 350,000 Union soldiers died from various causes.  A generally accepted estimate of Confederate deaths is 150,000 dead of disease and 95,000 killed or mortally wounded in combat.

Other sources put the Union deaths at 110,070 battle deaths and 250,152 from disease and other causes for a total of 360,222.  Confederate deaths were estimated at 94,000 battle deaths and 164,000 from disease and other causes for a total of 258,000.

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Revised 06/01/2012