How Charleston Celebrated Its Last July 4th Before the Civil War

As the South Carolina city prepared to break from the Union, its people swung between nostalgia and rebellion. In the cooling evening air, Charleston, South Carolina’s notable citizens filed into Hibernian Hall on Meeting Street for the traditional banquet to close their July 4th festivities. The year was 1860, and the host, as always, was[…]

Black Lives at Arlington National Cemetery: From Slavery to Segregation

Insights into the lives of African Americans at Arlington and other plantations in the Upper South before and after the Civil War. In the following excerpt from Civil War Places, William A. Blair reads the inscriptions on the headstones in Section 27 of Arlington National Cemetery for insights into the lives of African Americans at[…]

The Confederate Exodus to Mexico after Losing the Civil War

They created self-contained enclaves characterized by a southern Protestantism in sharp contrast to Mexican Catholicism. The defeat of the Confederacy, the prospect of military occupation and Republican state government, and the financial collapse of many plantations and businesses sent a number of white southerners in pursuit of life in a foreign land during the late[…]

Abraham Lincoln’s Leadership in Crisis

Lincoln expertly managed leading politicians, related well with the people, and dealt clearly with the military. Introduction In March 1861, as Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated as president, the United States faced its greatest crisis: its sudden and unexpected dissolution. Seven of the then 31 states had already voted to secede from the Union. What he[…]

Roundheads and Cavaliers: The English Civil Wars, 1642-1651

These wars were between supporters of the king’s right to absolute authority, and supporters of the rights of Parliament. Introduction The term English Civil War (or Wars) refers to the series of armed conflicts and political machinations which took place between Parliamentarians (often called the Roundheads) and Royalists (or the cavaliers) from 1642 until 1651.[…]

Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn, and Race in Postbellum America

How did Twain’s Huckleberry Finn engage and challenge popular ideas about slavery and race in nineteenth-century America? By Lawrence HoweNot Pictured Introduction Students in the United States know Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as a fixture in the American literary canon and a staple of high school reading lists. But this status has[…]

Literature of the American Civil War

How did literature help make sense of the war and the profound changes it brought to the nation? Introduction The Civil War has long served as a powerful, organizing division in American literary history. As critics Christopher Hager and Cody Marrs recently noted, 1865 has provided a nearly unquestioned periodization for students, teachers, and scholars[…]

Lincoln, the North, and the Question of Emancipation

It was only midway through the war that Lincoln reached the conclusion that abolishing slavery would preserve the nation. Introduction For generations, Abraham Lincoln has been known as “the Great Emancipator.” His Emancipation Proclamation of January 1863 effectively declared that, if the North won the Civil War, the American institution of slavery would come to[…]

The ‘Comic News’, Lincoln, and the Civil War

Although Lincoln’s image in this and the British comic press was typically pejorative, there were moments of ambivalence. By Gary L. Bunker Introduction Neatly tucked away in the archives of history and hidden from the view of scholars for more than a century are political caricatures, satire, and doggerel of Abraham Lincoln and the Civil[…]

Lincoln’s Suspension of the Writ of Habeas Corpus: An Historical and Constitutional Analysis

Habeas corpus can constitutionally be suspended – the question is by whom, Congress or the President? By James A. Duelholm, J.D. Introduction In the 143 years since the end of the Civil War, historians have examined Abraham Lincoln and his conduct of the war in great and at times excruciating depth. Lincoln’s power to suspend[…]

Lincoln’s Construction of the Executive Power in the Secession Crisis

Americans in the deepest sense went to war in 1861 to resolve the nature of the Union and the status of slavery in our republic. In American politics the executive power is at once the most prized of governing institutions and the part of the Constitution believed most dangerous to the liberties of the people.[…]

Carpetbaggers and Scalawags: Reconstruction after the Civil War

Introduction Reconstruction is the name of the historical period following the American Civil War during which the U.S. government attempted to resolve the divisions of the war, rebuild the southern economy, and integrate former slaves into the political and social life of the country. With the end of the war and the collapse of the[…]

The American Civil War, from Fort Sumter to Palmito Ranch

The Constitutional Convention of 1789, following the Revolution, had failed to address slavery, and it took another war to step forward. Introduction The watershed event of United States history was the American Civil War (1861–1865), fought in North America within the territory of the United States of America, between 24 mostly northern states of the[…]

Congress and the Remaking of the South, 1865-1866

Andrew Johnson lacked Lincoln’s political skills and instead exhibited a stubbornness and confrontational approach. Introduction President Johnson and Congress’s views on Reconstruction grew even further apart as Johnson’s presidency progressed. Congress repeatedly pushed for greater rights for freed people and a far more thorough reconstruction of the South, while Johnson pushed for leniency and a[…]

Reconstruction after the Civil War

Reconstruction-era governments did make genuine gains in rebuilding Southern states devastated by the war. By Tina Ulrich, Joelle Hannert, Tom Gordon, Michelle Schneider, Michele Howard, Ryan Bernstein, and Justin Guillard Lincoln’s Plan for Reconstruction Overview The first great task confronting the victorious North — now under the leadership of Lincoln’s vice president, Andrew Johnson, a[…]

An Overview of the Civil War

While the Southern army dwindled, the Union simply mustered new armies and tried again. By Tina Ulrich, Tom Gordon, Sherry Trier, Michelle Schneider, Ryan Bernstein, and Justin Guillard Western Advance, Eastern Stalemate Having been turned down by Robert E. Lee, Lincoln turned to George McClellan to lead the Union Army. In McClellan, Lincoln found one[…]

The Civil War’s Unforgiving Final Year and How It Changed the War’s Legacy

What happened in the first few years seems almost innocent compared to what happened in the last year. A few years ago, I wrote a biography of Stonewall Jackson called Rebel Yell, which, in addition to tracking his life, chronicled the first two years of the American Civil War. Jackson fought in the war’s earliest battles, and[…]

Civil War Watercolors by Mapmaker Depicted Deprivation

Robert Knox Sneden colored the record. A descendant of American Loyalists and born in Nova Scotia in 1832, Robert Knox Sneden was a budding architect in New York City when the Civil War erupted. He had also studied landscape painting, and in the Union Army his drafting skills were put to work making maps. General[…]

The Civil War and the Black West

Assisted by Native Americans, they moved – and fought. Introduction In 1861, as Confederate armies prepared to crush the Union, President Lincoln commanded only 13,000 men and officers. At this moment ragged immigrant invaders seeking asylum reached the southern border of Kansas. Surrounded in Oklahoma on three sides by slaveholding states, they found themselves defenseless when[…]

Dorothea Dix and Cornelia Hancock: Two Views of Civil War Nursing

Thousands of women volunteered as nurses during the Civil War. On April 14, 1861, Fort Sumter fell—the beginning of four years of brutal war.  President Lincoln immediately called for 75,000 militia volunteers to put down what he described as a state of insurrection. The response was overwhelming. Tens of thousands of men enlisted. But Lincoln[…]

A Brief Overview of Post-Civil War Segregation

In the South, segregation reproduced the racial inequality found under slavery. By Angelina Grigoryeva and Martin Ruef Segregation took various forms across the postbellum United States, with important regional differences between the Northeast and South.  In the American Northeast, segregation largely assumed the form of racialized African-American districts, similar to those today.  By contrast, the[…]