How the Civil War Drove Medical Innovation

The federal government was able to spur innovation to meet the needs of the crisis. Introduction The current COVID-19 pandemic, the largest public health crisis in a century, threatens the health of people across the globe. The U.S. has had the most diagnosed cases – surpassing 6 million – and more than 180,000 deaths. But[…]

The Diplomatic Impacts of U.S. Victory in the Civil War

The victory provided a renewed strength of the U.S. government and allowed shifting resources to fight external intervention. Introduction The outcome of the Civil War resulted in a strengthening of U.S. foreign power and influence, as the definitive Union defeat of the Confederacy firmly demonstrated the strength of the United States Government and restored its[…]

The Impact of the Trent Affair on U.S.-British Relations in the Civil War

The Lincoln administration understood that it would be unwise to risk a possible armed conflict while already in the midst of a war. Introduction On November 8, 1861, Charles Wilkes, a U.S. Navy Officer, captured two Confederate envoys aboard the British mail ship, the Trent. Great Britain accused the United States of violating British neutrality,[…]

A History of the Civil War, from the Preceding Crisis to the End of Reconstruction

Examining the initial fractures, course, and ultimate resolution of the Civil War that divided the nation. Decade of Crisis Slave Resistance During the 1850s, Americans witnessed a decade of sectional crises that threatened the very existence of the Union. Ralph Waldo Emerson was right in predicting that the Mexican Cession would reignite the explosive issue[…]

Key Personalities of the American Civil War

Taking a look at some of the key figures who played important roles during one of our nation’s most divisive times. Abraham Lincoln February 12 1809 – April 15 1865 Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States and the first Republican elected to that office. Lincoln was president during the Civil War,[…]

Elections in 1864 during the Civil War

Lincoln was presiding over a bloody civil war with waning popularity. But he steadfastly rejected pleas to postpone the election. Introduction The outlook was not promising in 1864 for President Abraham Lincoln’s reelection. Hundreds of thousands of Americans had been killed, wounded or displaced in a civil war with no end in sight. Lincoln was[…]

The Gentleman’s Agreement That Ended the Civil War

An unusually civil armistice in the most punishing conflict ever fought on American soil. One hundred and fifty years ago, on April 9, 1865, a lone Confederate horseman violently waving a white towel as a flag of truce galloped up to the men of the 118th Pennsylvania Infantry near Appomattox Court House and asked for[…]

The Civil War Overwhelmed the Senses Like No Other

The loudest booms people had ever heard and the powerful stench of death on a staggering scale. In rhetoric and substance, wars are generally fought for ideals that are noble, dignified, and lofty. Leaders justify waging war—and endeavor to inspire those who fight them—by appealing to powerful abstractions: liberty, self-determination, and national identity. In turn,[…]

A History of Reconstruction

African Americans gained political power yet faced the backlash of white supremacy and racial violence. Introduction I’ll never forget a student’s response when I asked during a middle school social studies class what they knew about Black history: “Martin Luther King freed the slaves.” Martin Luther King Jr. was born in 1929, more than six[…]

The Civil War Diarist Who Chronicled the Confederacy’s Fall

Raised in plantation privilege, Mary Boykin Chestnut was unprepared for the trauma of war and defeat. “February 18, 1861…. I do not allow myself vain regrets or sad foreboding. This Southern Confederacy must be supported now by calm determination and cool brains. We have risked all, and we must play our best, for the stake[…]

African American Spirituals: From Cotton Fields to Concert Halls

After the Civil War, touring groups of black college singers popularized slavery-era songs, giving rise to a new musical genre. “Swing low, sweet chariot….” These words are familiar to many Americans, who might sing them in worship, in Sunday school, around campfires, in school, and in community choruses. But the black singers responsible for introducing[…]

The Bostonian Who Armed the Anti-Slavery Settlers in ‘Bleeding Kansas’

Amos Lawrence backed abolitionist pioneers in the town that bears his name. On May 24, 1854, Anthony Burns, a young African-American man, was captured on his way home from work. He had escaped from slavery in Virginia and had made his way to Boston, where he was employed in a men’s clothing store. His owner[…]

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.[…]