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[…]

Treason or Loyal Opposition? The Copperheads and Dissent during the Civil War

Were the Copperheads traitors or merely exercising the right to criticize the government? To what extent did federal power increase during the Civil War? By Rachel Rooney and Margaret Storey Introduction The following documents offer perspectives on the Northern wing of the Democratic Party, which opposed the Civil War. These Peace Democrats urged an immediate,[…]

Slavery, Civil War, and the “New Birth of Freedom”

To twenty-first-century Americans, the case against slavery may appear self-evident. However, nineteenth-century opponents of slavery faced a quite different social consensus on the issue. Introduction To twenty-first-century Americans, the case against slavery may appear self-evident. Most of us have no doubt about the profound injustice of a system in which some people are the property[…]

Did the End of the Civil War Mean the End of Slavery?

April 1865 marked the beginning of a new battle for American abolitionists. On the same morning that Abraham Lincoln died from an assassin’s bullet, noted abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison was quietly gloating by the Charleston, South Carolina graveside of John C. Calhoun. Garrison, approaching his 60th birthday, had traveled down to secession’s birthplace with a[…]

“Charity Is Ever Kind”: Women in Civil War Contraband Camps

In the first year of the Civil War, Union General Benjamin Butler used the term “contraband of war,” to describe escaped enslaved people. By Ashlee AndersonPublic Historian On April 12, 1861, America officially entered into a Civil War, years in the making. This war would transform millions of lives and completely change the country as[…]

Social and Economic Factors in the Reconstruction Era

Reconstruction’s influence of and effects upon religion, education, industry, and taxation. Organized Religion Freedmen were very active in forming their own churches, mostly Baptist or Methodist, and giving their ministers both moral and political leadership roles. In a process of self-segregation, practically all blacks left white churches so that few racially integrated congregations remained (apart[…]

A History of Reconstruction after the Civil War

The of the aftermath of the Civil War and the brief attempt to “reconstruct” the U.S. South on the basis of democracy and political equality for the freed Black slaves. The formal emancipation of African American slaves and the victory of the Union Army in the Civil War constituted a significant but incomplete advance for[…]

The USCT: Black Union Soldiers in the Civil War

The United States Colored Troops (USCT) was a branch of the United States Army founded in 1863. Introduction The United States Colored Troops (USCT) was a branch of the United States Army founded in 1863 to recruit, organize, and oversee the service of African American soldiers during the American Civil War (1861–1865). USCT regiments consisted of[…]

Elizabeth Van Lew: Confederate Abolitionist Turned Union Spy

Elizabeth Van Lew was a Richmond, Virginia abolitionist and philanthropist who built and operated an extensive spy ring for the Union Army during the American Civil War. Early Life Elizabeth Van Lew was born on October 12, 1818, in Richmond, Virginia to John Van Lew and Eliza Baker,[1] whose grandfather was Hilary Baker, mayor of Philadelphia from 1796 to[…]

Andrew Johnson and Reconstruction

The views of the Vice President rarely matter too much, unless something happens to the President. In 1864, Republican Abraham Lincoln chose Andrew Johnson, a Democratic senator from Tennessee, as his Vice Presidential candidate. Lincoln was looking for Southern support. He hoped that by selecting Johnson he would appeal to Southerners who never wanted to[…]