The Civil War
THE CIVIL WAR
JAMES I. ROBERTSON, JR.
Washington 25, D. C.
U. S. Civil War Centennial Commission
EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD
- Alma E. Anderson, Social Studies Department, Robert E. Lee Junior High School, Danville, Va.
- E. Merton Coulter, Professor-Emeritus of History, University of Georgia, Athens
- William M. Grant, History Department, Upper Arlington High School, Columbus, O.
- Richard Harwell, Librarian, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Me.
- William B. Hesseltine, Professor of History, University of Wisconsin, Madison
- Daniel W. Hollis, Professor of History, University of South Carolina, Columbia
- Stanley F. Horn, Chairman, Tennessee Civil War Centennial Commission, Nashville
- William M. Lamers, Assistant Superintendent, Milwaukee Public Schools
- A. B. Moore, Professor-Emeritus of History, University of Alabama, University
- Allan Nevins, Chairman, U. S. Civil War Centennial Commission, San Marino, Cal.
- Mary G. Oliver, History Department, George Washington High School, Danville, Va.
- Glenn A. Rich, Director, Division of Elementary and Secondary Education, Ohio Department of Education, Columbus
- Bell I. Wiley, Professor of History, Emory University, Atlanta, Ga.
- T. Harry Williams, Professor of History, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge
- Hazel C. Wolf, History Department, Manual High School, Peoria, Ill.
Thousands of student requests for information on the Civil Warprompted the publication of this booklet. Its purpose is to present insimple language a survey of the eleven most popular aspects of the1861-1865 conflict. This guide is intended as a supplement, not a substitute,for American history textbooks.
Space limitations prevented mention of each of the 6,000 engagementsof the Civil War. Thus, while such actions as the battle ofPicacho Pass, Ariz., and Quantrill’s sacking of Lawrence, Kan., hadimport for their particular locales, they of necessity had to be omitted.In those battles herein discussed, statistics for armies and losses are thosegenerally accepted. The map midway in the booklet may help familiarizethe student with the various theaters of military operations. Aftereach section is a list of works recommended for those who desire moredetailed information on the subject.
Relatively little consideration of the political, economic, and socialhistory of the period was possible within the limits of this small work.However, the Commission can supply upon request and without chargethe following pamphlets treating in part of those subjects: EmancipationCentennial, 1962: A Brief Anthology of the Preliminary Proclamation;Free Homesteads for All Americans: The Homestead Act of1862, by Paul W. Gates; The Origins of the Land-Grant Colleges andState Universities, by Allan Nevins; and Our Women of the Sixties,by Sylvia G. L. Dannett and Katharine M. Jones.
The Commission is deeply indebted to the Editorial Advisory Boardmembers, each of whom rendered valuable assistance toward the finaldraft of the narrative.
James I. Robertson, Jr., Executive DirectorU. S. Civil War Centennial Commission
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- I. Causes of the Civil War 5
- II. Advantages of North and South 7
- III. Summary of Military Campaigns 11
- 1861 11
- 1862 in the West 13
- 1862 in the East 17
- 1863 in the West 21
- 1863 in the East 23
- 1864 25
- 1865 30
- IV. Losses 35
- V. Navies 37
- VI. Diplomacy 42
- VII. Prisons and Prisoners of War 45
- VIII. Arms 48
- IX. Leaders 52
- X. The Common Soldiers 57
- XI. The War’s Legacy 62
- XII. Suggested Topics for Further Discussion 64
Construction of the U. S. Capitol was still in progress when civil war began.
I. CAUSES OF THE CIVIL WAR
Historians past and present disagree sharply over the major causeof the Civil War.
Some writers have viewed the struggle of the 1860’s as a “war ofrebellion” brought on by a “slavepower conspiracy.” To them it wasa conflict between Northern “humanity” and Southern “barbarism.”James Ford Rhodes, who dealt more generously with the South thandid many other Northern writers of his time, stated in 1913: “Of theAmerican Civil War it may safely be asserted that there was a singlecause, slavery.”
Other historians, such as Charles A. Beard and Harold U. Faulkner,have argued that slavery was only the surface issue. The real cause,these men state, was “the economic forces let loose by the IndustrialRevolution” then taking place in the North. These economic forceswere strong, powerful, and “beating irresistibly upon a one-sided andrather static” Southern way of life. Therefore, the 1860’s produced a“second American Revolution,” fought between the “capitalists, laborers,and farmers of the North and West” on the one hand, and the“planting aristocracy of the South” on the other.
A third theory advanced by historians is that the threat to states’rights led to war. The conflict of the 1860’s was thus a “War betweenthe States.” Many in this group believe that the U. S. Constitution of1787 was but a compact, or agreement, between the independent states.Therefore, when a state did not like the policies of the central government,it had the right to withdraw—or secede—from this compact.
Still other writers believe “Southern nationalism” to have been thebasic cause of the war. Southerners, they assert, had so strong a desireto preserve their particular way of life that they were willing to fight.This then became a struggle between rival sections whose differences6could not be settled peacefully. The result was a “War for SouthernIndependence.”
Slaves working in a field across the river from Montgomery, Ala.,first capital of the Confederacy.
A recent group of historians, known as “revisionists,” rejects theseearlier theories. Leader of the revisionist school was the late James G.Randall, who once stated: “If one word or phrase were selected toaccount for the war, that word would not be slavery, or economicgrievances, or states rights, or diverse civilizations. It would have tobe such a word as fanaticism.” Another revisionist, Avery O. Craven,agrees. The Civil War, he wrote, resulted because the great mass ofAmerican people “permitted their short-sighted politicians, their overzealouseditors, and their pious reformers” to control public opinionand action. Primarily through the slavery issue, these radicals createdmore and more hatred between North and South. In the end, and as aresult of these radicals, the differences between the sections, swelled by“a blundering generation,” burst into a war.
Fort Sumter in 1865, as viewed from a sandbar. The fort’s battered wallsare clearly visible.
II. ADVANTAGES OF NORTH AND SOUTH
Few nations have been as unprepared for a full-scale war as wasthe United States in 1861. The U. S. Army consisted of barely 17,000men. Most of the soldiers were stationed at remote outposts on thewestern frontier. To make matters worse for the Union, a large numberof army officers who had been born in the South and educated atWest Point resigned from the army and offered their services to theConfederacy.
The U. S. Navy was in an equally bad state. It had performedlittle duty since the War of 1812. The Navy had a total of 90 ships,but only 42 of them were in active service at the outbreak of civil war.Of this number, 11 fell into Confederate hands with the capture of thenaval base at Norfolk, Va., in April, 1861. The remaining vessels werescattered around the world. Moreover, 230 of 1,400 naval officersjoined the forces of the Confederacy.
At the beginning of the Civil War, the North seemed to possessevery advantage:
(1) 23 Northern states aligned against only 11 Southern states.(Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri were slave states, but they remainedin the Union. Also, the western counties of Virginia revolted andformed their own state when the Old Dominion cast her lot with theConfederacy.)
(2) The population of the Northern states was approximately22,000,000 people. The Southern states had only 9,105,000 people, andone-third of them (3,654,000) were slaves. The great difference inpopulation, plus a steady flow of European immigrants into the Northernstates, gave the Union tremendous manpower. Over 2,000,000 menserved in the Federal armies, while no more than half that numberfought for the South.
The “General Haupt” was one of several locomotives seized by Federals onthe Orange & Alexandria (now Southern) Railroad.
(3) The North had 110,000 manufacturing plants, as comparedwith 18,000 in the Confederate States. The North produced 97% ofall firearms in America, and it manufactured 96% of the nation’srailroad equipment.
Although the South possessed few manufacturing plants in 1861, Richmond’sTredegar Iron Works produced such items as machinery, cannon, submarines,torpedoes, and plates for ironclad ships.
(4) Most of the country’s financial resources were in the North.
In view of the North’s statistical superiority in so many areas,people often do not understand how the Civil War lasted four longyears. Many reasons account for this:
(1) Both North and South needed many months of preparationbefore they were ready for full-scale war.
(2) For at least the first eighteen months of the war, the Confederacywas able to obtain many supplies from sympathetic nations inEurope. Not until late in 1862 did the Federals have enough ships toblockade effectively the major Southern ports.
(3) Southern armies generally fought on the defensive. It doesnot require as many men to hold a position as it does to attack andseize that position.
(4) Moreover, every time the Federals captured a city, bridge,road junction, or other important point, men had to be left behind toguard these places. To the Northern armies also went the task of sheltering,feeding, and to some extent training thousands of freed orrunaway slaves. Therefore, even though the Federal armies greatly outnumberedthe Confederate forces, the North needed more men to fightthe war.
(5) In that age armies rarely fought in wintertime, a season ofcold weather and deep mud. Most of the military campaigns took place9between April and October. Hence, little activity occurred for abouthalf of each year.
Before surveying the military campaigns, the student should bearin mind two more important, but somewhat confusing, points: eachside named its armies by different systems, and each side used differentmethods for identifying battles.
The North named its armies for large rivers, while the South designatedits forces by large areas of land. For example, the Federal Armyof the Potomac fought against the Confederate Army of NorthernVirginia. This difference of names could and did sometimes becomeperplexing. An illustration of this occurred in the Western theater,where the Federal Army of the Tennessee (river) campaigned againstthe Confederate Army of Tennessee (state).
Likewise, both sides used different methods in naming battles. TheNorth referred to a battle by the closest stream, river, run, or creek inthe area. The South designated a battle by the name of the nearesttown. Thus, the bloodiest one-day engagement of the Civil War isknown in the North as the battle of Antietam Creek, and in the Southas the battle of Sharpsburg, Maryland. In some cases, such as the battlesof Gettysburg and Wilson’s Creek, both sides adopted the same name.
Now let us turn to the war itself and “follow the armies.”
- Beard, Charles A., The Rise of American Civilization, Volume II (1927).
- Channing, Edward, History of the United States, Volume VI (1925).
- Cole, Arthur C., The Irrepressible Conflict, 1850-1865 (1934).
- Craven, Avery O., The Coming of the Civil War (1942, 1957).
- ____, The Repressible Conflict (1939).
- Milton, George Fort, Conflict: The American Civil War (1941).
- Nevins, Allan, The Emergence of Lincoln (2 vols., 1950).
- Nichols, Roy F., The Disruption of American Democracy (1948).
- Pressly, Thomas J., Americans Interpret Their Civil War (1954).
- Randall, James G., and Donald, David, The Civil War and Reconstruction (1961).
- Rhodes, James Ford, Lectures on the American Civil War (1913).
- Rozwenc, Edwin C. (ed.) The Causes of the American Civil War (1961).
- Schlesinger, Arthur M., New Viewpoints in American History (1922).
- Stampp, Kenneth P., And the War Came (1950).
- ____, The Causes of the Civil War (1959).
CHART OF CIVIL WAR ARMY ORGANIZATION
Major General (USA)
Lieutenant General (CSA)
Major General (USA)
BATTALION (less than 10 companies)