American Civil War
Politics of the Union
Uncover the political tensions and decisions that characterized the United States government during the Civil War, from the 1860 election of President Abraham Lincoln to the early days of Reconstruction legislation under President Andrew Johnson. Follow debates between political factions like the Copperhead Democrats, who supported neither the war nor abolition, and the Radical Republicans, who pressured Lincoln to move more quickly on emancipation.
Creating the Confederacy
Trace the growth of the Confederate States of America, from the southern states’ secession from the Union to surrender and amnesty. Explore Confederate national identity through the institutions the Confederates built to legislate, settle legal disputes, govern, sustain an economy, support innovation, report progress in the press, and express national pride.
Learn about how both the Union and Confederacy built their military forces during the Civil War, from recruiting volunteers to instituting the draft. See how these methods changed over time as the war dragged on, patriotic motivations faded, and military service became a more daunting prospect for potential soldiers.
Meet the soldiers, nurses, spies, and camp workers who served in the Union and Confederate armies. Hear their stories and start to understand the challenges they faced and the sacrifices they made during the war through portraits, letters, memoirs, war records, and military-issued food and weapons.
African American Lives
Discover the variety of African Americans experiences of the Civil War. On the front lines, African Americans served in the military, particularly as part of the U.S. Colored Troops, and supported the war through service in military camps. Many formerly enslaved people escaped to freedom during the war, including “contrabands,” while others continued to suffer under the system of slavery in the Confederacy.
Explore Civil War military conflicts on land and sea, from Fort Sumter to Appomattox. Use maps and documents to survey military strategy and letters and photographs to learn about the outcomes and casualties of the battles.
The War at Home
Investigate the stories of the women, children, and men who experienced the Civil War as civilians. In both North and South, they supported war efforts through charity work and mourned the loss of loved ones. In the Confederacy, as the war progressed, they coped with poverty and food shortages, destruction of property as the Union Army moved south, and the economic and social aftermath of a war lost.
Remembering the Civil War
Find out how the Civil War has been memorialized in both the North and the South since the conflict ended in 1865. Through veterans organizations, memorials and monuments, re-enactments, and political activism, consider the ways that Americans have honored and reimagined the legacy of the Civil War.
Topic curated by Franky Abbott, Digital Public Library of America