The Civil War was unlike any other in United States history. Fought completely on American soil, armies were most successful when they had accurate knowledge of the terrain. The South had an early advantage, not only because their troops had superior military leaders, but because most of the battles occurred on their home territory. Thus, they needed to wage a defensive campaign only. Reliable cartographic information was limited or absent and severely hindered northern efforts, often resulting in high casualties.
The war was all encompassing and every American had a personal stake in its course. Soldiers were recruited, supplied, trained, and transported. Casualties were high and many civilians helped care for the wounded. Those on the home front raised money, provided comfort and longed for news of their loved ones. Visual images such as maps, photographs, cartoons and prints told the story as it unfolded. Traditional means such as letters, diaries and sketches also provided detailed accounts of the conflict.