Civil War

From April 12, 1861, to April 9, 1865, three million Americans fought in over 10,000 battles and skirmishes in the north and south of America. More than 620,000 soldiers died. Never before or since have Americans fought Americans in formalized war.

American cities were ravaged, homes were destroyed, farms were burned, and the death toll was huge and devastating. In one day at the battle of Antietam, more men were killed than on any other day in the history of our country. The total deaths from the Civil War were almost as many as the deaths in all other American wars combined. If the same percentage of today's population was killed, it would be the equivalent of five million deaths.

Southern states wanted the right to decide, on an individual basis, on the constitutionality of each law as it passed through congress. Southern states were strong proponents of strong state governments and for having the federal government play a smaller role in state affairs. And then there was the issue of slavery. Slavery had existed in the North, as well as the South, since the begining of colonial times. However, the North, with its strong industrial base, had a lesser need for slaves. In most northern states, slavery had been outlawed after the American Revolution. The economy of the South was based on agriculture. The southern states felt that they needed the institution of slavery in order to work their huge farms to supply the cotton, tobacco, rice, and sugar of a growing nation as well as overseas demands. The issue of slavery expanding or not expanding into new states that were joining the union was also a major issue.

Sample some of the following activities to learn more about the Civil War.


Places To Go    People To See    Things To Do    Teacher Resources    Bibliography

Places To Go

The following are places to go (some real and some virtual) to find out about the Civil War.

Beaufort National Cemetery
Visit this cemetery in Beaufort, South Carolina. President Abraham Lincoln established this cemetery in 1863 as the final resting place for soldiers who lost their lives in the war between the states. There are over 7,500 Civil War soldiers buried there, including 4019 unknown Union soldiers and 117 known confederate soldiers.
Florence National Cemetery
Travel to this national cemetery in Florence, South Carolina.The cemetery was created when a plantation owner named James H. Jarrott allowed Civil War dead to be buried in trenches on his property near the Florence Confederate Stockade.The first burial took place on September 17, 1864, and the cemetery was established as a National Cemetery in 1865.
Fort Sumter
Travel to Fort Sumter, South Carolina. "The first engagement of the Civil War took place at Fort Sumter on April 12 and 13, 1861."
Gettysburg National Military Park
Travel to the site of one of the pivotal military campaigns of the Civil War. In June and July of 1863, there were a series of battles in the vicinity of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
Museum of the Confederacy
Virtually visit this museum in Richmond, Virgina containing collections of military, political, and domestic artifacts and art associated with the period of the Confederacy from1861 to1865. The museum complex consists of a modern museum building and the restored historicWhite House of the Confederacy.
Point Lookout
Travel to Point Lookout in Maryland, a federal prison camp for Confederates.The camp was near to the battlefields in the east and therefore became the largest Union prison. The camp was established after the Battle of Gettysburg to incarcerate Confederate prisoners. The camp was in operation two years, July 1863 to June1865.
Rock Island Civil War Camp
Virtually travel to this Confederate prison camp in Illinois. During the 20 months that the camp was in operation, 1964 Confederate soldiers died and were buried in an adjacent cemetery.
Stratford Hall Plantation
Visit the birthplace of Robert E. Lee. You can take a virtual tour of the plantation and learn about its history and archaeology. Choose the "Just for Kids" section to find a colonial crossword, a plantation wordsearch, and more.
USS Monitor
Sail on the USS Monitor, a Civil War battleship. This ship played an integral role in the transformation of military vessels from wood to iron.
The Valley of the Shadow
This website contains an archive of thousands of sources for the period before, during, and after the Civil War for Augusta County, Virginia, and Franklin County, Pennsylvania.

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People To See

Civil War Women
Meet women during the War Between the States. Read these primary source manuscript which document women's lives and experiences in the Civil War.
Dorothea Lynde Dix
Get to know Dorothea Lynde Dix. She was in charge of all nursing services for the Union army. She was also a social reformer and worked for human treatment of the mentally ill.
George Armstrong Custer
Chat with George Armstrong Custer. He is remembered for his infamous role in the Battle of Little Big Horn. But he was also a Civil War soldier. Because of his efforts in the Civil War, he became the youngest American officer to ever become a general.
Margaret Mitchell
Get to know Margaret Mitchell and find out about her book, Gone With the Wind, the popular story about the Civil War and reconstruction periods in Georgia. It's one of the most popular novels in the history of American publishing.
Stonewall Jackson
Stonewall Jackson was one of the most famous of the Confederate Civil War generals. His real name was Thomas Jonathan Jackson. He died in 1863 as a result of "friendly fire" when his own 18th North Carolina Infantry Regiment fired on him by mistake.
Ulysses S. Grant
Get to know Ulysses Simpson Grant. He was commander in chief of the Union army and went on to become the 18th president of the United States. He's buried in the famous Grant's Tomb in New York City. 
United States Colored Troops in the Civil War
Meet and learn about the African-American men and women who served in the Civil War.

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Things To Do

The American Civil War Homepage
From this megasite, search through hundred of links and resources relating to the Civil War.
Civil War Recipes
How about maple sugar candy or calf's foot jelly or union pudding or taffy or johnny cakes? You can also make some hardtack which is a hard, saltless biscuit that was used for army rations in the Civil War.
Constitution of the Confederate States of America
Read full text of the of the constitution of the Confederates States of America.
The Emancipation Proclamation
From the National Archives, read through the Emancipation Proclamation. President Abraham Lincoln issued it on January 1, 1863. The proclamation declared "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free."
Eyewitness: The American Civil War
Learn about the Battle at Antietam, the surrender at Appomattox, the death of President Lincoln, and more.
Historic American Sheet Music: 1850 to 1920
Search this Library of Congress site for Civil War songs. When Johnny Comes Marching Home was written in 1863 by Louis Lambert.
The History Place: The U.S. Civil War 1861-1865
Read through a timeline of the Civil War beginning in November1860 with the election of Abraham Lincoln and ending in December 1865 when the Thirteenth Amendment was passed, officially abolishing slavery.
Raising the Civil War Gunboats
History of the Civil War and the search of Civil War gunboats on the Tennessee River.
U.S. Casualties in the Major Wars
Compare the casualties in the Civil War to other United States wars. Twice as many Americans died in the Civil War as did in World War I. Note that the figures given for the Civil War only include the Union army. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to add on the Confederate deaths.

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Teacher Resources

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  • Blashfield, Jean F. Mines and Minie Balls: Weapons of the Civil War. New York: Franklin Watts, c1997.
  • Children in the Civil War.Peterborough, NH: Cobblestone Pub. Co., 1999.
  • Damon, Duane. When This Cruel War Is Over: The Civil War Home Front. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Co., c1996.
  • Dolan, Edward F. The American Civil War: A House Divided. Brookfield, Conn.: Millbrook Press, c1997.
  • Erdosh, George. Food and Recipes of the Civil War. New York: PowerKids Press, 1997.
  • Gaines, Ann. The Confederacy and the Civil War in American History. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers, c2000.
  • Hakim, Joy. War, Terrible War. New York: Oxford University Press, c1999.
  • Haskins, James. The Day Fort Sumter Was Fired On: A Photo History of the Civil War. New York: Scholastic, 1995.
  • Haugen, David. The Civil War. San Diego, Calif.: Greenhaven Press, 1999.
  • Herbert, Janis. The Civil War for Kids: A History with 21 Activities. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 1999.
  • Isaacs, Sally Senzell. America in the Time of Abraham Lincoln: 1815 to 1869. Des Plaines, Ill.: Heinemann Library, c2000.
  • Lloyd, Mark. Combat Uniforms of the Civil War. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 1999.
  • Otfinoski, Steven. John Wilkes Booth and the Civil War. Woodbridge, Conn.: Blackbirch Press, 1999.