"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great Civil War, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure."
Almost every historian of American History considers this to be the seminal event in the history of the United States. It was predicted as far back as the Declaration of Independence and has influenced the country's domestic politics well into the 21st century.
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History of the war
In 1861, a group of southeastern U.S. states seceded from the United States of America (then a formal Union of American States, and not just a loose association of independent statesas it had been upon independence from Britain) and declared themselves independent of the government as a new Confederation of American States. From there events took on a life of their own and the situation devolved into a full-blown war which lasted four years, the government's attempts to crush the rebellion inevitably and eventually resulting in the dissolution of the confederation and the rebellious states' re-integration into The Union.
Much like the contemporary 1850-64 War Of The Heavenly Kingdom or Taiping Rebellion along the mid-lower Yangzi and the later civil wars suffered by 20th-century China and Russianote Which were orders of magnitude more savage, bloody, and bitter with at least 20 million dead in the Taiping War and at least ten million dead each in the others. The American Civil War only killed 700,000, the Civil War was the result of a grand failure of normal politics. Modern historiography — the history of history — tells us that the great failure was over the future of slavery — of ethnic Africans — in the United States. The southern "Slave States", whose economies were based around the use of slave labor to harvest cotton for export to western Europe, feared that the central government in Washington, D.C. would attempt to regulate or ban the slave trade and the practice of slavery.
Again, as is typical of civil wars, the initial phase of the war was something of a mess. The 1861 secession of the "slave states" didn't see all the slave states secede, though all the states that did secede were "slave states." The "slave states" of Delaware, Maryland, Missouri, and Kentucky, remained loyal through the initial secession crisis and the war that followed once the US Army had suppressed their more rebellious districts. A rebel state (Virginia) even suffered its own secession crisis when the half of the state (the future state of West Virginia) on the Appalachian Mountain range defected back to the government as a new state.
The loyal states of the north were also not nearly as unified in their opposition to either slavery nor secession as they came to be seen in retrospect. There was also a notable split between the industrialized Northeast and the mostly agricultural Northwest (the name then used for what is now called the Midwest).note In the first half of the 19th century the Northwest, a large part of which depended on the Mississippi for its outward trade, was still seen as the South's natural ally against the Northeast with its abolitionist sympathies (some New England states had already given Blacks the vote before 1860), but the conflict of interests and the improved communications to the east (railways) slowly drove it into an alliance with the Northeast. This was clearly demonstrated in the antebellum political scuffles over the future of the west-American colonies that the United States had just conquered from Mexico. The Southern states wanted to establish new "slave states" in those areas so that no laws outlawing slavery could be passed by the central governmentnote Which had and still has two 'houses', both of which need to approve all new laws. Both houses have all their representatives put forward by the states. But although in one house the number of representatives is determined by population of the state, in the other house every state has two representatives (no matter how heavily or sparsely populated). The set-up for this second house made it impossible for any laws (51% of the representatives in both houses had to approve a law for it to be approved/ratified/"made into law") to be made regulating or banning slavery despite the fact that twice as many people lived in 'free' as in 'slave' states. Moreover, any changes to the federal constitution (e.g. to outlaw owning people as property) required 2/3 or more of both houses to approve it.. Many Northwesterners opposed this because more plantations meant less space for small farms (owned by 'homesteaders'), which they believed — as per liberal (i.e. "free market") ideology — were more economically efficient (as it used free, rather than coerced, labor)note Morality aside, this is untrue. Slave labor is an extremely efficient form of labor, though slaves have never been used (on a large scale) for anything other than the most basic tasks like plantation and factory work. It's not as profitable as you might think, though, because even though you pay them no wages you still have to house and feed them. Some have tried to make the case that people work harder for their own reward than they do to avoid (their loved ones) being (sexually) assaulted, tortured, or killed. It should be noted that slavery is not incompatible with rewards, however. and more desirable as the social-moral bedrock of a new/developing society. This conflict over the extension of slavery exploded into a prologue to the Civil War in 1856 in the internecine conflict known as "Bleeding Kansas," in which people from Northern states and Southern states moved en masse to the by-then-approaching-statehood Kansas Territory to influence whether the new state would be slave or free (the issue having been left to "popular sovereignty," i.e. the state's residents would vote on it when they voted on the state's constitution).
This was the second civil war in just a century to tear North America's families, towns, and governments apart. Nationalism had truly developed since then and where before people had largely been torn between ideals, people were now divided just as much if not more by State and local loyalties, for "National" nationalismnote i.e. a federal-government-level "USA" national identity had yet to supersede these. It was for their States and for Freedom that, as in the English Civil War, about 2-5% of the total population of the United States died and far more were left impoverished, displaced, maimed and traumatized. Again as in the Revolution, the victory of the government was almost guaranteed; but no world powers aided the unsympathetic cause of these rebels, who were left to face the far superior manpower, finance, and industry of the central government on their own. The result was almost inevitable; the whole affair appeared a very close-run thing, especially given the rebels' early successes, but the US Army learnt (however slowly) from its mistakes and made good on its material advantage, grinding the rebels down and eventually crushing them after four years of the bloodiest fighting North America has ever seen. The rebels — The Confederacy — still engender sympathy in certain states, generally those that rebelled. Such people often prefer to think that the rebels fought for Freedom From The Tyranny Of Central Government more than The Freedom To Own And Use People As They Saw Fit. This was the American Civil War, The War of the Rebellion, the War Between the States, the War of Southern Treason, the War of Northern Aggression, Lincoln's War, the Slaveholders' Revolt, and the Late Unpleasantness — though rarely, if ever, referred to by any of those names while the war itself was being fought.note At the outset some Secessionists referred to their cause as The Second American Revolution, a term that would later be used by others for the entire era of the Civil War and Reconstruction. Outside the United States, the preferred term is usually American Civil War or, e. g. in France and Germany, (American) War of Secession. It was an era which pitted brother against brother, and where the armies of the Blue and the Gray shot cannons and Minié Balls at each other across smoke-filled battlefields.
The Southern part of the United States at this time is a world filled with romantic, tall-columned plantation houses where delicate Southern Belles sashay in large skirts and Corset Faint at every available opportunity. Where chivalrous, cigar-chomping, white-tuxedo-wearing Southern Gentlemen pistol-duel at dawn and where the word "Damyankees!"note One word. Two words is when you cuss out the Baseball team. is used with a fair degree of regularity. Slaves work the fields down here, although whether a production chooses to show the more realistic aspects of slave life depends a lot on the era in which it's made. Don't expect to see many whitewashed "happy" portrayals of slaves in any modern series. People despise historical inaccuracy these days, given that there's really no excuse for it.
In the North, there is industry and patriotism, and Abolitionists cry out against the evils of slavery from every pulpit. Abraham Lincoln is a pretty popular guy in these parts — he spends most of his time in the Oval Office, brooding over battle maps and writing deep historical speeches on stovepipe hats. Ask him why he's fighting the war and he'll tell you it's to free the slaves. Never mind that this runs contrary what he actually said when asked, during the war; this is Hollywood History, where heroes are pure and their motives always perfectly clear. Similarly ignored are all of the explicit references to preserving slavery made by Southern governments and politicians during this time, because the product has to be sellable in all fifty states. Naturally, you don't see much of pro-slavery Confederate President Jefferson Davis in most Civil War movies. Oh, and remember what we said about "whitewashed happy portrayals of slaves" in the paragraph above? You're lucky if you see portrayals of black persons at all in the North — even anti-slavery crusaders had a tendency to view blacks as inferior, and historical accuracy sometimes bends to political correctness.
In actuality, Lincoln at first refused to make freeing the slaves a Union war aim. Doing so would have made the border states — slave states that stayed in the Union — leave. This was particularly important not only for propaganda reasons but also military strategy (Kentucky and Missouri were very useful) and the very pragmatic reason that Washington DC was surrounded by Virginia (a Confederate state) and Maryland (a border slave state). When the mood was right, he presented the abolition of slavery (in only those states which were in rebellion) as a means of critically undermining the rebel war effort. Two years previously by this time, a lawyer-turned-general had made his major contribution to the war effort by declaring he claimed three slaves who had been used to dig trenches on the grounds they were contraband of war, and then expanding that legal fiction to encompass any slave, whom the Union then emancipated on the grounds they didn't want them; since the most die-hard racist and advocate of slavery who supported the Union could see the logic of seizing rebel slaves, the legal fiction was so widespread that escaped slaves were (and are) habitually referred to as contrabands. The Emancipation Proclamation merely declared it a universal matter; it was ostensibly written as a war measure that only freed slaves in rebel-held areas — where public opinion didn't matter very much.note It is not a question of the fact that the Proclamation only applied to rebelling states; there was plenty of land in rebelling states held by Union forces, and since the Proclamation was a military order, they were the ones expected to enforce it. The arrival of Union troops in any place in the rebelling South meant freedom for the slaves in that area. But by the end of the war, the national mood shifted, and Lincoln helped pass the Thirteenth Amendment that completely ended the institution. Emancipation also had the effect of making British and French public opinion — already wary about the Confederacy — turn decisively in favor of the Union, more or less making recognition of the Confederacy politically unthinkable.
Meanwhile, on the battlefield itself, the Age of Dakka has dawned, which means that everything anybody knew about warfare is wrong again. Soldiers learned the new realities firsthand, such as standard-issue rifles which could hit with deadly accuracy at three times the range of smooth muskets, and multishot repeating rifles that create near-unsurvivable hails of gunfire at the enemy. Hollywood Tactics are played straight, and while this is justified, that doesn't make anybody any less dead. There is smoke and blood everywhere, with doctors severing gangrened legs left and right, bugles blowing, drummer boys drumming, and cavalry charging every which way (often resulting in casualty figures upwards of 30%, per battle). Expect to see at least one man from either side bravely carrying a tattered unit flag until he gets shot with a Minié ball and crumples artfully in a heap. One aspect that tends to get lost in nearly all depictions of the war is that as in previous wars, but unlike the ones that came after, the majority of deaths were still due to non-combat-related causes such as various diseases contracted in the field (such as "camp fever") and the still-primitive state of battlefield medicine that meant almost any infected wound could kill if it wasn't on an easily-amputated limb. The cumulative effect was enough, especially near the end of the war when the campaigns were relentless, to churn out men suffering from "soldier's heart" — what we would today recognize as post-traumatic stress. Americans like to believe that they learned this well and kept it in mind, while the European powers didn't notice until after World War One presented it to them on a massively greater scale. This is true if one sticks only to the effects of the war upon the USA's economy and society, for this period was one of rapid development that made the tactical lessons of the war irrelevant in just two decades. On a strategic level, the war is one of the first, and certainly the largest, to have modern mechanized supply lines via railroad. Now armies no longer needed to supply themselves from the land they inhabited, allowing far more troops in a given area. This furthermore allowed Sherman's March, since his troops could burn down Confederate farms without having to worry about starving themselves. Surprisingly to many, the American Civil War was the first-ever war in which aviation played a role, as Union forces pioneered the use of balloons as reconnaissance and observation platforms during the Siege of Richmond and other battles.
Four years long, the Civil War was by far the most protracted of the early industrial warsnote defined as a war between modern, industrialized countries using mass-mobilisation and -production techniques; none of the other industrial wars of this period, save the Crimean and Boer Wars, lasted more than three years. Though several of those conflicts were more expensive in absolute terms, none were "relatively" more expensive or illustrated quite so well the crippling effect of protracted industrial warfare upon an economy and societynote Even, if not 'especially', in those parts not directly affected by the fighting. Inflation affects everyone. The Austro-French War in Piedmont-Sardinia/Northern Italy, the Russo-Turkish War, the Franco-Prussian War, the Second Boer War, and the Russo-Japanese War of 1905 all give certain (and better) insights into "modern" warfare at the time, however, as they involved The Great (and second-rate) Powers of the age. The Crimean War of 1853-6 is often contrasted with and seen as a smaller-scale precursor to the American Civil War — Russia was about as under-industrialized relative to the Franco-Britishnote and Piedmont-Sardinian alliance as were the USA's rebel states to its loyal ones.
This war was essentially the Trope Codifier for modern battlefield tactics: less about cavalry, more about infantry, and keep your Dakka handy, 'cuz Swords aren't useful anymore. In fact, the Gatling gun was invented and saw limited experimental use during the last years of the war ("limited," as it was extremely expensive and prone to mechanical failure) — though it was an early predecessor to rapid-fire automatic weaponry. The world even got a sneak preview of World War One in the form of the trench warfare that took place at Cold Harbor, Petersburg, and Vicksburg. Of course, like it does so often, the world proceeded to completely ignore itnote Not that, of course, it was any easier than usual to tell 'which' lessons could/should be learned from the war. It was very hard to draw conclusions from the limited reports of the time, as it has taken generations to compile a thorough account of the war in all its details. That's not even mentioning the 'benefit' of hindsight. Like World War II, this war was waged on battlefields but won in factories; the highly industrialized North could mass-produce muskets, cannon, and ships that the agrarian South could only import, and largely couldn't in large numbers with the Union Naval Blockade in place. Also, this war had the first recorded successful sinking of an enemy ship by a submarine, and they did it completely blind. And the first battle between two fully-armored ships, CSS Virginia (an ironclad) and USS Monitor (founder and namer of its class, first all-iron ship, first rotatable gun turret) at Hampton Roads. The two shot at each other for three hours, and neither took any appreciable damage whatsoever. Naval forces of the world took note: From now on, their ships needed to be made of iron... and they needed some bigger guns.
Current estimates are that about 2% of the country's population was killed, a scale of suffering unkown to the Anglosphere since the English Civil War (which killed 7%) but which put the relative and absolute suffering quite comfortably below that of the Qing Empire's Taiping Rebellion (which killed 5%). At least 620,000 soldiers died in the American Civil Warnote Some estimates have put it around 750,000 and even as high as 850,000, but we like to be cautious. That's more armed-forces dead than in every other war the US has fought put together... and does not include civilian deaths, which came out to another 41,000, for a total of over 660,000 dead of a combined population around 34 millionnote Over half, possibly as much as two-thirds, were actually killed by disease and post-injury infection rather than in battle — in particular, treatments for gangrene were not developed until shortly after the war. More US citizens died in 1864 than during The Hundred Days' Offensive, ''Operation Overlord'', or any of the anti-partisan operations of the 'War On Terror'. The dead for the three-day Battle of Gettysburg almost equal the Americans killed in the entireVietnam War. The destruction and loss of life were immense, even "medieval"note informed readers can put away the tissues, we only use the word in the (totally inaccurate, as well you know) Hollywood History sense of medieval conflict, i.e. large-scale and barbaric; it was like something out of Homer, the Thirty Years' War, or contemporary China.
The costs of the war—not just the immediately obvious ones like having to pay for raising and maintaining massive standing armies, but also vast swaths across entire states laid waste, cities burned and farms looted, interruptions in trade, factories idled and mines closed for lack of labor, two-and-a-half million maimed and crippled veterans who could not support themselves and required pensions—caused an economic depression that lasted for a generation after the war. Some regions took generations to recover; some maintain that part or even all of the South still hasn't recovered from the War (specifically Sherman's March to the Sea), although some of these claims are more silly and unqualified than others. Some of the more dramatic statements about post-war former-rebel-state suffering at the hands of the central governmentnote we ain't NEVER recovered from them damnyankees!basically ignore subsequent economic development over the next century-and-a-half to the order of a several hundred-percent increase in GDP, not to mention the huge advances in general quality-of-life. Now leave it at that. We mean it.
Admittedly, the Civil War took a larger toll upon the Southern states of the American Union, where most of the war was fought. Not only was property destroyed, but more importantly a lot of wealth disappeared virtually overnight; wealth in the form of Confederate government bonds and currency — which became worthless when the Confederacy was dissolved in '65 — and perhaps most importantly slaves, who were declared free by the Federal Government as a means of sabotaging the Confederate war effort. Slavery had shaped the southern economy for decades, the profitable and dependable returns from investing in slave-picked cotton discouraging investment in other forms of agriculture, raw-resource gathering, primary and secondary industries. As the Industrial Revolution picked up speed, the economic 'sideshows' of industry and commerce turned out to be far more profitable than agriculture ever could or would be. The South had been prosperous, but by the 1850s the central-northern United States had become more prosperous and were growing at a dramatically faster rate. What the war did was destroy much of the wealth of the South and force a fundamental restructuring in its economy. Thus did the South largely lag behind the rest of the United States until the New Deal and the advent of the more balanced economy of the "New South" in the mid-twentieth century. The southern states were neither impoverished nor left backward (relative to the rest of the entire world except Britain, the Low Countries, and France) by the Civil War. But the war did leave them struggling to adapt to a more... normal state of economic affairs, something that would have been difficult even had there been a smoother and more gradual end to slavery (a virtual impossibility in any case).
Very unusually, a large portion of the battlefields are preserved in national parks, and, after a concerted effort by the US National Parks Service in the 1990s, most have been almost entirely restored to their appearance in the 1860s. Unlike practically any other place (or for any other war) on Earth, it is possible to visit a very significant portion of all the war's battlefields, and have a reasonable possibility of experiencing exactly what the combatants saw (well, exactly, other than than the legions of enemy troops). Combined with an extensive preservation and historical research community (and a huge commitment from the US government to support it), the US Civil War is perhaps the best-preserved war in history. Not just US history, but world history. It borders on obsessive, especially for a nation that came this close to self-immolation. Said parks have been the location setting for many (if not most) of the historical and fictional films about the period, which gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "on location."
Finally, contains two of the greatest speeches ever made, both by the same man, Abraham Lincoln. The Gettysburg Address (pure distilled Awesome in 2 minutes) and his Second Inaugural Address (an eloquent Earn Your Happy Ending )
Tropes of the American Civil War:
The Ace: McClellan almost serves as a real-life deconstruction of this trope — hailed from an early point as the "Young Napoleon", graduating second top in his West Point class, handsome and very popular with his men — he let his popularity and his skill at organization go to his head. He believed himself to be a far more capable officer than he was, yet he had a very bad habit of overestimating the enemy, which let several Confederate generals run rings around him and pull back weakened armies that a braver Union commander could have crushed.
Conversely, he never suffered any of the crushing defeats that braver Union commanders had inflicted upon them by the same foes he faced. Even the battles of the Seven Days were largely Union victories from a tactical standpoint, even though 'Little Mac' retreated after each of them believing himself outnumbered. He was a much better strategist and tactician than he is given credit for, mainly because he was also delusional about the size of opposing forces. Every move of his campaigns are tactically sound, if not outright brilliant, if you look at it from the standpoint of his army being outnumbered two to one. Unfortunately the odds were usually closer to the other way around, and thus he is remembered as a fool.
Oddly enough, during The Seven Days Battles, McClellan actually was slightly outnumbered. That was one of the few major battles where the Confederates had numerical superiority and were on the offensive. He did have more troops, but The Army of the Potomac was supplied entirely by the Union Navy sailing into Virginia rivers and a large portion of his troops were needed to protect his supply lines.
Agony of the Feet: Keeping the armies supplied with boots and shoes was a perennial problem for both sides.
The Battle of Gettysburg started when a Confederate unit headed for Gettysburg to look for shoes and ran into Union troops.
Note that Glory has it right. Mass-produced shoes of this era didn't come in left and right, they just got that way..
The Alcoholic: General Grant, although the nature of his alcoholism is controversial to this day. The charges by his enemies that he was a raging drunk, both during his Army career and his postwar political career, appear to be false. What is known is that when Grant got posted to lonely Fort Humboldt, California after The Mexican-American War, he developed an alcohol problem so severe that it drove him from the peacetime army. He also went on a bender during the Vicksburg campaign. He was a notorious lightweight — "One-Beer Grant" was a common nickname — which may have furthered the impression of him as an alcoholic during a hard-drinking age. The truth of the matter seems to be that he only drank under two conditions: 1. There was nothing interesting going on and 2. He was separated from his wife.
Lincoln took a simpler view "I cannot spare him — he fights", in marked contrast to some others of his generals (notably McClellan). Another supposed Lincoln quote on the subject — "Find out what he drinks so I can send some to my other Generals" — is purely apocryphal, stemming from an equally apocryphal remark attributed to King George II about James Wolfe during the French and Indian War ("Mad, is he? Then I hope he will bite some of my other generals").
And This Is for...: The Union's cries of "Chickamauga! Chickamauga!" during the Battle of Missionary Ridge are only the most famous example.
On the Confederate side, there was Brigadier General Lewis Armistead's call to arms before Pickett's Charge: 'Virginians! For your lands! For your homes! For your sweethearts! For your wives! For Virginia! Forward... march!'.
And when it fails, the Union chants "Fredricksburg! Fredricksburg!" at the retreating Confederates.
Ascended Extra: The Ken Burns documentary did this for a bunch of people — Mary Chestnut, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain.
Chamberlain was an ascended extra in real life — College professor to Major General in four years, chosen by Grant above all other officers to accept the Confederate surrender.
More impressive because unlike many other academics who joined the Army, Chamberlain insisted that he be enlisted as a private rather than accepting an officer's commission on the basis of his college education.
Phillip Sheridan was a second lieutenant in the start of 1861. By 1864 he was a regular army major general (opposed to a voluntary Major General), making him 4th in the entire Union Army.
Nathan Bedford Forrest enlisted as a private in the Confederate Army, and was a Lieutenant General by the end of the war.
Attack! Attack! Attack!: Any general on either side who ordered frontal attacks against well entrenched, fortified postions that were defended by cannons. Even the all time greats like Lee and Grant did this. If your first few thousand men didn't crack (or even dent) 'em, try try again. Accounts for a lot of those aforementioned 600K casualties.
The two most common Civil War rifles used a 0.58" cartridge and were muzzle loaded and accurate out to about a quarter of a mile. Frontal attacks often did not end well. Civil War era rifles fired what you or I would call light artillery.
Sadly, the offer was more in the line of using them for heavy lifting and transportation than Elephant Brigades.
However, the Union was more than capable of using this trope — for instance, at the First Battle of Bull Run, they brought an enormous fortress piece to try and shock and terrify the Confederates. It has been cynically suggested that this useless weapon was brought along more to impress the European military observers (it failed) than through any belief that it would be useful.
Breech loading magazine fed rifles. The thousand plus mile long front that the American Civil War was fought along made getting supplies to where they were needed extremely difficult. The Seige of Petersburg ended not becase The Army of the Potomac could overwhelm The Army of Northern Virginia. The Confederates abandoned Petersburg and surrendered a few days later because they were starving and practically out of ammunition. Neither side used repeating rifles for their main forces. The Confederates didn't have enough brass to make the cartridges and even if they did the only factory in the entire south capable of making them was the Treadegar Iron Works (located in Richmond, Virginia) while the Union couldn't yet make cartridges fast enough to supply more than a handful of regiments.
The war produced many weird weapons, usually at the hands of the desperate Confederates: Like a revolver cannon, which wasn't a Gatling gun, but an oversized Colt revolver on a carriage that was just as likely to blow up as it was to fire: A two barreled cannon intended to fire two cannonballs with a chain stretched between them, only slightly less suicidal; and Ross Winan's centrifugal steam gun, which used a revolving disk to sling ball bearings in the general direction of the enemy, which also proved more dangerous to its crew than it did to the enemy.
Awesome McCoolname: The battle of Fort Donelson had a Confederate general named Simon Bolivar Buckner.
Ax-Crazy: JOHN FRIGGIN BROWN liked to hack people to death with swords and pikes like it's the Middle Ages or something
Badass: Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry. When his troops were running out of ammunition trying to hold Little Round Top, he ordered a bayonet charge.
At Petersburg, Chamberlain was shot through the hip and groin. In order to prevent the retreat that was looking more and more likely, he drew his sword, stuck it in the ground, and held himself up until he collapsed from blood loss. He was given a battlefield promotion and his death was reported in the Maine newspapers. (He got better.)
Colonel Strong Vincent probably deserves as much credit as Chamberlain for the defense of Little Round Top.
Nathan Bedford Forrest. Started the war as a private in the Confederate army. Ended as a Lieutenant General. And he wasn't some hide-behind-the-lines general; he was always in the front rank. He was once shot by a disgruntled subordinate, whom he immediately stabbed to death with a pen-knife. A pen knife.Authority does indeed equal Ass Kicking.
Considering the tactics and the casualties, every single man who didn't turn and run at the first sign of battle counts. It takes a lot to stand up straight, in a line, and get shot at. Not all infantrymen had to expose themselves, mind; there were some breech-loading rifles available to the Army, courtesy of the Manufacturing hub of the North-East.
Took a Level in Badass: The general standard of American arms. One European observer who watched the whole war described the First Bull Run as a "music hall farce," relating how a Prussian officer had fallen about laughing watching it. Antietam? "One of the bloodiest, blackest fields I have ever had the misfortune to observe."
Winfield Scott Hancock, aka "Hancock the Superb." While he never rose above corps command in the Army of the Potomac, he was universally praised and respected for his skill. His leadership at Gettysburg, where he played key roles on all three days of battle, is particularly impressive.
He was one of the most highly respected Generals on either side. Him being a Democrat probably kept him from being given an army. During the Presidential election of 1880 he, running as a Democrat, carried 19 states (including the entire South despite being from the North and a former Union General). He lost the popular vote by fewer than 2,000 votes.
Colonel John S. Mosby. Confederate commander of the 43rd Battalion Virginia Cavalry, also known as Mosby's Rangers. He became known as the Gray Ghost for his incredibly successful guerilla raids against Federal battalions several times larger than his own. Not only that, but he based his operations not a days ride from Washington. He and his men single-handedly made the area between the Potomac River and the Shenandoah River one of the most dangerous regions in the South for Federal troops. On his most successful raid, he went far past enemy lines, into the Union controlled county of Fairfax, and managed to capture a Union general, Brig. Gen. Edwin H. Stoughton, at the county courthouse, no less. He became such a terror to the federal army, that a special unit was formed just to find Mosby and his men. He was never caught.
Badass Beard: Facial hair was all the rage, so nearly every man had one.
Robert E. Lee: "I would rather die a thousand deaths than surrender."
The South generally: "In Dixie's land we take our stand, to live and die for Dixie!"
Ulysses S. Grant: "The art of war is simple enough. Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard as you can, and keep moving on."
"Wherever the enemy goes, our troops go also."
"I will fight out on this line, if it takes all summer."
William Tecumseh Sherman: "No rebels shall be allowed to remain at Davis Mill so much as an hour. Allow them to go, but do not let them stay. And let it be known that if a farmer wishes to burn his cotton, his house, his family, and himself, he may do so. But not his corn. We want that."
"Atlanta is ours, and fairly won."
"I will make Georgia howl."
Nathan Bedford Forrest: "I'll officer you!" to a junior officer refusing to help with manual labour.
Thaddeus Stevens: "I can never acknowledge the right of slavery. I will bow down to no deity however worshipped by professing Christians — however dignified by the name of the Goddess of Liberty, whose footstool is the crushed necks of the groaning millions, and who rejoices in the resoundings of the tyrant’s lash, and the cries of his tortured victims."
Abraham Lincoln: "Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?"
The Union generally: "And we'll fill our vacant ranks with a million freemen more, shouting the battle-cry of freedom!"
"Treason fled before us for resistance was in vain/While we were marching through Georgia!"
Both sides had the lyrics to the Battle Hymn of the Republic:
"His truth is marching on!"
(The Battle Hymn was mostly a Northern thing, and today is usually associated with the North and its righteous Abolitionism, but Southerners sometimes used it, too).
For the Confederates, Stonewall Jackson, who was a physics instructor at the Virginia Military Institute prior to the war.
Badass Mustache: Subverted. Ambrose Burnside had the most awesome whiskers on either side, but even he agreed he was a poor general. He wanted to refuse his promotion, but knew it would've instead gone to somebody even less suitable, or flat-out incompetent.
J.E.B. Stuart's beard was so large it looks fake.
Badass Preacher: Subverted. Confederate General Leonidas Polk was an Episcopal bishop known as The Fighting Bishop. Although beloved by his troops, he was considered a poor commander, and was ultimately killed by an artillery shell.
Batman Gambit: One of the considerations behind the Emancipation Proclamation was to turn British opinion against the South. It had been hoped in the South and feared in the North that the British Empire, which they felt (wrongly) was dependent on Southern cotton, would recognize the Confederacy as a new nation and send the world's most powerful navy to back this up. However, the British hated slavery more than they loved cotton (which they could source from India and Egypt anyway), and the Emancipation Proclamation convinced the British that the war was all about the liberation of slaves — which was Lincoln's intention.
Most of Robert E Lee's early victories could be chalked up to repeated use of Batman Gambits. Lee was able to make highly risky maneuvers and gain the upper hand from a position of weakness because he could predict what the various Union commanders' behavior would be (Pope would hastily pursue any flanking attempt, McClellan would be overly cautious, etc). Meade succeeded at Gettysburg partially because he didn't do what Lee predicted and hoped for, which was to rush in to attack Lee's army to drive it out of Northern territory. Instead, he found a good defensive position and stuck with it.
Beam Me Up, Scotty!: Abraham Lincoln never said that Ambrose Burnside "could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory." The apparent source of this quote was the dust jacket from Charles Fair's book From the Jaws of Victory (1969). Fair himself never claimed Lincoln uttered the phrase, blaming the publisher for attributing his words (Fair's) to Lincoln.
Black Market : Rebs had tobacco. Yanks had coffee. And not even war can stop Americans from being capitalists.
Black Sheep: George H. Thomas, Union General, war hero, The Rock Of Chickamagua was disowned by his wealthy Virginian family for choosing his country over his state. Stonewall Jackson's own sister was more gladdened than saddened by death; she hated losing her brother but "the needs of many" meant to her that the people of the USA were better off without him.
Blind Mistake: Felix Zollicoffer. The Confederate General was nearsighted and absently wandered into Union lines who he thought were fellow Confederates. After discussing the war for some time with a Union colonel, the officer recognized him as the enemy and killed him.
Blood Knight : Pretty big list, Stonewall Jackson, Sheridan, Custer, and in a less gentlemanly manner, Nathan Bedford Forest. General John Bell Hood, thought that higher casualties meant his men were fighting hard. It worked so well, he destroyed his own army in the Nashville campaign.
Book Ends: The American Civil War's first major battle was The First Battle of Bull Run (July 18, 1861), and the Confederates used Wilmer McLean's house as a headquarters. During the war, Wilmer eventually moved to the quiet(er) community (one that wasn't right on the front lines) of Appomattox, Virginia. On April 8, 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee finally decided to surrender his forces, and he sent out a messenger to find a house to handle the surrender in. The house the messenger found was Wilmer McLean's. The war started in his yard, and ended in his parlor.
The war began with the Union loss of Fort Sumter. Shortly after the war, on April 14, 1865, Fort Sumter had a flag-raising ceremony where the same commander who took the flag down when the Union lost the fort raised the same flag up. While this is nice bookends for the fort itself, this ceremony of raising the flag at Sumter was on the very same day Abraham Lincoln was assassinated — the last major loss of the Civil War era.
Boring but Practical: Grant. A reserved, unassuming man that a fellow officer once described as "plain as an old stove" and wore a simple (and often mud-spattered) field uniform instead of the flamboyant, personalized uniforms many generals on both sides preferred. He was also widely considered the best Union general and Confederate commanders who faced him quickly learned not to underestimate him.
Likewise with his Confederate counterpart, Robert E. Lee.
In terms of equipment, the Springfield Rifle. Nothing fancy or flashy — just a simple, reliable, rifled musket produced in large quantities. Arguably, the weapon that won the War for the Union.
Simlilarly, the British Pattern 1853 Enfield. Like the Springfield rifle, it was a 0.58 caliber rifled musket produced in large quantities. It was similar enough to the Springfield rifle that both could use the same cartridge. It's estimated that well over half of the approximately 1.5 million 1853 Enfields made in the United Kingdom were purchased by the United States and Confederate Governments during the Civil War. Other users of the 1853 Enfield include the British Army (who it was designed for), Denmark, Brazil, and the Japanese.
Brave Scot: A few units on both sides were kilted, though usually only in their dress uniform. The 79th New York, in particular, called itself the Cameron Highlanders. There were also a LOT of Unionist Scots-Irish in the Appalachians.
Broken Country: You'd be amazed at how frequently and vehemently folks in the States still disagree about the cause of the war, the men who fought in it, the legitimacy of secession, and just about any other topic you can think of.
Hooo boy. Try living in a border-state-that-was. Get together a tableful of people all from the same town and you'll have at LEAST half as many opinions as you do people. Get together a tableful from all over the place, and you'll probably have twice as many opinions as you do people. With little connection to what their ancestors thought, too.
Immediately after the war, people sympathetic to the South immediately began assigning blame as to who was responsible for losing the war. A good number of these focused on the Battle of Gettysburg, especially which of Lee's subordinates ultimately ended up sabotaging the battle with bad advice or misinterpreted orders. (See Poor Communication Kills below for one particular instance.)
Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Stonewall Jackson and Ulysses S. Grant, amongst many others. American Civil War General could have been the name of the trope.
Daniel Sickles, definitely, at least in a half-literal sense. He was a lawyer, congressman, and was acquitted of murder by pleading insanity — as was proven by a court of law.note The historical record is, sadly, silent on whether or not he had bunny ears.
Edward Ferrero, an Italian-American dance teacher who rose to the rank of brigadier general in the Union Army.
The Butcher: Whether deservedly or not, this was Grant's nickname.
And in any case, he definitely felt the carnage deeply: after the first day of the Wilderness, he broke down and wept. Then he pulled himself together and rammed the army through thirty-eight more consecutive days of equally horrendous carnage.
Not to mention Jubal Early, who needlessly razed Union towns he conquered, on the grounds that they " burn so beautifully."
Bullying a Dragon: The South's attempt to use economic pressures to force Britain into the war on their side was this. This backfired badly, as it basically squandered the pro-Confederate sympathies of Lord Palmerston, not to mention inflaming the British public and establishment (slavery on British soil had been definitively outlawed in 1772, having been repeatedly repudiated by the courts before then, and was banned throughout the Empire since 1833 and in the East India Company since 1843) Turns out, the British didn't appreciate being blackmailed into expending blood and treasure. Lord Palmerston, by 1862, said in Parliament that:
"No English Parliament could do so base a thing [accept Southern demands]."
But Thou Must: Grant's strategy during the Overland Campaign to force the war into its final act in Virginia. Previous Union commanders had always followed each of a string of attacks with humiliating retreats after being bested by Lee's army in the field. Grant, while still unsuccessful in defeating Lee's army, was smart enough to realize that he didn't have to retreat after a defeat and instead used his superior numbers to block Lee's path to Washington while simultaneously maneuvering to get between Lee and Richmond. After each battle Lee was forced to abandon his positions and retreat, despite not ever losing in the strict sense of the word. Campaign ended when Grant ran out of maneuver room and had to settle into trench warfare around Petersburg.
Canada, Eh?: Some 33,000-55,000 Canadians (well, British North Americans; Canadian Confederation wouldn't happen until 1867 — partly in response to this war) served in the Union Army.note About 15,000 American deserters and draft dodgers fled to Canada; they were not deported. Admittedly, many of these were Canadian-born men who had been living in the US prior to the outbreak of war, but many were volunteers recruited in Canada. Their number included the colonel of the unit that captured John Wilkes Booth and the original writer of "O Canada." Of the Canadians in Union service, at least 29 were awarded the Medal of Honor. Canadian agricultural and industrial products were also vital to the Union war effort, as the increased flow of Canadian goods freed up the North to focus even more of its resources on pursuing the war; this trade led to a major economic boom north of the border.
Another major Canadian contribution to the Civil War was the Canadian horse—a sturdy, steady, easy-keeping, even-tempered riding and driving horse from Quebec widely used in the Northern states. It was a critical element of the Union war effort, being useful for both cavalry and logistics purposes, providing it yet another advantage over the South. The Union bought tens of thousands of Canadian horses from Quebec farms, and so many of those animals died in the war that it seriously damaged the population of purebred Canadian horses. In response to the disaster, the Canadian horse farmers began keeping studbooks for the first time, but the damage was so long-lasting that in 1886 the Quebec Legislative Assembly enacted a statute completely forbidding the export of the horses outside of Canada.
Captain Ethnic: Franz Sigel was a TERRIBLE general, but they kept him around because he got German immigrants to volunteer.
Many lower ranking examples on both sides. The Union Army of the Potomac had brigade commanders Thomas Meagher (Irish) and Phillip R. De Trobriand (French). Russian-born Ivan Turchin gained some infamy as the Union's "Russian Thunderbolt" in the war's Western theater. Interestingly, Prince Philippe, the Orleanist pretender to the French throne, served on McClellan's staff (as a captain) for about a year near the beginning of the war. The Confederates had their own French nobility in the form of Camille Armand Jules Marie, Prince de Polignac — known as "Prince Polecat" to his troops. General Patrick Cleburne, killed at the Battle of Franklin, was also Irish-born.
Cassandra Truth: Yes, John Brown was a rabid abolitionist with delusions of grandeur, but there's no mistaking that he saw what was to come far better than most.
John Brown: I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land can never be purged away but with blood. I had as I now think vainly flattered myself that without very much bloodshed, it might be done.
Similarly, Sam Houston, hero of the Texas Revolution, former President of the Republic of Texas, and governor of the state of Texas, was forced to resign when he opposed secession, predicting thus:
Catch Phrase: Lincoln's "Four score and seven years ago" and David Farragut's "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!"
Cerebus Syndrome: In a sense. The perception of the war at the very start was that it would be a brief, chivalrous affair marked by one large battle and a quick resolution thereafter. Many men rushed to enlist early on fearing they wouldn't get a chance to fight, and correspondence from early on in the war indicates that many of the soldiers did not take it seriously. All such illusions were gone in a year, replaced with the reality of mass casualties caused by highly accurate rifles, disastrous frontal assaults, trench warfare (around Richmond and a few other places), gatling guns, and even landmines.
Child Soldiers: A huge proportion of troops were under eighteen — as much as a million in the Union Army alone. While most lied about their age or were winked at by the authorities, every regiment had at least twenty musicians as young as twelve officially on the rolls, and the Virginia Military Institute fielded a battalion of 264 boys aged fourteen to eighteen in the Battle of New Market — 52 of whom were killed or wounded. The youngest Union general, Galusha Pennypacker, was seventeen in 1861, and twenty years old when promoted to Brigadier, too young to vote for the President who granted him the commission.
City of Spies: BothWashington, DC and Richmond suffered this trope. Washington was wedged between two Southern slave states — Virginia and Maryland — and a large number of residents were Confederate sympathizers. Richmond was filled not only with slaves — "natural spies" for the Union cause — but also a lot of pro-Union sympathizers (Virginia was one of the last states to join the Confederate side and was fairly reluctant to do so even when you factored out the mountain areas that split off).
Colonel Badass: Colonel John S. Mosby, The Gray Ghost, without a doubt.
Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The Blue and the Grey. Oh, wait, the rebels couldn't actually produce or afford grey... 'twas really more like "The Blue and the whatever-they-happened-to-be-wearing-at-the-time-but-probably-mostly-brown." Many units, particularly in the early days of the war, wore different colors — there were Union regiments in grey, Confederate regiments in blue, and both sides in exotic uniforms, from Zouaves to Highlanders.
The Blue and The Butternut doesn't quite have the same ring to it, though. And even then, it was really more the Blue and The Guys in Motley Rags, a Few Butternut Uniforms, and Maybe One or Two Grey Ones.
It's a bit hard to tell given that the surviving examples are a century and a half old now, but it appears that even those who actually had "Grey" uniforms varied considerably in hue, with some of them being actually grey and some of them looking rather more like they had taken a Union uniform and bleached the hell out of it, winding up with a sort of dingy sky-blue.
Combat Pragmatist: Union general William Tecumseh Sherman. His only goal was victory and he didn't care what he had to do to accomplish it. Destroying infrastructure, confiscating property, burning cities — there's a very good reason he's almost universally hated in Georgia even to this day. Doesn't quite qualify as a Blood Knight, as he did the things he did out of a single-minded desire to accomplish his mission rather than a love of battle. Furthering his pragmatism in peacetime, Sherman (following the example of his friend U.S. Grant) granted defeated Confederates terms of surrender so lenient that Grant had to reject them. "Hard war, easy peace," indeed.
He also had a pragmatic way of resolving the problem of landmines (then called "torpedoes") when the South began to use them in desperation. He had Confederate POWs sweep the area clean of them and sent a messenger to the Southern commander that he would continue doing so unless the use of landmines against his troops was stopped. It worked.
Conflicting Loyalty : They don't call it "the Brothers' War" for nothing. Especially for people in the border states, it was not at all unusual (still sad, but not unusual) that brothers would literally be fighting on opposite sides of the war.
And towns trying to remain neutral could end up a target for both sides. Take Newport, Tennessee as an example.
Most of the officers had gone to school and served with men on the opposing side. One of the most poignant examples may be that of Lewis Armistead and Winfield Scott Hancock; on the eve of the war, before Armistead left his command to join the Confederacy, Hancock threw a going-away party for his friend of nearly 20 years. They did not meet again until 1863, when Armistead led his brigade in a charge up Gettysburg's Cemetery Ridge directly against Hancock's II Corps. Both men were wounded in the fight; as Armistead lay bleeding he asked a nearby soldier about his friend and, on hearing that Hancock was also injured, exclaimed "Not both of us on the same day!" Hancock survived. Armistead did not.
The Kentucky-born Mary Todd Lincoln had several brothers serving in the Confederate Army, which caused her husband considerable embarrassment in Washington society.
Cool Boat: The USS Monitor (first warship with a revolving turret, i.e., first modern warship) and the CSS Virginia, were the first ironclad warships to fight each other (though not the first to see combat). The former was bult in response to the latter, and their single battle is still considered a Crowning Moment of Awesome for both navies. The second those two ships fired at each other, wooden ships were heading for obsolescence note When it was seen how little damage the many hours of close-quarters cannon fire had inflicted (the Monitor was practically undamaged, the Virginia was damaged but still seaworthy), old-style cannon were heading that way too.
Dr. Richard Gatling's invention, the Gatling gun, was a devastating weapon for the time. It even has a trope all its own.
This is one reason why Sherman's March to the Sea was a series of trailblazing curb-stomps.
Cool Hat: The Iron Brigade of the Union Army of the Potomac was also known as the Black Hat Brigade because the Hardee hats they wore became iconic for them, even though such hats were also issued to other units of regulars.
Cold Sniper: There were several feats of notable marksmanship in the war, including the use of rifles fitted with early sniping scopes. So much so that the term "sharpshooter" is often misattributed to the accurate Sharps rifle, which saw use in the war as a marksman's rifle.note The earliest recorded use of the word is from 1802 Two entire Union regiments were formed of sharpshooters.
Jack Hinson, 50+ year old Tennessee farmer who killed at least 36 Union soldiers with his .50 caliber Long Rifle.
Crippling Overspecialization: The USA's slave states and by extension, the Confederacy. In their defense, it was only in the last few decades before the war that investments in industry started to have greater returns than those put into slave-operated agriculture. As a result, the South had good infrastructure but very little industry, especially in sophisticated products (a single factory supplied every cannon they had).
The South's leadership was convinced that Great Britain (the chief buyer of North American cotton) would help them, somehow, even if it was just to broker a ceasefire. However, the huge cotton harvests of 1855-60 effectively meant that British textile manufacturers had at least a year's supply of the material hoarded away come 1861. Noting the events of "Bleeding Kansas," British banks had already stepped up investment in Anglo-Egyptian and particularly Anglo-Indian cotton plantations, leaving their fellow textile-manufacturers increasingly less reliant on the Americas for their supply.
In fact, the Confederate economy was so focused on cotton that they didn't have enough free cropland left to grow food, at least not in sufficient quantities to feed their entire population; as a result, bread riots were a common occurrence, food confiscation laws were passed permitting the Confederate government to seize food from private farms for the war effort, and even with these measures in place Confederate soldiers were frequently severely underfed and malnourished.
Confederate general John MacGruder outfoxing Gen. George McClellan at the siege of Yorktown (part 2!) by making it look like he had a bigger army.
Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest fighting out of a Union ambush by using an enemy soldier as a human shield at Shiloh.
Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine's defense of Little Round Top at Gettysburg.
Phil Sheridan's ride at Cedar Creek.
Lee's successive victories at the Peninsula, 2nd Bull Run, Fredericksburg and Chancelorsville.
The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment's assault on Battery Wagner. Although this all-Black unit was not able to take the fort, their valiant fighting pushed the North to accept the worth of Black soldiers and inspired thousands more of Black recruits to help defeat the Confederacy.
Union Generals Grant and Sherman won massive public praise and presidential support in the North with their respective successes in Vicksburg and the deep strike mission that was the March to the Sea.
Jefferson Davis almost single-handedly quashing a bread riot.
Battle Hymn of the Republic for the North; Dixie for the South are just two of the ones that are still well-known today. Other gems used by both sides were When Johnny Comes Marching Home, Marching Through Georgia and Battle Cry of Freedom.
David Versus Goliath: The South is David to the North's Goliath, the Slaves are David to their owner's Goliath. Confusing, No?
And name-checked by the Confederate Navy's David semi-submersible torpedo boats (they saw only limited success against Union blockade ships).
A Day in the Limelight: In 1861, P.G.T. Beauregard became the South's premiere war hero for capturing Fort Sumter and co-commanding the Confederate army at First Bull Run. It didn't last.
Really this could be said of most Union commanders through the first two years of the war: George McClellan, John Pope and Ambrose Burnside all won a small but dramatic victory in a peripheral theater, came East to take over the Army of the Potomac (Virginia in Pope's case), failed miserably and were never heard from again.
Deadpan Snarker: Lincoln! After he appointed Joe Hooker to command of the Army of the Potomac he got wind of a comment in which Hooker said the country needed a dictator. Lincoln responded by writing Hooker a letter in which he said "What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship." He also spurred the overly-cautious General McClellan by telling him, "If you are not using the army, I would like to borrow it for a while."
While considering whether to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln asked his cabinet to vote on the issue. Every single member of the cabinet voted against itnote Almost all of Lincoln's cabinet secretaries were at least moderate abolitionists, and some were radical abolitionists; they opposed issuing the Proclamation at that particular time. Lincoln's response: "The ayes have it."
After the war, Confederate general George Pickett was asked why Pickett's Charge failed. He replied, "I've always thought the Yankees had something to do with it."
Defeat Means Friendship: Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston, who commanded the last of the CSA forces in the Carolinas Campaign before surrendering to William Tecumseh Sherman. They became friends and corresponded frequently in the years after the war, partly due to the fact that Sherman issued rations to Johnston's soldiers and offered to distribute food to civilians in the area. Johnston attended Sherman's funeral and refused to wear his hat despite the cold, which may have led to him catching a fatal case of pneumonia...
Sherman's respect for Johnston probably had a lot to do with Johnston's defensive skill and ability to plan ahead. During Sherman's advance from Tennessee to Atlanta, Sherman was never able to outmaneuver Johnston despite commanding a larger, better supplied, and more mobile army. Sherman would regularly march his army around Johnston's defensive lines only to find that Johnston had retreated to another set of defensive lines and was waiting for him. Unfortunately for the Confederates, and fortunately for Sherman, Johnston was replaced by John B. Hood before the Battle of Atlanta.
Confederate General Gordon's troops attacked Union General Barlow's troops at Gettysburg. In the confusion, Gordon believed that Barlow had been killed. After the war, they met at a mutual acquaintances house and Gordon reportedly asked Barlow if he were related to the General Barlow killed at Gettysburg. Barlow replied that he was that General Barlow, and asked if Gordon were related to the General Gordon who had "killed" him, to which Gordon replied that he was that General Gordon. The two wound up becoming friends (possibly because it seems that both of them liked telling this story... which is probably apocryphal, as Barlow and Gordon faced each other in the Wilderness, and it's unlikely that Gordon could not have known that his opponent was again Barlow).
Similarly, Robert E Lee, in the last years of his life, would not tolerate any unkind words about Ulysses S. Grant to be said in his presence.
The Determinator: Pretty much inevitable when there are Americans on both sides. Also, a typical regiment had been raised from the population of a single town or county, so if a soldier ran away or didn't fight his hardest he'd have to answer for it when he got home. In previous wars the majority of casualties had been inflicted in the pursuit after one army retreated or in skirmishing as the armies maneuvered, but in the Civil War the majority of casualties were in actual battle, with the armies standing face-to-face.
For a specific example, you can't go wrong taking a look at General Ulysses S. Grant. He was described by one of his subordinates as "having the look of a man who has determined to drive his head through a brick wall, and was about to do it." When Grant was appointed commander of all Union forces, his good friend (and Confederate opponent) General James Longstreet warned Robert E. Lee that they might have just lost the war, for Grant would "come at us, directly, and keep coming at us until either he or we run out of soldiers. And he has more bodies to throw into the fire than we do."
Dirty Coward: Rebel general Gideon Pillow (a favorite of Jefferson Davis), who 3 times abandoned his command.
Draft Dodging: You could buy your way out (or just hire a substitute to enlist in your place)!
In the South, slaveowners didn't even have to draft-dodge, as they were automatically exempt from all conscription laws. Additionally, several Southern counties with high slave populations were granted full exemptions from conscription quotas due to needing all of the men of appropriate age and fitness for military service armed, at home, and on constant patrol to discourage potential slave uprisings. Since the majority of white people in the South did not own slaves, the idle rich getting exempt from the fighting when it was their slavery issue that had started the thing became a big source of morale decline as the war started to turn against the CSA. The slogan became "Rich Man's war, Poor Man's fight."
Early-Bird Cameo: Trench warfare was first seen in Virginia towards the end of the war, in all its bloody, gory, honorless detail, a full fifty years before the No Man's Land in France.
Although in some ways it was actually very much like the trench warfare that had been going on at least since the 17th century under the name siege warfare. The difference was that now soldiers were digging trenches without a fortress behind or in front of them.
This is mostly due to the very poor handling of Reconstruction (the period immediately after the war, through the late 1870s) which was simultaneously too lenient and too harsh, in addition to its completely inept administration by the Federal Government.
That inept handling is arguably due, in part, to Lincoln's assassination, as although his successor in the Oval Office, Andrew Johnson, a Southerner, was in favor of a very lenient form of Reconstruction — more lenient than even Lincoln would have had it — he was extremely unpopular; and Congress, dominated by Northern "Radical Republicans" with a two-thirds majority, insisted on a heavy-handed, punitive implementation of the Reconstruction, which resulted in long-festering resentment within the South. Had Lincoln not been shot, there's a strong possibility that he would instead have implemented something in the American South similar to what was implemented after World War II in Western Europe under the Marshall Plan — because Lincoln was highly insistent that the Reconstruction focus on reconciliation and not retribution. That more even-handed approach, while unlikely to have been a panacea, would have almost certainly made the process less painful in the long-run, on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line.
End of an Age / Dawn of an Era: In a sense, the war was the final move of an ideological conflict at play in the early 19th Century: In its early days, the United States was envisioned as a confederation of sovereign states, with each member state having its own rights, not the least of which being the right to secede from the confederation if it desired. This intepretation was slowly changing as the 1800s went on, and this "states' rights" notion was one of the factors in the Confederate states' decision to secede. The Union victory meant a strengthening of the federal government and the political redefinition of the United States as not a collection of nations, but a nation in itself.
Enemy Eats Your Lunch: The attacking Confederate troops at the Battle of Shiloh stopped to eat the breakfasts they found in Yankee camps after the Union soldiers had fled in panic from the attack. This delay actually helped save the Union army. It's not quite as stupid as it sounds — Confederate forces were usually criminally undersupplied, and all of that hot, fresh food just lying around for the taking was probably too much for the half-starved soldiers to resist.
It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: Dig a T-shaped mine under the Confederate lines and pack it with explosives. And then, after you blow a hole in the enemy's positions, rush in through the gap and force the capitulation of Petersburg. Unfortunately, Meade intervened at (almost literally) the last second and ordered Burnside not to use the division of black troops that he had specially trained for the attacknote Surprisingly, this was not due to racism but because Meade feared that if the attack failed, the Union would be accused of seeing blacks as mere cannon fodder who were more expendable than white troops., forcing Burnside to switch over to his own 1st Division which was not briefed on what to do and were led by an alcoholic named James H. Ledlie. Fast forward to the explosion and Ledlie's troops going INTO the crater instead of AROUND itnote Not helped at all by the fact that Ledlie himself was busy getting plastered in a fortified redoubt a safe distance away and getting slaughtered wholesale by cannons, muskets, and even improvised spears and large rocks.
They also fought together against Mexico in the U.S.-Mexican War. 15 years before they started fighting against each other.
Executive Meddling: The Confederate military suffered heavily from this. Jefferson Davis, a Mexican War veteran and former US Secretary of War, repeatedly promoted old friends even when lacking demonstrable skill or basic competence. In the Western theaters especially, Davis appointed the likes of Braxton Bragg and Gideon Pillow to important commands, with disastrous results. Perhaps the most egregious example was replacing Joseph Johnston with John Bell Hood during the Siege of Atlanta, because the former wasn't aggressive enough. Hood was aggressive all right, destroying his army in suicidal frontal assaults at Peachtree Creek, Franklin and Nashville.
It went the other way too, as Davis routinely sacked generals like Johnston and P.G.T. Beauregard who crossed him for one reason or another. Robert E. Lee lucked out, winning enough victories to make him untouchable.
The key to understanding Davis' decisions is to see that he valued personal loyalty above all else. Those who supported him would find that he would unfailingly support them in turn. Those who disparaged him, especially Beauregard, would find Davis undercutting them at every opportunity. Time and again decisions he made out of personal loyalty were detrimental to the cause he championed. Not only would Lee not disparage his good friend Davis, he would not permit others to do so in his presence. This is why Davis always supported Lee, not the victories.
The Extremist Was Right: John Brown was right when he said that slavery was such a huge part of the lifestyle of much of America that it could only be ended through violence.
Famous Last Words: "They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance." — John Sedgwick, shortly before getting shot in the head from a Confederate sharpshooter.
Fighting for a Homeland: President Lincoln intended to give citizenship to every soldier who fought for the Union, driving many immigrants to sign up. However, he was assassinated before he could put this into effect.
Final Solution: "Any negroes in federal uniform will be put to death. Any white officer in command of negro soldiers will be put to death." ~Confederate Government. After the surrender of the Union Garrison of Fort Pillow, Forrest's Confederates murdered all of them in cold blood simply because half of them were black. Afterward, these instances led to Lincoln's response of having each of those deaths answered with an execution of a Confederate captive, and Fort Pillow simply made the negro troops perfectly willing to murder prisoners.
Foreshadowing: "Mark me, Franklin. If we give in on this issue, there will be trouble one hundred years hence. Posterity will never forgive us." — John Adams, 1776. He was only off by about 15 years.
For Want of a Nail: If Confederate General D.H. Hill had kept better track of his cigars — or at the very least, hadn't wrapped his cigars in his highly-detailed battle orders before misplacing the box — the entire course of the war might have gone differently.
And not only that, if a couple of Union soldiers hadn't found, decided to unwrap, and then hand in the cigars. Really the whole Order-191 debacle was a string of bad luck for the Confederates
Four-Star Badass: Technically only on the Confederate side, as only the C.S.A. had full generals (four stars), the highest rank attained by a Union officer during the war being lieutenant-general (three stars), by U. S. Grant in 1864. One might think this was because the Confederate generals proved themselves so much better in the war, but in fact five of the seven full generals were appointed by the summer of 1861, when just one major battle had been fought. Ironically, the top-ranking general of the Confederate Army was its Adjutant-General, Samuel Cooper, who never held a field command during the war.
At the time, it was U.S. policy to never appoint a general higher than 3 stars because that's the rank George Washington held. This was finally changed not long after to promote Grant. (It later became tradition to posthumously promote Washington whenever new ranks were required.)
Friendly Enemy: Common soldiers on both sides could be quite amiable during truces, many being former friends. It was fairly common for pickets of the various armies to engage in black market trading (Northern imported coffee for Southern grown tobacco) when they were close enough to speak to each other.
In one famous example, Nathan Bedford Forrest once rode up to the Union line, mistaking it for the Confederate. Rather than taking the golden opportunity before them, the Northern soldiers told Forrest the truth and suggested he get back to his side; Forrest saluted and rode off.
At Gettysburg CSA General Wade Hampton came under fire from a Union sharpshooter, then returned fire with his six-shot revolver. Hampton allowed the sharpshooter to reload his single-shot rifle before firing a second time. The two engaged in an ad hoc duel for several minutes until Hampton wounded his opponent. Hampton and the Yankee met several years after the war, Hampton supposedly saying he was glad he hadn't killed the man.
Sometimes averted with soldiers from South Carolina or Massachusetts, who tended to get a rougher deal from the opposing side, since South Carolina was seen as the hotbed of secession by the Northerners and Massachusetts as the most abolitionist state by the Southerners. Also definitely averted with black soldiers serving in the Union army.
The Confederacy reserved its most intense vitriol for Vermont, the first state in the Union to abolish slavery, back when the Vermont Republic officially joined the United States (it was first after the original 13 colonies to become a state at all) in 1791.
Friend or Foe: Claimed the life of "Stonewall" Jackson; even worse, it wasn't even during a battle. Friend Or Foe problems happened many times during the war.
Dressing as the Enemy: Even the First Battle of Bull Run illustrates this problem very well: Union personnel in Grey Uniforms and Confederate personnel in Blue Uniforms. Particularly common in early battles, since the Confederate Army mostly started out with US Army uniforms, on account of having been part of the US Army just months before. It also didn't help that the first Confederate flagnote the actual "Stars and Bars", not the modified Confederate battle flag that's commonly flown today and often incorrectly referred to by that name) was very similar in appearance to the Union flag, especially if there wasn't much wind and the flag was hanging down on its pole. This is why the more famous Confederate battle flag was created: it was unlikely to be mistaken for a Union flag, and a unit's flag-bearer in those days was the main way of identifying which side they were fighting for.
Frontline General: Lieutenant General Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson of the Confederate States of America received his famous moniker at the First Battle of Manassas when Brigadier General Barnard Bee, trying to rally his unit, saw Jackson sitting erect atop his horse in the midst of a barrage of Union gunfire and said, "There is Jackson standing like a stone wall. Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer. Rally behind the Virginians!" There's some debate behind the exact meaning of the statementnote Most view it as a rallying cry; others think Bee was angry at Jackson for not moving to support him., however, given that Bee was ironically killed a few minutes later.
Longstreet was known for often riding too far forward and coming under fire, which led to him being severely wounded in 1864.
Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston was the highest-ranking officer on either side to be killed during the war, when he was mortally wounded personally leading an attack against the Federal positions in the Peach Orchard during the Battle of Shiloh. For the record, Johnston was commander of the entire Confederate Army of Mississippi, a position equal to Lee or Meade at Gettysburg.
J.E.B. Stuart was mortally wounded personally leading Confederate cavalry at the Battle of Yellow Tavern.
More generals were killed and wounded at Gettysburg than in any other engagement of the war, and largely because of this trope. Confederate generals Barksdale, Semmes, Armistead, Garnett, and Pender, and Union general Reynolds, Zook, Weed, and Farnsworth were all killed in action. Pettigrew would be mortally wounded shortly after during the Confederate retreat, and Union colonel Strong Vincent was promoted to Brigadier General after being mortally wounded defending Little Round Top. Reynolds was the highest-ranking officer killed, while personally directing the deployment of the Iron Brigade (Reynolds actually commanded the entire I Corps). Several other Confederate generals, including John Bell Hood, James Kemper, and Isaac Trimble were wounded leading attacks. Hood was wounded at Devil's Den, while Kemper and Trimble were both hit during Pickett's Charge. Union general Dan Sickles (commander of the III Corps) was wounded and lost his leg leading his own troops in battle while defending the Peach Orchard, while generals Hancock (commander II Corps) and Webb (2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, II Corps) were wounded personally directing their troops in defense of Seminary Ridge during Pickett's assault. Gettysburg was murder on generals.
Union General "Fighting Joe" Hooker averted this trope at Chancellorsville by setting his command center a couple miles behind the lines and using a new type of telegraph to send and receive orders. Unfortunately the aversion backfired: the bumpy ride from garrison knocked the equipment out of alignment and it would only send gibberish, and the resulting communications problems coupled with Hooker suffering a concussion from a near miss by a stray cannonball cost the Union the battle.
Lee himself tried to be this at a particularly desperate point in the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse, but his soldiers refused to allow him to risk his life, grabbing at the reins of his horse and shouting "General Lee to the rear!"
Sadly, despite all the hype (and good press it gets nowadays), the hand-crank gatling gun was less effective than a bronze napoleon smoothbore cannon. It was decidedly cantankerous (jamming frequently), had difficulty with the ammunition feed, and had no more range than canister from the napoleons. And, despite the impressive rate of fire from a gatling (up to about 200/minute peak), it's hard to beat a napoleon field gun shooting canister rounds for range, rate of fire, and simplicity. A good gun crew could manage 3-4 shots/minute from a napoleon, each with about 30 1.5" balls, and each ball could wound several men. The gatling would have to wait for about 30 years of mechanical improvements before it could be more efficient than the napoleon, and by the time it did, it was overtaken by the gas-operated Maxim machinegun.
Gauls with Grenades: The French army had a high reputation in the 1860s, and both North and South copied French military fashions when designing their uniforms. Including their swords. However, see Summon Bigger Fish, below.
General Failure: A lot of generals, especially on the Union side, had this reputation (deservedly or not). The generals heading the Army of the Potomac before Grant took command were also said to be so in awe of Lee that their defeatism and resultant apathy made them lose many a good chance to defeat the Army of North Virginia. As one of Sheridan's brigadier generals, James H. Wilson recalls in his memoirs that U. S. Grant asked him what was wrong with the army, to which Wilson replied that there was too much to go into detail, but that there was a simple remedy: ply Grant's Seneca staff officer Ely Parker with commissary whiskey, give him a tomahawk and scalping knife and send him out at night telling him to bring back the scalps of at least half a dozen major generals. No matter which ones he picked, Grant would end up with a better army.
Genre Shift: It says something about Abraham Lincoln's skill as a statesman and an orator that he was able to redefine the goals of the War — or at least, change the public perception of it — twice before it was over. With the Emancipation Proclamation, the war went from a typical civil war to a righteous crusade to free fellow human beings in slavery. And then, after Gettysburg, the war went from that to a sacred struggle to preserve the Union, and with it the very idea of liberty.
Glory Hound: Many. Isaac Trimble said "I intend to be a major general or a corpse."
George Armstrong Custer became one of the youngest generals in the Union Army largely due to this impulse.note He was reduced in rank to captain after the war, a standard practice in the peacetime army (wartime promotions were considered temporary for the duration of the war). Persistent disciplinary issues, his unpopularity among frontier troops, and internal Army politics ensured he would never again rise higher than lieutenant colonel, his rank at the Battle of Little Big Horn.
Daniel Sickles was so selfish and eager for personal glory and promotion that he didn't care what happened to his men, just so long as they and the Confederates did the dying and he took the credit. Historians say that his arrogance and insubordination could've lost the Battle of Gettysburg for the Union army. It at least cost him his right leg.
Government in Exile: Although it isn't widely known, a substantial number of former Confederate government officials and soldiers, their families, and fellow loyalists emigrated to Brazil after the war ended, establishing an enclave of Confederate expatriates that came to number over 50,000. They claimed to be the legitimate government of the Southern United States until the early 1900s, and their descendants (known as "Confederados") still identify themselves with Confederate culture.
Missouri and Kentucky never left the Union, but they had Rebel governors and legislatures in exile.
The secessionist government of Texas actually took great pains to avert this trope, placing pro-Union government officials (such as then-governor Sam Houston) under house arrest and armed guard to prevent them from setting up a Unionist government-in-exile.
Justified in more ways than one: Texas, like Virginia, had more than enough remote territory for a rump legislature to set up shop and form a pro-Union state, and Confederate sympathy was not as strong in Texas as in the Deep South. The pro-Confederate legislature easily could have faced a second front in the form of Union troops and Union loyalists within Texas led by the very charismatic (and still very popular) Sam Houston.
Guile Hero: Benjamin Butler (a skillful lawyer before the war), when faced with a demand by a Virginia fort to return some runaway slaves under the Fugitive Slave Act. His reply?
"I mean to take Virginia at her word, I am under no constitutional obligations to a foreign country, which Virginia now claims to be. [...] You cannot consistently claim them. I shall hold these Negroes as contraband of war, since they are engaged in the construction of your battery and are claimed as your property."
When this trope was labeled The Chamberlain, it was definitely averted by Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, who was a Badass Bookworm and didn't stick his head in the sand about anything.
Hellhole Prison: Just about any prisoner of war camp qualified as such, but Andersonville was perhaps the most notorious, owing to its dubious distinction of having the highest mortality rate of any POW camp, as well as the photographs of some of its former inmates (who resembled living skeletons).
Point Lookout in Maryland where it was built to hold only 10,000 confederates but ended holding over 50,000 where 4000 died. Note that the vast majority of death and mistreatment at Andersonville and other POW camps (on both sides) was primarily due to complete neglect of the POWs, not active torture. In most cases, prisoners were just herded into large fields and left there, with virtually no food or shelter being provided. Naturally, they succumbed to starvation and disease at an incredible rate.
Heroic BSOD : William S. Rosecrans after his defeat at the battle of Chickamauga.
Heroic Sacrifice : Where oh where to begin? Where oh where to end? A few standouts, perhaps ...
These also double as You Shall Not Pass, considering they gave their lives to halt an enemy's advance, however long they could.
Prentiss's Union Division at the Hornet's Nest at Shiloh. Originally a strong point in the Union line, they were left to stand alone when the flanks fell back. The failure of the Confederates to either maneuver around or crush the Hornet's Nest is seen as a decisive factor in the battle.
Hood's Texas Brigade (CSA) at Antietam — The last reserve available on the Confederate left, the brigade successfully stymied a whole Union Corps, and took 60% casualties.
20th Maine Regiment at Gettysburg — They were literally at the far end of the Union line and had to hold off a vastly numerically superior Confederate force.
1st Minnesota Regiment (USA) at Gettysburg Day 2. The only available Union regiment guarding a gigantic gap in the Union line. So it was ordered to attack a threatening Confederate brigade (five times its size) to buy time for the Union brass to patch up the line. It did. 262 North Star staters go in. 47 come back. 83% casualty rate in 5 minutes of combat. The regimental equivalent of Jumping on a Grenade
Hero Antagonist: No matter which side of the debate you're on, no one can say their side had a monopoly on war heroes.
Hey, It's That Guy! : George Custer served as a general in the Union and fought at Gettysburg. And was actually one of the heroes of the battlenote J.E.B. Stuart's famous cavalry was to protect the Confederate left flank, move around the Union right flank and attack the Union rear as Pickett's Charge was occurring; when Stuart's cavalry broke through a Union skirmish line at a farm, Custer led Union counter-charges that were further supported by Union attacks on the Confederates' flanks, the combined Union counterattack forcing Stuart's cavalry to withdraw and preventing the Confederate cavalry from exploiting or supporting Pickett's Charge..
Lew Wallace, best known as the author of Ben Hur, was also a Union general and played a significant role in the Battle of Shiloh.note Fun fact: Wallace got his inspiration to write Ben Hur while Minister — i.e. Ambassador — to the Ottoman Empire after the war. His predecessor in the position? None other than James Longstreet.
Winfield Scott, "Old Fuss and Feathers", previously served as a general in the War of 1812 and the Mexican American War.
Former vice president John C. Breckinridge (who lost the presidential election to Lincoln) served as a Confederate general.
Historical Hero Upgrade: Debates about whether this happened to Abraham Lincoln, why it happened, whether it was deserved, and who knows what else still go on today.
Lee is also debated to be an example of this, as one writer ironically observed that the man who had come closer than any other in destroying the United States became an American hero, though arguably his status was bestowed more by his early surrender than his service to the South.
The Southern US fought to keep an entire race of people down and to entrench the political power of a small rich planter elite, ruling over a slave population of diseased illiterate "sub-humans" and a smaller population of poor whites for whom life was merely difficult, rather than miserable. That did not stop the creation of the so-called "Lost Cause of the South" school of historiography that let to the aforementioned positive media portrayal of the Southern ethnocracy, and promoted the idea that the war was not about slavery, but "state's rights"...to oppress an entire race.
Historical Villain Upgrade: Nathan Bedford Forrest was a bastard who butchered prisoners, buried black people alive and played a major role in the founding of the Ku Klux Klan's original incarnation. People have a tendency however, to totally dehumanize him, instead of just a badly screwed-up and bitter redneck, many accounts leave out that he didn't expect the Klan to become violent and denounced their later actions.
The Klan was originally founded as a social group for Confederate veterans and as an organization to protect the rights of Southern whites by legal means. When it used violence, Forrest quit, and took up a full-page newspaper ad to announce the fact and urge all other members to quit as well. His version only existed for less than two decades. What is now thought of as the Klan was restarted essentially from scratch around 1920, and definitely deserves its villainous reputation.
Sherman and Grant are better examples, being regarded as monsters in much of the South (and even some of the North). Sherman in particular gets a bad rap, despite being a Shell-Shocked Veteran who came back to serve his country and helped to save it. In a modern story he'd be an Anti-Hero at worst. But he took part in the Civil War and didn't fight like a gentleman, so we better hang the bastard. The charge also doesn't hold up to historical scrutiny as most of the damage the March to the Sea wreaked was on property and military targets, with civilians themselves mostly coming off unscathed (albeit looted). Even many Southern historians acknowledge this, no matter how unpopular that view might make them. Arguably, as well, given that the Southern economy relied upon the exploitation of African-Americans, in which a large majority of Southern whites were either directly or indirectly complicit, a lot of the people whose homes he burned richly deserved it.
Grant also received quite a character assassination after his death, due largely to opponents who already tried to get rid of him by accusing him of being a raging drunk during the war and many bitter ex-Confederates (Jubal Early among others) dismissing his military successes as nothing but the use of We Have Reserves. This was so prevalent that even Winston Churchill (admittedly something of a Confederate fanboy) and many historians would repeat that "fact" and give Grant contempt for it, overlooking or refusing to acknowledge Grant's use of innovative combat engineering and stratagem. Grant's scandal-hounded presidency didn't help his image much either. Only recently has image begun to be rehabilitated.
Horrible Judge of Character: Jefferson Davis. He considered himself a great judge of character, but really he was just a great judge of who liked him and who didn't. It took a Lincoln a while at times, but he generally found a way to get good competent men into the right positions of leadership, while Davis rarely did so. Really, Davis was incredibly lucky that Lee was more loyal to Virginia than the United States.
Hot-Blooded: JEB Stuart, George Custer, George Pickett (before all his men got killed at Gettysburg; cue the Character Development), Dan Sickles, P.G.T. Beauregard.
Humble Hero: Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (again). Upon enlisting, he was offered the colonelcy of the 20th Maine Regiment; he declined, preferring "to start a little lower and learn the business first." Didn't stop him from rising to the rank of Major General in four years.
Ignored Expert: Confederate General James Longstreet played this role to Lee on many, many occasions, most notably at Gettysburg. Many Southerners would still rather blame him than Lee for their defeat there, because the "Lost Cause" mythologizing of the war didn't allow for Lee to ever have failed. Despite Lee having put all blame for the defeat at Gettysburg on himself. It did not help that Longstreet was not a Virginian, and most of the South's latter-day opinion-formers were.
Not just the war as a whole, some of the battles in it. Whether you call them First and Second Manassas or First and Second Bull Run depends a lot on where your sympathies lie (well, maybe on where the sympathies of your ancestors or history teacher lay). (Confederate and Union respectively, by the way).
Similarly Antietam/Sharpsburg and Perryville/Murfreesboro (Union/Confederate).
In general, the South named battles after the nearest town (Sharpsburg), while the North named them after the nearest geographic feature, usually a river or stream (Antietam Creek).
Improvised Weapon: At the 2nd Battle of Bull Run, Confederates in Col. Bradley T. Johnson's and Col. Leroy A. Stafford's brigades fired so much that they ran out of ammunition and resorted to throwing large rocks at the 24th New York, causing occasional damage, and prompting some of the surprised New Yorkers to throw them back. The confederate defense had barely held out against the union attack.
They would often wander into camp, find the lowest, worst soldier, drain all the information they could out of him and then publish all of it the next day. This annoyed General Sherman so much, he said:
"If I killed all the reporters, there'd be news from Hell before breakfast."
The Irish Diaspora: One of the two biggest and most noticeable immigrant communities of the time (the other being German-Americans). In the North, Irish-Americans were split in their loyalties. On one hand you have units like the Irish Brigade and Phil Sheridan, on the other the New York draft riots. The Irish-American community in the South was actually less significant than many Civil War movies would have you believe.
And the Irish in the south at the time were mostly Scots-Irish, rather then the stereotypical Irish Catholics who largely were immigrants at this time who tended to settle in the North. In fact, the term Scots-Irish came about not too long before the Civil War for the Protestants (who immigrated from England/Scotland to Ireland, then to America often Appalachia and the Carolinas) to differentiate themselves from the lower class Irish Catholics who came later (mostly starting during the famine of the 1840s). Before that, the Scots-Irish were just called Irish.
The Civil War is an interesting case of the "out of the frying pan, into the fire" thing for new Irish immigrants. The great Potato Famine of 1845-1852 had led millions of Irish to leave the home country to go to America... and a few years later, America breaks out into open civil war. The famine and the emigration caused such widespread economic destruction and the emigrants just kept going and going and going, to the point that there were songs in Ireland to the effect of "Look, we know the situation is shit here in Ireland, but don't go to America. You'll end up getting drafted and killed!"
In retrospect people from Massachusetts fighting against secession and condemning the wickedness of rebellion sounds a mite odd.
Southern politicians seceding for states' rights and against the wickedness of a strong central government after using the federal government to further their purposes when they still controlled it. Notably to enforce the Fugitive Slave Law in free states and to permit and uphold slavery in US territories even against the will of the majority of their population.
Early in the war, Confederate citizens and authorities would invoke the federal Fugitive Slave Law to demand that slaves escaping across the lines be sent back to them. They basically got the answer: If we're right, then you are rebels and traitors and your slaves are contraband of war; if you're right, you live outside the US and therefore the Fugitive Slave Law does not apply. Indeed, there was a point a few decades before the war where some politicians from the North were actually threatening seceding from the Union. It was thanks to the skilled politicians like Clay, Webster, and Calhoun that the war was put off like it was.
A Confederate army in Texas was attacked by a local Union army and proceeds to win the last official battle of the Civil War several weeks after Lee's surrender, a day before they planned to disband.
The Dunkers were a pacifist sect that lived around Sharpsburg, MD. Their simple, one story church was was the most-easily-identifiable landmark on the Antietam Battlefield. Odd place to host the Civil War's bloodiest day.
Shiloh Methodist Church was another place of worship that witnessed a horrible battle — the bloodiest single battle of the warnote Antietam was the bloodiest single day; Shiloh was a two-day affair. Shiloh means "the peaceful place" in Hebrew.
Wilmer McLean. After the First Battle of Manassas, where his dinner was interrupted by an artillery shell (well, his house was being used as a Confederate headquarters). He decided to move his family out of the path of the war to a small town called Appomattox Courthouse. "The war began in my front yard and ended in my front parlor."
During Virginia's secession, several counties of that state refused to secede from the Union. So they seceded from the state instead and became West Virginia. To make it doubly ironic, a Confederate force was dispatched to put down the rebellion and prevent them from seceding (the pro-secession forces won, thanks to the efforts of the Union forces who routed the Confederate invaders. Confused yet?)
A sign at the gate of Cemetery Ridge warning anyone who enters armed will be prosecuted.
Yorktown is again under siege but with the rebels now holding it.
Because Gettysburg is often identified as the turning point of the war, and the casualties related to those three days so great, it has come to be accepted in popular culture that the last two years of the war were an anti-climax or a sort of "winding down." In actuality, a hefty majority of the war's casualties and much of the major strategic advancements occurred after the battle of Gettysburg. During the Overland Campaign (fought from May 4th to June 24th 1864 in between Fredericksburg and Richmond) the two armies combined suffered 85,000 casualties or an average of 1,700 men killed or wounded per day for 50 days... and that was only one of two major fronts, with a dozen smaller fronts being fought at the same time.
More recently, the total ideological and geographical inversion of the two parties, with the present-day Republican party campaigning for "small government", reduced federal subsidies or tariffs, low taxes, and state's rights from its rural, Southern heartland, while the present-day Democrats campaign for "big government", federal aid to the economy and an expansion of federal power at the expense of the states from their bases in the coastal cities and the North (generally). In 1860, their positions were reversed. Similarly, the Democrats who sat in Congress during the Civil War would be horrified had they known that their party would one day elect America's first black President.
The general irony is best summed up by a quote from Samuel Johnson from the days of the American revolution:
Dr Johnson: Why is it that the yelps for liberty are loudest among the drivers of Negroes?
Most of the European powers favored a Confederate victory — although only slightly, and that's if they cared at all. In a further Cold War irony, Russia was the only European power to indicate support for the Union (in part as thanks for American diplomatic backing in the Crimean War, in part because of Emperor Alexander II's reformist sentiments, and specifically the liberation of the serfs). Most individual European citizens — if they cared at all about the Civil War — were sympathetic to the North, particularly after the Emancipation Proclamation; opposition to slavery was widespread in Europe at that time, and unfree labor was seen to be on its way out more generally, as all powers had abolished or were about to abolish the closest thing they had (serfdom) by 1861.note Russia officially abolished serfdom in 1861, although this was delayed in its Polish territories by three years; the Georgian nobles negotiated a better deal, and got a gradual abolition in 1864-71; and the serfs of the Russian state were emancipated in 1866 in exchange for a better post-emancipation deal. Among the Union's more prominent European fans was one Karl Marx, who actually exchanged letters with Lincoln.
The Confederacy itself, which seceded so it could keep its slaves, but by doing so and losing, ensured their swift emancipationnote And by removing themselves from the federal government also allowed the dominant Republicans to pass laws beginning the creation of a northern transcontinental railway system and a broad federal tax system to pay for the war, the former of which they wanted in southern territory and the latter they would have considered an awful idea even though the Confederacy attempted to implement the same.
It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: Too many to count. Lee's invasions of the North certainly count, as did many of the Union attempts to take Charleston. Perhaps the best example is Hood's promotion to army commander. Joe Johnston was too passive and didn't even seem to want to attempt to defend Atlanta from Sherman, so he was replaced with a very courageous and aggressive leader in Hood, who quickly realized he couldn't defend Atlanta directly either, and so decided to defend it indirectly by moving away from the city, into Sherman's supply line. Presumably then, Sherman would have to either turn and pursue Hood (letting himself be drawn away from the city), or else abandon the attack altogether. It made at least a modicum of sense, but Sherman defied the convention of the "base" by just waltzing into Atlanta anyway, deciding he didn't need a supply line as long as his army could forage and plunder from the undefended city and surrounded countryside. See also The Peter Principle.
Jumped at the Call: The young male population of both sides. In the early days of the war, recruiting officers on either side had no trouble filling their quotas. Plenty of the young female population of both sides cross-dressed as men and enlisted as well. Recruiting officers never particularly checked for gender. Not to mention all the Canadians that ran south to enlist on both sides (mostly on the side of the Union, as Canadians tended to be even more anti-slavery than Northerners; anywhere from 33,000 to 55,000 Canadians served in the US Army during the Civil War). Confederate President Jefferson Davis realized this tendency of his people near the beginning of the war, remarking that "We are about to grind the seed corn of the nation."
Just Following Orders: The defense presented by Henry Wirz, commander of the Confederate prison at Andersonville. It didn't fly then any more than it would eighty years later at Nuremberg.
After Sherman's army had taken Fort McAllister and received supplies and heavy artillery for a siege operation, William J. Hardee decided to quit the city of Savannah rather than risk being trapped and forced to surrender.
Laser-Guided Karma: In 1861, South Carolina led the southern states into secession, forming the Confederate States of America, and started the war with the attack on Fort Sumter. Four years later (in 1865), General Sherman's army invades South Carolina and burns the state capital, Columbia, to the ground.
Leeroy Jenkins: Dan Sickles at the Battle of Gettysburg, which cost him his right leg.
A much more fortunate Leeroy Jenkins for the Union came at the Battle of Missionary Ridge, when the Union men at the base of the ridge attacked uphill without orders, carried the heights, and won the battle.
Likewise, at Gettysburg, George Custer charged his cavalry brigade headlong into the much larger cavalry division of J.E.B. Stuart. Custer's 1st Michigan Cavalry suffered the heaviest losses of any Union cavalry brigade, but they turned back Stuart's charge. This was one of the key moments in the battle, as a successful charge by Stuart would have made a Union victory much more difficult. Of course, after the war, Custer's Leeroy Jenkins tendencies famously didn't end well.
Union Cavalryman Judson Kilpatrick made a habit of this. Gettysburg was the most egregious example: for reasons known only to himself, on July 3rd Kilpatrick ordered Elon Farnsworth's brigade to attack Rebel infantry entrenched on Big Round Top. It didn't go well, and Farnsworth was killed after being surrounded by the enemy.
A naval example: Captain Charles Wilkes of USS San Jacinto, who nearly triggered a war with Britain by capturing a British ship carrying Confederate diplomats (the Trent incident).
Gen. Ben Butler claimed the Fugitive Slave Law didn't apply to slaves escaped from the Confederate States because the Confederacy was technically a foreign country. Notable because this actually flew in the face of the Union stance regarding the CSA's status. In any case, it's not clear what the Confederates expected the Union response to be.
The separation of West Virginia from Virginia: When Virginia voted to secede from the Union, the counties in the north-west part of the state chose to stay, and decide to form a new state. The only problem was that the Constitution stated that a state could only be split with the approval of said state, and Virginia's state government was currently claiming to be a different country. What did the Unionists do? They "moved" the capital of Virginia to Wheeling, elected new representatives and a governor, sent the representatives to Washington, and approved the split.
Lucky Bastard: Before the Civil War, someone tried to assassinate Braxton Bragg by detonating a 12-pound artillery shell under his cot. The cot was destroyed but Bragg emerged without a scratch.
Lyrical Dissonance: A lot of songs of the era are upbeat, even though the lyrics speak of horrible experiences in war. The most prominent is probably "Marching Through Georgia," an incredibly catchy tune about despoiling an entire region. (Mind you, it's from the perspective of Sherman's soldiers, who had reason to be happy — they hadn't eaten that well in months!)
Meaningful Name: Union general Joseph Hooker liked to pay women for their company so much that his name entered the lexicon as a synonym for prostitute. While the term predates the Civil War by about 20 years, it was popularized by Hooker's "convivial and informal" headquarters.
In an era of flamboyant facial hair, Ambrose Burnside managed to stand out so much that — to this day — they're called sideburns.
Miles Gloriosus: The general historical opinion of George McClellan, a good army organizer, but in the field, an insubordinate braggart who prolonged the war because of his cowardly incompetence.
To give an example, there is the stump of a tree preserved in a a museum. What makes this tree stump special is that it was felled by rifle fire. Not artillery, or Gatling gun fire, but rifle bullets.
Take a good guess on what happened to the Cornfield near the Dunker Church during the Battle of Antietam... and imagine what it looked like afterwards.
...every stalk of corn in the northern and greater part of the field was cut as closely as could have been done with a knife.
—Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker
There was a special type of musket ammunition called "Buck n' Ball" which was a cartridge filled with one bullet and 3 buckshot, giving a shooter 4 chances at hitting an enemy. Despite the fact that the buckshot was worthless beyond 100 yards, it was favored and used by the Irish Brigades because they wanted to get up close and strike fear into the enemy.
Period artillery had a special type of ammunition for close-quarters firing called canister shot, which took the basic idea of buckshot and scaled it up to cannon size. When fired into a tightly-packed advancing enemy formation, the results were horrific.
For added Nightmare Fuel, during Picketts Charge, the Union guns were loaded with double canister, and as the Confederates got closer, some were loaded with triple canister. The results were... not nice to say the least...
Note that the advances in rifle technology (from the minnie ball to rifling to percussion-cap to breechloading and cartridges) combined with continued use of Napoleonic infantry tactics against well-protected defenders meant that the Civil War was the first war fought with firearms where casualties from infantry firearms were greater than artillery. For all the horrific damage short-range canister and explosive shell did, the majority of casualties were caused by massed infantry rifle fire. In all prior wars, artillery was the primary killer. Should be obvious, since a typical regiment consisted of over 1,000 men, and typically was supported by no more than two batteries (12 total) field guns. And both now had approximately the same range (rifled cannon were rare, while rifled infantry muskets were ubiquitous).
Music for Courage: Many examples. Perhaps most effective was "The Battle-Cry of Freedom", which was so popular it won Lincoln the 1864 election, was sung on the passage of the 13th Amendment.
The Union forever, hurrah boys hurrah! Down with the traitor, up with the stars! While we rally round the flag, boys, rally once again, Shouting the battle cry of freedom!
My Country, Right or Wrong: The only reason that Robert E. Lee, who did not approve of slavery, fought for the Confederacy, as he didn't want to oppose his home state of Virginia.
Union General David "Black Davy" Hunter (He liked to burn stuff).
Union General Ben Franklin "Beast" Butler (If you're a Southern Belle).
His other nickname "Spoons" sounds far less intimidating, but would deter you from inviting him over for dinner... he had a penchant for stealing the silverware of wealthy Southern families and sending it North for his own personal collection.
Union General Hugh Judson "Kill Cavalry" Kilpatrick (If you're under his command).
Any Brigade or Regiment that is predominantly composed of Irish troops as they had a desire to strike fear into the enemy which was necessary if they wanted to live up to their reputation as hard fighters.
Photographs of Union prisoners released from Andersonville Prison. They are eerily similar to those of Holocaust survivors.
Although it should be noted that conditions in virtually every other Confederate prison were similar. The Confederacy had extreme difficulty feeding its army, much less prisoners, and photographs of prisoners released from Union prisons are not much better.
Photographs of post-battle casualties, mostly Confederate corpses at Antietam and Gettysburg.
Photographs of burial/exhumation details going about their work.
Descriptions of the effects of artillery upon the human body. Any kind, really, but particularly canister ("shotgun"-style) rounds.
Musketry too. Some of the wounded were hit by flying fragments of other people's teeth and bones.
The revolutionary Minie Ball which was heavier and more accurate than the traditional round ball could store and retain more kinetic energy which increased the likelihood of over-penetration. As a result, Minie Balls went through multiple people before being stopped which promoted mass infections because the bullet gathered lots of dirt and blood from the soldiers it went through. This ensured that the soldiers behind the first line of soldiers would have a higher chance of becoming ill when the bullets went through and into them.
Slave life in general, but particularly under the thumb of a cruel overseer.
Practically anything about a hospital, North or South.
No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: CSS Arkansas. One of the largest and certainly the scariest thing afloat on the Mississippi in 1862, its ordered-to-spec driveshaft didn't arrive from the Tredegar Works in Richmond before it had to go out and face essentially the entire brown-water US Navy. It successfully fought them off, too, but its homemade engine parts gave out and the crew was forced to burn her to prevent capture. The Confederate Navy never again managed a presence on the Mississippi.
Not So Different: It's often misunderstood that the Northern states were not racist simply because they fought against slavery. In actuality, many people in the North were just as racist as the South. Being against slavery did not always mean they were for the rights of African Americans. An example of this can be found in the Draft Riots of New York, as well as such Union heroes as William Sherman, who refused to allow black Union soldiers into his army because, as he wrote to his step-brother, "I won't trust niggers to fight."
What really is misunderstood is that "racism", not unlike "adolescence", are relatively recent terms. To use either in that time and place is considered an anachronism (to use in that time and place). Case in point, Sherman's use of the n-word proves nothing because in that time and place, the n-word was not pejorative, and did not become so until the 20th century. In addition, the use of Black troops was controversial in more than the obvious. At that time, we had no way of knowing how Black troops would fight on the battlefield. Once given both experience and opportunity to prove themselves, they were well respected by other regiments on the battlefield, with obvious exception being Confederate.
Yet another Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain example — chosen to accept the Confederate surrender at Appomattox, he (in a move unpopular with many in the north) ordered his men to salute the southern soldiers. General Gordon, the Confederate officer giving the surrender, later called him "one of the knightliest soldiers of the Federal Army."
While Jefferson Davis was president of the CSA, there was a Union general with the name Jefferson (Columbus) Davis.
Even more confusing is the situation where two generals serving on opposing sides were named Henry H. Sibley.
The Confederate Army had generals A.P. Hill and D.H. Hill. They both fought at the battle of Antietam.
Try not to confuse the Army of Tennessee (Confederate, named for the state) with the Army of the Tennessee (Union, named for the river).
One hapless Confederate private was named Abraham Lincoln.
Generals Albert Johnston and Joseph Johnston were Western Theater Commanders for the Confederate Army at different stages of the war.
Only in Florida: Tallahassee, Florida was the only Confederate capital east of the Mississippi not captured by Federal troops due to the efforts of a group of volunteers hastily rounded up from among the students at the nearby Florida State University. At the Battle of Natural Bridge, the volunteers (numbering roughly 1000 men), met the 2nd U.S. Colored Infantry and 99th U.S. Colored Infantry (numbering about 6000 men) at Natural Bridge, a spot where the Saint Marks River descends underground for a distance of about 200 yards before resurfacing on its way to the Gulf of Mexico. There, they fought the Union soldiers to a stand-still at a cost of only three of their number killed. One sensationalist Confederate reported described it as a "re-enactment of the Battle of Thermopylae."
Also Governor Sam Houston of Texas resigned his post rather than participate in his state's secession and warned that:
After the sacrifice of countless millions of treasure and hundreds of thousands of lives, you may win Southern independence if God be not against you, but I doubt it. I tell you that, while I believe with you in the doctrine of states rights, the North is determined to preserve this Union. They are not a fiery, impulsive people as you are, for they live in colder climates. But when they begin to move in a given direction, they move with the steady momentum and perseverance of a mighty avalanche; and what I fear is, they will overwhelm the South.
The Paragon Always Rebels: Robert E Lee. The greatest officer of the American army in his generation becomes the most lethal adversary it ever faced.
The Peter Principle: Many examples on both sides, which perhaps was inevitable given that men with experience leading no more than a company rose to commanding armies of tens of thousands of men. Two examples among many:
Joseph Hooker for the Union. Hooker was a courageous officer who commanded a brigade in the Seven Days', a division at Second Bull Run and a corps at Antietam with considerable skill. Unfortunately, he was also ruthlessly ambitious and (with the help of Salmon P. Chase, Lincoln's Treasury Secretary) connived to take command of the Army of the Potomac in early 1863. Despite showing administrative skill and drafting a good campaign plan, he lost his nerve during the Chancellorsville Campaign, allowing Lee to initiate his greatest victory. Hooker commanded a corps, again with distinction, at Chattanooga, but was eventually Reassigned to Antarctica because he couldn't get along with General Sherman.
For the South John Bell Hood. Like Hooker, he was heroic at lower level command, almost suicidally so; he lost an arm at Gettysburg and a leg at Chickamauga leading his troops in battle. Also like Hooker, he was extremely ambitious and lobbied to replace Joseph Johnston commanding the Army of Tennessee. Unfortunately, Hood's near-reckless leadership style didn't translate well to army command, overseeing disastrous defeats at Peachtree Creek, Atlanta, Franklin and Nashville.
Pocket Protector: A bullet hit Colonel Chamberlain's saber during the defense of Little Round Top, allowing him to make his famous "swinging door" charge soon afterward.
No communication was just as deadly as poor communication during the Battle of Antietam. General McClellan never had any sense or will to coordinate and command his troops or commit reserves when they were most urgently needed, resulting in many disorganized offensives, needless casualties, and missed opportunities to finish off the Confederates because many of the Union Commanders were left to act on their own initiative.
Confederate Lieutenant-Colonel Lightfoot thought he was ordered to move the line back a little bit and ended up starting a total rout instead. He was actually ordered to move his men to a less vulnerable part of the sunken road.
At Chickamauga, Rosecrans was misinformed that he had a gap in his line and sent out an order to some of his brigades to move to the supposed gap to close it up. He ended up opening an actual gap right in front of Longstreet who rushed in eight brigades through the hole and sent a third of the Union army fleeing in panic.
At Gettysburg, Lee's army was simply stretched too far from surrounding the union army up at Cemetery hill. As a result, communication breakdowns were very high and the Confederates could not make any sort of effective coordinated attack. Such was the case of an exhausted confederate regiment that was ordered to move out again in support of another offensive.
After the 1st Day of Gettysburg, Lee gave an order to Ewell that many historians considered to be "not an order at all" which said exactly "attack and take Cemetery Hill, if practicable." Ewell decided to let his exhausted troops rest up and wait for reinforcements, costing the Confederate army their only best chance of dislodging the Union defenders from a very formidable defensive position.
Praetorian Guard: General Sherman was accompanied and escorted on his famous March to the Sea by the 1st Alabama Cavalry Regiment, a unit comprised entirely of Southerners who had remained loyal to the Union.
Put on a Bus: Gen. Burnside got given "extended leave" after the Battle of the Crater. Ironically, of the generals involved in the battle he was probably the least responsible for the failure. Later a Congressional committee exonerated Burnside and placed the blame on Meade, but by that point Burnside's career was already over.
The Quisling: "Scalawags", a term used for Southerners who fought for the Union.
Prisoners of War both Union and Confederate switched sides — Confederates who turned about and fought for the Union were called "Galvanized Yankees." There were also a few Union officers, early in the war, who fought in battles such as Bull Run before before resigning their commissions and joining the Confederacy.
Rag Tag Bunch Of Misfits: The Confederate Army of Tennessee, both its leadership and troop contingent. The short-lived Union Army of Virginia, less successfully. On a smaller scale, Wheat's Louisiana Tigers (a Confederate battalion raised in New Orleans that served in the Army of Northern Virginia) were noted for their high complement of criminals and malcontents.
Rated M for Manly: As far as wars go, this one had one of the highest counts of Badasses among the combatants. And many of them had impressive facial hair.
Real Men Love Jesus: There was a lot of other examples on both sides and all ranks. It is no accident that one of the best remembered Crowning Music of Awesome songs of the era was the rather grim lyrics of Battle Hymn of The Republic. The Civil War happened in the middle of, or just after, one of the periodic waves of religious enthusiasm that hits America. The motto "In God We Trust" made its very first appearance on American money in 1864.
Lincoln once joked that he made Simon Cameron (his corruptnote His fellow Pennsylvania Republican, Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, when asked if he trusted Cameron, famously said, "I do not believe he would steal a red-hot stove." This quote is often misattributed to Lincoln, but it's fair to say that he wholeheartedly shared the sentiment. and venal first Secretary of War) Ministernote read: Ambassador to Russia because he "couldn't find anyplace further to send him."note Russia was long the designated dignified hell-hole to send those too incompetent to give an important office but too prominent to be ignored. When Andrew Jackson sent James Buchanan to St. Petersburg, he commented that he "would have sent him to the North Pole if we kept a minister there."
General Lew Wallace was blamed by Grant and Halleck for the Union almost losing at Shiloh by not bringing his reserve unit up quickly enough and reassigned to defensive posts in Ohio and later Maryland. Resulted in a mild case of Reassignment Backfire when his small outpost in Maryland held up an invasion by Jubal Early in 1864 long enough for reinforcements to arrive and drive the Confederates off.
Irvin McDowell started the war commanding the Union Army at First Bull Run and ended it heading the Department of the Pacific.
The Trans-Mississippi Department was a graveyard for failed Confederate generals. Earl Van Dorn, John Magruder, Henry H. Sibley, Theophilus Holmes and Sterling Price are among those banished out west after screwing up major commands.
Rebellious Rebel: Unionists from the South included Texas governor Sam Houston, Tennessee Senator Andrew Johnson (rewarded with selection as Lincoln's running mate in 1864), and Generals Winfield Scott and George Thomas from Virginia. Then there was the entire state of West Virginia, which split off from Virginia and cleaved back into the Union.
Oh, that's barely scratching the surface. Of all Union forces who served in the war, nearly a quarter of them came from Confederate states. The Confederacy itself was rife with internal divisions and strife, with county after county after county openly rebelling against the central Confederate government and pro-Union guerrilla bands regularly ambushing Confederate government officials and other high-profile targets; indeed, while the Confederacy fought one civil war against the Union, they were, for all intents and purposes, fighting another civil war against themselves. Even the Confederate capital itself, Richmond, was so rife with anti-Confederates that it spent much of the war under strict martial law.note In retrospect, Richmond may not have been the best choice for a Confederate capital: dangerously close to the border (albeit not on the border, like Washington, DC, but there were pragmatic and symbolic reasons for the Union not to move its capital, while the Confederacy actively chose Richmond) and full of anti-Confederates—much like the rest of Virginia, truth be told, which leads us to how it was really only picked to keep a halfheartedly-Confederate Virginia in the Confederacy.
Rebels with Repeaters: The CSA Army. Subverted in that very, very, very few Confederate soldiers were ever equipped with repeating rifles, as the South did not have the industrial capacity to produce them or their ammunition. Virtually all Southern uses of repeating rifles (or, even things like the Sharps breech-loading rifles) were from captured Union stocks, and they likewise depended entirely on captured ammunition.
Recycled Script: Most of the Confederate constitution was copy-pasted from the U.S. constitution, with a few changes added here and there to make it more racist. Oddly, they kept the three-fifth compromise, even though the lack of free states meant there was no longer anything to compromise over. The Confederate constitution did require every state to have slavery, so there goes any claim that they were fighting for individual states having the right to decide for themselves whether or not to have slavery.
Redshirt Army/We Have Reserves: Neither side was particularly concerned about the lives of individual men when it came to high-level strategy, they just wanted the war over as quickly as possible. Indeed, many campaigns and individual battle-plans essentially boiled down to throwing the largest possible mass of poorly-trained conscripts at the (smallest) discernible mass of poorly-trained conscripts.
An intensive, high-casualty strategy made sense for the Central Government as they could afford the kinds of losses that came with it, whereas the rebels could not. As the war ground on most Confederate Generals cottoned on to this and cut down on the higher-casualty maneuvers (like frontal assaults on entrenched positions). Most.
A major exception to this was McClellan, who was so scared of losing troops it took a lot to convince him to do anything. His failure to embrace this strategy is widely believed to have lengthened the war.
Remixed Level: Second Bull Run/Manassas and The Wilderness fought in the woods near Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg. Also, Yorktown which was the site of the last British defeat in the Revolution.
The Remnant: A surprisingly large number of Confederate soldiers never stopped fighting the war, becoming bandits or outlaws (Jesse James and his gang, for example) rather than disbanding.
The last surviving Confederate naval vessel, CSS Shenandoah, continued to mount raids on Union merchant shipping for nearly a year after Lee's surrender, and holds the distinction of being the only Confederate vessel — civilian or military — to circumnavigate the globe.
As mentioned above, groups of Confederates and their families fled to Brazil after the war in the hopes of establishing an enclave for fellow exiles. Their descendants still live there today as the Confederados.
Retired Badass: 70 year old John Burns of Gettysburg was a vet of the War of 1812 and the Mexican war and was turned down for service at the start of the civil war for being too old. But when the war found him at home anyway in July 1863, he shouldered his gun, joined the troops, fought and was wounded on the first day.
Postwar, men from each side formed their own organizations of Retired Badasses — the "Grand Army of the Republic" for Union veterans, and the "United Confederate Veterans" for the Confederacy.
Ridiculous Exchange Rates: The Confederates printed up their own paper money. Each bill bore a promise that the Confederacy would redeem it for "real" dollars 6 months after a peace treaty was signed with the Union in the North (i.e. after the South had won its independence). This Confederate scrip was, predictably, worthless. In fact, the most popular denomination of currency in the South during the war was the gold dollar, which was minted exclusively in the North.
US postage stamps were also a valuable exchange medium, as the postal service continued to operate across the lines even at the height of the conflict.
Right for the Wrong Reasons: Sickles at Gettysburg, in a completely unsound tactical maneuver, scooted his unit forward after the first day of battle, leaving a gap in the Union line and leaving his force unsupported. Predictably, it was completely ravaged by the Confederate assault and quickly ceased to be an effective fighting force. However, it's unexpected positioning out in the front of the main defense line threw off the (already problematic) timing of the CSA advance as several units took a much wider path to get around Sickles, or else used up time going through him.
Roaring Rampage of Revenge: After popular Union General James B McPherson was killed at the battle of Atlanta, Sherman's troops smashed the Confederates and pounded the city to the ground. Soon after that, they went on to steal and destroy anything and everything of value to the Confederate war effort, leaving a 300-mile trail of desolation and misery between Atlanta and Savannah.
Every battle fought by former slaves could count as well.
South Carolina had before and during the war earned a reputation of being the "cockpit of secession," in Andrew Jackson's words. Passing Union soldiers would tell South Carolina citizens that they were sorry for the suffering of women and children, but "South Carolina must be destroyed."
Rock Beats Laser: Two Confederate brigades at the Second Battle of Bull Run repulsed several Union attacks despite running out of ammunition. Their secret weapon? Rocks!
Rules Lawyer: The best aspect of Benjamin Butler with his brilliant means of sheltering slaves who had reached his lines from their former owners: since the Confederates claimed to be a separate country, then the federal Fugitive Slave Law did not apply to them and the runaway slaves are thereby "confiscated" by the Union Army as contraband. If the slavers argued that they were not contraband, but people, then Butler said that, as people, they certainly couldn't be abandoned to slavery, could they?
Running The Blockade: Blockade runners became essential to the South's survival after the Union blockaded them. Some became quite noted for it, such as the SS Syren, which successfully penetrated the blockade 33 times.
Sad Clown: Lincoln used humor to hide his anxieties. This led people to believe he was insensitive.
And thousands of other women — pre-enlistment medical examinations (in both armies) were a joke.
Scapegoat: Union General Charles P. Stone, commander at Ball's Bluff in October 1861. Not only was Stone blamed for that battle's disastrous outcome, he was imprisoned without trial for several months afterwards. After his release Lincoln and Stanton blocked Stone's reappointment, even when Joseph Hooker and Ulysses Grant personally requested him for staff positions. In 1864 Stone was given a brigade command while under constant surveillance, finally resigning.
Scary Black Man: Any black man who fought for the Union was considered this by the Confederates. In the South, the idea of arming the race that provided the basis of the slave economy was terrifying. Indeed, the South reacted furiously to the idea of armed black men, and the treatment of captured black soldiers was well below even the woeful standards of captured white Federals. Being sold into slavery (even if they had been freedmen before enlisting), rape (usually with objects), and outright execution were commonplace. This was because the use of armed black soldiers by the Union was seen in the Confederacy — not entirely wrongly — as an attempt to incite "servile rebellion" against white planters. More generally, the South and the Northern "Peace Democrats" shamelessly exploited the imagery of "buck n*ggers" with their "hellish lust" being let loose upon white women by Lincoln's armies as a rallying tool. One Democratic rally in Illinois before the beginning of the war included young girls of no more than eight, in white dresses, bearing signs saying: "Congress! Save us from N*gger Husbands!" To many non-slaveholding whites in the South, the idea of equality or even servility to "savage" African Americans was what motivated them to fight for the "planter aristocracy." Indeed, racism was one of the strongest unifying forces in the South.
With this trope in mind, men with more than 20 slaves were exempt from Southern military service (or, if they so chose, their overseer could be exempt) so that their families would not be defenseless against slave revolt. This caused considerable resentment in the South.
Schizo Tech: Both sides, but especially the Confederates, suffered from this throughout the war. Volunteer and militia units often had to supply their own weapons, meaning regiments went into battle armed with anything from Revolutionary War-era smooth bore muskets to repeating rifles. Both sides heavily employed cavalry, which aside from reconnaissance use grew increasingly obsolete as the war went on.
The Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry briefly carried lances.
Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Several Confederate states, when holding a vote for secession, actually ended up with a small majority of their population voting "no" — at which point the state legislatures, composed almost exclusively of wealthy slaveholders, proceeded to secede anyway, apparently taking a "the voters do not truly know what they want" approach to governance.
The hiring of "replacements" for the draft (as mentioned above) or outright bribery ensured that the war remained "a rich man's war but a poor man's fight."
Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Desertion was a serious problem in the South; by 1863 men were deserting faster than new recruits could be conscripted to replace them, and by war's end over three-quarters of the Confederate army was AWOL. Entire Confederate divisions existed solely on paper, their men and command structure having walked out en masse, stealing as much equipment as they could carry. The most notable incidence of desertion was probably Confederate general Pemberton's army, paroled after the surrender at Vicksburg. Mustered with 30,000 men, a month later fewer than 1,500 of them were left to report for duty, the rest having simply changed back into civilian clothes and gone home.
To be clear, Pemberton's soldiers were paroled after they had surrendered. In other words, they had all given their words that if they were released and allowed to return home, they would never take up arms against the Union again. It would have been a violation of the laws of war for them to break that promise, or for the Confederate government to compel them to break that promise. They were not "absent without leave" or otherwise deserters.
This is basically what happened with the entire Confederate States of America after their candidate (John C. Breckinridge) did not win the presidential election of 1860.
"...if God wills that [the war] continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said 'the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.'"
"Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord/He is trampling out the vintage where The Grapes of Wrath are stored..."
Screaming Warrior: Rebel Yells from the South, and a standard "HURRAH!" from the North.
And the failure of Reconstruction for African-Americans.
Small Name, Big Ego: George McClellan overestimated his worth to the Union. He even flirted with the idea of being dictator.
The Snack Is More Interesting: During the Battle of Five Forks, Confederate Generals George Pickett, Fitzhugh Lee and Thomas Rosser attended a feast at which large quantities of fish and liquor were consumed. Unaware of the battle, which was going on two miles away, Pickett returned to his forces toward the end of the engagement, which became a Union victory, resulting in the evacuation of the Confederate capital, Richmond.
There are also numerous accounts of soldiers from one side driving the other out of their encampments, only for the attack to stall because the attacking troops stopped to finish off the breakfast their foes were preparing.
Sociopathic Hero: Sherman is often seen and portrayed as this. He was indeed vicious, extremely ruthless, and terrifying in battle, but once the smoke cleared he actually had a reputation for leniency and mercy, regularly permitting defeated enemies to retrieve their belongings and go home without further molestation. He was repeatedly reprimanded by his superiors for this. "War is Cruelty, you cannot refine it"
Historians also consider him to be one of the most pragmatic of all Civil War generals. He routinely avoided many of the common tactical mistakes that plagued both sides' battle strategies, and the few instances he didn't are notable mostly because he didn't sidestep the issue like he usually did, not because he did something unusually stupid. The "March to the Sea" is also an extremely clear-headed evaluation of the most efficient method of ending the war. In many ways, it is seen as the 19th Century's equivalent of the Atomic Bombings: horrific, but ultimately justified in being less destructive than the alternative methods would have been.
State Sec: Although the Confederates had no independent secret police force, the CSA's military filled this role when not on the front. Suspected abolitionists, Unionists, draft dodgers, deserters, guerrillas, or people who had not contributed sufficiently to the war effort were regularly rounded up and either arrested or summarily executed. Some Confederate army units spent almost the entire war deep in their own territory, rooting out agitators and "purging" problem communities. The North was little better, going so far as to abolish habeas corpus for the duration of the war.
Although the US Constitution actually does make provision for such (Section 9, Article 1), and Congress fulfilled the legislative requirement for it in 1863.
And it's possible to argue that the suspension saved Maryland, and thus possibly Washington DC and the entire US government, for the Union. Lincoln realized that suspension of habeas corpus might be needed just for this purpose, and it's likely this that led him to do it. This has provided a very interesting and useful case-in-point for scholars of emergency law.
Local commanders and governors often exercised this right. Ambrose Burnside, while commanding the Department of Ohio, issued General Order No. 38 which punished antiwar or seditious speech under his jurisdiction. Burnside employed detectives and plainclothes officers to spy on "subversives." Most notoriously, Burnside arrested antiwar Congressman Clement Vallandingham in May 1863, which caused a huge backlash (even Lincoln thought Burnside went too far).
The Strategist: Lt. General Nathan Bedford Forrest. According to historian Shelby Foote, he along with Abraham Lincoln were the two bonafide geniuses of the period. Basically, he was a homespun Sun Tzu who instantly could make a battle plan just by looking at the battlefield and the combatants. Unfortunately, he was hampered by his complete lack of ability to command, without the administrative skills, temperament, or intellect to lead an army. (Which might explain why he started the Ku Klux Klan... then abandoned it when it spun out of control in its violence.)
Summon Bigger Fish: Thwarted. The Confederacy (as noted) wanted to bring in foreign powers to recognize it and provide it with military aid. Lincoln promised to declare war upon anyone who actively helped the Confederacy, even just by gun-running. Winning a war with the USA would have been really, really expensive and there was very little in it for Britain — indeed, France might have taken the opportunity to attack them again. Not to mention the fact that it have been political suicide for a British government to fight alongside the Confederacy, as abolitionism was not a minority position in Britain. The Empire outlawed the slave trade in 1807note And when the Royal Navy enforces maritime trade laws they stay enforced. and abolished slavery wholesale in 1833. It was much, much cheaper for British firms to just invest in developing (pre-existing) Anglo-Indian and Anglo-Egyptian plantations.
Many Confederate warships were however constructed in Britain, and sold to the Confederate navy via loopholes in international trade law. The commerce raider CSS Alabama is the most notorious example. The US government successfully sued the British government for related damages in 1872.
The same logic — although not the shipbuilding—applied to Napoleon III's French Empire, the only other power worth mentioning. Although the French weren't as virulently anti-slavery as the British, they weren't exactly in favor of it either, and going to war to support what the French people probably regarded as a revolt of privileged slaveholders wouldn't have gone down very well in the land of liberté, égalité, fraternité. French industry was also not as dependent on American cotton, so the pressure was felt less, and if France got involved on the side of the Confederacy, it's very possible that Britain would have made a global conflict of it. Even if Britain didn't participate, some other power *cough*Otto Von Bismarck*cough* might have ginned up a war in Europe while France was distracted.
Apparently Russia seriously considered entering the war on the Union side, at least when Anglo-French intervention was in the cards. The United States had diplomatically supported Russia during the Crimean War, for which the Russians were grateful; they also felt common cause after abolishing serfdom. The possibility of Russian intervention probably put an additional thumb on the scale against intervention by Britain and France; with Russia drawn into the war, a continental conflict, possibly bringing Prussia (who would want an opportunity to weaken France) and maybe even Austria in on the Russian side, would have become a distinct and potentially costly possibility. Of course, considering all the other factors militating against intervention, this was probably just the icing on the cake.
So, in short, a major reason that none of the European powers were inclined to assist the Confederacy was that they didn't trust any of the other European powers not to attack them while they were distracted. As long as nobody moved to intervene on the side of the Confederates, the Balance of Power in Europe remained.
Take That: Montgomery Meigs, born a Georgian but a career Union officer and staunch U.S. patriot, hated the Confederacy for what he saw as a great betrayal against his country. Late in the war, when the Union dead were filling up the National Cemetery in Washington, Meigs suggested using Robert E. Lee's Union-occupied estate as a new burial ground. It later became Arlington National Cemetery.
Team Pet: A lot of Northern & Southern regiments had animal mascots. The North as a whole had Old Abe, the bald eagle.
A.M. Lea capturing a Union flotilla in Galvaston, Texas only to find his Union Navy son dying on the deck.
Tempting Fate: The very first time that John Sedgwick made his famous quote, nothing happened to him. It was the second time he said it that his luck ran out.
Token Minority: Blacks fought for the North and their exploits are detailed in movies like Glory.
Blacks were allowed to serve the Confederate military in a support capacity but were forbidden to enlist as soldiers. There were, however, state militias that employed free blacks. While these militias were not officially part of the Confederate military, they did see some action. While the enlistment of slaves was eventually legalized, it was too late in the war to have any effect on the outcome.
Both sides had a small number of Chinese soldiers. Though most of them fought for the North, the most well-known ones fought for the South. They are Christopher and Stephen Bunker, the sons of conjoined twins Chang and Eng Bunker, respectively.
Cherokee chief Stand Watie, the only Native American general and the last Confederate general to surrender.
Ely Samuel Parker, a Seneca, served on Grant's staff, was present at Appomattox, and was appointed a brevet brigadier general after the war.
Both sides had many Irishmen, mostly newly arrived immigrants. The North guaranteed citizenship to those who would fight.
Several elite officers from the Prussian military served in both armies. Many were sent to observe tactics that they would later use in the war to unify Germany, and in World War I.
10-Minute Retirement: Gen. Sherman quit the army when the South seceded but came back when the war began.
To The Tune Of: "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" was adapted from the abolitionist song "John Brown's Body" — which, in turn, was adapted from the religious revival song "Say, Brothers, Will You Meet Us." Another example would be the Union and Confederate versions of "Battle Cry of Freedom."
The 1861 Confederate song "Maryland, My Maryland" was sung to the tune of the German Christmas carol Oh Tannenbaum. The tune would later be used for the British left-wing folk song The Red Flag.
Many folk tunes and sports chants around the world are sung to the tune of "Marching through Georgia."
Too Cool to Live: Grant's former commanding officer and later loyal subordinate, Gen. Charles F. Smith, who died of tetanus and dysentery in 1862. Sherman said that Smith would have eclipsed both him and Grant had he lived.
Also James B. Mc Pherson, a talented junior officer who quickly rose through the ranks to army command. Respected by both friend and foe, he was considered as a possible successor to Sherman and Grant before his death at the Battle of Atlanta.
For the Confederates, Albert Sidney Johnston; considered one of the best soldiers on either side. He died commanding his first major battle at Shiloh, leaving behind a host of might-have-beens as the Army of Tennessee disintegrated into infighting and incompetent leadership.
Took a Level in Badass: Robert E. Lee, very much. Though well-respected before the war, he earned the ire of his soldiers and fellow generals for mismanaging an 1861 campaign in West Virginia (admittedly, not entirely his fault). His men nicknamed him "The Ace of Spades" and "Granny Lee" for his supposed slowness and over-caution. He was even sent to inspect Georgia's coastal defenses in early 1862. Then came the Seven Days' Battles and no one mocked Lee again.
Ultimate Job Security: Ben Butler. Never that great a soldier, he was made a major general to convince War Democrats that this wasn't just a Republican war. After Lincoln won his 1864 re-election campaign, he had no more use for Butler. Grant then put him in charge of the amphibious assault on Wilmington, North Carolina, the Confederacy's last open port. The first step in taking Wilmington would be taking Fort Fisher, which Butler signally failed to do, calling off his first and only assault after one man was killed and fifteen wounded out of a 6500-man force. The next month he was hauled in front of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War to account for his failure; he rested his defense on the claim that Fort Fisher was impregnable anyhow. Midway through his defense speech, news arrived that Alfred Terry, his successor, had taken Fort Fisher. So what happened then? Well, the Joint Committee unanimously exonerated him on all charges, then voted him a commendation for his calm decision-making in calling off the assault in the face of a superior enemy position. Yeah.
Braxton Bragg for the Confederates. Well-known as an incompetent tactician who regularly feuded with his subordinates, he retained command of the Army of the Tennessee until November 1863 due to friendship with Jefferson Davis. After his debacle at Chattanooga, even Davis couldn't ignore Bragg's shortcomings and promoted him to "personal military adviser".
Unfriendly Fire: Union general Jefferson C. Davis' murder of general William "Bull" Nelson. And he got away with it.
Unmotivated Close Up: Every history of the war makes a point of mentioning that the man in charge of repressing John Brown in 1859 was one Colonel Robert E Lee.
Un-Person: Lincoln was so hated in the South that he did not even appear on the ballot in 10 states during the 1860 election.
Up Through the Ranks: As is frequently the case during Civil Wars where the officers are split between the two sides, there were many instances on both sides here.
Elisha Hunt Rhodes enlisted at the beginning of the war as a private on the Union side and was a Colonel by the end. His war diaries were used heavily in Ken Burns' PBS documentary The Civil War.
The Confederate side had a famous one of their own in Nathan Bedford Forrest. He enlisted as a private at the outbreak of the war in 1861. By 1864, he had been promoted all the way up to Major General.
Values Dissonance: The Men of the North fought for the Negro, that he might be shipped back to Africa. Only the abolitionists were remotely interested in emancipation until doing so was framed in terms of undermining the rebel war effort, and even then Lincoln's government sat on the idea for a couple of years until they could claim to be winning (post-Antietam) before they actually went ahead with emancipation. There's also the whole slavery thing, which doesn't fly among most people these days.
Really, the main reasons the Republican Party was opposed to slavery at all (or at the very least, its expansion into new territories and new states) were pragmatic, not moral. The Republicans styled themselves the champions of the Average Working Man, and were committed to securing the opportunity of every able-bodied free worker to get a fair wage for a fair day's work. You couldn't get that in a slave-owning society, where you could just have a slave work in a field or factory and not have to worry about compensation or ensuring decent working conditions. The Republicans wanted to end slavery in order to level the playing field.
It's worth noting that Lincoln himself ultimately subverted this. While he's famous for his quote that he prioritized "saving the union" over freeing the slaves, and initially began firmly in the "abolish slavery, deport all the black people to Africa" camp, he came to view abolition as a moral imperative, and recanted the deportation argument...the latter coming especially after his persuasion by black leaders of the north, which was itself amazing for the time. Frederick Douglass, the freed slave, abolitionist, and great orator, noted after a few meetings with the man that Lincoln was about the only white person to treat him as a respected equal, with none of the condescending superiority that characterized even the staunchest white abolitionists' interactions with black people.
Victory Pose: After the Confederate Capitol of Richmond fell, Abraham Lincoln visited the city and sat at Confederate President Jefferson Davis's desk in the Confederate White House.
Vindicated by History: The Gettysburg Address. Lincoln was just the President — the big draw for the event was Edward Everett, a former preacher, professor, and politician who was widely regarded as one of the great American orators and who spoke for two hours, after which Lincoln was expected to stand up, "say a little something," and sit down again. If you're a US citizen, odds are good that every single line of Lincoln's address will be at least vaguely familiar to you, and even better is that this is the first you've ever heard of Edward Everett.
Everett himself was either impressed with Lincoln's speech or just felt he should say something polite; he reportedly said to Lincoln that Lincoln did a better job of capturing the spirit of the occasion in two minutes than Everett did in two hours.
Contemporary reactions were all over the map, but rather humorously tended to follow party lines: Republican sources generally praised Lincoln's remarks:
Springfield Republican: Surprisingly fine as Mr. Everett’s oration was in the Gettysburg consecration, the rhetorical honors of the occasion were won by President Lincoln. His little speech is a perfect gem; deep in feeling, compact in thought and expression, and tasteful and elegant in every word and comma. Then it has the merit of unexpectedness in its verbal perfection and beauty. Turn back and read it over, it will repay study as a model speech. Strong feelings and a large brain are its parents.
While Democrats mostly panned it. (One account in a Democrat-leaning paper contained an expansive paean to Everett's speech, then added "President Lincoln also spoke." And that was one of the nicer examples.)
Chicago Times: The cheeks of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat, and dishwatery utterances.
There are no photos of Abe giving this speech, because photographers expected him to speak longer than Edward Everett.
William Tecumseh Sherman gave a very accurate prediction of how the war would go in 1860:
You people of the South don't know what you are doing. This country will be drenched in blood, and God only knows how it will end. It is all folly, madness, a crime against civilization! You people speak so lightly of war; you don't know what you're talking about. War is a terrible thing! You mistake, too, the people of the North. They are a peaceable people but an earnest people, and they will fight, too. They are not going to let this country be destroyed without a mighty effort to save it … Besides, where are your men and appliances of war to contend against them? The North can make a steam engine, locomotive, or railway car; hardly a yard of cloth or pair of shoes can you make. You are rushing into war with one of the most powerful, ingeniously mechanical, and determined people on Earth — right at your doors. You are bound to fail. Only in your spirit and determination are you prepared for war. In all else you are totally unprepared, with a bad cause to start with. At first you will make headway, but as your limited resources begin to fail, shut out from the markets of Europe as you will be, your cause will begin to wane. If your people will but stop and think, they must see in the end that you will surely fail.
War Is Hell: Something both sides could agree on wholeheartedly. Sherman stated it was his job to make war unbearable, doing the unthinkable: taking the war to civilians. The philosophy of Total War was unheard of at that point, and Sherman figured the best way to win was to break the will of the entire Confederacy.
Sherman: We can make war so terrible, and make them so sick of war that generations (will) pass away before they again appeal to it.
War Reenactors: The Trope Maker and Trope Codifier. The poster child for the global re-enactment community — there are more US Civil War re-enactors than all others combined, and is generally credited with starting the meme as a serious endeavor. It continues to be popular 150 years after the war ended. Note that virtually all of the "extras" used in such epic films as Gettysburg are in fact unpaid re-enactors, complete with exacting period costumes and equipment, all of which are individually owned. Yes, you read that right. 15,000 extras, all with completely authentic reproductions (or, occasionally, actual relics) of uniforms, equipment and weapons, all supplied by the reenactors themselves. Yes, they're all a bit crazy- strangely enough, there are a substantial number of non-Americans in the movement, which brings it to another level when realized that there are several hundred foreign nationals who come to the US on vacation to reenact someone else's history. It makes more sense when it is kept in mind that many troops in both armies were foreign-born; see Token Minority.
Warrior Monk: Episcopalian bishop and Confederate General Leonidas Polk.
We ARE Struggling Together: The Confederacy. People may be familiar with the term "died of states' rights", though many of the examples often cited are apocryphal (like North Carolina supposedly hoarding uniforms while Lee's army went ragged).
It is arguable that the Confederacy would have eventually fallen apart had it won the war, if only because it set a precedent for secession. If, in the future, a state wanted to leave the Confederacy, the national government wouldn't have been able to stop it without looking like hypocrites.
Union commanders George McClellan and John Pope at Second Bull Run. By some accounts, McClellan was so piqued at the prospect of Pope defeating Robert E. Lee (and garnering the attendant glory) that he deliberately withheld troops from Pope while the battle was in process.
The Confederate Army of Tennessee under Braxton Bragg was notorious for this. Bragg constantly bickered with subordinates Leonidas Polk, John Breckinridge and William Hardee, all headstrong and ambitious themselves. When James Longstreet's corps temporarily joined Bragg in late 1863, Bragg sent Longstreet to capture Knoxville, just to get rid of him. Bragg so angered Nathan Bedford Forrest during the Chickamauga Campaign that the latter threatened to kill Bragg should they ever meet again.
We Have Reserves: An essential part of the Grand Strategy of both sides. The War was cripplingly expensive and bad for the economy, ergo both sides would have preferred it over sooner rather than later. The only way to make the war end sooner was to basically sacrifice more men than strictly necessary in a Grand Strategy of maximum-intensity warfare. At the Operational (campaign) level most people like to paint Grant (and the Union at large) as this, but in reality the tactics of the day were simply wasteful of men. The North just had (far) more to draw on than the South. The Union's higher casualty rates were due to their fighting a lot of offensive actions — like (frontal) assaults on entrenched enemy formations — while the Confederacy usually had the "luxury" of being on the defensive. In the Rebels' few offensive and counter-offensive actions, they suffered casualty rates on this order as well.
The Wilderness Battles.
This was one of the key pieces of logic for the Union's ending of prisoner exchangesnote The major reason the Union ended prisoner exchanges was because Robert E. Lee refused to order his troops not to murder black soldiers who surrendered: The North could recruit/draft more soldiers when they lost some to capture, while the South could not. Starting in 1864, life for prisoners was about to get worse.
This is also the main reason that Irish-Americans despised President Lincoln so vehemently. Being poor, Catholic, and a Democrat drastically increased one's chances of being drafted. Pope Pius IX even had one of his best preachers go to Ireland to warn the people that if they went to America, they would probably end up being used as cannon fodder in "Lincoln's War." Certain Irish-American neighborhoods in New York City detested Lincoln so much that they voted for McClellan in the 1864 election by margins of over 90%.
Ironically, the Union Armies under Grant suffered proportionately fewer casualties than the Army of Northern Virginia under Lee when you consider them as a percentage of the men engaged. But that's not how the two men are remembered.
Wham Episode: The end of the battle of Antietam/Sharpsburg. McClellan, who barely managed more than a glorified standoff when he could have smashed Lee's army thanks to the Confederate battle plans his troops found, is relieved of command for the last time; Matthew Brady's "The Dead of Antietam" gallery is opened, delivering the horror of war to the North for the first time; and most importantly, Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation, ensuring no European power will support the South and at the same time welcoming African-Americans to enlist in the Union Army (a manpower source the Confederacy wouldn't dare access until it was too late). Then there were the 23,000 casualties of the battle itself, making it the bloodiest single day of the war.
When John Sedgwick was shot in the head after delivering his famous one-liner, he was sorely missed by many Generals from both North and South. Even Lee and Grant were taken back by this tragedy since Sedgwick was a good friend to both of them.
Grant: Is he really dead?
WHAM Line: Late in the Battle of Gettysburg, General Lee called on Major General George Pickett to rally his division.
Lee: General Pickett, you must see to your division.
In fairness, this is all with hindsight. For the first two years of the conflict, there was a real chance that France and/or Britain might intervene: France for political reasons (Napoleon III's France had just set up a puppet state in Mexico that the Union was not happy about, and thus wanted the U.S. weakened to lessen the threat to it) and Great Britain for economic reasons (a huge chunk of her industry was in textiles). Britain ultimately didn't intervene because a war would have been expensive and (deeply) unpopular, not to mention the fact that they disliked the idea of helping France (who might even have taken the chance to ally with the USA and declare war on Britain in return for the former's recognition of French-backed-Mexico) and were pissed at the Rebels' laid-back and somewhat arrogant diplomatic overtures (the aforementioned "King Cotton" mentality). Indirect intervention or even simple gun-running was ruled out pretty early on when the USA declared that any kind of British support for the Confederates would mean war. While the world's only superpower didn't exactly fear wars with second-rate powers like Spain or The USA, ever since her defeat in The Hundred Years' War Britain has — unlike certain other countries (*cough*FRANCE*cough*) — never been fond of pointless (and expensive!) wars. That's "Perfidious Albion" for you.
Dan Sickles at the Battle of Gettysburg. Historians say that if Sickles had not been arrogant and stupid enough to move out of position to pick a fight with the Confederates, the Union army would've had a better hold on the hills of Round Top and Little Round Top. Also, if Brig. Gen. William Barksdale had not been killed during the confederate attack on Sickles' III Corps, Longstreet's men would've been able to storm up the Round Top hills unopposed and outflank the union army.
John Bell Hood during his tenure with the Army of Tennessee. Instead of defending Atlanta from entrenchments Hood orders a counterattack against Sherman's army which decimates his forces. After Atlanta's fall, Hood disengages Sherman and marches his entire army north into Tennessee, a state garrisoned by twice as many Union troops than Hood's entire force. Not only was Hood defeated at Nashville, his maneuver allowed Sherman to march to the sea virtually unopposed. Hood hoped that heading away from Atlanta and towards Tennessee would cause Sherman to pull back to keep Hood from occupying his supply lines, but Sherman just ignored his supply line and had his army live off the land — and his troops thanked him for it, since they ate better foraging than when they ate the Army rations the lines brought them! (That's what the second verse of "Marching Through Georgia" is about.)
Then there's General George McClellan, who enraged Abraham Lincoln with his unwillingness to risk his men and press the advantage. One infamous incident had the Confederate war plans actually falling into his hands before the Battle of Antietam and he did nothing about it for 18 hours. As a result, McClellan's Antietam "victory" was a glorified standoff when he could have crushed Lee and end the war on the first day. Lincoln couldn't wait to get rid of him and replace him with Grant.
What Could Have Been: Early in the war, Abraham Lincoln offered Giuseppe Garibaldi (yes, that Garibaldi) a corps command in the Army of the Potomac. Garibaldi balked, demanding instead command of all Union forces, which Lincoln dismissed as absurd. Perhaps more interesting for its potential effects on Italy than the United States, but still.
"What Now?" Ending: The story of the country's non-European population at the end of the war. The abolitionists have succeeded, and all the slaves are free. Unfortunately, the vast majority of ex-slaves 1) are illiterate and have few if any skills 2) have zero property or savings 3) largely live in an area suffering an economic depression, one that is now actively hostile to their interests and 4) have rather more psychologically screwed-up people among them than average, due to the endemic violence and depravity of the system they had lived their whole lives under.
Where Da White Women At?: A staple of racist propaganda during the War from both the Democrats in the North and the Confederates was the image of black men having sexual relations with white women. The Democrats produced the ridiculous forgeries of "Abraham Africanus I : his secret life, revealed under the mesmeric influence ; mysteries of the White House and another pamphlet purporting to be secret Republican internal documents outlining plans to make America mixed-race. In many cases, the South relied upon propaganda framing the war as a struggle to prevent white sexual slavery to black overlords. This was depressingly effective, especially south of the Potomac.
Who's Laughing Now?: It was not uncommon for contrabands who fled to the Union Army to meet their former masters in prisoner of war caravans. This trope often ensued, sometimes with violence.
Black Soldier: Hello massa! The bottom rail is now on top it seems!
Features heavily in "Marching Through Georgia", written to commemorate Sherman's crushing victory over the South and ravaging of the Southern war economy in his March to the Sea:
Won the War, Lost the Peace: Whilst the Union smashed the Confederacy on the battlefield and managed to force the end of slavery, the Southern whites successfully stopped Reconstruction and managed to entrench their own authority with Jim Crow, segregation, and bigotry. Indeed, almost a century and a half since the war ended, the socio-economic situation of many African-Americans remains dire.
The Woobie: James Longstreet, the best corps commander in the conflict on either side. Lost several of his young children to scarlet fever in 1862, was Cassandra-esque in his petitions for a more defensive war, was unjustly blamed for the loss at Gettysburg (thereby taking the blame away from the saintly Lee), had to fight against Grant (the two were very close; Longstreet was best man at Grant's wedding to Longstreet's cousin) and was considered a traitor and scalawag by his fellow Southerners for becoming a Republican and advocating suffrage for former slaves. Whew!
Wooden Ships and Iron Men: Admiral David Glasgow Farragut. Perhaps the last great exponent, prevailing in the face of deadlier guns, ironclads and mines. In the Battle of Mobile Bay, he gave instruction to ignore sea mines and to continue on into enemy territory. His famous phrase survives today as "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!"
Confederate commerce raiders, of which the CSS Alabama was the most famous.
Worst Aid: It was actually safer to fight through an entire battle than it was to be sent to a field hospital. That's how bad and nonexistent the medical technology of this war was (see Nightmare Fuel). Well over half the deaths during the war were from disease and infection, rather than battle.
There's a reason for amputation being necessary: A porous musket bullet propelled by black power flies slow enough that it actually collected particles (such as rifle smoke) in the air. So even if the bullet didn't shatter bone, all of that contagion would eventually turn a flesh wound into a septic harbor of infectious diseases. At least 55% of the amputations on the union side alone were done without anesthesia. This led to an increased death rate from traumatic shock.
Clean hands and clean water for cleaning surgical instruments was, more often than not... optional. Now what does that tell you about the chances of making a full recovery? The Civil War took place concurrently with Louis Pasteur's experiments which established germs as the cause of disease. Unfortunately, his ideas didn't make it across the Atlantic until after the war. One Union surgeon would later comment that, "the Civil War was fought at the end of the medical Middle Ages." Indeed, Civil War doctors were the last generation of doctors to operate on (no pun intended) miasma theory rather than germ theory.
Contrary to popular belief, anesthesia and chloroform were readily available; administered based on age and health. There was only one actual incident towards the end of the war on the Confederate side where they simply ran out. Amputations were not as common as suggested, but infections were prevalent. But again, the addictiveness of medicinal drugs like morphine, opium, and laudanum wasn't fully recognized during that era, and these were readily available for use as treatment.
One thing that would horrify many modern people, was the development of formalized maggot therapy by Confederate medical officer Dr. J.F. Zacharias to debride infected wounds. This is actually an effective treatment for infected wounds, as the maggots would debride the wound more effectively than most methods available at the time and with less risk to the patient, and actually increased survivability by a significant margin if done early enough.
Perhaps best exemplified when Union General Chamberlain's division and Confederate General Gordon's corps famously saluted each other as Gordon marched away from the surrender at Appomattox.
After the war, veterans' reunions would occasionally involve former soldiers from both sides, such as the Gettysburg reunions which continued until the late 1940s, by which point there were too few people left alive to justify them. The general opinion expressed by the attendees was that their opposite numbers had most definitely been worthy opponents.
General Robert E. Lee was well respected by many members of the Union, including Abraham Lincoln.
Ulysses S. Grant was similarly well respected by Lee, who, after the war, never, ever tolerated an unkind word about Grant in his presence. Joseph Johnston was similarly disposed towards his rival. Considering that the rival in question was the oft-villainized William T. Sherman, that's saying something. Johnston even served as a pallbearer at Sherman's funeral, and refused to cover up despite poor health and bone-chilling winter. Because of this he caught pneumonia and died a few weeks after Sherman's funeral.
Exemplified by Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox. To quote the other wiki: "Dressed in an immaculate uniform, Lee waited for Grant to arrive. Grant, whose headache had ended when he received Lee's note, arrived in a mud-spattered uniform—a government-issue flannel shirt with trousers tucked into muddy boots, no sidearms, and with only his tarnished shoulder straps showing his rank. It was the first time the two men had seen each other face-to-face in almost two decades. Suddenly overcome with sadness, Grant found it hard to get to the point of the meeting and instead the two generals briefly discussed a previous encounter during the Mexican-American War."
Actually Lee had little respect for Grant at the start of the campaign, and only came to admire him as it went along. Lee and Meade, the guy who beat him at Gettysburg are probably a straighter example. To quote Lee: "General Meade will make no mistake on my front, and should I make one, will be quick to seize upon it."
It would be better to phrase it that Lee never tolerated an unkind word about Grant after Grant had shown him so much respect and mercy at the surrender.
Indeed the Civil War was full of this, as many Confederate officers had been U.S. Army officers until just before the war.
Wrong Genre Savvy: Most of the commanding officers on both sides of the War were trained in Napoleonic Wars-era battlefield tactics. Unfortunately, major advances in military technology between the 1820s and 1860s meant that these tactics were now badly dated: Battles turned into bloodbaths far more often than anticipated, thanks to the insistence on close-formation warfare note a relic of the days when muskets had just a fifth the range and a fraction the accuracy of the contemporary rifled-musket and rifle. It was infantry that were suddenly the big killers, as artillery had been rendered drastically more inaccuratenote unless they wanted to be picked off by snipers, bombardiers were forced to use "indirect fire" rather than firing over open sights, and it would be another 40-50 years before indirect fire would begin to approach accuracy at range — by that point, there were rifled guns, fire-control systems that amounted to mechanical computers, and aircraft to provide targeting information. To be fair to the commanders, this was one of the wars in which the world figured out that the new weapons had changed everything they knew about war (along with the Crimean War and Bismarck's wars of German unification). By 1865, the Union, at least, had figured out the trick of total war.
X on a Stick: "Sloosh" was an improvised delicacy and a staple "food" in the confederate army.
In the southern army, you ate something called "sloosh."
You got issued cornmeal and bacon and you fried the bacon, which left a great deal of grease in the pan.
Then you took the cornmeal and swirled it around in the grease to make the dough and make a snake of it and put it around your ramrod and cook it over the campfire.
The 400± men of the 2nd Georgia at Antietam. They held up 12,000 Union soldiers at Burnside's Bridge for about 3 hours. Subverted in that it was because the aforementioned Burnside got it stuck in his head that he needed the bridge to cross the creek, even after one of his subordinates literally jumped in and proved it was only knee-deep.
General John Buford's tactical brilliance meant he chose his ground perfectly, and his 2,000 cavalry troopers with their Spencer repeating carbines held off Confederate forces that would soon number 20,000 — buying time for General Reynolds to arrive with the First Corp to take position.
Arguably the entire history of the Army of Northern Virginia was one huge You Shall Not Pass.
Confederate Lieutenant Richard Dowling at Sabine Pass, Texas, held off a sizable Union Navy squadron (carrying about 5,000 soldiers) with just 46 men and 6 cannon, without any losses for Dowling's force.
Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: Both sides sent spies and saboteurs across enemy lines, with expected results. The most famous would be Andrew's Raiders during The Great Locomotive Chase. All of the Union soldiers participating in it were captured by the Confederates and treated (and in some cases, executed) like spies. After the men managed to return to the USA through either escape or prisoner transfer, the Union government basically awarded everybody who participated with the first Medals of Honor for their bravery.
The entire Confederate Navy might apply. Jefferson Davis issued letters of marque to private ships, essentially creating a navy of privateers. The Union planned to treat such men as pirates until Davis threatened to execute one Union prisoner for every Confederate sailor hanged.
In the 1910s, around the 50th anniversary of the war, Civil War films (then silent) became extremely popular, with hundreds being produced, including the (in)famous Birth of a Nation. Most films had a theme of reconciliation; a film about the civil war that did not portray southerners as heroic victims (as did Birth of a Nation and Gone with the Wind) risked having no audience or bookings in the states of the old Confederacy. Most early Hollywood studio bosses were first and second generation European immigrants, so they had no personal association with the war to motivate them to make movies that automatically wrote off a fifth or a quarter of all theater screens before the production even began.
Several tropes therefore became standard in older Civil War movies:
Other than Quantrill's Raiders (Missouri guerrillas whose ranks include Jesse James, the Dalton Brothers, and other famous outlaws) rebel soldiers are almost always shown as as heroic and respectable. Where individual rebels were villainous, there would be noble rebels around as contrast. Rebel officers are gentlemen, rebel enlisted men are tough, have thicker accents, but are very loyal to their officers.
Rebel soldiers are superior to the US Army's soldiers in every way. They are braver, more clever, more noble, and just more tragic. Battles where the government showed innovative strategy (such as Vicksburg) are forgotten or given a one-off mention in favor of showing battles that "prove" they only used We Have Reserves. This occurs even if The Army's soldiers are the heroes of the movie or television episode.
Government soldiers and politicians are thuggish and venal. If motivation is brought up, they are likely to wonder why they are in the army, and why there is even a war going on. The African soldiers are the exception, since they know exactly what they are fighting for, and — conscious of the good example they must set — act with the utmost discipline and valor.
"Race" theory and slavery are seldom, if ever, mentioned. If slaves are involved in the story line at all, some or all of them will be loyal to their masters, and there is often a Loyal Slave scene in which they protect the family home from Yankee invaders or aid their masters to outwit the Yankees or escape them. There may even be a one-off scene where southern generals or gentlemen sit down and have a talk about how the war is definitelynotabout slavery.
Quite often there might be a specific Slave Denial scene. In this scene a slave or slaves is questioned about slavery, asked to turn against their masters, or offered their freedom — and they turn it down, often with a simple silent denial. This scene turns up in Civil War epics made as recently as the 1980s (the TV mini-series North and South)!
The rebels planned to raise regiments of African slaves; the war ended before they actually did it. One Confederate commented on the irony: "If they do not fight well, we are lost. If they do, our country is built on a lie."
There were also ethnic-European (chiefly Irish) regiments from every Confederate state fighting for the United States. Ironically, "hillbilly" stereotypes in movies and TV (including Granny Clampett from The Beverly Hillbillies) are often portrayed as Confederate diehards. In reality, Appalachia was strongly pro-government during the Civil War (West Virginia so much so that they formed their own state) and many regions suffered retaliation from the Confederacy.
The reason Appalachia (especially West Virginia) was so strongly pro-union was that the mountainous topography separated them from the government seats, prevented them from using plantations as means of income, and meant most trade and transportation came from Northern states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Maryland. Therefore those areas didn't have as strong a loyalty to the state's governments when they seceded. The economic and social differences in West Virginia were so great that they had pushed to form their own state as early as 1820, the secession just gave them an opportune vacant seat to take advantage of.
There were also religious differences at work (Presbyterian and Baptist backwaters vs. Episcopalian Tidewater), class differences (wealthy plantation families vs. impoverished, disenfranchised mountain folk), even ethnic differences (Scots-Irish hillbillies vs. Anglo plantation aristocrats) all contributing to the animosity. A hundred and fifty years later the differences have not all been forgotten, either.
Several issues of Jonah Hex dealt with Jonah's service in the war. In one issue, Jonah accidentally shoots Stonewall Jackson as the General returns from a reconnaissance, inflicting the wound which cost him his arm and precipitated his death shortly after due to sepsis.
Disney's Song of the South is mistakenly thought to occur during this era, but it actually takes place in the post-Civil War Reconstructionist Period. It's received a lot of flak for its idealized portrayal of smiling, happy sharecroppers.
The film Glory — Showed popular culture once and for all that blacks didn't just beg for their freedom, but fought for it.
Dances with Wolves — The central character is a Union Cavalry Lieutenant who voluntarily transferred to a remote post so that he could "see the frontier before it was gone." He had been wounded in the leg and was about to have it amputated. Preferring death to dismemberment, he borrowed a horse and rode it back and forth in front of the Confederate line. While the Rebels were trying to shoot him (and missing at the ridiculously close range, even for a smoothbore musket), the Union soldiers charged and took the field. The General rewarded him by having his private physician save his leg and gave him whatever posting he requested.
Cold Mountain — The novel featured both white and black characters, but the film is almost entirely white.
They did integrate the battle of The Crater, which is historical (and pretty much happened that way).
Gettysburg — Four-and-a-half hour epic covering all three days of the Battle of Gettysburg, putting extra emphasis on the heroic actions on both sides. Confederate generals have a discussion around a campfire with a British lieutenant observer about how the war is not about slavery. Various Union commanders discuss whether they are out to free the slaves, or preserve the Union, or if they don't even know why they're fighting any more.
The novel it was based off of (The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara) was better.
The movie is shockingly faithful to the novel. About 90% of the novel's contents are intact in the movie.
The prequel novel Gods and Generals was also turned into a movie (With the same name), though it wasn't as well received.
Major Dundee A Civil War Western epic by Sam Peckinpah. Union soldiers and Confederate prisoners ally to battle the Apaches. The Black soldiers are brave and noble, the southerners are more gallant and skillful than the northerners, and, of course, the Union commander, nominally the hero, is mainly motivated by cynical ambition.
The Horse Soldiers — John Wayne is the hero as a Union cavalryman (Benjamin Grierson, an actual historical character) but spends most of the movie running away from his enemies. Since Grierson's mission was behind-the-lines raiding, not fighting, his actions were considered a great military achievement at the time. What is telling, of course, is that this tale of Union soldiers running away from Confederates was virtually the only Civil War battle detailed in a major Hollywood movie or television show over the first sixty years of the sound era. It features a heroic Confederate charge, complete with streaming flags, a brave Southern Belle, her loyal slave servants, and at one point Wayne's entire command is routed by a battle line of boys from a Mississippi military school! The two leading characters for the Union, played by Wayne and William Holden, are both war-hating pacifists.
The incident with the Mississippi schoolboys described above is both a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming and an example of Worthy Opponent, since Grierson/Wayne decided to have his troops deliberately retreat rather than risk a slaughter of the children. This incident in question may not have actually happened during Grierson's raid: it may owe something to the real-life Battle of New Market in 1864, when the student body of the Virginia Military Institute played a key part in the defeat of a numerically superior Union force.
Director John Ford subverted many tropes, though. For instance, the loyal slave servant (Althea Gibson) ends up shot dead by a Confederate bushwhacker for her pains) and the Southern Belle trope turns into comedy where the ladies of Newton Station throw dirt at the Yankee cavalrymen, dirtying themselves in the process. It also turns out that one of Marlowe/Wayne's men (played by Ford stalwart Hank Worden) knows the area from the time before the war when he helped slaves escape on the "Underground Railroad", and a couple of Confederate deserters (who by their very existence counter the trope of always honorable Southern soldiers) boast about their shooting prowess and then cross the Moral Event Horizon by mentioning the time when one of them shot a female runaway slave right between the eyes. The schoolboys' action is played not as heroic, but equal parts tragedy — there's a real Tear Jerker moment when a mother begs the commander to spare her one surviving son and not take him into battle with him — and comedy — the little drummer boy then runs away from home (implying that only ignorant child would want to seek martial glory?) to rejoin his comrades, but is captured by the Northerners who let him go after giving him a spanking. Also, the briefing with Grant and Sherman at the beginning makes it clear that the Marlowe/Wayne's raid is part of the operations that resulted in one of the great victories of the North, the taking of Vicksburg, and the brigade handsomely wins the two fights against grownup Confederates that it cannot avoid.
Perhaps the film that put Hollywood on the map: The Birth of a Nation. Brutal, massively racist, blindly revisionist and yet the most influential piece on the technical art of cinematography ever.
Shenandoah — Interestingly for a movie made in the sixties, neither side is displayed particularly flatteringly.
The General — A Buster Keaton action-comedy about a southern train engineer who tries to become a soldier, and ends up defeating Yankee hijackers.
Based on a real incident. The movie The Great Locomotive Chase is a decently accurate re-telling (from the Union Side).
Django is set in the immediate aftermath of the Civil war: The title character is a veteran from the Union army and the villains are a Fictional Counterpart of the Ku Klux Klan.
CSA: The Confederate States of America takes place in a world where the South won the Civil War (the turning point being the battle of Gettysburg). The United States is annexed by the Confederacy; manifest destiny and both World Wars still happen, but they have no qualms about exterminating or enslaving any non-White, non-Christian peoples.
Gangs of New York: Takes place in New York as the Civil War is going on. Throughout the film we see examples of Union soldiers being recruited right off the ships as they immigrate to America, dislike of Lincoln from nativists, and the film's climax is interrupted by the outbreak of the New York Draft Riots.
Ride with the Devil, an Ang Lee movie starring Tobey Maguire, about civil war conflicts between the Jayhawkers and Bushwhackers. The protagonist is a young German immigrant that chooses to side with the Confederacy, although quickly he discovers the harsh nature of war, losing his friends one-by-one, then his illusions about the very meaning of his fight. A Gray and Grey Morality movie. Note that the end followed the usual Chinese morality: the Hero survives most of the war and seeing no real reason to continue, he chooses to go into the west start a new life with his new found family.
The Outlaw Josey Wales is set during the final months and immediately after the war, and follows title character Wales in his vendetta against a sadistic Union commander whose men had murdered Wales' family. The author of a book it was based on was an open and self-admitted segregationist and Klansman, so you might think that's why the portrayal of the Union as monstrous. Nope! In the original book, for instance, Wales' comrades surrender to the Union in exchange for amnesty without incident. In the movie, they are promised amnesty, then betrayed and massacred by the US Army. And in both book and film, the man who killed Wales' family was a partisan guerrilla rather than an actual Union soldier at the time of the murders.
Lincoln opens with a depiction of the Battle of Jenkins Ferry. Lincoln and his staff spend the first half of the movie planning the Battle of Fort Fisher; towards the end of the film, Lincoln visits the carnage of the Petersburg trenches. The balance of the film addresses Lincoln's efforts to pass the 13th Amendment ending slavery.
His The Guns of the South was an entirely different Alternate History in which South African white supremacists go back in time to arm the Confederacy with modern weaponry (particularly AK-47s) and help them win the Civil War. One of the novel's two focus characters is Robert E. Lee (the other is a Confederate infantryman and schoolteacher who gives the "ground level" view of events).
His The War Between The Provinces is a fantasy retelling of the war in the Western Theater after Chickamauga, liberally laced with puns and examples of Istanbul Not Constantinople.
Another alternate-history novel is Ward Moore's Bring the Jubilee which is set in a world where the South won the war. But then the protagonist gets involved in a time-travel experiment and inadvertently ends up changing history during the Battle of Gettysburg, creating our real-world timeline.
The children's novel Across Five Aprils is a recounting of the Civil War stories told to the author by her grandfather.
Ambrose Bierce gained early fame for his Civil War stories, particularly "Chickamauga" and "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." These were informed by his experiences in the war, having enlisted in the Union Army at 19 and fought in several battles in the Western Theater, particularly Shiloh (which absolutely terrified him), and Kennesaw Mountain (where he received a head wound).
Michael Shaara's Pulitzer Prize winning The Killer Angels, which was the basis for the movie Gettysburg, and largely responsible for rescuing Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain from the back pages of history. Shaara's son Jeff Shaara later wrote a prequel (Literature/Gods and Generals) and a sequel (The Last Full Measure). Gods and Generals, which was also turned into a movie that wasn't as well received as Gettysburg, depicts the beginning of the war, following Lee, Jackson, Hancock, and Chamberlain from joining their respective sides to late June of '63. The Killer Angels follows Lee, Longstreet, Buford, and Chamberlain through the battle of Gettysburg. The Last Full Measure is post-Gettysburg to Appamattox, and features Lee, Longstreet, Grant, and Chamberlain. Jeff Shaara is now in the process of writing a tetralogy about other theaters of the war, A Blaze of Glory (about Shiloh), A Chain of Thunder (about Vicksburg), The Smoke at Dawn (About Chattanooga) and an as yet unpublished fourth volume about Sherman's March to the Sea.
Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain, which was also made into a movie.
In The Heroes of Olympus, it’s said that the Civil War was actually a war spurred on by the Greek and Roman demigod camps, which forced them to be permanently separated and told the other doesn’t exist to avoid further horrible wars between them. It’s likely the Greek side (which the main protagonists are on) was the Union, as Chiron mentions having trained Chamberlain in one of the earlier Percy Jackson books; this would cause Unfortunate Implications, as the Roman-camp demigods are described as more warlike, untrusting, and violent...
J.T. Edson's Civil War series is (unsurprisingly) set during the American Civil War.
Gettysburg: A Novel of the Civil War by Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen, the first book of an Alternate History trilogy also composed of Grant Comes East and Never Call Retreat: Lee and Grant: The Final Victory. The trilogy starts with a Confederate victory at Gettysburg but does not result in an overall Confederate victory. Basically, Lee's victory causes things to be worse than they were in real life, with the butcher's bill even more staggering for both sides. There's also a memorable scene where Lee's assault on Washington D.C. is bloodily repulsed, with the black troops of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry regiment playing a decisive role.
Lee and Grant at Appomattox, an historical fiction children’s novel by MacKinlay Kantor, unapologetically portrays Grant as a silent, shabby, and stubborn man who liked animals more than people as well as an unimaginative idiot who loves We Have Reserves. Naturally, Lee is almost fawningly described and compared to heroic, martial Biblical figures.
Traveller by Richard Adams tells the story of the Civil War from the point of view of Robert E. Lee's horse. Traveller never quite recognizes what's going on, though, and is more concerned about other horses (such as Little Sorrel, who carried Stonewall Jackson).
The Very Last Civil War Historian in Roger Spiller's An Instinct for War tells the Civil War through a soldier's letters on how it is profoundly different from previous wars.
True Blood has Bill, a 170 year old vampire who was once invited to speak at an event at the local church when it was found he had served during the civil war. The townspeople try to play down the fact he fought for the Confederacy.
In Have Gun — Will Travel, Paladin served as an officer in the Union Army (apparently under that name) and frequently runs into people he served with.
Copper is set in New York during the civil war; Kevin Corcoran, Robert Morehouse and Matthew Freeman are all recently-returned Unionist veterans and the final episodes of series one feature a Story Arc with confederates plotting to attack Manhattan with Greek Fire. John Wilkes Booth also appears briefly in two episodes as an acquaintance of Elizabeth Haverford.
Being a grim-and-gritty dark-underbelly series in general, it's also one of the few to show that whites in the North were only slightly less bigoted than in the South (and by that we mean "only disagreed with the South on whether or not non-whites could be property.")
The Pinkertons is set just after the war. In the pilot, the villains are ex-Confederate soldiers who want to avenge their fallen comrades by re-starting the conflict.
The Decemberists' song "Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)" is a modern song set during the time of the Civil War, a duet between a Southern soldier (probably killed at one of the Battles of Manassas/Bull Run) and his pining, pregnant wife back in South Carolina. However, the lyrics seem to be inspired in part by the letter of Rhode Islander and Union officer Sullivan Ballou to his wife shortly before First Bull Run (the bit about the "breath of the wind" is particularly similar). The point, in other words, is that war is hard on families no matter what.
"The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" by The Band, and later Joan Baez. The closing days of the Civil War as told by a fictional Confederate soldier. Written by a Canadian (Robbie Robertson)!
"Across The Green Mountain" by Bob Dylan. Plays over the closing credits of Gods And Generals. Another first-person account of a Confederate soldier.
"Swan Swan H" by REM: "Hurrah. We're all free now."
"Gettysburg, 1863" by Iced Earth, a 32 minute song about the titular battle.
The music video for "Some Nights" by fun.
Averted by "Ashokan Farewell," the instrumental theme of Ken Burns' documentary — while quite similar in tone to Civil War-era music, it was written at Ashokan Reservoir, New York, in 1982.
"Battle Hymn of the Republic," by Julia Ward Howe, is a classic and still a popular patriotic song and hymn. Others, such as "The Vacant Chair," "Battle Cry of Freedom," and "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," were still well-known up until World War II.
Deadlands. Taking place in an Alternate History, the Civil War continues some 15 years after the real world culmination (1879, according to Deadlands: Reloaded) due to a resurgence of supernatural activity at Gettysburg. Thanks to the developments of Mad Scientists, it's also far more bloody than it ever was in real life. Chainguns, zeppelins, poison gas... and that's before we get into the monsters (like undead amalgamations of corpses, zombie soldiers, corpse-eating wolf-things, and sentient clouds of poison gas) that are haunting the battlefields.
The musical The Civil War with music by Frank Wildhorn, nominated for the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1999, portrays the Civil War through Union, Confederate, and slaves perspectives in a collection of vignettes. The musical's story is derived largely from letters, diaries, and firsthand accounts from the war era as well as from the words of Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass and Walt Whitman.
The Activision game Gun takes place after the Civil war, and features a Confederate General named after John Magruder as the villain. The game, while itself fun, however, has numerous instances of wildly inaccurate dates, such as the game taking place in 1880, but claiming that the Civil War ended ten years prior, when it actually ended 15 years prior. That's not even getting into the other rather stupid errors regarding date inconsistency in the game.
The History Channel: Civil War — A Nation Divided is an Activision first person shooter set in the Civil War, where players can choose to play on either side in many major battles. Being a first person shooter, Rare Guns had to be invoked to make the more rapid-fire guns of the era more common than they actually were in real life. Reloading sequences were also abbreviatednote the revolvers skip adding precussion caps, for one, which would make them unable to fire in real life to speed them up a bit. Reviews were mostly mixed.
Its sequel Civil War — Secret Missions is pretty much more of the same, except with more types of guns, somewhat better graphics, and focusing on covert missions related to major battles rather than the major battles themselves.
The Multiple-Choice Past quiz of character creation includes a question asking which side the player character chose during the war of the previous years. Note that the question also allows to be a former soldier of the war in Mexico instead of the American Civil War.
There is a minor faction of Confederate remnants in the game.
There is a quick battle scenario about the Battle of Gettysburg, in which the player is an Union soldier.
Lee at the Alamo is an online Alternate History short story by Harry Turtledove with the point of divergence being in December, 1860, when General David E. Twiggs is unable to take command of the Department of Texas, leaving Lt. Colonel Robert E. Lee as the commander. The story takes place a few months later, just after Texas has voted to join the Confederate States. Lt. Colonel Lee concludes that it is his duty to defend U.S. munitions and property in San Antonio, Texas, including the fabled Alamo, rather than allow their surrender to the seceding Texas government, as Twiggs did do in Real Life, even if he expresses that he has no love for the about-to-take-office Lincoln and his policies. This puts him in a quandary later when his home state Virginia secedes since he's now a hero in the Union. After having had men die under him fighting Confederates, he just doesn't feel right changing sides anymore, nor does he feel right just sitting out the war in safety while people are dying. He settles for a compromise and has Lincoln assign him to the western theater of the war so that he doesn't have to fight Virginia directly.