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Useful Notes / The American Civil War
aka: American Civil War

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“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.”
Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

In 1860 South Carolina seceded from the United States of America. Texas, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana followed in early 1861, with these seven states forming the Confederate States of America. When President Abraham Lincoln called for 75,000 troops after the attack on Fort Sumter, Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas and North Carolina left the Union in response and joined the Confederacy. From there events took on a life of their own and the situation devolved into a full-blown war which lasted a little shy of four years.note  The government’s attempts to crush what Abraham Lincoln termed a rebellionnote  eventually resulted in the defeat of the confederation and the eventual reintegration of the seceded states into the Union.


Much like the contemporary 1850–64 War of the Heavenly Kingdom or Taiping Rebellion along the mid-lower Yangtze and the later civil wars suffered by 20th-century China and Russia,note  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 cottonnote  for export to Western Europe, feared that the federal government in Washington, D.C. would attempt to outlaw slavery.


Meanwhile, on the battlefield itself, the Age of Dakka has dawned, which means that everything anybody knew about warfare is wrong again. 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 PTSD. 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 I 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 mechanized supply lines via railroad. Surprisingly to many, the American Civil War was the first-ever American conflict 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. Previously, an aerial corps of balloons was deployed during the wars of The French Revolution.

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. Chivalrous, cigar-chomping, white-tuxedo-wearing Southern Gentlemen pistol-duel at dawn and the word "Damyankees!"note  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 decry 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 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 antislavery crusaders had a tendency to view blacks as inferior, and historical accuracy sometimes bends to political correctness.

Almost every student 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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    The Origins of the War 
The American Civil War was almost fated to happen, as the enduring issue of slavery had only been placated by stopgap measures. While it was far from the only factor in starting the war, slavery was certainly one of the main points of contention, as argued by the numerous declarations regarding the seceding states, who listed the maintaining of the institution of slavery as their raison d'être. Sentiments regarding the abolition, or regulation, of slavery had existed since before the nation's founding, with the strongest advocates mostly being Christian groups in New England. Many noted how slavery contradicted both Christian and American ideals of equality (either under God, or under the law).

However, at the founding of the nation, abolition was not a serious concern. Many of the nation's founders were slaveholders themselves, and even those who disapproved of the institution knew that challenging it would cause disunity among the states. Those at the Constitutional Convention were more than well aware of how contentious the issue was, especially among the Southern states, whose economies were largely dependent on slave-based agriculture. The main issue facing the convention at the time was how slaves should be counted in national population censuses, which decided how seats would be allocated in the House of Representatives: delegates from states with large slave populations wanted slaves to count in full—since any additional representatives would represent the interests of the owners rather than the slaves—while those who wanted to restrict the political power of slavery wanted only free persons to be counted. This resulted in the infamous three-fifths compromise, where three-fifths of the slave population would be counted when it came time to allocate seats. Many of the northern states already lacked large slave populations, and as a result all states north of the Mason-Dixon line (that separates Maryland from Pennsylvania) would ban slavery.

Another compromise from the early days of the United States was on the importation of slaves. There was a 20 year grace period that would allow new slaves to be imported from Africa. After this, it would be illegal to import new slaves. Later, the US would affirm this decision with international treaties between them and other states, the most notable being Great Britain. This ban was later upheld when a group of slaves rebelled and captured the schooner Amistad. The courts found them innocent, declaring that they were free individuals who had the right to take any measures to free themselves from bondage, including the violent overthrow of the schooner's crew. The slaves were arranged safe passage back home to Africa through the help of sympathetic New Englanders.

Both of these compromises seemed to quell things, but only temporarily. As the United States grew and more states were accepted into the Union, tensions flared up again. With the acquisition of the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803, the United States nearly doubled in size. These new lands would gradually be settled and admitted statehood. With the northern states having already outlawed slavery, many of the new states admitted to the Union in the Midwestern Territory would also become "free states" upon admittance to the Union. Not all new states would go this route, however, and by 1819 the United States was divided straight down the middle, with 11 free states and 11 slave states. It was a delicate balance, as the southerners feared that a majority of free states would hand the senate over to abolitionists, who would abolish slavery wholesale. Northerners feared the opposite, that slavery would be expanded even further. The fears of both sides were not especially warranted, as abolition still wasn't a serious movement as of yet, and the slave states had no pretensions of extending slavery back into the North. However, the admittance of the new state of Missouri worried both sides. In the end, another compromise was worked out where Maine would be admitted as a free state, Missouri would be a slave state, and all territory south of Missouri, state or not, would allow slavery. All territory north of Missouri's southern border would be free soil, barring Missouri itself, of course. The compromise kept the Union from imploding for a few more decades, but it couldn't last.

Abolition only grew stronger as time went on. The decades following the Missouri Compromise saw a massive religious revival, known as the Second Great Awakening. Many preachers took this opportunity to cast fiery and condemning attacks on the immoral institution of slavery. Slavery supporters would argue that slavery was a moral institution that benefited slaves, as a precursor to the later "civilizing mission" argument of many colonial powers. They would also decry Africans as being less than human, citing a Late Medieval belief that blacks were the "Sons of Ham" and were cursed with dark skin by God.

Numerous abolitionist groups saw an increase in members, with the American Anti-Slavery Society being the most famous. However, abolition was still not the majority sentiment in the North, with most northerners being more concerned with the spread of slavery to the Western Territories. They mostly sought to halt its expansion, but total abolition was still a far-off dream. The issue of slavery's expansion became the main point of division, with numerous proposals being floated back and forth. Some parties, such as the Republican Party, sought total federal control over the issue, and only Congress would be able to decide if a state was free or slave. The pro-slavery movement argued for "States Rights," in this case the right of states to choose whether they were free or slave at their own discretion. This is where the revisionist "states rights" argument falls apart. Yes, the South was fighting for "states rights," but the rights they were fighting for were the rights to own slaves.

Things really shit the bed after the Mexican-American War. The vast new territories acquired from Mexico would upset the balance, either in favor of or against slavery, so efforts were made to compromise on the issue. The Compromise of 1850 had a few results. On the free soil side, California was admitted as a free state, and slave trading was banned in the District of Columbia. However, the Compromise seemed to favor the slave soil side, with states north of the previously established Missouri Compromise line being granted the right to choose whether they were free or slave by popular sovereignty. It also led to the passing of the infamous "Fugitive Slave Act," which was a revision of a much older law. Before, fugitive slaves often escaped to free states, and state authorities would not aid in the capture and return of these slaves (with some going so far as to legally declare them free). This act of defiance angered many slave states, who pressured the government into passing a much harsher law that forced law enforcement officers to aid in capturing fugitive slaves, or face heavy fines. This resulted in the growth of the Underground Railroad, an organization that would help slaves escape to Canada.

Slavery, and the conditions it wrought, were exposed in the novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, which brought more sympathy to the cause of abolition. Following this, the Dredd Scott v. Sanford case effectively ruled that slaves were not citizens and had no right to sue their owners. This invalidated one method for slaves to free themselves, as they would often venture north to free states and sue their masters. The Fugitive Slave Act saw heavy condemnation from northerners, who saw it as a major southern overreach. It stoked fears of the idea that slave states would try to expand slavery to the North.

By now, conditions had reached a fever pitch, and the Civil War was all but imminent. The government's failure to take decisive action on the issue of slavery for over half a century had led to escalating tensions on both sides, and the first waves of violence broke out in the Kansas Territory. Kansas was about to be admitted statehood in 1854, and the federal government decided to give them the right of "popular sovereignty," which would allow them to vote on whether they'd be a free or slave state. From all around the country, settlers, rabble-rousers, and ideologues gathered in Kansas to decide the fate of the Union, as the admission of this state could tip the balance in favor of either side. The end result was "Bleeding Kansas," a time when the territory was torn apart in a miniature war. On the side of the free soil, there were the Jayhawkers, mostly led by the fierce abolitionist John Brown. On the other side were "Border Ruffians" from the neighboring slave state of Missouri. Brown would later attempt to start a slave-abolitionist uprising with a failed raid on the armory at Harper's Ferry, Virginia. He was summarily executed.

The Bleeding Kansas issue saw the end of the Whig Party, which became bitterly divided overly the issue of slavery. From the division rose the Republican Party, which was staunchly abolitionist. In response to this, many southerners began to advocate for secession if the Republican Party won. This outcome was abated for 4 more years when James Buchanan, who had what is considered by most historians to be the worst Presidential administration in American history, won the 1856 election. His administration saw some infamous events, such as Representative Preston Brooks (D-SC) brutally beating Senator Charles Sumner (R-MA) in the Senate chamber after Sumner had delivered a speech vilifying slaveholders, including a relative of Brooks.

In this chaos, an aspiring lawyer named Abraham Lincoln rose to prominence, advocating for the Republican Party in his home state of Illinois. He attempted to run for the senate in the 1858 midterms, but was defeated by his opponent, Stephen Douglas, as at the time senators were still chosen by the state legislature, which was controlled by the Democrats. Two years later, he threw his hat into the ring as the Republican nominee, inciting a major backlash throughout the south as pro-slavery crowds vowed to secede if the Republicans won. Due to a schism within the Democratic Party, and the heavy divisions among the pro-slavery side, Lincoln won the 1860 election, and the response from the southern states followed immediately, with the South Carolina legislature proclaiming its secession from the Union.

    History of the War 

Less than a month after South Carolina declared secession, multiple other slave states joined them, with the states of Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, and Texas all coming together in February of 1861 to declare a new nation, the Confederate States of America. Keep in mind that Abraham Lincoln had not yet been inaugurated and held no actual power, but the outgoing President Buchanan still had a limp and unwilling response to the rebellion, mostly due to his pro-slavery views.

The first shots of the war proper were fired on Fort Sumter, near Charleston, the capital of South Carolina. Confederate forces (most of whom were, by this point, turncoat soldiers and officers) shelled the fort and forced it to surrender. In response, Lincoln called for volunteers to help put down the rebellion, prompting the states of Tennessee, Virginia, Arkansas, and North Carolina to secede as well, as they refused to send any forces to aid the federal cause.

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 those states that did secede were slave states. The slave states of Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri remained loyal through the initial secession crisis and the war that followed once the U.S. 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 slave state (albeit one with hardly any slaves and a constitutional commitment to abolish slavery by 1865).

The loyal states of the North were also not nearly as unified in their opposition to either slavery or secession as they came to be seen in retrospect. For one thing, while it is certainly true that all of the Northeastern states had abolished slavery well before the War, it is equally true that the wealth of the coastal states (particularly Massachusetts and Rhode Island) was founded on the Atlantic "triangle trade" — or, less politely, slave ships. 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  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 federal government.note . 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  and more desirable as the social-moral bedrock of a new/developing society. Still, there were sympathizers on both sides, with the mostly Northwestern "Copperheads" supporting the Confederate cause, and the "Red Strings" in the South who favored reunification.

The pitiful US Army only numbered about 16,000 men at the time, so calls for volunteers came from both Abraham Lincoln in the North, and Jefferson Davis in the South. The first calls for volunteers attracted many thousands of men. The issue of secession was generally the thing that attracted these recruits. Although people still remained largely divided on the issue of slavery (especially in the more western states), they generally could find agreement on the issue of secession, with the Union sympathizers saying that it was illegal, and the Confederate sympathizers saying it was the right of a state to secede. note  Many southern officers, such as Robert E. Lee, chose loyalty to their home states over loyalty to the federal government.

The most decisive action of the war happened early on, when the Union navy blockaded the major ports of the South in 1861. This effectively cut off most of their imports, and seeing as the economy of the South was largely agricultural, they did not have the means to manufacture enough new weapons, ammunition, uniforms, and supplies for the troops. To make matters worse, the economy of the South was mostly dedicated to prioritizing cash crops, like cotton, and thus there was not enough food production to satisfy the nutritional needs of Southerners. Ambitious blockade runners, mostly from Britain, would help to keep the Confederacy supplied in exchange for cotton, and winning international recognition and investment was the principal plan for the Confederacy's survival. The Confederates knew that they wouldn't stand a chance in a protracted war with the North, due to their inherent economic disadvantages, so they looked across the Atlantic, hoping to gain support from Britain and France. Their hope was that those nations would intervene to protect their valuable supply of cotton.

This blockade plan would prove to be central to the war effort, and likely did more to end the war than any land campaign. It was supported by Ulysses S. Grant's maneuvers in the West, as he attempted to wrestle control of the Mississippi River. However, there was widespread derision of the plan, as many of the ignorant press and population did not see the strategic value of the plan or favored decisive, quick action rather than a lengthy campaign. Thus, while the blockade was implemented, the Union moved to secure the capital of Richmond, Virginia. The Union force was rebuffed at the Battle of Bull Run note  due to the poor coordination and morale of the Union troops. The battle is also famous for being the place where Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson got his nickname.

Other major Confederate victories followed throughout 1861, with the Union barely managing to scrape up a few marginal victoriesnote . Their advances into Virginia and Missouri were effectively halted, and it became clear that this would be a protracted war. Further out west, many of the Native American tribes of the Great Plains had chosen to side with the Union, but by the end of 1861, Confederate forces would defeat them. A major diplomatic incident threatened to bring Britain into the war against the United States. A British ship was seized by the US Navy and two Confederate diplomats, bound for Britain, were detained. Under threat of war, the US released the diplomats.

In early 1862, the Union scored a few victories on the Western Front, gaining control of Missouri. Meanwhile, out east, the Confederates had overhauled a wooden-hull ship into an ironclad, named the CSS Virginia, which attempted to break the Union blockade at Norfolk, Virginia. After sinking two wooden-hull Union frigates, the Virginia was intercepted by the Union's own ironclad, the USS Monitor, which was novel for its rotating gun turret. The two engaged for several hours, but neither could pierce the thick armor plating and deliver a decisive blow. In the end, the Virginia retreated back to port and the blockade held, but the engagement proved the strength of ironclads to the world, being the first direct battle between such ships in history. The Monitor design was copied, but it proved to be unseaworthy, as rough waters could cause its low-profile hull to flood. Near the end of 1862, that exact occurrence sank the original USS Monitor. Meanwhile, the Virginia was left in port at Norfolk, and the Confederate Army abandoned the ship (and its crew). Advancing Union forces took the town, and the captain decided to light the ship aflame and abandon it.

The Union scored more victories, advancing into Confederate territory. In the West, they had successfully captured the city of New Orleans, which controlled the mouth of the Mississippi River. The Union launched an assault on Richmond, landing the Army of the Potomac southeast of the capital. "Stonewall" Jackson and Robert E. Lee managed to halt the advance of the Army of the Potomac in a series of battles,note  thus saving the capital. Afterwards, Lee maneuvered north to push the Union out of Northern Virginia. This resulted in the Second Battle of Bull Run, which had again proved to be a decisive victory for the Confederacy. As a result, the Confederates regained control of Northern Virginia and pushed into Maryland.

The invasion of Maryland had several goals. One was to take the supply burden off the badly ravaged Virginia, which had seen the bulk of the land campaigns of the war thus far. The Confederates also sought much needed foreign recognition, and hoped that a decisive victory on Union soil would demonstrate to the rest of the world that they could win the war, and thus gain foreign support. They were also in a greater position to threaten Washington DC itself. McClellan, leader of the Union forces, pursued Lee into Maryland and engaged him at the Battle of Antietam, which would prove to be the bloodiest single day of the war with a combined tally of 7,650 casualties. Lee, badly outnumbered due to his forces being scattered about Virginia, opted to retreat, making it a significant strategic victory for the Union. However, McClellan, as per usual, was too cautious and indecisive with follow-up actions, allowing Lee's forces to escape without issue. This would contribute to his sacking and replacement by Abraham Lincoln later in the year.

The new replacement, General Ambrose Burnsidenote  went on the offensive, attempting to seize a major railroad stop at Fredericksburg, across the Rappahannock River, and use it to make a mad dash to Richmond before Lee could retaliate. Lee got to Fredericksburg first and fortified the city. Due to a tactical misjudgment, Burnside chose to assault the fortified city directly, thinking that Lee had weakened his center to draw troops to the flanks. This error proved devastating, as the Union suffered horrendous losses and received a disastrous defeat. Burnside was sacked and replaced with Joseph Hooker. The rapidity and number of replacements throughout the year really made the Union leadership look incompetent, lending it a sort of "revolving door" appearance.

Lincoln used the Battle of Antietam to announce the Emancipation Proclamation on the first of January, 1863, declaring that all slaves within the Confederate territories were now free men. The proclamation only pertained to the "states in rebellion," however, so the slave states that had sided with the Unionnote  would still be allowed to own slaves. While the proclamation was still limited, and at the time had little practical value, it was a major moral victory and it made the end of slavery a war goal of the Union. This was a great political maneuver on the part of Lincoln, as it effectively crushed any international sympathy for the Confederate cause, as now foreign states would be explicitly helping to preserve slaverynote . This was crucial, as cotton shortages in Britain forced many in its government to entertain the idea of intervention. It emboldened many slaves, and resulted in some slaves in occupied territory being freed. Many of these slaves would go on to join the Union army.

The new Major General, Joseph Hooker, sought to envelop Lee's army and launched an offensive near Chancellorsville. Lee split his forces and stopped the advanced, causing Hooker to dig in around the town. Confederate forces surrounded Hooker, while at the same time fighting his flanking force at the Second Battle of Fredericksburg. While the Second Battle of Federicksburg was a Union victory, Hooker withdrew from Chancellorsville. Lee would win a strategic victory by halting Hooker's advance, despite having about half the manpower available, but Lee's losses were proving unsustainable for the underequipped and outmanned Confederacy. To make matters worse, "Stonewall" Jackson was shot in a friendly fire incident, while scouting after dark. He died of illness just a week later. Hooker's defeat resulting in him being replaced yet again, this time by Major General George Meade.

Lee formulated another invasion plan of the North. Emboldened by his successive victories, he decided that an ambitious push all the way into Pennsylvania might be enough to force the North to terms. He was also driven by an increasingly dire supply situation, as the Union blockade put a stranglehold on the South's economy and left his forces thin on supplies. This was effectively going to be the last hurrah of the Confederacy, as they were losing badly in the West and at sea. Lee had to score a victory here, or lose the war.

In July of 1863, Lee began to move his forces through war-ravaged Northern Virginia once more, evading Union lines and marching all the way to Pennsylvania. The Union forces caught up to them around the town of Gettysburg, where they fortified the hills and ridges surrounding the town, giving them a major tactical advantage. Confederate attacks would dislodge the Union forces, and they retreated to Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill south of the town. From there, they held out against repeated Confederate assaults. In a last-ditch assault known as "Pickett's Charge," Lee sent 12,000 men against the Union forces arrayed at Cemetery Ridge. After suffering bombardment and fierce close-quarters-combat, the Confederate attack was repulsed with heavy losses on both sides. The Confederate forces withdrew back into Virginia, and the Battle of Gettysburg proved to be both the most decisive, and bloodiest, battle of the war. Lincoln commemorated Gettysburg as a national cemetery, a distinction it retains to this day as one of the nation's historic battlefields. His famous Gettysburg Address is one of the most recognizable texts in American history.

The very next day following the battle, the Confederacy was handed another decisive defeat at the Siege of Vicksburg. Vicksburg was the last major Confederate holdout on the Mississippi River, and had been besieged for almost two months. The man leading the campaign on the Union side, Ulysses S. Grant, would successfully force the surrender of the town. The Confederates, who by that point were severely malnourished and suffering from starvation, agreed to Grant's terms. Grant offered them parole, being unable to accommodate the 30,000 starving Confederate soldiers. They returned to the South and would go on to oppose Grant during his invasion of Tennessee. Despite this, Vicksburg proved to be a massive strategic victory for the Union, and it effectively sealed the fate of the Confederacy once and for all.

Later in July, riots broke out over the draft. Both the Confederacy and the Union had resorted to drafting to make up for their manpower losses, and this resulted in severe anger among immigrant communities, particularly the Irish. In New York City, many immigrants had been coerced into voting in local politics, ignorant of the fact that this made them eligible for the draft. Furthermore, immigrants were resentful of freed blacks, who they saw as unnecessary competition for unskilled labor jobs. This resentment boiled over and turned into a massive riot. Stores were looted, buildings were burned, police stations were ransacked, and many black freedmen were murdered. The riots were put down only with the intervention of the US Army.

In 1864, Grant was made the commander of all US armies. He formulated a strategy of total war, seeking to destroy the will to fight of the South by completely annihilating its economic base. To this end, he sent William Tecumseh Sherman on a "march to the sea," with his forces ravaging Georgia by burning plantations, freeing slaves, taking food, and looting houses. Meanwhile, Union forces advanced from the west through Alabama, and another force moved in from the north to occupy Virginia. The most significant Confederate resistance was in Virginia, where Robert E. Lee still commanded a large force.

Lee fought a dogged resistance against the advancing Union army, inflicting massive casualties on the Union forces. Despite this, his men were running out of food, supplies, and manpower, and were constantly forced back. They continued to win battles, but they were losing the war. The final months of 1864 saw successive Confederate defeats at the Battle of Cedar Creek and the Battle of Nashville, the latter of which effectively ending any hope of stopping Sherman's march. Union forces pushed closer to Richmond, and Sherman turned northward, marching from Savannah through the Carolinas in an effort to tighten the noose around Robert E. Lee's army.

Lee, seeing his position around the capital was indefensible, abandoned Richmond and marched to Appomattox, where his tired, hungry, and undersupplied men would be able to reequip and prepare for another campaign. Grant maneuvered ahead of Lee, however, and totally surrounded his forces. With nowhere left to run and very nearly the entire South open for Union occupation, Lee opted to give up the ghost and surrendered to General Sherman. Just a few days later, President Lincoln was shot at the Ford's Theater by John Wilkes Booth, a Confederate sympathizer. Lincoln never got to see the end of the war, which came by the end of April with the last few Confederate holdouts surrendering. He did, however, live to see the end of slavery, with Congress passing the Thirteenth Amendment that officially made involuntary servitude illegal note 


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’ nationalism (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. While the whole affair appeared a very close-run thing, especially given the rebels’ early successes, the U.S. Army learned (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 and in some (but not all) border states (Delaware and most of Maryland, for instance, would prefer that you even forget that they were ever seen as Southern,note  while Kentuckians are perfectly comfortable as firm Southerners; Missouri is more mixed, in keeping with its reputation as a nether-here-nor-there Southern-Midwestern hodgepodge). 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,note  Lincoln’s War, the Slaveholders’ Revolt, The War for Southern Independence and the Late Unpleasantness — though rarely, if ever, referred to by any of those names while the war itself was being fought.note  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.

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, D.C. 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, Benjamin Butler, an Abolitionist 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 even the most diehard racist and pro-slavery advocate 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 contraband. 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 much.note  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, essentially making recognition of the Confederacy politically unthinkable.

Debates raged in the North about how best to deal with reunification. Radical Republicans argued for harsh punishments to be levied against the South, including removing the right to vote. In the end, very few Southerners lost the right to vote or hold office, resulting in many elected officials being Confederate sympathizers. About 4 million black Americans were freed as a result of the war, and the following period known as the Reconstruction would see certain rights and liberties extended to them, including citizenship and the right to vote. However, there was significant resistance to the Reconstruction policies. The Republicans debated on whether to extend the right to vote to all freedmen, and although they flirted with the idea of imposing literacy tests, in the end the Fourteenth Amendment gave the right to vote to all black males above the age of 21. Thousands of freedmen would go on to hold office in the South, largely due to the new black vote eclipsing the vote of bitter Southerners, who refused to participate in the political system. Gradually, however, the pendulum would sway back the other direction, with fewer and fewer blacks holding office in the South as whites started to participate in elections once more. This led to the imposition of restrictions on blacks, such as the infamous Jim Crow Laws, that were meant to keep them socially and economically separate from whites. Resistance also took on violent forms, with infamous White Supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan lynching blacks throughout the South. The Klan would be put down through military force, but eventually it sprang up again in the 1920s, and unfortunately continues to this day.

Racism, of course, was not solved by the war. Many Northerners still held racist viewpoints, even many abolitionists. While some abolitionists advocated for equality between blacks and whites, many more still saw blacks as inferior, and that they deserved the "guiding hand of [white] civilization" to help uplift them. Racism was an enduring issue throughout the country, and as mentioned in the draft riots, it was also bad among immigrant communities, who saw the influx of freed blacks to the North as unneeded competition. Race riots occurred from the end of the war well into the 20th century. Despite the efforts of the Civil Rights Movement, racism continues to be a contentious issue today.

Four years long, the Civil War was by far the most protracted of the early industrial wars;note  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 was ‘relatively’ more expensive or illustrated quite so well the crippling effect of protracted industrial warfare upon an economy and society.note  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 (1853–56) 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-British (and Piedmont-Sardinian) alliance as were the USA’s rebel states to its loyal ones.

Of course, at the time it was no 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 or the fact that the horrible casualty records of almost all of the US Civil War battles, on both sides (a lot of which had the defending side digging trenches), still exist and can be found.

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 (a ‘casement’ ironclad built on the hull of a partially-destroyed wooden warship, and often known by that warship’s former name, the Merrimac) 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.note 

Current estimates are that about 2% of the country’s population was killed, a scale of suffering unknown 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 655,000 soldiers died in the American Civil Warnote  — more armed forces dead than in every other war the U.S. has fought put together … and does not include civilian deaths, which came out to another 130,000, for a total of over 785,000 dead of a combined population around 34 million.note  More U.S. 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 destruction and loss of life were immense, even ‘medieval’;note  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 armiesnote  and 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), but these claims hold varying degrees of water. Some of the more dramatic statements about postwar former rebel states suffering at the hands of the central governmentnote  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 the South largely lagged 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, Scandinavia, and northern 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 U.S. 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 the legions of enemy troops). Combined with an extensive preservation and historical research community (and a huge commitment from the U.S. government to support it), the U.S. Civil War is perhaps the best-preserved war in history. Not just U.S. 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.’ Furthermore, if you wish to buy a mid-19th century musket-rifle the two most available are the 1853 Enfield and 1861 Springfield because almost all of the Springfields and over half of the Enfields ever made were used during the American Civil War and a lot of the surviving ones are in American civilian hands.

Finally, it spawned two of the greatest speeches ever uttered, both by the same man, Abraham Lincoln: the Gettysburg Address (pure distilled Awesome in two minutes) and his Second Inaugural Address (an eloquent Earn Your Happy Ending).

Tropes of the American Civil War:

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  • The Ace: McClellan almost serves as a real-life deconstruction of this trope because it is more complicated and nuanced then simply being "oh he was the best at everything ever". That is why there are so many bullet points.
    • he hailed early on 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 terrible 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.
    • Part of this is Lincoln's fault note ; McClellan was General-in-Chief before departing for the Peninsula campaign, but was left with just the command of the Army of the Potomac for the campaign. The problem was that he'd planned a massive coordinated offensive across multiple theatres, and no one replaced him as General-in-Chief. Before, he wasn't able to launch his offensive because Halleck's command in the West wasn't moving, and Lincoln had come to the conclusion that Union armies must advance in concert. Once the armies finally did get moving, though, they sputtered to a halt without a General-in-Chief to keep them on task. Halleck failed to advance on Chattanooga, which was virtually defenseless, and thus lengthened the war by 17 months by failing the objectives McClellan set for him. Lincoln's insistence on sending McDowell's corps to reinforce only by land further hamstrung McClellan's campaign; to secure a route for overland reinforcements, McClellan had to extend his right flank, leaving it vulnerable to Lee's counterattack. This situation was not helped when Lincoln redirected McDowell's corps to chase Stonewall Jackson around the Shenandoah valley, to no effect and under protest by McDowell. Lee pounced on McClellan's overextended right flank at Mechanicsville and changed the course of history.
    • 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, since he was shifting his supply line to the James River. 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 was 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.
    • Gettysburg is the only Civil War battle with a higher casualty count than the Seven Days and the Seven Days is one of the very few major battles where Confederate casualties actually exceeded Union casualties.
    • In general, McClellan was a superb organizer and planner, for which he justly received recognition. He did create a magnificent army (the Army of the Potomac) from scratch and set up the complex mechanism through which it would always be well-supplied with arms, food, and other necessities of war, for which he gets relatively little credit by most people. Military historian Col. Trevor Dupuy described him thus: “He would then be so preoccupied in the technical logistical phases of its [the army’s] maintenance that, unable to see the woods for the trees, George B. McClellan would go down in history as a failure in strategy and grand tactics.”
      • Some have said McClellan being conservative actually prolonged the war and thus made the situation somewhat worse in the long run, particularly since roughly 2/3 of the conflict's 600,000+ dead were due to disease as a result of the long war.
  • Agony of the Feet: Keeping the armies supplied with boots and shoes was a perennial problem for both sides.
    • Many of the major roads in the North (and practically all those in Maryland) at the time were macadamized. That’s a type of pavement which resembles a gravel road and is a predecessor of asphalt. Major Northern roads back then quickly ruined shoes and were absolute torture to traverse barefoot.
    • 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) nothing interesting was happening 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 quotation 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”).
  • An Arm and a Leg: Many soldiers lost limbs during the war as a result of powerful bullets and primitive medical technology to treat wounds. Some more famous examples include:
    • Union Colonel John Wesley Powell. Powell lost his right arm after being wounded at Shiloh, but still went on to become a famous geologist and explorer after the war.
    • Union General Oliver Howard lost his right arm from wounds suffered at the Battle of Seven Pines, but would continue to command union forces for the duration of the war.
    • Perhaps no one personifies this trope as much as Confederate General John Bell Hood, who lost the use of his left arm at Gettysburg and later his right leg at Chickamauga. Despite this, his military career would not only survive but thrive, as he eventually earned command of the Army of Tennessee in 1864.
  • An Asskicking Christmas: The March to the Sea. Savannah was Sherman’s gift to Abe.
  • 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.
    • Happened twice for Sullivan Ballou, whose letter to his wife before his death at the Battle of Bull Run Burns used as a key document in the first part of his documentary. Ballou became a noted figure after the battle when his body disappeared from his grave, allegedly stolen by Confederate grave robbers. Only some ash and a bit of leg bone was ever recovered. Accusations that the grave was desecrated by Native Americans hired by the Confederates for the purpose spread widely in northern newspapers.
    • 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 impressively, 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. note 
    • Phillip Sheridan was a second lieutenant in the start of 1861. By 1864 he was a regular army major general (opposed to a Major General of Volunteers), making him fourth 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.
    • George Armstrong Custer provides an example of both this and Demoted to Extra. He was a newly minted second lieutenant when the war began. He was promoted rapidly to a brevet major general by the end of the war, only to be demoted to his ‘permanent’ rank of captain after the war. Things did not go well for him from that point on.
    • On January 1, 1861 there were 1,108 Regular Army officers (plus a similar number of former officers) to draw on. The overwhelming majority of the leadership below the rank of Brig. General started the war with zero military experience and could be considered this.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: Any general on either side who ordered frontal attacks against well-entrenched, fortified positions 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. It accounts for a lot of those aforementioned 600,000 casualties.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Nathan Bedford Forrest started the war as a private in the Confederate army, and ended as a Lieutenant General. And he was no 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 penknife. A penknife. Authority does indeed equal Ass-Kicking. Then, after the Battle of Shiloh, he was placed in charge of protecting the Southern retreat (along with 300 troops). He lost track of his troops and ended up being the entirety of the Confederate rear guard. Armed with a revolver, he quickly ran out of bullets. He then proceeded to literally beat back the advancing army by himself, until he was shot in the spine and had to ride away (with the bullet in him … at full gallop … over uneven terrain). He survived this, and the rest of the war, somehow.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Why Lincoln politely declined the King of Siam’s gift of a herd of war elephants. (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.
    • Colt revolving rifles: An early attempt to incorporate revolver technology into a rifle, Colt revolving rifles gave a soldier the ability to fire five or six shots without reloading, a very significant firepower advantage over the standard muzzle-loaders of the time. The problem was the rifle generated so much heat that it could cause the spare rounds in the cylinder to cook off and fire inadvertently, sending rounds into the arm or hand of the luckless soldier wielding them. Many soldiers dealt with this risk by leaving all the spare chambers of the cylinder empty, which completely negated the firepower advantage the rifle was supposed to provide. Less then 5,000 were ever issued in the Union Army. While some units, such as Berdan's Sharpshooters and the 21st Ohio volunteers, used them with superb results, they ultimately proved to be such a significant safety hazard that the army eventually started selling them off at just 50 cents apiece to get rid of them.
      • The Colt revolving rifle wasn't a bad idea. It's just that the required technology to pull it off didn't yet exist (many modern single-barrel autocannon designs do use rotating magazines). A revolver was pretty much the standard officer's sidearm back then so scaling those up to rifle size seemed like a good idea.
    • 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 Siege of Petersburg ended not because 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 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 7-shot Spencer Carbine was particularly popular with cavalry units). Still their effectiveness was widely recognized, and many soldiers resorted to buying repeating rifles with their own money. Some more financially secure officers, such as Union Colonel John T. Wilder, even tried to buy them for the men under their command. Wilder's attempt to secure the rifles for his men embarrassed government so much they ultimately ended up purchasing his unit 7-shot Spencers before him or any of his men spent their own money on them.
    • The war produced many weird weapons, usually at the hands of the desperate Confederates. There was 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 double-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.
    • CSS Hunley, the first submarine to sink a hostile warship, was another ‘weird’ weapon developed by the desperate Confederates. While the idea of a submarine was perfectly valid, the necessary technology simply was not there yet and the Hunley killed more Confederates than the Unionists as it sank several times during trials and for the final time after sinking its target, USS Housatonic.
  • Awesome Mc Coolname: The battle of Fort Donelson had a Confederate general named Simon Bolivar Buckner. Appropriately enough, there was another Confederate general named States Rights Gist, killed at the Battle of Franklin.
  • Back in the Saddle: The Civil war brought many veterans who had left the military back into to combat duty. Most notable of these was Union General Ulysses Grant, who had left the army in 1854.
  • Badass Beard: Facial hair was all the rage, so nearly every man had one. Most of those who didn’t had a Badass Moustache. The few who didn’t were mostly very young (late teens to early twenties).
    • J.E.B. Stuart’s beard was so large it looks fake.
  • Badass Boast:
    • 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.”
    • George H. Thomas: "We will hold the town till we starve."
      • "This army doesn't retreat."
    • 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.note 
    ”His truth is marching on!”
  • Badass Bookworm: Chamberlain again. He started out as an English professor (one who fluently spoke nine languages, no less), and was eventually a Major General.
    • Francis Barlow enlisted in the Union army as a private with no prior military experience, but made was promoted all the way up to Brigadier General by September of 1862, and Major General by the end of the war. Prior to the war, Barlow had been a practicing lawyer on the staff of the New York Tribune newspaper.
    • For the Confederates, Stonewall Jackson was a physics instructor at the Virginia Military Institute prior to the war.
    • The Confederates also had William J. Hardee. Before the war he taught tactics at West Point and was the Commandant of Cadets from 1856 to 1860. He wrote the infantry drill manual both sides used.
  • Badass Decay:
    • Unfortunately, this happened to units on both sides as their ranks were thinned by battle, disease and expired enlistments. Replacement troops, especially later in the war, were conscripts or bounty hunters who lacked the Patriotic Fervor of the earlier volunteers, and their fighting quality was often questionable.
    • The Union II Corps was a marked example: it went from being, arguably, the Army of the Potomac's most effective unit (having stormed the Bloody Lane at Antietam and repulsed Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg, to name but two) to fleeing disgracefully from the field at Ream's Station during the Petersburg Campaign. Their commander, Winfield Scott Hancock, was so ashamed of their conduct at the latter battle that he resigned his command and spent the rest of the war commanding reserves.
  • Badass Mustache: Subverted. Ambrose Burnside had the most awesome whiskers on either side (his magnificent mutton chops named sideburns), but even he agreed he was a poor general. He wanted to refuse his promotion, but knew it would have instead gone to somebody even less suitable, or flat-out incompetent.
    • P.G.T. Beauregard remembered in history equally for his unconventional tactics and fashion sense. He was one of the highest ranking Confederate generals while rockin’ a legendary Van Dyke.
  • 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.
    • Played straight with John M. Chivington, a Blood Knight preacher who led a troupe of Colorado volunteers to victory in New Mexico in 1862 and became a colonel after that.
  • 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 and the French would recognize the Confederacy as a new nation and send the world’s most powerful navy to back this up. Napoleon III's France and Great Britain were seriously considering doing just that when the Battle of Antietam occurred.note  It gave the North just enough of a victory not to seem desperate when it issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which focused the war back on the issue of slavery, which the British and French governments knew their respective peoples hated, making the prospect of war to prop up a slave regime against one committed to the at least eventual abolition of the institution a highly unpopular one and therefore a non-starter.
    • 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 overestimate the enemies' numbers, etc.). Interestingly, Lee was just as good at reading Grant as he was reading any of the other Union generals; it's just that the thing Grant would reliably do—"advance, even if you lose, because you just have more men and supplies than they do"—was something Lee couldn't turn to his advantage on the field. (Lee did try to turn it to his advantage on the strategic level: knowing that because the South did not have the capacity to directly attack the North's population or industrial base, and recognizing that Grant's strategy relied on the continued willingness of the Union to keep throwing men and materiel at the war effort, he did his damnedest to make sure that Grant's strategy was as costly as possible, pursued strategies targeted at making a big symbolic impression on the Northern public, and encouraged "Copperhead" propaganda. However, nothing Lee did on that front was enough.)
    • A big one by the South that was incredibly ballsy, and also failed miserably - they essentially embargoed themselves figuring that the European powers (especially Britain) would badly miss Southern exports (particularly cotton), become convinced of their need to ensure continuing trade with the South, and thus join the war to ensure the South would survive. It made some slight progress towards its intended goal, but mostly it just pissed the British off,note  in addition to depriving the fledgling CSA of badly-needed wealth at a time with the USA's blockade was still mostly ineffective.
  • 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.
    • There’s a quotation widely attributed to Ulysses S. Grant saying “If I thought this war was to abolish slavery, I would resign my commission and offer my sword to the other side.” The provenance was a Democratic pamphlet printed during the 1868 election, hardly a reliable source. In any case, this contradicts other Grant comments that posited slavery as the war's primary cause. It also contradicts his actions during the war, where he not only welcomed but actively encouraged the recruitment of African American soldiers as a further blow to the South.
  • Big Book of War: Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics for the Exercise and Manoeuvres of Troops When Acting as Light Infantry or Riflemen (1855) by William J. Hardee (a.k.a Hardee's Tactics), the most widely used drill manual by both sides of the Civil War.
  • Big, Bulky Bomb: One of these opened the Battle of the Crater.
  • Big Damn Heroes: A.P. Hill at Antietam.
  • Black Market: Rebs had tobacco. Yanks had coffee. And not even war can stop Americans from being capitalists.
  • Black Sheep: 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 long 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.
    • In the West, on both sides. For the Union there was Jim Lane, who wanted to see slavers burn in Hell, burned down their homes and sacked entire towns, and John M. Chivington, who led a group of volunteers eager for a fight to Apache Canyon and Glorieta Pass. For the Confederacy, there was William Quantrill, who had an endless enthusiasm for looting and killing, and "Bloody Bill" Anderson, who wore a pendant of Yankee scalps when he rode into battle.
  • 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 Court House, 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 was a reserved, unassuming man whom 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.
    • In terms of equipment, the Springfield rifle. Nothing fancy or flashy — just a simple, reliable, rifled musket produced in large quantities.
    • The British Pattern 1853 Enfield. Like the Springfield, it was a .58 caliber rifled musket produced in large quantities. It was similar enough to the Springfield 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 (for whom it was designed), Denmark, Japan, and Brazil. Of the roughly one million 1861 Springfields and 1.5 million 1853 Enfields ever made, it’s estimated that about 1.9 million of them were used during the American Civil War.
  • Born Lucky: Before the Civil War, someone tried to assassinate Braxton Bragg by detonating a twelve-pound artillery shell under his cot. The cot was destroyed but Bragg emerged without a scratch.
  • 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.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer:
    • Stonewall Jackson (weirdo general with odd religious obsessions, strange interests in the sciences, and an insistence on keeping his right arm raised to keep his blood balanced, but one of the Confederacy's most brilliant commanders)
    • Ulysses S. Grant, a shy romantic better at dealing with horses than people, and a (alleged) disheveled drunk to boot, who won the war for the Union
    • 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  He's a downplayed version: He was a somewhat competent commander, but his commission was obtained through political connections, and his most famous moment was his blundering advance on the second day at Gettysburg, during which his abandonment of his assigned positions on Cemetery Ridge and Little Round Top in what is generally considerednote  an ill-advised attempt to take the Peach Orchard, resulting in the decimation of his III Corps.
  • The Butcher:
    • Whether deservedly or not, this was Grant’s nickname. On one hand, his main strategy was rather coldhearted. On the other, it worked. 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.
    • Jubal Early, who needlessly razed Union towns he conquered, on the grounds that they “burn so beautifully.”note 
    • General Pickett thought this of General Robert E. Lee after Pickett’s Charge, bitterly stating “That old man destroyed my division.”
    • William Quantrill, whom historian James McPherson considered "a psychopath" for leading a band of "pathological killers" to murder Missouri unionists. He and his men (which included future cowboys Frank and Jesse James) killed 164 people.
  • Bullying a Dragon: The South’s attempt to use economic pressures to force Britain into the war on their side was this considering the relative might of the two. It 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). The British didn’t appreciate being blackmailed into expending blood and treasure. Lord Palmerston, in 1862, said in Parliament:
    “No English Parliament could do so base a thing [accept Southern demands].”
  • Butterfly of Doom:
    • To the Taiping Rebellion half a world away in China. The Union blockade of the South caused a rise in the price of British cotton textiles, to the point that Chinese customers would no longer buy them, and prevented the British from selling green tea purchased in China in the American South; forced to liquidate their stocks on the British market, the price of green tea crashed. The British had to settle one of these civil wars if they were to make any money, and for a variety of reasons they picked the civil war in China.
    • The Battle of Antietam. Just prior to it, the British had been on the verge of intervening in favor of the South due to their need for Southern cotton and the North’s attitude toward Great Britain. Prompted by the victory, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation which brought the subject of slavery back to the forefront of the war. With that and the South no longer looking quite as strong, the British decided to stay out of the war and obtain cotton from elsewhere.
  • 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 Lee’s army beat them in the field. Grant, while still losing more forces than Lee in each of the major battles, was smart enough to realize that this didn’t mean he had to retreat, 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 (and in some of them lost a larger proportion of his army than Grant did). 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  Admittedly, many of these were Canadian-born men who had been living in the U.S. 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.
    • The British also moved troops to Canada in anticipation of joining the war as an ally of the South at one point when the North started impressing British ships to aid the blockade. The need to rely on relocated British troops in the event of invasion was a major contributing factor to the move towards Canadian confederation.
      • A third reason for why the British haven't ever wanted to pick a fight with American warship: Ours tend to have vastly more firepower.
    • Many Canadians also supported the Confederacy. Confederate spies and raiders found their way to Canadian territory, using it as a safe haven and as a springboard for raids on Union territory, including the St Alban's Raid in Vermont.
  • Captain Ethnic: Franz Sigel was a TERRIBLE general, but Lincoln 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), also German-born divisionary generals Carl Schurz (later US secretary of the interior) and Adolph von Steinwehrnote . 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. Heros von Borcke, a Prussian aristocrat, was a well-known foreign volunteer in the Army of North Virginia.
  • The Caretaker: Clara Barton.
  • 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.
      “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.”
    • 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:
      “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 secessionists who controlled Texas put him under effective house arrest for statements like this, fearing that his popularity would tilt things in favor of the unionist faction. This didn't keep him from being basically right.
    • Similarly, William Tecumseh Sherman himself predicted early on that it would be a long and bloody war, at a time when both North and South thought it would be over within three months. He was retired from the Army on suspicion of insanity and became suicidal for a time.
  • Catch-Phrase: Lincoln’s “Four score and seven years ago” and David Farragut’s “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”
  • Category Traitor: Southerners who supported the Union and pro-Confederacy Northerners were often looked up on as this, although strictly speaking from the pro-Union side "Copperheads" etc. were considered traitors to the Union in general, not to their section or home state. In later years many fictional treatments acted as if such phenomena had not existed, in all probability partly because of the image of the Civil War as a "War between the States" where you did not want to spotlight the disagreements and (sometimes armed) conflicts within states, partly because when portraying the Conflicting Loyalties of Southern officers in the US armed forces at the beginning of the war one did not want to show that continuing to serve for the Union was a possible and honorable option. So when discussing Robert E. Lee's decision to serve Virginia and the Confederacy despite his private misgivings about secession, people often do not mention that the man who offered him supreme command of the Federal Army in 1861, General Winfield Scott, was also a Virginian. As was George H. Thomas, the "Rock of Chickamauga", who ended the war as commanding general of the Army of the Cumberland but was shunned by his family for remaining loyal to the Union.
    • A few other prominent examples: On the Confederate side, General John C. Pemberton from Philadelphia, Grant's opponent during the siege of Vicksburg, and if you count border-staters, Senator, Vice-President, and General John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky (he certainly was branded a traitor by several of his former colleagues in the Capitol during the war); even though he was a Virginian, given his position one might also include former US President John Tyler. On the Union side, Senator Andrew Johnson of Tennessee (Lincoln's second vice-president), Admiral David G. Farragut of Tennessee, and General John Gibbon of North Carolina and the Iron Brigade (his father was a slaveholder and three brothers and two brothers-in-law of his served in the Confederate army).
    • "War Democrats", i. e. Democratic politicians and supporters who supported the Northern war effort and thus the Lincoln administration were often regarded as this by those Democrats who continued to fight the Republicans tooth and nail and were sympathetic to the Confederacy. One of the most prominent examples is Lincoln's second secretary of war, Edwin M. Stanton, who had already served in the last cabinet of Lincoln's Democratic predecessor James Buchanan. The most extreme example perhaps is Benjamin Butler, a South-friendly Democrat from Massachusetts who supported first the nomination of the aforementioned Kentuckian John C. Breckinridge (who eventually became the Southern Democratic candidate) and then that of Jefferson Davis at the 1860 national convention. After the war began, he not only became a Union general, but also came up with the legal loophole of liberating slaves under the rationale that they were "contraband of war" and in 1862 as commanding officer in New Orleans raised some of the first black units in the Union Army. Naturally, he became one of the most reviled men not only in the South, but also among the majority of Northern Democrats.
  • 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 vanished within a year, replaced with the reality of mass casualties caused by industrialized mass warfare.
    • Also, the aims of the war for the Union changed dramatically by the end. At first, the war was simply to force the seceded southern states back into the Union and restore everything to as it was. That meant only white men would be fighting and slavery was not to be discussed as having any part of it. However, the war as grew prolonged, bloodier and bitter, the aims of the war for the North changed to a crusade to remake America where the underlying causes of the war would be eliminated by any means necessary. That would include making slavery’s destruction an official war goal, enlisting as many Black soldiers to fill out the ranks as possible, adopting ruthless and innovative tactics like Sherman’s March to the Sea and ultimately changing the constitution to extend its enshrined rights and the Federal Government’s powers to affect directly the states.
  • Child Soldiers: A huge proportion of troops were under eighteen — as much as a million in the Union Army alone. Most lied about their age or were winked at by the authorities, but 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: Both Washington, D.C. and Richmond suffered this trope. Washington was wedged between two Southern slave states (Virginia and Maryland) and had many residents who were Confederate sympathizers. Richmond was filled not only with slaves — ‘natural spies’ for the Union cause — but also many 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).
  • Civil War: The big one every US citizen knows about. Although "civil war" might be something of a misnomernote . As a result, it is also known by the technically more accurate title "War of Secession" as the secession was ultimately unsuccessful the Northern view that secession had never "actually" happened prevailed, but historiography would likely use terms like "War of Independence" had Secession stuck.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander:
    • Confederate General Richard S. Ewell. Historian Larry Tagg describes him thus:
    " He had a habit of muttering odd remarks in the middle of normal conversation...He could be spectacularly, blisteringly profane. He was so nervous and fidgety he could not sleep in a normal position, and spent nights curled around a camp stool. He had convinced himself that he had some mysterious internal "disease," and so subsisted almost entirely on frumenty, a dish of hulled wheat boiled in milk and sweetened with sugar. A 'compound of anomalies' was how one friend summed him up."
    • Stonewall Jackson as well. He was obsessive about recording captured materiel (down to individual handkerchiefs and bottles of ink), and was a hypochondriac, most notably his belief that one of his arms was longer/larger than the other, so he tried to keep that arm raised so that blood would drain back into his body.
  • Colonel Badass: Many examples. Most notable are Confederate Colonel John S. Mosby, the Gray Ghost, Union Colonel Hiram Berdan, and Union Colonel John L. Wilder. Mosby would make a name for himself by conducting daring cavalry raids behind Union lines. Berdan commanded an elite unit of snipers known as "Berdan's sharpshooters", while Wilder led an elite unit of mounted infantry armed with Spencer repeating rifles known as "The lightning brigade".
  • 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 a Grey One or Two.
    • 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, some being actually grey, others 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. He doesn’t quite qualify as a Blood Knight; he did what 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.
    • Johnston to Lee shortly before Lee abandoned Petersburg: "I can do no more than annoy him. I respectfully suggest that it is no longer a question whether you leave present position; you have only to decide where to meet Sherman. I will be near him." Joseph Johnston to Robert E. Lee (1865).
    • Nathan Bedford Forrest survived multiple lethal encounters using unconventional tactics. At the Battle of Shiloh, upon finding himself surrounded and cut off from his men, Forrest grabbed a Union soldier and used him as a human shield until he was able to escape back to his own lines. Later in the war, when one of his own officers attempted to murder him with a revolver at close range, Forrest grabbed the revolver with one hand (after being shot by it), while pulling out a pocket knife with the other. While still struggling for control of the pistol, he opened the folding blade with his teeth and then fatally stabbed his assailant.
    • Confederate soldier Sam Watkins stated in his book Company Aytch that he preferred to target the lowest ranking soldiers of the enemy, explaining "I always shot at privates. It was they who did the shooting and killing, and if I could kill or wound a private, why, my chances were so much the better. I always looked upon officers as harmless personages."
  • 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.
    • Robert E. Lee didn’t approve of secession or slavery (in private anyway), so why did fight for the Confederacy? He couldn’t bear to raise his sword against Virginia and the South. Had Virginia remained in the Union, he almost certainly have been in charge in of the Union Army. Indeed, Lincoln offered him command of the Union Army … the day after Virginia voted to leave the Union.
    • In contrast, the Virginia native General George Henry Thomas chose to stay loyal to the Union, a decision that would result in him being disowned by his family for the rest of his life.
    • Virginia-born general William Terrill chose to stay loyal to the Union despite having three brothers (James, Phillip, and George) who joined the Confederate army and a father who served as a provost marshal for the Confederate government. Of the four Terrill brothers, George would be the only one to survive the war. William was killed in action at the Battle of Perryville in 1862, while James and Phillip both died in battle during 1864.
    • 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, causing her husband considerable embarrassment in Washington society.
    • General John C. Pemberton was a Philadelphia native who had two brothers in the Union Army, but still chose to resign his commission and join the Confederacy, a decision largely influenced by his Virginia-born wife and his many years serving in Southern states. Not surprisingly, he spent more then a decade after the war living in Virginia, though he did move back to Pennsylvania for the last few years of his life. This led to a minor controversy over his burial in Laurel Hill Cemetery, a place famous for being the final resting place of Union heroes such as General George Meade and Admiral John Dahlgren. Incidentally, John Dahlgren's younger brother Charles was a Confederate General.
  • Cool Boat: USS Monitor (first warship with a revolving turret, i.e., first modern warship) and CSS Virginia, were the first ironclad warships to fight each other (though not the first to see combat). The former was built in response to the latter, and their single battle is still considered a shining achievement for both navies. The second those two ships fired at each other, wooden ships were heading for obsolescence.note 
    • There is also the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley, the first submarine ever to sink an enemy vessel in combat, though the Hunley sank herself along with her victim. Additionally, only five Union sailors were killed; the Hunley carried nine, and had already sunk twice before with its entire crew, including Hunley herself.
      • The Union developed its own submarine, the Alligator, early in the war. Like the Hunley, it sank during sea trials, but was never salvaged.
    • We also have USS George Washington Parke Custis, a barge that was modified to carry one of Thaddeus Lowe’s observation balloons. In short, the world’s first aircraft carrier.
  • Cool Gun: The Sharps single-shot breech-loading rifle, and the Henry and Spencer repeating rifles:note  Good news for Union soldiers, and very bad news for Confederates.
    • Also, the Lemat Revolver, a nine-round revolver with a small shotgun built in for good measure, though it proved Awesome, but Impractical in actual use because it was badly balanced.
    • 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  Two entire Union regiments consisted of sharpshooters. The heavy use of sharpshooters and improved rifle technology would be a major factor in the high officer casualty rates on both sides
    • Jack Hinson, pentagenarian Tennessee farmer, killed at least 36 Union soldiers with his .50 caliber Long Rifle.
  • Crazy Enough to Work:
    • A slave named Robert Smalls gathered several slave families together, stole a steamship out of Charleston Harbor, and sailed it past the guns of Fort Sumter and right up to the Union blockade to surrender, carrying a hold full of Confederate Army weapons. Smalls went on to become an advisor to the Union Army and was eventually elected to the House of Representatives from South Carolina.
    • Admiral Farragut's famed "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!" order at the Battle of Mobile Bay. The harbor entrance was partially blocked by mines (they were called torpedoes back then), and a Confederate ironclad had previously blundered into the minefield and sunk. Farragut gambled that the mines had been submerged long enough to become waterlogged and therefore inert, and thus ordered his ships to sail straight through it to outmaneuver the opposing ships. Turned out, that Confederate ironclad had managed to hit the only mine that still worked.
  • 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 very little industry, especially in sophisticated products (a single factory supplied every cannon they had). The South's infrastructure, while sufficient in peace, also ran into problems during the war because Southern politicians tended to vote against "internal improvements" (e. g. publicly funded building of roads and railways) in order to keep the taxes down on the rationale that for the purpose of getting export goods from the plantations to the seaports river transport was perfectly sufficient. In 1860 thus the North had a much tighter railway net, and because rails usually were imported from the North, the Confederacy soon was forced to dismantle "non-essential" routes in order to repair the essential lines.note 
    • The reliance on slavery meant that significant numbers of Southern fighting men had to be kept back at home to guard against possible slave revolts, rather than fighting Union soldiers. Not only did this exacerbate the existing advantage in manpower the North held over the South, the practice of exempting slave owners from military service caused resentment among poor whites who didn't own slaves and felt they were fighting and dying for wealthy plantation owners, or lived in areas where slave plantations were impractical, like the Appalachian Mountains. Places such as western Virginia and eastern Tennessee became hotbeds of Union loyalism.
    • 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.
      • The South was counting on the economic damage a lack of cotton would cause to the textile districts of England. Without raw material, there was soon massive unemployment, with the threat of starvation and civil unrest that could force the British government to recognize the South, just to put people back to work. Knowing this, Northern civilians and state governments organized relief missions, sending ships full of food to the textile workers, defusing the situation and gaining considerable goodwill.
    • 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.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle
    • The Battle of Fredricksburg: One of the Union's most notorious defeats. Ambrose Burnside sent wave after wave of units against Robert Lee's well fortified army in direct frontal assaults that achieved nothing. By the time it was over, the North lost 12,653 casualties while the South lost only 4,201 (both sides also lost two generals each). After the battle, Pennsylvania governor Andrew Curtin took a tour of the field and then reported to Lincoln "It wasn't a battle, it was butchery". The Cincinnati Commercial stated "It can hardly be in human nature for men to show more valor or generals to manifest less judgment, than were perceptible on our side that day."
    • The Second Battle of Fort Wagner: Despite a huge numerical advantage (5,000 troops and 6 warships vs 1,800 defenders in the fort), the Union's second attempt to take Fort Wagner near Charlston Harbor in 1863 was one of the most disastrous defeats of the war. The Union Army was repulsed with massive losses, taking 1,515 casualties and inflicting only 174. After this, the Union gave up trying to take the fort by direct assault, and eventually forced the Confederates to abandon it after a long siege.
    • The Battle of Cold Harbor: Lee's last great victory of the war and Grant's most brutal defeat. In a series of direct assaults against well fortified positions, the Union army took 12,738 casualties while the South lost only 5,287. In his 1885 memoirs, Grant said "I have always regretted that the last assault at Cold Harbor was ever made...No advantage whatever was gained to compensate for the heavy loss we sustained."
    • The Battle of Fort Sanders: While Confederate General James Longstreet is considered one of the best officers in the entire Confederacy, his performance as an independent army commander during the Knoxville Campaign left a lot to be desired. Tasked with taking Fort Sanders at Knoxville in November 29, 1863, he seemed to have a considerable advantage, facing a garrison of just 440 soldiers with his own army of more than 3,000. However, virtually everything involved in the assault went wrong. Longstreet had observed, through field glasses, Union soldiers crossing a ditch outside the fort where he planned to launch the assault, and this convinced him the ditch was shallow enough to walk through, not realizing the soldiers he saw had actually crossed by using planks and the ditch was quite steep. He also underestimated the Fort's walls, not realizing they were nearly impossible to scale without ladders. Finally, although the attack was supposed to have the element of surprise, Longstreet blew that possibility by deploying skirmishers ahead of his army hours before the assault. When the attack commenced, the Confederates found themselves charging not across a shallow ditch but right into a deep, wire-laced moat. Not only had the Garrison removed all the planks, but they had also covered the field with telegraph wire tied around boulders and tree stumps, making it even more difficult to maneuver. Entire regiments became hopelessly entangled while clustered together in the moat and were shot to pieces by concentrated musket and artillery fire, while the few Confederate troops who did make it up the walls of the fort were quickly killed or captured. By the time Longstreet called off the attack, his army had suffered more than 800 casualties, while the Union had taken just 13.
    • The Battle of Franklin: One of the South's most devastating losses. After a running series of battles in a failed attempt to get between John Schofield's 27,000 man force and George Thomas' Army of the Cumberland, Confederate General John Bell Hood found his Army of Tennessee facing Schofield's force that had entrenched itself around the town of Franklin. In a final desperate attempt to prevent Schofield from linking up with Thomas, Hood attempted to destroy Schofield's force through direct assault. The ensuing battle was an absolute massacre, as the Union forces were well fortified, roughly even in number to the attackers, and some of them were armed with deadly repeating rifles. By the end of the battle, the Confederate attackers suffered 6,252 casualties while inflicting only 2,326 on the Union. The leadership of the Army of Tennessee was devastated as well, as the casualties included 6 dead generals, 7 wounded generals, and 1 taken prisoner. Soon after the battle, Schofield's force completed the linkup with Thomas and effectively destroyed what remained of the Army of Tennessee at the Battle of Nashville, inflicting another 6,000 casualties with a loss of roughly 3,000. As to the Battle of Franklin, historian James McPherson wrote "Having proved even to Hood's satisfaction that they could assault breastworks, the Army of Tennessee had shattered itself beyond the possibility of ever doing so again."
  • David vs. 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 learned that Hooker had 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.”
    • Reportedly, he was once heard to comment that “What you see over there is called the Army of the Potomac, but it is no such thing; it is just McClellan’s bodyguard.” Whether he actually said this isn’t certain, though.
    • 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 it.note  Lincoln’s response: “The ayes have it.”
    • At the battle of Gettysburg, Union General Winfield Hancock was severely wounded when a bullet tore through his saddle and into his groin, also driving a nail from his saddle into one of his thighs. When he pulled the nail out, he remarked "They must be hard up for ammunition when they throw such shot as that."
    • 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.”
  • Death Glare: Robert E. Lee was known to have one.
  • 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 his own 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 acquaintance’s 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. Or maybe they were just having a laugh when they met up after the war.)
    • Similarly, Robert E. Lee, in the last years of his life, would not allow anyone to utter any unkind words about Ulysses S. Grant in his presence. Grant also befriended James Longstreet and John S. Mosby after the war, and appointed both men to positions in his presidential Administration.
      • Grant's friendship with Longstreet actually dated from before the war, and Longstreet was even a groomsman at Grant's wedding.
  • Defector from Decadence: West Virginia, which was formed when the people there didn’t want to secede with the rest of the state, and essentially said ‘Screw this, we’re outta here!’ and declared themselves a new state.
    • All in all, there were tens of thousands of white Southerners opposed to the Confederacy's cause, known as Southern Unionists. More than a few of these folks found their way into the Union Army, at times forming entire units named for their home states. Possibly the most noteworthy of these would be the 1st Alabama Cavalry Regiment, which escorted General Sherman during his March to the Sea.
  • The Determinator:
    • 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 conflict, 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.”
    • Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain is widely cited as the last Civil War veteran to die of his wounds — in 1914, when he was 85. (Or, to put it another way, fifty years after the papers originally claimed that he died from them).
    • Near the end of the war, many Confederate armies would fight on long after they had any realistic chance of success. Most notable was John Bell Hood's Army of Tennessee after their defeat at the 1864 battle of Franklin, which reduced the force to just 26,000 men and wiped out a large portion of their senior command staff. Hood ordered his army to continue to pursue the John Schofield's Union army after it left Franklin, which soon linked up with general George Thomas' force at Nashville to form an army of over 55,000 troops. Despite facing hopeless odds, Hood refused to withdraw, and was soon defeated again in the battle of Nashville, which effectively destroyed the Army of Tennessee and Hood's career. After the battle, Schofield said "I doubt if any soldiers in the world ever needed more cumulative evidence to convince them that they were beaten.”
  • Dirty Coward: Rebel general Gideon Pillow (a favorite of Jefferson Davis), who thrice abandoned his command. At the Battle of Stones’ River, General John Breckinridge found Pillow cowering behind a tree as his troops went into action.
    • In a different fashion, there was David Twiggs, who commanded the Department of Texas at the outbreak of the war. He surrendered his entire command to Confederate troops (save a handful who escaped to friendly territory) before resigning to join the South, an action which even the Confederates found distasteful.note  As a result, Twiggs was assigned to a minor theater and never trusted with a field command; he soon resigned and died in July 1862.
    • Probably the most notable example on the Union side was General James Ledlie, who sent his division into combat at the Battle of Crater with no real battle plan, while he remained safely behind Union lines drinking liquor. More then 5,000 of his troops were casualties and he was soon dismissed from service for his dereliction of duty.
  • Disguised in Drag: The northern press had a field day in ridiculing Jefferson Davis when he was found and captured by a Union cavalry detachment in Irwinville, Georgia. Having been caught while wearing his wife's overcoat and shawl during his ill-fated escape, Jefferson Davis was called the “President in Petticoats” and was wholly accused, far and wide, for being a coward who resorted to making himself look like a woman to evade the Union army.
  • Divided States of America: The one, and hopefully only, Real Life example.
  • Draft Dodging: You could buy your way out (or just hire a substitute to enlist in your place)! Grover Cleveland did it. Theodore Roosevelt’s father as well, which was one of the motivating factors for T.R. to become as awesome as he was.
    • In the South, slaveholders didn’t even have to draft-dodge: 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 exemptions of idle rich from the fighting when it was their slavery issue that had started the affair caused morale to decline heavily as the tide started to turn against the CSA. The slogan became “Rich man’s war, poor man’s fight.”
    • This also resulted in the deadly Draft Riots in New York City. One of its causes was the fact that immigrants from New York were recruited (or bribed) with citizenship in exchange for service in the army; however, wealthy property owners could dodge the draft or hire a substitute enlistee. This resulted in vicious three-day riots which still remains the most violent incident in the city’s history (far more people died there than in 9/11), during which free blacks were lynched and an orphanage for black children was burnt down and it was ultimately put down by veterans from Gettysburg.
  • Dual Wielding: Front-line officers on both sides were usually equipped with a single-action revolver and a sword, making them a dangerous proposition at close range.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Trench warfare fought with rifles and artillery was first seen in Virginia towards the end of the war, in all its bloody, gory, honorless detail - some five years before the first well-known iteration of 'No Man’s Land' in the Franco-Prussian War.
    • In most ways, however, 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 war also saw the battlefield introduction of ironclad warships, with the two varieties being large Casemate Ironclads, with the traditional arrangement of many guns firing through gun ports in broadside and chase arrangements, as well as the smaller Monitor Ironclads, which featured a few big guns in rotating turrets. These would not be seen again for several years.
      • Both ironclad ships and rotating gun turrets had been around for a few years already (ironclad ships were actually being used in Korea since 1413) but they were mostly considered curious oddities and experiments by European nations. This was the first time either concept had seen battle, and their success paved the way forward in naval design.
    • Also, the first reasonably successful example of submarine warfare (the H.L. Hunley, a submersible torpedo boat operated by the Confederate Army, sank the USS Housatonic with a spar torpedo, but was lost at sea soon after. All in all, the Hunley sank three times, two of those times with all of her crew.)
    • Machine guns made their debut towards the end of the war, in the form of the original Gatling gun. While neither side used them officially due to their notorious reliability problems, that didn't stop Union general Benjamin Butler from buying several of them with his own money and deploying them at the Siege of Petersburg to good effect.
  • Easily Forgiven: At the end of the war, a 4-year conflict that resulted in over 600,000 deaths, The defeated Southern states were brought back into the Union without any sanctions or harsh measures. While some parts of the South would be occupied by federal troops for years, no members of the confederate military or government were ever put on trial for treason. Likewise, the vast majority of Confederate veterans returned home to become peaceful citizens of the United States, despite spending the last four years viewing the US as a mortal enemy. This was in keeping with the wishes of President Abraham Lincoln, who in his 1865 inauguration speech stated "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."
  • Elephant in the Living Room: Slavery is often quickly brought up just to be dismissed as something minor compared to other things, such as the brave soldiers defending their homes and way of life (of which slavery really isn’t part, honestly!). The wounds are still there because AMERICANS JUST WON’T STOP PICKING AT THEM.
    • This is mostly due to the very poor handling of Reconstruction (the period immediately after the war, through 1876), which was simultaneously too lenient and too harsh, in addition to its completely inept administration by the Federal Government.
      • That mishandling is arguably due partly to Lincoln’s assassination, as although his successor in the Oval Office, Andrew Johnson, a Southerner, supported 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 in 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 insisted strongly that the Reconstruction focus on reconciliation rather than 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.
    • The healing process was also delayed severely by the "Lost Cause" myth propagated in the South from the end of Reconstruction up through the 20th century and possibly beyond. Generations of white southerners found it convenient, comforting, and empowering to downplay or outright deny the role of slavery in the war. This made it easier to enact, enforce, and defend discriminatory policies (e.g. Jim Crow laws, segregation, etc) by making them seem like the preservation of a natural and noble order. The myth was still going strong in 2016 when the removal of Confederate monuments in Southern cities prompted outrage and protests from those who felt they represented a noble heritage. Many of the removed monuments were in fact placed in the mid-20th century to implicitly or explicitly celebrate white supremacist and segregationist rule.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Joseph Hooker reportedly hated his nickname "Fighting Joe," complaining that "people will think that I'm a highwayman or a bandit." While not embarrassed by it, Stonewall Jackson preferred that his brigade of Virginia troops deserved the Stonewall nickname rather than himself.
  • 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 interpretation was slowly changing as the 1800s went on, and this notion of "states’ rights" 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. And obviously, the end of chattel slavery itself.
    • To this point, one should note that Lincoln, the first president of the newly formed Republican Party, is credited with starting the since uninterrupted trend of increased power for the national government in general, and the presidency specifically.
  • 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 — Unexpected delays during the Confederate march to the battle had left most troops completely out of rations by the time the fighting started, and all of that hot, fresh food just lying around for the taking was probably too much for the half-starved soldiers to resist. The Confederate Army's commander, General Albert Sydney Johnston, had to personally intervene to stop the looting and get his army back into battle. Riding into the captured Union camp, he took a single tin cup and announced "Let this be my share of the spoils today" before leading his army onward.
  • The Engineer: As the first truly industrialized war, the first to heavily employ railroads and steamboats, engineers of all sorts became very important. Many battles had the defense or destruction of railroad lines and junctions as primary objectives, to enable quick movement of friendly troops and impede the movement of the enemy. Perhaps the best individual example is Union Brigadier General Herman Haupt, who was appointed commander of United States Military Railroads. His skill in organizing the repair of railroads was demonstrated by one trestle, some four hundred feet long and a hundred feet high, replaced in only two weeks and, according to Lincoln, built of "cornstalks and beanpoles".
  • Epic Fail: The Battle of the Crater.
    • 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 attack.note  Rather then select the best replacement commander for the job, Burnside had his commanders draw straws to see who would get the assignment, and the "winner" happened to be an alcoholic named James H. Ledlie, who gave his division no special orders or training on what to do after the explosion was to take place. Fast forward to the explosion and Ledlie’s troops going INTO, not AROUND, the crater note  and getting slaughtered wholesale by cannons, muskets, and even improvised spears and large rocks.
  • Ethnic Scrappy: XI Corps, over half of which consisted of German-Americans, was treated as this by the rest of the Army of the Potomac. After their inglorious flight from Stonewall Jackson's corps at Chancellorsville, they acquired the nickname 'Flying Dutchmen,' and 'Howard's Cowards,' for their commander, O.O. '(uh oh!)' Howard.
  • Everyone Went to School Together: Par for the course in every Civil War under the sun. This time it was the United States Military Academy at West Point.
    • They also fought together against Mexico in the U.S.-Mexican War, fifteen 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 U.S. 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:
    • "Yes, and I fear seriously.": Confederate General Albert Sydney Johnston at the battle of Shiloh after being asked by Tennessee governor Isham Harris if he was wounded. Johnston had been shot behind the right knee and bled to death from a torn Popliteal artery within minutes.
    • “We meet in Heaven”: General William Hervey Wallace dying in his wife's arms three days after being wounded at Shiloh.
    • “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance,” said John Sedgwick, shortly before a Confederate sharpshooter shot him in the head.
    • "I am going fast now; I am resigned; God's will be done." — Confederate General J.E.B Stuart on his deathbed after being mortally wounded at the Battle of Yellow Tavern in May of 1864.
    • "The flag! The flag! Oh, the flag!" — Union General Gouverneur K. Warren on his deathbed in 1882.
    • While Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson was dying from illness, he suddenly sat up in bed and blurted out “Order A.P. Hill to prepare for action! Pass the infantry to the front rapidly! Tell Major Hawks—” before stopping and leaving the sentence unfinished. Then seconds before death, he smiled and calmly stated “Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees.”
    • "Tell Hill he must come up! Strike the tent!": Robert Lee's final words before dying in 1870. A. P. Hill had been killed in action a month before the end of the war in 1865.
  • A Father to His Men: Robert E. Lee, probably the most famous single Confederate.
    • General McClellan was this to the point of inefficiency: his caution was admirable and the men loved him for it, but it prolonged the war and led to his replacement as a front-line commander.
    • Joseph Hooker was this too, to a large extent because he looked after his men, for instance by taking effective steps against the corruption and embezzlement in the commissary department (that had run pretty much unchecked before he assumed command of the Army of the Potomac) and thus ensured that they were supplied with food, clothing and equipment better than before, and also because he very much improved the leave system, which meant that more soldiers got home leave, which improved morale. He thus remained surprisingly popular with the rank and file even after Chancellorsville.
    • William Tecumseh Sherman, a.k.a. “Uncle Billy,” was this too — but he was more willing to sacrifice his men.
    • In fact, many officers were like this, on both sides, as it was a good way to inspire loyalty.
  • Fiery Redhead: General Sherman.
  • Fighting for a Homeland: President Lincoln intended to give citizenship to every soldier who fought for the Union, driving many immigrants to sign up. He was assassinated before he could put this into effect, though.
  • Final Solution:
    • The Confederate Government did not take kindly to Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and responded by authorizing the Confederate Army to show no mercy to any and all blacks in federal uniform along with their commanding officers which is, by definition, a war crime as it is essentially “an approval for anti-African genocide and the murder of race traitors”.
    “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 black troops perfectly willing to murder prisoners.
  • 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.
    • Besides 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.
  • 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 Northerners regarded South Carolina as the hotbed of secessionnote  and Southerners considered Massachusetts the most abolitionist state. 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 thirteen colonies to become a state at all) in 1791.
  • Friend or Foe: Claimed the life of “Stonewall” Jackson; worse, it wasn’t even during a battle. Friend or Foe problems happened many times during the war.
    • Happened to the Army of Northern Virginia’s other main corps commander, Longstreet, at the Wilderness. Fortunately for Lee, it wasn’t fatal, and he was able to rejoin him that fall.
    • 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. Particularly common in early battles, as the Confederate Army mostly started out with U.S. Army uniforms, since they’d been part of the U.S. Army just months before, and many Union units were federalized state militia—and militia units at that time wore gray uniforms. It also didn’t help that the first Confederate flagnote  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 flagbearer in those days was the main way of identifying which side they were fighting for.
  • Friendly Sniper: After amassing a fortune in the California gold rush, 52-year old Truman Head moved east to join the elite Berdan's Sharpshooter Unit, going into battle with a Sharps rifle he had purchased with his own money. Head, nicknamed "California Joe", would soon establish a reputation as one of the best snipers in his unit. He was well liked and respected by his comrades, and since he had no family, he put his $50,000 gold mining fortune into a trust for his fellow soldiers in case he was killed in action. Ultimately he would receive an early discharge as a result of failing eyesight in November of 1862.
  • 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 statement,note  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 1864 Battle of Yellow Tavern, ironically during a Union retreat. As his lines started to waver against a Union charge, Stuart personally rode into the thick of his battle, firing pistol into the Federal ranks and attempting to rally his men. Confederate re-enforcements soon compelled the Union forces to retreat, but during this event, dismounted Union private John Huff turned and shot Stuart with a single shot from his revolver before rejoining the ranks in retreat. Stuart was taken to Richmond and died the following day. Huff would be killed in action 5 weeks later at the Battle of Haw's shop.
    • More generals were killed and wounded at Gettysburg than in any other engagement of the war, largely due to this trope. Confederate generals Barksdale, Semmes, Armistead, Garnett, and Pender, and Union generals Reynolds, Zook, Weed, and Farnsworth were all killed in action. Confederate general James Pettigrew would be mortally wounded a few days after Gettysburg 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. An additional general, James J. Archer, was captured on the first day of battle. Gettysburg was murder on generals.
    • The 1864 Battle of Franklin was the deadliest single day for generals during The Civil War. After just 5 hours of fighting, 6 Generals from the Confederate Army of Tennessee were killed or mortally wounded: Patrick Cleburne, John C. Carter, John Adams, Hiram B. Granbury, States Rights Gist, and Otho F. Strahl. A 7th general, George Gordon, was captured, while 7 more were wounded. One reason for may be Army of Tennessee commander John Bell Hood's angry tirade against his generals the day before the battle for allowing the opposing Union army to slip past their lines in the night and reach the fortifications in Franklin. This may have made the Tennessee Army commanders a little over-eager to prove themselves.
    • 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 the Wilderness, and later Spotsylvania Courthouse, but his soldiers refused to allow him to risk his life, both times grabbing at the reins of his horse and shouting “General Lee to the rear!”
  • Gatling Good: Arguably the Trope Maker, as this war featured the first combat fielding of the Trope Namesake Gatling gun.
    • 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 per minute at its 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 three or four shots/minute from a napoleon, each with about thirty 1.5” balls, and each ball could wound several men. The Gatling would have to wait for about three decades’ worth of mechanical improvements before it could be made more efficient than the napoleon, and by the time it was, the gas-operated Maxim machinegun overtook it.
  • 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.
  • Germanic Efficiency: Largely averted by German-Americans, as were a number of National Stereotypes about Germans, to a large extent because at the time German-American politics were dominated by the Forty-Eighters, i. e. the often radical revolutionaries who had emigrated to America following the crushing of the European Revolutions of 1848. Thus a lot of the political leaders tended to be rebels against authority and not terrifically good as fighters (these were the people whose ill-disciplined forces had been roundly defeated by the armies of the German monarchs). Another Averted Trope was All Germans Are Nazis because as a group German immigrants were staunch (left-wing) Republicans and abolitionists.
    • The trope was played straight by Herman Haupt, the American-born head of the Northern military railroads.
  • 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 
    • 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 nearly lost the Battle of Gettysburg for the Union army, though Sickles would insist his actions were beneficial to the Union side. It at least cost him his right leg, though it also earned him a Medal of Honor (albeit 34 years after the battle). His Medal of Honor citation states that Sickles "displayed most conspicuous gallantry on the field, vigorously contesting the advance of the enemy and continuing to encourage his troops after being himself severely wounded."
  • Go-Karting with Bowser: All throughout the war, it was common for opposing armies to agree to a temporary truce, especially after a major battle in order to safely collect the dead and wounded men from the battlefield. During this time, troops from both sides would often peacefully interact with each other, trading supplies, swapping war stories, and playing sports until the truce ended.
  • Government in Exile: Although it isn’t widely known, a substantial number of former Confederate government officials and soldiers, their families, and fellow loyalists immigrated 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.
    • Virginia had a Unionist government-in-exile, the Restored Government of Virginia. At the beginning of the war, this government was dominated by people from northwestern Virginia who wanted to split off from the state, forming West Virginia; the remaining bits (a few random counties around Washington and along the coast held by the Union military) remained subject to this rump government sitting in Alexandria until Richmond was retaken in 1865.
  • 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.”

  • Hauled Before A Senate Subcommittee: The Union had the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, formed after the Battle of Ball's Bluff in December 1861 to investigate Union battlefield losses. Many officers found themselves forced to account for their military conduct; the Battle of Gettysburg caused an especially contentious set of hearings about George Meade's conduct of that battle, instigated by Congressman-turned-General Daniel Sickles. Though widely criticized as a political instrument of the Republican Party to target Democratic generals, the Committee remained in session throughout the war.
  • Head-in-the-Sand Management: Lincoln’s predecessor as U.S. president, James Buchanan. Widely considered one of the worst Presidents ever for giving up on the brewing conflict and passing it off to Lincoln.
    • When this trope was labeled ‘The Chamberlain,’ it was definitely averted by Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, a Badass Bookworm who 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). Conditions in POW camps became significantly worse later in the war, as the Union suspended all prisoner exchanges in response to the South's policy of refusing to ever exchange colored troops. This caused POW camps on both sides to quickly fill up far beyond their official capacity to handle.
    • Point Lookout, Maryland, was built to hold only 10,000 Confederates but ended holding over quintuple that number, of whom at least 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 rapidly to starvation and disease.
    • Camp Douglas in Chicago. There is a monument there marking what is known as the largest mass grave in North America, where 6,000 Confederates are buried. As a prison camp, Douglas was called “eighty acres of hell”. The camp had a death rate of between seventeen and twenty-three percent.
  • Heroic BSoD: George Pickett after his division was shattered at Gettysburg, and William S. Rosecrans after his defeat at the Battle of Chickamauga.
    • Union General George Meade, after winning the Battle of Gettysburg and preventing Robert E. Lee from invading the North, was ordered by President Lincoln to pursue the Confederate forces trapped at the Potomac River. Meade, who hesitated and procrastinated, couldn't bring himself to attack Lee, which allowed General Lee's forces to retreat across the receding Potomac River, which so frustrated Lincoln that he wrote (but never mailed) a letter addressing Meade's failures, which if received, might have caused Meade to resign from the Union Army and made his victory at Gettsyburg feel empty. Fortunately, Lincoln managed to have a change of heart and ultimately put the unsent letter away among his personal papers, which were discovered after his assassination.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Where to begin? And 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’ 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.
      • Twentieth Maine Regiment at Gettysburg: literally at the far end of the Union line, they had to hold off a vastly numerically superior Confederate force.
      • First 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. Two hundred sixty-two North Star Staters go in. Forty-seven come back. Eighty-three percent casualty rate in five minutes of combat. The regimental equivalent of Jumping on a Grenade. This was the greatest percentage of casualties inflicted on any Union regiment during the war; there were some Confederate regiments (including at Gettysburg) in which not one soldier escaped unhurt.
      • In the Ken Burns documentary, Shelby Foote - a Southerner - referred to the Union troops who repeatedly failed (though not through lack of trying) to take Marye's Heights at Fredericksburg in December 1862 as possibly the bravest soldiers in the entire war on either side.
  • Hero Antagonist: Neither side could say that they had a monopoly on war heroes.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade:
    • Abraham Lincoln's policies of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment, his eventual prosecution of a successful war, have rightly enshrined him as a great American. Popular culture as well as later historians tend to neglect that Lincoln began the war as a moderate on slavery (he wanted to prevent its extension into Western Territories but stated he wouldn't interfere with slavery where it already existed) and was a skeptic and occassional opponent of racial equality. Radical Republicans were also skeptical about how hard he would push Reconstruction. It's also sometimes overlooked that Lincoln took some significant regressive anti-democratic actions during the war, including shutting down several newspapers that were critical of the war effort, jailing the mayor of Baltimore without charges, and suspending the Writ of Habeus Corpus. When Chief Supreme Court Justice Roger Taneynote  ruled the suspension unconstitutional, Lincoln simply ignored his verdict. Late 20th century historians state, while Lincoln was a product of his time, he had "a capacity to grow" and that his views shifted over the course of the war.
    • 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 and reconciliation efforts than his service to the South. Since the 1980s, historians have been more skeptical of Lee, noting that far from opposing slavery, Lee's soldiers captured freedman and sold them into slavery. He also personally owned slaves for a few years before freeing them, having inherited them from his deceased father-in-law, and punished them severely, including sewing their wounds with brine by some accounts. Some historians also note that for all of Lee's battle prowess, his tactics resulted in massive loss of manpower. Of all Civil War army commanders, Lee's troops suffered the highest percentage of combat casualties. His legacy after the war is mixed as well. While he urged reconciliation between the sides, actively recruited Northerners to Washington College after he became its president, and advocated for a free public school system for blacks in the South, he also adamantly opposed giving blacks the right to vote, believing they were not yet educated enough to be able to handle this right (he did not say he felt this way about uneducated whites).
    • The Southern U.S. 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 led to the aforementioned positive media portrayal of the Southern ethnocracy and promoted the idea that the war was not about slavery, but ‘states’ rights’ to oppress an entire race.
    • The Union on the whole was led by a diverse group of individuals, factions and interests. While they were fighting the Confederates, that did not mean they were anti-racist or total abolitionists. Northern soldiers were not above raping slave women they found in plantations. William Sherman was quite skeptical of race equality - his initial attempt to distribute southern land to slaves who had followed the army during his March to Georgia was a pragmatic rather than humanitarian gesture. Also, although it wouldn't become apparently until after the war, Sherman had a particular vitriol towards Native Americans. Ulysses Grant was more of an abolitionist than Sherman, but even that took time and even then his notorious General Order 11 to expel Jews from their homes (which Lincoln repealed a few weeks later) is not one of his finest moments.
  • 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 original Ku Klux Klan. People have a tendency to dehumanize him totally, however, instead of seeing him as just a badly screwed-up and bitter redneck; many accounts overlook 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 began to use 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’d 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 in the twenty-first century has his image begun to be rehabilitated.
    • George McClellan was popular with his men and even Abraham Lincoln noted he was excellent raising and training armies. Furthermore, McClellan was popular enough to run against Lincoln on the Democratic ticket in 1864 (not that he stood much chance of winning). However, once the facts came out after the war, McClellan soon became better known that as a fighting general, he was an arrogant braggart who basically lengthened the war because of his cowardly incompetence as a commander. Irving Stone once wrote that McClellan's wife did him the greatest harm by publishing his memoirs and private correspondence after his death, thus exposing the world to his abrasive egomania.
    • General James Longstreet was subject to this by historians sympathetic to the Confederate cause. Longstreet often disagreed with Lee on tactics, most famously his open and vocal opposition to Pickett’s Charge. As “Lost Causers” utterly adore Lee and refuse to find any fault with him, this made Longstreet a target for their ire. More so, Longstreet cooperated with Reconstruction and even joined the Republican Party (the only Confederate officer to do so) and did such horrific things as confronting the “White League” while commanding black troops and police officers. As a result Longstreet was demonized for 100 years despite Lee having fondly called the man “my old warhorse” and being acknowledged as arguably the best corps commander on either side of the war. Like many other entries under this trope, only decades long after his death have his image and character been re-evaluated.
  • Hold the Line:
    • An unusual example at Antietam. A few hundred Confederate soldiers were able to hold a bridge against the entire IX Corps for most of a day, buying Lee the time he needed to bring up reserves and defeat the Corps. The stupid part being, the bridge crossed a creek that could've been easily waded at half a dozen places but General Burnside for whatever reason was insistent on using the bridge.
    • Colonel Strong Vincent deserves credit for the defense of Little Round Top.
  • Hopeless War:
    • Most fiction and contemporary accounts depict the two sides as roughly evenly matched, but most modern historians agree that a Confederate victory was all but impossible given the Union’s superior numbers, organization, leadership, supplies, and infrastructure. Even though the South was almost entirely agrarian, their specialization in cotton meant they didn’t even grow as much food as the more industrialized North.
    • Southern historian Shelby Foote claimed in Ken Burns’ documentary that he believed the North essentially “fought the war with one hand tied behind its back” as they maintained their industry and agriculture and even enacted the Homestead Act. He believed that a greater string of Southern victories would have only resulted in the Union “bringing out that other arm.”
    • Historians recognize that the Confederacy nearly achieved its goal of bringing in outside intervention that would have won the war for them. These usually center on Antietam as the turning point, as the battle was one of the last that would have cemented British support for the South. Thus, they acknowledge the South couldn't win on its own.
    • There's the psychological effect that a Confederate victory at Antietam, Perryville or Gettysburg would have wrought. The Union would have had the resources to continue fighting, but it's more debatable whether the public and political will would have endured after a dramatic defeat on northern soil.
      • Specifically, a few demoralizing defeats (especially at Gettysburg) could have swayed the results of the 1862 midterm election, the 1863 gubernatorial elections in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and the 1864 presidental election and put McCllellan and the Copperheads in office. While McClellan was not much in favor of peace, his Democratic Party was busy debating whether a negotiated reunification or final separation was the better course of action. And this was without a Confederate victory
  • Hot-Blooded: J.E.B. Stuart, George Custer, George Pickett (before all his men got killed at Gettysburg; cue 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.” He rose to the rank of Major General in four years.
  • I Have Many Names: Guess which war? The two most enduring and "official" names are "The America Civil War" and "The War Between the States", but plenty of other names have cropped up over the years, such as "The Second American Revolution", "The War of Northern/Yankee Aggression", "The War of Southern Aggression", "War of Separation/Secession"...
    • Not just the war as a whole, some of the battles in it. Whether you call them the Battles of Manassas or Bull Run depends a lot on where your sympathies lie (well, maybe on where the sympathies of your ancestors or history teacher lay).note 
    • Similarly Antietam/Sharpsburg and Stones River/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).
  • I Have No Son!: The Civil War was the cause of many family feuds, as it was not uncommon for different members of the same family to be loyal to different sides. A prominent example was Union General George Henry Thomas, who played a major role in the western theater of operations. A native of Virginia, Thomas was disowned by his family for going to war against his home state. They turned his portrait against a wall, burned his letters, and never spoke to him again. When he died in 1872, not a single blood relative attended his funeral.
  • Immigrant Patriotism: Immigrants made up a substantial amount of troops in both armies. Roughly 20% of all Union soldiers were foreign-born even though they made up only 13% of the population. Many came from nations that had abolished slavery long before the war and strongly desired to see it eradicated in America as well. Furthermore, many of the revolutionaries of 1848 who had seen their hopes crushed in all of Europe except France were very eager to see democracy, freedom and the rule of law triumph on their new home. They even made regimental songs about it. While many immigrants served in the Confederate army as well, far more of them joined the Union, contributing significantly to the manpower advantage the North would enjoy for the duration of the war.
  • Improvised Weapon: At the Second Battle of Bull Run, Confederate troops in Cols. Bradley T. Johnson and 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.
    “Boys! Give ’em the rocks!” — Unknown Confederate Irishman
  • Internal Retcon: The Lost Cause of the Confederacy narrative, and it lasted for more than a century in academic life, and endured in Pop-Cultural Osmosis until The New '10s. The vast majority of fiction on the American Civil War is a pro-Confederate narrative:
    • It paints the war as about States Rights, and preserving the southern way of life and not about slavery at all, even though the various declarations of secessions (including, most blatantly, South Carolina's) and Alexander Stephens' Cornerstone Speech explicitly stated that slavery was the reason. The narrative was pushed and paid for by the Daughters of the Confederacy, an advocacy group of wealthy daughters and Socialite of the old plantations (i.e. the OG Southern Belle) and it has been so complete and successful that every mainstream movie and novel on the Civil War has been tainted by it, even works as recent as Gettysburgnote  as well as international novelists like Bernard Cornwell whose Starbuck Chronicles has villainous abolitionists and a hero who fights alongside Robert E. Lee simply because Cornwell thought Lee was a great general.
    Ta-Nehisi Coates: "When it comes to the civil war, all of our popular understanding, our popular history and culture, our great films, the subtext of our arguments are in defiance of its painful truths. It is not a mistake that Gone with the Wind is one of the most read works of American literature or that The Birth of a Nation is the most revered touchstone of all American film. Both emerge from a need for palliatives and painkillers, an escape from the truth of those five short years in which 750,000 American soldiers were killed, more than all American soldiers killed in all other American wars combined, in a war declared for the cause of expanding “African slavery”...The history breaks the myth. And so the history is ignored, and fictions are weaved into our art and politics that dress villainy in martyrdom and transform banditry into chivalry, and so strong are these fictions that their emblem, the stars and bars, darkens front porches and state capitol buildings across the land to this day."
  • Intrepid Reporter: One of the first wars in which these played a large role.
    • 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.”
    • Ironically, Irishmen were the least well-represented nationality in the Union armies.
  • Irony:
    • 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, they enforced the Fugitive Slave Law in free states and to permit and uphold slavery in U.S. territories even against the will of the majority of their population.
    • While the stated reasons for secession including states rights and individual liberty, the Confederacy needed a strong central government in order to fight the war, thus they ended resorting to many measures widely considered tyrannical and opposed by states within it. Most notable was the implementation of conscription in 1862, forcing many people to fight in the war who did not want to. The South actually implemented conscription before the North did.
    • Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney, who authored the infamous Dred Scott ruling upholding the constitutionality of slavery, died on October 12, 1864, the same day his home state of Maryland abolished slavery.
    • 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. The typical Northern response was ‘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 U.S. and therefore our Fugitive Slave Law does not apply to you.’ Indeed, almost a half-century prior to the Civil War, during the War of 1812, some politicians from the North were actually threatening to secede from the Union. Skilled politicians like Webster, Clay, and Calhoun were all that could postpone this war.
    • A Confederate army in Texas was attacked by a local Union army and proceeded 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, Maryland. Their simple, one-story church was the most easily identifiable landmark on the Antietam Battlefield. It’s an 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 war.note  Shiloh is Hebrew for “the peaceful place.”
    • 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. He said afterwards, “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. Making it doubly ironic, a Confederate force was dispatched to put down the rebellion and prevent them from seceding.note 
    • A sign at the gate of Cemetery Ridge warning anyone who enters armed will be prosecuted.
    • 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 May 4–June 24, 1864, 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 fifty days … and that was only one of two major fronts, with a dozen smaller fronts being fought at the same time.
    • 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 states’ 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.
      • This change happened gradually. Their long period of political dominance following the Civil War gradually aligned the Republicans with big business and the status quo. When the great depression struck, it was clear that a shift towards big government would be the answer; it was just a question of which party enacted it. Hoover failed to get enough done before he left office (and had earlier betrayed the party's African-Americans), leaving the progressive banner to FDR and the Democrats. The final shift came under LBJ, when he astutely noted after signing the Civil Rights act that "we have lost the South for a generation." He was, if anything, being optimistic.
    • The general irony is best summed up by a quotation from Samuel Johnson from the days of the American Revolution: “Why is it that the yelps for liberty are loudest among the drivers of Negroes?”
    • Most European powers favored a Confederate victory, although only slightly, if 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 Tsar 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 to slavery they had (serfdom) by 1861.note  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 emancipation.note 
    • At one point during the war, the United States seized Robert E. Lee’s estate at Arlington House and claimed it was for unpaid taxes. The officer whose men were stationed there then began using Lee’s land to bury Northern casualties; the officer in question (as mentioned elsewhere on this page) was Montgomery Meigs, a Unionist from Georgia, who regarded Lee as a dishonorable man and a traitor because Lee had abandoned the United States for Virginia when Meigs himself had refused to do so for Georgia. Meigs also blamed Lee for one of the first burials at the estate, namely, Meigs' own son (who had joined his father in rejecting state loyalty for the nation). They turned the land of the rebellion’s best-known general into one of the United States’ best-known landmarks and memorials: Arlington National Cemetery.
    • On a smaller and more personal scale, Union General Benjamin Butler was finally removed from command after spending several days testifying to Congress about how a force he commanded was incapable of capturing Fort Fisher, only for news to arrive during the hearing that the exact same force just captured it. Though he was retained on the Army payroll to act as a prosecutor, he never commanded another army.
  • It's All My Fault: Famously said almost verbatim by Lee, after the failure of Pickett’s Charge in the Battle of Gettysburg. He met and apologized to them himself after their retreat.
  • It's a Small World After All: The commanding officer in charge of the Confederate force attacking Fort Sumter (the battle that started the Civil War) was general P. T. Beauregard. When Beauregard was a student at West Point, he showed so much promise as an artillery expert that one of his instructors arranged for him to stay on after graduation as his personal assistant. That instructor was Robert Anderson, who went on to be the commanding officer of the garrison at Fort Sumter when Beauregard led the attack.
  • It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time:
    • Too many to count. Lee’s invasions of the North certainly count (both of which ended as costly failures), 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: 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 either have to 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
    • Braxton Bragg's invasion of Kentucky. Kentucky was a slave state with a very significant pro-confederate sympathy in the population, which seemed to make it an ideal target. Bragg even brought a wagon train with 20,000 additional rifles to supply the expected new recruits who would flock to his banner as he moved through the state. While the invasion had some early victories and was not as costly as Lee's attempts to invade Maryland or Pennsylvania, it still ended in failure as Bragg was forced to withdraw after taking heavy casualties at the Battle of Perryville. Most depressing and crippling to Bragg was the lack of support from the population he had expected to receive. Less then 2,000 recruits joined his army during the campaign, many of whom deserted by the end of it.
    • John Hunt Morgan's raid into Ohio. In 1863, Confederate Cavalry general John Hunt Morgan launched a daring raid through the Union states of Indiana and Ohio. Although the raid caused extensive property damage and diverted significant Union manpower and resources away from the front lines (as well as setting the record for the deepest Confederate incursion into Union territory during the war), it ended in disaster, with nearly all of Morgan's 2,000-man regiment being captured (including Morgan himself). This loss of so many men harmed the Confederate war effort far more then the harm the Union received as a result of the damage done in the raid.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Thaddeus Stevens, often known for his vicious insults while at the same time fighting for abolitionism and equality.
  • 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 antislavery than Northerners; anywhere from 33,000 to 55,000 Canadians served in the U.S. Army during the Civil War). Confederate President Jefferson Davis realized this tendency of his people near the beginning of the war, remarking, “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.
  • Kill It with Fire: Sherman and Sheridan’s respective strategies.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Lee’s surrender.
    • 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.
  • 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 3, Kilpatrick ordered Elon Farnsworth’s brigade to attack Rebel infantry entrenched on Big Round Top. It went poorly, and Farnsworth was killed after being surrounded by the enemy.
      • These tendencies were so bad that Kilpatrick’s nickname among his own cavalrymen was “Kill-cavalry”.
    • 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).
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: See any decently-sized history book.
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • Gen. Ben Butler claimed the Fugitive Slave Law didn’t apply to slaves escaped from the Confederate States because either the Confederates were right and the Confederacy was technically a foreign country or the Union was right and the Confederates were rebels and traitors against the Union, making their ‘property’ (the slaves) legitimate contraband of war. 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 northwest 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 (which, for those who don’t know, is in the far north of the state, right on the border with Ohio and only about 60 miles from Pittsburghnote ), elected a new legislature (which was dominated by representatives from the northwestern part, although there were a handful from elsewhere — mostly the parts of Northern Virginia around Washington, D.C. and held by the Union Army) and a governor, sent representatives to Washington, and approved the split.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: A lot of songs of the era are upbeat, even though the lyrics speak of horrible experiences in war. Most prominent of them 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!)
  • Major Injury Underreaction: During the Battle of Gettysburg, Union General Dan Sickles' leg was shattered by a 12-pound cannon ball. In order to inspire his men to keep fighting, Sickles showed virtually no sign of pain in reaction to this. He relinquished command to General David Birney, and then calmly smoked a cigar as he was loaded onto a stretcher and carried away from the field
  • 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, Hooker’s “convivial and informal” headquarters popularized it.
    • In an era of flamboyant facial hair, Ambrose Burnside managed to stand out so much that — to this day — they’re called sideburns.
    • The 1863 Battle of Chickamauga was the 2nd deadliest battle of the Civil War, with over 34,000 casualties. Chickamauga is a Cherokee word meaning "River of Death".
  • Mighty Glacier: The Union. The Federal Government enjoyed a steep resource advantage and a five-to-two advantage in initial manpower, but took a long time to get their war machine running at full power. The failure of the Confederacy to achieve quick and decisive victories meant that they spent most of the war fighting a Hopeless War with dwindling resources.
  • 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.
Edwin M. Stanton: "If we had a million men, McClellan would swear the enemy had two millions, and then he would sit down in the mud and yell for three."
  • Which is not to say he wasn't a good field commander in spite of the consensus. Revisionists have pointed out where McClellan was often right and Lincoln often wrong, which consensus historians missed because they didn't understand positional and maneuver warfare in the 19th century.
  • Mistaken Identity: This was a major problem early in the war, as it took time for the Union and Confederate armies to develop standardization on the uniform colors of blue and gray. At the start of the war, both armies had troops in many different uniform colors, resulting in cases of friendly fire as well as opposite cases of mistaking enemy troops for allies. The most notable case of this happened at the 1862 battle of Mill Springs, when Confederate General Felix Zollicoffer rode up to a group of Union officers to tell them to order their troops to stop firing on his men, thinking they were Confederate soldiers involved in mistaken friendly fire. Since Zollicoffer was wearing a white raincoat at the time, the Union officers initially didn't identify him as an enemy soldier either. But eventually the realization dawned on both parties, resulting in a wild shootout in which Zollicoffer was killed.
  • Modern Major General: Ambrose Burnside, by his own admission.
    • At the corps and division level Burnside was a fairly solid, if unspectacular, General. He knew his limitations and only took command of the Army of the Potomac because he feared that someone less competent would get the job if he didn't say "yes".
    • Benjamin Butler, a brilliant lawyer, debater, and politician. The man who gave Union officers everywhere the green light to liberate the slaves before the Emancipation Proclamation by screwing the Confederacy with their own laws. The man who saw the potential of the Gatling gun before almost anyone else. The man who is generally thought by Civil War historians to be the single worst Union general of the war.
  • More Dakka: As noted above, the Age of Dakka began with the introduction of the Gatling gun. Funnily enough, Gatling was a pacifist who wanted to show the futility of war and reduce the size of armies. It definitely achieved the latter objective.
    • To give an example, there is the stump of a tree preserved in a museum. What makes this tree stump special is that it was felled by rifle fire. Not artillery, or Gatling-gunfire, 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 three buckshot, giving a shooter four chances at hitting an enemy. Despite the buckshot’s worthlessness 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 Pickett’s 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…
    • The Civil War was the first war fought with firearms where casualties from infantry firearms were greater than those from 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 and most subsequent 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 (twelve total) field guns.
    • The LeMat or “Grape Shot” Revolver created in the South. A nine-shot revolver with a secondary barrel that could fire a single shell of buckshot, it was used by Confederate cavalry. They kept multiple loaded LeMats because it took less time to pull out a new gun than it did to reload the unusual revolver in the middle of a battle.
  • 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 (at least up to a point), fought for the Confederacy, as he didn’t want to oppose his home state of Virginia.
  • My Greatest Failure: Lee ordering Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg.
    • Similarly, Grant ordering frontal assaults at Cold Harbor.
    • And Sherman at Kennesaw Mountain.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast:
    • Confederate William “Bloody Bill” Anderson.
    • Union Brigadier General Joshua "Bloody" Chamberlain
      • Chamberlain earned the nickname "Bloody Chamberlain" not for brutality, but because he was wounded numerous times in battle. Still a name to run away from though, because being anywhere near someone so prone to being shot probably isn't very good for anyone's health. And facing an opponent that can get shot so many times and not die is also a bit unsettling, to say the least.
    • Union General David “Black Davy” Hunter (he liked to burn things).
    • Union General Benjamin Franklin “Beast” Butler (if you were a Southern Belle).
      • Note that while others earned their nicknames through bravery or brutality in combat, Butler was called "Beast" because he treated wealthy whites in New Orleans like they had done something wrong in rising in armed rebellion against their country. He issued a famously inflammatory order stating that his men could treat any woman "giving offense" as a prostitute - but this was after the ladies of New Orleans made a habit of cursing at, spitting on, and emptying chamberpots over Union soldiers.
      • 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 (among those 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.
  • The Napoleon:
    • Union General George McClellan actually earned the nickname "Young Napoleon" due to his ambition and rapid rise through the ranks (He was given command of the Army of the Potomac at age 35). However, it should be noted this nickname was received before he actually commanded the army in battle. Once he did, it soon became clear his tactics and command style did not measure up to the French General at all.
    • Union General Philip Sheridan was relatively short for a cavalry officer (his nickname in the ranks was "Little Phil", and was made even more obvious by his truly gigantic horse), but that certainly did not prevent him from scoring a great victory clearing out the Shenandoah Valley of Confederates, which Lincoln wrote a playfully congratulatory letter: “General Sheridan, when this particular war began, I thought a cavalryman should be at least six feet four inches high, but I have changed my mind. Five feet four will do in a pinch.”
  • Naval Blockade: The Anaconda Plan, the Union’s strategy to cut off Confederate shipping.
  • Nerves of Steel:
    • 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.)
    • Rear Admiral David Glasgow Farragut during the Battle of Mobile Bay. While it's not conclusive that he uttered the famous phrase "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!" note , it is true that the climbed up into the rigging during the battle, rather than remain below decks, so he could have a proper view of the situation. The ship's captain even ordered a sailor to climb up after him and tie Farragut securely to the mast, afraid he might be knocked from his perch.
    • Ulysses S. Grant. He was sitting outside his headquarters during one battle, calmly issuing orders while Confederate artillery shells landed closer and closer to where he was. While the officers around him got more and more nervous, Grant was totally focused on delivering his orders and seemed to be completely oblivious of the danger. Only when he'd finished did he stand up, look around at the shells falling and remark "Well, they seem to have got the range of us," and went around to the other side of the farmhouse.
    • 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.
  • Never My Fault: The very fact that the Southern name for the war at the time (and even by some Neo Confederates and other racists today) was the “War of Northern Aggression” despite the fact that the South fired the first shots.
  • No OSHA Compliance: The H. L. Hunley (Named for its inventor, Horace Lawson Hunley) was a Confederate submarine constructed as an innovative way to try and break the Union naval blockade. Using new and unreliable experimental technology, it turned out to be a disastrous death-trap for its unfortunate crew. In a span of just 8 months in service, the Hunley sank 3 different times, killing a total of 21 crew members. In August of 1863, it sank during a test trial, killing 5 crew members. Then after being raised and repaired, it sank again in October, killing all 8 people onboard, including Horace Hunley, who was personally inspecting the sub's performance despite not being a member of the Confederate military. Raised and repaired again, it carried out its first combat mission in February of 1864, sneaking up to the Union sloop Housatonic and attaching a gunpowder charge to the hull. The ensuing explosion sank the Housatonic, but the Hunley was caught in the blast as well. It sank for a third (and mercifully final) time, once again killing the entire crew.
  • 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 U.S. Navy. It successfully fought them off, too, but its homemade engine parts gave out and the crew was forced to burn it to prevent capture. The Confederate Navy never again managed a presence on the Mississippi.
  • Not So Different: Many people equate Northern abolitionism, mistakenly, with Northern anti-racism. In actuality, many people in the North were at least as racist as those in the South.note  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 T. Sherman, who refused to allow black Union soldiers into his army because, as he wrote to his stepbrother, “I won’t trust niggers to fight.” (After Black troops were actually allowed to join the Union Army and fight, they proved themselves capable beyond any doubt.) note 

  • Occupiers out of Our Country: This is largely the motive of Neo-Confederates.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: Stereotyped Confederate officer. Often for Union officers too.
    • Back then literacy was not universal. The Union and Confederate armies were quite literate and had a lot of private soldiers who had enough basic literacy to read the Bible and write letters home. Officers were expected to be much more educated.
    • 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.”
      • Chamberlain was fully aware ahead of time that some people wouldn’t like it and that he would be criticized for it but did it anyway, considering it the appropriate and gentlemanly thing to do. He did have an excuse in mind should he be court-martialed for it (that his troops were saluting the flag of the Union and its triumph over the flag of the Confederacy).
  • One-Federation Limit: Since both nations had “States of America” appending their names, the CSA and USA are usually referred to simply as the Confederacy and the Union. “The Union” had referred to the USA as a whole before the war, but the practice died down after the CSA surrendered, and is really only used today when referring to the "true" US side of this war.
  • One Steve Limit: Thoroughly averted.
    • 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, along with David R. Jones and John R. Jones, all division commanders.
    • Similarly, the Union army had two division commanders named Wallace (William H.L. Wallace, who was killed in action, and Lew Wallace, who survived) at Shiloh.
    • 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.
    • Robert E. Lee had several sons serving in the Confederate army, two becoming generals. General Stephen D. Lee, however, was not related to them, despite serving under Robert for the war's first two years (he ended in the Western Theater).
    • The Confederate Army had two famous officers named John Pemberton. One of them, General John Clifford Pemberton, was famous (or infamous depending on one's point of view) for being the commanding officer of the Confederate fort at Vicksburg during its siege by Grant's Army of the Tennessee. The other, Lt. Colonel John Stith Pemberton, was famous for inventing Coca-Cola after the war. The invention of Coca-Cola came about as a result of Pemberton's efforts to make a substance he could use as an alternative to morphine, which he had become addicted to as a result of suffering battle wounds.
  • 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 standstill 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.”
  • Only Sane Man: Sherman was the only major officer at the beginning of the war to realize the fight would be long and bloody, and when he went public with that sentiment he was deemed mad. It didn’t help that he suffered a Heroic BSoD early on and had to take some time off.
    • Also, Governor Sam Houston of Texas resigned his post rather than participate in his state’s secession, warning:
    “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.”
    • When Jefferson Davis made the decision to attack Fort Sumter in 1861, the only member of his cabinet to speak out in opposition to it was Confederate Secretary of State Robert Toombs, who told him "Mr. President, at this time it is suicide, murder, and will lose us every friend at the North. You will wantonly strike a hornet's nest which extends from mountain to ocean, and legions now quiet will swarm out and sting us to death. It is unnecessary; it puts us in the wrong; it is fatal."
    • In 1864, Confederate general Patrick Cleburne sent a letter to his superiors stating that the war was becoming unwinnable and their only hope of victory lay in enlisting black soldiers in exchange for granting them freedom, even going so far as to advocate full emancipation as a necessary sacrifice the Confederacy . Among the more noteworthy passages of the letter, he stated "Apart from the assistance that home and foreign prejudice against slavery has given to the North, slavery is a source of great strength to the enemy in a purely military point of view, by supplying him with an army from our granaries; but it is our most vulnerable point, a continued embarrassment, and in some respects an insidious weakness...To prevent raids we are forced to scatter our forces, and are not free to move and strike like the enemy; his vulnerable points are carefully selected and fortified depots. Ours are found in every point where there is a slave to set free." However, his pleas fell on deaf ears. Not only was his advice ignored, but the letter crippled his career. Denounced as an "abolitionist conspiracy", Cleburne would receive no further promotions after sending it, despite him being regarded as one of the best division commanders of the war on either side. The Confederate Army would not drop its ban on black soldiers until the final month of the war, when it was far too late to make any difference. This was predicted in the last line of Cleburne's letter, which said "Negroes will require much training; training will require much time, and there is danger that this concession to common sense may come too late."
  • Opposing Combat Philosophies:
    • Both sides knew the Union had massive superiority in industry and population, which affected their strategic outlook. The Confederates knew they had to win the war quickly, so they banked on winning decisive victories early on and pressuring the economic and military support of the British Empire, which would force the North to capitulate. The Union focused on winning control of key locations and doing everything to ensure the Confederacy "withered on the vine". As it turns out, hinging your entire war strategy on effectively blackmailing the most powerful empire on earth into supporting your fledgling separatist nation-state is a pretty poorly conceived idea as far as ideas go - the British ultimately wanted nothing to do with the Confederacy, and with the Union gradually tightening the noose around them, their fate was sealed.
    • General George McClellan versus General Ulysses S. Grant. McClellan was a Father to His Men who sold them cautiously and consequently lost key battles and even more opportunities because he kept overestimating the strength of the Confederate forces. Grant was much less scrupulous about pressing all the North's advantages for all they were worth, including manpower advantages. Mc Clellan was removed and Grant replaced him, which brought about a quicker Union victory... but at what cost?
  • Overranked Soldier: The rapid expansion of armies and desperate need for manpower meant troops on both sides would get promoted with far greater speed and less prior qualifications then anyone would ever expect from the military during peacetime. Some notable examples are:
    • Aurthur MacArthur Jr: Perhaps due to his father's connections (His father was a former governor of Wisconsin and a judge), MacArthur earned himself an officer's commission at age 17. Whatever the reason, he proved he deserved it, as he went on to receive the medal of honor and a promotion to Colonel by the age of 19, earning him the nickname "The Boy Colonel". He ended up serving 47 years in the army and retiring with the rank of Lt. General, while his son Douglas would go on to command American forces during WW2 and Korea.
    • Leonitas Polk: Polk had graduated from West Point in 1827, but resigned his commission just 6 months later to become a full-time priest. Despite his minimal military experience, he was commissioned as a Major General for the Confederate Army in June of 1862.
    • Nathan Bedford Forrest: Forrest enlisted in the Cavalry at the start of the war without any formal education or prior military experience, but made it all the way to the rank of general by July of 1862, a time span of just 14 months. And even then both Lee and Jefferson Davis argued after the war that the Confederacy never did fully appreciate and make use of his talents.
    • Patrick Cleburne: Cleburne joined a Confederate militia unit as a private at the start of the war. He had little formal education, and his only prior military experience was a few years as an enlisted soldier in the British army when he was living in Ireland. But by December of 1862, he advanced all the way up to the rank of Major General and was given command of a division. Cleburne's division quickly became of the most feared and respect units in the entire Western theater of operations, and he earned the nickname "Stonewall of the West" before his death leading an ill-fated assault at the battle of Franklin in 1864.
  • 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. Three examples among many:
    • John Pope was universally despised while commanding the Union Army of Virginia. His own soldiers resented his endless boasting (his introductory address bragged about his service in Missouri, “where we have always seen the backs of our enemies”), the Confederates his tactics which loosely prefigured Sherman’s ‘total war’ measures. Alpheus Williams, one of Pope’s division commanders, wrote that “he had not a friend in his command from the smallest drummer boy to the highest general officer.” Even Robert E. Lee, who treated most Union commanders as Worthy Opponents, hated Pope, called him a miscreant, and demanded that Stonewall Jackson “suppress him.”
    • As mentioned elsewhere, Braxton Bragg had a similar reputation among the Confederacy. His generals despised him and his infantrymen were barely friendlier. Jefferson Davis was just about his only friend, but that was enough to keep him in command of the Army of Tennessee for almost two years.
    • 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.
    • George McClellan was exemplary in organizing and training armies for the Union, as well as directing multiple Union armies across separated theatres. Had he stayed in Washington to handle those tasks exclusively, McClellan would have gone down in history as a factor for Union victory. He wanted to fight, though, at which he proved infuriatingly insubordinate to President Lincoln.
    • 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.
  • Political Correctness Gone Mad: This played a major role in the Union loss at the Battle of the Crater. Several regiments of black troops that had been training for the battle for weeks were originally going to lead the attack, but they were reassigned to reserve roles at the last second. Generals Meade and Grant later stated the decision was made to take them out of the lead role on grounds that if the plan failed and heavy casualties were taken , they would be accused of using black troops as cannon fodder. This was quite ironic, as the plan did fail and the black regiments did suffer heavy casualties, in large part because they had been taken out of the lead role and replaced by troops who were not specially trained for the battle and led by an incompetent division commander.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Several noteworthy ones.
    • 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 first 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 composed entirely of Southerners who had remained loyal to the Union.
  • Prison Escape Artist: Confederate General John Hunt Morgan had been captured on a daring raid into Ohio in 1863, and while incarcerated in Columbus, that very same daring and boldness would earn him his freedom from the Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus. Aided by six of his officers, most notably Thomas Hines, Morgan led a successful effort to dig a tunnel beneath the prison. This method was chosen after Hines deduced the dry prison floor and lack of mold meant that tunneling under it would be feasible. (there was an air chamber under the cells) On November 26, 1863, Morgan and his six officers used the tunnel to escape the cells and access the prison yard, where they used a rope made from bed coverings and a bent poker iron to scale the prison's outer wall. From there, the men split up and went their separate ways, with Morgan and Hines stowing away on a train bound for Cincinnati and then jumping off before it pulled into the rail depot. After hiring a skiff to take them across the Ohio river, Morgan and Hines made their way into Kentucky and with the aid of confederate sympathizers, they safely made it back into the South.
  • 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.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Many examples of this. More noteworthy ones include:
    • The Battle of Shiloh: A Union victory that killed one of the Confederacy's best generals (Albert Sydney Johnston) and defeated their most promising attempt to turn back the Federal advance into Mississippi. Still, it came at a terrible price with the Union suffering over 13,000 casualties vs roughly 10,500 Confederates. Union General Ulysses Grant, the commanding officer at Shiloh, was widely criticized for being taken by surprise and suffering heavy losses, resulting in him being temporarily relieved of command and replaced by Henry Halleck.
    • The Battle of Antietam: Union General George McClellan went into this battle with every possible advantage. He had a much larger army, he was fighting on Union soil, and he had a copy of Lee's entire battle plan found by Union troops a few days earlier. While the Union did achieve a strategic victory, with Lee driven out of Maryland and losing more than a quarter of his army, poor co-ordination and a lack of aggression on McClellan's part (less than half of his 87,000 men actually made it into combat, while Lee threw virtually every single soldier in his army into the field) not only resulted in a tactical stalemate where his army took heavier losses (12,400 including three generals: Joseph Mansfield, Israel Richardson, Isaac P. Rodman) than the Confederates (10,300 including three generals: Lawrence Branch, William Starke, and George B. Anderson) instead of the decisive win the North was seeking, but also enabled Lee's battered army to escape back into Virginia largely unhindered. Although the victory enabled Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, he was extremely disappointed with McClellen's performance and soon replaced him with Ambrose Burnside.
    • The Battle of Chancellorsville: Lee's Army of Northern Virginia won this battle despite being outnumbered by more then 2 to 1. Widely considered Lee's greatest victory, it was also his costliest. With roughly 60,000 men, Lee suffered more then 13,300 casualties, roughly 22% of his army. This included two generals, Elisha Paxton and perhaps his greatest Corps commander: Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. While the Union suffered much heavier losses (17,197 casualties and three generals: Hiram Berry, Amiel Whipple, and Edmund Kirby), this was from an army of roughly 130,000, meaning a smaller percentage of their army was lost. Furthermore, the large difference in casualties between both sides was primarily the result of several thousand Union troops taken prisoner. The number of dead and wounded on both sides was roughly even: 1,665 dead and 9,081 wounded for the South vs 1,608 dead and 9,672 wounded for North.
    • The Battle of Chickamauga: This was the Confederacy's first (and ultimately only) significant victory in the Western theater of operations, it came at a horrific price: 18,454 casualties vs 16,170 losses for the Union. This was a greater loss of men for the South then in any other battle of the war other then Gettysburg. The heavy loss of men played a significant factor in Confederate General Braxton Bragg's controversial decision not to aggressively pursue the retreating Union army after it left the field, enabling it to take up a strong defensive position in the city of Chattanooga and forcing Bragg to attempt to finish it off through siege rather then direct assault.
  • 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 resigning their commissions and joining the Confederacy.
    • Northerners who supported the Confederacy and occasionally engaged in anti-government conspiracies (which however often turned out more rhethorical bluster than a real threat) were known as "Copperheads".
  • Ragtag 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 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 (but not continuous) appearance on American coinage in 1864.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • William Tecumseh Sherman delivered an utterly scathing one to the City Council of Atlanta when they tried to call him out on not showing leniency towards innocent civilians. In it, he blamed them and people like them for starting the war, and then refusing to end it, only to hypocritically decry its horrors when they felt them themselves.
    • "You have played the part of a damned scoundrel, and are a coward, and if you were any part of a man I would slap your jaws and force you to resent it." — Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest to General Braxton Bragg after the Battle of Chickamauga. Bragg had won a great victory at Chickamauga, but had not aggressively pursued the retreating Army of the Cumberland, enabling it to escape and take up a strong defensive position in the city of Chattanooga. Forrest and many other Confederate officers blamed Bragg for passing up a chance to destroy the Army of the Cumberland while it was on the run.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Henry Wirz tried to be this in his position at Andersonville, so he stated, but Obstructive Bureaucrats in the Confederacy kept getting in his way, ultimately leading to his death at the gallows.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica:
    • Army of the Potomac commander John Pope got sent to Minnesota after an embarrassing defeat at Second Bull Run. He would play a key role in putting down an uprising by the Sioux Indian tribe in the Dakota war of 1862, but would never see any action against the Confederates for the rest of the war.
    • Lincoln once joked that he made Simon Cameron (his corruptnote  and venal first Secretary of War) Minister (Ambassador) to Russia because he “couldn’t find anyplace further to send him.”note 
    • General Lew Wallacenote  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.
    • Union General Don Carlos Buell, the commander of the Army of the Cumberland, was relieved of command for not aggressively pursuing Braxton Bragg's Confederate Army during his failed invasion attempt of Kentucky. Buell would spend the rest of the war in Kentucky until he was mustered out of service in 1864. Although he had been offered a command at the express recommendation of Grant, Buell declined it, saying that it would be degradation to serve under either William Sherman or Edward Canby because he outranked them both. In his memoirs, Grant called this "the worst excuse a soldier can make for declining service."
    • Irvin McDowell started the war commanding the Union Army at First Bull Run and ended it heading the Department of the Pacific.
    • The career of Union General William Rosecrans, one of the North's most promising and popular generals in the Western theater of operations, was ruined after he committed a costly blunder that resulted in the Army of Cumberland's defeat in the Battle of Chickamauga. Following this, he was reassigned to the Department of Missouri and would not get a combat command for the remainder of the war.
    • 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 Samuel Houston, Tennessee Senator Andrew Johnson (rewarded with selection as Lincoln’s running mate in 1864), and Generals Winfield Scott, William Terrill and George Thomas from Virginia. Union Quartermaster General Montgomery Miegs was also a Southern Unionist, having been born in Augusta, Georgia. Then there was the entire state of West Virginia, which split off from Virginia and returned to 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 
    • Admiral David Farragut was a Tennessee native who grew up in New Orleans. Yet not only did he choose to stay loyal to the Union, but he ended up leading the naval expedition to capture the city of New Orleans in 1862.
  • Religious Bruiser: Abolitionists were often very much like this. “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord” and all that jazz. Many generals and troops on both sides would also count, given the time period, with Stonewall Jackson, a raging example of The Fundamentalist, being perhaps the most iconic.
  • Remixed Level: Second Bull Run/Manassas and The Wilderness fought in the woods near Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg. Also, Yorktown, 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 (e.g. Jesse James and his gang) rather than disbanding. Others transformed into terrorists such as the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups that played a huge role in disenfranchising African-Americans.
    • 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.
      • The crew of that ship only gave up the fight when they had reliable newspaper reports of the Confederate defeat and then surrendered in a British port after being chased half way around the world by the American Navy. They were quite justifiably afraid that the US would have all of them hung as pirates.
    • As mentioned above, groups of Confederates and their families fled to Brazil, where slavery remained legal until 1888, after the war in the hopes of establishing an enclave for fellow exiles and new slave plantations. Their descendants still live there today as the Confederados.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: During the 1864 Siege of Petersburg, Union Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlin, famous for leading a heroic stand at Gettysburg, was severely wounded when a bullet passed through both hips and tore through his groin. Doctors predicted his wound was fatal, and he was "posthumously" promoted to Brigadier General. Newspapers in his home state of Maine ran obituaries about his supposed death. The doctor's diagnosis turned out to be accurate, but the predicted timing was not. Chamberlin did die from his wound, but not for another 50 years, in 1914. He was the last recorded civil war veteran to die from battle wounds.
  • Retired Badass: Seventy-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. Amazingly, Burns survived his battle wounds and lived until 1872.
    • 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.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized:
    • The Confederates saw themselves as underdog rebels fighting for "State's Rights". This is odd since their leadership were wealthy slaveowning elites, their casus belli was the preservation and extension of slavery, and their rebellion was triggered by their defeat in fair and square democratic elections.
    • The Abolitionists did not shy away from violence, evidenced by the actions of John Brown's rebellion which preceded the Civil War, and the work of other free soil and abolitionist activists in Missouri. The Jayhawkers raided and sacked Osceola, burning the town to the ground and executing 17 people. In fairness, this was in retaliation to the Border Ruffians, the casualties were far lower than the retaliatory raids by William Quantrill and "Bloody Bill" Anderson.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: When the enemy was within their range that is. Whenever enemy armies got into close range, it was much better to have six shots then one. Though generally limited to officers and senior NCOs in the infantry, revolvers were extensively used by Cavalry troops, who put them to good use.
  • 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 six 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.
    • U.S. 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.
    • The Confederacy attempted to do this to the Union as well. During the war, Confederate counterfeiting became such a problem that the United States created the Secret Service to combat it. Their job of protecting the President only came about later. That’s why the President’s bodyguards, to this day, investigate counterfeiting as part of the Treasury Department.
  • 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, its 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 was rocks!
  • Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: The war can be seen in these terms, with the Union representing the Enlightenment and the Confederacy representing Romanticism. This is reflected in fictional works about the Civil War. Works sympathetic to the Confederate side tend to have a Romanticist outlook, portraying a Southern Arcadia crushed under the heel of the soulless, industrialized army from the North. Conversely, works sympathetic to the Union side emphasize Enlightenment values like equal rights for all. Mark Twain (a Missourian of Southern slaveholding extraction — his father was a Virginian and his mother was from Kentucky — who had nevertheless been an Abolitionist, despite having served for two weeks in a local Confederate unit) actually blamed the Romantic movement in general, and Walter Scott in particular, for the Civil War, saying, “It was Sir Walter that made every gentleman in the South a Major or a Colonel, or a General or a Judge, before the war; and it was he, also, that made these gentlemen value these bogus decorations. For it was he that created rank and caste down there, and also reverence for rank and caste, and pride and pleasure in them.”
  • 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 thirty-three times.
  • Sad Clown: Lincoln used humor to hide his anxieties. This led people to believe he was insensitive.
    “I laugh because I must not weep.”
  • Samus Is a Girl: Albert Cashiernote  . 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.
    • Fitz-John Porter, commander of the Union V Corps, was arrested and cashiered for failing to attack Confederate troops at Second Bull Run. The charges were dubious,note  but Porter was a favorite of George McClellan and easily scapegoated after that general fell from favor. Confederate General Edward Alexander later said Porter was considered a fine officer by the Confederates who knew him and that his dismissal from the army was "one of the best fruits of their victory" after the battle. Porter was finally exonerated and reinstated to the Army in 1886.
    • Ambrose Burnside was horribly discredited for the Union debacle at the Battle of the Crater. Although an investigation showed that George Meade was actually to blame, the exoneration came too late to save Burnside from early retirement as his military career was already ruined at that point.
  • 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 or even freeborn 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 niggers” 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 Nigger 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 twenty slaves were exempt from Southern military service (or, if they so desired, their overseer could be exempt) so that their families would not be defenseless against slave revolt. This caused considerable resentment in the South.
    • Despite this, there were a few black Confederate soldiers. Debate on how many goes on, and in all likelihood it was less than one percent of the total Confederate military, but they did exist. Nathan Bedford Forest had a group of forty former slaves that rode with him, whom he freed halfway through the war after promising to do just that if they fought with him. Most stayed with him even after being manumitted. The vast majority of black men served as support staff rather than actual combat troops, but there are a number of Union accounts of black men fighting with the Confederacy, with Frederick Douglass complaining that Lincoln should enlist black men as well. “Why should a good cause be less wisely conducted?” he complained. Some of these black men were forced to fight by their masters, while some fought willingly. As odd as it seems, there were free blacks in the South prior to the 13th Amendment, but life in a racist society must have been difficult for them. Officially, the Confederate Army banned blacks from serving the in army until the final month of the war, despite pleas from some generals, such as Patrick Cleburne, to drop the ban sooner.
  • Schizo Tech: Both sides, but especially the Confederates, had 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.
  • The Scourge of God: From Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address:
    “…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.
  • 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’ — whereupon 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 the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: The day before the 1864 Battle of Franklin, Union General George Wagner deployed his division South of the main defensive line, as a result of misinterpreting his orders. Realizing the absurdity of deploying his men in such an exposed and isolated position, one of his brigade commanders, Colonel Emerson Opdyke refused to obey the deployment order, instead taking his men back behind the main Union line to serve as a reserve force. Wagner's division was cut off and slaughtered during the battle, accounting for the bulk of Union casualties, while Opdyke's brigade played a key role in repulsing the Confederate assault on the center of the line and turning what was nearly a defeat into one the Union's most decisive victories in the Western theater of operations. Wagner would be relived of his command after the battle, while Opdyke would receive a promotion to General.
  • 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 A.W.O.L. 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 word 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.
    • The state of West Virginia. It separated itself off the state of Virginia due to the slavery question, declared itself independent and joined the Union. The state motto is Montani semper liberi (The Mountaineers - Always Free).
  • Sedgwick Speech: Trope Namer, from General John Sedgwick's death at Spotsylvania.
  • Shocking Defeat Legacy: The fall of Vicksburg and consequent division of the Confederacy into two parts.
    • The entire war, for some Southerners.
    • And the failure of Reconstruction for African Americans.
  • The Siege: the fate of Vicksburg, which was too strong and too well fortified for Grant to take it in a direct assault. After a winter of trying to figure out how best to approach the city, Grant finally figured out a roundabout route and parked his army outside Vicksburg. Several assaults were tried but failed, and so he kept his troops busy digging entrenchments while the food ran out inside the city. The commander had expected Joe Johnston to come to his aid, but Johnston considered the attempt to be futile and would not risk his army. It got to the point that Confederates and Union soldiers would talk across the lines, and even exchange tobacco and coffee.
    • There's also the less well known Siege of Port Hudson, Louisiana. It started four days after the Siege of Vicksburg and ended on July 9, 1863 (five days after Vicksburg ended). It's the longest siege in US military history, by one day. After Franklin Gardner surrendered to Nathaniel Banks the Union controlled the entire Mississippi River and the Confederacy was effectively cut in two.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: On the Union side, Generals Meade and Hancock were well-known for their colorful language. Meade was famous for his short temper, while Hancock, otherwise a model soldier, often shocked his subordinates by swearing a blue streak when agitated. Daniel H. Hill was their Confederate equivalent; he lost several commands in part because his foul language irritated his superiors.
  • 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.
    • George McClellan reportedly spent the Battle of Malvern Hill lunching aboard a steamship at Harrison’s Landing, miles away from the battlefield. Fortunately for the Union, the battle was one-sided enough that this didn’t affect the outcome.
    • 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.
  • Sniper Rifle: The Civil War was the first war to feature guns with telescopic gun sights, giving rise to the first true modern snipers. The most popular sniper rifle on the Confederate side was the muzzle loading Whitworth Rifle. For the Union, it was the beech loading Sharps rifle.
  • 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.”
    Sherman: We cannot change the hearts of these people of the South, but we can make war so terrible and make them so sick of war that generations will pass away before they again appeal to 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 clearheaded 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.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": While "U.S. civil War" is the official title, several other names have also been attached: "The War Between The States", "The Second American Revolution", and in Southern apologia "The War of Northern Aggression". A snarkier term of "The Late Unpleasantness" persevered into the late 20th century.
  • Starting a New Life: Many veterans had to do this after the war, especially career soldiers who had joined the Confederacy, since they were no longer welcome in the US Army (nor were they particularly eager to join their former enemies). Robert E. Lee became president of Washington College. John Bell Hood ran an insurance business.
  • 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.
    • In fact, the U.S. Constitution makes 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, D.C. and the entire U.S. 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 and Abraham Lincoln were the two bona fide 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. (This 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 abolished slavery wholesale in 1833. And then there was the small fact that any British participation would rely heavily on using Canada as a base of operations...but the actual Canadians were overwhelmingly pro-Union, for reasons of abolitionism, economics (Canadian trade with the Union was big business), and (by this point) a degree of cultural affinity. It was distinctly possible that in the event of a British intervention, the Canadians would rebel against Britain. All told, it was much, much cheaper for British firms simply to invest in developing (pre-existing) Anglo-Indian and -Egyptian plantations.
    • Only just thwarted. The Union’s threats of war against anyone helping the Confederacy were considered bluster to the British Empire, who nonetheless were extremely dependent on Southern cotton, to the extent that British newspaper headlines asked for their country to end the Southern blockade. It also didn’t help that the Union began seizing British ships and forcing them to serve in the U.S. Navy, nor did the British approve of the Union imprisoning Confederate diplomats meant for Europe. Before news of Antietam reached Europe, Confederate diplomats in Britain were informed through the Prime Minister’s son-in-law that they were very close to getting what they wanted.
    • Many Confederate warships were constructed in Britain, however, and sold to the Confederate navy via loopholes in international trade law: the shipyards were private firms, who could do business with whomever they pleased, or at least that's what HM Government said. The commerce raider CSS Alabama is the most notorious example. The U.S. 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 abolitionist as the British,note  they didn’t much support slavery 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 and Napoleon III would only have entered the war to carve up territory in Mexico, which informed his famous defeat in Mexico. 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. Bismarck, incidentally, was entirely pro-Union and an admirer of Lincoln.
    • 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 (although the Holy Alliance had collapsed shortly before the war, not to be restored until after German unification in 1871, the opportunity to attack France would have been too tempting) 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 was 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. That said, the importance of the skillful and assiduous diplomacy of the Union (and particularly that of U.S. Minister to Britain Charles Francis Adamsnote ) and of the relatively fumbling diplomacy of the Confederacy (who often assumed that their hand was much stronger than it really was) should not be downplayed.
  • Take a Third Option: During the Texas legislature’s debate on secession, when unionist governor Sam Houston saw that secession was inevitable he advocated that Texas should return to being an independent republic in order to avoid destruction as part of the Confederacy.
    • Similarly, Kentucky tried to declare itself neutral in the conflict, but both sides quickly invaded the state, rendering it moot.
  • 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 and Southern regiments had animal mascots. The North as a whole had Old Abe, the bald eagle.
  • Tempting Fate: The very first time that John Sedgwick uttered his famous line, nothing happened to him. It was the second time he said it that his luck ran out.
    • Union Gen. Joseph Hooker before the Battle of Chancellorsville optimistically predicted he would annihilate Lee's Army of Northern Virginia: "May God have mercy on General Lee, for I will have none." Lincoln himself warned him not to be so cocky - "The hen is the wisest of all the animal creation, because she never cackles until after the egg is laid." Sure enough, Chancellorsville turned out to be one of the Union's most crushing defeats.
  • 10-Minute Retirement:
    • After Confederate president Jefferson Davis replaced Army of Tennessee commander Joseph Johnston with John Bell Hood in July of 1864, Johnston moved to South Carolina and went into retirement. However, this would only last until February of 1865, when the deteriorating war situation, pressure from Congress, and a recommendation from Robert Lee forced Davis to reinstate him. Johnston actually ended up in command of the entire Western theater of operations, a position higher then his previous posting before being replaced, though at this point there was very little he could do to salvage the sinking Confederate war effort.
  • Theme Music Power-Up: Music played a major role in the The American Civil War, not just in war camps and on marches, but also on the battlefields. Bands from both sides would often play patriotic songs during battle to inspire or rally their troops. Confederate General Robert E. Lee once said without music, there would be no army.
  • 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 “O Tannenbaum.” The tune would later be used for the British left-wing folk song “The Red Flag” (which is, among other things, the official song of the Labour Party).
    • Many folk tunes and sports chants around the world are sung to the tune of “Marching through Georgia”; one of the most famous is the Georgistnote  anthem "The Land", which in Britain became the official song of the Liberal Party (and then its successor the Liberal Democrats).
  • Ultimate Job Security: Ben Butler. Never a great 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.
    • In addition to surviving numerous battle wounds throughout the war, Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest survived a murder attempt by one of his own officers, Lieutenant A. Willis Gould, who shot Forrest in a fit of rage during a dispute over a transfer order. Forrest survived by grabbing the gun with one hand, pulling out a folding knife with the other, opening it with his teeth, and then fatally stabbing Gould.
  • 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 ten states during the 1860 election.
    • It may be worth making the point that at the time the Electoral College was not yet the rubber stamp to the popular vote that it has since effectively become. Voters in most states did not vote directly for a specific person for president, instead voting for electors who were pledged to support that candidate when the time came for the Electoral College to elect the President for real. In many states, anti-Lincoln sentiment was so high that no one would willingly pledge their support to him, so there were no Lincoln-pledged electors on the ballots.
  • Unsportsmanlike Gloating:
    • After Sherman's troops captured the city of Milledgeville (The capital of Georgia at the time), they stormed into the capitol building and held a mock "legislative session", where they declared secession illegal and jokingly re-admitted the state back into the Union. Then they spent the night cooking their food around giant bonfires made from stacks of Confederate money.
    • Grant's men began cheering after Lee's surrender at Appomattox, only for Grant to stop them.
    The war is over, the Rebels are our countrymen again, and the best sign of rejoicing after the victory will be to abstain from all demonstrations in the field.
  • 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 Union's main motivation was that it will not tolerate rebels seceding just because they lost an election fair and square. 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 desk for a couple of months until a major victory (Antietam) gave him the confidence to announce it. Some ideas considered by Lincoln included sending ex-slaves and colonizing them to Africa, supporting the rights of border states to hold slaves, proposing compensation for the slaveowners. It was only towards the end, the passage of the 13th Amendment, that abolition triumphed.
    • Slavery was fundamental to the economy and policies of the South. The Republican Party's main platform was opposing the extension of slavery into new territories and new states, with only the radical wing comprising of hardcore abolitionists and anti-racists. The Republicans styled themselves the champions of free soil and free labor, securing the opportunity of every able-bodied free worker to get a fair wage which was not possible in a slave-owning society, with unpaid labour with no regulation and terrible working conditions. Like many immoral practises, slavery hinders overall development of economy and society, and there are pragmatic and rational reasons to oppose it.
    • The Emancipation Proclamation was also welcomed by the Union as payback since the South were attacking and assaulting the North with impunity, and the Unionists felt it made zero sense for the South to dictate terms of engagement and play the aggressor while suffering no consequences in return. As a war measure, abolition crippled the Southern economy since slaves had an interest to fight with the North, and globally, it killed any chance for international recognition from Britain and Napoleon III's France.
    • Lincoln himself ultimately subverted this. While he’s famous for saying he preferred “saving the Union” to 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 Northern black leaders, 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 one of the few white people to treat him as a respected equal, with none of the condescending superiority that characterized even the staunchest white abolitionists’ interactions with black people.note  Towards the end, Lincoln even voiced tenative support for African-American suffrage, at least for
  • Victory Pose: After the Confederate Capitol of Richmond fell, Abraham Lincoln visited the city and sat at Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ 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 U.S. 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.
    • 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.”
  • Violence Really Is the Answer: The Quaker religion is a pacifist Christian religious sect. George Fox, the founder of the Quaker faith, once said "We utterly deny all outward wars and strife and fighting with outward weapons for any end or under any pretence whatever; this is our testimony to the whole world." Yet during the war, thousands of Quakers volunteered for military service in the Union, some swept up by the patriotic fervor gripping the nation, and some on grounds that the evil of slavery was a greater sin than war (The Quaker sect was deeply committed to abolitionism). A Quaker minister, in a eulogy delivered at the funeral of a fallen Quaker soldier, stated the sentiment felt by many of his faith: "To make war in his country forever impossible, by eradicating human slavery, its permanent cause, he took up arms. There seemed no other way of doing it. He would thankfully have used other means, had other means been permitted... You need not be afraid of shocking your principles by receiving him here from battle ... . Do we hate war less in these days than formerly? Nay, Friends, we hate it, if possible, a thousand times more, when we see them, father and son, doing such deeds as this."
  • 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 U.S. 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’s end. Note that virtually all ‘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. Fifteen thousand extras, all with completely authentic reproductions (or, occasionally, actual relics) of uniforms, equipment and weapons, all supplied by the reenactors themselves. 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 U.S. on vacation to re-enact someone else’s history. It makes more sense when you consider 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). A better-documented example is the state of Florida refusing to supply Georgia with unused railway equipment, that Georgia sorely needed, escalating to the Governor of Florida calling out his militia to resist by force of arms any attempt by Georgia to appropriate the equipment.
    • It is arguable that the Confederacy would have eventually fallen apart even if it had 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.
    • Though it remained in the Union, the state of Maryland presented a very significant problem for the North. Maryland was a slave state and less than 2% of the population had voted for Lincoln in 1860. As such, it was rife with pro-confederate sympathy and its close proximity to the capitol made it a significant threat. Lincoln had to sneak through Baltimore in the middle of the night on his way to Washington in February of 1861 in response to a suspected murder plot. During the war, Lincoln often resorted to harsh anti-democratic measures to stamp out any threat of secession, such as suspending the Writ of Habeas Corpus, shutting down several newspapers critical of the war, and jailing several prominent Maryland politicians, most notably the mayor of Baltimore. This would be him into conflict with Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney, a Maryland native. All throughout the early years of the war, Maryland would see a series of violent clashes between Unionists and Confederate sympathizers, as well as a few with federal troops. In 1865 Lincoln would die at the hands of a Maryland man, John Booth.
  • 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 exchanges:note  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 people that if they went to America, they would probably become 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.
      • Grant and Sherman used same strategy of go around the enemy instead of through them. Sherman, while advaning on Atlanta, could do this. Grant, during the Overland Campaign, did this too but The Army of the Potomac took far higer casualties because there wasn't enough ground to work with and the Union Army continually ran straight into the retreating Army of Northern Virginia.
  • "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) now 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. The result would eventually be generations of African Americans dominated under despicable racist tyranny until the Civil Rights Movement began to fight it seriously in the 20th century.
  • Where Da White Women At?: A staple of racist propaganda during the war from both Northern Democrats and 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.
  • White 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.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: The Confederate Army had a general named States Rights Gist. Yes, the side that claimed to be fighting for the cause of states rights (among others) actually had a guy named States Rights.
  • Who's Laughing Now?: It was not uncommon for contraband slaves 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:
    “Sherman’s dashing Yankee boys will never reach the coast!”
    So the saucy rebels said and ’twas a handsome boast
    Had they not forgot, alas! to reckon with the Host
    While we were marching through Georgia.
    • Played completely straight in the Fair for Its Day Northern song Kingdom Coming from 1862, which takes the perspective of slaves in the Confederacy as the Union forces advance:
    "De massa run, ha, ha! De darkeys stay, ho, ho!
    It mus' be now de kingdom coming, an' de year ob jubilo!"
  • Winter Warfare: The Battle of Stones River (known to the South as the Second Battle of Murfreesboro), which was fought from December 31, 1862, to January 2, 1863, is the scariest instance of a winter battle in the Civil War. It was also one of the bloodiest battles of the entire war, even though, as a battle in the Western theater commanded by not terribly famous generals, it is largely forgotten except among Civil War buffs and Tenneseeans. In the end it was a narrow Union victory, but both Confederate general Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee (losing 11,700 out of 35,000) and Union general William S. Rosecrans' Army of the Cumberland (13,000 out of 43,500) suffered appalling losses.
  • 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.
  • 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 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/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 flew slowly enough to collect 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, and were 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.
    • American doctors and nurses from that time period get an undeservedly bad reputation. Yes, they were working with limited knowledge. However, a soldier with a serious but non-fatal wound who got prompt medical care had about an 80% chance of survival. They didn't have access to antibiotics (Penicillin wasn't widely available until well after WWII, and that's the first one) and did the best they could. While still Nightmare Fuel, the aid those doctors and nurses gave was the best any army up to that time ever had.
  • Worthy Opponent: Blue and Grey often thought each other this.
    • 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 1*940s, 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 Wikipedia: “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, 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.
    • Oddly enough, Jefferson Davis came to feel this way about Abraham Lincoln. After hearing of Lincoln’s assassination, Davis wrote, “The news was to me very sad, for I felt that Mr. Johnson was a malignant man, and without the power of generosity which I believe Mr. Lincoln possessed.”
  • Written by the Winners: The “Lost Cause,” was a great aversion i.e. if you see the South as the real losers rather than the African-American community who were briefly enfranchised and empowered after the Reconstruction only for significant ground to be given over to the unreconstructed south. Most movies depicting the Civil War are rarely pro-Union, with Glory and Lincoln being solid exceptions, with the theme of "Reconciliation" triumphing over atonement for slavery. As a result of recycling Dead Horse Trope and Small Reference Pools, film-makers reinforced tropes and images from these films:
    The “Lost Cause” is clearly bollocks, but trying to recover an unequivocally pro-Union, pro-Emancipation, pro-Northern view of the war may be itself a lost cause.
  • 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.
    “That was sloosh. They ate a lot of that.” — Shelby Foote
  • You Shall Not Pass!:
    • At the battle of Shiloh, divisions of William Hervey Wallace and Benjamin Prentiss put up a fierce defense against repeated Confederate assaults as the rest of the Union Army retreated into a final defensive line. After 6 hours of fighting, both of their divisions were shattered and surrounded on all sides. Wallace was wounded leading an attempt to breakout and died three days later, while Prentiss was forced to surrender the remaining 2,200 men. Still they had held up the entire Confederate army for nearly 6 hours, enabling the rest of the Federal forces to form a solid defensive line behind them. Confederates would name the area "The Hornet's nest" due to the Union's formidable defensive effort.
    • The roughly 400 men of the 2nd Georgia at Antietam. They held up 12,000 Union soldiers at Burnside’s Bridge for about three 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 breech-loading Sharps Carbines held off Confederate forces that would soon number 20,000 — buying time for General Reynolds to arrive with the First Corps to take position.
      • Arguably the entire history of the Army of Northern Virginia was one huge You Shall Not Pass!.
    • Colonel Joshua Chamberlain's 20th Maine regiment held Little Round Top Hill against numerous Confederate assaults at the Battle of Gettysburg, eventually driving them away with a bayonet charge after the troops ran low on ammunition.
    • At the Battle of Chickamauga, Union General George Henry Thomas' corps held their position against massive Confederate assaults even as the rest of the Union line collapsed all around them. Their stubborn defense against overwhelming odds prevented the Federal retreat from turning into a panicked rout and earned Thomas the nickname "Rock of Chickamauga".
      • The most notable aspect of this stand was the 21st Ohio Regiment's defense of Snodgrass Hill. Armed with 5-shot Colt revolving rifles, the 21st Ohio used their superior firepower to hold off wave after wave of Confederate assaults. Confederate troops taken prisoner by the 21st were stunned when they realized they had been fighting only a single regiment, most of them thinking they were fighting an entire division. Eventually the unit ran out of ammunition, having fired more then 43,000 rounds, and it was ordered to make a bayonet charge with just 1 round per man, which ultimately failed. Still, they held their position until nightfall and then retreated under the cover of darkness. Of the 560 defenders on Snodgrass Hill, 265 were killed, wounded, or captured. This including the commanding officer, Lt. Colonel D. M. Stoughton, who was wounded and died a few months later, and the executive officer, Major Arnold McMahan, who was taken prisoner.
    • Confederate Lieutenant Richard Dowling at Sabine Pass, Texas, held off a sizable Union Navy squadron (carrying about 5,000 soldiers) with just forty-six men and six 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.
    • Confederate privateers might apply. Jefferson Davis issued letters of marque to private ships in an attempt to raise a supplementary navy of privateers. The Union planned to treat such men as pirates, trying to take advantage of the fact that due to the evolution of maritime law since the Napoleonic Wars the international community now frowned on privateers. However, Jefferson Davis threatened to execute one Union prisoner for every sailor from a Confederate privateer hanged, so nothing came of it. In the end there was very little privateering (the fact that blockade-running was so profitable may also have something to do with it) and the famous commerce raiders were all fully commissioned ships of the Confederate States Navy (even if e. g. few of the crew of the CSS Alabama were Americans).
  • Zerg Rush: Oh-so-regularly done, Oh-so-horribly ineffective. Some more infamous examples include the Battle of Fredricksburg (Union), the second battle of Fort Wagner (Union), Battle of Cold Harbor (Union), Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg (Confederate) and the Battle of Franklin (Confederate)

The Civil War in Fiction

    Common themes 
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 The 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 write off a fifth or a quarter of all theater screens before the production even began. As such most films about the Civil War, Confederate and Union, avoided discussing slavery or the war's true causes. These started to fade after teh 100th anniversary of the war (the 1960s), but can still be found.

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 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 U.S. Army’s soldiers in every way. They are braver, cleverer, nobler, and just more tragic. Battles where the Union 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 episode.
  • Union 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.
  • ‘Race’ theory and slavery are seldom, if ever, mentioned. If slaves are involved in the plot 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 definitely not about 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 miniseries North and South)!
  • Ulysses S. Grant is often smeared with the number of victims in battles under his command as well as his drinking vastly exaggerated. Modern historians have a more positive view of him, but cultural depictions have not yet caught on. Abraham Lincoln on the other hand is almost never portrayed entirely negatively even in the most Southern apologist works.

    Works that are set in this time period 

Anime & Manga

Comic Books

  • The French-Belgian comic book series Les Tuniques Bleues follows two Union cavalrymen, one of which thinks War Is Glorious and the other War Is Hell (the series unapologetically leans towards the latter).
  • The spinoff prequel series to Blueberry, recounts his adventures in the Civil War.
  • 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.
  • While the series is set many years after the war, it remains a recurring plot point in Tex Willer, as stories set in the Eastern US are sometimes linked to the consequences of the war, up to include a former Confederate general setting up a regiment in preparation to restart the war.
    • During the war, Tex served in the Union armed forces, fighting in the Battle of Glorieta Pass (where he took part in the destruction of the Confederate supply train that decided that campaign) and later serving as a scout for the Army of the Potomac.
  • There's two Italian Disney Ducks Comic Universe stories set in this period, "Donald and the Wind of the South" (an Affectionate Parody of Gone with the Wind) and "Donald Duck, Hero of Duckburg" a Whole Episode Flashback where Donald tells his nephews of how his great-grandfather (after which he was apparently named) had a decisive role in liberating Duckburg from the Confederates (heavily damaging Fort Duckburg in the process), for which he was decorated with the Medal of Honor. Fittingly for the family issues of this war, Gilles Maurice's Duck Family Tree lists the Hero of Duckburg as a cousin of the Confederate-aligned Donald Butler from "Wind of the South", the latter's mother being the sister of the former's father.
  • The protagonist of the Italian comic Lilith travels through time to prevent an apocalyptic future by destroying a parasyte before the first bearer of any contagion line can infect others, killing them in the process, and one of the first hosts happened to be "Bloody Bill" Anderson, chief of a Jayhawker band allied with Quantrill's Raiders. She found him at the Lawrence massacre... And then she annihilated Quantrill's Raiders.

Fan Works

  • Strange Times Are Upon Us has a Klingon Defense Force battlecruiser and two Breen battlecruisers Time Travel to 1859 and land in Pennsylvania (causing the Carrington Event in the process). While the coming war is not mentioned directly, the crew brushes up against the Southern slavery at the heart of it: Ba'wov and K'Gan encounter a local black man involved with the Underground Railroad (who mistakes them for escaped slaves), and Meromi Riyal kills two slave hunters tracking his escortees, much to her CO Brokosh's annoyance.


  • 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.
    • Uncle Remus and the white plantation owner interact with each other as if they were old friends, but their ages and histories make it all-but-certain that she (or at least her immediate family) owned him in the not-too-distant past.
  • 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 protagonist 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).
  • The Conspirator: About the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the trial of the conspirators, chiefly Mary Surratt.
  • 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. An extremely faithful adaptation of the novel The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara.
    • The prequel novel Gods and Generals (by Shaara's son Jeff) was also adapted into a movie (with the same name), and takes the audience from the beginning of the war to the battle of Chancellorsville. It wasn’t as well-received, partly because of the liberties it took with history in order to present Stonewall Jackson as progressive (for a Confederate) on racial matters.note  It also very much tries to gloss over the importance the slavery question had in parts of the Northnote , partly by dint of leaving out the battle of Antietam (which also avoids having to show Jackson fighting in a battle his army lost) and the Emancipation Proclamation.
  • 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 more gallant and skillful than 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 (an expy of Benjamin Grierson, an actual historical characternote ) 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 servant, 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 heartwarming moment 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 mention 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 homenote  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.
  • The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Features the Civil War taking place in the background of the action, with all three of the titular characters using the conflict to their advantage at one point or another. Blondie survives one impromptu hanging when cannon fire from a nearby battle distracts Tuco and allows him to escape. Angel Eyes eventually sets himself up as a minor Union officer running a brutal prison camp while his maimed superior officer tries and fails to rein him in and angrily compares the place to the similar Confederate camp at Andersonville. Tuco and Blondie run into trouble when they decide to shout cheer for General Lee (they have to take a while to figure out which general’s in charge of the Union army at the moment) at an approaching column of grey-clad soldiers, only to find that they’re Northerners whose blue uniforms have been caked in dust. And both Blondie and Tuco agree to help a Union commander deliberately sabotage his own attack over a strategically-useless bridge by blowing it up. The causes of the war and the motives of its participants are not really discussed, beyond the southern township preparing to hang Tuco listing “consensual intercourse with a woman of the black race” among his crimes, and both sides have their share of sympathetic and unsympathetic characters. What impresses and disturbs the characters most (even “the Bad” in a deleted scene!) is the massive loss of life on both sides.
  • Shenandoah: Interestingly for a movie made in the sixties, neither side is displayed particularly flatteringly. It’s about a (West) Virginian who, while personally opposed to slavery, mostly just wishes both sides would just leave him, his farm, and his family alone, which unfortunately for him is not really a tenable position for someone in that time and place. The film's main character, Charlie Anderson, is often cited as an example of a modern Libertarian, with his opposition to slavery and war in general, as well as his indifference to the government (when a Confederate officer tries to recruit his sons, telling him "Virginia needs all her sons", he famously replies "That may be, but these are my sons! They don't belong to the state!"). Interestingly enough, Anderson is played by James Stewart, an Air Force general and a veteran of both the World War 2 and Vietnam.
  • The General: A Buster Keaton action-comedy about a southern train engineer who tries to become a soldier, and ends up defeating Yankee hijackers.
    • Inspired by... a real incident. The movie The Great Locomotive Chase is a decently accurate retelling of said real incident (from the Union side).
  • A Time Out of War: Oscar-winning short film in which three pickets, two Union and one Confederate, declare a truce to go fishing in the river.
  • Django Unchained is set just a couple of years before the Civil War: The title character is a former slave and the villain is the owner of a huge plantation, and a Fictional Counterpart of the Ku Klux Klan.
  • C.S.A.: 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.
  • Goodbye Uncle Tom is set just before the war.
  • The Three Stooges short “Uncivil War Birds.”
  • 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 who casts his lot 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, goes west to start a new life with his newfound 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 the reason for the portrayal of the Union as monstrous. Nope! In the original book, for instance, Wales’ compatriots surrender to the Union in exchange for amnesty without incident. In the movie, they are promised amnesty, then betrayed and massacred by the U.S. 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.
  • Hands Up! is a very silly silent comedy about a dapper Confederate spy who goes out west in hopes of wrecking a gold mine that is funding the Union war effort.
  • The Hateful 8 by Quentin Tarantino is a Western set in 1870s, nearly a decade after the Civil War. Major Charles Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) is an African-American Union Veteran. The movie generally mocks the "Lost Cause" nostalgia of its Southern character, and one character is a Confederate General who murdered African-American soldiers after they surrendered during the war.
  • In How the West Was Won the middle episode "The Civil War", directed by John Ford, depicts the battle of Shiloh, starring John Wayne as William Tecumseh Sherman and Harry Morgan as Ulysses Simpson Grant.
  • In Friendly Persuasion, a Confederate raid into southern Indiana puts the pacifist convictions of a Quaker family to the test in a sequence that constitutes a considerable Adaptation Expansion to the way the episode was treated in Jessamyn West's original book.
  • Free State of Jones: The film's starting point is the Battle of Corinth in 1862 when it was becoming clear the Confederacy's chances of victory were low. It extends into the post-war Reconstruction period as well.
  • Little Women (see Literature) was adapted into a motion picture several times.
  • A Time Out of War: A short film about Union and Confederate pickets on opposite sides of a river who declare a truce so they can do a little fishing, with unexpected consequences.


  • In The Giver, one of the memories Jonas receives seems is implied to be set in this period considering that soldiers are wearing grey uniforms and horses are running amok. Having grown up in the peaceful Community, he suffers a Heroic BSoD after witnessing the horrors of war.
  • Louisa May Alcott's Little Women is a Slice of Life drama with the war as a backdrop - the March sisters' father is away fighting for the Union.
  • Gone with the Wind: written by a Georgian and very much in the Southern heroic mode.
  • Harry Turtledove’s Alternate History novel How Few Remain was the starting point for his Timeline-191 series, now nearly a dozen books and counting and up to only the end of World War II.
    • 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 schoolteacher-turned-infantryman 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.
  • Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage, published in newspaper serial form in 1894, with the novel published in 1895.
  • Bernard Cornwell's Starbuck Chronicles.
  • Derek Robinson's novel Kentucky Blues deals with the time period 1840 - 1870, seen as the parellel tales of two feuding white families and the slaves they are forced to emancipate in 1865.
  • Part of the Back Story for Edgar Rice BurroughsJohn Carter of Mars: he had been a Confederate officer.
  • 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).
  • The last third of Foxes of Harrow by Frank Yerby.
  • Multiple books of Dear America and its spinoffs.
  • 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 (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 1863. 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 has also written 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 The Fateful Lightning (about Sherman’s March to the Sea and the Carolinas Campaign).
  • 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 and the Olympians books.
  • 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 including 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.
    • Crucially, Vicksburg still fell as in our timeline, so Abraham Lincoln appointed Grant to overall command and had him march east earlier, and while the Army of the Potomac is shattered at the Battle of Monocacy (Maryland), the subsequent Battle of Frederick ends the Army of Northern Virginia as an offensive force, and Grant is more successful than our timeline’s Meade in preventing Lee’s eventual escape.
  • Forstchen also wrote a series of 9 books called The Lost Regiment, about a Union regiment in the Civil War that gets transported in an alternate world full of civilizations from various prior time periods throughout Earth history.
  • 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.
  • Nord contre Sud (1887) by Jules Verne, a story of a personal feud in Florida in 1862 against the backdrop of the Civil War is, according to one reviewer, "a very thin streak of narrative [...] padded to almost unwieldy proportions by a quantity of remarkably inaccurate information about the rebellion". In English this little-known novel is entitled "Texar's Revenge, or, North Against South".
    • Another Verne novel, The Mysterious Island, opens in besieged Richmond towards the end of the war. The protagonists, Northerners escaping a prisoner-of-war camp, patriotically name the titular island after President Lincoln.
  • Barbara Frietchie by John Greenleaf Whittier is an 1864 poem that somewhat embellishes an apocryphal incident involving the real Barbara Fritchie in Frederick, MD, during the 1862 Maryland campaign. It was once illustrated by James Thurber.
  • A Rebel in Time by Harry Harrison is a time-travel story in which a racist colonel tries to bring Sten guns (World War 2 submachine guns of a construction simple enough to be produced with 1860s technology) to the Confederacy. He is pursued by a black time-traveller who then has to see that history stays on course despite being hampered by 1860s racial prejudices. (In case you're wondering, it was published nine years before Guns of the South).
  • Lincoln by Gore Vidal, a novel from his American Chronicles series. Begins with Lincoln's arrival in Washington after his election and ends with his assassination. The story of the Civil War is shown as seen from the national capital, but not just from the perspective of Lincoln and his collaborators, but also e. g. from that of Booth's co-conspirator David Herold.
  • Freedom by William Safire. A rather unwieldy novel that takes the reader from the beginning of the Civil War to the Emancipation Proclamation, mostly from the points of view of Lincoln, his secretary John Hay, his Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase, publicist Anna Ella Carroll, and Kentucky politician-turned-general John C. Breckinridge in 1248 pages. With an additional 190-page "Underbook" in which Safire helpfully details where he got his information, what it historical fact, and what is pure invention in every chapter.
  • Pink And Say is a tragic, beautiful story about two 15 year old Union Soldiers. It is based on the story of the author's ancestor.
  • American Girls: Addy is set during and immediately after the Civil War. Addy is a nine-year-old slave who escapes to the North with her mother. She doesn't know her birthday, so she chooses the day the Civil War ends as the day she turns ten. Her brother Sam fights for the Union in the war after his own escape.

Live-Action TV

  • North and South.
  • The Blue and the Gray (like North and South, a TV miniseries)
  • Ken Burns did one of his epic PBS Documentaries on the conflict, known simply as The Civil War. A behemoth of nine feature-length episodes (no episode under an hour, most closer to 1:10-1:15, and two over 90 minutes) originally aired in 1990, it is remembered for its detail, fairness, depth, and its music “Ashokan Farewell.” It features interviews with a large number of historians and others (the series owes a heavy debt to Shelby Foote’s The Civil War: A Narrative, and Foote is the most common interviewee) and the voices of Sam Waterston (as Lincoln), Morgan Freeman (as Frederick Douglass and other Black writers of the time), Garrison Keillor (as Walt Whitman among other Northerners), Arthur Miller (as William T. Sherman), Jeremy Irons, Derek Jacobi, Kurt Vonnegut, Laurence Fishburne, and many, many others.
  • 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 with whom he served.
  • 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 season 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 blacks could be property.’)
  • The Pinkertons is set just after the war, and several episodes deal with its aftermath. One example: in the pilot, the villains are ex-Confederate soldiers who want to avenge their fallen comrades by restarting the conflict.
  • The Outer Limits episode “Gettysburg” is a Time Travel plot which is mostly set during the Civil War, as future time traveller Nicholas Prentice sends two Confederate buffs back in time to the Battle of Gettysburg to teach them the evils of racism.
  • Mercy Street tells the story of a Union hospital in occupied Alexandria, Virginia, during the middle of the war.
  • Roots (2016): The 4th episode spends a substantial amount of time here, detailing Chicken George's service in the Union Army.
  • The Wishbone episode "A Terrified Terrier" adapts The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, with Wishbone playing Private Henry Fleming of the Union Army. Additionally, "Hot Diggity Dawg" (about Journey to the Center of the Earth) has Joe, Sam, and David dig up a medal for valor awarded to Oakdale's first mayor for service in the war.


  • 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 young dead Southern soldier (killed, most likely, 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 R.E.M.: “Hurrah. We’re all free now.”
  • “Gettysburg, 1863” by Iced Earth, a thirty-two-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.
  • The Swedish Power Metal band Civil War, a Spiritual Successor to Sabaton, takes its name from the war, commonly performs in replica Confederate and Union uniforms (former lead vocalist Nils Patrik Johansson's was based on a Union Army musician's uniform, fittingly enough), and named their first three studio albums after the Michael and Jeff Shaara novel trilogy about the war with several songs on each referencing its events.

Tabletop Games

  • The Civil War has been a fertile ground for tabletop wargames. One of the very first commercial tabletop wargames was Avalon Hill's Gettysburg. Hundreds have followed in it's wake.
  • Deadlands: Taking place in an Alternate History, the Civil War continues some fifteen 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 bloodier 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 contemporaneous letters, diaries, and firsthand accounts as well as from the words of Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and Walt Whitman.
  • The Andersonville Trial, a dramatization of the trial of Henry Wirz, in which the ultimate deciding factor in his guilt, moral obligation, is explored.

Video Games

  • Damnation is set during a Steam Punk Alternate History version that drags on into the early twentieth century, and involves a Mega-Corp that sells weapons to both sides.
  • Dealt in Lead: A very, very odd version of it.
  • 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 fifteen 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  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 Civil War Generals series is a Turn-Based Strategy game allowing the player to command either side in some of the war’s most famous battles.
  • 1866 (Game Mod for Mount & Blade) is a Wide Open Sandbox Strategy RPG set one year after its end, but it still has some elements of it:
    • 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 a Union soldier.
  • 1860's Old America (another Western-themed Mount & Blade mod, though this one requires the Updated Re-release Mount & Blade: Warband) is partially about the conflict (the worldmap being much larger than the mere American Civil War theater of operations, the game also includes the Franco-Mexican War, as well as the conquest of Indian lands). The player character can join and help one of the factions, or be a third power in the war while building his/her own empire in 19th century's America, or stay neutral while trading with both sides.
  • Sid Meier’s Gettysburg! (1997) and its sequel Sid Meier’s Antietam! (1999) are Real Time Tactics games allowing the player to command either army at any level in the respective battles or in the campaigns leading up to them. The games were noted for the incredible attention to historical accuracy and detail.
  • No Greater Glory is a Turn-Based Strategy in which you try to bring victory to either of the sides of this conflict. The key word being ‘try.’
  • Ultimate General: Gettysburg is a real-time tactics game putting the player in charge of either side for the titular battle for the singleplayer campaign. The Union are Long Range Fighters with more & better cannons and faster reloading, while the Confederacy are Close Range Combatants that are better in melee with more effective leaders and experienced troops to facilitate attacks. While the units and troop counts involved are directly taken from history, how the actual battle plays out depends on the player's showings and choices throughout the conflict.

Web Original

  • Emperor Tigerstar has a video depicting the changing front lines of the Civil War every single day.
  • Lee at the Alamo is an online Alternate History short story by Harry Turtledove with the point of divergence being in December 1860, when Gen. David E. Twiggs is unable to take command of the Department of Texas, leaving Lt.-Col. 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.-Col. 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 notes 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.


Western Animation

  • Three episodes of Histeria!
  • The Simpsons episode "The Sweetest Apu" features a reenactment of the Civil War battle of Springfield (not to be confused with the actual First and Second Battle of Springfield in Southern Missouri), a three-cornered match between the forces of the North (blue), the South (gray) and the East (orange plaid).

Alternative Title(s): American Civil War


Example of: