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American Civil War

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The Blue and Gray conflict: Union states are shown in blue and the Confederates states are shown in gray. The red states are border states. They did not line up and its inhabitants formed brigades of both Union and Confederate sides.

The American Civil War is also known as the War between the States or simply the Civil War[note 1] and was an internal conflict within what is now the United States. The Civil War was fought between the northern states and the southern states that seceded forming the Confederate States. It occurred between the April 1861 and May 1865. Eleven slave states, starting with South Carolina, left the Union. They seceded from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America (known as "the Confederacy"); the other 25 states remained faithful to the federal government (know as "the Union").

The course of war

Fort Sumter

Hostilities began at 4:30 a.m. on April 12, 1861, when Confederate forces, under the command of C.S. Brig. Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard fired on Fort Sumter, in South Carolina, defended by U.S. Maj. Robert Anderson.[1] The Union forces suffered two casualties and the Confederate forces four. The other 83 Union troops surrendered.[1]

The First Battle of Bull Run (First Manassas)

On July 21, 1861 the first major battle occurred. Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell, leading 35,000 troops in his army faced a Confederate army with 24,000 troops under C.S. Brig. Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard reinforced with 8,500 troops under Gen. J. E. Johnston.[2][note 2] Johnston's troops arrived by rail on the afternoon. Three of the McDowell's brigades under Brig. Gen. Daniel Tyler would launch an attack on the stone bridge across Bull Run while one brigade under col. Israel Richardson would attack south, against troops near Blackburn's Ford and Mitchell's Ford.[2] The Union plan for enveloping the Confederate left flank called for two crossings of Bull Run.[3] Intending to turn the Confederate left McDowell advances 10,000 men from Centreville to the west and to the south to form a clamp.[4] The first attack, a secondary attack occurred at Stone Bridge against Col. Evans making the Confederate brigades of Gen. Bee and Colonel Bartow to move on there.[3] The main attack came on the Confederate left with Union troops crossing near Sudley Church. Another brigade of the Union, under the command of William Tecumseh Sherman came to cross the Bull Run north of Stone Bridge.[3] Evans opposed the Federal advance but outnumbered, retreated to Henry House Hill where they made a stand.[4] After several hours of charges and countercharges occurring the Confederates retreated from Henry House Hill, but the gen. Thomas Jackson led an attack with fresh troops and at 4 pm the Confederates put the feds to flight. [4]

The Battle of Wilson's Creek

The Battle of Wilson's Creek was fought on August 10, 1861 near the city of Springfield, Missouri. It also became known as the Battle of Oak Hills. It was the second major battle of the Civil War and the first major battle of the western theater of the war of secession.[5] Prior to the battle, Confederate troops under the command of Brig. Gen. Benjamin McCulloch's approached Brig. Gen. Nathaniel Lyon troops, who were camped in Springfield. At about 5:00 a.m. on August 10, Lyon attacked the confederates with 16 guns and some 5400 effectives.[6] Facing Lyon, McCullough had 10175 troops and 15 guns.[6] Lyon divided his forces by sending Colonel Franz Sigel (1118 men) to carry out an attack behind the Confederate forces.[5] From 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. both sides fought each other almost as equals slugging each other with a steadfast resolution.[6] Sigel attacked the Confederates at Wilson's Creek about 12 miles (19 km) southwest of Springfield. Sigel's attack yielded nothing despite its initial success. His troops were routed and contributed little in the battle and by 10 A.M. Sigel´s command was completely out of the fight. The Confederates made ​​several charges to expel Lyon from his position on the ridge but were repulsed. But, about 11 A.M. Lyon was shot in the heart on Bloody Hill becoming the first general to be killed in the war. The Confederates made ​​one last charge but had to retreat after suffering fire from the battery of DuBois. The Confederates regrouped for a new charge, but the battle was over.[6]


Stonewall Jackson is wounded at the Battle of Chancellorsville.

The Battle of Chancellorsville was fought from April 30 to May 6, 1863, in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, near the village of Chancellorsville. Chancellorsville is known as Lee's "perfect battle" because his risky decision to divide his army in the presence of a much larger enemy force resulted in a significant Confederate victory. Hooker sent a force of cavalry under the command of General George Stoneman to the Rappahannock to cross the ford and come down in Lee´s rear, but as Stoneman moved very slowly he failed to reach the river before the rains of April arrived in Virginia then he was forced to stop its movement.[7] Hooker´s main attack (about 60.000 men) crossed the Rapidan River via Germanna and Ely's Fords, and the Union infantry concentrated near Chancellorsville on April 30. Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick was in charge of the secondary attack (about 59.000 men), below Fredericksburg, labeled "a strong demonstration" trying to deceive his opponents.[8] The plan was to conduct a double envelopment, attacking Lee as much ahead as behind. As Gen. Stonewall Jackson and his staff were returning to camp on May 2, they were mistaken for a Union cavalry force by the 18th North Carolina Infantry regiment. Jackson was hit by three .57-caliber bullets at the same time: one splintered bone and tendons three inches below the left shoulder, another entered the left forearm and the third hit the right hand breaking two fingers.[9] The left arm had to be amputated and Jackson would die eight days later.


The Battle of Gettysburg was fought between July 1 and July 3, 1863, in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It was the battle with the largest number of casualties in the American Civil War[note 3] and is often described, together with Vicksburg, as the turning point of the war.[10]


  1. Other terms used by the north were "War of the Rebellion", "War for the Union", "Second American Revolution" or "War of Southern Aggression". The southerns also used "War for Southern Independence", "War of Secession" or the term, used by few Southerners, "War of Northern Aggression". The slaves used also the term "Freedom War"
  2. Strength figures vary by source. Ballard mentions 35,000 Union troops, although only about 18,000 were actually engaged and 34,000 Confederate troops, although only about 18,000 were actually engaged. Ballard mentions 22,000 troops under the Confederate Army of the Potomac and 12,000 under the Army of the Shenandoah. In: Ballard, Ted (2004). "Organization". Washington, D. C.: Center of Military History - United States Army. Retrieved 08-18-2012.  McPherson numbers for Union are 37,000 troops and for the Confederates 21,000 troops reinforced by 11,000 troops under Gen. J. E. Johnston. In: McPherson, James M, ed. (2005). The Atlas of the Civil War. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Courage Books. p. 32-33. ISBN 978-0-7624-2356-9. 
  3. Considering the 3 days of fighting. Antietam is the battle of the Civil War with the greatest number of casualties in one single day.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Greene, A. Wilson; Gallagher, Gary W (1992). National Geographic Guide to the Civil War: National Battlefield Parks. Washington, D.C.: The National Geographic Society. p. 90-93. ISBN 0-87044-878-1. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Symonds Craig L (1994). A Battlefield Atlas of the Civil War (3rd ed.). Baltimore, Maryland: The Nautical and Aviation Publishing Company of America. p. 9-13. ISBN 1-877853-25-9. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Mitchell, Joseph B (1955). Decisive Battles of the Civil War. New York: Fawcett Premier. p. 31-38. ISBN 0-449-30836-7. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 McPherson, James M, ed. (2005). The Atlas of the Civil War. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Courage Books. p. 32-33. ISBN 978-0-7624-2356-9. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Denney, Robert E (1998). The Civil War Years: A Day-byDay Chronicle. New York: Gramercy Books. p. 66. ISBN 0-517-18945-3. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Berg, Richard (May/June 1980). Dunnigan, James F. ed. "Battles in the West: Wilson´s Creek to Pea Ridge". Strategy & Tactics (New York: Simulations Publications Inc.) (80): 4-8. ISSN 0049-2310. 
  7. Williams, T. Harry (2000). Lincoln and His Generals. New York: Gramercy Books. p. 235. ISBN 0-517-16237-7. 
  8. Stackpole, Gen. Edward J (1988). Chancellorsville (2nd ed.). Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole Books. p. 93. ISBN 0-8117-2238-4. 
  9. Robertson Jr., James I (1997). Stonewall Jackson: The Man, The Soldier, The Legend. New York: MacMillan Publishing. p. 728-729. ISBN 0-02-864685-1. 
  10. Miller, William J.; Pohanka, Brian C (2000). An Ilustrated History of the Civil War: Images of an American Tragedy. Alexandria, Virginia: Time-Life Books. p. 272-290. ISBN 0-7370-3162-X.