Portal:American Civil War

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Battle of Antietam
Union soldiers cross Burnside's Bridge over Antietam Creek

The American Civil War (1861–1865) was a bitter sectional rebellion against the United States of America by the Confederate States of America, formed of eleven southern states' governments which moved to secede from the Union after the 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States. The Union's victory was eventually achieved by leveraging advantages in population, manufacturing and logistics and through a strategic naval blockade denying the South access to the world's markets.

In many ways, the conflict's central issues – the enslavement of African-Americans, the role of constitutional federal government, and the rights of states  – are still not completely resolved. Not surprisingly, the Confederate Army's surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865 did little to change many Americans' attitudes toward the potential powers of central government. The passage of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments to the Constitution in the years immediately following the war did not change the racial prejudice prevalent among Americans of the day; and the process of Reconstruction did not heal the deeply personal wounds inflicted by four brutal years of war and more than 970,000 casualties – 3 percent of the population, including approximately 560,000 deaths. As a result, controversies affected by the war's unresolved social, political, economic and racial tensions continue to shape contemporary American thought. The causes of the war, the reasons for the outcome, and even the name of the war itself are subjects of much discussion even today.


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George Brinton McClellan (December 3, 1826 – October 29, 1885) was a major general during the American Civil War. He organized the famous Army of the Potomac and served briefly (November 1861 to March 1862) as the general-in-chief of the Union Army. Early in the war, McClellan played an important role in raising a well-trained and organized army for the Union. However, although McClellan was meticulous in his planning and preparations, these attributes may have hampered his ability to challenge aggressive opponents in a fast-moving battlefield environment. He chronically overestimated the strength of enemy units and was reluctant to apply principles of mass, frequently leaving large portions of his army unengaged at decisive points.

Although the majority of modern historians assess McClellan poorly as a battlefield general, a small but vocal faction of historians maintain that McClellan was indeed a highly capable commander, but his reputation suffered unfairly at the hands of pro-Lincoln partisans who needed a scapegoat for the Union's setbacks. Thus, his legacy defies easy categorization. After the war, Ulysses S. Grant was asked to evaluate McClellan as a general. He replied, "McClellan is to me one of the mysteries of the war."

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The state of Arkansas joined the Confederate States of America, and provided a source of troops, supplies, and military and political leaders for the fledgling country. Arkansas had become the 25th state of the United States, on June 15, 1836, entering as a slave state. Antebellum Arkansas was still a wilderness in most areas, rural and sparsely populated. As a result, it did not have early military significance when states began seceding from the Union.

During the secession crisis, but before Arkansas had seceded and before the onset of any fighting, the Federal Arsenal in Little Rock became a potential flash point. The small Federal garrison was forced to evacuate after a demand by Arkansas Governor Rector that the arsenal be turned over to state authority. At the beginning of 1861, the population of Arkansas, like several states of the Upper South, was not keen to secede on average, but they were also opposed to Federal coercion of seceded states. This was shown by the results of state convention referendum in February 1861. The referendum passed, but the majority of the delegates elected were conditional unionist in sympathy, rather than outright secessionist. This changed after the Confederacy attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina, and Abraham Lincoln called for troops to put down the rebellion. The move toward open war shifted public opinion into the secessionist camp, and Arkansas seceded from the Union on May 6, 1861. Despite its relative lack of strategic importance, the state was the scene of numerous small-scale battles during the Civil War.

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Caleb Blood Smith (April 16, 1808 – January 7, 1864) was an American journalist and politician, serving in the Cabinet of Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, he emigrated with his parents to Ohio in 1814, was educated at Cincinnati College and Miami University, studied law in Cincinnati and in Connersville, Indiana, and was admitted to the bar in 1828. He began practice at the latter place, established and edited the Sentinel in 1832, served several terms in the Indiana legislature, and was in the United States Congress in 1843–1849, having been elected as a Whig. During his congressional career, he was one of the Mexican claims commissioners. He returned to the practice of law in 1850, residing in Cincinnati and subsequently in Indianapolis. He was influential in securing the nomination of Abraham Lincoln for the presidency at the Chicago Republican National Convention in 1860.

Lincoln appointed Smith as the United States Secretary of the Interior in 1861 as a reward for his work in the presidential campaign. He was the first citizen of Indiana to hold a Presidential Cabinet position. However, Smith had little interest in the job and, with declining health, delegated most of his responsibilities to Assistant Secretary of the Interior John Palmer Usher. In 1862, he was interested in the empty seat in the United States Supreme Court vacated by John Archibald Campbell's resignation the previous year. However, Lincoln nominated David Davis for the position instead. After Smith resigned in December 1862 as the result of his discord with the Emancipation Proclamation, Usher became Secretary. Smith went home to become the United States circuit judge for Indiana. He died January 7, 1864, from his ill health. President Lincoln ordered that government buildings be draped in black for two weeks in a sign of mourning for Smith's death.

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David Dixon Porter - Mathew Brady's National Photographic Art Gallery.jpg
Credit: Mathew Brady

David Dixon Porter, who served as an admiral for the Union and later as Superintendent of the US Naval Academy

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Battle of CoffeevilleDakota Territory in the American Civil WarWyoming in the American Civil WarGeorge Yost CoffinCharles F. CollinsAndrew Wills GouldEbenezer MagoffinHenry MauryJames AshbyGeorge A.H. BlakeAlbemarle CadyHenry Boynton ClitzWilliam Watts Hart DavisBenjamin D. FearingMoses HarrisCharles A. HickmanRichard Henry JacksonJohn H. KingWilliam Raymond LeeJohn LoveFrancis LowePeter S. MichieJohn Gibson ParkhurstGeorge Washington RainsPaul Joseph RevereThomas Grimke RhettJames B. SpeersCharles S. SteedmanHenry Dwight TerryCharles Stuart TriplerJames Henry Van AlenRequested American Civil War Medal of Honor recipients
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31st Maine Infantry Regiment56th Illinois InfantryBattle of Amelia SpringsBattle of BerryvilleBattle of Blair's LandingBattle of BoonsboroughBattle of Cabin CreekBattle of Fort Sumter IIBattle of Guard HillBattle of Middle Boggy DepotBattle of Rice's StationBattle of Simmon's BluffBattle of Summit PointBattle of Yellow BayouCharleston ArsenalEdenton Bell BatteryElmira PrisonFirst Battle of DaltonSamuel BentonBlackshear PrisonOrris S. FerryEdwin ForbesHiram B. GranburyHenry Thomas HarrisonBen Hardin HelmLouis Hébert (colonel)Benjamin G. HumphreysLunsford L. LomaxMaynard CarbineDaniel RugglesThomas W. ShermanHezekiah G. SpruillSmith Percussion CarbineEdward C. WalthallConfederate States Secretary of the NavyConfederate States Secretary of the TreasuryDelaware in the American Civil WarIronclad BoardUnited States Military RailroadKansas in the American Civil WarOther American Civil War battle stubsOther American Civil War stubs

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