Portal:American Civil War

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Battle of Rich Mountain
Map of the positions of Federal troops at the Battle of Rich Mountain

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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Battle of Shiloh Thulstrup.jpg
The Battle of Shiloh, also known as the Battle of Pittsburg Landing, was a major battle in the Western Theater of the American Civil War, fought on April 6 and April 7, 1862, in southwestern Tennessee. Confederate forces under Generals Albert Sidney Johnston and P.G.T. Beauregard launched a surprise attack against the Union Army of Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and came very close to defeating his army.

On the first day of battle, the Confederates struck with the intention of driving the Union defenders away from the Tennessee River and into the swamps of Owl Creek to the west, hoping to defeat Grant's Army of the Tennessee before it could link up with Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell's Army of the Ohio. The Confederate battle lines became confused during the fierce fighting, and Grant's men instead fell back in the direction of Pittsburg Landing to the northeast. A position on a slightly sunken road, nicknamed the "Hornet's Nest", defended by the men of Brig. Gens. Benjamin M. Prentiss's and W.H.L. Wallace's divisions, provided critical time for the rest of the Union line to stabilize under the protection of numerous artillery batteries. Gen. Johnston was killed during the first day's fighting, and Beauregard, his second in command, decided against assaulting the final Union position that night. Reinforcements from Gen. Buell arrived in the evening and turned the tide the next morning, when he and Grant launched a counterattack along the entire line. The Confederates were forced to retreat from the bloodiest battle in United States history up to that time, ending their hopes that they could block the Union invasion of northern Mississippi.

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Nevada began the war as a territory, but the process of achieving full statehood in was expedited by the events of war. Union sympathizers were so eager to gain statehood for Nevada that they rushed to send the entire state constitution by telegraph to the United States Congress in order to ensure its arrival before the presidential election as they did not believe that sending it by train would guarantee that it would arrive on time. The constitution was sent on October 31, just eight days before the election on November 7, 1864. The Nevada state constitution remains the largest and costliest transmission by telegraph. It had less than 40,000 inhabitants when it gained statehood (territories needed 60,000 to petition for statehood), far fewer than the initial population of any other state. President of the United States Abraham Lincoln wanted an additional Northern state that would presumably vote for his reelection, and help force pro-Northern ideas into new amendments to the United States Constitution. In total, Nevada sent 1,200 men to fight for the Union.

Nevada's main contribution to the war was the $400 million worth of silver mined from the Comstock Lode, which financed the Union Civil War effort to defeat the southern states. A common belief is that Nevada achieved early statehood due to its silver; however, as the Union already had the right to claim Nevada's silver as it held Nevada as its territory, Nevada's achieving statehood was due to political concerns, not economic.

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George Sykes (October 9, 1822 – February 8, 1880) was a career United States Army officer and a Union General during the American Civil War. Born in Dover, Delaware, he graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1842 and was commissioned as a brevet second lieutenant in the 3rd U.S. Infantry. He served in the Mexican-American War and Seminole War and was brevetted as a captain for actions at the Battle of Cerro Gordo .

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Sykes was assigned as a major in the 14th U.S. Infantry. At the First Battle of Bull Run, he commanded the Regular Infantry Battalion, a collection of eight regular army companies from different regiments, the only regulars on the field. He continued his association with regulars in the early defensive positions around Washington, D.C., and then as a division commander of regulars in the Peninsula Campaign, the 2nd Division of the V Corps.

Sykes continued as a division commander through the battles of Second Bull Run, Antietam (in reserve), and Fredericksburg. At Chancellorsville, his regulars led the advance into the Confederate rear at the start of the battle. When corps commander Maj. Gen. George G. Meade was promoted to lead the Army of the Potomac on June 28, 1863, Sykes assumed command of the V Corps. At the Battle of Gettysburg, Sykes' corps fought in support of the beleaguered III Corps on the Union left flank. In his 1st Division, the fabled defense of Little Round Top was led by brigade commander Col. Strong Vincent and the 20th Maine Infantry under Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain.

None of these battles demonstrated any aggressive or unique offensive capabilities on his part. He was known to his colleagues by the nicknames "Tardy George" and "Slow Trot" Sykes.

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Doubledayo.jpg
Credit: Unknown

A portrait of Abner Doubleday, a Union general that at one time was incorrectly credited as the inventor of baseball

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