American Civil War

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An important aspect of the war was propaganda, such as prison camp atrocity propaganda, such as alleged prison camp atrocities at Camp Sumter/the Andersonville prison. Regarding revisionist views, see Confederate revisionism: POW camps propaganda.

The American Civil War or the War Between the States (1861–1865) was a major war between the United States (the "Union") led by President Abraham Lincoln and eleven Southern states that declared that they had a right to secession and formed the Confederate States of America, led by Democrat President Jefferson Davis. The Union included all of the free states and four slaveholding border states. Regarding the causes of the war, see the article on Confederate revisionism.


Fighting commenced on 12 April 1861. During the first year, the Union assumed control of the border states and established a naval blockade as both sides raised large armies. In 1862, large, bloody battles such as Shiloh and Antietam were fought, causing massive casualties unprecedented in U.S. military history. A deadly combination of new weapons (including rifles using the Minié ball) and old battlefield tactics such as mass infantry charges led to thousands of casualties per major battle.

In the East, Confederate general Robert E. Lee assumed command of the Army of Northern Virginia and rolled up a series of victories over the Army of the Potomac, but his best general, Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson, was killed at the Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863. Lee's invasion of the North was repulsed at the Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania in July 1863; he barely managed to escape back to Virginia with his badly mauled force.

The Union Navy captured the port of New Orleans in 1862, and Ulysses S. Grant seized control of the Mississippi River by capturing Vicksburg, Mississippi in July 1863, thus splitting the Confederacy in two.

By 1864, long-term Union advantages in geography, manpower, industry, finance, political organization and transportation were overwhelming the Confederacy. Grant fought a number of bloody battles with Lee in Virginia in the summer of 1864. Lee's defensive tactics resulted in extremely high casualties for Grant's army, but Lee's army was shrinking daily due to casualties and desertions; he was forced to retreat into trenches around his capital, Richmond, Virginia. Meanwhile, General William Sherman, the leader of the Union Military Division of the Mississippi, captured Atlanta, Georgia and began his March to the Sea, during which he destroyed a hundred-mile-wide swath of Georgia. In 1865, Confederate resistance collapsed after Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House.

All slaves in the Confederacy were declared free by the Emancipation Proclamation in 1962, which stipulated that slaves in Confederate-held areas, but not in border states or in Washington, D.C., were free. Slaves in the border states and Union-controlled parts of the South were freed by state action or by the Thirteenth Amendment, although slavery effectively ended in the U.S. in the spring of 1865.

Following the war, there was a highly contentious postwar era known as the Reconstruction era.

The war produced around 1 million casualties (3 % of the population), including approximately 620,000 soldier deaths—two-thirds by disease. The war accounted for more casualties than all other U.S. wars combined. The causes of the war, the reasons for its outcome, the name of the war itself, and many other aspects are subjects of lingering controversy today. See Confederate revisionism.

See also