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Civil War Leaders and Battles

Page history last edited by Robert W. Maloy 1 year ago

external image The_Storming_of_Ft_Wagner-lithograph_by_Kurz_and_Allison_1890.jpg

Topics on this page

A. Background and Primary Sources


B. Leaders of the Civil War



C. Women and the Civil War



  • Crossdressing Women Soldiers


D. African Americans and the Civil War


  • Native Americans in the Civil War


E. Key Battles


  • Gettysburg
  • Sherman's March to the Sea
  • Other Important Battles
  • Geography and Its Impact on the War


F. Walt Whitman



Primary Sources 

  • Civil War Letters


 Civil War Music

    • Battle Cry for Freedom
    • Battle Hymn of the Republic
    • When Johnny Comes Marching Home 


  • Latinos and the Civil War


Focus Questions:


  • Who were the key Civil War leaders?


  • How did the actions of these leaders affect the course of the war?


  1. Abraham Lincoln: As the President of the United States during the Civil War, Lincoln was the commander-in-chief of the Union Army. He was known for his ability to motivate and inspire troops, and for his steadfast commitment to preserving the Union.

  2. Jefferson Davis: Davis was the President of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. He played a key role in organizing and leading the Confederate Army, and was known for his strong commitment to the cause of southern independence.

  3. Ulysses S. Grant: Grant was a Union general who played a critical role in several key battles of the war, including the capture of Vicksburg and the defeat of Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. He later became the overall commander of the Union Army and led the successful campaign to defeat the Confederacy.

  4. Robert E. Lee: Lee was a Confederate general who is widely regarded as one of the most skilled military leaders in American history. He led the Army of Northern Virginia throughout most of the war, and his tactical brilliance allowed the Confederates to achieve several key victories.

  5. William T. Sherman: Sherman was a Union general who played a critical role in the Union's victory by leading several successful campaigns, including the capture of Atlanta and his famous "March to the Sea" through Georgia. His tactics of "total war" and destruction of civilian property were controversial, but were effective in bringing the war to a close.

  6. Stonewall Jackson: Jackson was a Confederate general who played a key role in several major battles, including the First and Second Battles of Bull Run and the Battle of Chancellorsville. He was known for his aggressive tactics and his ability to inspire his troops.




external image 200px-Hebrew_timeline.svg.png  The Civil War: 150 Years--Then and Now from the National Park Service Sesquicentennial Commemoration provides a side-by-side view of events during the Civil War and modern times.


Bayonet Charge by Winslow Homer, 1862
Bayonet Charge by Winslow Homer, 1862



  • The Civil War, a short selection from the Ken Burns PBS series.



Primary Sources


  • Click here to access an archive of resources from the Association of College and Research Libraries.


  • Click here for the Confederate States of America's Constitution.




external image technology.jpgHow Technology Shaped the Civil War

At the beginning of the war, civilians were also able to watch the battle.

The emerging telegraph was used to transmit the battle to the rear. Later Sherman's overall war included civilian infrastructure and populations.



Leaders of the Civil War

external image 220px-Abraham_Lincoln_November_1863.jpg
external image 200px-Quill_and_ink.svg.pngAbraham Lincoln

16th President of the United States (1861-1865)

Responsible for Emancipation Proclamation in 1862

 Considered by historians as one of the greatest presidents in U.S. history


Objects from the Presidency: Civil War and Reconstruction from the Smithsonian gives short biographies of Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson and U. S. Grant and showcases a number of everyday objects from their lives such as Lincoln's ink stand and a trowel given to President Grant in 1870 when laying the cornerstone of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

U. S. Grant
external image 200px-Quill_and_ink.svg.pngUlysses S. Grant:

  • Started out military services as a brigadier general of volunteer in Illin
    • won battles in Tennessee at
      • 1) Fort Henry
      • 2) Fort Donelson
        • The battle at Fort Donelson was the first strategic victory for the North


  • Fought at The Battle of Shiloh, one of the bloodiest battles of the war; some called for him to be replaced, but President Lincoln stood behind him
      • lost over 23,000 men in the victory


  • Waged a campaign to capture Vicksburg, MI in 1863 with two assaults, May 19 and 22.
      • The capture gave the Union control of the Mississippi River and is considered, when coupled with Lee's defeat at Gettysburg the next day, a major turning point of the war.



Click here to read the personal memoirs of U. S. Grant.

General Orders No. 11 (December 17, 1862) were an anti-Semitic set of regulations imposed against Jewish people in Union territory under the command of General U. S. Grant.

  • President Lincoln countermanded the order on January 3, 1863.


  • Later as President, Grant deeply regretted the order and opposed a movement for a constitutional amendment making the United States a Christian nation. 


external image RobertELeephoto1863.jpg
external image 200px-Quill_and_ink.svg.pngRobert E. Lee

  • turned down the request of President Lincoln to command the Union forces; sided instead with the Confederate cause: headed up the Army of Northern Virginia, believing that loyalty to his homeland was more important, and later became the commanding general of the Confederate Army


  • was able to hold off numerically superior Union forces for years


  • eventually was ground down by Union forces led by General Grant and surrendered in 1865.


  • often seen as a symbol of the Southern war cause

Read: Can Someone Explain How Robert E. Lee became an American Icon?

Lee's home outside of Washington D.C. became Arlington National Ceremony. See here to read about how that came to be.

From Atlantic Magazine, Robert E. Lee's complicated views of slavery.

From the History Channel, a short video about Lee, and from the Smithsonian, Making Sense of Robert E. Lee.

Jefferson Davis

  • President of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War
  • Born in Kentucky but raised in Mississippi
  • Graduated from West Point
  • Served in the Black Hawk War under Zachary Taylor
  • Elected to the House of Representatives but resigned after one year to fight in the Mexican War
  • Offered a military general position but got elected to Senate instead
  • President Franklin Pierce appointed him Secretary of War
  • Returned to Senate after Pierce's term
  • Withdrew from Senate after Mississippi seceded from the Union
  • Popular with the Southerners because his dedication to the Confederate cause
  • Lost popularity with his impatient nature and because he was loyal to his incapable cabinet
  • Imprisoned for 2 years after the war
  • Traveled Europe before settling down in Mississippi
  • Mississippi tried to reelect him to Senate, but he was not eligible because he refused to be pardoned by the US gov
    • According to the Civil War Trust, Davis asked Mississippi to , “lay aside all rancor, all bitter sectional feeling, and to make your places in the ranks of those who will bring about a consummation devoutly to be wished—a reunited country.”
  • Wrote a book The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government

Click here to read and watch more about Davis.


Click here to view the papers of Jefferson Davis.

Transcript of Jefferson Davis's First Inaugural Address

Website for Civil War Biographies



Native Americans in the Civil War

See this site about Native American skirmishes and life during this time Native Americans
Civil War - Dances with Wolves


Focus Question: What were the important Civil War battles and events?


  1. Fort Sumter (April 1861): Confederate forces attacked this federal fort located in Charleston, South Carolina, marking the beginning of the Civil War.

  2. First Battle of Bull Run/Manassas (July 1861): This was the first major land battle of the war, and resulted in a Confederate victory.

  3. Battle of Antietam/Sharpsburg (September 1862): This was the bloodiest single day in American history, with over 22,000 casualties. Union forces halted a Confederate invasion of the North, and the battle is often considered a turning point in the war.

  4. Emancipation Proclamation (January 1863): President Abraham Lincoln issued this executive order, declaring all slaves in Confederate territory to be free.

  5. Battle of Gettysburg (July 1863): This was the largest and bloodiest battle of the war, with over 50,000 casualties. Union forces under General George Meade defeated Confederate forces under General Robert E. Lee, and the battle is often considered the turning point of the war in favor of the Union.

  6. Sherman's March to the Sea (November-December 1864): Union General William T. Sherman led his troops on a campaign through Georgia, destroying Confederate infrastructure and civilian property along the way.

  7. Surrender at Appomattox Court House (April 1865): Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, effectively ending the Civil War.


American Civil War infantryman
Civil War Battle Summaries by State from the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System of the National Park Service.


Bull Run. Paul Fleischman

  • The first battle of the war recreated in historical fiction from the point of view of 16 participants



 The Civil War Soldier's Experience from the Center for American Music at the University of Pittsburg.

  • This plan uses music from the composer Stephen Foster as key primary sources



Battle of Atlanta
Battle of Atlanta


external image OrteliusWorldMap.jpegInteractive Map on Military Campaigns of the Civil War

Key Battles of the Civil War

Crash Course: Battles of the Civil War


Click here to learn about the Civil War Trust's apps on the various battles in the Civil War. They include interactive maps, important moments, and videos from experts.

Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863)


22nd Regiment MA Volunteer Infantry, Battle of Gettysburg
22nd Regiment MA Volunteer Infantry, Battle of Gettysburg


Click here for a four minute recap of the battle of Gettysburg.

Click here to see if you could have won the battle of Gettysburg in this interactive game.

For more on the battle, go the Gettysburg page on the website from Ken Burns's film, The Civil War.

Battles of the American Civil War
Battles of the American Civil War

Maps for the Battle of Gettysburg from the Lincoln Archives.

Sherman's March to the Sea (1864-1865)

 Civil War for Kids: Sherman's March to the SeaLesson plan on Sherman's March

History Channel episode on Sherman's March

In Their Footsteps: Walking the Picket Line from the National Civil War Museum provides first-person accounts from soldiers' diaries.

"The Splendid Naval Triumph on the Mississippi, April 24th, 1862"
"The Splendid Naval Triumph on the Mississippi, April 24th, 1862"


Other Important Battles


Battle of Shiloh

Grant led the Battle of Shiloh, in which Albert Sidney Johnston, the highest-ranking general to die in American history, was killed in action.



First Commander-in-Chief of the Western Front in the South

Albert Sidney Johnston


Click here,The Battle of Shiloh's video


Click here,The Battle of Shiloh also involved female soldiers



Animated Map of the Battle of Fredericksburg (1862).

A clip from the movie "Glory," which shows a realistic reenactment of the Battle of Antietam.

Click here for The Roads to Antietam, a lesson plan from the Civil War Preservation Trust.

external image Red_apple.jpgThe Siege of Port Hudson: "Forty Days and Nights in the Wilderness of Death" offers teaching resources on this 1863 battle.

You're the General: Play the role of General U.S. Grant at the Battle of Shiloh in this interactive site from PBS.


Geography and Its Impact on the Civil War


LtGen. Ulysses S. Grant, 1866
Lt Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, 1866

external image 200px-Paperback_book_black_gal.svg.pngJames M. McPherson wrote a review of John Keegan's book, The American Civil War: A Military History ("Brutal Terrain," The New York Times Book Review, November 1, 2009, p. 16).

He praised Keegan for his observation that geography was "the most important of all factors that impinge on war-making" in North America.

The South began the war with many strategic geographical advantages. As McPherson commented, citing Keegan, "The Confederacy comprised 800,000 square miles, an area about the size of Spain, Italy, France, Germany and Poland combined. The Southern coastline against which the Union navy mounted a blockade was 3,500 miles long. The Appalachian mountain chain constituted a military barrier to Union invasion, while many Southern rivers also provided strong defensive positions."

Yet, the North overcame these disadvantages given the technological advantages of steam power on rivers and railroads, the mobility of Union armies under Generals Ulysses S. Grant and William Sherman, and the depletion of Southern armies over the long years of the war.

In his book Keegan, noted McPherson, gives appropriate credit to Abraham Lincoln's abilities as commander in chief, noting that as the war progressed Lincoln "abandoned altogether the conventional thought that the capture of the enemy's capital would bring victory. Instead he now correctly perceived that it was only the destruction of the South's main army that would defeat the Confederacy."


Walt Whitman and the Civil War


  • To learn about the Civil War experience of Walt Whitman, a celebrated poet and notable LGBTQ community member, and how it influenced his writing, click here.


  • To read one of his most notable works, Drum Taps, click here.


Walt Whitman biography from LGBTQA Resource Office, University of Illinois, Springfield



Civil War Resources from Twitter


  • Click here for the Twitter feed "Post Civil War: Tweeting the Civil War, in the words of the people who lived it - from journals, letters, records and newspapers."


  • Click here for an exciting way of incorporating technology in the classroom: using Twitter to understand the Civil War. It's a fun/interactive/and student-geared way of getting students to think about history.


  • Click on Civil War Reporter to read daily tweets from a fictional newspaper journalist created by the National Park Service.

Music in the Civil War


Music of the Civil War from the Kennedy Center


Battle Cry for Freedom

  • This song was composed in haste in a single day in response to President Abraham Lincoln's July 1862 call for 300,000 volunteers to fill the shrinking ranks of the Union Army. 


  • Years later, Composer-lyricist George F. Root said "From there the song went into the army, and the testimony in regard to its use in the camp and on the march, and even on the field of battle, from soldiers and officers, up to the good President himself, made me thankful that if I could not shoulder a musket in defense of my country I could serve her in this way."


Click here for information about this song and its lyrics.


Click here for a YouTube video of the song with video clips in the background.


The Battle Hymn of the Republic

  • Lyrics were written by Julia Ward Howe when she was touring Union army camps near Washington DC


  • She was touring the camp with Reverend James Freeman Clarke and her husband, Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, who was a member of President Lincoln's Military Sanitary Commission and a fervent abolitionist. 


  • During this visit, Reverend Clarke suggested that she compose new lyrics to the familiar tune "John Brown's Body"


  • The following morning, she awoke in the early dawn with the lyrics in her brain, saying to herself that "I shall lose this if I don't write it down immediately"


  • After the war, Julia Ward Howe was active in the women's suffrage movement. In 1868, she founded the New England Women's Club and was one of the founders of the New England Women's Suffrage Association. She was in much demand as a lecturer.


Click here for information about the song and its lyrics.  


Click here for a YouTube video of the song.  


When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again


  • Patrick Gilmore was a famous bandleader before the war. He served during wartime as bandmaster for the 22nd New York Regiment. Gilmore wrote this song under the name Louis Lambert.


  • The melody was similar to several well known Irish folksongs.


  • The song appealed to families on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line by offering hope that their sons and brothers and fathers would return safely from the combat. 


  • Click here for information about the song and its lyrics.


Click here for a YouTube video of the song. 


Click here for other songs written during the Civil War. 



Civil War Letters


  • Civil War Letters of Galutia York provides insights into how ordinary soldiers experienced the war using 48 letters written by a 19 -year-old Union soldier from upstate New York, written to family members between August 1862 and May 1863 when the young man died from disease.


  • Civil War 150 is the Smithsonian Institution's compilation of resources commemorating the 150th anniversary of the outbreak of the Civil War.


  • Another good general resource is an online exhibition of civil war letters from the Gilder Lehrman Institute called "I Take Up My Pen: Letters from the Civil War" that offers a alternative to the history described in most textbooks.



U.S. Latino Patriots:  From the American Revolution to Afghanistan, PewLatino

  • Latinos fought on both sides of the Civil War

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