The Entire Civil War




Any understanding of this nation has to be based, and I mean really based, on an understanding of the Civil War. I believe that firmly. It defined us. The Revolution did what it did. Our involvement in European wars, beginning with the First World War, did what it did. But the Civil War defined us as what we are and it opened us to being what we became, good and bad things. And it is very necessary, if you are going to understand the American character in the twentieth century, to learn about this enormous catastrophe of the mid-nineteenth century. It was the crossroads of our being, and it was a hell of a crossroads.

Shelby Foote




An excellent brief retelling of the Civil War by the Civil War Trust using animated maps:


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  1. Thank you, Donald. That was an excellent video. I was awed through the whole retelling of the Civil War, and thunderstruck that 2% of the US population had died during that war, which would be 6.5 million dead today. Liberal progressive feminists would erase all memory of this horrible war, but we must remember the heroes and villains on both sides of this conflict or we are sure to repeat in a far more terrible way the bloodshed and violence which they brought on one another.

  2. Foote was right. This conflict forever changed our nation and altered its fundamental constitutional framework, for better or worse.

  3. The causalties were understated. 4% of American men died. 0% of females.

    Feminists call that “oppression of women.”

  4. One has to wonder whether the Civil War was really necessary, especially when considering the lost lives of 600,000 and unspeakable hardship. Agricultural mechanization would have rendered most slavery uneconomic. Also, the Civil War was highly profitable to some northern industrial interests. While it is probably an American heresy to say such a thing, I have to wonder if the Civil War was really necessary. Couldn’t slavery have been defeated in another way. And beyond that defeating slavery is not worth the lives of 600,000, nor was it against the faith of the Catholic Church. Just sayin’

  5. “Couldn’t slavery have been defeated in another way.”

    Unlikely in the extreme based on the historical record of the country. Abolition societies were banned by state governments throughout the South and I believe all state governments in the South gave gave slavery Constitutional protection. The laws regarding private emancipation of slaves had been tightened throughout the South prior to the Civil War. The situation was as Lincoln described it prior to the Civil War:

    In those days, our Declaration of Independence was held sacred by all, and thought to include all; but now, to aid in making the bondage of the negro universal and eternal, it is assailed, and sneered at, and construed, and hawked at, and torn, till, if its framers could rise from their graves, they could not at all recognize it. All the powers of earth seem rapidly combining against him. Mammon is after him; ambition follows, and philosophy follows, and the Theology of the day is fast joining the cry. They have him in his prison house; they have searched his person, and left no prying instrument with him. One after another they have closed the heavy iron doors upon him, and now they have him, as it were, bolted in with a lock of a hundred keys, which can never be unlocked without the concurrence of every key; the keys in the hands of a hundred different men, and they scattered to a hundred different and distant places; and they stand musing as to what invention, in all the dominions of mind and matter, can be produced to make the impossibility of his escape more complete than it is.

    Was it worth 600,000-800,000 American lives to end slavery and preserve the Union? Yes, every death was an immense tragedy, and it was absolutely worth it.

  6. It was unconstitutional for the federal government to abolish slavery by invasion of states and overthrowing their governments. Lincoln knew as much and until 1862 never advanced emancipation as a war aim. Slavery likely would have passed away without war, since it was dying everywhere in the West. The paradox of the Civil War for me is that it was so thoroughly unconstitutional in its origin and execution, and yet it had the salutary effect of eradicating slavery in one bloody, awful fall of the ax. The latter effect is why the former defect is excused, overlooked, or by some (like my law school Con Law prof) defended as a necessary revolutionary act to get rid of federalism and build a “national” state.

  7. That is certainly one of the side effects of the Civil War — the destruction of a federal union. It is one I see or hear rarely, which is a bit disturbing. The fact that Lincoln decided to force the issue of a nearly all powerful Union is the beginning of the slide to an autocratic state, similar to Socialism, that saw it’s maximum (hopefully) in Barack Obama’s administration.

  8. “Slavery likely would have passed away without war, since it was dying everywhere in the West.”

    In the deep South slavery was stronger than ever and more profitable. Prior to and during the Civil War slaves were used in factories and on military fortifications and maintaining roads and railroads. I see no evidence that slavery was anywhere close to dying in the South. Of course it is possible that a white anti-slavery movement may have arisen in a victorious Confederacy once the issue of slavery was no longer a bone of contention in the north and south, but I think that would only have arisen if a colonization movement of freed blacks could have been successfully implemented. It would have been deeply ironic if the slaves had been freed and given one way tickets to the United States and whether the United States would have allowed them admission. Of course such musings ignore the simple fact that black labor was essential in most of the South, at least until the mechanization of agriculture that came in the last decades of the 19th century and the population boom that occurred in the initial decades of the 20th. Two nations instead of one open endless possibilities as to what would have occurred between the United States and the Confederate States and certainty when it comes to alternate history on the grand scale is impossible.

  9. “The fact that Lincoln decided to force the issue of a nearly all powerful Union is the beginning of the slide to an autocratic state, similar to Socialism,”

    Not at all. The United States government slipped back to a miniscule size following the Civil War. Large scale growth in the federal government awaited the Progressive Era, the New Deal and World War II.

  10. Large scale growth in the federal government awaited the Progressive Era, the New Deal and World War II.

    Again, the ratio of federal expenditure to GDP in 1929 was about 0.028 In 1939 it was perhaps 0.094, and a considerable fraction of that was accounted for by agencies which were eliminated during the war.

  11. “Slavery likely would have passed away without war, since it was dying everywhere in the West.”

    The emancipations in Europe were a component of an agrarian reform which conferred allodial tenures on the peasantry (in the Hapsburg and Tsarist domains). There wasn’t much industry in either realm. In the Caribbean, the British government after 1807 worked assiduously to suppress slavery in it’s dependencies over the objections of planters. The usual counter-factual offered is Brazil. I don’t think redeploying slave labor from agriculture to industry was much of an option in Brazil.

  12. “4% of American men died. 0% of females.”

    I dunno about that. For one thing, nurses working in the military hospitals where thousands of men died of disease might have been exposed to the same diseases and who knows how many might have died. Also, there had to have been civilian casualties, particularly in areas afflicted by guerilla warfare or subject to intense sieges that cut off food supplies, and at least some of those casualties had to have been women. No historian seems to have a decent estimate of how many civilians died in the Civil War, but given the still relatively primitive state of medical science at the time and the prevalence of diseases such as cholera, I would think that number was more than “zero percent”.

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