V__J eneration after generation of Americans has developed a fascination with the Civil War since the conflict ended in 1865. A uniquely American war, it was fought in the very yards of many of the members of later generations, who began to study its battles, campaigns, strategy, and participants—almost as if they were preparing to participate themselves. This attraction to the Civil War makes sense: as they begin to undertake research into their family history, members of succeeding generations quickly discover that it was their great-greatgrandfathers (and granduncles) who fought the war. These genealogical investigations usually reveal that in most cases it was impossible that all of the ancestors of the researcher living on American soil could have missed service in one army or the other. The discovery of a Civil War soldier in the family tree is always an exciting event, and in some cases the researcher even finds that all eight great-great-grandfathers fought in war.
Ranging from children's fiction to extensive scholarly works, innumerable books are published daily—and have probably been produced at this rate since the end of the Civil War—to feed the insatiable appetite among Americans for information about the war. This particular book is designed to serve as an introduction to the Civil War. The illustrations, many provided by Don Troiani, are lessons in the lives of Civil War soldiers.
The narrative is designed to acquaint the reader with the complex subject of military operations and their direct connection to political outcomes. Large battles were fought during the Civil War as both sides attempted to defeat the armies of the other, but it was not only military victory the combatants sought. Leaders entered into battle with the hopes that the sacrifices made by their men would produce a desirable political outcome. Readers will learn that many of the large, bloody battles of the war were not crucial when the outcome of the war is considered. Instead, the battles that produced the most significant political impact were the most important, and some of these were small and relatively insignificant when the casualty figures are considered.
Fort Donelson in Tennessee was a loss for the Confederates and the first major victory of the war for Ulysses S. Grant. The win secured Kentucky and its large border state populations for the North. Pea Ridge in Arkansas was a relatively small battle, but this Union victory resulted in Missouri remaining under Federal control and ensured that the strategic Mississippi-Missouri River system would be free of Confederate attackers. Antietam in Maryland, another border state, was a bloody stalemate that gave President Lincoln the political confidence to issue his Emancipation Proclamation—an act that precluded potential French and British support for the Confederacy. Gettysburg was a bloody fight in which Lee's army lost so heavily that it would prove difficult for Lee to engage the Union army in open combat for the remainder of the war. Vicksburg was the scene of a Union victory that resulted in Federal control of the entire Mississippi River, splitting the Confederacy into two sections. Monocacy, also in Maryland, was a small battle in which the Union defenders were able to delay Confederate attackers for a single day, allowing reinforcements to arrive in Washington, D.C., thereby preventing the city's capture (an event that would have cost Lincoln the 1864 election). Peachtree Creek was the battle in the Atlanta campaign in which Confederate defenders abandoned their defensive tactics and attacked Sherman's army in the open, suffering heavy losses that permanently crippled the army. Five Forks was the beginning of the end for the doomed Confederacy: once Sheridan had located Lee's flank and attacked there to break the defensive line at Petersburg and Richmond, it was only a few days until Lee was forced to surrender the Army of Northern Virginia.
These were among the battles that had a political impact and led to a Union victory in a war that threatened to divide the enormous nation forever. This volume is a record of the key events of the war, an opportunity to study the great and dramatic events that served to shape the character of the entire United States.
The Civil War was one of the first conflicts ever to be captured on film. The American public often found the images of carnage too disturbing to view, however preferring to remember the men as they looked on parade (for instance, this picture of the 7th New York Cavalry).
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