Part of the PAGenWeb


Home | Up 

The Leaders | Major Battle Accounts | Definitions & Terminology

America went to war on 12 April 1861-- it was a war for freedom and independence.  For the first time in the history of the United States of America; states in the North were fighting states in the South.  A war in which fathers fought against fathers and brothers fought against brothers. 

The states in the North were called the Union and the states in the South were called the Confederacy.  The Union fought for the freedom of black people from slavery and for their belief that the United States should remain together as one nation.  The Confederacy fought for those who supported slavery and for the right to for their state to leave the Union. 

 The war changed America forever, but she remained a single nation.  

The Civil War began with fighting at Fort Sumter, South Carolina and officially ended on 9 April, 1865, when General Lee surrendered his army at the Appomattox Court House.  

Confederate States:  Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

The Leaders | Major Battle Accounts | Definitions & Terminology


Lincoln | Davis | Scott | Grant | Lee | Sherman | Jackson | Custer

President of the United States

Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States of America.  He had given many speeches against slavery, thus leading Southerners to believe that President Lincoln would free the slaves.  South Carolina, along with 10 other Southern states decided to secede from the Union rather than let their slaves go free. They called themselves the Confederate States of America.  
President Lincoln did not approve of slavery, but he had no plans to outlaw it.  He felt that slavery was part of the Southern way of living and had hoped it would be gradually eliminated over a period of time.  Lincoln believed that his main duty was to hold the Union together, not abolish slavery, after the Southern states seceded.  
Lincoln had a hard time finding a general who could win the war for him.  He even served as the battle commander at times.  Lincoln was eventually able to appoint 2 men who were known to be aggressive fighters; Generals Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman.  
In 1863, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation; this declared all Southern slaves free and blacks who resided in the North were now allowed to join the Union Army.  
President Lincoln was reelected in 1864; he was making plans on how to reunite the nation once the war was over.  
Horribly, six days after the war ended, President Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth; for the Confederate cause.  

Top of Section

Confederate President

Jefferson Davis became a well known military hero while serving in the Mexican War.  His fame is what helped him win a seat in Congress, where he fought for many laws to preserve slavery.  Davis believed that each state had a right to secede from the Union and also that he was the best man to lead the Confederate cause.  
As the leader of the Confederate states Davis was faced with some very hard jobs; winning the war and the founding of a new nation.  
Davis was very good military strategist, but unfortunately his advice was not followed by his generals.  The Confederate states and it's government faced continuing problems; years of struggles and it eventually collapsed.
Jefferson Davis fled to Canada in exile after war.  He returned in 1868 after President Andrew Johnson granted him a full pardon.  Davis never regretted his role in the Civil War; he once told a reporter, "Tell the world that I only loved America."

Top of Section

Union General

At the start of the Civil War, General Winfield Scott was 75 years old and suffered from gout, which forced him to spend much time in bed.  He had served in the U.S. Army for over 50 years and was the commanding officer of the Union Army.  President Lincoln felt that General Scott was a very wise military strategist; though many Northerners didn't feel the same way.
General Scott devised a plan that would defeat the Confederacy, though it would take up to 3 years.  He suggested cutting off the Southern states' trade with Europe; making them unable to receive vital military supplies. He wanted to send Union troops into the South from areas to the north and west.  
Even though President Lincoln believed in Scott's plan he also knew that it was necessary to gather more North support to win the war and he eventually appoint a new general to head the Union army, George B. McClellan.
General Scott's original plan was followed and lead the Union Army to victory.  The only difference was that the war effort lasted 4 years instead of the 3 years General Scott had said.

Top of Section

Union General

Ulysses S. Grant was born in Ohio and his parents named him Hiram Ulysses Grant.  While growing up, Grant called himself Ulysses Hiram Grant because he hated his initials, "H. U. G.".  While attending West Point Military Academy, his name was erroneously listed as Ulysses Simpson Grant.  Grant liked his "new" name and from that point on, he used the name Ulysses S. Grant.  
He proved he was an excellent soldier while serving in the Mexican War.  
He was recommissioned as a colonel at the start of the Civil War.  He had much success on the battlefield and was promoted to general within two months.  He earned the nickname, Unconditional Surrender, because he refused to negotiate a truce before a battle was won.  
Grant was promoted to general of the entire Union Army in 1866; the first active commander to hold this rank since George Washington. 

Top of Section

Confederate General

Robert E. Lee came from a family with a proud military history; his father had fought in the American Revolution and was a close friend of George Washington.
Lee attended West Point Military Academy and served in the Mexican War.  He was considered to be a natural soldier and was much liked and respected by others.
In 1861, Lee was summoned to military headquarters in Washington DC, after 7 Southern states seceded.  He was asked to lead the Northern army and force the 7 states to return to the Union.  Lee, who was from Virginia, felt that he could not fight his southern friends.  After Virginia seceded from the Union, Lee decided to fight for the Southern cause.  
Lee tried his best to keep the Union Army from invading Richmond, Virginia--the Confederate Capital.  The Confederate Army was greatly outnumbered from the start of the war; and the situation continually got worse over the years.  The Confederate Army lost too many men and Lee realized that defeat was inevitable.  Lee surrendered the Confederate Army to the Union, on 9 April 1865.

Top of Section

Union Major General

William T. Sherman was a fighting man and is said to have resembled a Wild West gunfighter.  His father was an Ohio Supreme Court justice and his brother, a U.S. senator.  Sherman had no interest in politics, instead he enrolled in West Point Military Academy.
Sherman served in the Mexican War and after, ran a military academy in Louisiana.
When Louisiana seceded from the Union in 1861, he was  asked to join the Confederacy as an officer, but refused.
Originally, Sherman did not want to join either side.  His beliefs were like President Lincoln's; he didn't believe in slavery, but thought that abolishing it would destroy the nation.  He also believed that no state had the right to secede from the Union.  
Sherman joined the Union Army as a colonel but was quickly promoted to brigadier general.  He was a popular commander; known to his men as Uncle Billy.  Sherman was the second most important person in the Union Army.  
The Southerners called Sherman the devil, because of his historic march through the Carolinas and Georgia, where he captured and destroyed anything that may have been useful to the Confederacy.  
After the war, Sherman commanded the entire army.  There was talk of Sherman running for President, but he declined.  Sherman's son, William T., Jr., had died during the war and Sherman explained, "With Willy, dies in me all real ambition."

Top of Section

Confederate General

Thomas J. Jackson was one of the best-known and most-feared generals in the Civil War.  Before the war, he was a teacher at the Virginia Military Institute.  
Jackson had a reputation as being fearless in battle.  During the Battle of Manassas, the troops had become scared and (Confederate) General B. Bee said to his troops, "There is Jackson, standing like a stonewall!", which is how his nickname, Stonewall Jackson, came to be.  
Jackson won many battles in which his troops were outnumbered; he was known for moving his troops further and faster than any other general.  
Jackson was accidentally shot and killed by one of his own men during battle at Chancellorsville, Virginia in 1863.  He died on the battlefield.  

Top of Section

Union General

George A. Custer's had a reputation during the Civil War as being a daring and unpredictable opponent---sometimes ignoring his commanding officers to obtain victory on the battlefield.  
Custer graduated from West Point Military Academy with the worst grades in his class.  But he had a wild fighting spirit for which he gained notoriety.  He is credited with aiding in the defeat of Confederate general J. Stuart during the Battle of Gettysburg.  
He remained in the military after the Civil War and became famous for his "last stand" at Little Big Horn with the Sioux Indians in 1876.  Custer and his men, none of whom survived, were defeated by Chiefs Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse at the Battle of Little Big Horn in Montana.  

Top of Section
Home | Up


Civil War Almanac; Justin Segal, Contemporary Books, Chicago, 1997.


This site is maintained  by Cathy Wentz-Eisenstadt
Copyright 2003-2010.  All Rights Reserved.

This page was last updated on:   02/11/2009

People for better PA Historical Records Access (PaHR-Access)
Learn about the grassroots effort to make older PA state death certificates available on-line!!  Please consider helping.