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The Civil War Sesquicentennial

I have never advocated war except as a means of peace.
General Ulysses S. Grant

“These are fearfully critical, anxious days, in which the destinies of the continent for centuries will be decided,” wrote one New York diarist in 1864. Indeed, the Civil War stands as a defining moment in American history. The Union’s victory banished the specter of secession forever and sealed the fate of slavery, freeing millions of African Americans from bondage. Moreover, the war transformed our country from a loose confederation of independent-minded states under a weak central government into a modern nation state.

The Civil War also influenced modern warfare on a global scale. The use of the telegraph for instant communication, of ironclad warships for naval engagements, and of the railway for rapid troop deployment prefigured military operations during later conflicts. The Civil War also foreshadowed the age of total war, encompassing soldiers and civilians alike. No one understood this point better than Union General William Tecumseh Sherman, who observed: “This war differs from other wars, in this particular. We are not fighting armies but a hostile people, and must make old and young, rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war.”

But whatever the Civil War’s immediate and long-term consequences, it was the “progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends,” as President Abraham Lincoln remarked in his second inaugural address. Small and dispersed at the beginning of the conflict, the U.S. Army ended the war as one of the largest and most professional land forces of its day. Almost three million men served in the Union Army, including 180,000 African Americans. When the guns fell silent, nearly 360,000 Federal soldiers and roughly 160,000 Confederates had died.  The Civil War remains the bloodiest military conflict in American history.

This site commemorates U.S. Army operations in the Civil War and the soldiers who carried them out.