The American Civil War Portal
American Civil War (1861–1865) was a sectional
rebellion against the
United States of America by the
Confederate States, formed of eleven
governments which moved to
secede from the
Union after the
1860 election of
Abraham Lincoln as
President of the United States. The Union's victory was eventually achieved by leveraging advantages in
logistics and through a
blockade denying the Confederacy access to the world's
In many ways, the conflict's central
issues – the
enslavement of African Americans, the role of
federal government, and the
rights of states – are still not completely resolved. Not surprisingly, the
Confederate army's surrender at
Appomattox on April 9, 1865 did little to change many
Americans' attitudes toward the potential powers of
central government. The passage of the
amendments to the Constitution in the years immediately following the war did not change the
racial prejudice prevalent among Americans of the day; and the process of
Reconstruction did not heal the deeply personal wounds inflicted by four brutal years of war and more than 970,000 casualties – 3 percent of the population, including approximately 560,000 deaths. As a result, controversies affected by the war's unresolved social, political, economic and racial tensions continue to shape contemporary American thought. The
causes of the war, the reasons for the outcome, and even
the name of the war itself are subjects of much discussion even today.
Medal of Honor
is the highest
awarded by the
United States government
. It is bestowed on a member of the United States armed forces who distinguishes himself "conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States". Because of the nature of its criteria, the medal is often awarded posthumously.
Early in the
Civil War, Public Resolution 82, containing a provision for a Navy Medal of Valor, was signed into law by President
Abraham Lincoln on December 21, 1861. The medal was "to be bestowed upon such petty officers, seamen, landsmen, and Marines as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry and other seamanlike qualities during the present war."
Secretary of the Navy
Gideon Welles directed the
Philadelphia Mint to design the new decoration. Shortly afterward, a resolution of similar wording was introduced on behalf of the Army and was signed into law on July 12, 1862. This measure provided for awarding a Medal of Honor, as the Navy version also came to be called: "to such
noncommissioned officers and
privates as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action, and other soldier-like qualities, during the present
Union soldiers who
hijacked the General, a
locomotive were the first recipients. Raid leader
James J. Andrews, a civilian
hanged as a Union
spy, did not receive the medal. Many Medals of Honor awarded in the 19th century were associated with saving the flag, not just for patriotic reasons, but because the flag was a primary means of battlefield communication. During the time of the Civil War, no other military award was authorized, and to many this explains why some seemingly less notable actions were recognized by the Medal of Honor during that war.
Grand Parade of the States
The U.S. state of
was a source of military manpower, supplies, ships, arms, and political support for the
. Maine was the first state in the northeast to be aligned with the new
, partly due to the influence of evangelical Protestantism, and partly to the fact that Maine was a
state, and thus receptive to the party's "free soil" platform.
as his first Vice President, and said on meeting
Harriet Beecher Stowe
(the author of
Uncle Tom's Cabin
), "so this is the little lady who made this big war".
Maine was so enthusiastic for the cause that it ended up contributing a larger number of combatants, in proportion to its population, than any other Union state. It was second only to
Massachusetts in the number of its sailors who served in the
Joshua L. Chamberlain (later a
major general) and the
20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment played a key role at the
Battle of Gettysburg, and the
1st Maine Heavy Artillery Regiment lost more men in a single charge (during the
Siege of Petersburg) than any Union
regiment in the war.
Edwin McMasters Stanton
(December 19, 1814 – December 24, 1869) was an American lawyer, politician,
United States Attorney General
in 1860-61 and
Secretary of War
through most of the
American Civil War
era. In 1860 he was appointed
. He strongly opposed secession, and is credited by historians for changing Buchanan's position away from tolerating secession to denouncing it as unconstitutional and illegal.
Stanton was politically opposed to
Abraham Lincoln in 1860. After Lincoln was elected president, Stanton agreed to work as a legal adviser to the inefficient Secretary of War,
Simon Cameron, whom he replaced on January 15, 1862. He accepted the position only to "help save the country." He was very effective in administering the huge War Department, but devoted considerable amounts of his energy to the persecution of Union officers whom he suspected of having traitorous sympathies for the South, the most famous of these being Maj. Gen.
Fitz John Porter. Stanton used his power as Secretary to ensure every general who sat on the
court-martial would vote for conviction or else be unable to obtain career advancement.