War Between the States


civil war secession mapApril 12, 2011 marks the 150th anniversary of the opening battle and the official start of the Civil War (also called the “War Between the States”).

Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy ordered South Carolina’s General Beauregard to assault the Union’s Fort Sumter and surrender the fort to the Confederacy. Four years later on April 9, 1865, and after hundreds of battles, the South surrendered at Appomattox Court House in Virginia.

One of the most divisive and important events in American history, the Civil War pitted countrymen against countrymen in the new and developing republic of the United States of America. Among the many issues at stake were the role of central government, state’s rights, slavery, and the fate of the Union itself, which had borne our fledgling nation through the American Revolutionary war and the War of 1812.

Grim, brutal, and utterly personal, the Civil War claimed more American lives than any other war fought before or since the founding of the United States. No other war contains such philosophical and emotional impact. The issues and concerns that were on the hearts and minds of the politicians, Statesmen, combatants, and ordinary citizens of the late nineteenth century can still be seen as evidence, even in modern times.

No modern politician can ignore or discount the attitudes and mindsets the were forged in the Civil War and expect a measure of success—for many of those attitudes for both the North and the South still thrive in American society, culture, and debate.

Historical Learning Activity
Assign students to learn more about the causes of the Civil War.

Students should write a report of at least 150 words or a presentation of at least seven slides that cites at least three resources from the Pathfinder listed below. Students should address the following essential questions for critical thinking (you can add or substitute others):

  • What were three significant events that led to the start of the war and why?
  • Were two of the most significant leaders on both sides and why?
  • What were the primary motives of President Lincoln to engage in the war?
  • What were the real social, political, and economic differences between the Union and Confederate States?

Historical Learning Activity

Using Historical Newspapers

Search for:

  • Election of 1860
  • South Carolina Secession
  • Creation of Confederate States of America

Related Resources:

Civil War Digital Archive

ABC-Clio History Database

U.S. History in Context

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