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The War for the Union. The Improvised War, 1861.

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The War for the Union

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The War for the Union

The Improvised War, 1861

I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Opening Salvos

  • Lincoln and the First Shot

  • Lincoln calls for volunteers

  • The secession of the Upper South

The Problem of Civil War Military History

  • Is God on the side of the strongest battalions?

  • Did the North win or the South loose?

  • Sectional reconciliation and the problem of memory.


3x military population


Railroad mileage—over 3x the CSA

Productive capacity

Industrial capacity



Defensive war—a win or a tie

Interior Lines



Knowledge of landscape

Relative Advantages

Holding the Border

  • Suspension of writ of Habeas Corpus

  • John C. Fremont in Missouri; William Clarke Quantrill in Missouri

  • Battle of Wilson’s Creek (August 10, 1861)

  • Kentucky neutrality

  • Unionism? in East Tennessee

  • Naval Blocade

Nathaniel Lyon (1818-1861)

Benjamin McCulloch (1811-1862)

William Clarke Quantrill, 1837-1865




Organization of CW Armies

  • Company

  • Regiment

  • Brigade

  • Division

  • Corps

  • Armies

Company A, 9th Indiana Infantry

First Bull Run, July 21, 1861

Henry House Hill and Mighty Stonewall

Ball’s Bluff, Oct. 1861

  • Col. and Senator Edward D. Baker was killed; Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. was critically wounded.

  • 223 Federals killed, 226 wounded, 533 captured.

  • Gen. Charles P. Stone was blamed for debacle.

  • Led to creation of Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War

One noonday, at my window in the town,    I saw a sight — saddest that eyes can see —    Young soldiers marching lustily      Unto the wars,With fifes, and flags in mottoed pageantry;    While all the porches, walks, and doors    Were rich with ladies cheering royally.They moved like Juny morning on the wave,    Their hearts were fresh as clover in its prime    (It was the breezy summer time),      Life throbbed so strong,How should they dream that Death in rosy clime  Would come to thin their shining throng?Youth feels immortal, like the gods sublime.

Weeks passed; and at my window, leaving bed,    By nights I mused, of easeful sleep bereft,    On those brave boys (Ah War! thy theft);      Some marching feetFound pause at last by cliffs Potomac cleft;    Wakeful I mused, while in the streetFar footfalls died away till none were left. –Walt Whitman

Ball’s Bluff—A Reverie

Trent Affair (Nov. 8, 1861-Jan. 14, 1862

George B. McClellan

  • Civil War “problem child”

  • “I can do it all”

  • Training the Army

  • Problems with “the Original Gorilla”, the “Baboon.”

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