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Talk:American Civil War

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 Definition Major war 1861-65 fought over slavery in which the U.S. defeated the secessionist Confederate States of America. [d] [e]


What is the status of this article? I am new to Citizendium and very interested in the Civil War. Bill Falter 22:24, 10 September 2007 (CDT)

good question. it's imported from Wikipedia (where I worked a lot on it) and I plan a complete rewrite, one of these days.Richard Jensen 22:56, 10 September 2007 (CDT)


Just some cleaning up, mainly reducing the density of referencing, eliminating dead images and delinkingGareth Leng 16:53, 3 February 2008 (CST)

you have a sharp eye for what needs fixing! Richard Jensen 17:02, 3 February 2008 (CST)

Civil war gallery

Is it alright to include the public domain pictures taken by Mathew Brady? Minhaj Ahmed Khan Lodi 12:16, 14 March 2008 (CDT)

I think this article is in dire need of some images to spruce it up. --Todd Coles 18:57, 18 March 2008 (CDT)
YES indeed it needs them pleas pitch in. there arepublic domain images that can be used freely here all Brady images are in the public domain and cannot be copyrighted. Indeed, all images pre 1923 are public domain, Richard Jensen 19:32, 18 March 2008 (CDT)
Also, here is the Library of Congress Civil War page. --Todd Coles 19:40, 18 March 2008 (CDT)
I was actually wondering if the images of dead soldiers goes with citizendium's family-friendly policy. I didn't find them gruesome at all. Minhaj Ahmed Khan Lodi 00:29, 20 March 2008 (CDT)


I'm not sure if this was written by someone here, or still leftover from WP, but I feel like the intro is too long winded. I think it needs to be trimmed up, but wanted to get opinions first. --Todd Coles 19:46, 18 March 2008 (CDT)

I wrote the lede, originally for Wikipedia. The goal is to concisely summarize the entire civil war--since many people will only read this summary. It's long because the story is very long and complicated. Richard Jensen 20:40, 18 March 2008 (CDT)
As it stands, the introduction is redundant: "The Union), led by Abraham Lincoln and General Ulysses S. Grant defeated the breakaway Confederacy, led by Jefferson Davis and General Robert E. Lee and ended slavery. Following the war, the southern states were readmitted into the Union during a turbulent period from 1865-77 known as Reconstruction....The war was between the United States (the "Union") and eleven Southern states that declared that they had a right to secession and formed the Confederate States of America, led by President Jefferson Davis." [emphasis mine]
Even if the article is distinguishing between the Confederate army and the Confederate States as a formal establishment, the second instance of the clause "led by President Jefferson Davis" is superfluous, at least for the introduction's purpose -- and if you think that's a poor assessment, then I would at least change the wording to eliminate redundancy.
Also, the grammar in the second sentence just doesn't appear right: "The Union), led by Abraham Lincoln and General Ulysses S. Grant defeated the breakaway Confederacy, led by Jefferson Davis and General Robert E. Lee and ended slavery." Parenthetic expressions -- particularly those as long as "led by Abraham Lincoln and General Ulysses S. Grant" -- should be enclosed in commas. Nick Bagnall 00:56, 20 March 2008 (CDT)
good points, and I tried to fix the lede accordingly. Richard Jensen 02:05, 20 March 2008 (CDT)
Great stuff. There was a second parenthetic clause ("led by Jefferson Davis and General Robert E. Lee") immediately following the first, so I tossed in another comma. Consequently, "and ended slavery" awkwardly falls on the end of the sentence, but I'm sure you or others can reword it better than I can (if you think it's necessary). --Nick Bagnall 02:59, 20 March 2008 (CDT)

(undent since this is a year later) Lincoln and Davis, yes, although their Congresses might disagree. Grant and Lee, however, are vast oversimplifications. Scott was the senior officer of the Union Army, although Grant effectually supplanted him. Lee was the most prominent Confederate leader, but he was not a general-in-chief; Davis would routinely give orders to individual senior generals. Howard C. Berkowitz 02:05, 22 March 2009 (UTC)

I forgot that I was working on this article last year. Yes, it's really not weighted well and the intro is much too long-winded. And yes, it's not "Grant v. Lee" or "Lincoln v. Davis"; those are just simplifications that make for good wargame titles or movie posters. Russell D. Jones 19:45, 22 March 2009 (UTC)

Second Paragraph

I have issues with the second paragraph. As this first section is an overview of the war, the second paragraph seems to be summarizing the causes of the war. It should say something about the crises leading to secession, especially the political crisis. I rewrote it. --Russell D. Jones 14:48, 23 March 2008 (CDT)

Reconstruction started in 1863?

In the first paragraph: "Following the war, the southern states were readmitted into the Union during a turbulent period from 1863-77 known as Reconstruction." This is confusing since the war ended in '65. Are Lincoln's reconstruction efforts during the war worth mentioning here? I'd be inclined to just change it to 65. Warren Schudy 10:11, 20 March 2008 (CDT)

In this article, probably yes; it will be less confusing to naive readers (and we maybe have to reword slightly in order to not say anything which is inaccurate - something like "the bulk of Reconstruction 1865-mumble").
In the Reconstruction article, I would definitely cover Lincoln's pre-65 efforts, because one can see in them how his vision of what Reconstruction should have been differ from what actually happened. (Obviously, because of the timing of his death, we have no actual post-War Lincoln reconstruction to look at.) But let's see what others think... J. Noel Chiappa 10:51, 20 March 2008 (CDT)
historians now emphasize that Reconstruction began during the war and was well underway by 1865. The war ended in different states at different times, and Reconstruction began as soon as the union armies took over. Richard Jensen 19:31, 20 March 2008 (CDT)
Yes, it's called "Wartime Reconstruction." Russell D. Jones 19:47, 22 March 2009 (UTC)


This article takes forever to get to the Civil War. Perhaps it should be forked into an article called "The Causes of the US Civil War"? And too little of the article deals solely with the war. --Russell D. Jones 14:59, 23 March 2008 (CDT)

the article reflects the way the textbooks handle the issue--the hard part is explaining how the war happened. The main battles will eventually get their own articles. What is missing is solid coverage of the N and S homefronts, which is where historians have focused in recent years.Richard Jensen 19:10, 23 March 2008 (CDT)

Why is there a very long discussion of the "causes of the Civil War" with a link to a very long article "US Civil War, Origins"? The two articles go over some of the same material, but there are also differences. --Russell D. Jones 06:33, 1 April 2008 (CDT)

Suggestions for Rebuilding this article

--Russell D. Jones 14:51, 26 April 2008 (CDT)


Current weights

April 30, 2008:

  1. 42.5% of this article (4800 words) deals with the origins of the war. It shouldn't be that long since there is a separate article on the Origins of the War.
  2. About 18% of this article (2000 words) deals with the aftermath of the war. It was the most important conflict in US history, but do we really need a sixth of the total article devoted to the effects?
  3. only about one-quarter of this article (2800 words) deals with the actual battles of the war.
  4. About 8% of the article (875 words) deals with the social and foreign policy aspects of the war.

Suggested Weights

  1. The origins of the war should be pared to a few hundred words instead of the 4800 it now is.
    1. The material in this section should be merged with U.S. Civil War, Origins.
  2. The aftermath of the war should be pare to a few hundred words as well. We can have a longer article on the effects of the war some place else.
  3. At least 80% of this article should be about the events between 1861 and 1865.
  4. Expand the discussion of the social aspects of the war.
  5. Create and develop a section on the political aspects of the war
    1. election of 1864
    2. suspension of Habeas Corpus, Vallandigham, ex parte Milligan
  6. It needs a map or maps.
all the textbooks give about equal weight to the causes and the war itself, so reducing that to 10-20% seems odd; i'll reduce it some. Look at the newest big compendium, Lacy Ford, ed. A Companion to the Civil War and Reconstruction. (2005) table of contents = ch 1-10 on coming of war, ch 11-15 on the war itself, and ch 16-23 on Reconstruction. The point is that the military history is better covered in separate articles that link here. The aftermath is already covered in a long article on Reconstruction, and is only briefly mentioned here. The destruction section is NOT an "aftermath"-- it all of course happened during the war and as an integral part of the war and belongs here. I think we need a major article on memory of Civil War--a very hot topic these days. Probably should be separate. Agreed we need more on social dimensions (gender roles, women, religion) also ideology and politics. Maps are really needed too.Richard Jensen 18:05, 26 April 2008 (CDT)
Really, nearly everything covered by the article should have their own pages. --Russell D. Jones 15:37, 4 May 2008 (CDT)


This discussion point was about the previous article title "U.S. Civil War"; the article has since been moved.

The intro calls it 'The American Civil War'. Isn't that what everyone calls it? It was the US vs the CS. Shouldn't the article be moved? Ro Thorpe 01:54, 22 March 2009 (UTC)

I'd certainly support such a change. As you point out, it was decidedly not the war of the "united" states. Now, there are some that might call it the War to Free the Slaves, and there are some that might call it the War of Yankee Aggression. The genteel and elderly docents at the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond have been known to speak of "the late unpleasantness between the States". "U.S. Civil War" is rarely if ever used.
Actually, you will find "War Between the States" among mostly older Southerners, but an American usually says just "Civil War", just as the planet isn't called "Sol 3". (addition 17:08, 22 March 2009 (UTC))
CSA, suh. CSA.
Not, of course, that generic "civil war" isn't oxymoronic at multiple levels... Howard C. Berkowitz 02:00, 22 March 2009 (UTC)
There are an overwhelming number of articles on here that use "American Civil War," and while I have seen "US Civil War" used, American seems to be a better fit. I'd favor the move.
And on a side note, once/if this we get a consensus on this issue, we are in need of a "Civil war" disambiguation page - there are currently inappropriate articles linking here (see Angola for example). I'll take care of that when I get a free moment. --Todd Coles 17:53, 22 March 2009 (UTC)
Oh, no, let's not fight this one again. The consensus among historians, at least, is "American Civil War." A quick survey of JSTOR (and its 140+ professional historical journals) shows that the conflict was cited as the "American Civil War" 8200+ times while the "US Civil War" showed up 676 time and "U.S. Civil War" only five (more evidence against the abbreviation schema used here). But probably most commonly used is simply "The Civil War" (as an example of Yankee imperialism, all other civil wars must be disambiguated: "English Civil War," "Spanish Civil War," etc. No, "Civil War" should not redirect here but disambiguate.) Let the "Spanish Civil War" be your guide. All other names ("War of Yankee aggression," "War between the States," "Second American Revolution," etc.) should redirect here. Russell D. Jones 18:37, 22 March 2009 (UTC)
OH! Duh! Yes, of course! I just assumed that since a historian started this article that it would have been properly named. Sorry for my confusion. Move it! Russell D. Jones 19:00, 22 March 2009 (UTC)
Yes, move it. Sandy Harris 01:00, 23 March 2009 (UTC)


The Section on Economics supports the view that economic disputes played little or no role in the war. However, I'm taking a U.S. history course now, and our textbook (it was written by a Stanford Professor of History) disagrees, and points continuously to economic conflicts. Also, the article goes on to opine that the economies of the sections "should have complemented each other well." The assessments I've read paint it differently - the industrial North did indeed get what it needed in terms of raw materials for, among other things, textiles from the South. However, the South bitterly resented the drag on its economy of being a non-producer.

The primary issue economically, in this interpretation anyway, was the tariff. The industrial North favored high, protective tariffs, because why not when they could use the South for raw materials and the West for foodstuffs? The South, on the other hand, as it lost its clout in Congress, suffered greatly (or felt that it did) from the tariffs - it raised prices dreadfully, made imports impractical, and made their goods (such as cotton) harder to sell abroad, due to retaliatory tariffs.

I'm not saying that the article is wrong. But it is broadly dismissing an entire school of thought on this subject without giving it more than a passing glance, and with no referencing to make that okay? Could anyone address this? M. Vincent Gammill 16:13, March 22 (UTC)

Vincent, feel free to develop this area further if you feel that it needs it. Our aim here is to present all sides of the debate. I think a majority of that section was written by someone who is no longer active at CZ. --Todd Coles 15:29, 22 March 2009 (UTC)
I'd be very suspect a person's political and racial agenda if they claimed that slavery was not the cause of the American Civil War. The tariff rationale was discredited back in the 1950s. Vincent, What textbook are you using and who wrote the article? Sure, let's look at the economics of the situation. The North was developing modern industrial capitalism based on wage exploitation of labor. Fundamental to that system was something that northern capitalists liked to call "Liberty of Contract." Now, you cannot exploit wage laborers in the capitalist system if labor doesn't have "liberty." Conversely, in the south, the number one economic investment was slaves. The value of slaves was rising rather dramatically in the 1850s and that economic investment was being violently and deliberately undermined by northern politicians. Today, we would not tolerate the President of the United States ordering all bureaus of the federal government to buy only foreign cars, and to publicly denounce the Big Three cars as "inferior products" (okay, really bad example, but you get my point). US government policy was directly threatening people's investments (it gives new meaning to the term "human capital"). So, when you (or your professor) argues that economics was the cause of the Civil War, you must ask, "economics of WHAT?" I urge my students to ask this all the time. Yes, the war was fought for "States' Rights" but the states' right to do WHAT? Yes, the CSA was fighting to defend Freedom, but Freedom to do WHAT?
Regarding the tariff, look what happens before and after the Civil War. Protective tariffs as far back as 1816, and forward as late as the McKinley Tariff (and later Hawley-Smoot). So, if the protective Tariff is the cause of the Civil War, then why do we not have the Civil War in 1890, or 1828, or 1930? The whole tariff rationale is a smoke screen for people who believe that free African Americans aren't worth fighting and dying for or that some people shouldn't be free. I'm not denying that it was a potent argument back in the day. It just happens that when the tariff argument was popular so was Jim Crow. Russell D. Jones 19:36, 22 March 2009 (UTC)
Slavery as the precipitating event, certainly. I would not be as casual as to dismiss States Rights as a major motivator, at almost a religious level. Offered the overall command of the Union forces, Robert E. Lee, no demagogue for slavery, chose to go with his state (and the Confederacy) instead, based on a moral belief in the primacy of states. Remember, this was the 19th century and Grand Causes were more popular than today, although one can look at radical Jihadists and as "but power to do WHAT?" I dislike the jargon of "presentism", but it can be useful.Howard C. Berkowitz 19:51, 22 March 2009 (UTC)
The Textbook is for high school students, The American Pageant, AP Edition, 13th Ed., authored by David M. Kennedy, Lizabeth Cohen, and Thomas A. Bailey. Everyone knows slavery was the issue. But the article, while addressing that well, goes on to say that economics were not a major cause in any way. You seem to feel as I do that the economics of the nation was one of many secondary causes, and inextricable from the issue of slavery (along with other issues, such as States' Rights). This was all I meant to point out. M. Vincent Gammill 20:04, 22 March 2009 (UTC)
Ah, ha. Yes, inextricably bound together. That's the fun part now, no? Untangling the mess. And States' Rights, like the other issues, were all bound together. It was a civil war, which means a war between civilizations (aren't they all?), and that means conflicts between their social structures and social institutions, politics, governments, cultural values, and economics.
Ah, ha, A high school text. High school texts must be sold in all 50 states. And school boards are political, elected representatives charged to protect the morals and guidance of our children in correct principles and right thinking. You figure out why the tariff as the cause for the Civil War is so prevalent in a High School textbook.... Russell D. Jones 20:21, 22 March 2009 (UTC)
The South didn't secede in response to the 1828 tariff, but there was that whole "nullification" unpleasantness. I think it's a bit unrealistic to expect civil war to erupt every time a trade policy innovation has ill effects on some region of the country and, insofar as it doesn't, infer that it therefore couldn't have been a contributing factor the one time it did. Shamira Gelbman 20:12, 22 March 2009 (UTC)
Yes, exactly; so we're in agreement that the tariff wasn't the cause of the Civil War.Russell D. Jones 20:21, 22 March 2009 (UTC)
No, I'm disagreeing with the logic of your causal inference. I haven't been convinced that the tariff wasn't a cause of the Civil War, which I don't think can be boiled down to a single "the" cause. Shamira Gelbman 20:37, 22 March 2009 (UTC)
Indeed Shamira...that kind of logic is like saying just because serious infection doesn't occur every time one is exposed to pathogenic bacteria, that bacteria cannot ever be a contributer to infection. And also, high tariff policy was not an "every time" sort of thing - it was a consistent escalation policy from the 1820's on, when the currents of Whig nationalism became a force. High tariff after the war was simply a de facto situation, because the issue had already been settled, the South had nothing to fight it with - part of the reason Southern incomes remained pitifully low until the 1940s. M. Vincent Gammill 20:44, 22 March 2009 (UTC)
Sorry this took so long, but I've gone downstairs to the library. The last major tariff revision was in 1857, and it reduced the tariff (as every tariff revision had since 1832). So, if the tariff was a cause, or contributing cause, why would Southerners go to war to fight over the tariff when it was declining anyway? By 1861, overall US trade was as free as it ever was during the whole of the 19th century.[1] Clayne Pope demonstrated that economic theory cannot predict how the tariff affects regional income,[2] so (following this argument) if Southerners were worried about the economic effects of the tariff they had no proof about its effects. Lloyd Metzger demonstrated that, in cases, protective tariffs may increase income for unprotected industries (i.e., cotton).[3] Furthermore, in the tariff revision of 1846 (again a downward revision), the south was very adept at getting certain aspects of the law stricken (such as the minimum valuation clause). This shows that the south had the political power to protect its tariff interests within Congress. Sure, southerners may have been worried about what the Republicans would do with the tariff now that they were elected, but the history has shown them that they had endured upward revisions of the tariff before and that upward revisions don't last. So was that worth going to war over?
Granted, given the tariff levels as they were in 1859, economist have estimated that slaveholders may have had paper losses of between 13 and 20%[4], but western farmers may have taken losses as high as 25%. If, then, the tariff was the cause, or contributing factor, for the war why did not the West, which had a greater stake in a lower tariff than the south did, secede? Seems to me that, if the tariff was the issue, it would have been the South and West against New England, and Ohio, not Virginia, would have been the battleground. Russell D. Jones 21:10, 22 March 2009 (UTC)

Thank you for the correct tariff information - I was uninformed as to the specifics. But I think that what we are arguing is not whether or not the tariff caused the war by itself - we all recognize that there were multiple, complex factors. You argue that because the tariff affected the West more than the South, it was the West who should have been up in arms - but the West was tied, politically and physically to the North, via a great majority of trans-sectional railroad and major roads, as well as most of the major canals. The West was a young section, mainly populated with those of either greater sympathy with the North or the South, not it's own sectional sentiments. The South, on the other hand, had none of those connections, and a major ideological conflict as well. But the Republicans were non-national, they were anti-southern, and they were almost certainly going to be pro-tariff. Because they were a sectional party, unlike the Whigs (who were almost pitifully teetering on a fence for their whole existence, trying to remain a national party), they were potentially going to be anti-tolerant of Southern economic demands (including the tariff). All I mean to say is that many, many things (real and imagined) were looming in the minds of Southerners, and the tariff was a current issue. M. Vincent Gammill 21:23, 22 March (UTC)
And here's another angle on this, too. This issue about the cause of the civil war was started by Abraham Lincoln in his second inaugural and smarter brains than I have been debating it ever since.[5] I'm not a Civil War historian, but know enough about its historiography to know that there is extensive literature on the whole "Tariff as the cause of the Civil War" issue and that it had been discredited. So, this is educational for me, too. I'm here for the research. I'd recommend, in writing this article, that we don't try to re-invent the wheel and we don't try to rehabilitate phlogiston. Jones 21:39, 22 March 2009 (UTC)
If we did have the silly little medals of the Other Place, I would award, with awe and respect, the Grand Cross, with Swords and Diamonds, of Unprecedented Mixed Metaphors. Reinventing the phlogiston-filled wheel: magnificent! :-) Howard C. Berkowitz 22:04, 22 March 2009 (UTC)


  1. Jeremy Atack and Peter Passell, A New Economic View of American History From Colonial Times to 1940, 2d ed. (New York: W. W. Norton, 1979, 1994), 130.
  2. Clayne Pope, "The Impact of the Antebellum Tariff on Distribution," Explorations in Economic History 9 (Summer 1972).
  3. Lloyd Metzger, "Tariffs, the Terms of Trade, and the Distribution of National Income," Journal of Economic History 57 (February 1949).
  4. John A. James, "The Optimal Tariff in the Antebellum United States," American Economic Review 71 (1981).
  5. "Lincoln was a smart man; but look what happened to him. Smart will get you killed."

(undent) My concern here, which it sounds as if Shamira shares, is that "single issue" is a trap. In virtually any insurgency, civil wars being a special case, the critical actors tend to share a belief system. Confederacy as superior to federalism was a belief system, just as is the belief in the Islamist church-and-state model. When slavery challenged the belief system, conflict was inevitable; the issues with the West could remain in a common belief system. Howard C. Berkowitz 21:30, 22 March 2009 (UTC)

I've read through the section again and don't see the problem. Beard emphasized economic issues, but he was prone to do that and that was 1927. Stamp, Hofstadter, McPherson, Foner, Thorton (and Jensen for good measure) are in agreement about the relative unimportance of economic issues as a cause for the war aside from the issue of diverging economic systems (and that's good enough for me as they are specialists in the Civil War; well, except for Hofstadter who did a little of everything but was brilliant [and Jensen]). But (and this was not pointed out in the article) the two economic systems had been operating together for over seventy years. They hit some bumps along the way but mostly got to the 1850s without too much shooting at each other. There is no reason to believe that (barring radical Republicans and fire-eaters) North and South could not have avoided this war. I think the argument is sound and well supported.
The bigger problem I see with the section is that it is part of a larger section that really shouldn't be as long as it is. This article is about the Civil War. There is a separate article for the Causes of the American Civil War, which is titled U.S. Civil War, Origins. Sure, this article should talk some about causes but not for half the article. Russell D. Jones 04:21, 23 March 2009 (UTC)

Moved again

I just redid the move from U.S. Civil War to rescue the histories of the old subpages. For a while we had duplicates at both locations. We had a duplicate definition too, I went with the old one, so please check if it is accurate as there was a shorter, newer version. Also, please check the metadata, when it was recreated it was given only one workgroup, but the old US Civil war version had three workgroups. Likewise the old version had a status of 1 but Russell gave the newer version a status of 2. i have left it at 2 for now. Chris Day 16:22, 26 March 2009 (UTC)

I took it out of CZ:Ready for approval.
As far as workgroups, I think Military is relevant. Obviously, there's overlap with history. I don't subscribe to Jensen's position that battles are no longer important to modern historians. As for myself, however, I am much better qualified to talk about the operational art of W.T. Sherman than I am about the causes of the war. For that matter, I recently started Battle of Hampton Roads, and I came to that not from a Civil War standpoint, but with the naval races associated with HMS Dreadnought (1905) and Admiral Sir "Jacky" Fisher. The American Civil War is not isolated from a broader military perspective. Howard C. Berkowitz 19:04, 26 March 2009 (UTC)
Apropos of version numbers,
  • How many True Virginians does it take to change a light bulb?
  • Three. One to do the tradesmens' electrical work, and two proper sorts to remember how good the old light bulb had been.
Howard C. Berkowitz 16:00, 27 March 2009 (UTC)

(Undent)Where does this page move stand? I'm not sure I understand all the problems associated with the original move. I'm willing to do the work, but I'd like to know the complications. Russell D. Jones 14:29, 4 August 2009 (UTC)

I'm also confused. Is there any serious argument that the general term is American Civil War, not U.S. Civil War? Howard C. Berkowitz 14:54, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
Don't be; I'm the one who is confused. I've since made sense of Chris's comments and contextualized the discussion about the title. Sorry about that. Russell D. Jones 16:47, 4 August 2009 (UTC)