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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)


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 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)


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)