First Civil War Battle (04:28)
Nearby residents gathered to watch the Battle of Bull Run, thinking the war would be over in weeks; the conflict lasted four years. Images in this film were colorized with state-of-the-art technology to bring the Civil War to life.
Civil War Photography (04:03)
The still camera changed how war was reported and conceptualized. With the addition of color, Matthew Brady's battlefield images offer greater emotional impact.
Beyond Black and White (02:58)
Slavery raised moral questions during the American Revolution, but the Founding Fathers feared bankruptcy. By the early 1800s, European immigrants filled industrial Northern cities with cheap labor. Slavery was economically entrenched in the agricultural South.
American Cultural Clash (02:24)
In 1861, journalist William Howard Russell investigated tensions between North and South. Hear Confederate statesman Louis T. Wigfall's view of the North. Plantation owners considered themselves aristocratic; Northerners believed themselves morally superior. Learn about the slavery-supported cotton industry.
Breaking the Chains (01:52)
In June 1854, abolitionists protested fugitive slave Anthony Burns' deportation to Virginia. The 1850 Fugitive Slave Act required Free states to capture and return runaway slaves.
Frederick Douglass (02:52)
Learn about Douglass' childhood in slavery. At age 20, he escaped to the North and met abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison. He published his autobiography in 1845; hear an excerpt describing an overseer whipping a woman.
Lincoln-Douglas Debates (02:58)
By 1860, there were four million slaves; the 3/5 rule gave the South a representational advantage. Tensions mounted over whether new states would allow slavery. In 1858, Abraham Lincoln took an anti-slavery position, but argued against interfering in existing slave states.
Abolitionist President (03:19)
The Republican Party formed in response to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, allowing new states to choose to allow slavery. Lincoln won the presidency in 1860, despite having only 39% of the popular vote. Southern states began the secession process.
A House Divided (02:30)
In December 1860, South Carolina seceded from the Union, followed by other Southern states. Southern West Point cadets left to defend their home states. In February 1861, Jefferson Davis became the president of the Confederacy.
Fort Sumter Standoff (02:48)
In April 1861, Confederate representatives told Union soldiers to leave the South Carolina garrison. Major Robert Anderson said he needed three days; the Confederates warned of an imminent attack. Lincoln said he would go to war to protect the Union.
A Call to Arms (03:13)
On April 12, 1861, General P. G. T. Beauregard commanded Confederate troops to bombard the Union garrison. Hear Captain James Chester's account of the shelling. Major Anderson surrendered; the attack galvanized the North into wanting to preserve the Union.
Recruiting Soldiers (03:42)
In July 1861, Congress authorized Lincoln to increase military size. Volunteers for Union and Confederate armies believed special interests threatened their Constitution and democracy. Few recruits had seen battle; many considered themselves citizens temporarily in uniform.
Horror of War (01:44)
The Union Army suffered defeat at Manassas in July 1861. The First Battle of Bull Run shocked the nation. Southerners believed God was on their side and became overconfident, while Northerners became more determined.
First Battle of Bull Run Outcome (03:08)
Lincoln appointed General George McClellan to strengthen the Union Army. Both sides believed it would be a short, "civilized" war. Few imagined battles claiming tens of thousands of lives, prisoners of war, or the suffering of wounded soldiers.
Weapons of War (02:06)
Many Confederate soldiers fought for their states, rather than to preserve slavery. The South depended on water ways and sea ports to transport supplies.
Iron and Steel (03:30)
In March 1862 at Hampton Roads, the U.S.S. Monitor and C.S.S. Virginia fought to control the James River. Despite Confederate efforts, the Union blockade remained intact. Learn about the arms race to design the ironclad warships.
Many battles were fought to control supply lines. Trains were used as reconnaissance vehicles, mobile hospitals, animal transport, battering rams, and for sabotage purposes.
Great Locomotive Chase (04:10)
In April 1862 in Big Shanty, Union soldiers hijacked a locomotive and headed north, destroying the railway behind them. The "General" eventually ran out of fuel; the soldiers were captured and executed. The North had a single gauge railway system, allowing seamless transportation.
Deadlier Weapons (02:54)
In August 1862, both sides returned to Manassas for the Second Battle of Bull Run armed with rifled muskets and the Minie ball. The bullet destroyed bones and amputations become routine.
Musket vs. Spencer Repeating Rifle (04:01)
Learn about advances in weapons technology over the course of the Civil War. Industrial Revolution innovations gave the North an advantage.
Battle of Antietam Creek (02:06)
In September 1862, the first major battle on Union soil claimed 22,000 casualties in a single day. Hear a firsthand account from Union surgeon J. Franklin Dyer.
Reconnaissance Improvements (02:45)
Officers on both sides were trained in Napoleonic tactics at West Point, but long range gunfire made them obsolete. Tunnels, military field hospitals, and deadlier artillery were employed for strategic advantage. Hot air balloons enabled spying on the enemy.
A War of Words (01:58)
In September 1862, Lincoln gained direct communication via telegraph with generals in the field—a tactical advantage. He could also communicate with the press and with the Confederacy.
Emancipation Proclamation (03:00)
In January 1863, Lincoln sent a telegraphed message granting freedom to slaves. Part of his decision was to recruit African-Americans for the Union Army. They often fought to the death, knowing they would be killed or sent back to slavery.
Death Trap (03:14)
The Union Army was better armed and fed; the Confederacy needed a tactical advantage. The H.L. Hunley, the first submarine used as a war weapon, was built in Mobile in 1863. Lieutenant George Dixon was convinced it could disrupt the Union blockade.
Hunley's Mission (02:47)
In February 1864, Dixon's crew targeted the U.S.S. Housatonic with a crude torpedo, sinking both ship and submarine in the Charleston harbor. The eight men aboard made no attempt to escape.
Fire in the Sky (03:13)
The Union engineered a 16,500 pound artillery gun called the Swamp Angel. Incendiary shells set fire to Charleston in August 1863, demoralizing civilians. Hear war correspondent Frank Vizetelly's firsthand account of the attack.
Civil War Artillery (02:12)
Massive guns destroyed thick fort walls, cities, and people. Hear Sargent Charles T. Bowen's description of shelling Confederate troops. Machine guns, artillery and mines changed tactics to industrial warfare.
Confederate Doubt (01:45)
By summer 1863, it became evident that the South would likely lose. Davis publicly encouraged troops but privately wondered if the war had been a mistake. (Credits)
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