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The American Civil War—the “War Between the States”—is the central event in American history, around which much of the rest of American history circles. The American Revolution was the defining event for the nation, and historians have claimed that the revolution was not complete until the issue of slavery was settled. The Civil War did that, and much more. The Civil War redefined the relationship between the government and the people, and between the federal government and the states. For that and other valid reasons, it has been called “The Second American Revolution.”

William Faulkner once wrote, “The past is never dead. It's not even past," and since his writing was mostly about the South, he was certainly referring to that part of the country. Certainly there are other areas of the United States where the past still lives: Boston's “Freedom Trail”; New York's Ellis Island; San Antonio's Alamo; along the Oregon Trail; Indian reservations; Baltimore's Fort McHenry; Independence Hall in Philadelphia; Angel Island in San Francisco; and so on. But nowhere outside the South does the past pervade the lives of its people almost every waking moment.

The history of the American Civil War is still being written. In one year less than a decade ago, over 700 new titles on the Civil War appeared. At present one online book seller lists over 10,000 volumes relating to the Civil War. No end is in sight—nor need there be. For a nation founded on the principles of freedom and individual liberty, the Civil War is the nation's largest event.And it will probably remain so for decades yet to come.

A wag once said that the real winner of the Civil War was the American Booksellers' Association. The figures above confirm that. No one could possibly devour in a lifetime all that has been written about the great conflict. Nor can any web site encompass all there is to know about the period. As an unreconstructed Yankee who has lived most of his life in the South, I will try to bring a small measure of clarity to the debate by trying to understand the issues as seen not just from both sides, but from many sides. Resources on the Civil War are manifold. Among the most popular historic sites visited by tourists are battlefield site Gettysburg, Antietam, and Vicksburg. Numerous television dramas as well as documentaries have covered the Civil War. Popular films have sometimes glamorized, sometimes laid out the tragedy of the Civil War. For many people, the world depicted in the famous film "Gone With the Wind" epitomizes an ideal that may never have existed except in the imagination. It will not be possible in the context of this section of the site to dig deep into the many ramifications of Civil War history. We will cover the essentials, or at least the basics, and the thousands of volumes available on all aspects of the war remain at your disposal.


Background Sources



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