Encyclopedia of the American Civil War


This five-volume encyclopedia covers every subject and significant person connected with the causes, course, and consequences of the Civil War. The 1600-plus articles range from a column to several pages in length and cover myriad topics from the coming of the war to its conducts and its consequences in a political, military, and social context. In addition to full biographies of major and minor military, political, diplomatic, and cultural figures, they include descriptions of approximately 60 major engagements as well as important skirmishes and their role in the larger military setting, and broad areas such as strategy and tactics, social trends, and technological innovations. The volumes also supply about 250 primary documents, 75 maps depicting military situations, and 500 b&w illustrations (contemporary photographs, lithographs, and drawings), a chronology of major events, and a special battlefield section for sites in 16 states, with location maps. Appendices present the executive officers of both the United States and Confederate States and general officers of each army.

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Distinguished Book Award - Society for Military History
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Outstanding Reference Source 2001 - RUSA/ALA
Dartmouth Honorable Mention Medal for 2001 - RUSA/ALA
Independent Publisher Book Award 2001 - Independent Publisher Association
Editors' Choice 2000 - Booklist
Best Reference Source 2000 - Library Journal

"Superb—an outstanding and comprehensive work which renders all similar works redundant." — North & South

"Encyclopedia of the American Civil War is outstanding, and every serious Civil War historian will want access to it ... Historians of the Civil War era owe a debt of gratitude to everyone connected with this ambitiously conceived, wonderfully realized, new resource." - The Journal of Military History

"No other reference work compares with the range of this enterprise in canvassing the war. Every academic and major public library will need these volumes." - Library Journal, Starred Review

"[R]arely does something come along of this scope and quality. . . . Outstanding. . . . Ambitiously conceived, wonderfully realized, new resource." — Military History

"Should become a standard source." — American Reference Books Annual

"The entries reflect recent advances in scholarship and interpretation. . . . Pure substance." — Civil War Book Review


Exhaustion and the weather prevented a continued Federal pursuit of the fleeing Confederates. The 23d Virginia had left only about thirty of their number dead at the engagement around Carrick's Ford, but the episode made for a grim conclusion to a sobering campaign. It all had been a significant strategic setback and a profound psychological blow for the new Confederacy, the one because it dimmed the political fortunes in the region and the other because Garnett's death gave pause to those who had blustered about a gloriously short and bloodless war.

For his part, McClellan was exultant over the general success of his first campaign. Neither he nor the nation that would soon lionize him could know that it was to be the zenith of his military exploits. Moreover, the failure to smash anything other than Garnett's rear guard at Carrick's Ford contributed in part to McClellan's growing fixation with minute detail and a tendency to avoid delegating authority. The pitfalls of such an attitude would not become apparent right away, and for the time being, the man the newspapers soon dubbed an American Napoleon could bask in his success and pass judgment on his enemies. Contemplating the dead Garnett, McClellan curtly observed, "Such is the fate of traitors."

"Battle of Carrick’s Ford," David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler,аEncyclopedia of the American Civil War.

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Three bullets struck Jackson. While two made flesh wounds, the third shattered the bone in his left arm below the shoulder.

Amputation of the limb followed five hours later at a field hospital. For safety reasons, Lee ordered Jackson removed to the railhead at Guiney Station. The wounded commander endured the bumpy, 27-mile wagon ride without complaint. Yet pneumonia rapidly developed. Jackson had always expressed the hope that he might be blessed to die on the Sabbath. Around 3:15 p.m. on Sunday, May 10, he emerged from a terminal coma long enough to say: "Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees."

The gifts of a supreme military leader were united in Jackson: imagination, speed, boldness, determination. To start before dawn, to march hour after hour, to pray long and hard, to fight with the relentless fury of a crusader, to look after his soldiers with the protective air of a stern father—these were part of Jackson's makeup. He was harsh, because he hated weakness. He demanded so much of his men because he demanded so much of himself. He could insist on the impossible, for he was confident that with aggressive leadership and God's blessing, the impossible could be accomplished.

A military genius fighting for the Lord must die to be defeated. Jackson's death was the greatest personal loss suffered by the Confederate States. An estimated 25,000 people filed by his coffin in the rotunda of the Virginia State Capitol. Many Federal commanders refused for weeks to believe that Jackson was dead and not making another secret flanking movement. In contrast, the idea dawned on more than one Southerner that with Jackson's passing, God was preparing the Confederacy for defeat.

"Stonewall Jackson," James I. Robertson, Jr.,аEncyclopedia of the American Civil War.

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The Civil War is often described as straddling the line that separates the last of the old wars and the first of the modern ones. Yet, in the use of covert operations, the Lincoln administration did not break new ground so much as it followed a tradition established by the founders during the American Revolution. Lincoln, the canny westerner, and Seward, the wily New Yorker, certainly understood the compelling need of extralegal activity in the face of high national peril. In the extraordinary crisis of the Union, it was part of a guiding attitude that Lincoln described as necessary to disenthrall the government from the routines of ordinary functions. Then, he said, they would save their country.

"U.S. Covert Operations," David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler,аEncyclopedia of the American Civil War.

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Lee's public support for continued resistance extended to recommending that slaves be armed and placed in the army. He also suggested that slaves who served faithfully in this capacity, together with their families, should be freed. Lee's views on this volatile subject, made public in late February, promoted considerable support for arming and freeing slaves. "With the great mass of our people," noted the Richmond Sentinel with some hyperbole, "nothing more than this letter [from Lee] is needed to settle every doubt or silence every objection." In March 1865, the Confederate Congress passed legislation permitting the enrollment of slaves as soldiers but refused to provide any guarantee of freedom.

The siege of Petersburg neared its end during the last week of March. Lee made a desperate effort to break Grant's grip with an attack against Fort Stedman on March 25. The assault achieved momentary success before counterattacks restored the Federal position. On April 1, Philip Sheridan crushed George E. Pickett's defending Confederates in the battle of Five Forks, turning Lee's right and forcing the evacuation of Richmond on the night of April 2-3.

A weeklong retreat westward from Richmond and Petersburg ensued. Lee hoped to join Joseph Johnston's army in North Carolina, but Grant's pursuit denied him an opening. Under relentless pressure, the Confederates fought at Sayler's Creek on April 6, losing thousands of prisoners and prompting Lee, who witnessed the debacle from high ground, to exclaim, "My God! Has the army been dissolved?" Two more days took the armies to the vicinity of Appomattox Court House, where Northern cavalry blocked the front of Lee's column. On April 9, Lee knew the end had come. Hemmed in by powerful Northern forces to the east, south, and west, he told a group of officers, "There is nothing left me to do but to go and see General Grant, and I would rather die a thousand deaths."

The war's two most famous generals met in the parlor of Wilmer McLean's home in Appomattox Court House on April 9. Grant extended generous terms, Lee accepted them, and the two men signed the document of surrender. The Army of Northern Virginia, reduced to just 28,000 men, had shed its last blood for Robert E. Lee.

"Robert E. Lee," Gary W. Gallagher,аEncyclopedia of the American Civil War.

( Heidlers Photo Credit: Don Jones, Studio Nine Commercial Photography) ай David and Jeanne Heidler 2020