The American Civil War: Free resources for top research topics on Civil War facts

The American Civil WarFrom 1861 to 1865, the United States fought a war over the right of secession, as eleven states wanted to separate from the Union. The causes for the war, and the reasons for its outcome, remain topic for debate over a hundred years later. And Americans continue to celebrate a holiday that was originally designed to honor the approximately 620,000 soldiers who died during the action: Memorial Day, which was founded in 1868. In honor of Memorial Day, we at Questia are offering five free resources for top research topics on Civil War facts. You can also find even more resources on Civil War topics, including specific battles like the Battle of Gettysburg or topics like African-American Soldiers in the Civil War, in our Civil War library.

This Mighty Scourge: Perspectives on the Civil War

Author: James M. McPherson

One of America’s preeminent historians on the American Civil War, Pulitzer Prize winner McPherson compiles a number of his essays, several previously unpublished and all updated and revised, in this 2007 collection. Dealing with everyday topics, such as the love soldiers had for newspapers, to larger topics, such as the creation of the Lost Cause mystique in the postwar South, McPherson provides an interpretive history of the war and its meaning for America. McPherson spotlights famous figures including Harriet Tubman, John Brown, Jesse James and William Tecumseh Sherman, and offers new insights into General Robert E. Lee’s goals in the Gettysburg Campaign, Lincoln and Grant in the Vicksburg campaign, and Lincoln as Commander-in-Chief.

Why the Civil War Came

Editor: Gabor S. Boritt

The reasons for the Civil War — and why events led to such an outbreak of violence rather than a strictly diplomatic resolution — have been hotly debated since the beginning of the war in 1861. In this 1996 collection, editor Boritt compiles essays by a number of historians who offer insight into some of the reasons behind the war and its outcomes. William W. Freehling discusses the peculiarities of North American slavery; Charles Royster reveals the combatants’ savage readiness to fight; Glenna Matthews focuses on the war-catalyzing role played by extraordinary public women; and David Blight reveals an African-American world that “knew what time it was,” and welcomed war. These authors and others, including Boritt, create a picture of an America on the brink of disaster, when democracy failed and violence reigned.

Turning Points of the Civil War

Author: James A. Rawley

The Union came into the Civil War with distinct advantages: a complex industrial economy, an already formed and stable government, and a modern railroad system among them. But despite those strengths, a win was never guaranteed, and Rawley looks at seven turning points during the U.S. Civil War — junctures in history when force and counterforce met with such intensity that the outcome could go against the expected course of development. In this 1989 work, Rawley argues that there were a number of times during the war when, even with its advantages, the Union might have “snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.”

Freedom, Union, and Power: Lincoln and His Party during the Civil War
Author: Michael S. Green

In this 2004 history, Green analyzes the beliefs of the Republican Party during the Civil War, how those beliefs changed, and what those changes foreshadowed for the future. With Lincoln’s election, Republicans faced something new: responsibility for the government. With responsibility came the need to wage war for the survival of that government, the country and the party. And with victory in the war came responsibility for saving the Union by ending slavery — and for pursuing policies that fit their belief in a strong, free Union. Green shows how Republicans wielded federal power to stop a rebellion while maintaining their hold on that power — the intersection of policy and politics.

Civil War

Causes Won, Lost, and Forgotten: How Hollywood and Popular Art Shape What We Know about the Civil War

Author: Gary W. Gallagher

Despite the wealth of books published on the Civil War, most Americans rely on Hollywood — movies, television and other popular media — for their ideas on why the war was fought. Gallagher investigates how popular culture has portrayed the U.S. Civil War in recent film and art, and how the media’s representations of the Civil War are impacted by the social, political and racial currents of their times. In this 2008 work, Gallagher posits that an understanding of the war is hampered by the four traditional of views on the Civil War that continue to be perpetuated today: the Lost Cause, in which Confederates are seen as having waged an admirable struggle against hopeless odds; the Union Cause, which frames the war as an effort to maintain a viable republic in the face of secessionist actions; the Emancipation Cause, in which the war is viewed as a struggle to liberate 4 million slaves and eliminate a cancerous influence on American society; and the Reconciliation Cause, which represents attempts by northern and southern whites to extol “American” virtues and mute the role of African Americans. Gallagher tracks how the media has swung from the Lost Cause to a predominantly Emancipation view, and looks at how popular entertainment impacts the opinions formed on current matters of debate.

Visit Questia for even more research on the U. S. Civil War.

What do you think are the most important aspects about the U.S. Civil War to study in the classroom? Is there anything you’d love to learn more about? Let us know in the comments below!

2 replies
  1. Larry (Lorenzo Bernardotto - It.) says:

    Well … the Civil War as it was taught here, in Italy, was due to the problem of the slaves in the South. But it isn’t only that. Most historians tell us it was a secondary cause. According to my studies, it was a point of view of two “different worlds” which led to the war. The North, with its “financial and economic world”; and the South, with its “agricultural world”. Two different societies which would clash sooner or later. It would be unavoidable. But the problem was not originated in 1860 with Lincon’s election and on the eve of the War. Historians think it was the Mexican War of 1846-48 the main cause, when the “two worlds” had different projects. The North, especially New England and New York businessmen, wanted to expand their economic, agricultural, and financial model westwards (followed also by the railway). Same thing for the southern planters, who wanted to expand slavery in the new southwestern territories acquired after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of 1848.

  2. Alana Joli Abbott says:

    It’s fascinating to hear about how American history is taught in other countries! The economic impulses toward expansion sound about right to me — and fighting over resources tends to be the root of many armed conflicts, so it makes sense, even if, in later times, the ethical concerns rose to the forefront.


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