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Notes: Give Me Liberty! An American History: Chapter 14

Eric Foner: Give Me Liberty! An American History: Chapter notes, study guide, book outline.

Eric Foner: Give Me Liberty! An American History: Chapter notes, study guide, book outline.


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Chapter 14: A New Birth of Freedom: The Civil War (1861-1877)

Chapter 14: A New Birth of Freedom: The Civil War (1861-1877)

Focus Questions

  1. Why is the Civil War considered to be the first modern war?
  2. How did a war to preserve the union become a war to end slavery?
  3. How did the Civil War contribute to a stronger AM nation-state?
  4. How did the war affect the society and economy of the Confederacy?
  5. What were the military and political turning points of the war?
  6. What were the most important wartime “rehearsals for Reconstruction”?

Chapter 14: A New Birth of Freedom: The Civil War (1861-1865)

  1. Introduction
  1. Marcus M Spiegel was a volunteer in the Civil War. The magic word “freedom” shaped how many Union soldiers viewed the conflict
  2. Some Union soldiers, like Marcus, believed Lincoln’s Eman Proc was a mistake, but after seeing the real life of slaves, many changed their minds

The First Modern War

  1. Often called the first modern war b/c it was the first time where weapons and technology from the industrial revolution were being used. Casualties were incredibly high compared to other battles.
  2. The Two Combatants
  1. Union had the upper hand in almost everything, but it faced a far greater task:
  1. It had to invade and conquer an area larger than western Europe

Recruits rushed to enlist, expecting a short, glorious war...then resorted to a draft...few had any military experience The Technology of War

  1. First major conflict where railroad transported troops and supplies
  2. Battle btwn sea machines: Monitor and Merrimac (ironclads over wooden ships)
  3. Observation balloons, primitive hand grenades, and submarines started popping up
  4. A huge population of men died from the Civil War; more than all the other wars in the US combined (from the Revolution to the Iraq wars!)

The Public and the War

  1. Propganda helped out both sides: lithographs, souvenirs, sheet music, and pamphlets
  2. Photographers took pictures of the aftermath of the wars

Mobilizing Resources

  1. There was no national railroad gauge (distance separating the two tracks), so the trains built for one line could not run on another
  2. There was no tax system capable of raising funds for war, and not even accurate maps of the southern states
  3. Union army was best fed and best-supplied military force in history, but by the 3rd yr = the South was starting to have shortages of food, uniforms, and shoes
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Military Strategies

  1. Confederacy = defensive strategy w/ occasional strikes at the North
  1. General Robert E Lee = What a boss, he was able to defend almost anything the North threw at him

The North suffered from Narrowness of military vision (tried to only capture the South’s capital), thus sacrificing the North’s manpower superiority The War Begins

  1. East = most of the fighting was btwn Washington and Richmond
  2. Battle of Bull Run (first battle) - McClellan assumed control of Union forces of the Potomac. He was a smart army leader

The War in the East, 1862

  1. Lee blunted McClellan’s attacks and forced him to withdraw back into Washington, DC in the Seven Days Campaign
  2. After Lee was successful, he attempted to capture Washington, DC
  1. McClellan successfully held him back, but more ppl died on this day than any other battle in US history (4,300 men killed, 18,000 injured)
  1. Called the Battle of Antietam

North won, but this was the only win for a while The War in the West

  1. Ulysses S. Grant was owning the South in the West, he was a West Point grad
  2. First significant victory for the Union = capturing Forts Henry and Donelson in Tennessee

The Coming of Emancipation

  1. Slavery and the War
  1. War tends to go along with revolution: Btwn 1831 and 1888, nearly 4 million slaves gained their freedom
  2. Lincoln offered everyone at least a chance in the “race of life”

The Unraveling of Slavery

  1. Early days of the War, a nearly unanimous Congress adopted a resolution that the Union had no intention of interfering w/ slavery
  2. By the end of 1861, the Confederacy set slaves to work as military laborers
  3. So the Union started treating slaves like contrabands of war... “the contrabands”
  4. The most valuable information that the Union got about the Confederacy was from the slaves who escaped them

Steps Toward Emancipation

  1. March of 1862: Congress prohibited the army from returning fugitive slaves
  2. Lincoln proposed a program of gradual emancipation of the border states

Lincoln’s decision

  1. Summer of 1862 = Lincoln concluded that emancipation had become a political and military necessity...Many factors contributed to this, like
  1. Lack of military success, changing northern opinion, hope that slaves could help them, and it would keep BR from joining the Confederacy’s side

Some northerners feared being “Africanized”, but Lincoln calmed them down The Emancipation Proclamation

  1. Jan 1st, 1863 = It exempted areas firmly under Union only applied to Confederate states. It altered the course of AM history and the Civil War
  2. Civil War was begun to preserve the prewar Union, not portended a far-reaching transformation in southern life and a redefinition of AM freedom

Enlisting Black Troops

  1. Many became a part of the Navy b/c sailor was a popular profession
  1. Also cooks, laundresses, and laborers

Blacks did very well in the military forces, w/ 15 getting medals of honor. Lots participated: 180k in army, 24k in navy, 1/3 died Black Soldier

  1. Military service was a liberating experience for blacks
  2. Blacks on ships were treated exactly the same as white soldiers
  3. Allowing blacks to serve for their freedom really helped the last two years of the war

The Second American Revolution

  1. Called this b/c of the transformation of AM gov and society brought about by the Civil War
  2. Liberty and Union
  1. Liberty in the North was the ability for each man to enjoy the fruits of his labor
  2. Emancipation offered proof of the progressive nature and global significance of the country’s history

Lincoln’s Vision

  1. Lincoln’s nation was based on the idea of unifying a particular ppl with a common ethnic, cultural, and linguistic heritage.
  2. To Lincoln, the AM nation embodied a set of universal ideas, centered on political democracy and human liberty
  3. Ghettysburg Address = his finest speech; declared that all men are created equal

From Union to Nation

  1. The US remained a federal republic w/ sovereignty divided btwn the state and national gov’s

Liberty in Wartime

  1. Many ppl were arrested in this time: This new nationalism made criticism of the war effort-or of the policies of the Lincoln Administration-equivocate to treason
  1. Basically, ppl were punished for just saying bad things about Lincoln

The Constitution, declared Justice David Davis, is not suspended in wartime The North’s transformation

  1. Economically, the North was doing extremely well
  2. Even though ppl were serving, immigrants were replacing lost workers

Government and the Economy

  1. To spur agricultural development, the South offered the Homestead Act (160 acres of free public land to settlers in the West. Also the Land Grant Colleges Act

Building the Transcontinental Railroad

  1. Huge grants of $$ for railroads and internal improvements
  2. It was first thought of entirely impracticable, but the project was monumental.
  3. Took a while to get going, but finally finished it from Omaha, Nebraska, to San Francisco. The Plains Indians would soon be demolished b/c of it though :(

A New Financial System

  1. Tariffs to raise money for the war. Enacted the first income tax.
  2. Two types of money now = Greenbacks (printed by the federal government) and notes issued by the new national banks
  3. The Government became the nation’s largest employer

Women and the War

  1. The conflict of war opened new doors of opportunity for women: factory jobs and nursing
  2. Women were largely responsible for organizing the Sanitary Fairs - Grand bazaars that displayed military banners, uniforms, and other relics of the war and sold goods to raise money for soldier’s aid

The Divided North

  1. Republicans labeled those opposed to the war Copperheads (like the snakes)
  2. Rebirth of a national labor movement (strike for higher wages)
  3. Dissent sometimes turned into outright violence

The Confederate Nation

  1. Leadership and Government
  1. Jefferson Davis, leader of the Confederate nation, was a West Point grad and an odd choice for pres. He could talk eloquently but couldn’t communicate to the AM public
  2. South failed to find a way to utilize their major economic resource, cotton.
  3. They tried cutting cotton production to affect Brit, but that didn’t work.
  1. However, other countries expanded production, creating low prices when the South started producing cotton again

The Inner Civil War

  1. The South had a rule for their draft; if someone had 20 slaves or more, they didn’t have to be drafted. Truly a “rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight”

Economic Problems

  1. The war left countless farms, plantations, businesses, and railroads in ruins
  2. The Confederacy borrowed heavily to finance the war

Southern Unionists

  1. Organized peace movements such as the Heroes of America. An estimated 50k of white southerners had fought
  2. One of the most celebrated Union heroes = Elizabeth Van Lew of Richmond - passed info about Confederate plans to Union forces

Women and the Confederacy

  1. Women often left to manage business affairs and discipline slaves (in South)
  2. Women responsible for imp tasks during war. Rose Greenhow even headed an espionage ring in Washington that passed valuable info about Union troop movements to Confederacy early in the war
  3. Southern women’s self-sacrificing devotion to the cause became legendary

Black Soldiers for the Confederacy

  1. Not until 1865 did the Confederates endorse the plan of using black soldiers
  2. The war ended before the recruitment of black soldiers began, however
  3. ...“If slaves make good soldiers, our whole theory of slavery is wrong”

Turning Points

  1. Gettysburg and Vicksburg
  1. Gettysburg was the largest battle ever fought on the North American continent
  2. Lee faced entrenched Union forces; One of Lees Majors, George E Pickett, led an attack on open field and got completely owned by artillery (only half retreated)
  3. When Lee was retreating to Virginia after the above, the Union achieved a significant victory in the West: Vicksburg; miles of trenches, but Grant won this war for the Union. Confederacy couldn’t afford to surrender here


  1. Nearly 2 yrs would pass before the war would end. North could replace its manpower losses while the South could not.
  1. Grant used this to his advantage by attacking everywhere all the time, thus eliminating the ability for the South to retreat or regroup

Sustained fighting in Virginia was a turning point in modern warfare (Confederates = 30k deaths, Union = 60k deaths; in ONE month time period) Spring and Summer of 1864 = Low points of Northern morale for the war Rehearsals for Reconstruction and the End of the War

  1. Debates over issues such as access to land, control of labor, and the new structure of political power would become postwar issues
  2. The Sea Island Experiment
  1. Most famous “rehearsal for Reconstruction” was on the Sea Islands (off SC coast) in Nov 1861. 10k slaves were abandoned on the island, so northern born teachers devoted themselves to teaching the blacks
  2. It was a success, blacks started getting wage jobs and enjoying better lives.

Wartime Reconstruction in the West

  1. New labor system established: regulations for plantation labor: plantation owners had to pay slaves wages, provide education, no physical punishment allowed, and their families were safe from disruption from sale

The Politics of Wartime Reconstruction

  1. Lincoln’s 10% Plan of ReconstructionHe essentially offered an amnesty and full restoration of rights to nearly all white southerners to take an oath affirming loyalty o the Union and support for emancipation
  1. When 10% of the voters of 1860 had taken the oath, they could elect a new state government, which would be required to abolish slavery

Wade-Davis Bill = required a majority of white southerners to pledge support for the Union before Reconstruction could begin in any state; Lincoln refused to sign though Victory at Last

  1. Marched though Georgia destroying as they went, captured Savannah as well
  2. Jan 31st, 1865, Congress approved the 13th Amendment (abolished slavery throughout the Union)
  3. Finally broke through Lee’s lines. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse

The War in AM History

  1. The Civil War laid the foundation for modern AM, guaranteeing the Union’s permanence, destroying slavery, and shifting power in the nation from the South to the North
  2. Both sides lost something they had gone to war to defend: south lost slavery, North lost the world of free labor (to the industrial giant)
  3. Only thing was that the work didn’t end with slavery, it had only just begun.

Review Questions

  1. Describe how blacks played a crucial role in both winning the Civil War and in defining the war’s consequences.
  2. What material advantages did the North have over eh South?
  3. Describe how Lincoln’s war aims evolved btwn 1861 and 1863, changing from preserving the Union to ending slavery.
  4. How did the Gettysburg address express ideas of freedom and liberty?
  5. In what ways did Lincoln restrict liberty during the war?


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Adam on November 30, 2015:

Please where are the rest of the chapter notes!! You are amazing!

DMM on May 03, 2015:

Do you have note for chapter 15- What is Freedom?: Reconstruction 1865-1877


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