Civil War Page


There can be little doubt that the Civil War was the turning point in the history of the Republic. In 1860, we were little more than an advanced third world country (the Duke of Wellington wasn't the only one who was surprised when we won the war with Mexico 15 years before). Five years later we had the second largest army in the world, the only major force of ironclads, an industrial base, an extensive railroad system. The constitutional system was profoundly changed by the adoption--by rather irregular means--of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. We had committed to a transcontinental railway and to populating the western 2/3 of the nation by immigration. As Oswald Spengler remarked, the U.S. was not formed by the events of 1776, but in the cataclysm of 1861-65. 624,000 men died in the process--1.6% of the entire population, about one out of every twenty adult males in the nation--and entire regions were laid waste (the northern third of Virginia was, according to witnesses, virtually destroyed). One simple comparison: the 1862 battle of Shiloh killed more Americans than had died in all wars combined to that date: the complete toll of the four years (624,392 dead) exceeded our total deaths in both world wars (116,516, 405,399) plus Korea and Vietnam.

For a history of the trials of one band of men--the five hundred men from the Saginaw/Frankenmuth area of Michigan who enlisted in the Second Michigan Infantry--click here. I have a photographs of some of the positions they held on the North Anna and Pamunkey, and of the precise area where the Second Michigan charged at Cold Harbor, and of a tour of the battlesite and of Arlington by some of their descendants.

For the tale of one veteran of the 49th Illinois, click here.

For a chronicle of the Dutchers and Lamberts of Michigan, and the dozen men they sent to Union armies, click here.

I've also posted tips on researching your civil war ancestors.

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dthardy@mindspring.com