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
I've also posted tips on researching your civil
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