This week: The American Civil War

Print titled ‘Battle of Gettysburg’ from the History of the War for the Union, a book by E. A. Duyckinck and illustrated by Alonzo Chappel. Image: Wikimedia Commons

The most important event in the history of the USA began with a disagreement – over the place of slavery in a democratic society.

By the time it ended, more than 620,000 Union and Confederate soldiers had given their lives – roughly equivalent to the number of Americans killed in all the country’s other wars combined.

Since then, the American Civil War has been the subject of countless books, films, paintings, musical works and even video games, while millions of Americans continue to walk the battlefields each year in an attempt to understand what happened in their homeland between April 1861 and May 1865.

The huge public interest is understandable, of course – not just in the US, but also around the world – given the importance of the issues, the staggering size of the losses, and everything else that has taken place since.

But amid such a torrent of information, misunderstandings can often occur – as we discover this week on The Past.

In the latest issue of Military History Matters magazine, the American historian Fred Chiaventone marks the 160th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg by debunking some of the key myths and legends to have sprung up around this turning point in the conflict.

Elsewhere this week on The Past, we have also been delving into the archives for more about the American Civil War: we recalled the service of the US Army’s first black regiments; we looked at the tortured relationship between President Lincoln and his generals; we analysed an important naval engagement at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, the place where the war had started; and we even investigated the Lawrence Massacre, one of the conflict’s bloodiest atrocities.

And finally, if all that simply whets your appetite, don’t forget to have a go at our latest Quiz, which this week is also themed around the American Civil War. Good luck, and we hope you enjoy The Past!

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