Civil War Documents

Letters, Legislation,
Congress & Documentations

Republican Platform, 1860

Date:1860 Annotation: During the presidential election of 1860, the Republican Party promised to prohibit slavery. They also proposed free-homestead legislation, the establishment of a daily…

Crittenden Compromise

Author:   John Crittenden Date:1860 Annotation: The Crittenden Compromise, written by Kentucky Senator John Crittenden, was seen as a desperate attempt to resolve the secession…

Battle Hymn of the Republic

Author:   Julia Ward Howe Date:1861 Annotation: This is the text of The Battle Hymn of the Republic. Julia Ward Howe wrote this original version…

The Civil War Begins

Date:1861 Annotation: Upon learning of Lincoln’s plan, Jefferson Davis ordered General Pierre G.T. Beauregard (1818-1893) to force Fort Sumter’s surrender before the supply mission could…

Reflections on the War’s Causes

Author:   David Hopkins Date:1861 Annotation: In its analysis of the Civil War’s causes, the London Times rejected the notion that this was a war…

Constitution of the Confederate States

Preamble We, the people of the Confederate States, each State acting in its sovereign and independent character, in order to form a permanent federal government,…

Racism and the Law

Date:1862 Annotation: The California Supreme Court rules that a Chinese witness could not testify against a white man accused of murder. After George Hall was…

Abraham Lincoln to Horace Greeley

Author:   Abraham Lincoln Date:1862 Annotation: In August 1862, Lincoln stated: “If I could save the union without freeing any slaves I would do it;…

California Imposes a Tax on Chinese Laborers

Author:   Ellen Greene Date:1862 Annotation: In 1862, the California legislature approved an act to discourage Chinese immigration and protect white workers against competition with…

Confederate Reaction to “Beast” Butler

Author:   General Pierre G.T. Beauregard Date:1862 Annotation: The Civil War witnessed a will to destroy and a spirit of intolerance that conflicted with Americans’…

Native Americans and the Civil War

Author:   John Ross Date:1862 Annotation: In 1861, many Cherokees, Chickasaws, Choctaws, Creeks, and Seminoles decided to join the Confederacy, in part because some of…

Wartime Separation of Spouses

Author:   David V.M. Smith Date:1862 Annotation: The Civil War separated families in unprecedented numbers and freed women to assume many new roles. With the…

The Civil War’s Human Cost

Author:   George C. Burling Date:1862 Annotation: Almost as many soldiers died during the Civil War as in all other American wars combined. Union combat…

Morrill Land Grant Act

Annotation: Congressional act to establish land grant colleges. The Morrill Act was introduced by Congressman Justin Morrill of Vermont. Under the act, each state that…

The Emancipation Proclamation

Author:   Rufus Blanchard Date:1863 Annotation: In recent years, it has sometimes been charged that Lincoln’s proclamation did not free any slaves, since it applied…

Hardships on the Southern Home Front

Author:   Daniel H. Hill Date:1863 Annotation: By early 1863, the Civil War had begun to cause severe hardship on the southern homefront. Not only…

The Flight of Slaveholders to Texas

Author:   William Tecumseh Sherman Date:1863 Annotation: As the war dragged on, enthusiasm faded and class tensions flared. In the North, the worst mob violence…

Flagging Confederate Morale

Author:   Christian M. Epperly Date:1863 Annotation: The four days between July 1 and July 4, 1863 marked a major turning point of the Civil…

Emancipation Proclamation

Author:   Abraham Lincoln Date:1863 Annotation: President Abraham Lincoln frees slaves in areas in rebellion against the United States. The nation was embroiled in the…

Plight of Wartime Refugees

Author:   James E. Yeatman Date:1863 Annotation: In a letter to President Lincoln, aid workers offer a graphic portrait of the plight of wartime refugees….

Gettysburg Address

Author:   Abraham Lincoln Date:1863 Annotation: The Gettysburg Address was delivered on November 19, 1863, several months after the Union defeated the Confederacy at the…

The Lawrence Massacre

Between 160 and 190 men and teenage boys, all civilians and many unarmed, were murdered by Confederate guerillas in a day-long raid that also witnessed…

The Sand Creek Massacre

Author:   Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War Date:1864 Annotation: A joint congressional committee conducted an investigation of the Sand Creek massacre and…

Four Documents on the Sand Creek Massacre

Date:1864 Annotation: Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado, the lone American Indian in Congress, called it “one of the most disgraceful moments in American history.”…

Lincoln Experiments with Colonization

Author:   Abraham Lincoln Date:1864 Annotation: For much of his political career, Lincoln, like his political idol Henry Clay, was an advocate of colonization, based…

Thirteenth Amendment Resolution

Author:   Congress of the United States Date:1864 Annotation: The Emancipation Proclamation freed only those slaves in states still at war. As a wartime order,…

The Confederacy Begins to Collapse from Within

Author:   John McKinley Gibson Date:1864 Annotation: Initially, Lincoln and his generals anticipated a conventional war in which Union soldiers would respect civilians’ property. Convinced…

The Fate of Deserters

Author:   Christian M. Epperly Date:1864 Annotation: Military desertions were treated harshly. A Confederate soldier describes the fate of men who tried to leave their…

The Breakdown of the Plantation System

Author:   Tobias Gibson Date:1864 Annotation: Slaves played a critical role in their own liberation. Southern slaves deserted plantations and fled to Union lines. Slaves…

The Two Roads to Peace

Author:   National Union Free Convention Date:1864 Annotation: As their presidential nominee, the Democrats chose General George B. McClellan, who opposed the Emancipation Proclamation and…

On to Richmond

Author:   A.R. Lord Date:1865 Annotation: In March 1864, Lincoln gave Ulysses S. Grant command of all Union armies. Vowing to end the war within…

General Robert E. Lee Surrenders

Author:   Robert E. Lee Date:1865 Annotation: By April 1865, Grant’s army had cut off Lee’s supply lines, forcing Confederate forces to evacuate Petersburg and…

The Assassination of President Lincoln

Author:   J.B. Stonehouse Date:1865 Annotation: At noon on Good Friday, April 14, 1865, Major General Robert Anderson raised the U.S. flag over Fort Sumter….

Conditions in the Postwar South

Author:   Edwin H. McCaleb Date:1865 Annotation: As a result of the Civil War, the South lost a fourth of its white male population of…

Juneteenth

Date:1865 Annotation: Many slaves in Texas did not formally hear about freedom until June 19, 1865, when General Gordon Granger and 1800 Union troops arrived…

Second Inaugural Address

Author:   Abraham Lincoln Date:1865 Annotation: Lincoln’s Second Inaugural address. On March 4, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln gave his second inaugural address. Eerily, John Wilkes…

Ex parte Milligan

Date:1866 Annotation: Supreme Court ruling on the power of the federal government to institute martial law. During the Civil War, President Lincoln, concerned that Southern…

Great Sioux Uprising Of 1862

Author:   Big Eagle Date:1894 Annotation: During the summer of 1862, Indian warfare broke out in southern Minnesota that left between 400 and 800 settlers…