The American Civil War took place in the United States of America between 1861 and 1865. One of the most gruesome encounters in American history, it was fought between the Confederate States of America and the U.S. Federal government. The Confederate States of America or the ‘Confederacy’ was a body formed by 11 southern slave states after withdrawing from the Union (the federal government of the United States). The Union had the support of the free states as well as some border slave states in the northern parts of the country.
The American Civil War began on April 12, 1861, with the Confederate forces attacking a U.S. Military installation at Fort Sumter in South Carolina, and ended on April 9, 1865, with the Union forces emerging victorious. Approximately 6000 encounters were reported throughout the war, most of them pertaining to the southern United States.
Interesting Facts about the American Civil War
Approximately 2,100,000 soldiers participated in the war on the behalf of the Union, while 1,064,000 participated on behalf of Confederates. The death toll in the Union camp was 360,000 of which 110,000 were killed on the battlefield. While 260,000 died in the Confederate camps, 93,000 lost their lives on the battlefield. More than 10,000 soldiers representing the Union were under 18 years of age.
Ulysses S. Grant led an army of 533,000 men for the Union, after he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General in 1864. This was the largest battalion in the world. He was eventually elected the 18th President of the United States in 1869.
Many intense battles leading to high causalities within a short period of time were reported during the course of the War. In the Battle of Shiloh, fought on the banks of Tennessee river, the death toll was 23,700. More Americans fell in this battle than the combined dead of all previous wars. 12,401 Union men perished at the Battle of Antietam in a single day, which was termed as the bloodiest day of the civil war. At the Battle of Cold Harbor in Virginia, 7000 Americans were killed within a span of 20 minutes.
A fierce encounter between USS Kearsarge and CSS Alabama was witnessed off the Cherbourg coast in France. The French gathered on the beach to witness this historical battle in the sea. The French artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir reproduced this event on canvas, and the painting is displayed at the Philadelphia Art Gallery today.
A single-shot muzzle-loading rifle was the most common weapon used during the American Civil War. 80% of all wounds suffered by the soldiers were caused by this weapon, which could be loaded thrice a minute, and could fire at a target within the range of a thousand yards. The ‘minie’ ball, a bullet invented by Capt. Minie of the French army, also induced heavy causalities during this war. It was an inch-long, elongated bullet made of soft lead, pointed at one end and hollow at the base.
Though artillery was extensively used in the war, only 10% of the casualties reported were caused by artillery fire. The barrage fire executed at the Battle of Gettysburg was heard in Pittsburgh, located a 100 miles away! On an average, each soldier possessed seven pounds of ammunition, which included 40 rounds of cartridges in the cartridge box and 60 rounds carried in his bag. Other then rifles and canons, weapons used in the American Civil War included revolvers, hand grenades, land mines, swords, Greek fire and cutlasses.
Over 360,000 soldiers from the United States of America lost their lives in this war, most of them succumbing to diseases. Only one-third of the casualties were due to wounds while the remaining two-thirds died due to diseases. The most common diseases that affected soldiers during the American Civil War were typhoid, malaria, pneumonia, dysentery, arthritis and even malnutrition.
The Peninsula campaign and the Battle of Antietam saw the first use of organized ambulance corps. Over 1100 ambulances were utilized in the Battle of Gettysburg. The medical director of the Union forces reported that all the wounded soldiers were carried off the battlefield and provided with medical attention within 12 hours after the war ceased. The Red Rover, the first U.S. naval hospital ship was used in inland waters during the Vicksburg campaign.
Finally the war, fought for almost four years, came to an end on April 9, 1865, with the Confederates surrendering to the Union’s forces. It marked the beginning of the ‘Reconstruction Era’ in United States politics and brought an end to slavery in the United States, with the introduction of the Emancipation Proclamation.