Courseworks

Weapons and Armour

Most civil war soldiers carried a rifled musket, which had quickly replaced the smoothbore muskets. Te old smoothbore muskets had very limited range and were not very accurate. In places where soldiers on firing lines were more than a hundred yards apart a smoothbore musket wouldn’t do much damage. Mass numbers of soldiers would often charge next to each other towards the defensive line and use bayonets and their superior numbers to wipe out the enemy. However rifled muskets changed the way that soldiers fought. It was a muzzleloader and had grooves inside the barrel that guided the bullet much more accurately. A charging mass of soldiers would be caught in enemy fire half a mile away and so it was impossible for them to get to the defending enemy and kill them. But these new rifles could not be fired very fast.Before a soldier could fire his musket, he had to bite open a paper cartridge, pour powder down the musket barrel, push the bullet in with a ramrod, cock the hammer, and set the percussion cap. New soldiers spent weeks trying to learn how to do t his quickly, but even the rifle fire from experienced soldiers was slow Heavy guns were also loaded by pouring in the powder and then the charge. Between shots the barrel was swabbed out. If a spark remained from the previous shot, the new powder being poured in would explode. This makes the guns very dangerous. Most heavy guns had smooth bores and were not very accurate, but when fired against a mass of advancing infantry they were deadly.The official uniform for the Union soldiers was blue but many regiments chose their own uniforms. “The Blue and Gray” has become the name for the soldiers of the civil war probably because many people thought that all Northern troops wore blue uniforms and all Southern troops wore grey. However this was not always true. A famous New York group of volunteers wore baggy red pants and short red jackets. The Iron Brigade of Michigan wore wide-brimmed black hats, with a feather curled up at the side. The United States Sharpshooters wore dark green uniforms, leather leggings, and feathers in their hats.Uniform was scarce for Southern soldiers. Before the war, the South sent almost all its cotton to Europe or the Northern states to be made into cloth. There were no factories in the south to make uniforms. Women in the south learned from their grandmothers or from their poorer neighbours how to weave homespun cloth. They made dye for the cloth from butternuts. Soon the most common colour worn by Confederate soldiers was not grey but the warm brown of butternuts.Union Tactics at the Battle of GettysburgOn June 24, 1863, General Robert E. Lee led his Confederate Army across the Potomac River and headed towards Pennsylvania. In response to this threat President Lincoln replaced his army commander, General Joseph Hooker, with General George Mead. As Lee’s troops poured into Pennsylvania, Mead led the Union Army north from Washington. Meade’s effort was inadvertently helped by Lee’s cavalry commander, Jeb Stuart, who, instead of reporting Union movements to Lee, had gone off on a raid deep in the Union rear. This action left Lee blind to the Union’s position. When a scout reported the Union approach, Lee ordered his scattered troops to converge west of the small village of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.On July 1, some Confederate infantry headed to Gettysburg to seize much-needed shoes and clashed west of town with Union cavalry. The Union commander, recognizing the importance of holding Gettysburg because a dozen roads converged there, fought desperately to hold off the Rebel advance. Other Union troops briefly stopped some Rebels north of town. During heavy fighting, the Confederates drove the Union troops through the streets of Gettysburg to Cemetery Hill south of the town. Lee ordered General Richard Ewell, now commander of the late Stonewall Jackson’s old units, to attack this position “if practicable”, a vague order that Jackson normally took to mean launch an all-out attack. Ewell was not Jackson. He decided not to attack once he saw the Union artillery atop the hill. Had he attacked and succeeded, it might have changed the course of the war.The rest of the armies arrived that first night. The Union army established a defensive position resembling a fish hook, with Culp’s Hill and the two Round Tops anchoring each end. Lee decided to attack both flanks the next day. On his right flank, Union troops mistakenly shifted out of position, leaving Little Round Top undefended. At the last moment, a Union general rushed troops in just ahead of the charging Confederates. After a long day of fighting, they barely held the position. The misplaced bluecoats were pushed back through The Peach Orchard, The Wheat Field, and Devil’s Den. On the left, Ewell’s assault failed due mainly to his poor leadership.Thinking the Union centre had weakened from these attacks; Lee decided the next day to hit it first with artillery, and then an infantry charge led by George Pickett’s division. Stuart’s late-arriving cavalry was to come in behind the Union centre at the same time, but they were held off by Union cavalry led by a young General George Custer. After an hour’s duel, Union artillery deceived the Confederates into thinking their guns were knocked out. Then 13,000 Rebels marched across the field in front of Cemetery Hill, only to have the Union artillery open up on them, followed by deadly Federal infantry firepower. Scarcely half made it back to their own lines. In all, Lee lost more than a third of his men before retreating to Virginia. Meade, a naturally cautious man, decided the loss of one-quarter of his men had been enough, and only feebly tried to pursue Lee, missing an opportunity to crush him.Brief BiographiesAbraham Lincoln: The 16th president of the United States was a self-taught man of humble origin. Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809 in a cabin near Hodgenville, Kentucky. His parents, Nancy Hanks and Thomas Lincoln, were pioneers, and the family moved several times during Lincoln’s boyhood. When Lincoln was eight years old, the family moved to Spencer County, Indiana. His mother died shortly thereafter, and the next year proved to be very difficult for Lincoln.Fortunately, Lincoln’s father married Sarah Bush Johnston the following year. She was an affectionate, energetic woman, who grew quite fond of Lincoln. She encouraged his desire to read, although she was virtually illiterate. Lincoln received very little formal education. His total schooling amounted to about one year.In 1830, the Lincoln family moved again and settled in Illinois. Since Lincoln was 21 years old and had no desire to become a farmer, he set out on his own. After working for a time as a flatboat man, shipping cargo to New Orleans, Lincoln settled in New Salem, Illinois. He worked various jobs as a rail splitter, postmaster, surveyor, and storekeeper. In 1832, Lincoln enlisted as a volunteer in the Black Hawk War and was elected captain of his company.Lincoln considered pursuing several professions, including shopkeeping and blacksmithing, but finally decided to study law and pursue political office. Lincoln educated himself in the law, as he had done previously with mathematics and grammar, and in 1836 he passed the bar examination. Two years earlier, Lincoln had been elected on the Whig ticket to serve a total of 4 terms in the Illinois State Legislature, from 1834 to 1841. In 1836, Lincoln entered into a law partnership with John T. Stuart and settled in Springfield, Illinois. He later practiced with Stephen T. Logan, then William Herndon. Lincoln’s practice was quite successful, and he was considered one of the most distinguished lawyers in the state. He was described as fair and completely honest.While living in Springfield, Lincoln became acquainted with Mary Todd. Her family was considered part of the social aristocracy, and her father was a prominent banker. Although Lincoln broke off the engagement once, the two were finally married on November 4, 1842. Todd had a difficult disposition; nevertheless the couple had a fairly successful marriage and enjoyed each other’s company. They had four children, but their son, Robert Todd, was the only child to reach adulthood.Lincoln served one term in Congress from 1847 to 1849, but his criticism of the Mexican War proved unpopular with his district’s voters. He was not re-elected and was further disappointed when he was not named commissioner of the general land office by Zachary Taylor, as expected. Lincoln withdrew from politics for approximately five years and returned to his legal profession in Springfield.However, in 1854, Lincoln became alarmed when Stephen A. Douglas, a former political rival, introduced a bill to reopen the entire Louisiana Purchase to slavery. Lincoln was vehemently opposed to this bill. Although Lincoln was neither an abolitionist, or in favour of slavery, he did not believe slavery should be permitted in the new territories. In 1858, Lincoln became a senatorial candidate for the newly founded Republican party. Although he was defeated, the public debates between Lincoln and Douglas increased his public recognition. During one of these debates, Lincoln declared the famous words, “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe the government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free.”In 1860, Lincoln was nominated by the Republican Party for the presidency. He was elected on November 6 and took the oath of office on March 4, 1861. The country faced many problems before Lincoln took office. South Carolina had withdrawn from the Union and other states soon followed. The majority of Lincoln’s presidency focused on the war of secession, and throughout it all, Lincoln vowed to preserve the Union.One of Lincoln’s greatest difficulties was finding capable generals. He experimented with various personnel, including George B. McClellan, John Pope, Ambrose E. Burnside, Joseph Hooker, and George Gordon Meade. In 1864, Lincoln found him in Ulysses S. Grant and entrusted command of all the Federal armies to him.On January 1, 1863, Lincoln delivered the final version of the famous Emancipation Proclamation, and with it, added the idea of freedom for all men to the battle cry of the war. The proclamation ultimately led to the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution.Lincoln was re-elected in 1864 over the Democratic opponent, General McClellan, and by the spring of 1865, the Union had won the war. Several days after the Union victory, Lincoln attended a play at Ford’s Theatre in Washington DC. As he sat in the theatre, Lincoln was shot by assassin John Wilkes Booth. Abraham Lincoln died in the early morning hours of April 15, 1865.Robert E Lee: (1807-1870), brilliant Confederate general, whose military genius was probably the greatest single factor in keeping the Confederacy alive through the four years of the American Civil War.Lee was born on January 19, 1807, in Stratford, Virginia, the son of Henry Lee, and was educated at the United States Military Academy. He graduated second in his class in 1829, receiving a commission as second lieutenant in the engineers. He became first lieutenant in 1836, and captain in 1838. He distinguished himself in the battles of the Mexican-American War and was wounded in the storming of Chapultepec in 1847; for his meritorious service he received his third brevet promotion in rank. He became superintendent of the US Military Academy and was later appointed colonel of cavalry. He was in command of the Department of Texas in 1860, and, early the following year was summoned to Washington, D.C., when war between the states seemed imminent. President Abraham Lincoln offered him the field command of the Union forces, but Lee declined.On April 20, three days after Virginia seceded from the Union, he submitted his resignation from the US Army. On April 23 he became commander in chief of the military and naval forces of Virginia. For a year he was military adviser to Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America, and was then placed in command of the army in northern Virginia. In 1864 his pre-war home, Arlington House, had been confiscated by the Union army and, in a symbolic reproach to Lee, its grounds had been made into a cemetery for the Union dead (now the Arlington National Cemetery). In February 1865 Lee was made commander in chief of all Confederate armies; two months later the war was effectively ended by his surrender to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House. His great battles included those of Antietam, Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg.The masterly strategy of Lee was overcome by the superior resources and troop strength of the Union. His campaigns are almost universally studied in military schools as models of strategy and tactics. He had a capacity for anticipating the actions of his opponents and for comprehending their weaknesses. He made skilful use of interior lines of communication and kept a convex front towards the enemy, so that his reinforcements, transfers, and supplies could reach their destination over short, direct routes. His greatest contribution to military practice, however, was his use of field fortifications as aids to manoeuvring. He recognized that a small body of soldiers, protected by entrenchments, can hold an enemy force of many times their number, while the main body outflanks the enemy or attacks a smaller force elsewhere. In his application of this principle Lee was years ahead of his time; the tactic was not fully understood or generally adopted until the 20th century.Lee applied for but was never granted the official post-war amnesty. He accepted the presidency of Washington College, now Washington and Lee University, in the autumn of 1865; within a few years it had become an outstanding institution. He died there on October 12, 1870. In 1975 Lee’s citizenship was restored posthumously by an act of the US Congress.The Life of a HistorianMathew Brady arrived in New York City at the age of sixteen. Soon after taking a job as a department store clerk, he started his own small business manufacturing jewellery cases. In his spare time, Brady studied photography under a number of teachers, including Samuel F. B. Morse, the man who had recently introduced photography to America. Brady quickly discovered a natural gift. By 1844, he had his own photography studio in New York.Brady soon acquired a reputation as one of America’s greatest photographers — producer of portraits of the famous. In 1856, he opened a studio in Washington, D.C., the better to photograph the nation’s leaders and foreign dignitaries. As he himself said, “From the first, I regarded myself as under obligation to my country to preserve the faces of its historic men and mothers.” He became one of the first photographers to use photography to chronicle national history.At the peak of his success as a portrait photographer, Brady turned his attention to the Civil War. Planning to document the war on a grand scale, he organized a corps of photographers to follow the troops in the field. Friends tried to discourage him, citing battlefield dangers and financial risks, but Brady persisted. He later said, “I had to go. A spirit in my feet said ‘Go,’ and I went.”Mathew Brady did not actually shoot many of the Civil War photographs attributed to him. More of a project manager, he spent most of his time supervising his corps of traveling photographers, preserving their negatives and buying others from private photographers freshly returned from the battlefield, so that his collection would be as comprehensive as possible. When photographs from his collection were published, whether printed by Brady or adapted as engravings in publications, they were credited “Photograph by Brady,” although they were actually the work of many people.In 1862, Brady shocked America by displaying his photographs of battlefield corpses from Antietam, posting a sign on the door of his New York gallery that read, “The Dead of Antietam.” This exhibition marked the first time most people witnessed the carnage of war. The New York Times said that Brady had brought “home to us the terrible reality and earnestness of war.”After the Civil War, Brady found that war-weary Americans were no longer interested in purchasing photographs of the recent bloody conflict. Having risked his fortune on his Civil War enterprise, Brady lost the gamble and fell into bankruptcy. His negatives were neglected until 1875, when Congress purchased the entire archive for $25,000. Brady’s debts swallowed the entire sum. He died in 1896, penniless and unappreciated. In his final years, Brady said, “No one will ever know what I went through to secure those negatives. The world can never appreciate it. It changed the whole course of my life.”Despite his financial failure, Mathew Brady had a great and lasting effect on the art of photography. His war scenes demonstrated that photographs could be more than posed portraits, and his efforts represent the first instance of the comprehensive photo-documentation of a war.Why was the Union Army victorious over the Confederates?It was foreseeable that the union would be triumphant over the confederates. In 1850 there were 22 states that made up the union, which had a joint population of 22 million. The 11 states that made up the Southern states had only a combined population of 9 million including 4 million black slaves. Most of the factories that were capable of producing war materials and weapons were located in the North. The south only had one mill for making gunpowder. The North had vast numbers of railroads and a merchant marine. They could maintain worldwide commerce. The South had many farms but they could not export their products because they had few ships and their main ports were usually closed during the war.During the war the South had mostly the superior field commanders. Although Robert E Lee was superior to every Northern general except Grant, he was defeated when Grant used overwhelming numbers and determination to crush his forces. In the west, no general in the South was a much for the generals of the North, who were Grant, Sherman, and Thomas. In the naval part of the civil war the Union navy was unmatched.In the long term, the superior numbers and equipment of the North ultimately determined the outcome of the American Civil War. The Southern armies kept the Northern armies at bay until the Battle of Gettysburg in 1865, which was the turning point of the war. Lincoln’s support of democracy also had an affect on the outcome on the war. The emancipation Proclamation had prevented any foreign country to help the South. In the North the majority of the people wanted the restoration of the American Union.

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