This course covers the military, political, social, and economic aspects of the American Civil War, 1861-1865. In over forty lectures, we will closely look at the war narrative and the various themes and issues that led fellow countrymen to kill one another in great profusion. Each lecture is accompanied by a downloadable list of key terms and primary documents to better facilitate your learning experience. Most of the lectures are between 8 and 14 minutes, and their are several activities to round out the narrative and help you become the historian. If watching and reviewing one or two lectures each day It should take only a few weeks to complete the course. This course was designed for high school and college level history students, but anyone with an interest in United States history should find these lesson valuable.
Some have referred to Antebellum America as a period marked by a "gathering storm" toward war. While this is something of an overstatement, for reasons that will become clear in this next lecture...there are a number of important milestones that will help you understand the sectional divisions that would eventually erupt of armed conflict.
The Election of 1860 is without doubt on of the most contentious in American history. During this election cycle, one national party fell apart, and a sectional party rose to take the election. Indeed, the results of the Election of 1860 pushed many in the southern slave states to vote for secession.
Over the winter of 1860-61 the nation fell apart. By April, 1861 eleven southern slave states had voted to secede from the Union. A crisis at Fort Sumter, a federal fort in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, led to the first shots. The war was on!
There were four slave states that voted to remain loyal to the Union: Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland, and Delaware. Download this PDF to find out a little more about these border states.
We'll be talking a lot about places - including states, cities, rivers, mountains, and valleys. It wold be a good idea to get to know where everything is.
In this lecture, we will weigh the relative advantages and disadvantages of each side. Both side had its weaknesses and both sides had some clear strengths. In short, it is difficult to say who is going to win in 1861.
Soldiers enlisted in their respective armies for any number of reason, and that experienced the war in many ways. In this lecture, we take a look at the common soldier, especially those who rushed to the colors in the first months of war.
Research is fun, and with the vastness of the Internet...pretty easy too. Have a look around at various web sources. You can find out quite a bit!
Many on both sides thought that the war might be won or lost with one decisive battle...the first fight, near Manassas Virginia suggested otherwise, and taught some hard lessons about warfare.
In the Western Theater of the war (that is, not Virginia) the Union started off very well indeed.
The Battle of Shiloh was, to this point in the war, the largest and bloodiest engagement ever fought on the continent. For many of those involved (including my own ancestor!) this was their first big fight. This battle also puts U. S. Grant on the national radar - and begins his rise to prominence as the Union Army's most formidable commander.
This lecture focuses on General McClellan's slow and meticulous advance on Richmond from the Virginia coast, and the equally slow retreat toward Richmond by the Confederate army under Joseph Johnston. And while this is going on, Stonewall Jackson is having quite the time in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.
After Confederate commander Joseph E. Johnston is wounded and taken out of the war for a time, A new commander, Robert E. Lee, takes the helm. In short order, fortunes for the Confederacy change, as Lee seizes the initiative and audaciously redirects his army on the offensive.
In the summer and fall of 1862, the Confederates took the war north and invaded United States territory in Kentucky and Maryland. This lecture will explain the reasoning behind the offensive and trace the results of the fighting in the western and eastern theaters.
Emancipation did not happen in one swift stroke, but rather came about through a series of events. Here we will underscore the various steps that culminated in the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863.
Scholars and history enthusiasts debate who actually freed the slaves. Was it president Lincoln? Was in Congress? Or was it the slaves themselves? How does the Union army fit into this picture? I would love to know what you think.
How do the two nations fill their armies and equip their ranks...and how do they pay for it? Each side had various issues with which to deal when it came to keeping the armies supplied from behind the lines.
By this point in the war, Lincoln needed some victories to ensure that the loyal population continued to support the war. And thus he made some changes in the high command structure after a disappointing followup to Bragg's retreat from Kentucky. Meanwhile...Grant prepares to advance on Vicksburg.
Lincoln had had enough of George McClellan and his failure to followup on the "half victory" at Antietam. His replacement, Ambrose Burnside, launched an unusual winter campaign against Lee at Fredericksburg.
This lecture takes a look at one of Lee's greatest, but also costliest, victories.
Time to be an arm-chair commander-in-chief. Given your knowledge of the military landscape in the spring of 1863, if you were Jefferson Davis, how would you proceed?
Robert E. Lee's second (and final) invasion of the North culminated on the farmland of southern Pennsylvania - and over three days the Confederate and Union armies slugged it out. Many believe the result of this battle was the turning point of the war - I'll leave that for you to decide.
While Lee was marching north toward Pennsylvania, U.S. Grant was besieging Vicksburg in the West after a long campaign in Mississippi. Here we have anther possible turning point in the war. I would really like to know what you think.
What did slaves do in the Confederacy? How did former slaves who escaped to Union lines get by? What about free blacks in the North? How did black soldiers perform in the field? All of these questions are addressed in this lecture.
Women in the North and South contributed to the patriotism of each nation. But their experiences in war were very different. The presence of armies in the southern states and other privations made an enormous difference for Confederate women
The major military action during the fall of 1863 took place in Tennessee - at the Battle of Chickamauga. This Confederate victory offered a boost to southern morale and at the same time, elevated Union general George Thomas to the list of great Union heroes.
At Chattanooga, Tennessee - the Confederates had one of the best defensive positions of the war. Yet somehow...the Union army under General Grant managed to overrun rebel works and score a smashing Union victory.
In Washington, plans to put the country back together and readmit states began as early as 1862. President Lincoln and Congress did not see eye to eye on exactly how this should happen. In the meantime, several experiences were underway to "reconstruct" areas in the south under Union control.
The US Navy played an extremely important role in the United States effort to suppress the rebellion - both on the high seas and the rivers. The Confederates could never match US naval superiority, but came up with alternate plans for naval warfare.
The great wildcard of the Civil War - what would European countries (especially Britain and France) do? Would they sit back and do nothing or try to arbitrate some sort of peace? Was there a chance that one or both countries would intervene with military aid, as France had done in the Revolution?
This lecture examines the political landscape in the North and Lincoln's troubles...even with his own party. In addition, we will look at the manufacturing capacity of the northern states.
In this lecture, we will look at the unprecedented changes that the war brought to the Confederate home front - especially the privations that Confederate citizens had to contend with in new ways. We will also look at the Confederate political landscape
IN this lecture, we see Lincoln promote general Grant to the general in chief of all U.S. Armies. He moves east to take on Lee personally, and puts together a five-prong plan to attack the rebels across the Confederacy.
This lecture traces the first phase of Sherman's campaign in Georgia: the march on a and the siege of Atlanta. Along the way, the Confederates have a major command change in this theater.
When Grant launches his offensive against Lee and his army, he commences a long period of constant fighting - all the while advancing toward the Confederate capital at Richmond. Part one of this lecture takes us from teh battles at the Wilderness to Spotsylvania.
The fight drags on in Virginia, and the casualties mount at an alarming rate...the second half of this lecture picks up at Cold Harbor and ends outside of Petersburg Virginia, where Grant sets up for a siege.
Atlanta, Georgia was probably the second most important city int eh Confederacy, next to Richmond - the fall of Atlanta was a huge boost to moral in the North, where people were growing weary of the casualty lists. The loss of the city was very troubling for the Confederates, as you might imagine.
A moment of great drama unfolds during the siege of Petersburg at the Battle of the Crater. In the Shenandoah Valley, Confederate Jubal Early pushed through and even threatened Washington City.
General Sherman promised to "make Georgia howl." In this lecture, we see how he made good on that promise - marching from Atlanta to Savannah, Georgia - with virtually no Confederates to stop him.
After a winter respite in Savannah, Sherman took a left turn to march north on the Carolinas...taking especial care to inflict a lot of damage in South Carolina - the cradle of secession.
The final campaign in Virginia saw Lee evacuating his Petersburg lines and heading west toward rations, eventually meeting Grant one last time at Appomattox. Following Lee's surrender, other Confederate armies in the field follow suit.
At least 620,000 people died in this conflict - and the money spent on resources reached into the billions. Yet, citizens on each side were determined to fight on to victory, suggesting that the issues at stake were very important indeed.
Here are a few things to ponder as you think about the war - I am very interested as to your conclusions - be sure to let me know!
Keith Harris is a historian, an author, a runner, a social media aficionado, and an animal rights advocate. He received his BA at the University of California at Los Angeles (summa cum laude) and his Ph.D. in United States history at the University of Virginia. He has taught courses in US history at UVa and UC Riverside, and currently teaches at a private high school in Los Angeles. His work focuses on nineteenth and twentieth-century American history with a special emphasis on the Civil War, Reconstruction, memory, the Progressive Era, and national Reconciliation. His first book, Across the Bloody Chasm: the Culture of Commemoration Among Civil War Veterans, is available from the Louisiana State University Press. Keith is the creator and host of Keith Harris History, a multi-media American history network. He is currently researching for a project on the making of the controversial silent film, The Birth of a Nation. He lives and works in Hollywood, California