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The American Civil War, 1861-65

4. The Union's War

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the course of the war from the point of view of the Union, focusing in particular on: (i) the assumption that the war would be brief; (ii) the prescribed enlistment length for Union soldiers – three years; (iii) the timing of the US presidential election; (iv) the opposition to Lincoln among northern politician and among particular regiments in the Union Army, e.g. the 20th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment; (v) the lack of preparedness of both sides, and the time lag between new developments (e.g. the Springfield rifle) and their actual impact on the course of the war; (vi) the importance of Lincoln's military leadership; (vii) the different theatres of the war, and the extent to which the nature of the war changed between 1861-65; (viii) the Union's initial losses: Bull Run (21 July 1861), Ball's Bluff (21 October 1861), the Peninsula Campaign (March-July 1862); (ix) key victories: Antietam (17 September 1862), Gettysburg (1-3 July 1863), Vicksburg (18 May-4 July 1863), Atlanta (22 July 1864); (x) the increase in death rates in the final stages of the war, particularly in Grant's Overland Campaign (4 May-24 June 1864) as the impact on Union morale; (xi) the figure of George B. McClellan and the threat that Lincoln would lose the political support to continue the war to its conclusion; (xii) the importance of the American Freedmen's Inquiry Commission; and (xiii) the importance of the 180,00 African-American troops in the war.


In this course, Professor Susan-Mary Grant (Newcastle University) explores the American Civil War (1861-65). In the first module, we think about the immediate background to the secession of South Carolina from the United States in December 1860, including the impact of the Dred Scott case and the rise of Abraham Lincoln. In the second module, we explore the idea that the American Civil War was a second American Revolution, before turning in the third module to look more closely at the issue of slavery and emancipation. In the fourth and five modules, we consider the course of the war from the perspective of the Union and the Confederacy, respectively, before turning in the sixth module to think how the historiography relating to the American Civil War has changed since the 1960s, as well as thinking about the war's legacy to this day.


Professor Susan-Mary Grant is Professor of American History at Newcastle University. She is the author of North Over South: Northern Nationalism and American Identity in the Antebellum Era (2000), The War for a Nation: The American Civil War (2006) and editor of Legacy of Disunion: The Enduring Significance of the American Civil War (2003) and Themes of the American Civil War: The War Between the States (2010).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Grant, S. (2021, March 12). The American Civil War, 1861-65 - The Union's War [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Grant, S. "The American Civil War, 1861-65 – The Union's War." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 12 Mar 2021,