The 54th Massachusetts, under the command of Bostonian Robert Gould Shaw, attempted
to take Fort Wagner, South Carolina on July 18, 1863. The 54th was a regiment of
free, northern black volunteers, and its assault on Fort Wagner, though unsuccessful,
laid to rest any doubts about the combat courage of African-American soldiers.
During the charge, Sgt. William H. Carney of New Bedford, Massachusetts rescued
the national colors when the standard bearer fell, returning the flag to the rear
as the 54th retreated. Although wounded himself, he kept the colors aloft, telling
his men, "Boys, the old flag never touched the ground." In 1900, Carney was awarded
the Medal of Honor for his gallant actions at Fort Wagner. (More
"Commentary on Charge at Fort Wagner—54th Massachusetts." The African-American
Experience. Woodbridge, CT: Primary Source Media, 1999. American Journey.
Gale U.S. History In Context. Web. 27 Oct. 2011.
Twentieth Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment
Once the Twentieth Maine arrived at Little Round Top, Chamberlain rushed to
arrange the 350 men under his command behind trees and boulders. Ten minutes later,
Confederate troops came charging up the hill in a furious attack. Chamberlain's
troops pushed back the first assault, only to be hit with another one a few minutes
later. The fight for possession of the hill became vicious and desperate, as Chamberlain's
men pushed back wave after wave of attack, despite being badly outnumbered. "The
edge of the conflict swayed to and fro, with wild whirlpools and eddies," Chamberlain
recalled. "At times I saw around me more of the enemy than of my own men; gaps opening,
swallowing, closing again. . . .All around, a strange, mingled roar."
Chamberlain's brave and daring stand at Little Round Top enabled the Union Army
to withstand the Confederate offensive. A day later, Lee mounted one final attempt
to break the Union Army. When it failed, however, he was forced to retreat to Virginia.
The South never invaded the North again. Chamberlain, meanwhile, received the Congressional
Medal of Honor for his exploits. He and the other members of the Twentieth Maine
were praised throughout the North for their bravery and fighting spirit. (More
"Joshua L. Chamberlain." American Civil War Reference Library.
Kevin Hillstrom and Laurie Collier Hillstrom. Ed. Lawrence W. Baker. Vol. 1: Biographies.
Detroit: UXL, 2000. 71-80. Gale U.S. History In Context. Web. 27 Oct. 2011.
Approximately 186,000 blacks, about 130,000 of them escaped slaves, served as
Union soldiers during the Civil War. However, at the beginning of the Civil War,
the Union did not particularly want black soldiers. Most of the blacks who enlisted
were assigned to drive wagons or act as domestic servants for officers, and the
few who joined white fighting units often faced discrimination. Therefore some blacks
formed their own, all-black volunteer regiments, despite the fact that until the
middle of 1862 the U.S. government refused to send them into combat.
Fredrick Douglas pushed Lincoln to allow blacks, who weren’t allowed to serve at
the onset of the conflict, to enlist in the Union Army. On July 17, 1862, the U.S.
Congress approved the use of “soldiers of African descent,” and on August 25, 1862,
the U.S. War Department authorized the creation of five black regiments on the South
Carolina Sea Islands. The first of these regiments to officially become part of
the U.S. Army was the First Regiment of the Louisiana Native Guards (although it
was not the first to be formed). (More
"black troops." The Civil War. Patricia D. Netzley. Ed. Kenneth
W. Osborne. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2004. 43-45. The Greenhaven Encyclopedia
of. Gale U.S. History In Context. Web. 27 Oct. 2011.
First Battle of Bull Run (First Manassas)
The First Battle of Bull Run took place on July 21, 1861, near Bull Run Creek
at Manassas, Virginia, roughly thirty miles west of Washington, D.C. It was the
first major battle of the Civil War and part of a series of Union military maneuvers
known as the Bull Run Campaign, which was designed to repel Confederate troops threatening
the U.S. capital.
The Union infantry troops at Bull Run, attached to the Army of the Potomac and led
by Brigadier General Irvin Mc-Dowell, numbered approximately 18,500. On the Confederate
side there were approximately 18,000 infantry and cavalrymen led by Brigadier General
Pierre Beauregard and Brigadier General Joseph E. Johnston. (More
"Bull Run, First Battle of (First Manassas)." The Civil War. Patricia
D. Netzley. Ed. Kenneth W. Osborne. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2004. 58. The Greenhaven
Encyclopedia of. Gale U.S. History In Context. Web. 2 Nov. 2011.
Sherman’s March to the Sea
Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman and his 62,000 Union troops engaged in a
purposeful war of destruction from Atlanta to Savannah and changed tactical warfare
[Sherman] found himself chasing Hood back toward Chattanooga over the same ground
he and Gen. Joseph E. Johnston had contested during the recently completed campaign.
Frustrated, Sherman reached back to a lifetime of civilian and military experiences
and decided to undertake something different. Instead of continuing to try to protect
his railroad supply line by chasing Hood all over Georgia, he would send Gens. George
H. Thomas and John M. Schofield with some 60,000 troops to Tennessee to handle Hood,
while he cut loose from his supply line with approximately 62,000 of his best troops
and marched across Georgia to the Atlantic Ocean. (More
"March to the Sea, Sherman's." Encyclopedia of the Confederacy.
Ed. Richard Nelson Current. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993. Gale U.S. History
In Context. Web. 2 Nov. 2011.
Instigated by Robert E. Lee in an attempt to bring the Civil War to northern
soil, the Battle of Gettysburg, from July 1 to 3, 1863, at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania,
was a major defeat for the Confederacy. The Union lost 23,000 men and the Confederacy
In addition, the defeat seriously impacted both Southern and Northern morale. Roughly
forty Northern reporters had been present at Gettysburg during the fighting, and
they made much of the South's loss in subsequent newspaper articles and editorials,
thereby increasing support for the war effort in the North while demoralizing the
"Gettysburg, Battle of." The Civil War. Patricia D. Netzley. Ed.
Kenneth W. Osborne. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2004. 141-143. The Greenhaven Encyclopedia
of. Gale U.S. History In Context. Web. 2 Nov. 2011.
Named after Confederate major general George E. Pickett, Pickett's Charge was
a rushing attack undertaken by the Confederates during the Battle of Gettysburg
in Pennsylvania on July 3, 1863.
This attack involved not only three brigades from Pickett's division but other Confederate
forces as well. In fact, Pickett's brigades made up less than one-half of the force
of the charge, and General Robert E. Lee, not Pickett, ordered the attack.
Nonetheless, Pickett's name was associated with the charge because it was his brigades
that suffered the most serious losses: Approximately two-thirds of his forty-three
hundred men were killed, and all of his thirteen colonels were either killed or
seriously injured. However, other brigades participating in the charge also suffered
heavy casualties, with most soldiers dying before ever reaching the Union line.
"Pickett's Charge." The Civil War. Patricia D. Netzley. Ed. Kenneth
W. Osborne. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2004. 222-224. The Greenhaven Encyclopedia
of. Gale U.S. History In Context. Web. 2 Nov. 2011.
Antietam (Battle of Sharpsburg)
The Battle of Antietam took place on 17 September 1862. With an estimated 23,100
total casualties, it was the bloodiest single-day battle of the American Civil War.
As a result of the high number of casualties on each side, the battle was a tactical
draw, although a strategic victory for the Union. The battle was a result of the
Confederate army's first attempt to wage war in the North.
News of the carnage spread throughout the country after newspapers published photographer
Alexander Gardner's vivid and disturbing photographs of the battlefield.
As a strategic Northern victory, Antietam provided the positive news President Abraham
Lincoln thought a prerequisite for issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. The victory
also gave the impression that the North was doing better in the war, which may have
helped elections for the Republican Party in 1862. (More
Sachs, Honor, and Oliver Lyman Spaulding. "Antietam, Battle of." Dictionary
of American History. Ed. Stanley I. Kutler. 3rd ed. Vol. 1. New York: Charles
Scribner's Sons, 2003. 199-200. Gale U.S. History In Context. Web. 2 Nov.
Battle of Chancellorsville (1-4 May 1863)
In April 1863 Gen. Joseph Hooker, with almost 130,000 men, faced Gen. Robert
E. Lee's army of 60,000 that was entrenched near Fredericksburg, Virginia. Despite
an overwhelming number of troops, Hooker was unable to gain the advantage and was
outmaneuvered by Lee.
The army corps on Hooker's extreme right were unprepared when Jackson, late on 2
May, fell upon them furiously. Gen. O. O. Howard's corps was routed, and only a
serious injury to Jackson inflicted by fire from his own troops halted the Confederate
attack. On 3 May, a cannonball struck a pillar against which Hooker was leaning.
Hooker quickly withdrew his troops to the banks of the river. Lee, meanwhile, turned
back to deal with Sedgwick's corps, which had routed the force under Early and was
rapidly approaching Chancellorsville. On 4 and 5 May, Lee's veterans forced both
Sedgwick and Hooker to withdraw their forces north of the river. Hooker lost 17,287
men and Lee 12,764. But Lee suffered the irreparable loss of Jackson, who after
days of intense suffering died of his wounds. (More
James, Alfred P. "Chancellorsville, Battle of." Dictionary of American
History. Ed. Stanley I. Kutler. 3rd ed. Vol. 2. New York: Charles Scribner's
Sons, 2003. 104. Gale U.S. History In Context. Web. 2 Nov. 2011.
Photographs from the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs