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The American Civil War Era
Reading Group

This is a friendly group of people interested in reading great books about the American Civil War Period c.1846 to 1877. It is intended to cover surveys of the American Civil War Era and the time preceding and following it.

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Thank you for your interest.

Our Current Book and Reading

Current Book Reading Schedule :: Week and Chapter Name

Reading Table of Contents

Weekly Reading Details

  1. Prologue: From the Halls of Montezuma and The United States at Midcentury

    Thought Questions
    - How did the Mexican War disrupt existing American political relationships?
    - What were some of the ironic situations created by personal beliefs about the Mexican War?
    - In what ways did the "transportation revolution" in the two generations before the Civil War effect the United States?
    - How did the Christian Evangelical movement known as the "Second Great Awakening" effect the rising conflict over slavery?
    - How did demographic changes effect the social and economic development of the United States?
    - What are the characteristics of and factors that influenced the "American System of Manufactures" and made it successful?
    - What were the differences at midcentury between the laboring class in the American Northern states and their counterparts in Europe?
    - How and why were banks the cause of emerging social and political differences?
    - How was free labor essential for and slavery antithetical to the development of American capitalism?
    - How did the role of gender roles change in the period before the Civil War and how were women agents of change in the period prior to the Civil War?
    - What were some of the differences that developed between North and South in the generation before the Civil War?

    Supplemental Biography Reading
    Abraham Lincoln: 2 Volumes by Michael Burlingame - Chapter 1

    Primary Sources
    Lincoln: Speech to the Illinois Legislature - January 11, 1837
    Lincoln: Address before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society at Milwaukee, Wisconsin - September 30, 1859
    American Slavery As It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses
    Theodore D. Weld
    - The American Anti-Slavery Society - 1839

    American Literature Focus Supplemental Reading
    - Begin Reading Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  2. Chapter 1: Mexico Will Poison Us

    Thought Questions
    - What was the doctrine of "Manifest Destiny" and how did Whigs and Democrats understand it differently?
    - What were the terms that ended the Mexican War and how did this disrupt the Whig Democrat sectional balance?
    - What were the different "circles of thought" that existed in different supporters and opponents of slavery in general and the expansion of recently squired territory?
    - What were the different attitudes in the North regarding slavery and free blacks?
    - How did Southern attitudes towards slavery evolve before the Civil War and how did these mirror attitudes in Northern states regarding slaves and free blacks?
    - What was the The Wilmot Proviso and the Missouri Compromise?
    - What was the concept of "Popular Sovereignty"?
    - Who were "Conscious" and "Cotton" Whigs?
    - Who were the "Barnburner" Democrats?
    - What was the Liberty Party?

    Supplemental Biography Reading
    Abraham Lincoln: 2 Volumes by Michael Burlingame - Chapter 2

    Primary Sources
    Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo; February 2, 1848
    May 11, 1846: War Message to Congress - James K. Polk
    June 10, 1846: Message to Senate Regarding Oregon - James K. Polk
    August 14, 1848: Message Regarding Slavery in the Territories - James K. Polk
    1820 - The Missouri Compromise
    -
    The Wilmot Proviso, 1846
    William Henry Seward - The “Irrepressible Conflict” Speech - 1858

    American Literature Focus Supplemental Reading
    - Continue Reading Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

    Articles
    James K. Polk - Miller Center (University of Virginia)
    James K. Polk Biography - White House
  3. Chapter 2: An Empire for Slavery

    Thought Questions
    - How did the southern slave states reject states rights and insist on greater federal power in to interfere with the states?
    - What was "Nullification" and how did Abolitionists use it?
    - What were "Personal Liberty Laws"?
    - What was the Fugitive Slave Law and how was its enforcement funded?
    - What rights did slaves have in defending themselves against the Fugitive Slave Law?
    - Why did the Fugitive Slave Law anger the North?
    - How were Evangelical and Anabaptist Christians involved in resistance to slavery?
    - Who were the "Fire Eaters"?
    - How did Millard Fillmore work to support the Fugitive Slave Law?
    - Who were the Butternuts?
    - What were Northern "Exclusion Laws"?
    - Who was the woman that created such a great war, what did she do and what was her motivation for her activity?
    - How were the economic and infrastructure circumstances different in the North and South?
    - What reasons have been proposed for the failure of the South to develop self sufficiency in industry, manufacturing and food?
    - What economic circumstances caused the South to demand a resumption of the Atlantic slave trade and expansion into new lands?
    - Who were the Filibusterers, what was their purpose and motivation and how did the concept of Manifest Destiny change after the Mexican War?
    - What was "Nullification" and how did Filibusterers use it?
    - What role did Cuba, Nicaragua and Spain play with America in the early 1850s?
    - Who was William Walker?
    - What issue is the common root for all major national disputes in the 1850s?
    - What issue is the common root for the sectional animosity in the 1850s?
    - How did Christian beliefs play a role in abolition in the North and expansion in the South?
    - Summarize the main issues and events around the Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore administration

    Supplemental Biography Reading
    Abraham Lincoln: 2 Volumes by Michael Burlingame - Chapter 3

    Primary Sources
    - The Compromise of 1850 Documents
    Fugitive Slave Act; September 18, 1850
    January 29, 1850 - The Compromise of 1850 was introduced by Senator Henry Clay in a series of resolutions.
    February 5 and 6, 1850 - Senator Henry Clay defended his compromise proposals in a speech.
    March 4, 1850 - Senator John Calhoun's speech against the Compromise of 1850 was delivered. Calhoun was too weak to give the speech so it was read by Senator James Murray Mason of Virginia.
    March 7, 1850 - Senator Daniel Webster delivered his speech in favor of the Compromise of 1850 ("Seventh of March" speech)
    - "Mr. Clay's Resolutions," The North-Carolina Standard. (Raleigh, N.C.), February 6, 1850.
    - "Mr. Calhoun's Speech," The North-Carolina Standard. (Raleigh, N.C.), March 13, 1850.
    - "Mr. Webster," The Daily Crescent. (New Orleans, La.), March 16, 1850.
    - "The Fugitive Slave Law," Anti-Slavery Bugle. (New-Lisbon, Ohio), October 12, 1850.
    Uncle Robin in His Cabin in Virginia, And Tom Without One in Boston by J. W. Page
    - Massachusetts Personal Liberty Law

    American Literature Focus Supplemental Reading
    - Continue Reading Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

    Articles
    Zachary Taylor Biography - Miller Center (University of Virginia)
    Zachary Taylor Biography - White House
    Millard Fillmore Biography - Miller Center (University of Virginia)
    Millard Fillmore Biography - White House

    Reading Group Resources
    - Chapter 3 Discussion Thought Questions - PDF | DOCX
    - Chapter 3 Discussion Quotes - PDF | PPTX
  4. Chapter 3: Slavery, Rum, and Romanism

    Thought Questions
    - How did the election of 1852 set in motion the destruction of the Whig party?
    - How was Franklin Pierce an example of "Northern Men with Southern Sympathizes"?
    - In what ways did Franklin Pierce aggravate and ameliorate sectional conflict?
    - How was the transcontinental railroad effected by Nebraska and slavery expansion?
    - How did "Personal Liberty" laws effect the debate over states rights and federal power?
    - How did the issue of Nebraska create divisions within the Democratic Party?
    - What were the Northern and Southern reactions to the domestic use of the military against Northern states to enslave black Americans?
    - Why did Slave states fear new Free states on the border of Missouri?
    - What was the Northwest Ordinance 1787 and why did the Slave states begin to object to it?
    - Who were the Know Nothings (the American Party)?
    - How did temperance play a role in the political realignments of the 1850s?
    - How did the Know Nothings successfully fuse anti-slavery, anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic and pro-temperance movements together?
    - What was Abraham Lincoln's opinion of the Know Nothing and what issue made him willing to work with them dispite his feelings?
    - Why was the Know Nothing movement a significant force in the Northern states, but of little consequence in the Southern states?
    - What was the core issue the Republican party formed around?
    - How did "Free Soilers" and "Know Nothings" form the Republican Party?
    - What was the relationship between anti-Catholics and Nativists?
    - How did anti-Catholic fears effect the United States in the 1850s?
    - Why did early Republicans have to avoid addessing the issue of emancipation directly?
    - Why did pre-war Democrats have to be vocal regarding slavery?
    - Who was John C. Freemont?
    - Who was John Buchanan?
    - How did public education factor in the controversies of this period?

    Supplemental Biography Reading
    Abraham Lincoln: 2 Volumes by Michael Burlingame - Chapter 4

    Primary Sources
    The Life of Franklin Pierce (Annotated) by Nathaniel Hawthorne
    Northwest Ordinance; July 13, 1787
    Republican Party Platform of 1856
    Democratic Party Platform of 1856

    Articles
    Franklin Pierce Biography - Miller Center (University of Virginia)
    Franklin Pierce Biography - White House

    American Literature Focus Supplemental Reading
    - Continue Reading Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  5. Chapter 4: The Crime Against Kansas

    Thought Questions
    - What was the New England Immigrant Aid Society and what were their purposes and plan?
    - How did slave states react to the efforts of the New England Immigrant Aid Society and what actions did they take to counter them?
    - What role did Missouri play in the settlement of Kansas?
    - Who was Charles Sumner and how did he support the Free Soil settlers in Kansas?
    - What was the slave state and free state reaction to the attack on Charles Sumner and how did it change over time?
    - What was Franklin Pierce's reaction to the events in Kansas and Missouri?
    - How were John Brown and his sons involved in the Kansas Civil War?
    - What was the reaction in the North to Southern use of terms related to slavery and submission in the press?
    - Who were the Jayhawkers?
    - Summarize the main issues and events around the Franklin Pierce administration

    Supplemental Biography Reading
    Abraham Lincoln: 2 Volumes by Michael Burlingame - Chapter 5

    Primary Sources
    Background and Text of Charles Sumner's speech "Crime against Kansas" address
    The Kansas Nebraska Act
    - Franklin Pierce: May 15, 1854: Message Regarding Transit Across Central America
    Franklin Pierce: January 24, 1856: Message Regarding Disturbances in Kansas

    Article
    James Buchanan Biography - Miller Center (University of Virginia)
    James Buchanan Biography - White House

    American Literature Focus Supplemental Reading
    - Continue Reading Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  6. Chapter 5: Mudsills and Greasy Mechanics for A. Lincoln

    Thought Questions
    - Who was Dred Scott and how did he effect American History?
    - How did the Dred Scott case allow slave states to spread slavery to free states?
    - How did the Dred Scott case reinforce the South's ability to use federal power to oppose and interfere with state rights and popular sovereignty?
    - What were the three main questions and arguments in Chief Justice Taney's Dred Scott opinion and how did it effect the issue of slavery between states rights and federal power?
    - What was the cumulative effect of the Fugitive Slave Act, the Kansas-Nebraska situation and the Dred Scott decision on Northern Anti-Slavery groups and Abolitionist groups?
    - How did the existence of free Northern Black Americans with citizenship rights effect the debate over slavery in the 1850s?
    - How did the existence of free Black Americans in the Southern border states effect the debate over slavery in the 1850s?
    - What was "Black Republicanism" and how was it used in the 1850s?
    - What was the Lemon Case?
    - What was the effect of the Slave State insistence on a Federal Slave Code in the North and its effect on Northern states rights and federal power?
    - What were the Lincoln-Douglas debates and what topics were debated?
    - What was Lincoln's main point and purpose in the debates?
    - What was Douglas' main point and purpose in the debates?
    - What was the Freeport doctrine?
    - How did gender roles effect the discussion of Black Equality and Free Soil?
    - What were Lincoln's "Chestnut Horse" positions on Black Equality and Rights?
    - How did Lincoln attempt to use the Founding Fathers beliefs about slavery?
    - What factors worked in favor of Republicans in the election of 1858?
    - What were the causes and effects of the economic crisis of 1857?
    - How did Northern speculative capitalism effect the crisis of 1857?
    - What was the and How did the Crimean War effect the United States?
    - What was the Homestead Act and the Land Grant College Acts?
    - How did Cuban annexation effect politics in the 1850s?
    - What was "Popular Sovereignty" and how was it related to state and federal rights and why were Slave states opposed to it?
    - What was the "Mudsils" theme and how did Slave states use it to attack free labor capitalism and defend slavery?
    - How did Slave States use white class/race warfare to divide working class whites?

    Supplemental Biography Reading
    Abraham Lincoln: 2 Volumes by Michael Burlingame - Chapter 6

    Primary Sources
    The Dred Scott decision : opinion of Chief Justice Taney (Library of Congress)
    Abraham Lincoln - House Divided Speech - 1858
    Article 6 - United States Constitution
    The Lincoln - Douglas Debates
    The Homestead Act
    The Land Grant College Act (The Morrill Act)
    Buchanan's 1858 Message of Congress regarding the Kansas Constitution

    Articles
    The Dred Scott Dissents: McLean,Curtis, Lincoln, and the Public Mind
    - The Lincoln - Douglas Debates

    American Literature Focus Supplemental Reading
    - Continue Reading Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  7. Chapter 6: The Revolution of 1860

    Thought Questions
    - Who was John Brown, what were his purposes and motives and how did he effect the beginning of the Civil War?
    - Describe the transition from non-violence to violent resistance to slavery
    - What was the Mason Committee and what was the reaction to John Brown's execution in the North and the Southern counter reaction?
    - How did "Black Republicanism" and John Brown become related and how did the south react?
    - Describe the development of anti-Northern violence in response to John Brown
    - Who was Stephen Douglas and how did he break the Democratic party?
    - What was the central issue of the break in the Democratic party in 1860?
    - What were the central issues in the Republican nominating convention?
    - What were Lincoln's strengths and weaknesses in the 1860 convention?
    - What were Seward's strengths and weaknesses in the 1860 convention?
    - What was the Constitutional Union Party and their election plan?
    - What unique circumstances made the election of 1860 unusual?
    - What issues other than slavery were significant factors in the election of 1860 and how did they compare in importance to the slavery issue?
    - How did James Buchanan and Democratic Party corruption effect the election of 1860?
    - Describe the anti-black hysteria that gripped the South in 1860

    Supplemental Biography Reading
    Abraham Lincoln: 2 Volumes by Michael Burlingame - Chapter 7

    Primary Sources
    Senate Select Committee Report on the Harper’s Ferry Invasion
    A Plea for Captain John Brown by Henry David Thoreau; October 30, 1859
    Life, Trial and Execution of Captain John Brown; 1859 - Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1859, by ROBERT M. DE WITT, In the Clerks's Office of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
    Address of John Brown to the Virginia Court, when about to receive the sentence of death, for his heroic attempt at Harper’s Ferry
    Platform of the 1860 Democratic Party
    Platform of the 1860 Republican Party
    Constitutional Union Party "Platform Statement" of 1860
    His Speech of Protest in the Charleston Convention - William Lowndes Yancey, 1860
    Lincoln's Cooper Union Speech

    Articles:
    Abraham Lincoln Biography - Miller Center (University of Virginia)
    Abraham Lincoln Biography - White House
    About John Brown’s Last Speech
    Brief Biography of Stephen Douglas
    Brief Biography of William Yancy
    Brief Biography of William Seward
    Brief Biography of Hannibal Hamlin
    Brief Biography of John Bell
    Brief Biography of John C. Breckinridge

    American Literature Focus Supplemental Reading
    - Continue Reading Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  8. Chapter 7: The Counterrevolution of 1861

    Thought Questions
    - Describe the events in South Carolina in December 1860 and the events that followed
    - What did the Buchanan administration do regarding succession from the election to the inauguration of Lincoln?
    - Who were the groups of "conditionalists", "cooperationists" and "fireeaters" and their goals?
    - How was Unionism different in the North and South?
    - Create a topical outlines of the South Carolina, Mississippi and Texas declarations of succession. What common themes and language do they contain? What do these themes indicate about the cause of and attitude toward succession?
    - What meaningful differences exist between the United States Constitution and the Constitution for the Provisional Government of the Confederate States? How do these differences reflect the themes found in the ordinances of succession?
    - Now did New York City reflect the division in the country and develop in the Copperheads?
    - How did different Americans interpret the creation of the states and nation from the colonies differently and what meaning did they attach to these beliefs?
    - How did the Mississippi River (and Ohio River) play a role in resistance to succession?
    - What challenges did the United States face in the opening phases of the armed insurrection?
    - What steps did President Buchanan recommend to the Northern states to prevent succession?
    - What was the attitude and intentions of Abolitionists and "go in peace" Republicans towards succession?
    - What were the Crittenden Compromise Amendments and what do they tell us about the cause of the Civil War and the role slavery played in it?
    - What was the original 13th Amendment?
    - How did New Mexico and the Far West effect succession?
    - What were the differences between the Upper and Lower South on Insurrection?
    - What were the characteristics of the Confederate Constitution that made it different from the American Constitution?
    - What were the main points and subjects of President Lincoln's Inaugural  Address?
    - How did Lincoln address the issue of Slavery and the Southern Insurrection?
    - What were the main points and subjects of Jefferson Davis' appointment Address?
    - How did Davis address the issue of Slavery and the Southern Insurrection?
    - Describe the events around the start of armed insurrection at Fort Sumter
    - How did Major Robert Anderson of Kentucky contrast with Southern officers that abandoned the United States at the start of succession?
    - How did the beginning of armed insurrection against the United States effect the loyalty and attitudes of United States Army and Navy Officers?
    - What was the wording of the 1830 Oath of Allegiance taken by officers of the Untied States Army?
    - What were the obligations undertaken by United States Army officers upon taking the 1830 American Oath of Allegiance?
    - How did the Officer American Oath of Allegiance change between 1789 and 1830?

    Primary Sources
    Constitution for the Provisional Government of the Confederate States; February 8, 1861
    Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union
    A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union
    A Declaration of the Causes which Impel the State of Texas to Secede from the Federal Union
    Ordinances of Secession (All Confederate declarations)
    Amendments Proposed in Congress by Senator John J. Crittenden : December 18, 1860
    The Crittenden Slavery Compromise - The New York Times - February 6, 1861
    William Yancey - Speech of Protest in the Charleston Convention (1860)
    Abraham Lincoln's Presidential Inaugural  Address (1861)
    February 18, 1861 - Jefferson Davis' Appointment Address
    United States Army Officer Oaths of Allegiance - Current, 1789, 1830 and 1862

    Articles
    Brief Biography John J. Crittenden
    Brief Biography of William Yancey
    Brief Biography of Robert Rhett

    Supplemental Biography Reading
    Abraham Lincoln: 2 Volumes by Michael Burlingame - Chapter 8

    American Literature Focus Supplemental Reading
    - Continue Reading Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  9. Chapter 8: Facing Both Ways: The Upper South’s Dilemma

    Thought Questions
    - How did the upper southern states respond to the election of 1860 and the developing insurrection in the lower southern states?
    - How was the upper south divided in its response to the crisis of succession and united regarding "Black Republicans"?
    - How did Southern Unionists view the beginning of the insurrection and how was this reaction different from succession crisis prior to armed revolt?
    - How did Virginians respond to the news of the attack on Fort Sumter and how did they symbolically express their support for the insurrection?
    - Describe the events and reasoning that took place before, during and in response to the Virginia Succession Convention
    - Using Winfield Scott and Robert Lee as examples, why did some southern United States Army Officers remain loyal to the United States and why did some southerners abandon their oaths and commitments to the United States? How were their backgrounds and experiences similar and different?
    - Considering the context of his earlier statements and feelings about succession and insurrection, why did Lee chose to formally resign his commission instead of abandoning his position without notice in time of war as some other southern officers did?
    - How did the process of succession proceed after Virginia joined the insurrection?
    - Describe the unique circumstances around succession and the states of Maryland and Delaware?
    - Why did Lincoln consider Kentucky critical to saving the Union and what role did the Ohio River play in American efforts to defeat succession?
    - How did the Northern states begin to respond to insurrection in the south?
    - How did Missouri react to the outbreak of insurrection in the southern states and how did it build on previous insurrections in Missouri?
    - In what ways did Virginia begin to divide at the outbreak of succession?
    - How was Tennessee divided between its eastern and western regions and Alabama between its northern and southern regions?

    Supplemental Biography Reading
    Abraham Lincoln: 2 Volumes by Michael Burlingame - Chapter 9

    Primary Sources
    April 15, 1861: President Lincoln message calling Congress into Emergency Session to respond to southern insurrection
    The Virginia Ordinance of Succession
    04/20/1861: Resignation Letter from Robert E. Lee to Simon Cameron, United States Secretary of War

    American Literature Focus Supplemental Reading
    - Continue Reading Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  10. Chapter 9: Amateurs Go to War

    Thought Questions
    - What was the primary root issue of the rebellion and how did the other secondary issues (such as states' rights and internal improvements) directly related to this primary root issue?
    - What effect did Fort Sumter have on public opinion in the Union and Confederate States?
    - What did the United States initially see as the goal of the anticipated "short war"?
    - How did the states in rebellion initially see the goal of the anticipated "short war"?
    - As the understanding that the war would not be short or easy began to enter public consciousness, how were the war aims of the United States and Confederate rebellion effected?
    - What does this quote from Lincoln's message to Congress on July 4, 1861 mean and what was its purpose:
    Two points in it, our people have already settled— the successful establishing, and the successful administering of it. One still remains— its successful maintenance against a formidable internal attempt to overthrow it. . . . This issue embraces more than the fate of these United States. It presents to the whole family of man, the question, whether a constitutional republic, or a democracy . . . can or cannot, maintain its territorial integrity, against its own domestic foes.
    - How did Americans that remained loyal to the United States during the war view the struggle as a continuation of the American Revolution?
    - How did individuals that rebelled against the United States view their actions as a continuation of the American Revolution?
    - Who were "Black Republicans", what were their goals and motivations, and why did they arouse extremism in the slave states?
    - What was the theory of "Gradual Emancipation" and what role did it fill in the anti-slavery movement?
    - Describe the development of the American Army and Navy at the start of the insurrection?
    - Describe the development of the armies and navies in areas in rebellion that were created at the start of insurrection?
    - What was the importance of the upper south to the insurrection and why did the United States see them as key to preserving the Union?
    - What role did the existing industry and infrastructure have on the start of the war?
    - What role did human resources (such as training and knowledge) have on the start of the war?

    Quote-notes for Chapter 10

    Supplemental Biography Reading
    Abraham Lincoln: 2 Volumes by Michael Burlingame - Chapter 9

    Primary Sources
    Lincoln's Address to Congress - July 4, 1861
    Elements of Military Art and Science by Henry W. Halleck
    The Vision of Sir Launfal And Other Poems by James Russell Lowell

    Articles
    Irvin McDowell Brief Biography
    P.G.T. Beauregard Brief Biography
    Joseph E. Johnston Brief Biography

    American Literature Focus Supplemental Reading
    - Continue Reading Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  11. Chapter 10: Farewell to the Ninety Days’ War

    Thought Questions
    - What were "Contrabands" and what role did they play in the early era of the Civil War?
    - Describe the role General George McClellan played in the early era of the Civil War? What were his strengths and weaknesses?
    - What factors did Lincoln have to consider when outlining American war goals in the early Civil War era?
    - How was the Civil War connected to the Southern institution of slavery?
    - How was Northern racism in America connected with the Civil War?
    - Why did Grant refer to McClellan as a "mystery"?
    - What were the difficulties the Confederate insurrectionists faced in developing an army and navy?

    Supplemental Biography Reading
    Abraham Lincoln: 2 Volumes by Michael Burlingame - Chapter 10

    Articles
    Brief Biography General George McClellan

    American Literature Focus Supplemental Reading
    - Continue Reading Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  12. Chapter 11: Blockade and Beachhead: The Salt-Water War, 1861– 1862

    Thought Questions
    - Describe the role the United States Navy played in the opening phase of the Civil War
    - How was the naval blockade successful and how was it unsuccessful?
    - Describe the events and after effects of the battle of the Monitor and Merrimack (Virginia)?
    - Where does the term "sideburns" come from?
    - What role did Europeans play in the blockade and southern "embargo"?
    - How did southern pirates and blockade runners effect the war and influence the outcome?
    - How was the Northern blockade of southern ports and the declaration of insurrection contradictory under international law?
    - In 1862 how much southern agriculture was devoted to food production? How did cotton agriculture effect the food supply to the southern population?
    - Who were William Seward and Charles Francis Adams Sr?

    Supplemental Biography Reading
    Abraham Lincoln: 2 Volumes by Michael Burlingame - Chapter 11

    Articles
    Brief Biography of Ambrose Burnside (1824-1881)
    Brief Biography of Charles Francis Adams Sr
    Brief Biography of William Seward

    American Literature Focus Supplemental Reading
    - Continue Reading Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  13. Chapter 12: The River War in 1862

    Thought Questions
    - Why was the river network around Cairo of strategic value?
    - Why were the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers of strategic value?
    - How did Grant and Foote work together in the river war of 1862?
    - How did Northern industry begin to effect the Civil War during this period?
    - Describe the events around the battles of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson?
    - Compare the leadership of Halleck, Buell, Grant and Foote with their opposites in the insurrection?
    - Who was John B. Floyd and what was his role in the Buchanan administration and how did he act at the end of his term?
    - When asked what was Grant's response to "terms of surrender" by rebels?
    - How did the River War effect Albert Sidney Johnson and the forces he led?
    - Describe the events around the victory at the Battle of Pea Ridge
    - How did American victories in 1862 expose critical weaknesses in the political, social and military leadership in the rebellion?
    - Describe the events around the battle of Shiloh in 1862 and the failures in American leadership?
    - What effect did "seeing the elephant" have on American soldiers and rebels? What effect did it have on public opinion?
    - How did Grant's reputation change after the battle of Shiloh? How did Lincoln's opinion of Grant change?
    - Describe the events around the liberation of Memphis and New Orleans?
    - What was occurring in the east during the time of the River War?
    - How did the events of 1862 demonstrate the weakness of George McClellan?

    Supplemental Biography Reading
    Abraham Lincoln: 2 Volumes by Michael Burlingame - Chapter 12

    Primary Sources
    The Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant

    American Literature Focus Supplemental Reading
    - Continue Reading Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  14. Chapter 13: The Sinews of War

    Thought Questions
    - How did the southern states react to conscription?
    - What is intended by the phrase "rich man's war, poor man's fight" and how does this reflect on the institution of slave holding?
    - What is does the author mean by using Hamiltonian means to accomplish Jeffersonian ends and how did Jefferson Davis use this logic?
    - How does the leadership of Jefferson Davis compare to President Lincoln's in the early phases of the insurrection?
    - In what ways did the institution of martial law effect life in the southern states?
    - How did martial law in the southern states reflect an extension of the institutions and methods of slave holders to the free white population?
    - How did the southern states attempt to use debt as a weapon of war? How does this foreshadow nationalist European debt clearing in 20th century inter-war period? (If interested, see Part 1 of "Wages of Destruction" by Adam Tooze)
    - What effect did direct taxation and inflation have on the southern and northern states during the war?
    - How were bonds and paper notes used in the North and South to finance the war?
    - How did southern inflation effect the feelings of "rich man's war, poor man's fight"?
    - In what ways were Jews made scapegoats for southern economic distress and populist anger? (Antisemitism existed in both North and South - how it impacted the north and south differently is the issue. Chapter 20 will discuss northern antisemitism.)
    - Who was Benjamin Butler and how did he earn the label "beast"?
    - What were the Legal Tender Acts and Internal Revenue Acts?
    - How did the 37th Congress implement the pre-war Whig agenda of internal improvements?

    Primary Sources
    The Legal Tender Act of 1862 (Original Image)
    The Internal Revenue Act of 1862
    The Homestead Act
    The Morrill Act
    Great Britain - Treaty with the United States for the Suppression of the Slave Trade (1862)
    -
    Ottoman Empire - Treaty of Commerce and Navigation with the United States (1862)

    Supplemental Biography Reading
    Abraham Lincoln: 2 Volumes by Michael Burlingame - Chapter 13

    American Literature Focus Supplemental Reading
    - Continue Reading Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  15. Chapter 14: Billy Yank’s Chickasaw Blues

    Thought Questions
    - Why does the author use the chapter title "Billy Yank's Chickasaw Blues"?
    - Why did Lincoln prioritize the liberation of eastern Tennessee?
    - How is the myth of "Stonewall" Jackson different from the history of Thomas Jackson?
    - What was Robert E. Lee's Offensive-Defensive strategy?
    - Why did Lee's strategy work especially well against George McClellan?
    - How did Jeb Stuart's cavalry contribute to Lee's plans?
    - In what ways did the role of women change with the coming of war? How was the experience similar and different in the northern and southern states?
    - How did wartime medical services develop in the north and south?
    - How did disease effect the American and southern soldiers?

    Chapter Thought / Response Quotes
    - "Jackson’s Valley campaign won renown and is still studied in military schools as an example of how speed and use of terrain can compensate for inferiority of numbers."
    - "Thus while the battle of Mechanicsville had been a tactical defeat for the South, it turned out to be a strategic victory."
    - "But McClellan was a whipped man mentally."
    - "One reason for the high casualties of Civil War battles was the disparity between traditional tactics and modern weapons."

    Supplemental Biography Reading
    Abraham Lincoln: 2 Volumes by Michael Burlingame - Chapter 14

    Articles
    Brief Biography: Stonewall Jackson
    Brief Biography: Jeb Stuart
    Brief Biography: Robert E. Lee

    American Literature Focus Supplemental Reading
    - Continue Reading Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  16. Chapter 15: We Must Free the Slaves or Be Ourselves Subdued

    Thought Questions
    - X

    Supplemental Biography Reading
    Abraham Lincoln: 2 Volumes by Michael Burlingame - Chapter 15

    Primary Sources
    - X

    American Literature Focus Supplemental Reading
    - Continue Reading Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Reading Group Comments

American Civil War Era History Group Reading List

  1. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era by James M. McPherson
    (This has also been published as an unabridged single volume and two volumes as well as an unabridged audiobook. It has also been published in abridged form - avoid this)
  2. The Road to Disunion, Two Volumes: Secessionists at Bay, 1776-1854 and Secessionists Triumphant, 1854-1861 by William W. Freehling
  3. Reluctant Confederates: Upper South Unionists in the Secession Crisis by Daniel W. Crofts
  4. A Savage War: A Military History of the Civil War by Williamson Murray and Wayne Wei-siang Hsieh
  5. Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877 by Eric Foner
    (There is an abridged version of this and should be avoided)
  6. American Slavery, American Freedom by Edmund S. Morgan
  7. The South Vs. The South: How Anti-Confederate Southerners Shaped the Course of the Civil War by William W. Freehling
  8. The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War by Michael F. Holt
  9. Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party before the Civil War by Eric Foner
  10. Northern Men with Southern Loyalties: The Democratic Party and the Sectional Crisis by Michael Todd Landis
  11. Nativism and Slavery: The Northern Know Nothings and the Politics of the 1850s by Tyler G. Anbinder
  12. Unionists in Virginia: Politics, Secession and Their Plan to Prevent Civil War by Larry Denton
  13. The Civil War, Three Volumes by Shelby Foote
  14. Look Away!: A History of the Confederate States of America by William C. Davis
  15. The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward E. Baptist
  16. The Wars of Reconstruction: The Brief, Violent History of America's Most Progressive Era by Douglas R. Egerton
  17. The Fall of the House of Dixie: The Civil War and the Social Revolution That Transformed the South by Bruce Levine
  18. The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave-Breeding Industry by Ned Sublette and Constance Sublette
  19. Ecstatic Nation: Confidence, Crisis, and Compromise, 1848-1877 by Brenda Wineapple
  20. Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War by Charles B. Dew
  21. This Vast Southern Empire by Matthew Karp
  22. A Nation Without Borders: The United States and Its World in an Age of Civil Wars, 1830-1910 by Steven Hahn
  23. The California Gold Rush and the Coming of the Civil War by Leonard L. Richards
  24. Murder State: California's Native American Genocide, 1846-1873 by Brendan C. Lindsay
  25. Rival Rails: The Race to Build America's Greatest Transcontinental Railroad by Walter R. Borneman

After the first books listed above we will select the next books we read from the list on this page

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