Topic 08: United States' Civil War: Causes, course and effects (1840-1877)

This topic covers the US Civil War - a bloody struggle between the northern and southern states of America which lasted four years and introduced to the world the horrors of modern warfare. The topic examines the causes of this conflict, the reasons for Northern victory and the consequences of the war for the Union.

Specifically this unit covers the following:

  • Slavery; why it existed, the conditions of enslavement and the arguments for and against its abolition
  • Origins of the conflict with the growing divisions between North and South and the debate about states' rights
  • Westward expansion and the issues caused by this
  • The war itself; the leaders and key battles, role of African Americans, reasons for defeat of the South
  • Reconstruction and the position of African Americans in the South following the civil war

1. Slavery

This page focuses on the key issue of slavery. Slavery was fundamental in dividing America and causing conflicts between North and South which ultimately led to the Civil War.

2. Origins of the Civil War

This page explores further the growing tensions over the different political, social and economic developments taking place in the northern and southern states of America.

3. Westward expansion and the crises of the 1850s

This page examines the turbulent years of the 1850s which saw divisions in America deepen and set the stage for the outbreak of civil war.

4. How the Civil War was fought

This page examines the strengths and weaknesses of the Union and the Confederacy, the role and impact of the different military and political leaders on each side and the impact of the key military campaigns.

5. Factors affecting the outcome of the Civil War

A series of Northern victories on the battlefield in 1863, and the appointment of Ulysses Grant as military commander in 1864 saw the tide turn in the North's favour.

6. How successful was Reconstruction?

Guiding questions: What were the major challenges of Reconstruction?What were the presidential and congressional plans for Reconstruction?Why was President Johnson impeached?

US Civil War: Essay planning activities

This page contains a variety of essay writing exercises and essay plans for this topic.

US Civil War: Extra resources

On these pages you can find useful websites for this unit along with historians' texts that students might find enjoyable to develop their understanding further.


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