Part 2: Why They Fought

The objective in Part 2 is to explore the motivations of Civil War soldiers and sailors in their own words.  One of the great benefits of the digital age is easier access to primary sources.  This section offers some especially powerful images and documents from ordinary combatants –white and black, Union and Confederate– that can help spark student imagination and provoke deeper engagement into the perennial debate over why they fought.

Featured Image –Men of Company E

See also House Divided record // Library of Congress record // Blog post by Andy Hall

Featured Document–Pvt. William E. Stoker Letter Home, October 3, 1862

Handouts–  Civil War Costs // Whose Father Was He? //Sam Wilkeson’s Gettysburg Address

Further Reading– Gary Gallagher on Civil War //  A Texas Farmer’s Civil War // GLI Exhibit: I Take Up My Pen

Guest GLI Lecture:  James McPherson on Lincoln as Commander-in-Chief (30 mins.)

Featured Student Video:  Do They Miss Me at Home?  (10 mins.)

Civil War Through American Art:

Winslow Homer, "Prisoners from the Front," (1866)

Winslow Homer, “Prisoners from the Front,” (1866)

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Dickinson College
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Gilder Lehrman Institute
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