The Civil War: 150 Years Later

May 9, 2011

Guest blogger Kim Dutch remembers the bloodiest conflict in American history.

This year is the 150th anniversary, or the Sesquicentennial (which I’m still having trouble pronouncing!), of the Civil War.  In that spirit, there are very few topics which bind us more than wars that were fought that eventually made our nation greater.  I was fortunate enough to grow up with a war history buff in the family and was particularly fascinated by the Civil War.  It amazed me how brothers fought brothers, families were divided, and that each side had such fierce loyalties.  Men and women sacrificed with no further thought or gain than “This is my duty and my honor to serve” – and sacrifices were made by all sides. 

The Civil War at a Glance” tells the story in a poignant and entertaining series of break downs.  The brochure is organized yearly using maps and chronologies.  It begins with the Eastern Theater in 1861, when Northerners called it the War of the Rebellion and the Southerners deemed it the War Between the States.  Regardless, it resulted in “pitting two vast sections of a young and vigorous nation against each other.”  For the next four years, the Union forces would struggle to get to Richmond, the Confederate capital.  Most of that fight would take place between Washington and Richmond – there’s even a breakdown by State and number of battles thought to have been fought in each.  The author lays out the path the rest of the war took in the Western Theater, too, until the end in 1865. Along the way the battles and campaigns are summarized succinctly and are easy to follow so you can get a great sense of what occurred.   It concisely explains how some battles were pivotal, the paths and strategies used to win (or fail), and the men who led them.

The author quotes Mark Twain, who said the war had “uprooted institutions that were centuries old … transformed the social life of half the country, and wrought so profoundly upon the entire national character that the influence cannot be measured short of two or three generations.”  I’d like to think that those factors since have been transformed us into a greater nation with better rights and civil liberties for all.

You can find a plain text version at  But what REALLY stood out was a colorful and user friendly online site,, which has a wealth of information.  It has an interactive feature that allows you to create maps based on State boundaries and links throughout the site for more information about people, dates, and places. 

If you want your own personal copy, you can order it here.If you would like printed copies in packages, visit the GPO Online Bookstore. The folder makes for a handy and quick reference resource for individuals and schools and other groups.  Also, it’s easy to bring along if you’re actually visiting the areas and want to have the information and timelines on hand.

There’s no shortage of information on the Civil War out there, but it’s nice to have it summarized for those of us who may have forgotten some of our history lessons…not me, of course!

 For more celebrating and commemorating: The National Park Service has an Internet page dedicated to the Civil War’s 150th anniversary,, where you can find further publications, activities, and parks – it even has a site where you can search for individual soldiers.  GPO has also put together a special sale of Civil War publications in its Special Collections section,, to honor the occasion.  I think you can never have enough recommendations and amazing stories about this war!

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