138 votes
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Why did the Confederacy think they could win the American Civil War?

The Military Militarily, the south did not need to win the war by invading and defeating the north. Their belief was that they just had to hold on to what they had, hence their largely defensive ...
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80 votes
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Did the King of Siam offer war elephants to the Union during the Civil War?

Yes and No. What appears to be true is that the King of Siam did send a letter offering a herd of elephants to the US President in 1861. According to the US National Archives King Mongkut said ...
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  • 684
55 votes
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Was the American Civil War the “bloodiest civil war in history”?

The American Civil War doesn't even pass the test of the bloodiest civil war in the Americas. This dubious honor is held by the Mexican Revolution of 1910, with between 1 and 2 million casualties. It ...
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  • 5,902
52 votes
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Why did Lincoln wait to issue the Emancipation Proclamation?

@Peter Diehr's answer is a good one and I've upvoted it - but I'd like to expand on that, remembering that Lincoln was a very good strategist. First, The Civil War was about slavery, and the South'...
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  • 5,638
51 votes
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Was slavery really on the way out in the antebellum USA?

No, slavery was not on its way out. Historians like Dunning and Phillip are writing half a century before the cliometric revolution in economic history, which has completely changed how we view this ...
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  • 17.9k
46 votes

Why were Civil War battle techniques so bloody, if the US had learned guerrilla fighting in the Revolutionary War?

I do not think it is accurate to say that guerilla techniques weren't used in the Civil War. What did Stonewall Jackson do in the Shenandoah Valley? But guerilla tactics are limited. First, they are ...
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45 votes

Was the American Civil War the “bloodiest civil war in history”?

The bloodiest civil war I can think of is the Taiping Rebellion in 19th century China. That conflict is generally thought to have a death toll of 20 million. Note that this is an estimate made by ...
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45 votes
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How did the American Civil War help the U.S economy recover from the Panic of 1857 given that civil wars are extremely destructive?

tl;dr Modern industrial warfare pushes the economy to 100% utilization; this cures the effect of an economic downturn (which is effectively suboptimal economic utilization). Wars in general, and the ...
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  • 31k
42 votes

What did the Emancipation Proclamation exactly do?

Since it only applied to areas that didn't recognize Federal authority, the snarky take on the Emancipation Proclamation has always been that it didn't itself free a single slave. Like a lot of famous ...
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  • 109k
41 votes
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Why did Lincoln's election prompt the Southern states to secede?

The tensions between North and South had been growing since long before Lincoln was elected. While it is true than many in the South believed that Lincoln supported the forced suppression of slavery, ...
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  • 76.2k
37 votes

Was slavery really on the way out in the antebellum USA?

No, not even close. Alan T Nolan lists this as one of the components of the Lost Cause Myth in his essay "The Anatomy of the Myth", collected in the book The Myth of the Lost Cause and Civil ...
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  • 1,229
37 votes
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Was swordsmanship important in the American Civil War?

Generally speaking, swords were not much used during the civil war due to lack of training, lack of quality swords and lack of well-trained horses (plus, of course, improvements in firearms), but ...
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34 votes
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Why wouldn't the South make salt from seawater during the American Civil War?

Its not quite that simple. Since the process typically relies on evaporating out water from pools, it turns out you either need a somewhat reliably sunny climate to do this, or you have to set up a ...
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  • 109k
34 votes
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Why were Civil War battle techniques so bloody, if the US had learned guerrilla fighting in the Revolutionary War?

Whilst it's an interesting topic, unfortunately, the questions, answers, definitions and many facts are entirely incorrect. Lets address some of the inaccuracies first and see if we can drill down to ...
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  • 3,165
34 votes
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Flag with 13 white stars and a crescent on red background

It might be a Confederate flag, specifically the Van Dorn battle flag: Quoting its wikipedia description: The Van Dorn battle flag is a historical Confederate flag with a red field depicting a white ...
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32 votes

Does Grant's use of attrition tactic support his reputation as a general?

Grant did not fight a war of attrition against Lee in Virginia. Grant fought a war of maneuver against Lee, attempting again and again to pass Lee's right and get between him and Richmond. Lee ...
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  • 1,229
30 votes

Why did the Confederacy think they could win the American Civil War?

The vast wealth of the Southern plantations was intrinsically tied up with their ability to generate a fabulous annual income, at low risk. Once the Union blockade was established by autumn 1861 those ...
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29 votes
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Post-war indictment of ex-Confederates in the Confederate States of America

He was captured and held over for trial in 1865 but eventually was released when full amnesty was declared by Johnson in 1868. The wording of the amnesty proclamation gives Johnson's reasons and ...
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  • 37.2k
29 votes

Why did Lincoln wait to issue the Emancipation Proclamation?

Lincoln waited until there was a great union victory; the early losses, and the poor showing of the Union generals did not give him a very firm place to stand and make promises. Antietam was the ...
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  • 6,739
28 votes

Why were Civil War battle techniques so bloody, if the US had learned guerrilla fighting in the Revolutionary War?

This article on the civil war's more advanced rifles highlights that: Most American army officers in 1861 had been schooled in obsolete Napoleonic tactics, especially since many of them had served ...
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23 votes
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What is the context of Lincoln saying: "if I could save the union without freeing any slave I would do it"

Lincoln needed to write this letter because as a war-time president, two months before the mid-term election, he could not ignore an article in one of the most popular newspapers, written by a very ...
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22 votes
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Why did Gen. Lee (Civil War) surrender to the U.S?

The simple answer is that General Lee didn't want to see his men destroyed. There was correspondence between Generals Lee and Grant in the days before the actual surrender, as both recognized the ...
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20 votes

Why were Civil War battle techniques so bloody, if the US had learned guerrilla fighting in the Revolutionary War?

My understanding (which could be wrong) is that armies in the U.S. civil war were "bloody" in the sense that soldiers did not retreat or were sent directly into fire, until one side was wiped out. If ...
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  • 1,088
20 votes
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Why did Union troops like General McClellan?

McClellan had been a popular commander on several counts. He had come to command the Army of the Potomac after winning two small victories in the modern West Virginia in 1861, which was two more ...
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  • 103k
19 votes

Post-war indictment of ex-Confederates in the Confederate States of America

The soldiers and officers of all Confederate Armies were exempted from treason trials by the terms of Lee's surrender to Grant. They were allowed to go home unmolested as long as they ceased to make ...
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  • 11.8k
18 votes

Was the secession of the Confederate states illegal?

Yes, the secession of the Confederate states was illegal. It's important to understand that secession was not strictly, or merely, a “legalistic” matter. Secession was a hotly contested political ...
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  • 1,229
17 votes

Why wasn't the American civil war fought between slaves and masters?

There are two great myths of the Civil War. The Southern myth is that it was a matter of State's right i.e. not allowing a distant part of the country control another. In Europe, it was be like ...
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  • 1,088
17 votes

Mystery of the many-loaded muzzles

According to The Big Book of Gun Trivia, of the 24000 loaded muskets recovered after the Battle of Gettysburg, a quarter were properly loaded, half were double loaded, and the last quarter were ...
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  • 329
17 votes
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Mystery of the many-loaded muzzles

#1 happened often. Soldiers were drilled to load, aim and fire in a fixed rhythm to maintain volley fire. In a well-drilled unit, this was muscle memory. If a soldier's musket did not fire, they ...
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