Lesson 2: The Battles of the Civil War

After the first shots at Fort Sumter, both the North and South rushed to mobilize for war. Few had any notion that this war would last four grueling years. Most northerners believed that their advantages in men and materiel would bring a quick victory; nevertheless, the first two years proved to be quite trying for the Union as the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia scored a number of spectacular victories in the Eastern theater of the war. It was only after the twin Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg that the tide of the war turned; thereafter the war became a slow grind that ultimately exhausted not only the Confederacy's army, but its economy and society as well.

Through the use of maps and original documents, this lesson will focus on the key battles of the war and how they contributed to its outcome. It will also examine the "total war" strategy of General Sherman, and the role of naval warfare in bringing about a Union victory.

Guiding Questions

How did the Union win the war?

Learning Objectives

Explain why the battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg were the turning points of the war.

Evaluate the role of Sherman's "total war" tactics in bringing about a Union victory.