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This publication is created to be a source of information and inspiration for teachers as they incorporate Library of Congress digitized primary sources and resources into instruction by Teaching with Primary Sources at Eastern Illinois University.
Reasons behind war are complex and there is rarely only one issue causing conflict. The Civil War is no different, there had been disagreements between the North and South for years. Slavery is considered the main reason for the Civil War and while a major issue, it was not the only one.
The North and South had different economies. The North was moving towards the industrial revolution where factories used paid labor.1 The South was based in agriculture where crops, especially cotton, were profitable. Cotton was sold to mills in England and returned to the United States as manufactured goods.1 The North was able to produce many of these same items and northern politicians passed heavy taxes on imported goods trying to force the South to buy northern goods.1 These taxes seemed unfair to southerners.
In 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act was signed, allowing new states in the west to decide if they would be free or slave states. If either side could bring new states with the same beliefs, into the Union they would have more representation in government.1 Citizens of the southern states believed the rights of individual states had priority over federal laws.
In 1859, at Cooper Union in New York City, Abraham Lincoln gave a speech outlining his policy at the time on slavery, "We must not disturb slavery in the states where it exists, because the Constitution and the peace of the country both forbid us."3 Lincoln opposed slavery and the prospect of the western states becoming slave states. As the Civil War trudged on, Lincoln became more outspoken on his views of slavery. In 1864, Lincoln stated, "If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong."4 Lincoln felt his first responsibility was to keep the Union intact. This would not happen and when Lincoln was elected president in 1860 South Carolina seceded from the Union.
Many felt the war would last only a few months. Both sides were steadfast in their belief that their cause was right and many volunteered to serve in their armies. The South felt their way of life was threatened even though only one-fourth owned slaves.2 As a result of each sides strong resolve, the war lasted four years.
Connecting to Illinois
One of a soldier's worst fears is becoming a prisoner of war. In Illinois, a Confederate prisoner was sent to either Alton Prison, Camp Butler in Springfield, Rock Island Prison or Camp Douglas in Chicago. Whichever prison a soldier was assigned to was destined to be an extremely difficult experience.
Constructed in 1833, Alton Prison served as the Illinois State Prison until 1860.5 It wasn't long after the start of the Civil War that the Union needed facilities to house Confederate prisoners and Alton Prison was reopened. The maximum capacity of this prison was approximately 800 prisoners, but by 1864 the prison held close to 1,900 Confederate prisoners.5 The crowded prison was overrun with smallpox that claimed hundreds of lives. Those who died of smallpox were buried on Tow Head Island in the Mississippi River. Years of flooding eroded the headstones and today the locations of the burials are unknown.5
Like many of the Confederate prisons, Camp Butler started out as a training facility for Union soldiers. As the war advanced, the grounds were used as a prisoner of war camp.6 In February 1862, approximately 2,000 Confederate soldiers arrived at the camp soldiers from every Confederate state except Florida.6 Soldiers suffered with poorly constructed barracks, poor sanitation and inadequate rations consisting of little more than hard biscuits and coffee. Death soon took a toll with almost 700 prisoners dying in the summer of 1862.6
Located on a 946-acre island in the Mississippi River, Rock Island prison Barracks was operational for 20 months during the Civil War.7 Constructed in 1863 on approximately 12-acres, the prison had 84 wooden-framed barracks that each accommodated 120 prisoners.7 Rock Island Prison Barracks didn't receive Confederate prisoners until December 1863.7 The prison started with 468 prisoners, but within a few weeks the population was over 5,000 and eventually reached 8,594 prisoners.7 The prison had a 12 foot high wooden fence, sentry boxes every 100 feet, trenches inside the fence and bedrock that deterred tunneling to contain the prisoners.7 Escape would be difficult but not impossible, as prison records show 41 successful escapes.7
Considered the "Andersonville of the North", Camp Douglas was one of the longest continuous operating prison camps of the Civil War.8 Located south of Chicago, the prison was built on land provided to the state by the estate of Stephen Douglas. Camp Douglas held a total of 30,000 Confederate prisoners during the Civil War.8 Like many other prison camps, overcrowding, poor sanitary conditions and inadequate shelter lead to sickness and death. Death also came as a result of withholding rations, torture by prison guards and neglect of soldiers who were ill. Inept record keeping makes it nearly impossible to calculate the number of dead soldiers buried in mass graves at Camp Douglas.11
During the Civil War, over 150 prison camps were utilized in the north and south.9 All were filled to capacity and in dire condition yet the only person held accountable for horrible treatment of prisoners both Confederate and Union, was Major Henry Wirz, Commander of Andersonville Prison, who was hung on November 10, 1865 for war crimes.10
Places to Go & Primary Sources to See
Camp Butler: Located near Springfield, Illinois at the intersection of Camp Butler Road and Old River Road stands the marker for Camp Butler. One a prison camp for Confederate soldiers, Camp Butler is now a national cemetery containing the graves of 1642 Union and Confederate soldiers.
Confederate Soldiers Buried In Central Illinois (Illinois History.com): This website compiled by Gale F. Reed, lists each county in Illinois, the cemetery and the town where Confederate soldiers are buried. You can find your town and visit the local cemetery to find out more about these soldiers who fought for the South.
Toeing the Mark
While the North celebrated the 1860 presidential election results confirming Abraham Lincoln as the sixteenth president, South Carolina called for a state convention to vote on secession. On December 20, 1860, by unanimous vote, South Carolina seceded from the Union.11 Within 40 days, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas would follow.3 The Confederate States of America was born.
Jefferson Davis served in the Senate representing Mississippi. Davis was against secession but when Mississippi left the Union, Davis felt he had to follow and on January 21, 1861, he resigned from the Senate. On February 9, 1861 Davis was elected president of the provisional government and on November 6, 1861 was elected President of the Confederate States of America.12 Jefferson Davis would have preferred a military assignment feeling he would be better on the battlefield than as president.
The new Confederate government created their own constitution. Very similar to the United States Constitution, it contained a preamble and seven articles. it outlines a Congress consisting of a House of Representatives and Senate describing their duties and obligations. One difference between the Confederate and United States Constitution was that the president and vice-president of the Confederacy would hold office for a term of six years.16 The Constitution was adopted on March 11, 1861 in Montgomery, Alabama, the Confederacy's first capitol. Montgomery would not remain the capitol long, excessive heat and mosquitoes drove the members to relocate in Richmond, Virginia.14 Richmond as the Capitol could prove disastrous as it was only about 100 miles from Washington D.C. and capturing the capitol could lead to victory in war. General Robert E. Lee and the Army of North Virginia kept the Union Army from advancing on Richmond until April 2, 1865, when General Ulysses S. Grant launched an assault forcing the evacuation of Richmond and the confederate government.13
On April 9, 1865, unknown to Confederate President Davis, General Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to General Grant.17 Davis felt as long as he could keep the government operating, rally troops and avoid capture the Confederacy still had a chance. Moving the government proved difficult as the Union forces began closing in on the Confederacy. A reward for the capture of Jefferson Davis made travel difficult and little could be accomplished with such chaos. During the Civil War the Confederacy moved to three different capitols. There were few troops left to rally because many soldiers had deserted their regiments to go home and bringing them back to battle would be impossible. No matter how many soldiers the Confederacy could obtain there was no way to feed or supply troops and the Union Army would always out number them.
Davis evacuated Richmond and moved the Confederate government to Danville, Virginia, the third and final capitol of the Confederacy. Danville did not welcome the government or Jefferson Davis. Many feared that the Union Army would destroy their homes or even kill them for housing the confederate government. Danville was a temporary capitol lasting only eight days before Jefferson Davis was forced to move deeper south to protect the Confederacy.14 On May 10, 1865, Jefferson Davis was captured in Irwinville, Georgia;, bring an end to the Confederacy.15 After his arrest, Davis was imprisoned at Fort Monroe, Virginia where he was treated harshly.15 He was accused of high crimes and many believed he was involved in the assassination of President Lincoln. He was never brought to trial but was never pardoned for the crimes and lost his United States citizenship. Jefferson Davis was released after two years at Fort Monroe;, his citizenship was reinstated on October 17, 1978 by a Joint Resolution of Congress and signed by President Jimmy Carter.18
Primary Sources in the Classroom
The Teacher's Page The Library of Congress offers classroom materials and professional development to help teachers effectively use primary sources from the Library's vast digital collections in their teaching.
Collection Connections Historical content and ideas for teaching with specific Library of Congress primary source collections.
The Hotchkiss Map Collection This collection contains cartographic items made by Major Jedediah Hotchkiss a topographic engineer in the Confederate Army. These maps were used by Generals Robert E. Lee and "Stonewall" Jackson in developing strategies for battles.
First Person Narratives of the American South, 1860-1920 Containing accounts of the American South, this collection draws from diaries, autobiographies, memoirs, travel accounts, and ex-slave narratives. You will find stories of prominent individuals as well as everyday people including women, African Americans, enlisted men, laborers, and Native
Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress You might not think the papers of President Lincoln would have much information about the Confederacy but searching under the History section there is a tab on Secession and Inauguration, this outlines the secession to the southern states and gives Lincoln's views on slavery.
Themed Resources One-stop access to the Library's best exhibitions, activities, primary sources, and lesson plans on popular curricular themes.
The Civil War Examine different points of view from both the Union and the Confederacy through poetry, music, images, letters, maps and other primary documents.
Lesson Plans Teacher created lesson plans using Library of Congress primary sources.
Women in the Civil War: Ladies, Contraband and Spies This lesson uses primary sources - diaries, letters, and photographs - to explore the experiences of women in the Civil War. By looking at a series of document galleries, the perspectives of slave women, plantation mistresses, female spies, and Union women emerge. Ultimately, students will understand the
human consequences of this war on women.
Civil War Photographs: The Matthew Brady Bunch Students become reporters, assigned to sort through photographs and find one that will bring the war alive to their readers. They write a newspaper article based on their chosen photograph and publish it on the World Wide Web.
Presentations and Activities Presentations and Activities offer media-rich historical context or interactive opportunities for exploration to both teachers and students.
American Memory Timeline: Civil War and Reconstruction, The South During the Civil War Students can examine documents telling about life in the Confederacy during the Civil War.
American Memory Timeline: Civil War and Reconstruction, Civil War Soldier's Stories These documents tell stories of and about soldiers during the Civil War.
America's Story Create for Children, the Library of Congress, America's Story wants you to have fun with history while learning at the same time through interactive games and stories.
Jump Back in Time
January 10, 1861: Florida Seceded
November 6, 1861: Jefferson Davis Elected President of the Confederate States of America
April 9, 1865: Lee Surrendered
May 10, 1865: Jefferson Davis was Captured
November 10, 1865: Henry Wirz, Former Commander of Confederate Prison was Hanged
Explore the States
Atlanta's Role in the Civil War Atlanta played an important role during the Civil War, do you know what it was?
The Carroll County Ghost Walk Does your town play host to any ghost?
Thunder in the Valley Find out what city in West Virginia changed control between the Union and Confederate forces 18 times.
Wise Guide A monthly web magazine of historical highlights and fascinating facts from the Library of Congress.
October 2005: A Confederacy of Map Learn about the Hotchkiss maps used by General Robert E. Lee and General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson.
May 2007: A Confederacy of Copyrights When the 11 southern states seceded from the United States in 1861 to form the Confederacy, they took copyright law with them.
Exhibitions Discover exhibitions that bring the world's largest collection of knowledge, culture, and creativity to life through dynamic displays of artifacts enhanced by interactivity.
Diary of A Confederate Woman Read an entry from Betty Herndon Maury's diary, which recounts the difficult experience of relocation that many Confederate women and families faced at the eruption of war.
Civil War Maps View three items representing the work of Jedediah Hotchkiss.
The Battle of Fort Sumter Read about the battle that started the Civil War.
Ruins in Richmond As the confederate government collapsed and people rioted, fires meant to destroy the arsenal bridges and anything of military importance spread to the city's commercial district.
Antonia Willard Learn more about this woman who was a spy for the Confederate Army.
Today in History Each day an event from American history is illustrated by digitized items from the Library of Congress American Memory historical collections.
January 21, 1824: Stonewall Jackson One of Robert E. Lee's most outstanding generals in the Army of Northern Virginia, was born in Clarksburg, Virginia.
January 10, 1861: Florida Secedes Delegates to the Florida Convention in Tallahassee voted to secede from the United States of America.
July 21, 1861: The First Battle of Bull Run Union and Confederate troops clashed outside Manassas, Virginia, in the first major engagement of the Civil War, the First Battle of Bull Run.
November 6, 1861: Jefferson Davis Elected Jefferson Davis was elected President of the Confederate States of America.
November 8, 1861: The Trent Affair En route to Europe to rally support for the Confederate cause, two Confederate commissioners were arrested.
May 13, 1864: Arlington National Cemetery The first soldier buried at Arlington National Cemetery was a Confederate prisoner of war.
September 1, 1864: The Fall of Atlanta Confederate General John B. Hood evacuated Atlanta, leaving the city, a crucial supply center for the Confederacy, in Union hands.
February 18, 1865: Charleston Surrenders With commanding General William T. Sherman's arrival imminent, the mayor of Charleston, South Carolina, surrendered control of the city.
April 9, 1865: Lee Surrenders General Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant, general-in-chief of all United States forces, which hastened the conclusion of the Civil War.
May 10, 1865: Jefferson Davis Captured! Union troops captured Confederate President Jefferson Davis near Irwinville, Georgia.
Prints and Photographs The collections of the Prints and Photographs Division include photographs, fine and popular prints and drawings, posters, architectural and engineering drawings.
Photographs of Women during the Civil War: Selected Images View images of African-American and white women from the North and South.
Civil War Explore the faces, places and events of the U.S. Civil War through photographs, prints and drawings.
Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints This collection provides access to portraits made during the American Civil War and its immediate aftermath.
Highsmith (Carol M.) Archive This collection contains images from the Confederate White House, the confederate Capitol in Montgomery, Alabama and Confederate monuments.
Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs Most images in this collection are portraits of unknown soldiers, over 100 are of Confederate soldiers.
American Memory American Memory provides free and open access through the Internet to written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet music that document the American experience. It is a digital record of American history and creativity. These materials, from the collections of the Library of Congress and other institutions, chronicle historical events, people, places and ideas that continue to shape America, serving the public as a resource for education and lifelong learning.
America Singing: Nineteenth Century Song Sheets The variety of subjects and viewpoints conveyed by song sheets make them a unique historical resource. The popularity of song sheets reached its peak during the second half of the nineteenth century and a large portion of this collection relates to the Civil War.
A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation Beginning with the Continental Congress in 1774, America's national legislative bodies have kept records of their proceedings. A special presentation, Journal of the Congress of the Confederate States of America, gives the history of the government of the Confederate states.
The Hotchkiss Map Collection Major Jedediah Hotchkiss, a topographic engineer in the Confederate Army, created detailed battle maps of the Shenandoah Valley.
Civil War Treasure from the New York Historical Society This collection presents materials that document the lives of ordinary citizens from both sides who were involved in the Civil War. The collection also has the first and only issue of The Prison Times handwritten by Confederate prisoners in Fort Delaware.
Historic American Sheet Music 1850-1920 Sheet music presents a significant perspective on American history and culture through a variety of music types. The collection is particularly strong in antebellum Southern Music, Confederate imprints, and Civil War songs and music.
Selected Civil War Photographs Most of these images were made under the supervision of Matthew B. Brady, and include scenes of military personnel, preparations for battle, and battle after-effects. The collection also includes portraits of both Confederate and Union officers, and a selection of enlisted men.
1. Kentucky Education Television (KET), Causes of the Civil War, accessed 11.28.11
2. National History Education Clearinghouse, Causing the Civil War by Bruce Chadwich, accessed 11.28.11
3. Library of Congress, Teacher's Page, Collection Connections, Abraham Lincoln's Papers at the Library of
Congress, accessed 11.28.11
4. Library of Congress, Exhibitions, If Slavery is not Wrong, Nothing is Wrong, accessed 11.28.11
5. United States Department of Veteran Affairs, Cemeteries North Alton Confederate Cemetery, accessed
6. United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Cemeteries Camp Butler, accessed 11.21.11
7. U.S. Army Corp of Engineers Rock Island District, Mississippi River Project, accessed 11.21.11
8. Camp Douglas.org, accessed 11.21.11
9. National Geographic, U.S. Civil War Prison Camps Claimed Thousands by Yancey Hall, accessed 11.21.11
10. Library of Congress, America's Story. Jump Back in Time, Henry Wirz, Former Commander of Confederate
Prison was Hanged, accessed 11.30.11
11. To Die in Chicago: Confederate Prisoners at Camp Douglas, 1862-1865 by George Levy, pg 17-18
12. The Museum of the Confederacy, The White House of the Confederacy, accessed 11.30.11
13. Encyclopedia Virginia, Richmond during the Civil War, accessed 11.30.11
14. Civil War Trust, Capitol Cities of the Confederacy, accessed 12.5.11
15. Library of Congress, America's Story, Jump Back in Time, Jefferson Davis was Captured, accessed 12.5.11
16. Yale Law School, Lillian Goldman Law Library, The Avalon Project, Constitution of the Confederate States:
March 11, 1861, accessed 12.5.11
17. Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln's Corpse by James
Swanson, HarperCollins ebooks, page 88-89
18. Encyclopedia Virginia, Jefferson Davis, accessed 12.9.11