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Fun Facts: American Civil War

"It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces" —Abraham Lincoln

While serving in Congress, Thomas Jefferson introduced a bill that would prohibit slavery in any state admitted to the United States in future. This measure, which could have prevented the American Civil War decades later, was defeated by a single vote. (source)

Also found in: Slavery | United States

The worst law ever passed by the United States federal government may have been the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Fugitive slave legislation had been around since 1793, but the new act gave law enforcement officers in the Northern States carte blanche to pursue and arrest fugitive slaves, and even to compel civilians to assist. Slaves so captured would be sent back south, without being able to defend themselves or produce evidence that they were not in fact slaves. Furthermore, the arresting officer received a bounty of $10 for each slave returned. Despite the significant incentives to catching slaves, only about 300 slaves were captured and returned between 1850 and 1861. The only real effect that the Fugitive Slave Act had was to exacerbate bad feelings between the southern states and the northern states, which would lead to the U. S. Civil War in 1861. (source)

Also found in: Slavery | United States
[Major-General Ambrose E. Burnside]Ambrose Burnside.

The word "sideburns" comes from the name of Ambrose Burnside, a Union General during the U.S. Civil War, who trimmed his facial hair in a curious style.

In the American Civil War, Robert E. Lee, general-in-chief of the Confederate armies that fought to maintain slavery, was morally opposed to slavery; he had freed his slaves in the late 1840s, believing that "slavery as an institution is a moral and political evil in any society, a greater evil to the white man than the black". (source)

Also found in: Slavery
[Abraham Lincoln]

The Emancipation Proclamation freed very few slaves immediately. Issued by Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, the proclamation applied only to slaves in areas controlled by the rebel Confederate government, where Lincoln had no authority to enforce it. (source)

Also found in: Misconceptions | Slavery

After the Battle of Gettysburg in the American Civil War on July 3, 1863, nearby trees began dying from lead poisoning due to the large number of bullets embedded in the wood.

Also found in: Weapons and Battles

The last American pirate to be hanged was Nathaniel Gordon, who was hanged in "the Tombs" in New York City on February 21, 1862. Previously, while captain of the ship Erie, his ship was captured by the American ship Mohican. An inspection revealed 967 blacks aboard who were to be sold into slavery. Conditions were so bad aboard that 300 died before they could be returned to Africa. Gordon was charged with piracy and found guilty. In addition to being the last American pirate to be hanged, he was the first, and only, American slave trader to be executed for being engaged in the slave trade. (source)

Also found in: Lasts | Crime

Abraham Lincoln's oldest son, Robert Todd, was at the scene of three presidential assassinations. On April 14th 1865, he rushed to Ford's Theater, where his father had been mortally wounded. In 1881 he was at President James Garfield's side just after he was shot. In 1901, he was about to join President McKinley at the Pan American Exhibit when he learned that McKinley had been shot. After that, Robert resolved to stay away from the president. (source)

Also found in: Strange But True

Out of the 620,000 or so who died during the American Civil War, only around 205,000 were killed in battle, while around 415,000 or so died of disease.

The Old Calton Burial Ground, in Edinburgh, Scotland, houses a memorial to Scottish soldiers who died in the American Civil War, as well as the first statue of Abraham Lincoln erected outside of the United States.

In a 1988 survey, only 32% of American teenagers were able to place the American Civil War in the second half of the 19th century. (source)

Lincoln's famous letter to Mrs. Bixby, who, according to the letter, was the mother of five sons killed in the American Civil War, may not have been written by Lincoln; John Hay, Lincoln's secretary, claimed to have written the letter, although it isn't known whether he meant that he composed it or just penned it. As well, five of Mrs. Bixby's sons didn't die in the Civil War. Two were killed, one deserted, one was discharged, and one rebelled. (source)

One U.S. Civil War battle took place off the coast of France. On June 19, 1864, the sloops-of-war USS Kearsarge and CSS Alabama fought in neutral waters just off the town of Cherbourg in France. The Alabama was sunk after an hour's fight.

In a span of 20 minutes during the Battle of Cold Harbor in the American Civil War, 7,000 Union troops were killed or wounded.

The U.S. state of Texas was under five different flags in the nineteenth century. At the start of the century it was under Spanish rule as a part of Mexico. Mexico achieved independence in 1821. From 1836 to 1845 Texas was an independent state under its own flag. From 1845 to 1860 Texas was part of the United States; in 1861 it briefly reverted back to its own flag before joining the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War, after which it rejoined the United States.

Also found in: United States
[Burnside Bridge]Burnside Bridge.

While Union General Ambrose Burnside had his share of successes during the American Civil War, he was also responsible for several spectacular failures. At the Battle of Antietam in 1862, he sent large numbers of men across a narrow bridge (now called Burnside Bridge), where they were easy targets for Confederate gunners, even though the river was only waist-deep and could be easily forded. At Fredericksburg a few months later, he ordered a suicidal charge that left 1,284 soldiers dead. At Petersburg in 1864, a tunnel was dug beneath the enemy trenches and filled with explosives that were then detonated, creating a large crater. Burnside then ordered troops into the crater, where they were trapped and picked off by Confederates. Abraham Lincoln remarked on the last incident, "Only Burnside could have managed such a coup, wringing one last spectacular defeat from the jaws of victory." (source)

During the First Battle of Bull Run, there was some confusion because the flag of the Confederacy (with seven stars and three stripes) was quite similar to that of the Union. The Confederacy eventually adopted a new flag, but that one was easily confused with a flag of surrender. Just before the collapse of the Confederacy, they finally adopted a flag that could not easily be confused with any other.

During the American Civil War, the British did not side openly with the Confederacy, although the ruling classes would have liked to, if only to weaken the United States and make them easier to exploit. However, the lower classes, including textile workers who were unemployed because of a lack of cotton, were strongly against the Confederacy, because of its support for slavery. (source)

The person who fired the first shot of the American Civil War, Confederate Edward Ruffin, committed suicide after the Confederate surrender at Appomattox. (source)

Before accepting command of the Confederate Army in the American Civil War, Robert Lee had been offered command of the Union Army, but had turned it down, being unwilling to take up arms against his home state of Virginia. (source)

The first battle of the American Civil War, at Fort Sumter, was also the least bloodless of the war, with no deaths or injuries. (source)

The first deaths of the U.S. Civil War did not take place on the battlefield. On April 19, 1861, four Union soldiers were stoned to death in Baltimore by a mob of rebel sympathizers. (source)

Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis were born a year apart in the U.S. state of Kentucky. Around 25 years later, both were minor officers in the Black Hawk War. Around 30 years later, Lincoln was the President of the United States, and Davis the President of the Confederacy. (source)

Abner Doubleday did not invent the game of baseball. The story of his invention of the game was created many years later based on hearsay and credited to Doubleday due to his fame as a general in the Civil War. Alexander Cartwright, a New York City bank clerk who devised several changes to the American form of rounders in 1844, is probably the best candidate for the inventor of baseball. (source)