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For the Southern Confederate states, however, this was a war to assert their autonomous rights, first enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, from what they considered to be Northern aggression. At the heart of the conflict were the interconnected issues of slavery, territorial and sectional political control.

Tensions over these concerns had been present from the start the American nation. The United States began as collection of colonies who sought independence from Great Britain in the late 18th century.

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The problem of slavery was never clearly settled by the Founding Fathers, leading to decades of discussion, compromise and growing unrest about the future of the institution. The new republic remained divided on the central question of slavery, and by the mid 19th century, the culture and economy of the Northern and Southern states appeared very different to inhabitants above and below what was termed the Mason—Dixon line, division between Pennsylvania and Maryland, marking the border between free and slave states.


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As the United States opened up the west of the continent from the s, debates raged over whether the new territories would be admitted to the nation as free or slave states. Increasingly, the South believed the North was blocking any westward expansion of slavery. Violent encounters, such as at that at Harper's Ferry , and, crucially, the shots fired on Fort Sumter 12 April , led to war, entangling other questions, particularly that of states rights, in a bitter dispute between the relatively industrialised North and the plantation-based society of the South.

Historians continue to debate the balance of causes underlying the origins of the Civil War, but the issue of slavery remains central in any explanation of the great disunion which almost destroyed the United States.

Civil War Background

It is almost impossible to imagine the Civil War erupting without the passions aroused among Northern abolitionists and those in the South who saw slave-holding as central to their way of life. The abolition of slavery itself was never a direct Union war aim until when Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation , declaring freedom for over three million slaves in the South.

While the Civil War did give the country, as Lincoln said, a 'new birth of freedom', it cast a long shadow on the history of the South and its legacy shaped much of the subsequent development of the American nation. The origins of the Civil War remain a matter of great debate, with a strand of Southern collective memory emphasising the belligerence of the North and states rights, rather than the issue of slavery.

Sailors and marines on the deck of the U. Onondaga , a double-turreted monitor, on the James River, Va. John A. Winslow 3d from left and officers on board the U. Kearsarge after sinking the C. Alabama, A Union station on the James River established for extracting gunpowder from Confederate torpedoes, Photographed by Egbert Guy Fox. Confederate torpedo boat David aground at Charleston, S. Photographed by Selmar Rush Seibert. Manassas, armored ram. Artwork by R. Skerrett, Columbiad guns of the Confederate water battery at Warrington, Fla.

Photographed by W. Edwards or J. Edwards of New Orleans, La. Confederate "Quaker" guns-logs mounted to deceive Union forces-in the fortifications at Centreville, Va. The inch mortar "Dictator" mounted on a railroad flatcar before Petersburg, Va. Photographed by David Knox. Confederate Napoleon gun used in the defense of Atlanta, Photographed by Samuel A. Confederate torpedoes, shot, and shells in front of the arsenal, Charleston, S. Two photographers having lunch in the Bull Run area before the second battle, Mathew B. Brady under fire with a battery before Petersburg, Va.

Brady, in the foreground, is wearing a straw hat. Brady's photographic outfit in the field near Petersburg, Va. Barnard's photographic equipment, southeast of Atlanta, Ga. Confederate prisoners captured in the Shenandoah Valley being guarded in a Union camp, May Three Confederate prisoners from the Battle of Gettysburg, July Baseball game between Union prisoners at Salisbury, N.

Lithograph of a drawing by Maj. Otto Boetticher.

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Issuing rations. Andersonville Prison, Ga. Photographed by A.

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Libby Prison, Richmond, Va. Old Capitol Prison, Washington, D. Burying the dead at Fredericksburg, Va. Landing supplies at the wharf at City Point, Va. Men of the Quartermaster's Department building transport steamers on the Tennessee River at Chattanooga, Military Railroads, is standing on the bank supervising the work. The "General Haupt," the engine pulling the train in the photograph, was named in Haupt's honor.

Photographed by Capt. Andrew J. Station at Hanover Junction, Pa. In November Lincoln had to change trains at this point to dedicate the Gettysburg Battlefield. Military Railroads engine "General Haupt," built in Ruins of the Confederate enginehouse at Atlanta, Ga. Barnard, B Depot of the U.

Military Railroads, City Point, Va. Military Railroads engine No. The engine "Firefly" on a trestle of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. Fort Sumter, S. Confederate fortifications, Manassas, Va. Main street and church guarded by Union soldiers, Centreville, Va. Antietam Bridge, Md. Soldiers and wagons are crossing the bridge. Street scene, Warrenton, Va.

Fredericksburg, Va. View from across the Rappahannock River. Confederate dead behind the stone wall of Marye's Heights, Fredericksburg, Va. Union and Confederate dead, Gettysburg Battlefield, Pa. Lee and Gordon's Mills. Chickamauga Battlefield, Ga. General Meade's headquarters. Culpeper, Va. Edmund C. Bainbridge's Battery A, 1st U. Artillery, at the seige of Port Hudson, La. Palisades and chevaux-de-frise in front of the Potter House, Atlanta, Ga. Peachtree Street with wagon traffic, Atlanta, Ga. Street scene showing Sutlers Row, Chattanooga, Tenn. Fort Morgan, Mobile Point, Ala.

Union entrenchments near Kenesaw Mountain, Ga. Nashville, Tenn. The "Pulpit" after capture, Fort Fisher, N. Harpers Ferry, W Va. High-angle view showing the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers. McLean house where General Lee surrendered.

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Appomattox Court House, Va. Ruins seen from the Circular Church, Charleston, S. Ruins seen from the capitol, Columbia, S. Soldiers in the trenches before battle, Petersburg, Va. National Archives Identifier Civil War historians and photo-historians have uncovered documentary evidence suggesting that this image of Union forces was taken by Andrew J. Russell just before the Second Battle of Fredericksburg in the spring of For more information, please see the item in the National Archives Catalog.

High-angle view toward the capitol , Ruins in front of the Capitol, Silhouette of ruins of Haxall's mills, , showing some of the destruction caused by a Confederate attempt to burn Richmond. The U. Capitol under construction, Fort Massachusetts, sally port and soldiers, The fort was renamed Fort Stevens in General view of 96th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment during drill at Camp Northumberland, with the camp in the background, Barricades on Duke Street, Alexandria, Va.

Photographed by William R. Artwork by James E. Taylor, July 1, General view of the city from the south toward the Treasury Building and the White House. Cows are grazing near Tiber Creek. Smithsonian Institution Building in a field of daisies. Brown, John ; bust-length. Engraving from daguerreotype, ca. Douglass, Frederick ; half-length. Garrison, William Lloyd ; three-quarter-length, seated.

Greeley, Horace ; half-length, seated. Brady, Mathew B. Brumidi, Constantino , artist who painted murals and frescoes in the Capitol; three-quarter-length, standing, holding brush and palette. Whitman, Walt , poet; half-length, seated, wearing hat. Beauregard, Gen. Pierre ; half-length. Breckenridge, Lt. John C. Gordon, Maj. John B. Hill, Lt. Ambrose P. Hood, Gen. Jackson, Lt. Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" ; bust-length, April Photographed by George W Minnes. Johnston, Gen. Joseph E. Lee, Gen. Robert E. Longstreet, Lt. James ; half-length, in civilian clothes.

Mahone, Maj. William ; half-length, seated.

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Mosby, Col. John Singleton ; bust-length. Stuart, Brig. James Ewell Brown "Jeb" ; three-quarter-length, seated. Benjamin, Judah P. Davis, Jefferson , President; three-quarter-length, standing. Brady before the war. Mallory, Stephen R. Stephens, Alexander H. Mason, James M. Seddon, James A. Arnold, D. Kingin, Pvt. Emory Eugene , 4th Michigan Infantry; standing, full-length, leaning against a tree and wearing a plaid shirt. Marbury, Gilbert A. Ruffin, Pvt. Edmund , Confederate soldier who fired the first shot against Fort Sumter; full-length, seated.

Anderson, Maj. Robert , defender of Fort Sumter; full-length, standing. Burnside, Maj. Ambrose E. Butler, Maj. Benjamin F. Custer, Maj. George A.