America's Civil War
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Such is the continuing volume of work on the Civil War that we are regularly in need of an authoritative and accessible brief synthesis to keep us up to date with this endlessly fascinating subject. Brooks Simpson meets that need for the 1990s in America's Civil War, a wonderful feat of compression in which he addresses all the great issues of the war in 200 pages of clear and readable prose. Rightly, he puts the military history of the conflict at the center of the picture, but he excels in relating the drama of the war itself to the politics of both Union and Confederacy, to the stresses and strains-and opportunities-of the home front, and to the great issues of emancipation and reconstruction. This book is a fine achievement, and it will be invaluable not only to students but to many other readers-and even Civil War specialists will benefit from its fresh insights.–Peter J. Parish, Cambridge University


Brooks D. Simpson is the author of several books on the Civil War and Reconstruction era, including Let Us Have Peace: Ulysses S. Grant and the Politics of war and Reconstruction, 1861-1868, The Political Education of Henry Adams, and America's Civil War. He is a professor of history and humanities at Arizona State University.


Foreword VII

Preface and Acknowledgments XII

Introduction: On Understanding the Civil War 1

Chapter One: Secession and the First Shot 7

Secession 9

The First Shot 21

Chapter Two: War Begins 24

Mobilizing For Conflict 25

War Aims 31

The First Battles 37

The European Response 45

Chapter Three: The Limited War 49

Forts Henry and Donelson 50

Shiloh 53

Rebels Resurgents in Virginia 57

Confederate Escalation 66

Chapter Four: War Becomes Revolution 70

Toward Emancipation 71

Confederate Counteroffensives: Lee Moves North 80

Confederate Counteroffensives: Perryville, Iuka, and Corinth 87

Emancipation and Elections 89

Union Battlefield Standoffs and Rebuffs 94

Chapter Five: Gambles Won and Lost 100

Chancellorsville 101

Vicksburg and Gettysburg 105

Chickamauga and Chattanooga 114

The Impact of Emancipation 120

Chapter Six: The Home Front 130

The Folks Back Home 131

The Northern Economy and War Effort 137

The Southern Economy and War Effort 141

Politics and Society: The North 145

Politics and Society: The South 152

Wartime Reconstruction: Early Steps 157

Chapter Seven: The Campaigns of 1864 162

Grant’s Grand Design 163

The Wilderness Campaigns 166

The Atlanta Campaign 175

Lincoln’s Bid for Reelection 177

Victory on the Battlefield and at the Ballot Box 183

Chapter Eight: Victory and Defeat 188

Sherman’s March to the Sea 189

Fort Fisher and the March through the Carolinas 194

Emancipation, Reconstruction, and Peace Proposals 197

From Richmond to Appomattox 201

Foundations for Peace 206

Conclusion: Why the Union Won 213

Bibliographical Essay 221

Index 233

Maps: Major Campaigns of the Civil War 35

Campaigns in the West, February to April 1862 52

The Peninsula Campaign 1862 64

Campaigns in Virginia and Maryland, August to December 1862 82

War in the East, 1863 103

The Vicksburg Campaign, April to July 1863 108

Grant vs. Lee 168

Campaigns in the West, 1864-65 190


"Sensible, well-written, and thoroughly grounded in the most recent scholarship, America's Civil War is the best short synthesis of the subject available." —Mark Grimsley, Ohio State University

"This book is a fine achievement, and it will be invaluable not only to students but to many other readers—and even Civil War specialists will benefit from its fresh insights." —Peter J. Parish

"Simpson has written a lively and interpretive history of the US Civil War. Based on a mastery of the secondary literature, Simpson's narrative weaves the political, military, and social history of this significant period." (CHOICE, September 1996)

"This work finally condenses the story of the War to a manageable size for the beginner and student alike. ...Written in a clear, concise manner, this book belongs on the book shelves of any collector of writings on the Civil War." (The Cincinnati Civil War Round Table, November 1996)

"Students looking for a condensed, clear, and evenhanded summary of a particular campaign would do well to consult this volume. ...America's Civil War will be a useful supplemental reading in survey courses and a solid short text for courses on the war itself. Occupying an important niche between the single-chapter accounts of the American history textbooks and much longer single-volume treatments...Simpson's book admirably fulfills the goals of the American History Series." (Civil War History, June 1997)