- The Civil War was a time of intense change for the United States.
- It divided a country and its people in two but also saw many moments of heroism and self-sacrifice.
- Some figures from this era have become famous while others have been lost to history.
Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865)
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States. He is famous for being a hero to America and being the person who saved America from being split up during the Civil War. He came from a poor family but then became the president of his country.
Lincoln was killed at a time when the country needed him to be president. He was in favor of democracy. He insisted that the Union was worth saving. Lincoln gave the most famous speech at the end of the Civil War, which is known as the Gettysburg Address. His impact on the country and his good deeds make him an important person in history.
Jefferson Davis (1808–1889)
After he had a long military career, Jefferson Davis served as a US senator. For a while, he was the Secretary of War. He was also President of the secessionist Confederate States of America before he died. In 1864, he was accused of treason and never tried. This meant that he remained a symbol of Southern pride until his death in 1889.
Jefferson Davis grew up on a plantation. He became a politician and turned out to be a hero of the Mexican War. He represented Mississippi in the US House of Representatives and Senate, as well as secretary of war for the United States.
Jefferson Davis died on December 6, 1889. The year before his death, he begged the young men of Mississippi to “lay aside all rancor, all bitter sectional feeling, and to make your places in the ranks of those who will bring about a consummation devoutly to be wished—a reunited country.”
Clara Barton (1821–1912)
Clara Barton is a very famous woman in American history. Barton brought supplies and support to soldiers in the Civil War while risking her life. Clara Barton was 59 in 1881 when she founded the Red Cross. She led the Red Cross for 23 years.
She was a go-getter who wanted to use her talents to help others. Her understanding of how she might help people helped her throughout her life. She introduced a novel approach to volunteering. She did so by setting an example for others. Her unwavering dedication to serving others has resulted in a wealth of accomplishments that would fill many people’s lives.
Robert E. Lee (1807–1870)
Robert E. Lee was a general who led the Confederate troops during the American Civil War. He has been seen as a hero in the south of America because he fought for them.
He opposed Union soldiers during the most blood-soaked confrontations. Robert E. Lee served as commander of Virginia’s armed forces and became general-in-chief of the Confederate military at the end of the war.
In 1865, Lee surrendered to General Grant at the courthouse in Bentonville, North Carolina. This was the end of a devastating conflict that divided the United States.
Although the Union won the conflict, Lee became famous for his military victories on the battlefield. He went on to be president of Washington College. The name was changed to Washington and Lee University after his death in 1870.
Stonewall Jackson (1824–1863)
Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson was a successful Confederate general in the American Civil War. Stonewall Jackson helped Robert E. Lee win the Civil War. He was a good soldier and a military expert. He led troops at Manassas, Antietam, and Fredericksburg.
He graduated from the Military Academy at West Point, New York, in time to join the Mexican War at the age of 19. Then he stopped being in the military and started teaching.
After Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861, Jackson enlisted in the Confederate army. He was brave and hardworking during the Shenandoah Valley Campaign. He served under Robert E. Lee who was general for the Civil War.
In many significant battles, Jackson was a key element. He was accidentally shot by the Confederate troops. He lost an arm and died during the Battle of Chancellorsville.
William Tecumseh Sherman (1820–1891)
William Tecumseh Sherman was the leader of the Union Army during the Civil War. He led an army that destroyed many towns in the south by burning them down.
William Tecumseh was raised by a family friend. He said his father gave him the name Tecumseh because he liked the Shawnee chieftain.
At the beginning of his military career, he had to be relieved from being in charge. In May 1861, Sherman was given a job as a colonel. He fought in the First Battle of Bull Run. The Union troops were beaten badly.
Sherman was then sent to Kentucky and became very unhappy about the war. He was not able to fight for a long time. The press wrote about him and said he was “insane.” It is believed that Sherman had a nervous breakdown.
Then he returned at the Battle of Shiloh and gathered 100,000 troops who destroyed Atlanta and devastated Georgia. Often credited with the saying “war is hell,” he was a major architect of modern war. But the devastation that General Sherman caused in his march still remains controversial. Some people from the South hate him because of what he did.
Sarah Emma Edmonds aka Franklin Thompson (1841 – 1898)
Sarah Emma Edmondson was born in New Brunswick. Her father was a farmer who wanted to have a son to help him. He did not like his daughter and he treated her badly. In order to avoid being detected and get a job, she decided to dress like a man. She became known as Franklin Thompson.
Edmonds was very successful at selling books by the start of the Civil War. Then she thought the best way to help would be to enlist with her alias. As a three-year recruit, Edward was mustered into the 2nd Michigan Infantry.
In 1862, Edmonds was assigned the job of mail carrier for the regiment. Edmonds was asked to do espionage missions sometime around this time. Her memoirs tell about how she did things behind enemy lines during the war. She disguised herself as a man and then acted like she was carrying contraband.
During the Battle of Fredericksburg, Edmonds was an orderly for her commander. Edmonds rode in a horse to carry messages back and forth to the front lines.
Later on, Edmonds, no longer disguised as a man, worked with the United States Christian Commission as a nurse. She wrote and published her story about being a nurse and spy for the Union Army.
In 1897, Edmonds joined the Grand Army of the Republic. She was the only woman to do so. Edmonds died in La Porte, Texas. She was buried in 1901 with military honors at Washington Cemetery in Houston.
Loreta Janeta Velazquez aka Harry T. Buford (1842 – c. 1897)
Loreta Janeta Velazquez was born in Cuba. She went to school in New Orleans. When she was 14, she married a soldier from Texas.
In 1861, Velazquez’s husband joined the Confederate Army. She asked to join him but he refused. Velazquez wanted to go, so she disguised herself as a man and took the name, Harry T. Buford.
Velazquez went to Arkansas after giving herself the rank of lieutenant. Here she found volunteers. Then she found her husband in Florida. She brought the army with her and acted like their commander.
Later, she went to Tennessee and joined the other soldiers there to fight in the Battle of Fort Donelson. Velazquez was wounded in the foot. She was afraid if she went to a doctor, someone would find out she was a woman. So she went back home to New Orleans.
Velazquez didn’t want to stay home. She went to Richmond, where she volunteered as a spy. She was able to travel in both the North and the South. She worked in different disguises.
She traveled in the West. She had a baby boy. In 1876, Velazquez decided to publish her memoirs because she needed the money. She had a child and needed to support him. Her book was called The Woman in Battle. It was dedicated to her friends who were Confederate soldiers “who, although they fought in a losing cause, succeeded by their valor in winning the admiration of the world.”
Frederick Douglass (c. 1818–1895)
Frederick Douglass was a leader in the anti-slavery movement and an early campaigner for women’s rights.
Frederick Douglass was a leader in the United States who wanted slaves to be free. He was born into slavery and grew up in Maryland. He became one of the most famous people of his time. He once advised U.S. presidents and addressed thousands on a variety of issues, including women’s rights and Irish home rule, at meetings.
Douglass wrote several books about his life. He tells about his time as a slave and after the Civil War. His famous work is called “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.”