No Easy Victory

The Contest for Richmond | Two Deadly Days | A Costly Stalemate | A Promise of Freedom The South's Reply | Towards Total War | Loss at Home | A Year's End

The brutal campaigns of 1862 shocked the North and the South. Battles, including Shiloh and Antietam, drained the armies of men and the home front of morale. As a result, Northern and Southern leaders implemented increasingly revolutionary strategies to try and bring the war to a close. Most significantly, Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, turning the Union war against slavery. 


In the spring of 1862, the first in a series of catastrophic battles unfolded in Western Tennessee. On April 6, Confederate General Albert Johnston launched an attack on the Union army at Shiloh.   (Library of Congress)


The two day battle at Shiloh produced more than 23,000 casualties and was the bloodiest battle in American history at its time.  (Library of Congress)

The Contest for Richmond


In March of 1862, General George McClellan launched an amphibious invasion of Southeast Virginia, intending to capture Richmond. The first clash of the Peninsula campaign took place at Yorktown, where McClellan constructed siege fortifications illustrated above. Over the next four months, battles occurred at Williamsburg, Hampton Roads, and Seven Pines, among others. McClellan’s invasion ended in failure. (Library of Congress)


This print shows Union General Kearny leading his men into the fray outside Williamsburg, shouting “I am a one-armed Jersey Son of-a-Gun, follow me!” (Library of Congress)

Two Deadly Days

Second Bull Run

On Saturday, August 29, Union General Pope attacked Stonewall Jackson’s position at Manassas. General Longstreet reinforced Jackson that same day, although Pope continued attacks, seemingly unaware that Longstreet had joined the fray.  (Library of Congress)


On August 30, Longstreet carried out the largest, simultaneous mass assault of the war, using 28,000 men to devastate Union General Fitz John Porter’s command. In this image, soldiers search for the remains of their comrades after the battle of Second Manassas.  (Library of Congress)

A Costly Stalemate

Bloody Lane

The battle at Antietam was the single bloodiest day in American military history, with 22,717 casualties. On the morning of September 17, Union General George McClellan mounted a series of powerful attacks on Robert E. Lee’s forces near Sharpsburg, Maryland. Matthew Brady took this photograph of “Bloody Lane,” showing dead Confederate soldiers, two days after the battle.  (Library of Congress)


The battle ended in a draw, although the Confederate retreat helped the Union claim a victory. This photograph shows five soldiers standing on the battlefield, near the grave of Private John Marshall, a Pennsylvania volunteer.   (Library of Congress)

A Promise of Freedom

Lincoln's Cabinet

Lincoln conceived the Emancipation Proclamation partly as a response to the self-emancipation of slaves, many of whom served in the Union military as “contrabands.” By declaring the Union aim to destroy slavery, Lincoln also intended to deter European nations from intervening on behalf of the Confederacy. In July of 1862, Lincoln read his “preliminary proclamation” to his cabinet. He then decided to wait for a Union military victory to issue it.  (Library of Congress)

Lincoln the Emancipator

On September 22, after the battle of Antietam, Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, warning the Confederacy of his intention to free all slaves held within the rebellious states.  (Library of Congress)

The South's Reply

South's Reply

This cartoon from a Richmond newspaper demonstrates many white Southerners’ hatred of Lincoln after he issued the Emancipation Proclamation. In the image, Lincoln removes a mask to reveal that he is Satan, and a noose hangs from the Washington monument in the background.  (Library of Congress)

Toward Total War

Confederate conscription

On April 16, 1862, the Confederate Congress adopted a conscription law. This law made all male citizens between the ages of 18 and 35 subject to three years of national military service. The law allowed men to hire substitutes, and also extended the terms of service for men already serving in the C.S.A.   (Library of Congress)

Confederate conscription

The conscription act quickly proved unpopular in the South, as rich men could afford substitutes while poorer men could not. Equally unsettling to many Southerners was the “Twenty Negro Law,” which allowed one slaveowner or overseer an exemption from the draft for every 20 slaves within five miles. This cartoon illustrates the North’s perception of the Confederate army, as increasingly filled with poor farmers serving against their will.   (Library of Congress)

Loss at Home

Music from the Confederacy

As both the Union and Confederacy tilted towards full mobilization, culture on both sides came to reflect the devastation and loss faced by families. Songs such as “Kiss Me Before I Die Mother,” expressing the dying words of a young soldier, became frequent refrains in both the North and the South.  (Library of Congress)

A Year's End


From December 11-15, Union and Confederate soldiers fought in the streets of Fredericksburg, in the Civil War’s first urban combat. There were 200,000 soldiers engaged on both sides. No other Civil War battle featured a larger concentration of soldiers. The Union army suffered nearly 13,300 casualties, while Lee’s army lost 4,500. A few weeks after the Confederate victory, Lincoln removed Burnside from command of the Army of the Potomac.  (Library of Congress)

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