The American Civil War Portal
The American Civil War (1861–1865) was a sectional rebellion against the United States of America by the Confederate States, formed of eleven southern states‘ governments which moved to secede from the Union after the 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States. The Union’s victory was eventually achieved by leveraging advantages in population, manufacturing and logistics and through a strategic naval blockade denying the Confederacy access to the world’s markets.
In many ways, the conflict’s central issues – the enslavement of African Americans, the role of constitutional federal government, and the rights of states – are still not completely resolved. Not surprisingly, the Confederate army‘s surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865 did little to change many Americans‘ attitudes toward the potential powers of central government. The passage of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments to the Constitution in the years immediately following the war did not change the racial prejudice prevalent among Americans of the day; and the process of Reconstruction did not heal the deeply personal wounds inflicted by four brutal years of war and more than 970,000 casualties – 3 percent of the population, including approximately 560,000 deaths. As a result, controversies affected by the war’s unresolved social, political, economic and racial tensions continue to shape contemporary American thought. The causes of the war, the reasons for the outcome, and even the name of the war itself are subjects of much discussion even today.
The 21st Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was an infantry regiment in the Union Army during the American Civil War. It was organized in Worcester, Massachusetts and mustered into service on August 23, 1861.
After garrison duty at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, the regiment served with the Coast Division commanded by Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside. The Coast Division was deployed in January 1862 for operations on the coast of North Carolina, and participated in the Battle of Roanoke Island and the Battle of New Bern among other engagements. Burnside’s division was recalled to Virginia in July 1862. The 21st Massachusetts was then attached to the Army of the Potomac and participated in several of the largest battles of the Civil War, including the Second Battle of Bull Run, the Battle of Antietam and the Battle of Fredericksburg. The most devastating engagement of the war for the 21st was the Battle of Chantilly, fought on September 1, 1862, during which the unit suffered 35 percent casualties. From March 1863 to January 1864, the 21st served with Burnside in the Department of the Ohio, seeing action in Kentucky and eastern Tennessee. In May 1864, the regiment rejoined the Army of the Potomac, participating in Lt. Gen. Ulysses Grant’s Overland Campaign and the Siege of Petersburg. The regiment was a favorite of Clara Barton, the famed battlefield nurse, who was also from Worcester County, Massachusetts.
By the end of its three years of service, the 21st Massachusetts had been reduced from 1,000 men to fewer than 100. Of these losses, 152 were killed in action or died from wounds received in action, approximately 400 were discharged due to wounds, 69 were taken prisoner, and approximately 300 were discharged due to disease, resignation, or desertion. Those of the 21st who chose to re-enlist at the end of their initial three-year commitment were eventually consolidated with the 36th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry on October 21, 1864.
Grand Parade of the States
With the outbreak of the American Civil War, the northwestern state of Wisconsin raised 91,379 soldiers for the Union Army, organized into 53 infantry regiments, 4 cavalry regiments, a company of Berdan’s sharpshooters, 13 light artillery batteries and 1 unit of heavy artillery. Most of the Wisconsin troops served in the Western Theater, although several regiments served in Eastern armies, including three regiments within the famed Iron Brigade. 3,794 were killed in action or mortally wounded, 8,022 died of disease, and 400 were killed in accidents. The total mortality was 12,216 men, about 13.4 percent of total enlistments.
Approximately 1 in 9 residents (regardless of age, sex or qualification for service) served in the army, and, in turn, half the eligible voters served. Wisconsin was the only state to organize replacements for troops that had already been fielded, leading northern generals to prefer to have some regiments from the state if possible.
A number of Wisconsin regiments were distinguished, including three that served in the celebrated Iron Brigade – the 2nd Wisconsin, 6th Wisconsin, and 7th Wisconsin. All were noted for their hard fighting and dashing appearance, being among the only troops in the Army of the Potomac to wear Hardee hats and long frock coats. They suffered severely at the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863. The 8th Wisconsin, another hard-fighting regiment, was often accompanied into battle by its mascot, Old Abe, a bald eagle.
John Adolphus Bernard Dahlgren (November 13, 1809 – July 12, 1870) was a flag officer of the United States Navy during the American Civil War. He headed the Union Navy‘s ordnance department during the American Civil War and designed several different kinds of guns and cannons that were considered part of the reason the Union won the war. For these achievements, Dahlgren became known as the “father of American naval ordnance”; the Naval station in Dahlgren, Virginia, Dahlgren Hall at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and several ships were named for him, as was Dahlgren, Illinois.
He joined the United States Navy in 1826 as a midshipman and was promoted to the coastal survey in 1834. By 1847, he was an ordnance officer, and at the Washington Navy Yard began to improve and systematize the procurement and supply system for weapons. Under his command, the Navy established its own foundry, and its first product was the Boat Howitzer, which was designed to be used on both ship and in landings. But it is his cast iron muzzle loading cannon which came to bear his name (the Dahlgren gun) and be his most famous contribution. By 1856, the Dahlgren gun had become the standard armament of the United States Navy. His system of boat howitzers was used by the navy well into the 1890s, with some examples used in ceremonial purposes into the 20th Century. However, fatefully, one of the “dahlgrens” exploded on being tested in 1860, causing Navy regulations to require the use of much lower levels of powder until 1864, well into the Civil War.