The Civil War was America's bloodiest conflict. Over 620,000 Americans were killed, with many more wounded. Historians debate the causes of the war, but they all agree that the institution of slavery played a key role. As the country grew in size, politicans were forced to make various compromises. These compromises increased sectional tensions. The Missouri question was called " a firebell in the night" by Thomas Jefferson. Henry Clay negotiated a compromise in which Missouri was admitted as a slave state and Maine was admitted as a free state. But these compromises only delayed the inevitable. After 1850, politicians such as John Calhoun realized that the "cords that bind the States together" were snapping one by one. Slavery was an integral part of the Southern economic system. Large plantations in the deep south needed slaves to toil in the hot cotton fields. The South would not give up the "peculiar institution" without a fight.
Improved firearms and artillery led to the high number of deaths once fighting started. Guns with rifled barrels were used extensively. Some Union Army units were equipped with repeating rifles. This meant faster firing and unfortunately more deaths. Rifled barrels increased range and accuracy. Many Southern and Northern units had sharpshooters. In some ways the Civil War was a precursor to World War One. There was even trench warfare. Medical knowledge was primitive by modern day standards. Many of the wounded died of infection. Amputation was done on a massive scale. Many died needlessly due to improper sanitation. In fact it is estimated that twice as many men died of disease than from gunshot wounds.
The PCCC Library has a very good collection of books on the Civil War. The call numbers E459, E468, E470, E474 and E475 should be consulted.
Some books to consider are: The Causes of the American Civil War (E459.R59), The American Civil War: A Military History (E470.K255 2009), The American Civil War (E468.K56 2004) and Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (E470.M37 1988.)
The Library also owns the five dvd set on the Civil War by Ken Burns. It is available at the circulation desk and must be viewed in the Library. DVD 0087.