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The Major Battles of the Civil War

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The Major Battles of the Civil War

No other war seems to hold our focus like the Civil War. Scholars have chosen to make it their life's work, authors have written reams about it, and we all feel some kind of connection to the Civil War. This paper was created to highlight some of the major battles that took place during that conflict. Major battles usually marked a drastic change in the momentum from one side to the other or led to massive losses of troops. These battles and their results all played a huge part in the outcome of the war.

One of the war’s first battles was the Battle of First Bull Run. Today's site of the Battle of First Bull Run is a tranquil pasture surrounded by trees and a split rail fence. Instead of the neigh of a horse, you'll hear, in the distance, the sound of passing cars. A community college has a campus nearby, couples enjoy the sunshine and a nice walk, and a few kites fly leisurely in the breeze held by the hands of children. It's nothing like July 21, 1861; it's quiet.

Everyone in Washington and the surrounding area had heard talk of the troops gathering outside Manassas Junction, Virginia. Expectations ran high that the Union troops would quickly send their Confederate brothers running for the hills. Buggies of spectators traveled the thirty miles from Washington to see the battle. Picnic baskets were opened and folks prepared to watch the show. No one expected what they saw.

This wasn't one of the biggest battles of the war, but it was the formal opening for both sides. Of the 32,500 Confederate soldiers, 1,982 of them became casualties, while the Union counted 2,896 casualties from 35,000 troops. Many thought this would quickly settle the dispute; all it did was prepare everyone for a long war and move the Federal government into action.

Another major battle took place at Shiloh. Isn't it strange that a battle as bloody as the battle at Shiloh would begin on a Sunday morning and be named for a country church near the battlefield? Maybe the soldiers didn't even see the irony. Then again, maybe someone did.

The Union soldiers weren't prepared for the charge of their Confederate brothers. Many of the Union troops were untrained and undisciplined, but as in so many battles of war, mundane events served to alter the future.

General Albert S. Johnston, CSA, had given his commanding generals orders to attack the Union troops led by General Ulysses S. Grant at 0300 on April 5th. Storms, bad roads, and delayed orders combined to change the outcome. General Pierre Beauregard, commander of Confederate troops at the Battle of First Bull Run and second-in-command during the Battle of Shiloh, commented that the enemy was given "...the most surprising surprise" but the delays allowed Union reinforcements to take their place on the battlefield beside their comrades and drive the rebels back after two days of fighting. No ground was gained, no strategic town was taken, no supply depot was sacked, but the Union victory did force the evacuation of Confederate troops from much of Tennessee and split the rebel forces along the lines formed by the Mississippi River.

Albert Sidney Johnson was a Troop Commander in this battle. Johnston was born in Kentucky and obtained his education at West Point. He graduated in 1826. Johnston's first taste of active service came in 1832 during the Black Hawk Indian War. He resigned his commission afterwards only to return to active duty in 1836. He fought against the United States Indians on the River Neches and served in the Mexican War with Major General Zachary Taylor. Taylor made Johnston a paymaster during Taylor's presidency. He continued his rise in the ranks by becoming a colonel in the 2nd Calvary, a brevet brigadier general commanding the Utah military district and in 1861 the commander of the Pacific Coast.

Johnston was the highest-ranking individual on either side to die in battle. While directing operations during the battle, Johnston was wounded by a minie ball. The shot severed an artery in his leg and Johnston bleed to death before his surgeon, Dr. D. W. Yandell, could respond. In fact, he had instructed his surgeon to care for a large number of wounded men from both sides. CSA President Jefferson Davis had the utmost confidence in Johnston and said of his death: "Our loss is irreparable..."

The battle at Antietam saw the most American deaths in one day than any other day in history. This was a day no one would forget. In the two days before the battle many men from both sides maneuvered into positions around Antietam. Each knew the other was there; skirmishes erupted throughout the day on 15 and 16 September. Long-range artillery tore through the air in hopes of softening the opposing forces. Everyone knew on the evening of 16 September that the

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