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menuAmerican Social History Project  ·    Center for Media and Learning

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"Southern 'Volunteers'"

This Civil War-era lithograph, circulated in the North, lampoons the idea that the Confederate Army was composed of southern "volunteers." A conscript is compelled by force to fight for "King Cotton," despite his protests that he is a "Union man." [...]

An African-American Soldier Asks for Equal Pay

James Henry Gooding, an African-American soldier fighting on Morris Island, South Carolina, writes to President Lincoln asking for better pay. Initially, black soliders in the Union Army were paid only $10 a month, from which $3 was deducted for [...]

An African-American Soldier Writes on Behalf of His Fellow Troops

John F. Shorter, an African-American solider writing on behalf of his fellow members of the Massachusetts 55th Regiment, addresses President Lincoln over the issue of unfair pay. Shorter charges that he and his fellow soldiers have received no pay [...]

Union Soldiers Condemn Slavery

Although the attitudes of many white Union soldiers toward slavery and emancipation ranged from indifference to outright racial hostility, others viewed the issue as central to their participation in the war. The following quotations, taken from [...]

Lincoln in Richmond

This ink-and-wash drawing depicts Lincoln's dramatic entry into Richmond, Virginia on April 4, 1865, only a day after it had fallen to Union troops in the last major battle of the Civil War. The President and his son Tad made the short journey from [...]

"Colored Citizens, To Arms!"

This 1864 poster was used to recruit African-American soldiers for the 20th Regiment, U.S. Colored Troops, a Union Army regiment based in New York state. The poster offers the lure of an up-front payment of $375 plus an additional $10 for anyone [...]

"God Save Our Noble Union"

The Staunton Spectator was a Whig newspaper that opposed Virginia's secession from the Union. Despite their state's subsequent status as the seat of the Confederacy, Virginians, like many residents of the Upper South, remained divided over the issue [...]

A Union Army Captain Testifies Before the Freedman's Commission

In May, 1861, Union General Benjamin Butler offered military protection to runaway slaves in Virginia, declaring them wartime "contraband." In every region touched by the war, African-American men, women, and children flocked to the protection [...]

"Wanted, a Substitute"

This Civil War-era song sheet refers to a provision in the draft laws passed by Congress in March of 1863 which allowed men to either pay $300 or provide a substitute to avoid serving in the Union Army. The provision was a source of resentment for [...]

Congress Issues the Conscription Act

Between July 13 and 16, 1863, the largest riots the United States had yet seen shook New York City. In the so-called Civil War draft riots, the city's poor white working people, many of them Irish immigrants, bloodily protested the federally-imposed [...]