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Civil War trivia: Useless but interesting facts about the War Between the States

Updated on March 15, 2012
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln | Source
  • Although the modern image of the Civil War is having been the slave states against free states, this isn’t entirely accurate. Three slave states did not secede: Delaware, Maryland and Kentucky. Kentucky declared itself neutral in the conflict, while Delaware and Maryland were occupied by Union forces throughout the war as a means to prevent their secession. Missouri officially stayed in the Union but was split; a pro-Union government remained in control of the capital, but a secessionist government continued to operate in exile.
  • The Civil War is the first war in history where medical personnel and the wounded were treated as non-combatants.
  • It’s common for Civil War battles to be known by two names, since the North and South named battles differently. Union troops tended to use the names of local streams and physical landmarks, such as Bull Run and Antietam. But with most of the battles occuring in the South, Confederate troops tended to be more familiar with the area, and usually used the names of nearby towns or communities, like Manassas and Sharpsburg.

  • When Virginia seceded from the Union, a number of northwestern counties seceded from Virginia. This area was added to the Union as West Virginia in 1863.

  • Lincoln is often credited with ending slavery, but this actually was not the case. The executive order known as the Emancipation Proclamation called for the end of slavery in the “the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively, are this day in rebellion against the United States.” This order specifically lists only states that had joined the Confederacy but exempted slaves held in states that had remained in the Union. It also exempted slaves that had been held in areas of the south that were under northern control, including the city of New Orleans. Lincoln believed that he had no constitutional authority to abolish slavery except in areas were it was considered a military necessity.

  • Today, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is remembered as one of the greated political speeches of all time, but Lincoln himself was unhappy with it. His words: “I failed, I failed, and that is about all that can be said about it.”

Jefferson Davis
Jefferson Davis | Source
  • Albert D.J. Cashier, a 19 year old Irish immigrant, enlisted in the 95th Illinois Infantry on August 3, 1862. He participated in some 40 battles in three years, and was discharged on August 17, 1865 when the regiment was mustered out. He worked throughout his life as a laborer and eventually qualified for a pension. In the early 1900s, Albert went to live in the Soldiers’ Home in Quincy, Illinois, where in 1913, a doctor discovered that Albert was actually a woman, real name Jennie Hodgers. Hodgers died in an insane asylum in 1914.
  • Sally Louise Tompkins was the only woman given a regular commission by the Confederate Army. She was made a captain in recognition of her work as a nurse. No women were so recognized by the Union Army.

  • If they had the money, a draftee during the Civil War could avoid service by hiring a substitute to serve for them. Not surprisingly, a number of enterprising young men realized that they could make good money by hiring themselves out to multiple draftees. These bounty jumpers would enlist but desert once their payment was received, only to re-enlist under another name. One soldier, John O’Connor, received a four year prison term after he admitted to having hired himself out 32 times.

Stonewall Jackson
Stonewall Jackson | Source
  • Union General William T. Sherman is remembered for saying ‘war is hell,’ but he actually never made such a statement. He actually said, “War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.”
  • Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson is the only Confederate soldier to be pictured on Confederate currency.
  • On April 9, 1865, Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant. Popularly considered the end of the Civil War, the last troops didn’t actually surrender until April 26, 1865, when Joe Johnston surrendered his army to Sherman.

  • Sherman is also remembered (sometimes less than fondly) as the general who brought the war to the civilian population of the south, but he was not the first to do so, or even the first to do so in the Civil War. General John Pope gave troops orders to raid civilian supplies, punish civilians for guerrilla attacks, and arrest male noncombatants.
  • Confederate states were returned to the Union with the end of the Civil War, right? Well, not exactly. Technically, they never returned, because they never left. Lincoln believed that states were unable to secede, so the position of the Union was that the Confederacy was not a separate nation and that the states remained part of the United States. This legal position did not prevent extremists in the Congress from refusing to seat elected representatives from the former Confederates states for many years, however. Tennessee sent the first southern representatives to Congress in July 1866. The last Confederate state to be allowed to send representatives was Texas, in March 1870.

Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant
  • But speaking of legal technicalities...Lincoln was adamant that the Confederacy was not a country, only a section in rebellion, but he accidentally undermined his own argument. On April 19, 1861, Lincoln issued a proclamation authorizing the blockade of southern ports. Although it was dismissed as a matter of semantics, technically a nation can close its own ports, but it cannot blockade them. A blockade is an act taken against another country.
  • Seven U.S. presidents included Civil War service on their resumes, all for the Union: Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Chester A. Arthur, Benjamin Harrison, and William McKinley.


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    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E Franklin 

      5 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      Interesting hub. I hadn't heard about the Civil War being the first in which medical personnel and the wounded were treated as non-combatants. Thanks!

    • Civil War Bob profile image

      Civil War Bob 

      6 years ago from Glenside, Pennsylvania

      I'm glad you pointed out the Two Name Battle phenomenon. Daniel H. Hill (Stonewall's brother in law) found it ironic that the industrial North named battles by the closest river and the agrarian South by the closest city... Antietam/Sharpsburg, Bull Run/Manassas, Stone's River/Murfreesboro, and others. Great article!

    • Angie497 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      I don't mind at all, Greg - I meant to change that and missed it in the proofing. Thank you!

    • Angie497 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      The role of women in the war (other than those belles) is something that's very seldom noticed. Even though there were relatively few women that enlisted, women certainly contributed to the war efforts. Many were rather politically active, which should be even more notable when you consider that women couldn't vote or take real part in the political process. I tend to think it's a reflection of the times - at that time, women were generally treated as second class citizens. It's probably not surprising that their contributions were basically ignored by the power structure. And of course, things that weren't well 150 years ago aren't going to be well known now!

    • gregas profile image

      Greg Schweizer 

      6 years ago from Corona, California.

      Hi Angie. Very interesting. And yes, these are facts I didn't know and are of interest to me. I like when someone points out when I make an error so I will mention to you 2 that I saw. I hope you don't mind. Cashjer, 40 battles in 4 years, 1862 to 1865. Maybe I'm wrong. Then, I don't think the war ended on April 9, 1965. Again, I hope you don;t mind. Greg

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 

      6 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Angie. Three misses: the two ladies stories and Jackson being on the money. Guess I better study up more on all the ladies contributions in the CW instead of just the Belles!


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