The Civil War

Literature and Quotes

The American Civil War started April 12, 1861 and ended May 9, 1865. It was the bloodiest battle in American history, with about half the total deaths in all major American wars. In the end the Union won and the Confederacy returned to America, after a long four year succession.
The Civil War, Part I: Crash Course US History #20
The Civil War Part 2: Crash Course US History #21

Oh Captain! My Captain - Walt Whitman

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,

The ship has weathered every rack, the prize we sought is won,

The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,

While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;

But O heart! heart! heart!

O the bleeding drops of red,

Where on the deck my Captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;

Rise up--for you the flag is flung--for you the bugle trills,

For you bouquets and ribboned wreaths--for you the shores


For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;

Here Captain! dear father!

This arm beneath your head!

It is some dream that on the deck

You've fallen cold and dead.

My captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,

My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,

The ship is anchored safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,

From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;

Exult, O shores, and ring O bells!

But I, with mournful tread,

Walk the deck my Captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead.


In this poem by Walt Whitman (1819 - 1892), a soldier mourns the death of their leader after a successful voyage.

The Blue And The Gray - Francis Miles Finch

By the flow of the inland river,

Whence the fleets of iron have fled,

Where the blades of the grave-grass quiver,

Asleep are the ranks of the dead:

Under the sod and the dew,

Waiting the judgment-day;

Under the one, the Blue,

Under the other, the Gray

These in the robings of glory,

Those in the gloom of defeat,

All with the battle-blood gory,

In the dusk of eternity meet:

Under the sod and the dew,

Waiting the judgement-day

Under the laurel, the Blue,

Under the willow, the Gray.

From the silence of sorrowful hours

The desolate mourners go,

Lovingly laden with flowers

Alike for the friend and the foe;

Under the sod and the dew,

Waiting the judgement-day;

Under the roses, the Blue,

Under the lilies, the Gray.

So with an equal splendor,

The morning sun-rays fall,

With a touch impartially tender,

On the blossoms blooming for all:

Under the sod and the dew,

Waiting the judgment-day;

Broidered with gold, the Blue,

Mellowed with gold, the Gray.

So, when the summer calleth,

On forest and field of grain,

With an equal murmur falleth

The cooling drip of the rain:

Under the sod and the dew,

Waiting the judgment -day,

Wet with the rain, the Blue

Wet with the rain, the Gray.

Sadly, but not with upbraiding,

The generous deed was done,

In the storm of the years that are fading

No braver battle was won:

Under the sod and the dew,

Waiting the judgment-day;

Under the blossoms, the Blue,

Under the garlands, the Gray

No more shall the war cry sever,

Or the winding rivers be red;

They banish our anger forever

When they laurel the graves of our dead!

Under the sod and the dew,

Waiting the judgment-day,

Love and tears for the Blue,

Tears and love for the Gray.


This poem, written by Francis Miles Finch (1827 - 1907) mourns those who have fallen from both sides. The end of the war should not be about who won or loss, but rather about the losses from both the Confederates and Union. In total, about 620,000 American soldiers died. No one truly wins after such a bloody battle.

Brother Jonathan's Lament For Sister Caroline - Oliver Wendell Holmes

She has gone,-she has left us in passion and pride

Our stormy-browed sister, so long at our side!

She has torn her own star from our firmament's glow,

And turned on her brother the face of a foe!

0 Caroline, Caroline, child of the sun,

We can never forget that our hearts have been one,

Our foreheads both sprinkled in Liberty's name,

From the fountain of blood with the finger of flame!

You were always too ready to fire at a touch;

But we said: "She is hasty,-she does not mean much."

We have scowled when you uttered some turbulent threat;

But Friendship still whispered: "Forgive and forget!"

Has our love all died out? Have its altars grown cold?

Has the curse come at last which the fathers foretold?

Then Nature must teach us the strength of the chain

That her petulant children would sever in vain.

They may fight till the buzzards are gorged with their spoil,

Till the harvest grows black as it rots in the soil,

Till the wolves and the catamounts troop from their caves,

And the shark tracks the pirate, the lord of the waves:

In vain is the strife! When its fury is past,

Their fortunes must flow in one channel at last,

As the torrents that rush from the mountains of snow

Roll mingled in peace through the valleys below.

Our Union is river, lake, ocean, and sky;

Man breaks not the medal when God cuts the die!

Though darkened with sulphur, though cloven with steel,

The blue arch will brighten, the waters will heal!

O Caroline, Caroline, child of the sun,

There are battles with Fate that can never be won!

The star-flowering banner must never be furled,

For its blossoms of light are the hope of the world!

Go, then, our rash sister! afar and aloof,

Run wild in the sunshine away from our roof,

But when your heart aches and your feet have grown sore,

Remember the pathway that leads to our door!


This poem, written by Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809 - 1894) can be looked at in two primary ways. The first, and possibly more obvious, is a story of a daughter or loved one leaving home. The other is about the beginning of the Civil War and South Carolina's succession from the Union, which led to the formation of the Confederate States of America. South Carolina, known as Caroline in the poem, is leaving the Union, or her home, because she hopes for something better. The Union wonders if the states will ever become whole again or if their reasons for leaving are just.

The Election of 1860 & the Road to Disunion: Crash Course US History #18

“I worked night and day for twelve years to prevent the war, but I could not. The North was mad and blind, would not let us govern ourselves, and so the war came.” -Jefferson Davis

Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy during the Civil War, blames the Northern states for the war. He states that he had tried to prevent it, but failed, and says that the North was blinded with anger and could not see reason.

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” -Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln, the president of the Union during the Civil War, made his priority to preserve the Union. If the Confederacy was allowed to become a permanent nation, other states may receive the impression that you could leave whenever you pleased, instead of the Americas being a strong and permanent country.
Reconstruction and 1876: Crash Course US History #22