What do you know about the Civil War?


By: John Payne

6 Min Quiz

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

The Civil War was a defining moment in American history, its end results determining what kind of nation we would be. Test your knowledge of America's greatest constitutional crisis.

In what years was the Civil War fought?

The war began with the firing on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861 and ended with the surrender at Appomattox on May 9, 1865.


Which state was the first to secede from the Union?

South Carolina seceded on December 20, 1860, while every other Southern state seceded in 1861. The war began when South Carolinian troops fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.


Which of the following slave-holding states never seceded from the Union?

Missouri was one of four border states -- including Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware -- where slavery was legal, but that remained in the Union. West Virginia later split from Virginia and formed a fifth Union border state.


Who was the president of the Confederacy?

Before the war, Davis had served as a Senator from Mississippi and the Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce.


Who was in command of the Union army when the war broke out?

Scott was 74 when the war broke out and in poor health. Instead of his honorific nickname, "Old Fuss and Feathers," people began to refer to him as "Old Fat and Feeble."


What future Confederate general was originally offered command of the Union Army by Winfield Scott?

Scott offered Lee the command on April 17, 1861 -- the very day Virginia seceded from the Union. Although opposed to secession and slavery, Lee was unwilling to fight against his home state.


In the early days of the war, General Scott developed a strategy to cut the South off from outside trade until it was forced to surrender. What was the name of this plan?

Although Scott was removed from command in the early going, this plan was ultimately implemented and succeeded in winning the war.


What was the first major battle of the Civil War?

Although neither side fought very effectively, the battle ended with a Union retreat. The loss was an embarrassment for the North and dispelled the notion that the war would be over quickly.


After the failure at First Bull Run, whom did Lincoln call upon to command the Army of the Potomac?

McClellan labored under the belief that the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia was much larger than it actually was, causing him to move with extreme caution.


The first major Union victory occurred in what Western Theater battle?

The battle, along with the Battle of Fort Donelson that immediately followed, elevated the relatively unknown Ulysses Grant to the rank of Major General.


What two ironclads clashed at the Battle of Hampton Roads?

The battle was an attempt to break the Union blockade, and although the ships fought to an effective stalemate, the Confederates failed to beat back the blockade.


What April, 1862 Western Theater battle was the bloodiest in American history up to that point?

There were nearly 24,000 casualties at Shiloh, but that total would be eclipsed at later battles, such as the Battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg.


What Confederate general was killed at Shiloh?

Johnston was hit behind his right knee, and the bullet severed an artery. Johnston had sent his personal physician to attend to some captured Union soldiers and bled to death on the battlefield.


What major Confederate port city was captured in April, 1862?

Capturing New Orleans early in the war played a major role in the Union's ability to use the Mississippi River to divide the Confederacy and deny it any kind of water transportation.


The Second Battle of Bull Run pitted Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia against the Union Army of Virginia, led by what general?

The battle was another victory for the Confederacy and resulted in Pope being relieved of command, with his troops merging into McClellan's Army of the Potomac.


What September, 1862 battle resulted in the single bloodiest day in American military history?

The battle occurred entirely on September 17, 1862 and resulted in a combined tally of 22,717 dead, wounded, or missing.


Which of the following was *not* a result of Antietam?

Although the battle resulted in roughly equal losses, Lee was forced to retreat, but the ever cautious McClellan failed to press his advantage by pursuing.


What lopsided Confederate victory took place in December 1862?

The Confederates repelled the Union attack and inflicted more than three times as many casualties as they suffered.


At what battle was Confederate General Stonewall Jackson mortally wounded?

On the night of May 2, Jackson and his attendants were mistaken for Union soldiers and fired upon by his own men. When he died, Lee remarked, "I have lost my right arm."


What Union general oversaw the Siege of Vicksburg?

Vicksburg was the last major Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River, so when it fell on July 4, 1863, the states of Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas were cut off from the rest of the Confederacy.


Which of the following was *not* an important geographic feature at the Battle of Gettysburg?

The battle largely turned on the Union's ability to take the best geographic features and hold them for the duration of the battle.


What Union officer from Maine won fame for his defense of Little Round Top?

Chamberlain won the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions at Gettysburg and served as Governor of Maine after the war.


What name was given to the direct Confederate attack on Cemetery Ridge on the third day of Gettysburg?

General George Pickett lead 12,500 on the assault, and nearly half of them were killed.


What historical novel by Michael Shaara won the Pulitzer Prize in 1975 was later adapted to the film Gettysburg?

The novel is narrated by fictionalized versions of the major Confederate and Union officers, with each chapter alternating between their points of view.


What was the first major battle fought in Georgia?

The battle was fought from September 18 to 20, 1863 in southeastern Tennessee and northwestern Georgia and was the most substantial defeat for the Union in the Western Theater.


What general was placed in command of all Union armies on March 3, 1864?

Grant was elevated to the rank of Lieutenant General after he successfully led the capture of Chattanooga in the fall of 1863.


Which former Union general ran against Lincoln in the election of 1864?

The Democratic Party was split between those who wanted to continue the war and those wanted to sue for peace, and McClellan represented the so-called "War Democrat" wing of the party.


The capture of what major Southern city in September, 1864 provided a major boost to Northern morale and assured Lincoln's reelection?

The city was under siege from July until September, putting the Union in control of most of the rail lines in the heart of the Confederacy.


What general led the famous "March to the Sea" from Atlanta to Savannah?

Sherman's army foraged supplies from the cities and towns they encountered along the way, and the march is considered a major development in the creation of "total war."


What battle that lasted from May 31 to June 12, 1864 did Grant express regret in his memoirs for launching?

Grant launched a frontal assault on Lee's fortified forces and suffered over 12,000 casualties, compared to 5,000 for the Confederacy.


At what naval battle did Union Admiral David Farragut make the famous statement, "Damn the torpedoes!"

The battle took place on August 5, 1864, and it resulted in the capture of Mobile Bay -- the last Confederate Gulf port east of the Mississippi.


The Confederate defeat in which battle led directly to the Union capture of Richmond?

Petersburg and Richmond fell on April 3, 1865, and Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse less than one week later on April 9.


What Union officer led the ceremony of surrender?

Chamberlain wrote about the event in his memoir of the war, The Passing of the Armies: "On our part not a sound of trumpet more, nor roll of drum; not a cheer, nor word nor whisper of vain-glorying, nor motion of man standing again at the order, but an awed stillness rather, and breath-holding, as if it were the passing of the dead!"


What former Confederate general played a major role in creating the Ku Klux Klan?

The Klan was formed in Pulaski, Tennessee in 1866, and historians believe Forrest joined either that year or in 1867 and took on a leadership role.


After the war, three "Reconstruction Amendments" were added to the Constitution. Which of the following is *not* one of them?

The Thirteenth Amendment ended slavery; the Fourteenth gave civil rights to freedmen; and the Fifteenth gave them the right to vote.


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