The American War: A History of the Civil War Era

In The American War: A History of the Civil War Era, renowned historians Gary W. Gallagher and Joan Waugh provide a fresh examination of the Civil War, the great defining moment in U.S. history, as well as its aftermath and enduring memory, in a masterful work that prize-winning historian William C. Davis calls “easily the best one-volume assessment of the Civil War to date.” By investigating this crucial period of U.S. history through the eyes of civilians, celebrated leaders, and citizen soldiers alike, students and curious readers alike can gain a profound understanding of the dramatic political and military events and personalities as well as social and economic processes that caused the Civil War, enabled the Union to prevail over the Confederacy, and forever transformed the United States.

Here’s what other historians are saying about The American War:

“The authors have written a succinct yet detailed and eloquent history of the conflict that preserved and reshaped the nation in ways that continue to affect us today.  Noteworthy features of The American War are the inclusion of Reconstruction as an integral part of the war, as indeed it was, and a final chapter on the conflicting memories of the war by those who experienced it as they attempted to give meaning to their experiences.”
– James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom

“No other recent work has so mastered the content and contributions of the best historians of our time, and distilled it into a work that is at once comprehensive and yet manageable.  In their graceful words, Gallagher and Waugh offer the full context of the war’s coming, its course at home and in the field, and its consequences, both as it happened and as Americans chose to remember it.  This is easily the best one-volume assessment of the Civil War era to date.”
– William C. Davis,  author of Crucible of Command: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee–The War They Fought, the Peace They Forged

“Gallagher and Waugh do a wonderful job of explaining the main facts that shaped the war years and their aftermath.  The authors manage to do justice to individual experiences and national goals in both the Union and the Confederacy, consider military strategies and battlefield tactics throughout the entire geographic landscape, and contemplate the war through the eyes of celebrated leaders, anonymous citizen soldiers, and a diversity of civilians – both white and black.”
— Matthew Gallman, author of Defining Duty in the Civil War:  Personal Choice, Popular Culture, and the Union Home Front  

“It is hard to see how any one brief volume could better deal with this vast subject.  Gallagher and Waugh know all there is to know about the Civil War and manage to convey that knowledge with balanced judgment, engaging quotations, up-to-date scholarship, and humane insight.”
— Edward L. Ayers, author of In the Presence of Mine Enemies:  Civil War in the Heart of America.

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New to the Second Edition

To keep up with current scholarship on the Civil War and Reconstruction periods, new or revised material has been incorporated throughout The American War on the following topics:

Chapter 1: The Corwin Amendment.
Chapter 3: Background and importance of the Trans-Mississippi theater in the war’s early stages; overview of conflicts with Native Americans between 1861 and 1865;
Chapter 4: Dix-Hill cartel of 1862; policies and practices of military occupation during and after the war.
Chapter 6: The war’s impact on human, animal, and environmental resources and dislocation.
Chapter 12: Recent clashes over the appropriateness of public Confederate memorials.
Further reading: Two dozen titles that combine accessibility and sound scholarship.

Digital Features

The interactive version of The American War includes the following features:

  • Filmed debates between the others on topics such as the “inevitability” of secession, war, and Confederate defeat.
  • 40+ interview-style videos embedded within the textbook, including a dozen that feature Gary Gallagher on location at several battlefield sites.
  • 100+ hyperlinks to important online resources.
  • PowerPoint slide presentations available as an instructor resource at the end of each chapter.
  • Auto-graded quizzes at the end of each chapter.
  • Embedded discussion questions so that students can engage one another directly within the textbook.

Company Mission & Call for Authors

Learning, just like life, is animated by curiosity, passion, and good conversation. Great teachers awaken students’ imagination and intellect by modeling these elements of a well-lived life in their daily profession, exhorting students to grow. Great books aid the process.

Textbooks should do the same. Yet students often greet them with resistance, complaining about their dry tone, lack of narrative interest, and high prices.

Our mission is to create textbooks that are “page-turners” – books so readable and relatable that students won’t want to put them down.

We’ve partnered with renowned scholars who are also recipients of undergraduate teaching awards to write our textbooks. Inspirational teachers ignite learning, and by translating that art into textbook form, we’re confident your students will be more curious and exuberant, leading them to greater mastery of your subjects.

Flip Learning wishes to partner with prospective authors who share this philosophy and are eager to unveil a creative, inspiring, and unique authorial voice that is often discouraged through traditional academic scholarship. For inquiries, please contact Co-Founder Chris Spielvogel (

Chapter Description

This chapter surveys the late antebellum period and carries the narrative through the election of Lincoln, the secession of the Lower South, and the firing on Fort Sumter.
This chapter covers the secession of the Upper South, the struggle for the Border States, and the mobilization of resources, strategic planning, and early military campaigns. It addresses factors such as manpower, industrial capacity, geography, historical precedent, and European reaction as elements in handicapping the conflict.
This chapter charts the huge swings of momentum on the battlefield between the winter of 1861 and the winter of 1862; introduces students to key figures such as U. S. Grant, R. E. Lee, and George B. McClellan; discusses battles such as Shiloh, the Seven Days, and Antietam; and brings to the fore the concept of contingency.
This chapter explores the profoundly important concept of the citizen-soldier-which played an equally critical role in both the United States and the Confederacy. More than half of all men who served were true volunteers who entered service before conscription had been imposed.
This chapter builds on material in earlier chapters to explore the process by which emancipation came to be a non-negotiable war aim for the United States. It makes clear that until very late in the conflict emancipation was uncertain-the war could have ended with slavery largely intact and with few black men in uniform.
This chapter focuses on the year that often is described as the time when fortunes turned irrevocably toward United States victory-with Gettysburg and Vicksburg serving as twin turning points that doomed the Confederacy. In this chapter, a more complex reading of the period is presented-which also included massive anti-draft and anti-African American riots in New York City that highlighted political turmoil on the Union home front and continuing resolve across much of the Confederacy.
This chapter describes the sense of nation that imbued both war efforts, the massive expansion of central power in the Confederacy, the impressive-- but less striking--expansion of federal power in the United States, and the need to engage the conflict as a war between two modern nation states rather than as a bloody uprising by one segment of the American population.
This chapter examines the varying experiences of different groups of women, white and black, behind the lines in the United States and the Confederacy (proximity to armies played a crucial role here). It explores the movement of women into different workspaces, black and white refugees in the Confederacy, and the degree to which women supported the respective war efforts.
This chapter examines the last year of the war with a focus on U. S. Grant's strategic planning and execution. It reinforces the theme of contingency, showing how the summer of 1864 represented the lowest point of Union morale for the war and how emancipation, even at that late date, was not a sure thing.
This chapter describes the peace agreement signed at Appomattox Court House in 1865 that achieved the United States' goals of reunion and emancipation, and then explores the aims of northern whites, southern whites, and the freed people in the immediate aftermath of war.
This chapter examines how Republicans fared in implementing congressional Reconstruction in the southern states from 1868 to 1876.
This chapter outlines the emergence of the major memory traditions of the Civil War -- Union, the Lost Cause, Emancipation, and Reconciliation.

Book Authors

Gary W. Gallagher
Gary W. Gallagher is the John L. Nau III Professor in the History of the American Civil War at the University of Virginia. He is the author or editor of more than thirty books, including The Confederate War (Harvard University Press, 1997), Lee and His Generals in War and Memory (Louisiana State University Press, 1998), and The Union War (Harvard University Press, March 2011). He serves as editor of two book series at the University of North Carolina Press and has appeared regularly on the Arts and Entertainment Network's series "Civil War Journal" as well as participating in more than three dozen other television projects in the field. He is also the recipient of the Cavaliers' Distinguished Teaching Professorship for 2011-2012, the highest teaching award conveyed by the University of Virginia.

Joan Waugh
Joan Waugh of the UCLA History Department researches and writes about nineteenth-century America, specializing in the Civil War, Reconstruction, and Gilded Age eras. Waugh's newest book is entitled U. S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth (University of North Carolina Press, 2009), which was awarded the Jefferson Davis Book Prize from the Museum of the Confederacy and the William Henry Seward Award for Excellence in Civil War Biography. Waugh's other books include Unsentimental Reformer: The Life of Josephine Shaw Lowell (Harvard University, 1998), The Memory of the Civil War in American Culture (University of North Carolina Press, 2004), and Wars Within A War: Controversy and Conflict Over the American Civil War (University of North Carolina Press, 2009). Waugh has been honored with three teaching prizes, including UCLA's prestigious Distinguished Teaching Award.