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Here’s a short American Civil War summary. It was a civil war fought in the United States from 1861 to 1865, between the North (the Union) and the South (the Confederacy).

American Civil War Summary

A bit more context, however, is necessary. Strictly speaking, there never was an American Civil War. A civil war is a conflict in which two or more factions fight for control of a nation’s government. The English Civil War of the 1640s and the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s are two classic examples; in both cases, two factions sought to control the government. That was not the case in the United States between 1861 and 1865. The seceding Southern states were not trying to take over the United States government; they wanted to declare themselves independent.


What is sometimes suggested in place of Civil War is “War Between the States.” This term, too, is not quite accurate, since the conflict was not really fought between the states—i.e., Florida was not at war with New Hampshire, nor Rhode Island with Mississippi—but between the United States government and the eleven Southern states that formed the Confederate States of America in 1861. Other, more ideologically charged (but nevertheless much more accurate) names for the conflict include the War for Southern Independence.

This article is part of our larger selection of posts about the Civil War. To learn more, click here for our comprehensive guide to the Civil War.

This article is also part of our larger selection of posts about American History. To learn more, click here for our comprehensive guide to American History.

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