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America's History in the Making

A Nation Divided

Theme 2

Rampant illness, shortages of supplies, poor camp conditions, and very high casualty rates quickly overshadowed the noble ideas that soldiers brought to the war.

Many soldiers on both sides of the conflict expected the Civil War to be decided quickly and honorably, in a series of decisive battles filled with heroic charges.

Instead, the two sides found themselves locked in a seemingly endless conflict. Modern weaponry cut down charging infantry long before they could even see the enemy, putting a premium on creating trenches and other well-positioned defensive structures. Diseases swept through tightly packed camps and killed even more soldiers than the bloody battles.

The scale and nature of death shocked soldiers on both sides of the interminable, unromantic war.

Primary Sources