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Illinois's War

The Civil War in Documents

Mark Hubbard

Publication Year: 2013

On the eve of the Civil War and after, Illinois was one of the most significant states in the Union. Its history is, in many respects, the history of the Union writ large: its political leaders figured centrally in the war’s origins, progress, and legacies; and its diverse residents made sacrifices and contributions—both on the battlefield and on the home front—that proved essential to Union victory.

The documents in Illinois’s War reveal how the state and its people came to assume such a prominent role in this nation’s greatest conflict. In these crucial decades Illinois experienced its astonishing rise from rural frontier to economic and political powerhouse. But also in these years Illinois was, like the nation itself, a “house divided” over the expansion of slavery, the place of blacks in society, and the policies of the federal government both during and after the Civil War. Illinois’s War illuminates these conflicts in sharp relief, as well as the ways in which Illinoisans united in both saving the Union and transforming their state. Through the firsthand accounts of men and women who experienced these tumultuous decades, Illinois’s War presents the dramatic story of the Prairie State’s pivotal role in the sectional crisis, as well as the many ways in which the Civil War era altered the destiny of Illinois and its citizens.

Illinois’s War is the first book-length history of the state during the Civil War years since Victor Hicken’s Illinois in the Civil War, first published in 1966. Mark Hubbard has compiled a rich collection of letters, editorials, speeches, organizational records, diaries, and memoirs from farmers and workers, men and women, free blacks and runaway slaves, native-born and foreign-born, common soldiers and decorated generals, state and nationally recognized political leaders. The book presents fresh details of Illinois’s history during the Civil War era, and reflects the latest interpretations and evidence on the state’s social and political development.

Published by: Ohio University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. vii-x


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pp. xi

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Series Editors’ Preface

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pp. xiii-xiv

The Civil War in the Great Interior series focuses on the Middle West, as the complex region has come to be known, during the most critical era of American history. In his Annual Message to Congress in December of 1862, Abraham Lincoln identified “the great interior region” as the area between the Alleghenies and the Rocky Mountains, south of Canada and north of the “culture of cotton.” Lincoln...

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pp. xv-xvi

“We live in revolutionary times,” observed the Chicago writer and newspaper reporter Horace White, ten days after the secession of South Carolina.1 One hundred and fifty years have passed and White’s words continue to resonate. An enormous corpus of writing confirms the central place that the Civil War holds in the story of America, even as that story is continually debated and reinterpreted. ...

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pp. xvii-xviii

It seems a long time ago when Christine Dee and Marty Hershock initially approached me about doing “the Illinois book” for Ohio University Press’s Civil War in the Great Interior series. No problem, I thought. How much work could an edited collection be? I soon realized that I had taken on a more substantial project than I first imagined. I’ve learned a great deal researching, documenting, and writing...

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pp. 1-7

Illinois was at the heart of the national crisis over slavery. Many Northerners saw Illinois, with its booming city on the lake, its rich agricultural fields and growing industries, as a model of what the West should be: a dynamic, enterprising society that fairly rewarded free white labor. The state’s geography was also pivotal. Bordered by two slave states—Missouri and Kentucky—and three major...

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One: Illinois and the Politics of Slavery

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pp. 8-33

If not for the sectional crisis Illinois might well be known today as the Land of Douglas. For decades Stephen Douglas’s Democratic Party forged solid statewide majorities by emphasizing policy themes that had made Andrew Jackson, the party’s national figurehead and Douglas’s political hero, the most popular president since George Washington: low taxes, limited government, personal liberty...

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Two: The Emergence of Lincoln and the Secession Crisis

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pp. 34-55

Sectional tensions mounted following the election of President James Buchanan. In 1857 the Supreme Court rendered its decision in a case involving the slave Dred Scott, who had sued for his freedom on the basis of prolonged residence in free territory. In Dred Scott v. Sandford the court not only upheld Scott’s status as a slave—as Chief Justice Roger Taney put it, a black man “had no rights...

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Three: Improvising War

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pp. 56-79

Efforts in Washington to avert war came to naught in Charleston harbor in April 1861, when South Carolina batteries opened fire on Fort Sumter, one of the last strongholds of federal property in the seceded states. The attack prompted Lincoln to order the mobilization of seventy-five thousand volunteers on ninety-day terms of service to put down rebellion. In response to Lincoln’s call...

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Four: Illinois and Emancipation

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pp. 80-100

Emancipation brought unprecedented change to all Illinoisans. For the state’s white majority emancipation encouraged a broader reexamination of racial attitudes and policy on the home front. For if the slaves were to be freed, what did that mean for the place of blacks in Illinois? The question spawned intense debate and continued to shape Illinois politics and society for decades to...

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Five: Divided Houses

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pp. 101-123

The year 1863 was a whirlwind of breathtaking losses and stirring victories, of bitter division and violence on the home front, and yet more grievous casualties on blood-soaked fields of battle. The Union’s new strategy of emancipation—and its adjunct, the enlistment of black troops—both elevated the stakes and purpose of the war and produced determined opposition. Spring saw Grant’s campaign for...

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Six: The Soldiers’ War

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pp. 124-152

More than 259,000 Illinoisans—about 15 percent of the state’s population—served in the Civil War, and of those, nearly 35,000 lost their lives. Approximately 10,000 died in battle or later as a result of wounds; the many diseases that swept through filthy encampments and unsanitary hospitals claimed the rest. Tens of thousands more survived with permanent wounds or missing limbs, and no...

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Seven: Hearts and Minds in the Days of Total War

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pp. 153-174

By the war’s midpoint all aspects of Illinois life had adjusted to the reality of a long and bloody ordeal. The state’s economy increasingly reflected the changes—and opportunities—generated by war. Secession augured potential problems for Illinois farmers, who before the war were linked to Southern markets via the Mississippi and Ohio River basins. The outbreak of war disrupted this Southern...

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Eight: In the Shadows of War

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pp. 175-203

The end of war confronted Illinoisans with a changed world. The federal government’s role in society had unmistakably grown, while the war had touched off a broad economic boom that pushed all sectors of the state’s economy to the doorstep of the modern industrial order. The war’s many casualties left Illinoisans in mourning and facing an uncertain future. The Union remained intact, that...


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pp. 205-218

Discussion Questions

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pp. 219-222


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pp. 223-225

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 227-233


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pp. 235-244

E-ISBN-13: 9780821444306
Print-ISBN-13: 9780821420102

Page Count: 260
Publication Year: 2013