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Background Essay on the New York City Draft Riots
The worst episode of large-scale urban violence in American history, the New York City draft riots were sparked by the passage of conscription laws which made thousands of male New Yorkers between the ages of 18 and 45 eligible to be drafted into [...]
Background Essay on the "Twenty Negro" Law
The so-called "Twenty Negro Law," enacted by the Confederate Congress in 1862, allowed an exemption from military service for slaveholders who owned twenty or more slaves. In effect, this allowed large plantation owners and overseers to avoid [...]
Background Essay on Civil War "Contraband"
This essay describes how runaway slaves escaped to Union camps, and how the army formed "contraband camps" to house runaway slaves and their families.
Background Essay on Eastman Johnson and A Ride for Liberty
This essay describes the circumsances surrounding one of Eastman Johnson's most famous paintings, A Ride for Liberty–The Fugitive Slaves.
Summary of the Emancipation Proclamation
Despite his personal opposition to slavery, when President Abraham Lincoln took office in 1861 he insisted that his constitutional duty was to keep the nation together, not to abolish slavery. He conducted the first year of the war with the goal of [...]
George A. Croffut Explains the Print "American Progress"
Entrepreneur George A. Croffut published several tourist guides and manuals encouraging Americans to visit and settle in the West. His guides prominently featured the expanding railroad network as the best way to explore the vast territory beyond [...]
Background Essay on Who Freed the Slaves?
This essay introduces you to the main forces behind the abolition of slavery in the United States, as well as the debate among historians as to who played the key role.
Background Essay on Why They Fought
This essay explores the motivations of soldiers on both sides of the U.S. Civil War.
Military History and the LGBTQ+ Community: Questions for Reflection
These questions, designed for flexible use across the many sources in the Military History and the LGBTQ+ Community collection, can provide the foundation for a deeper examination of the documents and themes featured here. The questions can be [...]
Background Essay on the LGBTQ+ Community and the Military
This essay outlines broad trends in LGBTQ+ American history and traces the evolution of LGBTQ+ people’s involvement in and relationship with the United States military.