5 Things You Didn't Know About The Civil War

On April 9, 1865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered 28,000 Confederate troops to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia, effectively ending the Civil War.  Here are 5 things you may not know about the American Civil War.


Immigrants and African Americans Made Up a Large Number of Soldiers One-third of the soldiers who fought for the Union Army were immigrants, and nearly one in 10 was African American. Union ranks during the Civil War included 7.5% Irish soldiers and 10% Germans soldiers.  Other immigrant soldiers were French, Italian, Polish, English and Scottish. In fact, one in four regiments contained a majority of foreigners. Blacks were permitted to join the Union Army in 1863, and some scholars believe this infusion of soldiers may have turned the tide of the war.

Black Soldiers Refused Pay for 18 Months Black Union soldiers refused their salaries for 18 months to protest being paid lower wages than white soldiers. When black soldiers began signing up with the Union Army in 1863, they were paid $10 a month. White soldiers were paid at least $13, with officers earning even more. Blacks were further insulted when they were charged a $3 monthly fee for their clothing, which lowered their pay to $7. As a result, the highest-paid black soldier earned about half the lowest-paid white soldier’s salary. To protest these conditions, black regiments refused to accept their inferior wages. In September 1864, Congress rectified this injustice by raising the pay for blacks and making it retroactive, allowing many soldiers to send money home to help out their families.


An Assassin Attemped to Kill Lincoln Two Years Before His Assassination Lincoln was shot at—and almost killed— nearly two years before he was assassinated. In August 1863, Lincoln rode by horse to the Soldiers’ Home, his family’s summer residence. Lincoln stated that he heard a gunshot, sending his horse galloping so fast that it knocked his hat off.  When guards retrieved the hat, they discovered a bullet hole in it.  Lincoln asked the guards to keep the incident quiet as not to worry his wife Mary.

William Tecumseh Sherman Lost His Command Due to "Insanity" In October 1861, William Tecumseh Sherman, commander of Union forces in Kentucky, told U.S. Secretary of War Simon Cameron he needed 60,000 men to defend his territory and 200,000 to go on the offensive. Cameron called Sherman’s request “insane” and removed the general from command. But in February 1862, Sherman was reassigned to Paducah, Kentucky, under Ulysses S. Grant, who saw not insanity but competence in the disgraced general. Later in the war, when a civilian badmouthed Grant, Sherman defended his friend, saying, “General Grant is a great general. He stood by me when I was crazy, and I stood by him when he was drunk; and now, sir, we stand by each other always.”

Lincoln Wanted to Send The Freed Slaves Out of The Country Abraham Lincoln supported sending the freed slaves abroad. The policy, called colonization, had been also supported by Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, and even Harriet Beecher Stowe, Lincoln wanted to send freed blacks to Central America, even calling for a constitutional amendment authorizing Congress to pay for colonization. Prominent abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison were appalled by the idea. Lincoln never gathered any support for the policy, and dropped the idea after signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.