The Civil War

On the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, we present this commemorative issue featuring Atlantic stories by Mark Twain, Henry James, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frederick Douglass, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, and many more. Purchase on newsstands through March 5, or order your print or digital copy here.

The Atlantic - The Civil War

Editor's Note

The Duty to Think

In the early days of The Atlantic, the most consequential questions facing this country were wide open.

Curator's Note

Photography and War

For Americans at home, new technology brought a visceral immediacy to the war.


Perfecting Our Union

The president of the United States reflects on what Abraham Lincoln means to him, and to America.

Why Do So Few Blacks Study the Civil War?

In the national narrative of reconciliation, blacks have been the bearers of uncomfortable—and unwelcome—truths.

Grapes of Wrath

What the 12 most famous words ever published in The Atlantic tell us about the spirit that inspired the Union

The Great Illusion of Gettysburg

How a re-creation of its most famous battle helped erase the meaning of the Civil War

The 50 Most Powerful Images From the Civil War

These photos and lithographs bring the turbulent period to life.

Odd Facts About the Civil War Era

From facial-hair crazes to Lincoln's naughty sense of humor, a collection of surprising historical tidbits

Part I: Pre-War

Where Will It End?

In its second issue, The Atlantic urged readers to take a stand against slavery.

Nat Turner’s Insurrection

An account of America's bloodiest slave revolt and its repercussions.

A True Story, Word for Word as I Heard It

In his first Atlantic contribution, the author tells the story of a mother’s surprise reunion with her son, a former slave.

The Freedman’s Story

An escaped slave recalls his violent showdown with slave-catchers.

Paul Revere’s Ride

The famous Revolutionary War poem that’s really about slavery

John Brown and His Friends

How a coterie of New Englanders—including the author—secretly funded the raid on Harpers Ferry

Bardic Symbols

The author’s first Atlantic poem

The Reign of King Cotton

In 1861, the grandson of John Quincy Adams argued that slavery could still end without war.

Sojourner Truth, The Libyan Sibyl

Harriet Beecher Stowe describes her encounter with the legendary African American activist.

Recollections of Lincoln

A journalist who covered the Lincoln-Douglas debates recalls the future president’s bawdy appeal.

The Election in November

In 1860, The Atlantic endorsed Abraham Lincoln for president.

Charleston Under Arms

A Northern journalist records his visit to Charleston during the Fort Sumter standoff.

Part II: The War

Our March to Washington

A dispatch from a Union soldier who was later killed in action


A poem in praise of soldiers who gave up their lives for the Union

Bread and the Newspaper

In 1861, an Atlantic editor captured the anxious mood on the home front.

The Advantages of Defeat

A scholar argues that the Union debacle at Bull Run was not such a disaster.

Chiefly About War Matters, By a Peaceable Man

The novelist visits Washington in wartime—and is then censored by The Atlantic.

The Cumberland

A poem commemorating a mighty Union ship done in by the Virginia, a rebel “ironclad”

My Hunt After the Captain

An account of the author’s frantic search for his wounded son, who lived to become a Supreme Court justice

Barbara Fritchie

The classic poem mythologizing an old woman who flew her Union flag as the rebels marched past

The Man Without a Country

The famous short story about an Army officer who learns, too late, to love his country

American Civilization

An Atlantic founder argues vehemently for the emancipation of the slaves.

The President’s Proclamation

Seven months after his call to free the slaves, Emerson hails the Emancipation Proclamation.

Women, Unite Against Slavery

The author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin issues a call to action.

The Story of a Year

One of the earliest pieces published by the author, who was 21 years old at the time

The Ladies of New Orleans

A Union general is stymied by the ornery women of the South.

Leaves From an Officer’s Journal

The white colonel of the first official black regiment recounts his experience.

Life on the Sea Islands

A young black woman describes her experience teaching freed slaves.

The Brothers

Set in a wartime hospital, a short story about a family with a poisonous secret

The Words That Remade America

The significance of the Gettysburg Address

A Rebel’s Recollections

A Confederate soldier from a plantation family provides a Southern perspective.

Lee in Battle

A Northerner pays tribute to the general’s humility and heroism.

Toward Appomattox

Reliving the war’s final battles

Late Scenes in Richmond

A reporter describes the rebels’ flight from Richmond, and Lincoln’s surprise visit two days later.

Part III: Post-War

The End, and After

A Confederate soldier recalls the chaotic days following surrender.


Three months after Lincoln’s murder, The Atlantic seeks to make sense of it.

Ode to Lincoln

The magazine’s first editor gives poetic voice to the nation’s grief.

Three Months Among the Reconstructionists

In 1866, a journalist offered a scathing report on post-war life in the South.

The Mistress of Sydenham Plantation

The famous novelist’s tale of an elderly Southerner, oblivious to what the war had cost her.

The Case of George Dedlow

An absurdist short story about a Union doctor—which many Atlantic readers erroneously believed at the time to be nonfiction.

For the Union Dead

The classic 1960 poem pays tribute to the glory of the Civil War era.

The Freedmen’s Bureau

A leading black intellectual surveys the government’s efforts to aid the freed slaves.

Reconstruction, and an Appeal to Impartial Suffrage

A former slave urges Congress to grant black Americans the vote.

The Death of Slavery

A poem hailing the demise of slavery’s “cruel reign”

The Result in South Carolina

A Southerner describes mounting racial tensions in the aftermath of Reconstruction.

The Awakening of the Negro

An educator’s controversial argument contends that blacks should advance by making themselves useful to whites.

Of the Training of Black Men

Taking issue with Booker T. Washington, the author argues that blacks should attend college.

Strivings of the Negro People

Du Bois gives voice to the aspirations of black Americans in the post-Civil War world.


Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.


What Makes a Story Great?

What makes a story great? The storytellers behind House of CardsThis American LifeThe Moth, and more reflect on the creative process.


Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.


Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.


Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.


The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air



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