Discussion When did the nation settle on the name "The Civil War" ?

Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

barrygio

Cadet
Joined
Jan 19, 2019
Messages
17
I am about half way through volume I of Grant's memoirs, written about 1885, and I notice when he gives a name to the war, he usually calls it "the war of the rebellion." Once I noticed he used the term "war between the states".

This was twenty years after the end of the war. Was he just in the minority using these terms, or had we not settled on a name for the war yet at that time?

I had a very southern high school teacher in the 1980s who like to call it "the war of Northern aggression" I think she was half serious, half not.

Does anyone know about when both North and South settled on the "Civil War" as common usage?
 

Ole Miss

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Joined
Dec 9, 2017
Messages
2,962
Location
North Mississippi
The term Civil War was used early in the War by various Union government figures but not Confederate. The Confederacy was in rebellion as a separate nation not as a war between countrymen.

The thread below from 2012, The Different Names for the Civil War, is really informative and interesting and hopefully can provide the information you are seeking.
Regards
David
https://civilwartalk.com/threads/the-different-names-for-the-civil-war.76252/
 

James N.

Lt. Colonel
Forum Host
Civil War Photo Contest
Annual Winner
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Feb 23, 2013
Messages
11,859
Location
East Texas
I am about half way through volume I of Grant's memoirs, written about 1885, and I notice when he gives a name to the war, he usually calls it "the war of the rebellion." Once I noticed he used the term "war between the states"...
The official name chosen by the U. S. Government was The War of the Rebellion - as in the name of the publication The Official Records of the War of the Rebellion - and that likely accounts for Grant's usage.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Joined
Dec 31, 2010
Messages
6,729
Location
Kingsport, Tennessee
I am about half way through volume I of Grant's memoirs, written about 1885, and I notice when he gives a name to the war, he usually calls it "the war of the rebellion." Once I noticed he used the term "war between the states".

This was twenty years after the end of the war. Was he just in the minority using these terms, or had we not settled on a name for the war yet at that time?

I had a very southern high school teacher in the 1980s who like to call it "the war of Northern aggression" I think she was half serious, half not.

Does anyone know about when both North and South settled on the "Civil War" as common usage?

Either Shelby Foote or James I "Bud" Robertson (I can't recall which, maybe both), once made note that R.E. Lee & Abraham Lincoln both referred to the conflict as "Civil War". Those two authorities, "were good enough for him"!
 

John S. Carter

First Sergeant
Joined
Mar 15, 2017
Messages
1,442
The term Civil War was used early in the War by various Union government figures but not Confederate. The Confederacy was in rebellion as a separate nation not as a war between countrymen.

The thread below from 2012, The Different Names for the Civil War, is really informative and interesting and hopefully can provide the information you are seeking.
Regards
David
https://civilwartalk.com/threads/the-different-names-for-the-civil-war.76252/
My 1956 Encyclopedia wrote of the War Between the States,that was the Southern edition .The Northern and Western could have wrote of the Civil War.Then there is also the War for Southern Independence AKA Second American Revolution, a attempt to associate with the North as the British and the succeeded states as the colonies{there may be an interesting comparison }.Remember the part of the grievances that it was the government of England which transported the first slaves then was proceeded by the captains from the East coast,interesting.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

White Flint Bill

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 9, 2017
Messages
575
Location
Southern Virginia
The term Civil War was used early in the War by various Union government figures but not Confederate. The Confederacy was in rebellion as a separate nation not as a war between countrymen.

The thread below from 2012, The Different Names for the Civil War, is really informative and interesting and hopefully can provide the information you are seeking.
Regards
David
https://civilwartalk.com/threads/the-different-names-for-the-civil-war.76252/
I read through the thread but the question posed in the OP wasn't answered.

When did "the Civil War" become the commonly accepted standard?

My guess is that it was during the late 1800s when the Reconciliation narrative was becoming predominant. That narrative emphasized that the war was a fight between brothers, and that both sides were Americans. "Civil War" makes sense in that context, as a replacement for partisan divisive names.

Btw, lately the move is toward "the American Civil War." I suppose that is to distinguish ours from all the other such wars in history.
 
Joined
Dec 31, 2010
Messages
6,729
Location
Kingsport, Tennessee
I recall as a boy, hearing the story of an elderly veteran in east Tennessee being interviewed on the occasion of one of his many birthdays. The interviewer kept using the term, "Civil War". The old soldier was hard of hearing. "Civil War" was the only words he could hear and understand. Finally exasperated to no end he interrupted the interview and bellowed, "Sonny, they wern't nothin civil bout it ! I be a-tryin to kill him, afore he kilt me !!!
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

WJC

Brigadier General
Moderator
Thread Medic
Answered the Call for Reinforcements
Joined
Aug 16, 2015
Messages
12,645
The term was used during the conflict ("now we are engaged in a great civil war....)
As I recall, industrialist-turned-historian James Ford Rhodes (1848-1927) is generally credited with popularizing the term about 1900.
 

Carronade

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 4, 2011
Messages
4,631
Location
Pennsylvania
Whether it was
(a war among members of the same country).
was precisely the point at issue.

"Civil war" usually refers to war between factions within a country for control of the entire country, e.g. the English or Russian Civil Wars. "War of/for independence" would be more appropriate for an attempted or successful separation.
 

matthew mckeon

Colonel
Retired Moderator
Joined
Oct 3, 2005
Messages
13,774
Lincoln of course used "civil war" in the Gettysburg Address. I think, but am willing to be corrected, that Lee also used the term.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

gem

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Oct 26, 2012
Messages
2,769
Yeah, a Civil War even back then was understood to be a war between members of the same country. The stated reason for war isn’t a part of the definition (independence etc). Only that they belong to same country and are engaging in war
 

Waterloo50

Major
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Joined
Jul 7, 2015
Messages
4,777
Location
Blighty.
I read through the thread but the question posed in the OP wasn't answered.

When did "the Civil War" become the commonly accepted standard?

My guess is that it was during the late 1800s when the Reconciliation narrative was becoming predominant. That narrative emphasized that the war was a fight between brothers, and that both sides were Americans. "Civil War" makes sense in that context, as a replacement for partisan divisive names.

Btw, lately the move is toward "the American Civil War." I suppose that is to distinguish ours from all the other such wars in history.
Over here in Britain, we’ve never used anything but ‘American Civil War’ to describe....the American Civil War.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

John S. Carter

First Sergeant
Joined
Mar 15, 2017
Messages
1,442
The nation called it a Civil War because that's what it was. A Civil War (a war among members of the same country).
What does it mean when you want a people to act "civil"?This was a war between two different section of a country.Granted it was the same country but with different ways in which they viewed their government.A riot or any hostile action as a massive protest which would lead to military intervention ,say a riot which leads to destruction of private property could be act against the civil authority.Did not Lincoln refer to this action on the part of the seceded states a rebellion against the federal government?Label it whatever one wants to , it was a war that was eventually to happen because in reality ,politically,and socially the issue could not or would not be resolved, so the FOUR HORSEMEN road into the South and road with vengeance!
 

gem

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Oct 26, 2012
Messages
2,769
“All wars are civil wars because all men are brothers... Each one owes infinitely more to the human race than to the particular country in which he was born.”

― Francois de Salignac de La Mothe- Fenelon
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Waterloo50

Major
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Joined
Jul 7, 2015
Messages
4,777
Location
Blighty.
But that's because you had a notable one of your own!
I think we’ve had about 11 civil wars although we used to call them, ‘wars of the great rebellion’, being British wars, I’m surprise we didn’t name them something like ‘conflicts of interest’ or ‘the great late unpleasantness’..:happy:
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Top