Common Misconceptions About the Civil War

Ellen Gutoskey
Hancock at Gettysburg by Thure de Thulstrup, 1887.
Hancock at Gettysburg by Thure de Thulstrup, 1887. / Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division // No Known Restrictions on Publication

While the Civil War was definitely an ugly, bloody clash between the Union and the Confederacy, the conflict was more complex than “North vs. South.”

On this episode of Misconceptions, Mental Floss host Justin Dodd is exploring what history textbooks and Hollywood films have gotten wrong about the Civil War era. The Emancipation Proclamation, for example, didn’t exactly end slavery. What Lincoln really declared in the 1863 statement was that slavery would be abolished in the rebelling states if the Union won the war, and it didn’t address border states at all. The Union did win the war, of course, but not until two years later.

As for the war itself, battles were mostly fought in the U.S., and the fighters were mostly men—but there were notable exceptions for both. Learn more below, and subscribe to our YouTube channel for future Mental Floss videos.