The American Civil War: APUSH Topics to Study for Test Day

american civil war apush

A depiction of the Battle of Gettysburg, which was fought during the American Civil War

The American Civil War is also known as “The War Between the States”. The war divided the country between the North (the United States of America) and the South (the Confederate States of America). Check out this American Civil War APUSH review to prepare you to answer questions about it on the exam.

What Is the American Civil War?

In the beginning, the issue of slavery divided the country. After Abraham Lincoln was elected as President of the United States, the Southern states worried that he would end slavery. Therefore, they decided that they had the right to secede and start their own country.
The Northern states focused on reuniting the country. However, slavery became the moral reason to win the war for the North.


April 12, 1860 – May 9, 1865

Why Is It Important?

Some of the things that came out of the American Civil War include:

  • 13th Amendment (1865), abolished slavery
  • 14th Amendment (1867), due process and “equal protection of the laws”
  • 15th Amendment (1870), right to vote for all former adult male slaves
  • Increased sense of nationalism among Americans
  • Defined executive power- President Lincoln used his power to suspend writ of habeas corpus, authorize war spending, and call 75,000 soldiers to war. The people decided that this was above what the president should be able to do.
  • Debated states’ rights and determined that states could not secede from the Union.


  • Abraham Lincoln- Elected as President of the United States on November 6, 1860, Abraham Lincoln led the U.S.during the Civil War. Also, John Wilkes Booth assassinated him at Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865.
  • Jefferson Davis- After being elected as the President of the Confederate States of America in 1861, he wanted greater power. However, it was decided that he would serve a six-year non-successive term with only veto power.
  • General Robert E. Lee- General Lee was the leader of the Confederate army. He was a key player in most of the major battles of the Civil War.
  • General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson- General “Stonewall” Jackson is best known for his counterattack against the North in the first Battle of Bull Run.
  • George McClellan- President Lincoln chose George McClellan to serve as the general of the army. However, President Lincoln fired him after the poor leadership he showed in the Battle of Antietam. He also ran for president against Lincoln in 1864 as a Democrat. Later, Lincoln rehired him but continued to be unhappy with McClellan’s leadership.
  • Ulysses S. Grant- Ulysses S. Grant led the campaign for control of the Mississippi River. In addition, he took control of the army in 1864 after the firing of McClellan.
  • William Tecumseh Sherman- He led the march to the sea. With 60,000 soldiers, he marched 285 miles from Atlanta to Savannah, Georgia. As a result, Southern morale weakened.


  • Fort Sumter- The opening engagement for the war occurred in Charleston, South Carolina. On April 11, 1860, the Confederates demanded the soldiers at Fort Sumter to surrender. On the 12th, the Confederate Army bombarded the fort for 34 hours. The soldiers at the fort surrendered on April 14th. The next day, Congress declared war on the Confederacy.
  • Battle at Bull Run- During the first major battle of the Civil War, the soldiers were not prepared.The battle took place in a creek near Manassas Junction, Virginia. The Confederate soldiers attacked the Union soldiers headed to Richmond. Consequently, the Confederate soldiers won the battle, but hundreds died on both sides.
  • Moniter and Merrimac- In March 1862, the battle between the Moniter and Merrimac ships occurred near Virginia. The battle between the ironclad ships ended in a draw.
  • Battle of Antietam- Considered the single bloodiest day of the war, the Battle of Antietam occured on September 17, 1862. There were about 23,000 casualties. The battle ended in a draw as General McClellan chose not to pursue the retreating Confederate Army. However, it’s considered a Northern victory because the Confederates lost the possibility of support from European countries.
  • Battle of Gettysburg- The Battle of Gettysburg lasted three days. General Lee attempted to invade the North. He entered Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to do this. At the end of the battle, there were about 52,000 men wounded, killed, or missing in action. The battle was a turning point of the war.
  • Sherman’s March to the Sea- William Tecumseh Sherman led about 60,000 soldiers through Georgia on the “Georgia Campaign”. During this march, they destroyed military targets, civilian properties, and transportation means. It started in Atlanta and ended in Savannah on December 21, 1864.

Other Important Events

  • Crittenden Compromise- President James Buchanan asked Congress to save the Union. So, Senator John J. Crittenden proposed an amendment to protect slavery by extending the Missouri Compromise to California.
  • Emancipation Proclamation- With the Northern victory at the Battle of Antietam, President Lincoln took the opportunity to deliver the Emancipation Proclamation. He delivered it on September 22nd, but it didn’t go into effect until January 1, 1863. This freed the enslaved Africans in the rebellious states. Unfortunately, Lincoln didn’t have the authority to do this. However, the proclamation changed the purpose of the war to reuniting the country AND ending slavery.
  • Gettysburg Address- President Lincoln delivered this address in November 1863. It was short and to the point. However, it changed the war’s purpose. Lincoln called for a nation devoted to equality for all.
  • Surrender at Appomattox- On April 9, 1865, General Lee surrendered to General Grant at the Appomattox Court House. The terms of Lee’s surrender included pardoning his men, allowing the men to keep their private property (horses and side arms), and providing rations to the starving soldiers.

American Civil War APUSH Practice Question 1

At the beginning of the Civil War, President Lincoln’s goals was to:
a. Preserve the Union.
b. End slavery.
c. Limit states’ rights.
d. Prevent foreign allegiances.

Answer: A. Congress declared war on the Confederate States of America to reunite the United States of America. Although ending slavery became one of the goals of the war later on, it was not the reason for going to war in the beginning.

American Civil War APUSH Practice Question 2

Abraham Lincoln delivered the Emancipation Proclamation, which:
a. Ended slavery throughout the Northern and Southern states in America.
b. Allowed each state to determine whether slavery should be legal.
c. Stopped the slave trade, preventing any more slaves from coming into the country.
d. Only freed slaves in the Southern states, which Lincoln didn’t have authority to do.

Answer: D. The Emancipation Proclamation only freed slaves in the rebellious states. Lincoln didn’t want to alienate Northern states that had slaves. Lincoln didn’t have authority to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. Because of this, the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t do anything.

American Civil War APUSH Practice Question 3

The Battle of Gettysburg was significant in the Civil War, because:
a. it was the first battle in the war and both sides were unprepared.
b. it’s considered the turning point for the Northern victory.
c. many former slaves were in the battle and became war heroes.
d. it led to General Lee’s surrender, which ended the war.

Answer: B. During the Battle of Gettysburg, over 50,000 men ended up dead, wounded, or missing. However, the Northern victory and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address revived Northern resolve to win the war and preserve the Union. Thus, the Battle of Gettysburg is considered the turning point in the war with the Confederate States surrendering less than two years later.

American Civil War APUSH Practice Question 4

In the beginning of the Civil War, the North’s advantages over the South included all of the following EXCEPT:
a. more railroads and industry.
b. well-trained military leaders.
c. a larger population.
d. greater amounts of gold.

Answer: B. The North had more railroads and industry, a larger population, and greater amounts of gold than the South. However, the South had better trained military leaders to lead their troops to battle.

American Civil War APUSH Practice Question 5

In the American Civil War, the Battle of Antietam:
a. helped the Confederacy gain support from Spain.
b. ended with a southern victory by General Robert E. Lee.
c. was the first major battle between the Confederacy and the Union.
d. is considered the bloodiest single day of the war.

Answer: D. The Battle of Antietam was the bloodiest single day of the war. Fought on September 17, 1862, over 50,000 men lost their lives.

American Civil War APUSH Practice Question 6

In the Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln:
a. Changed the war’s purpose by calling for a nation devoted to equality for all.
b. Freed all slaves throughout the country and hinted at giving them voting rights.
c. Called for greater support for the war and more volunteers from the North.
d. Urged the Confederacy to surrender and rejoin the United States of America.

Answer: A. The Gettysburg Address is only 272 words in length. However, it’s a memorable speech that called for equality to all. This built on the Emancipation Proclamation as President Lincoln recognized the sacrifice made by the men—both white and black—in the war.

While studying for Civil War APUSH questions, think about the themes associated with this war. Review the important people and events that led to a stronger Union when the war ended.

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  • Jamie Goodwin

    Jamie graduated from Brigham Young University- Idaho with a degree in English Education. She spent several years teaching and tutoring students at the elementary, high school, and college level. She currently works as a contract writer and curriculum developer for online education courses. In her free time, she enjoys running and spending time with her boys!

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