The Price of Freedom: Americans at War Home Collection Search

Civil War

Back to overview   |   1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Bloody Battles

Federal troops—and later Confederates—used advanced weapons: rifled muskets that fired spinning, cone-shaped miniť balls; rapid-fire, breech-loading rifles; and rifled artillery. But both sides employed these weapons in traditional short-range fire between massed lines of soldiers, with deadly results.

The Miniť Ball

Named for a French Army officer, miniť balls were conical-shaped bullets with hollow bases. Exploding powder expanded the lead into the barrel’s rifling, giving the balls spin and making them fly farther and straighter.


Exhibition Graphics

Dead Confederate soldiers at Antietam, Maryland

Dead Confederate soldiers at Antietam, Maryland

Cannons on Smoketown Road after the battle at Antietam, Maryland

Cannons on Smoketown Road after the battle at Antietam, Maryland


Related Artifacts

Tarpley Breech-loading Carbine
Spencer Carbine
Lincolnís Henry Rifle
Remington New Model Army Revolver
Kerr Pistol
Berdan  Sharpshooterís Rifle
Berdan Sharpshooter Uniform
James Shell

Casualties of War

Neither the Union Army nor the Confederate Army was prepared to handle the staggering onslaught of battlefield wounded.

Many of the war’s earliest casualties were left on the field for days before they died or were removed to hospitals. But both armies soon developed litter corps and ambulance services. They established mobile operating tables and field hospitals, and recruited more doctors.

Surgeons amputated shattered limbs, probed wounds to extract bullets with their bare fingers, and stitched bowels together. They neglected to wash their hands or sterilize instruments. Thousands of soldiers died from subsequent infections; but thousands survived—maimed, but alive.

Spotsylvania Tree Stump

Until May 12, 1864, this shattered stump was a large oak tree in a meadow outside Spotsylvania Court House, Virginia. That morning, 1,200 entrenched Confederates, the front line of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, awaited the assault of 5,000 Union troops from the Second Corps of the Army of the Potomac. Twenty hours later, the once-peaceful meadow had acquired a new name, the Bloody Angle. The same fury of rifle bullets that cut down 2,000 combatants tore away all but twenty-two inches of the tree’s trunk.


Exhibition Graphics

Wounded men

Wounded men

Wounded men

Wounded men

Wounded men

Wounded men

Wounded men

Wounded men

Wounded men

Wounded men

Wounded men

Wounded men

Wounded men

Wounded men

Wounded men

Wounded men

Wounded men

Wounded men

Wounded men

Wounded men

Wounded men

Wounded men

Wounded men

Wounded men

Wounded men at the battle of the Wilderness near Fredericksburg, Virginia

Wounded men at the battle of the Wilderness near Fredericksburg, Virginia

Clara Barton

Clara Barton

Ambulance at Petersburg, Virginia, 1864

Ambulance at Petersburg, Virginia, 1864


Related Artifacts

Dr. Charles Leeís Surgical Kit
Prosthetic Leg
Clara Bartonís Northern Pass
Spotsylvania Stump
Fused Minie Balls


Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Behring Center Printable ScriptVisit the MuseumEducationCredits