These Civil War quotes, from people like Abraham Lincoln, General Robert E. Lee, and Ulysses S. Grant give us the opportunity to see the pivotal war through their eyes. There were many causes for the Civil War, which ran from 1861-1865, and their words touch on several of them.
The first issue that contributed to the Civil War was slavery. The Civil War quotes about slavery come from politicians and generals from both sides of the argument. However, there are a few quotes from John H. Brown (an abolitionist) whose words are especially powerful.
Tied up with the issue of slavery, was the South’s distaste for Lincoln (mostly due to his anti-slavery views). He was elected president, despite not even being on the ballot in ten of the southern states, and this made people angry.
These Civil War quotes will make great additions to your essay or paper. Read through to the end for some more interesting facts about the Civil War.
Don’t forget to also check out these war quotes from writers, politicians, and more.
Civil War Quotes From Abraham Lincoln
1. “That we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.” ― Abraham Lincoln
2. “There is no need of bloodshed and war. There is no necessity for it.” ― Abraham Lincoln
3. “The hen is the wisest of all the animal creation, because she never cackles until the egg is laid.” ― Abraham Lincoln
4. “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” ― Abraham Lincoln
5. “From these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.” ― Abraham Lincoln
6. “Now we are engaged in a great Civil War, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.” ― Abraham Lincoln
7. “We have, as all will agree, a free government, where every man has a right to be equal with every other man.” ― Abraham Lincoln
8. “He who does something at the head of one Regiment, will eclipse him who does nothing at the head of a hundred.” ― Abraham Lincoln, 31 December 1861, letter to David Hunter
9. “It is easy to see that, under the sharp discipline of Civil War, the nation is beginning a new life.” ― Abraham Lincoln, 8 December 1863, message to Congress
10. “War at the best, is terrible, and this war of ours, in its magnitude and in its duration, is one of the most terrible.” ― Abraham Lincoln, 16 June 1864, speech at Philadelphia
11. “In the present Civil War―it is quite possible that God’s purpose is something different from the purpose of either party―and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to effect his purpose.” ― Abraham Lincoln
12. “We, on our side, are praying Him to give us victory, because we believe we are right; but those on the other side pray to Him, look for victory, believing they are right. What must He think of us?” ― Abraham Lincoln
13. “I consider the central idea pervading this struggle is the necessity that is upon us, of proving that popular government is not an absurdity. We must settle this question now, whether in a free government the minority have the right to break up the government whenever they choose. If we fail it will go far to prove the incapability of the people to govern themselves.” ― Abraham Lincoln
Civil War quotes from Generals about what war means and results in
14. “Wars produce many stories of fiction, some of which are told until they are believed to be true.” ― Ulysses S. Grant
15. “War means fighting, and fighting means killing.” ― Nathan Bedford Forrest
16. “I have never advocated war except as means of peace, so seek peace, but prepare for war. Because war… War never changes. War is like winter and winter is coming.” ― Ulysses S. Grant
17. “The art of war is simple enough. Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard as you can, and keep moving on.” ― Ulysses S. Grant
18. “War means fighting. The business of the soldier is to fight… To move swiftly, strike vigorously, and secure all the fruits of victory is the secret of successful war.” ― Stonewall Jackson
19. “It is painful enough to discover with what unconcern they speak of war and threaten it. They do not know its horrors. I have seen enough of it to make me look upon it as the sum of all evils.” ― Stonewall Jackson
20. “War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.” ― William Tecumseh Sherman
21. “A Union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets, and in which strife and civil war are to take the place of brotherly love and kindness, has no charm for me.” ― Robert E. Lee
Civil War quotes about slavery
22. “Talk, is a national institution, but it does not help the slave.” ― John H. Brown
23. “Without slavery the rebellion could never have existed; without slavery, it could not continue.” ― Abraham Lincoln
24. “So far from engaging in a war to perpetuate slavery, I am rejoiced that slavery is abolished.” ― Robert E. Lee
25. “This fight is against slavery; if we lose it, you will be made free.” ― Nathan Bedford Forrest
26. “If it is necessary that slavery should fall that the Republic may continue its existence, let slavery go.” ― Ulysses S. Grant
27. “We are not fighting for slavery. We are fighting for Independence, and that, or extermination, we will have.” ― Jefferson Davis
28. “The cause of the great War of the Rebellion against the United States will have to be attributed to slavery.” ― Ulysses S. Grant
29. “I don’t think the people of the slave states will ever consider the subject of slavery in its true light till some other argument is resorted to other than moral persuasion.” ― John H. Brown
30. “Racial hatred in America still exists but never was it anything like the time immediately after the Civil War. The western history of our nation would not be complete without the story of former slaves that helped develop the unique character of the West.” ― William Silverman
31. “Whenever Lee made a decision regarding enslaved people he chose profit over human decency.” ― Ty Seidule, Robert E. Lee and Me: A Southerner’s Reckoning with the Myth of the Lost Cause
Civil War quotes about what end of the war and other thoughts
32. “The war is over-the rebels are our countrymen again.” ― Ulysses S. Grant
33. “It is history that teaches us to hope.” ― Robert E. Lee
34. “I believe it to be the duty of everyone to unite in the restoration of the country and the reestablishment of peace and harmony.” ― Robert E. Lee
35. “In every battle there comes a time when both sides consider themselves beaten, then he who continues the attack wins.” ― Ulysses S. Grant
36. “The past is dead; let it bury its dead, its hopes and its aspirations; before you lies the future – a future full of golden promise.” ― Jefferson Davis
37. “We have but one flag, one country; let us stand together. We may differ in color, but not in sentiment.” ― Nathan Bedford Forrest
38. “If you surrender you shall be treated as prisoners of war, but if you have to storm your works you may expect no quarter.” ― Nathan Bedford Forrest
39. “Don’t bring up your sons to detest the United States… Recollect that we form one country now. Abandon all these local animosities, and make your sons Americans.” ― Robert E. Lee
40. “Boys, do you hear that musketry and that artillery? It means that our friends are falling by the hundreds at the hands of the enemy, and here we are… Let’s go and help them. What do you say?” ― Nathan Bedford Forrest, 1862, address to his men at Shiloh
Civil War quotes from other U.S. presidents and other politicians
41. “My policy is to trust peace and to put aside the bayonet.” ― Rutherford B. Hayes
42. “At the time of the Civil War, there were six democracies in the face of the planet. Today, there’s 120 and they’ve been inspired by the American exceptionalism.” ― Robert Kennedy, Jr.
43. “You cannot be President of the United States if you don’t have faith. Remember Lincoln, going to his knees in times of trial in the Civil War and all that stuff.” ― George H.W. Bush
44. “In July 1862, in the darkest days of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln signed two acts which were to help to mold the future of the Nation which he was then struggling to preserve.” ― John F. Kennedy, November 12, 1961
45. “Government, too, played an important role. It helped eradicate slavery and other forms of discrimination. It opened up the frontier through actions like the Homestead Act and rural electrification.” ― Ronald Reagan, October 15, 1981
46. “Now, let me start with a story, a bit of history―1862, the middle of the Civil War. And on May 20th of that year, Abraham Lincoln sat down with pen in hand and signed into law the Homestead Act of 1862.” ― George H.W. Bush, November 28, 1990
47. “In the midst of the Civil War, President Lincoln signed into law two visionary programs that helped our people come together again and build America up. The Morrill Act helped States create new land grant colleges.” ― Bill Clinton, March 1, 1993
48. “America is a land of big dreamers and big hopes. It is this hope that has sustained us through revolution and civil war, depression, and world war, a struggle for civil and social rights, and the brink of a nuclear crisis.” ― Barrack Obama
49. “Let me assure my countrymen of the Southern States that it is my earnest desire to regard and promote their truest interest.” ― Rutherford B. Hayes
50. “The interests of the white and of the colored people both and equally and to put forth my best efforts in behalf of a civil policy which will forever wipe out in our political affairs the color line and the distinction between North and South, to the end that we may have not merely a united North or a united South, but a united country.” ― Rutherford B. Hayes
Famous American Civil War Quotes
51. If I owned Texas and Hell, I would rent out Texas and live in Hell” ― General Philip Henry Sheridan
52. “It was not well to drive men into final corners; at those moments they could all develop teeth and claws.” ― Stephen Crane
53. “It is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it.” – Robert E. Lee.
54. “The dominant party cannot reign forever, and truth and justice will prevail at last.” – Robert E. Lee
55. “We must forgive our enemies. I can truly say that not a day has passed since the war began that I have not prayed for them.” – Robert E. Lee
56. “I worked night and day for twelve years to prevent the war, but I could not.” – Jefferson Davis.
57. “Nothing fills me with deeper sadness than to see a Southerner apologizing for the defense we made of our inheritance.” – Jefferson Davis
58. “The principle for which we contend is bound to reassert itself, though it may be at another time and in another form.” – Jefferson Davis.
59. “When I strike, the bees will begin to swarm, and I want you to help hive them.” – John H. Brown.
60. “Although a soldier by profession, I have never felt any sort of fondness for war, and I have never advocated it, except as a means of peace.” – Ulysses S. Grant.
Civil War Quotes That Will Take You Back To History.
61. “The American Civil War produced carnage that has often been thought reserved for the combination of technological proficiency and inhumanity characteristic of a later time.” – Drew Gilpin Faust
62. “The United States needed a civil war to unite properly.” – Umberto Eco
63. “Civil wars leave nothing but tombs.” – Alphonse de Lamartine
64. “I declare that civil war is inevitable and is near at hand. I predict the civil war which is now at hand will be stubborn and of long duration.” – Sam Houston
65. “The Civil War defined us as what we are and it opened us to being what we became good and bad things… It was the crossroads of our being, and it was a hell of a crossroads.” — Shelby Foote
66.“Before the war it was always the United States are, after the war it was the United States is… it made us an is.” — Shelby Foote
67. “We view ourselves on the eve of battle. We are nerved for the conquest and must conquer or perish.” – Sam Houston
68. “There’s no honorable way to kill, no gentle way to destroy. There is nothing good in war. Except its ending.” – Abraham Lincoln
69. “The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.” – George S. Patton
70. “In a civil war, there is continuous fighting, based on grievances that are forever changing.” – Nuruddin Farah
What did you learn from these Civil War quotes?
The Union soldiers may have been on the side of abolishing slavery, but that didn’t mean that they were about things being equal either. According to History.com, Black Union soldiers refused their salaries for 18 months to protest being paid less than white soldiers.
When black soldiers began signing up with the Union Army they were paid $10 a month, while their white counterparts were paid at least $13 (officers earned more).
Adding insult to injury only the black soldiers were charged $3 a month for clothing. To protest this injustice black regiments refused to accept their wages. Thanks to pressure from abolitionist congressmen, and in recognition of the courage black soldiers had shown in combat, Congress rectified the pay structure (making it retroactive to their enlistment date).
This war is the bloodiest war fought on American soil and a dark part of our history. However, as with most bad things are some lessons we need to remember. While slavery has become the moral mantle used to justify the war, it was much more political than that.
We had ‘brother fighting brother’ and dying (not just unfriending people on Facebook) because we forgot our democratic and diplomatic principles. This union of states is not perfect, and our Founding Father’s never expected it to be.
I’d like to think they expected us to follow the constitution and principles to help us navigate our differences, not launch coups and acts of war.
What’s your biggest takeaway from these civil war quotes and sayings? You can share some interesting Civil War facts with us in the comment section below.
May 2, 2022 6:00 AM EST