Quotes

Here I have collected a large number of quotes relating to the Civil War, from a wide variety of sources, including fictional sources like novels and movies. The list is organized in loose chronological order, with the fictional quotes listed in the time bracket they supposedly happened in. Comments and suggestions are welcome, my email address can be found at the bottom of the root page.


"Whether the Union stands or falls, I believe the profession of arms will henceforth be more desirable and more respected than it has been hitherto."
-Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, April 1861
"The enemy has assailed my outposts in heavy force. I have fallen back on the line of Bull Run and will make a stand at Mitchell's Ford."
-General P.G.T. Beauregard, July 17, 1861
"The words, gestures, and threats of our officers were thrown away upon men who had lost all presence of mind and only longed for absence of body."
-Colonel Andrew Potter, USA, on First Bull Run
"There stands Jackson like a stone wall! Rally behind the Virginians!"
-Brigadier General Barnard E. Bee, CSA, at First Bull Run
"I leaned down from the saddle, rammed the muzzle of the carbine into the stomach of my man and pulled the trigger. He tried to get his bayonet up to meet me; but he was too slow, for the carbine blew a hole as big as my arm clear through him."
-Adjutant William W. Blackford, 1st Virginia Cavalry, at First Bull Run
"The valley was filled with an impenetrable smoke and nothing could be seen but the fire belching from the guns. Loud above all was the exultant, fiendlike yell of the Confederate soldiers."
-Private Thomas Southwick, 5th New York, at Gaines's Mill, June 27, 1862
"We were lavish of blood in those days, and it was thought to be a great thing to charge a battery of artillery or an earthwork lined with infantry."
-Major General D.H. Hill, CSA, on the Seven Days Battles, June-July 1862
"It was not war, it was murder."
-Major General D.H. Hill, CSA, about Mavern Hill, July 1, 1862
"We are going through a sort of picking over and sifting process. A brigade put here and another countermarched to where it was a week ago. What they are going to do and when they are going to do it I don't know."
-Lt. James Gillette, 3rd Maryland Infantry, USA, July 1862
"Lee has arrived, and our hopes are high that we will wipe them clean out this time. Lee has an army great in numbers and spirit, and I believe he will wield it greatly. He is silent, inscrutable, strong, like a god."
-Lt. John H. Chamberlayne, Virginia Artillery, CSA, Aug. 15, 1862
"Forced marches, wakeful bivouacs, retreat, retreat. O, it was pitiful! The events of the past weeks are incredible. Disaster, pitiable, humiliating, contemptable!"
-Lt. Col. Wilder Dwight, 2nd Massachusetts, USA, with Pope's Army
"We cannot afford to be idle, and though weaker than our opponents in men and military equipments, must endeavor to harass, if we cannot destroy them."
-General Robert E. Lee to President Jefferson Davis, Sept. 3, 1862
"The vast army of McClellan spread out before me. The marching columns extended back as far as eye could see in the distance. It was a grand and glorious spectacle, and it was impossible to look at it without admiration."
-General D.H. Hill, CSA, at the Battle of South Mountain
"No tongue can tell, no mind conceive, no pen portray the horrible sights I witnessed this morning."
-Captain John Taggert, 9th Pennsylvania Reserves, Sept. 17, 1862
"We were in the very maelstrom of the battle. Men were falling every moment. The horrible noise was incessant and almost deafening. Except that my mind was absorbed in my duties, I do not know how I could have endured the strain."
-Lt. Frederick L. Hitchcock, 132nd Pennsylvania, at Bloody Lane, Sept. 17, 1862
"The day had been a long one, but the evening seemed longer; the sun seemed almost to go backwards, and it appeared as if night would never come."
-Lt. James A. Graham, 27th North Carolina Infantry, Sept. 17, 1862
"I have heard of 'the dead lying in heaps', but never saw it till this battle. Whole ranks fell together."
-Captain Emory Upton, 2nd U.S. Artillery, at Antietam
"It is well war is so terrible, else we should grow too fond of it."
-General Robert E. Lee, commanding the Army of Northern Virginia at Fredricksburg.
"Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees."
-General Thomas 'Stonewall' Jackson, last words.
"The warlike scene was fascinatingly grand beyond description. The battlefield presented a scenic view that the loftiest thought of my mind is far too low and insignificant to delineate, describe, or portray."
-Corporal George M. Neese, Stuart's Horse Artillery, on the Battle of Brandy Station
"They will attack you in the morning and they will come booming - skirmishers three deep. You will have to fight like the devil until supports arrive."
-Brigadier General John Buford, USA, June 30, 1863
"For a mile up and down the open fields before us the splendid lines of the veterans of the Army of Northern Virginia swept down upon us. Their bearing was magnificent. They came forward with a rush, and how our men did yell, 'Come on, Johnny, come on!'"
-Lt. Col. Rufus R. Dawes, 6th Wisconson, The Iron Brigade, July 1, 1863
"Pickett excused himself, watchful of Longstreet. Pickett was always saying something to irritate somebody, and he rarely knew why, so his method was simply to apologize in general from time to time and let people know he meant well and then to shove off and hope for the best. He apologized and departed, curls ajiggle."
-Michael Sharra, The Killer Angels
"General Sickles, this is in some respects higher ground than that to the rear, but there is still higher in front of you, and if you keep on advancing you will find constantly higher ground all the way to the mountains."
-Major General George Meade, Commanding the Army of the Potomac, July 2, 1863
"The edge of the conflict swayed to and fro, with wild whirlpools and eddies. At times I saw around me more of the enemy than of my own men; gaps opening, swallowing, closing again with sharp convulsive energy. All around, a strange, mingled roar."
-Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, 20th Maine, at Little Round Top
"My dead and wounded were nearly as great in number as those still on duty. They literally covered the ground. The blood stood in puddles in some places on the rocks; the ground was soaked with the blood of as brave men as ever fell on the red field of battle."
-Colonel William C. Oates, 15th Alabama, at Little Round Top
"General. Soldiering has one great trap. To be a good soldier you must love the army. To be a good commander you must be willing to order the death of the thing you love. We do not fear our own death, you and I. But there comes a time... we are never quite prepared for so many to die. Oh, we do expect the occasional empty chair, a salute to fallen comrades. But this war goes on and on, and the men die, and the price gets ever higher. We are prepared to lose some of us, but we are never prepared to lose all of us. And there is the great trap, General. When you attack you must hold nothing back, you must commit yourself totally. We are adrift here in a sea of blood and I want it to end. I want this to be the final battle."
-General Lee to General Longstreet on the second day, "Gettysburg"
"You know what's gonna happen? I'll tell you what's gonna happen. Troops are now forming behind the line of trees. When they come out, they'll be under enemy long range artillery fire. Solid shot, percussion, every gun they have. Troops'll come out under fire with more than a mile to walk. And still within the open field they'll come into range of aimed muskets. They'll be slowed by that fence out there, and the formation...what's left of it, will begin to come apart. When they cross that road they'll be under short range artillery. Canister fire, thousands of little bits of shrapnel wiping holes in the lines. If they get to that wall without breaking up, there won't be many left. Mathematical equation. Maybe... just maybe, our own artillery will break up their defenses. There's always that hope. But that's Hancock out there, and he ain't gonna run. So it's mathematical after all. If they get to that road, or beyond it, they'll suffer over 50 percent casualties. But Harrison, I don't believe my boys'll reach that wall."
-General Longstreet, to Harrison before Pickett's Charge, "Gettysburg"
"There are times when a corps commander's life does not count."
-Major General Winfield S. Hancock, Commander II Corps, USA, July 3, 1863
"Come on boys! Give them the cold steel! Who will follow me?"
-Brigadier General Lewis Armistead, CSA, July 3, 1863
"It is all over now. Many of us are prisoners, many are dead, many wounded, bleeding and dying. Your soldier lives and mourns and but for you, my darling, he would rather be back there with his dead, to sleep for all time in an unknown grave."
-Major General George Pickett, CSA, to his fiancee, July 4, 1863
'For the rest of his life, Pickett would grieve for his men lost that day, and would blame Lee for the disaster. Thus, five years after the War, when Pickett and the Confederate guerilla leader John Mosby paid a courtesy call on Lee in Richmond, the atmosphere was less than cordial. On departing, Pickett launched into a bitter diatribe. "That old man," he said, "had my division slaughtered at Gettysburg." For an instant of memory, men in grey marched beneath fluttering flags up a long, grassy slope. Then Mosby broke the silence. "Well," he said, "it made you immortal."
Gettysburg: The Confederate High Tide, Time-Life Books
"Thus ended the great American Civil War, which upon the whole must be considered the noblest and least avoidable of all the great mass conflicts of which till then there was record."
-Winston Churchill, A History of the English-Speaking Peoples
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