The Civil War and Reconstruction Eras

Documents Decoded

by John R. Vile


Unfortunately, no videos or audio recordings from the Civil War and Reconstruction periods exist, but primary documents from this era are the next best thing for researchers and students.

Print Flyer
Cover image for The Civil War and Reconstruction Eras

October 2017


Pages 295
Volumes 1
Size 8 1/2x11
Topics American History/General
  Politics, Law, and Government/General

The carefully selected and edited readings in this book are chronologically arranged so that students can trace the progression of events and understand the thoughts of those living during the critical Civil War and Reconstruction periods.

Both the Civil War and Reconstruction were pivotal moments in American history that have shaped race relations, perceptions of national power, and the relations between the national government and the states. Powerful political figures, who were often guided by lofty motives, found themselves caught up in circumstances that were largely beyond their direct control. Issues often proved far more complex than anticipated, and many initial "solutions" that were set in motion more than 130 years ago continue to affect current U.S. politics.

This book provides American history students and teachers with a handy reference that examines all important aspects of the Civil War and Reconstruction eras. The author models how an expert scholar interacts with primary sources, thereby providing guidance that shows readers how to pick apart and critically evaluate firsthand the key documents chronicling these major events in American history.

The deftly edited readings in this book are presented in chronological order so that students can trace the progression of events and thinking of various individuals during the critical Civil War and Reconstruction periods. Annotations explain key terms and highlight key portions of laws, presidential speeches and orders, Supreme Court decisions, and other sources from the period.


  • Provides readers with annotated primary sources that illuminate the causes of the American Civil War, the attempts to resolve these various points of contention, and the aftermath of that costly conflict
  • Spotlights documents such as Lincoln's first inaugural address, Julia Ward Howe's Battle Hymn of the Republic, the Homestead Act, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Gettysburg Address, and the Reconstruction Acts, among others
  • Demonstrates that issues involving race, the scope of national powers, and relations between state and national governments have long been fundamental to American politics
  • Enables modern readers to comprehend how many current issues have their origins in much earlier periods of U.S. history
Author Info

John R. Vile, PhD, is professor of political science and dean of the University Honors College at Middle Tennessee State University. His published works include ABC-CLIO's Re-Framers: 170 Eccentric, Visionary, and Patriotic Proposals to Rewrite the U.S. Constitution; The Constitutional Convention of 1787: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of America's Founding; Encyclopedia of Constitutional Amendments, Proposed Amendments, and Amending Issues, 1789–2010 (third edition); Great American Lawyers: An Encyclopedia; and Great American Judges: An Encyclopedia. He is coauthor of Encyclopedia of the First Amendment and Encyclopedia of the Fourth Amendment. Vile holds a doctorate in government from the University of Virginia.



"These edited versions were created to allow students a better understanding without becoming overwhelmed and feeling that they are impossible to understand. High school and college students, as well as general readers, will be able to decode these documents in this edited state. Highlighted passages that need clarification are further discussed in the margin. This title would be perfect for an advanced high school curriculum in social studies. Recommended."School Library Connection

Look Inside

Other Titles of Interest

The Jacksonian and Antebellum Eras cover imageThe Early Republic cover imageFounding Documents of America cover image
1960s Counterculture cover imageFreedom of Speech cover imagePresidential Power cover image

Product Search

Product Search

Publication Year



Need Help? Try our Search Tips