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DSST The Civil War and Reconstruction Study Guide

Updated: Aug 18

You want to get a passing score (above 400) on the DSST The Civil War and Reconstruction exam, but you must know where to start.

It's easy to feel overwhelmed when studying for this important exam.

There's so much information; how can you determine what to focus on?

Don't worry; we're here to help.

We've compiled an abbreviated study guide to help you focus your studies.

Table of Contents

  1. Causes of the War

  2. 1861

  3. 1862

  4. 1863

  5. 1864

  6. 1865

  7. Reconstruction

  8. Conclusion

  9. Student Resources

  10. References

1. Causes of the War

DSST The Civil War and Reconstruction Exam Outline. Causes of the War (15% - 17%).
Causes of the War (15% - 17%)

  • United States Society in the Mid-Nineteenth Century: Most of the population lived in rural areas, including farms and small towns. Factories were being built in the North and South, but the North was where the most industrial manufacturing occurred.

  • Industrialization, Religiosity, Standards of living, Demographics

  • Slavery: Slavery increased with the world's demand for cotton, increasing the price of enslaved people from $900 in 1810 for a field hand to double by 1860.

  • Anti-Slavery and Abolition movement: The American Anti-Slavery Society was mainly comprised of religious groups, philanthropic organizations, and members of the free black community. They used resources to spread their agenda of abolition.

  • Westward Expansion of Free and Slave Territory

  • Missouri Compromise

  • Mexican War

  • Compromise of 1850

  • Kansas-Nebraska Act

  • Birth of the Republican Party

  • Bleeding Kansas

  • Dred Scott decision

  • John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry: On October 16, 1859, Brown led 21 men to raid a federal arsenal and military weapons warehouse in Harpers Ferry, Virginia.

  • The political situation in 1860: Democratic Party was split in two; Republicans ran on a platform that did not favor slavery expansion.

DSST The Civil War and Reconstruction Trivia Question #149

2. 1861

DSST The Civil War and Reconstruction Exam Outline. 1861 (10% - 12%).
1861 (10% - 12%)

  • Secession: Secession was on the minds of many even before the election, and the Civil War began about a month after Lincoln's inauguration.

  • Formation of the Confederacy: When Jefferson Davis was inaugurated, he planned to protect the states' rights and not interfere with enslavers.

  • Fort Sumter: Fort Sumter was the start of the Civil War.

  • Lincoln's Call for Volunteers: When the Union asked for volunteers, they received merchant marines, and the three upper classes of the Naval Academy were now on active duty.

  • First Manassas (Bull Run): The Bull Run occurred on July 21, 1861, in Manassas, Virginia.

  • Union Army vs. Confederate Army: Appointing Leaders on both sides was a challenge in keeping peace among the leaders.

  • Lincoln vs. Davis leadership: Differences in strategy and resources.

3. 1862

DSST The Civil War and Reconstruction Exam Outline. 1862 (16% - 18%).
1862 (16% - 18%)

  • Southern strategy: The Conscription Act (April 1862) was a draft by Confederate President Jefferson Davis that enlisted white men between 18-35 for three years.

  • War in the East: Peninsula Campaign (1862) is the northern attempt to send troops into the Peninsula between the James and York Rivers east of the Confederate capital of Richmond.

  • War in the West: Control of the Mississippi was necessary for the war effort on both sides.

  • Significant battles: Antietam, Second Manassas, Shiloh, Fredericksburg, etc.

  • Emancipation Proclamation: Stated "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states "are and henceforward shall be free."

4. 1863

DSST The Civil War and Reconstruction Exam Outline. 1863 (18% - 20%).
1863 (18% - 20%)

  • Casualties: The most acknowledged quote of the death toll is 620,000.

  • Role of Women in the War: They helped make ammunition, arms, uniforms, knitted socks, and bandages. They were also vivandieres.

  • Black Americans and the War: On July 17, 1862, the Second Confiscation and Militia Act were passed by Congress. This act freed enslaved people whose masters were in the Confederate army.

  • Significant Battles: Gettysburg, Stones River, Chattanooga, and Chickamauga.

DSST The Civil War and Reconstruction Trivia Question #214

5. 1864

DSST The Civil War and Reconstruction Exam Outline. 1864 (14% - 16%).
1864 (14% - 16%)

  • Political Situations

  • Northern Demoralization: The Southern states felt threatened by the North's progress and initiative to end slavery.

  • The Presidential Election in the North: The election of Abraham Lincoln to the presidency in 1860 promoted the North Republicans' nation of free labor.

  • South Cut in Half and Isolated: The Union victory at Vicksburg divided the South in half.

  • War in the West

  • The Capture of Atlanta: The Battle of Atlanta favored the Union States, though it was difficult.

  • Sherman's March to the Sea and Total War: He led his troops through Georgia, leaving a trail of destruction known as the "March to the Sea."

  • War in the East

  • Grant and the Army of the Potomac: Grant forced Lee from the Rapid River to the James.

  • Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia: With trusted subordinates, Lee commanded formidable troops against their Federal opposition.

  • Major Battles During the Rise of Modern Warfare: Wilderness campaign, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, Shenandoah, etc.

6. 1865

DSST The Civil War and Reconstruction Exam Outline. 1865 (6% - 8%).
1865 (6% - 8%)

  • Sherman's Carolina Campaign: The last campaign in the West where the last major Confederate army was defeated.

  • Fall of Richmond: Flight of the Confederate army from Richmond.

  • Lee's Surrender: On April 9, 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant in the parlor of Wilmer McLean's Home in Appomattox Court House in Virginia.

  • The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln: Shot dead by Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865.

  • End of the Confederacy: Johnston's surrender and the capture of Davis.

  • Cost of the War: The Civil War claimed over 620,000 lives. Three hundred sixty thousand lives were from the U.S., and the rest were from the Confederacy.

7. Reconstruction

DSST The Civil War and Reconstruction Exam Outline. Reconstruction (14% - 16%).
Reconstruction (14% - 16%)

  • Presidential Reconstruction Plans: Johnson was selected as VP to appeal to the Southerners.

  • Southern Response: Rise of the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups.

  • Congressional Reconstruction Plans

  • Radical Republicans, Reconstruction Acts, Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, Impeachment, Freedmen's Bureau, Civil Rights Act

  • Military Reconstruction

  • End of Reconstruction: Restoration of a white government, the election of 1876, and the compromise of 1877. This Compromise of 1877 resulted in Democrats regaining control of the Southern region and ending the Reconstruction era.

8. Conclusion: DSST The Civil War and Reconstruction

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9. Student Resources

10. References

DSST The Civil War and Reconstruction Fact Sheet

DSST The Civil War and Reconstruction Fact Sheet
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