130 Civil War Quotes That’ll Take You Back to History

Be inspired by the strength and resilience people exemplified during a great period of chaos with these civil war quotes.

Civil wars are bloody, intense wars that create a significant impact on history. It is something that’s able to change how a nation moves forward.

So, if you are fond of history and want to know more about civil wars, then you’ll surely enjoy this collection. Take a pause and appreciate the brave men who sacrificed their lives fighting for their beliefs and rights. 

Start reading the complete list here.

Best Civil War Quotes

1. “We have but one flag, one country; let us stand together. We may differ in color, but not in sentiment.” – Nathan Bedford Forrest

2. “America will not be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedom, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” – Abraham Lincoln

3. “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

4. “We are not fighting for slavery. We are fighting for Independence, and that, or extermination, we will have.” – Jefferson Davis

5. “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

6. “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” – Abraham Lincoln

7. “The only true rule for cavalry is to follow the enemy as long as he retreats.” – Stonewall Jackson

8. “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

9. “In every battle there comes a time when both sides consider themselves beaten, then he who continues the attack wins.” – Ulysses S. Grant

10. “A war between Europeans is a civil war.” – Victor Hugo

11. “To a mankind that recognizes the equality of man everywhere, every war becomes a civil war.” – Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy

12. “Why do they call them civil wars when they always are so extraordinarily uncivil?” – Elizabeth Fitch

13. “There is neither a foreign war nor a civil war; there is only just and unjust war.” – Victor Hugo

14. “Civil war? What does that mean? Is there any foreign war? Isn’t every war fought between men, between brothers?” – Victor Hugo

Also read: Warrior Quotes

Famous Civil War Quotes

15. “It is history that teaches us to hope.” – Robert E. Lee

16. “War means fighting, and fighting means killing.” – Nathan Bedford Forrest

17. “The United States needed a civil war to unite properly.” – Umberto Eco

18. “I’ve got no respect for a young man who won’t join the colors.” – Nathan Bedford Forrest

19. “I want my army to be an army of the living God.” – Stonewall Jackson

20. “Duty is ours; consequences are God’s.” – Stonewall Jackson

21. “Civil wars leave nothing but tombs.” – Alphonse de Lamartine

22. “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

23. “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

24. “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

25. “There is no need for bloodshed and war. There is no necessity for it.” – Abraham Lincoln

26. “We have, as all will agree, a free government, where every man has a right to be equal with every other man.” – Abraham Lincoln

27. “I will be in my coffin before I will fight again under your command.” – Nathan Bedford Forrest

28. “War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.” – William Tecumseh Sherman

29. “I can assure you that no kingdom has ever had as many civil wars as the kingdom of Christ.” – Baron de Montesquieu

Civil War Quotes to Inspire You to Fight

30. “Every moment lost is worth the life of a thousand men.” – Nathan Bedford Forrest

31. “It is easy to see that, under the sharp discipline of the civil war, the nation is beginning a new life.” – Abraham Lincoln

32. “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

33. “The principle for which we contend is bound to reassert itself, though it may be at another time and in another form.” – Jefferson Davis

34. “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

35. “Do not weep, maiden, for war is kind. Because your lover threw wild hands toward the sky and the affrighted steed ran on alone, do not weep. War is kind.” – Stephen Crane

36. “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

37. “The war is over, the rebels are our countrymen again.” – Ulysses S. Grant

38. “The time for war has not yet come, but it will come, and that soon; and when it does come, my advice is to draw the sword and throw away the scabbard.” – Stonewall Jackson

39. “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

40. “We view ourselves on the eve of battle. We are nerved for the conquest and must conquer or perish.” – Sam Houston

41. “The past is dead. Let it bury its dead, its hopes, and its aspirations before you lie the future, a future full of golden promise.” – Jefferson Davis

Quotes From the Most Influential Leaders About What Civil Wars Entail

42. “Civil wars leave nothing but tombs.” – Alphonse de Lamartine

43. “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

44. “I worked night and day for 12 years to prevent the war, but I could not.” – Jefferson Davis

45. “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

46. “Caution, Sir! I am eternally tired of hearing that word caution. It is nothing but the word of cowardice!” – John H. Brown

47. “Wars produce many stories of fiction, some of which are told until they are believed to be true.” – Ulysses S. Grant

48. “The greatest curse that can befall a free people, is civil war.” – Alexander H. Stephens

49. “There’s no honorable way to kill, no gentle way to destroy. There is nothing good in war. Except its ending.” – Abraham Lincoln

50. “It will be all right if it turns out all right.” – Ulysses S. Grant

51. “It is something great and greatening to cherish an ideal; to act in the light of truth that is far away and far above; to set aside the near advantage, the momentary pleasure; the snatching of seeming good to self; and to act for remoter ends, for higher good, and for interests other than our own.” – Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

52. “The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.” – George S. Patton

Civil War Quotes That’ll Encourage You to Live

53. “This nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” – Abraham Lincoln

54. “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

55. “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.” – Abraham Lincoln

Profound Civil War Quotes

56. “He who does something at the head of one regiment, will eclipse him who does nothing at the head of a hundred.” – Abraham Lincoln

57. “When I strike, the bees will begin to swarm, and I want you to help hive them.” – John H. Brown

58. “The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep’s for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as his liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty. Plainly, the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of liberty.” – Abraham Lincoln

59. “Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” – Abraham Lincoln

Sorrowful Quotes on What It’s Like to Live During the Civil War

60. “Nothing fills me with deeper sadness than to see a Southerner apologizing for the defense we made of our inheritance.” – Jefferson Davis

61. “This fight is against slavery; if we lose it, you will be made free.” – Nathan Bedford Forrest

62. “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

63. “There never was a time when, in my opinion, some way could not be found to prevent the drawing of the sword.” – Ulysses S. Grant

64. “He felt that in this crisis his laws of life were useless.” – Stephen Crane

65. “I am more anxious than I can express that my men should be not only good soldiers of their country but also good soldiers of the cross.” – Stonewall Jackson

66. “In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war.” – Abraham Lincoln

Quotes on Fighting for Your Life During the Civil War

67. “The time for compromise has now passed, and the South is determined to maintain her position and make all who oppose her smell Southern powder and feel Southern steel.” – Jefferson Davis

68. “Union can achieve everything when sustained by gallant hearts and correct principles, while anarchy and insubordination must fail in the achievement of everything beneficial and glorious to mankind.” – Sam Houston

69. “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

70. “The dominant party cannot reign forever, and truth and justice will prevail at last.” – Robert E. Lee

71. “I am quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood. I had, as I now think vainly, flattered myself that without very much bloodshed it might be done.” – John H. Brown

72. “I would fight them if they were a million!” – Albert Sidney Johnston

73. “My men have sometimes failed to take a position, but to defend one, never!” – Stonewall Jackson

74. “My plans are perfect, and when I start to carry them out, may God have mercy on Bobby Lee, for I shall have none.” – Joe Hooker

75. “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

76. “Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.” – Stonewall Jackson

77. “We may be annihilated, but we cannot be conquered.” – Albert Sidney Johnston

78. “In the name of the Constitution of Texas, which has been trampled upon, I refuse to take oath. I love Texas too well to bring civil strife and bloodshed upon her.” – Sam Houston

Quotes That Honor the Lives Taken During the Civil War

79. “From these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.” – Abraham Lincoln

80. “We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.” – Abraham Lincoln

81. “That we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.” – Abraham Lincoln

Quotes to Display How Soldiers Were Expected to Act During the Civil War

82. “He that will not submit to it when corrected and improved by the experience of ages does not deserve the proud appellation of a soldier.” – Sam Houston

83. “The soldier who gropes for glory must submit himself to discipline.” – Sam Houston

84. “Subordination gives strength and security to an army.” – Sam Houston

Quotes That Zoom in on the Connection Between the Civil War and Slavery

85. “The cause of the great war of the rebellion against the United States will have to be attributed to slavery.” – Ulysses S. Grant

86. “When people think of slavery, they think of an era from the distant past. Grainy photographs from civil war times. And yet it goes on.” – Lisa Kristine

87. “Without slavery the rebellion could never have existed; without slavery, it could not continue.” – Abraham Lincoln

88. “If it is necessary that slavery should fall that the Republic may continue its existence, let slavery go.” – Ulysses S. Grant

89. “So far from engaging in a war to perpetuate slavery, I am rejoiced that slavery is abolished.” – Robert E. Lee

90. “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

91. “Talk is a national institution, but it does not help the slave.” – John H. Brown

Quotes on Why One Should Have Faith Amidst a Civil War

92. ”We, on our side, are praying to 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

93. “Our men fought bravely, but the enemy repulsed me. Many valuable lives were lost. Our God was my shield.” – Stonewall Jackson

94. “In regards to this great book, the Bible, I have but to say it is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Savior gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it, we could not know right from wrong.” – Abraham Lincoln

Eye-Opening Quotes on Civil Wars All Over the World

95. “In the end, no amount of American forces can solve the political differences that lie at the heart of somebody else’s civil war.” – Barack Obama

96. “With one terrible exception, the Civil War, law and the Constitution have kept America whole and free.” – Anthony Lewis

97. “In a civil war, there is continuous fighting, based on grievances that are forever changing.” – Nuruddin Farah

98. “This union has been divided like a civil war, brother against brother, sister against sister. And I’m pulling it together. We’ve already seen evidence of that in New York, in Pennsylvania, in California. The first thing is we have to get on the same page. We have to be united in one cause.” – James P. Hoffa

99. “The only lesson to extract from any civil war is that it’s pointless and futile and ugly and that there is nothing glamorous or heroic about it. There are heroes, but the causes are never heroic.” – Anthony Minghella

100. “Most historians agree that Abraham Lincoln was the most important man to ever occupy the White House because he abolished slavery and kept the states united through a bloody civil war.” – Kitty Kelley

101. “I think every day we look at the mess of the chaos of the Civil War in Iraq, I think every day people become more and more convinced that the war was a mistake. I think we have to learn from the mistakes of our past.” – Rand Paul

102. “When you scan the globe’s hot spots, every civil war and massacre, every act of terror and every clash between states has its unique local circumstances.” – Atifete Jahjaga

103. “I think you can go back in history and look at what the effect in Asia and the world was of a divided, fractured China from, you know, the opium wars through the Chinese Civil War, and I don’t think it was pretty for Asia or the world.” – Dennis C. Blair

104. “Life in Somalia before the civil war was beautiful. When the war happened, I was eight years old and at that stage of understanding the world in a different way.” – Ilhan Omar

105. “Before the Civil War, Canada was at the top of the underground railroad. If you made it into Canada, you were safe unless someone came and hauled you back. That was also true during the Vietnam War for draft resisters.” – Margaret Atwood

106. “The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Civil War; when I really think about them, they all seem about as likely as the parting of the Red Sea.” – Sarah Vowell

107. “When it comes to the Civil War, all of our popular understanding, our popular history, and culture, our great films, the subtext of our arguments are in defiance of its painful truths.” – Ta-Nehisi Coates

108. “President Abraham Lincoln never lost his ardor for the United States to remain united during the Civil War.” – Douglas Brinkley

Interesting Quotes That Describe How the World Copes During a Civil War

109. “I used to think that the Civil War was our country’s greatest tragedy, but I do remember that there were some redeeming features in the Civil War in that there was some spirit of sacrifice and heroism displayed on both sides. I see no redeeming features in Watergate.” – Sam Ervin

110. “I began to see during the Civil War, in that part of the states of Missouri and Kansas where the doctors were shut out, the children did not die.” – Andrew Taylor Still

111. “My ancestors fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. I was raised in Natchez, Miss. I performed in the Confederate Pageant for a decade. I dug ditches and loaded trucks with black men who taught me more than any book ever could. And I graduated from Ole Miss. Anyone who survived that is a de facto expert on the South.” – Greg Iles

112. “The casualties in the Civil War amount to more than all other wars – all other American wars combined. More people died in that war than World War II, World War I, Vietnam, etc. And that was a war for white supremacy. It was a war to erect a state in which the basis of it was the enslavement of black people.” – Ta-Nehisi Coates

113. “My family has served the country in almost every major war since the Civil War.” – Jack Scalia

Quotes to Describe What People Went Through During Civil Wars

114. “If I owned Texas and hell, I would rent out Texas and live in hell.” – General Philip Henry Sheridan

115. “It is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it.” – Robert E. Lee

116. “It was not well to drive men into final corners; at those moments they could all develop teeth and claws.” – Stephen Crane

117. “All new states are invested, more or less, by a class of noisy, second-rate men who are always in favor of rash and extreme measures, but Texas was absolutely overrun by such men.” – Sam Houston

118. “I think I understand what military fame is; to be killed on the field of battle and have your name misspelled in the newspapers.” – William Tecumseh Sherman

119. “My God, is it possible that all the people have gone mad? This Civil War now being inaugurated will be as horrible as his satanic majesty could desire.” – Sam Houston

120. “I have just read your dispatch about sore-tongued and fatigued horses. Will you pardon me for asking what the horses of your army have done since the battle of Antietam that fatigues anything?” – Abraham Lincoln

121. “I hate newspapermen. They come into camp and pick up their camp rumors and print them as facts. I regard them as spies, which, in truth, they are. If I killed them all there would be news from hell before breakfast.” – William Tecumseh Sherman

122. “If the Confederacy falls, there should be written on its tombstone—died of a theory.” – Jefferson Davis

123. “I know why we lost the civil war. We must have had the same officials.” – Bum Phillips

More Civil War Quotes

124. “I appeal to you as a soldier to spare me the humiliation of seeing my regiment march to meet the enemy and I do not share its dangers.” – George Armstrong Custer

125. “I have stepped out upon this platform that I may see you and that you may see me, and in the arrangement, I have the best of the bargain.” – Abraham Lincoln

126. “At times he regarded the wounded soldiers in an envious way. He wished that he, too, had a wound, a red badge of courage.” – Stephen Crane

127. “As President, I have no eyes but constitutional eyes; I cannot see you.” – Abraham Lincoln

128. “The power of noble deeds is to be preserved and passed on to the future.” – Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

129. “I am often asked, ‘Why do Southerners still care about the Civil War?’ Because it is unique in the American experience. Defeat was total, surrender unconditional, and the land still occupied.” – Tim Heaton

130. “I am greatly obliged to you, and to all who have come forward at the call of their country.” – Abraham Lincoln

Are You Brave Enough to Fight for Your Country and What You Believe In?

People have different definitions of what bravery is. But actually, bravery is the act of being able to stand for what you believe in. 

Civil wars teach us that bravery is what keeps you going amidst the adversities you encounter. But, courage doesn’t only mean you have to lay down your life for your cause. Remember that there will also be other ways to fight for what you believe in and different ways to fight for change.

We hope that this collection was able to encourage you to be vigilant and never back down from fighting for what you believe in. Have courage, and remember that you are influential in your own way.

What do you think of these civil war quotes? Which quote struck you the most? Don’t forget to share your thoughts with us.

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Karen Danao

Hi, I’m Karen, a content curator and writer for Quote Ambition; I’m also a marketing and advertising professional. Beyond the keyboard and the screen, I’m someone who’s out to enjoy every bit that life has to offer!

Poetry, philosophy, history, and movies are all topics I love writing about! However, my true passion is in traveling, photography, and finding common ground to which everyone from different cultures can relate.

With the many places I’ve been to, I found that love, inspiration, and happiness are some things that bring people together. No matter how different we are on the outside, I’m a true believer that our emotions don’t lie; if you dig deep into our psyche, we’re all the same inside.

This belief was further amplified when I joined Quote Ambition. Through the quotes I’ve read, collected, organized, and written about, I found that humans are resilient, creative, and compassionate.

We take from each others’ hearts and courage, and it’s through our individual experiences that we learn how to rise above our challenges and pain. In so many ways, Quote Ambition is a platform that allows people from all over the world to gain the inspiration they need anytime, anywhere!

You can find me on MuckRack and LinkedIn.