Cycles in U.S. History

The Civil War Cycle (1788-1865)




The 13 Original
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Raised in the warm glow following the Great American Revolution, the idealist generation of the Civil War cycle, the transcendentalist, were a pampered lot. As they approached adulthood religious conversion, radical social reform and idealistic movements swept the land. The Transcendentalist school of literature and philosophy was spawned. The movement peaked in 1837 and began to subside. But in 1857, as the Transcendentalists were solidly in control of the country, the Dred Scott decision ushered in the ultimate secular event, the Civil War between the States. This event drug on for eight years and took a mighty toll on the psyche of the country. The effect was enough to disrupt the normal flow of the generations and the youth of those terrible years never developed the civic strength of their counterparts in other cycles in American history.

Rare Map Collection - American Civil War

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Era of Good Feeling - 1st Turning, High (1788-1821)

cohorts: Transcendental Generation - Prophet, Idealist Type (1792-1821)
Dred Scott, John Brown, William Tecumseh Sherman, Brigham Young, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Longfellow, Frederick Douglass, Edgar Allen Poe, Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Charles Goodyear, William Seward, Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Phineas T. Barnum, Kit Carson

Presidents: Abraham Lincoln, James Polk, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, Andrew Johnson

Author's Ancestors: Author's great, great grandfather Alexander Hamilton Murray (born in Kentucky, 1821)

American Timeline Events: George Washington's Death (1799), Louisiana Purchase (1803)

Foreign Contemporaries: Alexis de Tocqueville, John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, Queen Victoria, Commodore Matthew Perry, John Keats, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Victor Hugo, Hans Christian Anderson, Charles Darwin, Frederic Chopin, Franz Liszt, Charles Dickens, Richard Wagner, Giuseppe Verdi, Florence Nightingale, Otto von Bismarck, Auguste Comte, George Boole

Foreign Timeline Events: The fall of the Bastille (1789), The French Revolution begins (1793), Smallpox vaccine (1796), Haydn composes "The Creation" (1798), Malthus publishes "Essays on the Principles of Population" (1798), Rosetta Stone found in Egypt (1799), Beethoven composes "Symphony No. 1 in C major" (1800), Volta invents the electric battery (1800), Socialism developes in Europe (1800), Lamarck coins the term "biology" (1802), Napoleon declares himself Emperor (1804), British defeat French/Spanish forces at the Battle of Trafalgar (1805), Beethoven composes "Violin Concerto" (1806), Morphine isolated (1806), excavations of Pompeii begin (1808), George Cayley builds the first successful glider (1809), Sir Walter Scott publishes "Lady of the Lake" (1810), Jane Austen publishes "Sense and Sensibility" (1811), Grimm brothers publish "Grimm's Fairy Tales" (1812), Napoleon is defeated and Louis XVIII is returned to the French throne (1814), Napoleon returns and is again defeated at Waterloo (1815), Mary Shelley writes "Frankenstein" (1818), Simon Bolivar elected President of Venezuela (1819), Lord Byron publishes "Don Juan" (1819), Peru, Guatamala, Mexico and Venezuela achieve independance (1821)

Expanded Timeline ahead


Transcendental Awakening Era - 2nd Turning, Awakening (1822-1837)

cohorts: Gilded Generation - Nomad, Reactive Type (1822-1842)
"Stonewall" Jackson, Emily Dickinson, "Mother Jones", Louisa May Alcott, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, George Custer , Oliver Wendell Holmes, Mark Twain, Jules Verne, Levi Strauss, Horatio Alger, Wild Bill Hickock, John Muir, William Le Baron Jenney

Presidents: Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford Hayes, James Garfield, Chester Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison,

Author's Ancestors: Henry McLaughlin

American Timeline Events: Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both die on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence - July 4, 1826

Foreign Contemporaries: Paul Cézanne, Henrik Ibsen, Lewis Carroll, Alfred Nobel, Louis Pasteur, Edouard Manet, Johannes Brahms, Georges Bizet, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Leo Tolstoy, Claude Monet, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Gregor Mendel, Nikolaus Otto, William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), Okubo Toshimichi, Joseph Lister

Foreign Timeline Events: Portugal recognizes Brazilian independance and Bolivia declares independance (1825), Duke of Wellington becomes Prime Minister of Great Britain (1828), Russia declares war on Ottoman Empire (1828), Honore de Balzac publishes "Comedie Humaine" (1830), Fredric Chopin debuts in Poland (1830), Victor Hugo publishes "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (1831), Michael Faraday produces electric current with electromagnetic induction (1831), the British abolish slavery (1833), Mendelssohn composes "Italian Symphony" (1833), Factory Act in England regulates child labor (1833), Spanish Civil War (1834), Charles Babbage proposes the "analytical engine" (1834), French Dr.Louis Braille perfects tactile characters for the blind (1834), Hans Christian Anderson publishes first book of Fairy Tales (1835), Polka is first danced in Poland (1835).

Expanded Timeline ahead


Era of Slavery Expansion - 3rd Turning, Unraveling (1838-1859)

Cohorts: missing generation - Hero, Civic Type
The Civil War burst upon the American people before the generational alignment was favorable for an event of this magnitude. Few of the civic type generation emerged from the devastation of the Civil War!

American Timeline Events: Colonel Edwin L. Drake sunk the very first commercial oil well - (1859) that produced flowing petroleum.

Foreign Timeline Events: Victoria becomes Queen of England (1837), Charles Dickens publishes "Oliver Twist" (1837), Central American Federation disolves into Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and El Salvador (1839), Charles Darwin publishes his Journals from the Voyage of the Beagle (1839), Louis Daguerre invents "deguerrotype" photographic device (1839), first Henley Regatta and Grand National Steeple-Chase run in England (1839), New Zealand becomes a British colony (1841), Wagner premieres "The Flying Dutchman" (1843), Alexandre Dumas père publishes "The Three Musketeers" (1844), Robert Browning begins his courtship of Elizabeth Barrett (1844), YMCA founded in England (1844), Friedrich Engels publishes "The Condition of the Working Class in England" (1844), the Great Potato Famine in Ireland (1845), Henry Rawlinson deciphers Babylonian cuneiform writing (1846), Liberia becomes a free Republic (1847), each of the three Bronte sisters (Anne, Emily and Charlotte) publish novels (1847), Napoleon Bonaparte elected President of the French Republic (1848), revolution and rebellions occur throughout Europe (1848), Kelvin originates the absolute temperature scale (1848), Marx publishes the Communist Manifesto.(1848), David Livingstone charts the African interior (1849), Britain recognizes South African Republic's (Transvaal) independence (1852), The Second Empire under Emperor Napoleon III is formed (1852), Alexandre Dumas fils produces "Camille" (1852), Henri Giffard makes steam powered airship flight (1852), Crimean War begins (1853), Sir George Cayley makes first manned glider flight (1853), young Johannes Brahms publishes "Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor" (1854), Florence Nightingale departs for Turkey to treat British soldiers (1854), Alfred Wallace publishes his theories on genetics (1854), Alfred Tennyson publishes "The Charge of the Light Brigade" (1854), Alexander II becomes Czar of Russia (1855), "Big Ben" is built in London (1856), very old human remains found in the Neanderthal Valley in Germany (1856), relations between India and British take a downturn as the Sepoy Rebellion begins (1857), George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) publishes "Adam Bede" (1859), work begins on the Suez Canal (1859), Charles Darwin publishes Origin of the Species (1859).

Expanded Timeline ahead


Civil War Era - 4th Turning, Crisis (1860-1865)

Cohorts: Progressive Generation - Artist, Adaptive Type (1843-1859)
Montgomery Ward, George Westinghouse, Thomas Edison , John Philip Sousa, Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver, Alexander Graham Bell, Sarah Bernhardt, William "Buffalo Bill" Cody, Joseph Pulitzer, Jesse James, Wyatt Earp, Billy the Kid

Presidents: Theodore Roosevelt, William McKinley, William Taft, Woodrow Wilson,

Author's Ancestors:

All Generational Baseball Team: Charley "Old Hoss" Radbourn, Buck Ewing, Cap Anson, Bid McPhee, Jack Glasscock, Ed "Ned" Williamson, Jim O'Rourke, George Gore, King Kelly

American Timeline Events: Emancipation Proclamation takes effect (1863), Gettysburg Address (1863), Abraham Lincoln assassination (1865)

Foreign Contemporaries: Vincent van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, Sigmund Freud, Kaiser Wilhelm II, Paul Gauguin, Ivan Pavlov, Luther Burbank, Robert Louis Stevenson, George Bernard Shaw, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert E. Peary, Otto Lilienthal, Max Planck, Carl Benz

Foreign Timeline Events: Garibaldi and the Redshirts conquer Sicily and Naples (1860), George Eliot publishes "The Mill on the Floss" (1860), Florence Nightingale founds the first Nursing school (1860), first British Open Golf Championship held (1860), Prince Albert dies and Queen Victoria goes into seclusion (1861), William I becomes King of Prussia (1861), Charles Dickens publishes "Great Expectations" (1861), Otto von Bismarck becomes Prime Minister of Prussia (1862), Victor Hugo publishes "Les Miserables (1862), Jules Verne publishes his first novel "Five Weeks in a Balloon" (1863), Austrian Arch-Duke Maximilian is proclaimed Emperor of Mexico by French conquerors (1863), Chinese Army suppresses the Taiping Rebellion (1864), James Maxwell proposes theory of Electromagnetic Waves (1864), Louis Pasteur develops "pasteurization" of wine (1864), Lewis Carrol publishes "Alices Adventures in Wonderland" (1865), Leo Tolstoy publishes "War and Peace" (1865), Salvation Army founded (1865), Marquis of Queensberry boxing rules are established (1865).

Expanded Timeline ahead


For each historical era I show a list of notable Americans born to that generation and a pointer to the timeline of importantant events in American History that occured during that time. It is important to keep in mind that these are the events that shaped the early life of this generation. A few important foreign cohorts and global events are also listed to provide a contextual backdrop for each era

back Back to the Revolutionary War Cycle
ahead On to the World War Cycle


Hosted by InMotion

In Association with Reading and Viewing List:

Clicking on these titles will take you directly to the page for the book or video.


" Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West"

Stephen Ambrose


" Lewis & Clark : Voyage of Discovery"

Stephen Ambrose ( Sam Abell - Photographer)


" "American Compact : James Madison and the Problem of Founding (American Political Thought)"

Gary Rosen


" Democracy in America"

Alexis De Tocquevil (R. Heffner Editor)


" Not for Ourselves Alone : The Struggle for Women's Rights : The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony"

Geoffrey C. Ward, Martha Saxton, Ann D. Gordon, Ellen carol Dubois, Ken Burns


" Americans : The National Experience"

Daniel Joseph Boorstin


"American Compact : James Madison and the Problem of Founding (American Political Thought)"

Gary Rosen


" Monitor : The Story of the Legendary Civil War Ironclad and the Man Whose Invention Changed the Course of History"

James Tertius Dekay


" Lincoln at Gettysburg : The Words That Remade America"

Garry Wills


" Edison : Inventing the Century"

Neil Baldwin


" Mathew Brady and the Image of History"

Mary Panzer, Jeana Kae Foley, National Portrait Gallery


" Lincoln"

David Herbert Donald


" Jefferson and the Gun-Men : How the West Was Almost Lost "

M. R. Montgomery


" April 1865 : The Month That Saved America "

Jay Winik


" The Civil War : A Narrative : Fort Sumter to Perryville, Fredericksburg to Meridian, Red River to Appomattox (3 Vol. Set) "

Shelby Foote


" The Red Badge of Courage"

Stephen Crane ( Donald Gibson - Introduction)


" Personal Memoirs (Modern Library War) "

Ulysses S. Grant, Geoffrey Perret


" For Cause and Comrades : Why Men Fought in the Civil War "

James M. McPherson


" Battle Cry of Freedom : The Civil War Era"

James M. McPherson


"Glory" (1989)

Director: Edward Zwick


"Gone with the Wind" (1939)

Director: Victor Fleming


"Ken Burns' The Civil War" (1990)

Director: Ken Burns

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