Unit 5: 1844 - 1877

Unit 5 Key Concepts

  • 5.1 The United States became more connected with the world, pursued an expansionist foreign policy in the Western Hemisphere, and emerged as the destination for many migrants from other countries.
  • 5.2 Intensified by expansion and deepening regional divisions, debates over slavery and other economic, cultural, and political issues led the nation into civil war. 
  • 5.3 The Union victory in the Civil War and the contested reconstruction of the South settled the issues of slavery and secession, but left unresolved many questions about the power of the federal government and citizenship rights. 
Unit 5 focuses on the social and political effects of the antebellum period, the Civil War, and Reconstruction.

During this period, the United States also experienced a wave of immigration from western European countries, especially Ireland and Germany. The “Know Nothing Party” and other nativist groups used anti-immigrant rhetoric to try to influence the power of these new immigrant groups.

American history in the middle of the nineteenth century was dominated by a push to expand the country from “sea to sea” under an ideology called Manifest Destiny. The discovery of gold in California in the late 1840s caused hundreds of thousands of people to rush to the west coast.

The expansion into new territories intensified the tension between free and slave states in the Union. While the United States was able to maintain a rough balance for much of its history, by the 1850s, the balance was tipping toward free states. Political tensions came to a head with the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. Lincoln came to power without a single Southern vote. Almost immediately after his election, the Southern states voted to secede from the Union.

While slavery was a major issue dividing the North and the South, there were also other factors that served to divide the two parts of the country. The North and the South had very different economic landscapes. They also had different value systems and ideas about states’ rights.

Many of these tensions were still unresolved when the Civil War officially came to a close. The period after the war was called “Reconstruction" because the goal was to “reconstruct,” or “rebuild,” the Union that had been broken by the war. The initial goal of Reconstruction was to guarantee rights for African-Americans, a goal that came to fruition in the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments. In 1877, however, Reconstruction was abandoned. Almost all of social improvements made in the lives of African Americans were eliminated as Southern politicians began the process of reversing the federal guidelines implemented during Reconstruction.

Unit 5 Review Resources

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Ms. Dickie's Review Video

Ms. Dickie discusses this unit in a thematic way which will help best with the written response questions. This time period has more information so the videos are split into multiple parts: 

Unit 5 - Part 1: Westward Expansion, Mexican-American War, & Causes of Sectionalism
Unit 5 - Part 2: Significance of the Civil War, Native American Policies & Western Boom 

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Heimler's History

If you would like to rewatch videos from this unit based on the key concepts, then view this playlist here: Unit 5 Playlist

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APUSH Review with Adam Norris

A review of this entire time period in a 10 minute video. These videos have notes on the screen which may be helpful when writing down key ideas. 

If you like these, here are some more from this time period focusing on specific topics: More Period 5 Videos 

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Khan Academy

This includes quick summaries of important topics in written and video form and short quizzes to test your understanding. Khan Academy is free to use and if you plan on using this often it might be helpful to create an account to keep track of your progress. View Unit 5 content here

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Gilder Lehrman

This video covers a challenging period of expansion, crisis, and rebuilding for America. These videos include a summary of key ideas as well as a description of some documents you might see on the exam. 

Period 5 Timeline: Includes documents and key events. 

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Crash Course

John Green has a series of videos for each unit that are not specifically APUSH related but cover important topics you will see on the exam. He talks very fast but if you like these videos there are several for each time period. View the topics from this unit below: 

War and Expansion
The 1860 Election
Battles of the Civil War
Civil War - Part 1
Civil War - Part 2

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Use the following to create your own flashcards: 

APUSH Review Flashcards PDF

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