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Period 5: The Civil War & Reconstruction (1844-1877)

In AP® US History, period 5 spans from 1844 to 1877 CE. The following guide will be updated periodically with hyperlinks to excellent resources. As you are reviewing for the Civil War era, focus on the key concepts and use the essential questions to guide you.

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⚡️Live Stream Replay – Period 5 Review

STUDY TIP: You will never be asked specifically to identify a date. However, knowing the order of events will help immensely with cause and effect. For this reason, we have identified the most important dates to know.

1845 – Annexation of Texas
18451848Mexican-American War
1848 – Seneca Falls Convention
1850 – Missouri Compromise
1850 – Fugitive Slave Law
1852Uncle Tom’s Cabin
1854 – Bleeding Kansas
1857 – Dred Scott Case
1860 – Lincoln’s Election
1861-1865 – Civil War
1862 – Homestead Act
1863 – Gettysburg
1867 – Reconstruction Acts
1867 – Purchase of Alaska
1877 – Compromise of 1877


STUDY TIP: Use the following essential questions to guide your review of this entire unit. Keep in mind, these are not meant to be practice essay questions. Each question was written to help you summarize the key concept.

  1. What were the motives and consequences of westward expansion?
  2. What were the causes and consequences of the Civil War?
  3. How did the US government react to post-Civil War pressures from Northerners and Southerners?

Past Essay Questions from Period 5

STUDY TIP: Content from the Civil War era has appeared on the essays six times since 2000. Take a look at these questions before you review the key concepts & vocabulary below to get a sense of how you will be assessed. Then, come back to these later and practice writing as many as you can!

*The APUSH exam was significantly revised in 2015, so any questions from before then are not representative of the current exam format. You can still use prior questions to practice, however DBQs will have more than 7 documents, the LEQ prompts are worded differently, and the rubrics are completely different. Use questions from 2002-2014 with caution. Essays from 1973-1999 available here.

2017 – SAQ 3: Reconstruction
2016 – LEQ 2: 14th and 15th amendments
2014 – LEQ 3: Achievements of Reconstruction
2010 – LEQ 3: Slavery in western territories
2009 – DBQ: Responses to slavery
2006 – LEQ 3: Political effects of Civil War



*The following outline was adapted from the AP® United States History Course Description as published by College Board in 2019 found here. This outline reflects the most recent revisions to the course.

5.1. Westward Expansion

⚡️Live Stream Replay – Manifest Destiny

  1. New territories were acquired in the west and more people moved west.
    1. People moved west for opportunities, religious refuge, and access to resources.
    2. Many advocated that the US was destined to expand to the Pacific (Manifest Destiny).
    3. Through the Mexican-American War, the US added a lot of territory, which triggered debates over slavery, Native Americans, and Mexicans in the newly acquired lands.
    4. New legislation promoted westward migration.
    5. The US expanded its interests in Asia
  2. The debates about rights and citizenship for some groups continued.
    1. Immigrants from western Europe created ethnic enclaves in the North.
    2. Anti-Catholic nativism spread and limited political power over immigrants.
    3. Mexican Americans and American Indians in the west faced continued oppression.

5.2. Causes of the Civil War

⚡️Live Stream Replay – Road to the Civil War
⚡️Live Stream Replay – The Civil War

  1. Differences over slavery led to a range of opinions.
    1. The North relied on wage labor for manufacturing while the South depended on slave labor. Some Northerners were okay with the principle of slavery, but feared it would affect the wage-labor market. They created the Free-Soil movement.
    2. Abolition activists continued to campaign against slavery and helped free slaves.
    3. Many argued that slavery was a positive good and that states’ rights were protected.
  2. The debate about slavery culminated in the secession of southern states in 1860 and the Civil War began.
    1. Debates in the 1850s centered on whether to allow slavery in new territories.
    2. Attempts to solve the issue failed to reduce conflict (Kansas-Nebraska, Dred Scott).
    3. Sectional political parties emerged as issues of slavery and nativism grew stronger.
    4. Lincoln’s victory on the free-soil platform led to southern states seceding. 

5.3. Aftermath of the Civil War

⚡️Live Stream Replay – Reconstruction

  1. The North won because of strong leadership, manpower, & industrial resources.
    1. The economies and societies of the North and South were both mobilized.
    2. Lincoln began the war to preserve the union, but the Emancipation Proclamation made the war squarely about the institution of slavery.
    3. Through speeches, Lincoln framed the war as a battle to preserve democratic ideals.
    4. The Confederacy had a strong military push in the beginning, but the Union won because of stronger leadership, strategy, and greater wartime resources.
  2. Slavery ended after the Civil War, which led to new debates about citizenship.
    1. The 13th amendment abolished slavery and the 14th & 15th amendments granted citizenship and protected equal rights.
    2. The 14th amendment divided the women’s movement because white women did not want black men to get the vote before them.
    3. Reconstruction initially created more opportunities for black Americans, but eventually failed because of Southern resistance.
    4. Life in the south was difficult for former slaves and many were forced into new exploitative systems of sharecropping because of limited opportunities.
    5. Rights for African Americans were stripped away bit by bit until the 20th century.



STUDY TIP: These are the concepts and vocabulary from period 5 that most commonly appear on the exam. Create a quizlet deck to make sure you are familiar with these terms!

  • 13th Amendment
  • 14th Amendment
  • 15th Amendment
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Anaconda Plan
  • Antietam
  • Appomattox Court House
  • Black Codes
  • Bleeding Kansas
  • border states
  • Bull Run
  • carpetbagger
  • Civil Rights Act of 1866
  • Compromise of 1850
  • Compromise of 1877
  • Confederacy
  • Crittenden Compromise
  • Dred Scott v. Sandford
  • Emancipation Proclamation
  • Freedmen’s Bureau
  • Free Soil Party
  • Fugitive Slave Law
  • Gadsden Purchase
  • Gettysburg Address
  • Gold Rush
  • Greenback
  • Habeas corpus
  • Harpers Ferry Raid
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • Homestead Act
  • Jefferson Davis
  • Kansas-Nebraska Act
  • Ku Klux Klan
  • Know Nothing Party
  • Little Big Horn
  • MA 54th Regiment
  • manifest destiny
  • Matthew Perry
  • Minstrel Shows
  • missionary
  • Morrill Land Grant
  • Morrill Tariff
  • popular sovereignty
  • Radical Republicans
  • Reconstruction
  • Robert E. Lee
  • Sand Creek Massacre
  • scalawag
  • secession
  • sharecropper
  • Sherman’s March
  • Stonewall Jackson
  • Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
  • Underground Railroad
  • Wilmot Proviso