American Civil War

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Belligerents

United States of America ("Union")

Confederate States of America ("Confederacy")

Commanders
Abraham Lincoln,
Ulysses S. Grant Jefferson Davis,
Robert E. Lee
Strength
2,200,000 1,064,000
Casualties and losses
110,000 killed in action,
360,000 total dead,
275,200 wounded 93,000 killed in action,
258,000 total dead,
137,000+ wounded

American Civil War

The American Civil War (1861–1865), which is also known by several other names, was a civil war between the United States of America (the "Union") and the Southern slave states of the newly formed Confederate States of America under Jefferson Davis. The Union included all of the free states and the five slaveholding border states and was led by Abraham Lincoln and the Republican Party. Republicans opposed the expansion of slavery into territories owned by the United States, and their victory in the presidential election of 1860 resulted in seven Southern states declaring their secession from the Union even before Lincoln took office. The Union rejected secession, regarding it as rebellion.

Hostilities began on April 12, 1861, when Confederate forces attacked a U.S. military installation at Fort Sumter in South Carolina. Lincoln responded by calling for a large volunteer army, then four more Southern states declared their secession. In the war's first year, the Union assumed control of the border states and established a naval blockade as both sides massed armies and resources. In 1862, battles such as Shiloh and Antietam caused massive casualties unprecedented in U.S. military history. In September 1862, Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation made ending slavery in the South a war goal, which complicated the Confederacy's manpower shortages.

In the East, Confederate commander Robert E. Lee won a series of victories over Union armies, but Lee's reverse at Gettysburg in early July, 1863 proved the turning point. The capture of Vicksburg and Port Hudson by Ulysses S. Grant completed Union control of the Mississippi River. Grant fought bloody battles of attrition with Lee in 1864, forcing Lee to defend the Confederate capital at Richmond, Virginia. Union general William Sherman captured Atlanta, Georgia, and began his famous March to the Sea, devastating a hundred-mile-wide swath of Georgia. Confederate resistance collapsed after Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.

The war, the deadliest in American history, caused 620,000 soldier deaths and an undetermined number of civilian casualties, ended slavery in the United States, restored the Union by settling the issues of nullification and secession and strengthened the role of the Federal government. The social, political, economic and racial issues of the war continue to shape contemporary American thought.

Causes of the war
The coexistence of a slave-owning South with an increasingly anti-slavery North made conflict inevitable. Lincoln did not propose federal laws against slavery where it already existed, but he had, in his 1858 House Divided Speech, expressed a desire to "arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction". Much of the political battle in the 1850s focused on the expansion of slavery into the newly created territories. All of the organized territories were likely to become free-soil states, which increased the Southern movement toward secession. Both North and South assumed that if slavery could not expand it would wither and die.

Southern fears of losing control of the federal government to antislavery forces, and Northern fears that the slave power already controlled the government, brought the crisis to a head in the late 1850s. Sectional disagreements over the morality of slavery, the scope of democracy and the economic merits of free labor vs. slave plantations caused the Whig and "Know-Nothing" parties to collapse, and new ones to arise (the Free Soil Party in 1848, the Republicans in 1854, the Constitutional Union in 1860). In 1860, the last remaining national political party, the Democratic Party, split along sectional lines.

Both North and South were influenced by the ideas of Thomas Jefferson. Southerners emphasized the states' rights ideas mentioned in Jefferson's Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions and the right of revolution mentioned in the Declaration of Independence. Northerners ranging from the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison to the moderate Republican leader Abraham Lincoln emphasized Jefferson's declaration that all men are created equal. Lincoln mentioned this proposition in his Gettysburg Address.

Historian Kenneth M. Stampp mentioned Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens as an example of a Southern leader who called slavery "the cornerstone of the Confederacy" after Southern states seceded. After Southern defeat, Stephens said that the war was not about slavery but states' rights. Stampp said that Stephens became one of the most ardent defenders of the Lost Cause.

All but one inter-regional crisis involved slavery, starting with debates on the three-fifths clause in the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Other factors include sectionalism (caused by the growth of slavery in the deep South while slavery was gradually phased out in Northern states) and economic differences between North and South, although most modern historians disagree with the extreme economic determinism of historian Charles Beard. The fact that seven immigrants out of eight settled in the North, plus the fact that twice as many whites left the South for the North as vice versa, contributed to the South's defensive-aggressive political behavior. There was controversy over adding the slave state of Missouri to the Union that led to the Missouri Compromise of 1820, the Nullification Crisis over the Tariff of 1828 (although the tariff was low after 1846, the Gag rule that prevented discussion in Congress of petitions for ending slavery from 1835–1844, the acquisition of Texas as a slave state in 1845 and Manifest Destiny as an argument for gaining new territories where slavery would become an issue after the Mexican-American War (1846–1848), which resulted in the Compromise of 1850. The Wilmot Proviso was an unsuccessful attempt by Northern politicians to exclude slavery from the territories conquered from Mexico. There were unsuccessful attempts to end controversy over slavery in the territories through popular sovereignty and Southern attempts to annex Cuba (including the Ostend Manifesto) and Nicaragua as slave states. The extremely popular antislavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) by Harriet Beecher Stowe greatly increased Northern opposition to the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850.

There was the polarizing effect of slavery that split the largest religious denominations (the Methodist, Baptist and Presbyterian churches) and controversy caused by the worst cruelties of slavery (whippings, mutilations and families split apart). In Congress arguments over slavery became violent when Representative Preston Brooks of South Carolina attacked Radical Republican Senator Charles Sumner with a cane after Sumner's "Crime against Kansas" speech. Even rival plans for Northern vs. Southern routes for a transcontinental railroad became entangled in the Bleeding Kansas controversy over slavery. The old Second Party System broke down after passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854. The Dred Scott Decision and Lecompton Constitution of 1857 were Southern attempts to admit Kansas to the Union as a slave state. The Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858, John Brown's raid in 1859 and the split in the Democratic Party in 1860 polarized the nation between North and South. The election of Lincoln in 1860 was the final trigger for secession. During the secession crisis, many sought compromise. Two of these attempts were the "Corwin Amendment" and the "Crittenden Compromise." All attempts at compromise failed.

Southern secession was triggered by the election of Republican Abraham Lincoln because regional leaders feared that he would stop the expansion of slavery and put it on a course toward extinction. Many Southerners thought either Lincoln or another Northerner would abolish slavery, and that it was time to secede. The slave states, which had already become a minority in the House of Representatives, were now facing a future as a perpetual minority in the Senate and Electoral College against an increasingly powerful North.

Slavery

A strong correlation was shown between the degree of support for secession and the number of plantations in the region; states of the deep South which had the greatest concentration of plantations were the first to secede. The upper South slave states of Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Tennessee had fewer plantations and rejected secession until the Fort Sumter crisis forced them to choose sides. Border states had fewer plantations still and never seceded. The percentage of Southern whites living in families that owned slaves was 36.7 percent in the lower South, 25.3 percent in the upper South and 15.9 percent in the border states that fought mostly for the Union. Ninety-five percent of blacks lived in the South, comprising one third of the population there as opposed to one percent of the population of the North. Consequently, fears of eventual emancipation were much greater in the South than in the North.

Abraham Lincoln 16th President of the United States (1861–1865)The Supreme Court decision of 1857 in Dred Scott v. Sandford added to the controversy. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney's decision said that slaves were "so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect", and that slavery could spread into the territories. Lincoln warned that "the next Dred Scott decision" could threaten northern states with slavery.

Northern politician Abraham Lincoln said, "this question of Slavery was more important than any other; indeed, so much more important has it become that no other national question can even get a hearing just at present." The slavery issue was related to sectional competition for control of the territories, and the Southern demand for a slave code for the territories was the issue used by Southern politicians to split the Democratic Party in two, which all but guaranteed the election of Lincoln and secession. When secession was an issue, South Carolina planter and state Senator John Townsend said that "our enemies are about to take possession of the Government, that they intend to rule us according to the caprices of their fanatical theories, and according to the declared purposes of abolishing slavery." Similar opinions were expressed throughout the South in editorials, political speeches and declarations of reasons for secession. Even though Lincoln had no plans to outlaw slavery where it existed, Southerners throughout the South expressed fears for the future of slavery.

Southern concerns included not only economic loss but also fears of racial equality. The Texas Declaration of Causes for Secession said that the non-slave-holding states were "proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color", and that the African race "were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race". Alabama secessionist E. S. Dargan said that emancipation would make Southerners feel "demoralized and degraded".

Beginning in the 1830s, the U.S. Postmaster General refused to allow mail which carried abolition pamphlets to the South. Northern teachers suspected of any tinge of abolitionism were expelled from the South, and abolitionist literature was banned. Southerners rejected the denials of Republicans that they were abolitionists. John Brown's raid on the federal Harpers Ferry Armory greatly increased Southern fears of slave insurrections. The North felt threatened as well, for as Eric Foner concludes, "Northerners came to view slavery as the very antithesis of the good society, as well as a threat to their own fundamental values and interests".

Secession begins

Secession of South Carolina
Monument in honor of the Grand Army of the Republic, organized after the war.South Carolina adopted the "Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union" on December 24, 1860. It argued for states' rights for slave owners in the South, but contained a complaint about states' rights in the North in the form of opposition to the Fugitive Slave Act, claiming that Northern states were not fulfilling their federal obligations under the Constitution. At issue were:

The refusal of Northern states to enforce the fugitive slave code, violating Southern personal property rights;
Agitation against slavery, which "denied the rights of property".
Assisting "thousands of slaves to leave their homes" through the Underground Railroad.

The election of Lincoln "because he has declared that 'Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,' and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction". "...elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens". Most Northerners opposed the Dred Scott decision, although only a few New England states allowed blacks an equal right to vote.

Secession winter

Before Lincoln took office, seven states had declared their secession from the Union. They established a Southern government, the Confederate States of America on February 9, 1861. They took control of federal forts and other properties within their boundaries with little resistance from outgoing President James Buchanan, whose term ended on March 4, 1861. Buchanan asserted, "The South has no right to secede, but I have no power to prevent them." One quarter of the U.S. Army—the entire garrison in Texas—was surrendered to state forces by its commanding general, David E. Twiggs, who then joined the Confederacy.

As Southerners resigned their seats in the Senate and the House, secession later enabled Republicans to pass bills for projects that had been blocked by Southern Senators before the war, including the Morrill Tariff, land grant colleges (the Morill Act), a Homestead Act, a trans-continental railroad (the Pacific Railway Acts), the National Banking Act and the authorization of United States Notes by the Legal Tender Act of 1862. The Revenue Act of 1861 introduced the income tax to help finance the war.

Status of the states, 1861.
States that seceded before April 15, 1861
States that seceded after April 15, 1861
Union states that permitted slavery
Union states that banned slavery

Territories

The Confederacy

Seven Deep South cotton states seceded by February 1861, starting with South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. These seven states formed the Confederate States of America (February 4, 1861), with Jefferson Davis as president, and a governmental structure closely modeled on the U.S. Constitution. Within two months of the first shots at Fort Sumter, four more slave states seceded and joined the Confederacy: Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee. The northwestern portion of Virginia subsequently seceded from Virginia, joining the Union as the new state of West Virginia on June 20, 1863.

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