American Civil War
The American Civil War (1861–1865) was a civil war in the United States of America. It is sometimes called "The War Between the States." The war was fought because eleven Southern states wanted to leave the United States of America. They formed the Confederate States of America, also called "the Confederacy." The U.S. government and the states that remained loyal to it were called "the Union."
The main cause of the war was slavery. Slavery was common in the Southern states, including all 11 that joined the Confederate states. It was illegal in most of the Northern states. The Confederate states tried to leave the Union after Abraham Lincoln, who disliked slavery, was elected President of the United States. The Union believed that it was illegal for the states to break away. Five states where slavery was legal stayed in the Union. These were called the "border states." At first, the Union did not plan to end slavery if it won. This changed in 1862.
The war began on April 12, 1861 when Confederate forces attacked Fort Sumter, a fort in South Carolina held by Union soldiers. It lasted four years and caused much damage in the South. Most battles were in northern states until 1862 and in southern states after 1862. After four years of fighting, the Union won the war. After the Union won, slavery was made illegal everywhere in the United States.
Background[change | change source]
When the United States of America was founded in 1776, most states allowed slavery. It is mentioned in the United States Constitution. But over the next 84 years, the Northern states decided that slavery was a bad thing and ended it. The Southern states kept slavery legal. Slaves from Africa grew tobacco, cotton and other cash crops in those states, which made a lot of money for businesses in the north and south.
The United States became divided into slave and free states. By 1860, those groups were angry at each other, but almost no one was talking about ending slavery in the south. They argued about whether slavery should be allowed to spread to the territories and new states in the west. In the late 1850s, there was fighting in Kansas between people who wanted Kansas to allow slavery and those who did not.
Abraham Lincoln from the Republican Party won the 1860 United States presidential election. At that time, Lincoln did not want to ban slavery. He thought that banning it would damage the South. Instead, Lincoln and the Republican Party thought it would be enough to not let slavery start in the west. They thought slavery would die out on its own if no one let it spread to new places.
Lincoln became president on March 4, 1861. After the election, seven Southern states declared their independence from the Union. The outgoing U.S. president, James Buchanan, said this was against the law, but he did nothing to stop them. Lincoln and his Republican party treated this secession as a rebellion. No country ever recognized the Confederacy as its own, separate nation. This was because of diplomacy on the part of the Union, anti-slavery feelings in Europe and the northern blockade of southern ports.
The first seven states to join the Confederacy were South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas. Four others joined after fighting began: Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina. The Confederacy claimed Kentucky and Missouri belonged to them, but these states never joined the Confederacy. Kentucky, Missouri and Maryland were slave states that tried to avoid taking sides. Delaware supported the Union despite being a slave state. Also, the western counties of Virginia chose to remain in the Union, creating a new state called West Virginia.
Fighting begins[change | change source]
The Confederate States said all forts and other federal buildings in the South belonged to them. Fort Sumter was in South Carolina, one of the Confederate States. However, the fort was controlled by the Union. On April 12, 1861, Confederate forces attacked the fort. They forced the Union soldiers inside the fort to surrender. After this, President Lincoln asked every Union state for volunteers to join the Union Army. Four more southern slave states joined the Confederates instead of supplying forces to fight against them.
The United States Navy stopped other ships from going in or out of southern ports. This stopped the Confederacy from selling its cotton and other goods. It also made it harder for them to buy weapons and military supplies.
The war[change | change source]
The American Civil War was fought in three important land areas, or "theaters." The Eastern theater was all land east of the Appalachian Mountains. The Western theater included everything between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River and along the river. The Trans-Mississippi theater included territory west of the Mississippi River.
Both the United States and the Confederacy had their capital cities in the Eastern theater. Washington D.C. had been the capital of the U.S. since 1800. When the South seceded, its first capital was Montgomery, Alabama but they changed it to Richmond, Virginia. Richmond and Washington are only about 90 miles (145 km) apart. One of the first battles of the war was fought in Virginia. This First Battle of Bull Run happened on July 21, 1861. The Confederates won the battle. The Union Army of the Potomac then tried to capture Richmond in the Peninsula Campaign during the spring of 1862. At this time, Robert E. Lee became leader of the Army of Northern Virginia and defeated the Union army. He then won the Second Battle of Bull Run in August 1862. Lee tried to win the war by invading Maryland. When he lost the Battle of Antietam, he retreated back to Virginia.
There was much fighting between ships in the American Civil War but the Union had a stronger and bigger navy. Lincoln put the Confederates under a blockade, which meant the Union navy would not let any ships into or out of southern ports. The Confederates used ships called blockade runners to bring things from Europe. The things the Confederates brought included weapons. The navies of each side also fought on the rivers. The ships included ironclads, which were protected by iron on their sides, and cottonclads, which used cotton along their sides. During the Battle of Hampton Roads, the Confederate ironclad Virginia fought against the Union ironclad Monitor. This was the first time in world history that two ironclads fought each other.
In the Western theater, much of the fighting happened along the Mississippi River. Ulysses S. Grant was an important Union general in the west. The Confederates tried to send their soldiers into the state of Kentucky during the summer of 1861. During the early months of 1862, the Union army made the Confederates retreat from Kentucky and from western Tennessee. The Confederates tried to recapture western Tennessee by attacking Grant's army at the Battle of Shiloh. Grant won the battle. The Confederates then tried to send their soldiers into eastern Kentucky during the fall of 1862. They left Kentucky after losing the Battle of Perryville.
The North won control of almost all of the Mississippi River by capturing the cities along the river. This happened during the fall of 1862 and spring of 1863. However, the Confederacy still held Vicksburg, an important city and fort. If they held the city, the Confederates could move soldiers and supplies from one side of the river to the other. Grant started the Siege of Vicksburg during the month of May 1863. The siege continued for a long time. On July 4, 1863, the Confederates in Vicksburg surrendered to Grant. This was one of the turning points in the war, because it divided the Confederacy into two parts.
There were also battles west of the Mississippi river valley, in the Trans-Mississippi theater. For example, two important battles were the Battle of Wilson's Creek and the Battle of Pea Ridge. The Confederates tried to invade New Mexico during February and March 1862 but they were defeated at the Battle of Glorieta Pass. After the Union captured Vicksburg, this area became separated from the rest of the Confederate states. Other battles happened in this area after the capture of Vicksburg.
During the siege of Vicksburg in the west, another turning point came in the east. After winning some battles, Lee decided to invade the North again. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia went into Pennsylvania. The Confederate Army met the Union Army near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The two armies fought the Battle of Gettysburg. This battle lasted for three days: July 1 to 3, 1863. More soldiers died at Gettysburg than in any other Civil War battle. The Union won the battle. This meant the Confederate Army's had to stop invading the North. Lee and his troops were pushed back into the South.
After this, President Lincoln decided that Grant was his best general. He put Grant in control of all the Union armies. Lincoln also made William T. Sherman the general in charge of the Union troops in Georgia. Grant led many attacks on Lee's army. These battles were made up the Overland Campaign.
Meanwhile, Sherman burned Atlanta and Savannah. He did this to try to make the South weaker and to make it harder for Southern people to supply the Confederate Army with food and other necessities. Sherman then marched north through South Carolina and North Carolina. Confederate general Joseph E. Johnston attacked Sherman at the Battle of Bentonville. Sherman won the battle. Even in the 20th century, southerners remember Sherman's march as destroying many homes, farms and railroads, but Sherman's soldiers are blamed for things that happened far away from where they were.
Eventually, Lee decided that he had too few soldiers to keep on fighting the Union, which had more soldiers and supplies. Lee surrendered to Grant on April 9, 1865, near Appomattox Court House. After Lee surrendered, many other Confederate armies surrendered also. The last Confederate general to surrender was Brigadier General Stand Watie. He surrendered on June 23, 1865, in Oklahoma.
After the war ended, President Lincoln pardoned all of the Confederate soldiers. This meant the Confederate soldiers would not be arrested or punished for fighting against the Union. The southern states would be allowed to rejoin the United States again, but not immediately. Some Confederates did not want to return to the United States. Some of these people moved to México or Brazil.
Inflation[change | change source]
During the war, inflation was a problem in the Union and a bigger problem in the Confederacy whose government paid for the war by printing a large amount of paper money. Prices went up and everything became more expensive. Many people could not afford the higher prices and went hungry because of this. This was one thing that helped lead to the Confederacy's surrender.
After the war[change | change source]
The period after the war, called Reconstruction, lasted from the end of the war until 1877. The Union Army stayed in some Southern states, making them occupied territory. Three important amendments were added on to the United States Constitution. The amendments were proposed (or suggested) by the U.S. government. Although not every American supported them, the amendments got enough support to pass:
- The 13th Amendment said that slavery is not allowed anywhere in the United States. This completed the work of the Emancipation Proclamation.
- The 14th Amendment made it clear that all people born in the United States were citizens with equal rights.
- The 15th Amendment said that people in the United States could not be kept from voting because of their race.
The southern states were allowed to ask to rejoin the union. Only after that could they send senators and representatives to the United States Congress again and make their own state laws. During Reconstruction, black Americans built schools and other social infrastructure. Some of these schools became the historically black colleges that are still in the United States today. After southern states rejoined the Union, most of them made laws that limited what black people could do.
References[change | change source]
- John W. Chambers, II, ed. in chief, The Oxford Companion to American Military History. Oxford University Press, 1999, ISBN 978-0-19-507198-6. P. 849.
- "Fort Sumter". Civil War Trust. Retrieved October 20, 2015.
- Roland, pp. 27–29.
- "Preventing Diplomatic Recognition of the Confederacy, 1861–1865". Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs, United States Department of State. Retrieved October 20, 2015.
- Gibboney, p. 21.
- Encyclopedia of United States National Security, ed. Richard J. Samuels (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2006), p. 227
- "Washington DC". History/A&E Television Networks. Retrieved October 20, 2015.
- "Amnesty Act of 1872". The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Retrieved August 26, 2016.
Other sources[change | change source]
- Gibboney, Douglas Lee. Tragic Glory: A Concise, Illustrated History of the Civil War. Fredericksburg, Virginia: Sergeant Kirkland's, 1997. ISBN 1-887901-17-5.
- Roland, Charles P. An American Iliad: The Story of the Civil War. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2002. ISBN 0-07-241815-X.
Other websites[change | change source]
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