American Civil War

You rush into battle with a boost of adrenaline, your heart pounding. On the opposing side, you notice a soldier struggling to get a bullet into his gun. Slowly, you aim at him. Closing your eyes, you press the trigger. When you open your eyes, the battle has moved on without you. People are still shooting at each other. The person you shot is on the ground now, dead from the bullet buried in his throat.

This situation occurred everywhere along the battle lines during the American Civil War, both a horror and a tragedy magnified by the power of mass production of weapons, allowing nations to field large armies quickly.
The Confederate government's flag.
Confederacy Government Flag 

Just four score and several years ago, our founding fathers had written slavery off as a dying institution, a decay that had only been reversed by the invention of the cotton gin. Who could have known that slavery would be the reason for this great divide and big war?

Causes of the Civil War:

Almost every student in America should know what happened. The big issue was slavery, of course. 

Cotton plantations owned a small percentage a slaves before the invention of the cotton gin because it was difficult to remove the seeds from cotton. Meanwhile, tobacco cultivation was becoming less profitable over time because of global competition and tightening markets. With slavery becoming less profitable, it had been dying a slow death. With the sudden viability of cotton, however, due to the cotton gin, slavery became wildly profitable. Cotton and tobacco take up a lot of nutrients from the soil, however, and it was necessary for slavery to expand further west, which it eventually did.

Slavery was not the official reason for the civil war, but it was the cause of the civil war in more than just one way. There are two big ways that slavery caused the outbreak of war. Of course, there were other ways, but these two problems were magnified by events leading up to the Civil War.
  1. Slavery caused many differences between the north and the south. While both groups had a few relatively rich people and lots of poorer people, the group up north had a few rich people specifically because their lands were not suitable for slavery. They could not get rich off the backs of  agricultural slaves, and instead turned to factories. Meanwhile, in the south, slavocrats found no reason to turn to factories, steadfastly remaining an agricultural region. This led to the rise of regionalism because each region had different interests.
  2. The series of compromises for slavery highlighted the problem. Eventually, slavocrats began to take the position that each state should decide whether slavery should be allowed in its boundaries, considering that they dominated southern legislatures. The abolitionists turned to the federal government as a way to abolish slavery in the south.
  • Another problem caused by the question of slavery was the question of free trade. Northern states typically had higher wages than those of Europe, so they had high costing machinery. They required tariffs to increase the prices of the competition so that their products were cheaper. On the other hand, the South typically bought cheap European manufactured goods, and the prices would sharply rise if tariffs were introduced. For this reason, the South opposed tariffs and supported free trade, while the North supported tariffs and protectionism.
  •  The Missouri Compromise in 1819 dictated that Maine and Missouri were allowed to form states. Slavery was then excluded north of the parallel 36°30′ north lines of latitude, except in Missouri.
  •  The Compromise of 1850 consisted of four parts that satisfied nobody, as well as the Fugitive Slave Act that forced northerners to return slaves that fled from the South.
- Texas lost its parts of New Mexico and everything north of the Missouri Compromise Line, and the federal government took over the state's public debt.
- California was admitted as a free state.
- The Utah and New Mexico Territories underwent popular sovereignty, though the lands were unsuited for plantation agriculture. The Wilmot Proviso, which attempted to ban slavery in all former Mexican territories, was not successful.
- Trading slaves was banned in Washington D.C.
  • In the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, Kansas and Nebraska were to follow popular sovereignty in deciding between slavery or abolition, something that re-opened the question of slavery, repealing the Missouri Compromise that had kept the peace for a long time. This led to Bleeding Kansas, a period where Jayhawkers (abolitionist settlers) and Border Ruffians (Pro-slavery settlers) fought each other in Kansas. Free-Staters set up their own (unofficial) legislature at Topkea, damaging trust in President Pierce.
  • In the supreme court case Dred Scott v. Sandford, the Supreme Court argued that any African American was not an American citizen and could not sue in federal court. Furthermore, the federal government had no power to regulate slavery in territories, opening all the territories up to slavery. This angered the northern abolitionists.
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin's popularity in the North as well as John Brown's attempted slave revolt in Harper's Ferry, Virginia were both perceived as insults in the South, further convincing them that the North was devoted to the destruction of slavery.

It begins! The fight for the Union:

The Republican Party was the descendant of the Free Soil Party that had not gained an electoral votes in the election of 1852. However, in the next Presidential election in 1856, the Republican candidate of John C. Fremont was only 35 electoral votes away from a victory. Many southern slavocrats began pledging that if a Republican was elected, they would make their state secede.

Seceding StatesIn the next election, the Presidential election of 1860, Abraham Lincoln won with a large plurality. Before he was inaugurated, though, seven Southern states declared their secession. South Carolina led the charge, quickly followed by Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana. Texas then followed, while the other six states formed the Confederacy. Texas joined the Confederacy. The U.S. President James Buchanan declared these secession illegal but did nothing to stop it. Meanwhile, Jefferson Davis became the first (and only) Confederate President.

The Battle of Fort Sumter from April 12 to 14 of 1861 marked the beginning of the American Civil War when Brigadier General Beauregard aimed guns at Fort Sumter. Starting on April 12, the Confederates bombarded the fort, and the fort surrendered on April 14. Abraham Lincoln called for 75,000 men from each state, forcing border states to choose a side. Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and finally North Carolina joined the Confederates.

Union Major General Irvin McDowell marched his troops in July, 1861 south before they were stopped by Beauregard and Johnston at the First Battle of Bull Run. Major General George McClellan then took command of the Union Army of the Potomac and attacked Virgina through a peninsula between the York and James River, southeast of Richmand, reaching the gates of Richmond before being stopped by Johnston at the Battle of Seven Pines. Robert E. Lee, James Longstreet, and Stonewall Jackson then defeated McClellan in the Seven Days Battle. The Second Battle of Bull Run was another victory for the south.

Meanwhile, in the west, Union forces had pushed the Confederacy out of Missouri in the Battle of Pea Ridge in March of 1862. The Confederate Leonidas Polk invaded Colombus, Kentucky to attempt to control Kentucky, but he only managed to make Kentucky pro-Union. Early in 1862, Nashville and central Tennessee were taken back by the Union. In April 1862, the Union captured New Orleans, with only Vicksburg, Mississippi stopping the whole river from being entirely Union controlled.

It's the Beginning...of the end:

After the Second Bull Run, the Confederates began their invasion of the north. Lee and forty five thousand soldiers from the Army of Northern Virginia crossed the Potomac into Maryland. McClellan forced Lee back at the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single day in American military history. Lincoln then announced his Emancipation Proclamation. The ever-cautious McClellan did not pursue Lee's forces, and he was replaced by Burnside.

Burnside lost at the Battle of Fredericksburg and was replaced by Hooker. Even though he had more than twice the number of Confederates under his command, he managed to lose the Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863, while Stonewall Jackson was accidentally killed by his own soldiers. After Hooker came George Meade, who got a victory against Lee at Gettysburg, a battle that lasted from July 1 to July 3 of 1863, the bloodiest battle in the war. However, Meade did not intercept Lee's retreat, and Lincoln replaced him with Ulysses S. Grant.

Union forces pushed the Confederacy out of Missouri in the Battle of Pea Ridge. The Confederate Leonidas Polk invaded Colombus, Kentucky to attempt to control Kentucky, but he only managed to make Kentucky pro-Union. Early in 1862, Nashville and central Tennessee were taken back by the Union. In April 1862, the Union captured New Orleans, with only Vicksburg, Mississippi stopping the whole river from being entirely Union controlled.

Confederate Braxton Bragg invaded Kentucky and won a victory in the Battle of Perryville, but since barely anyone supported the Confederates in Kentucky, he retreated before being defeated at the Battle of Stones River. However, at the Battle of Chickamauga, Bragg defeated an Union army, which retreated to Chattanooga. Ulysses Grant achieved success at Fort Henry and Fort Donelson, controlling the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers. He won the Battle of Shiloh and Vicksburg, allowing the Union control of the Mississippi and splitting the Confederates in half before defeating Bragg at the Third Battle of Chattanooga.

Grant became commander of all Union armies soon after 1864 started, believing in the idea of total war - something achieved by utter defeat of southern forces and their economy. Meade and Benjamin Butler would attempt to pin down and destroy the southern army. Franz Sigel and Philip Sheridan would attack the Shenandoah Valley. Sherman march to the sea after the capture of Atlanta, Georgia (which he did, in the process devastating much of the Georgia). Nathaniel Banks would capture Mobile, Alabama.

The Siege of Petersburg was filled with trench warfare and lasted for more than nine months. Meanwhile, Sheridan had originally been stopped at the Battle of New Market, but he then won a series of victories, continuing on to destroy the agricultural base of the Shenandoah Valley. Sherman went from Chattanooga to Atlanta, defeating Johnston and John Bell Hood on his journey. Atlanta fell on September 2, 1864. Union armies defeated Hood at the Battle of Franklin and at the Battle of Nashville. Meanwhile, Sherman marched to Savannah, Georgia in his 'March to the Sea', destroying 20% of Georgia's farms in the process. He turned north and put more pressure on Lee, who was forced to flee west.

Lee planned to regroup at Appomattox Court House, where supplies had been waiting. Grant, who was chasing Lee, managed to edge in front of him and had already gotten to Appomattox. When Lee reached the court house, he was surrounded, and after a small battle, he realized it was hopeless and surrounded the Army of Northern Virginia. Other confederate forces began surrendering when they heard of Lee's surrender.

Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865, though, and died the next morning. On May 9, Andrew Johnson, the new president, officially stated that the 'insurrection was over'. Jefferson David was taken the next day. The war was finally over.

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