The American Civil War (April 12, 1861 – May 9, 1865, was fought between the federal union (“the Union” or “the North”) and southern states that voted to secede and form the Confederate States of America (“the Confederacy” or “the South”).
Economic, cultural and political interests as well as slavery, especially its expansion into newly acquired lands after the Mexican-American War had caused friction between Northern and Southern states for several years.
On the eve of the Civil War in 1860, four million of the 32 million Americans (nearly 13%) were black slaves living mostly in the South.
On the evening of October 16, 1859, preceding the American Civil War, abolitionist leader, John Brown (May 9, 1800 – December 2, 1859), led a failed uprising against slavery at Harpers Ferry in what is today, West Virginia.
Brown was captured and convicted of treason by the state of Virginia, and hanged.
The uprising fuelled Southern fears of slave rebellions and increased the tension between Northern and Southern states.
Secession began after Abraham Lincoln (Honest Abe and the Great Emancipator – February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) became the 16th President of the United States) on November 6th, 1860 because his political platform was based on:
*His refusal to accept Southern secession from the Union
Abraham Lincoln was born into poverty near Hodgenville, Kentucky and was raised on the frontier around Indiana.
He was self-educated and became a lawyer, Whig Party leader, Illinois state legislator, U.S. Congressman and leader of the new Republican Party in 1854.
He became President of the United States in 1860 which caused eleven southern states to leave the Union out of the 34 U.S. states in February 1861 to form the Confederacy.
South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union on December 20th, 1860, followed by Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia (the western part of Virginia remained loyal to the Union and began the process of separation), Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina.
Jefferson Davis graduated from West Point Military Academy in 1828 and became a Southern plantation owner, Democratic politician and hero of the Mexican War.
He represented Mississippi in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate and served as U.S. secretary of war between 1853-57.
Davis became the first and only president of the Confederate States of America (1861-65) but were never recognized as a sovereign nation.
He was captured by Union soldiers near Irwinville, Georgia on May 10, 1865, imprisoned at Fort Monroe, Virginia and released in May 1867.
He died in New Orleans, Louisiana on December 6, 1889.
Key Border States
Key border states that did not leave the Union were Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri and West Virginia (separated from Virginia during the war).
These border states were vital for success because they:
*Had significant mineral resources
*Were major areas producing both livestock and grain
*Contained transportation and communication lines
The war caused divided loyalties in the border states and were scenes of brutal guerrilla warfare, where neighbor fought against neighbor.
Volunteer and conscription armies were raised and fighting began in April 1861 at the Battle of Fort Sumter in South Carolina which resulted in a Confederate victory.
The American Civil War featured over 10,500 major and minor military engagements between 1861 to 1865.
The Civil War Sites Advisory Commission recognized 384 conflicts as “principal battles” that were fought in three theaters.
These 384 “principal battles” occurred in 26 U.S. states with Virginia (123), Tennessee (38), Missouri (29), and Georgia (28).
Significant battles during the Civil War were the First Battle of Bull Run, the Battle of Shiloh, the Battle of Antietam, the Battle of Gettysburg, and the Vicksburg Campaign.
The First Battle of Bull Run (also known as the Battle of Manassas) was a major land battle of the American Civil War that was fought in earnest on July 21, 1861 where Union and Confederate armies clashed near Manassas Junction, Virginia.
The Battle of Gettysburg, fought near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in 1863 was the largest battle of the Civil War and was won by the Union put an end to Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s bold plan to invade the North.
General Robert E. Lee
General Robert E. Lee is hailed as one of the Civil War’s greatest generals.
He graduated from West Point Military Academy and was renowned for his moral strength and whose military tactics were studied and used during World War II.
He commanded the Army of Northern Virginia and ultimately, commanded all the Confederate armies.
As commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, he fought many battles against armies that were much larger and managed to win many of them.
He scored huge victories up until Gettysburg in 1863, while fighting against bigger and better supplied troops.
After his death in 1870, Lee became a cultural icon of the Southern states.
Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson (January 21, 1824 – May 10, 1863) served as a Confederate general (1861-1863) under Robert E. Lee during the American Civil War.
He is one of the best-known Confederate commanders who played a major role in nearly all military engagements in the Eastern Theater of the war until his death.
After the attack on Fort Sumter (12 to 13 April 1861) he quickly moved his three divisions to reinforce General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in defense of Richmond and commanded a brigade at the Battle of Bull Run in July, 1861 at Manassas.
Barnard Elliott Bee Jr, a career Army officer and a Confederate States Army general, compared him to a “stone wall”, hence his enduring nickname.
Jackson lost an arm and died after he was accidentally shot by Confederate troops at the Battle of Chancellorsville and died on the 10th of May, 1863.
Quantrill’s Raiders, led by William Quantrill, was a prominent Confederate guerrilla leader during the Civil War who sided with the Confederacy.
His pro-Confederate guerrillas (also known as “bushwhackers”) attacked Unionists along the Missouri-Kansas border and participated at the Battles of Wilson’s Creek and Lexington, Missouri.
Quantrill’s most famous attack was a raid on the Union town of Lawrence, Kansas, in August 1863, where the raiders pillaged and burned buildings, looted the banks and stores and killed over 150 people, all of them men and boys.
Quantrill’s Raiders included the two Missouri brothers, Frank and his brother, Jesse James.
After serving in the Confederate guerrilla forces during the Civil War they drifted into a life of crime robbing banks, trains, stagecoaches, stores and individuals that typified the era of the 19th-century Wild West.
An interesting fact about Jesse Jame was that at eighteen years of age he was one of the best Pony Express riders who covered his round trip of 120 miles in just twelve hours, including all stops.
General Ulysses S. Grant
General Ulysses S. Grant (born Hiram Ulysses Grant April 27, 1822 – July 23, 1885) was an American military commander and politician who served as the 18th president of the United States from 1869 to 1877.
Raised in Ohio, Grant graduated from West Point in 1843 and served with distinction in the Mexican-American War.
As Commanding General he became an American hero when he led the Union Armies to victory over the Confederacy in the American Civil War in 1865.
Grant was unanimously nominated by the Republican Party and was elected the 18th President of the United States (1869-1877).
William Tecumseh Sherman
William Tecumseh Sherman (February 8, 1820 – February 14, 1891) was a Union general during the Civil War and played a crucial role in the victory over the Confederate States.
His father gave him his unusual middle name of the Shawnee chief Tecumseh who led a large confederacy of Ohio Indian tribes that fought with the British during the War of 1812 against the United States.
Sherman was a brilliant military strategist but, was criticized for his harsh, scorched earth policies that he used against the Confederate States.
Clarissa Harlowe Barton (December 25, 1821 – April 12, 1912) was a nurse who founded the American Red Cross.
She is recognized for her humanitarian and civil rights advocacy at a time before women had the right to vote.
As a nurse during the Civil War, she was in charge of helping the wounded from the Union Army and to scout for missing soldiers which earned her the nickname, “The Angel on the Battlefield”.
Along with several other women, they personally provided clothing, food, and supplies for the sick and wounded soldiers and distributed medical supplies.
She offered emotional support by keeping their spirits high through reading books to them and writing letters to their families.
Clara Barton died from pneumonia on the morning of April 12, 1912, at the age of ninety and was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1973.
President Abraham Lincoln delivered one of the most famous speeches ever given in United States history at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery on November 19, 1863.
He makes a memorial out of the battle ground and heroes of the fallen soldiers.
Part of his speech invoked the principles of human equality contained in the Declaration of Independence stating: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
He noted the sacrifices of the Civil War with the desire for “a new birth of freedom,” and preservation of the Union created in 1776 with its ideal of self-government.
“We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that nation might live.”
George Armstrong Custer
George Armstrong Custer (December 5, 1839 – June 25, 1876) was a Union cavalry commander in the American Civil War and the American Indian Wars over control of the Great Plains.
In June 1863, Custer was promoted to the rank of brigadier general at the age of twenty-three, and he cemented his reputation as the “Boy General.”
He fought at the Battle of Gettysburg (1 July 1863 – 3 July 1863) where he commanded the Michigan Cavalry Brigade.
In 1864 he served in the Overland Campaign and in Philip Sheridan’s army in the Shenandoah Valley and was present at Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox.
Custer’s Last Stand
Custer’s Last Stand at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, near southern Montana’s Little Bighorn River on June 25, 1876 marked the most decisive Native American victory and the worst U.S. Army defeat in the long Plains Indian War.
End of the Civil War
The American Civil War ended on April 9, 1865 when General Robert E. Lee surrendered his Confederate troops to the Union’s Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia.
The number of deaths from the Civil War was around 750,000.
Abraham Lincoln succeeded in preserving the Union and brought about the emancipation of the slaves.
Assassination of President Lincoln
On the evening of April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth (May 10, 1838 – April 26, 1865), a stage actor and Confederate sympathizer, became the first person to assassinate an American president.
He was a member of the prominent 19th-century Booth theatrical family from Maryland.
Booth was a supporter of slavery and believed that Lincoln was determined to destroy his beloved South.
He shot Abraham Lincoln in the head as he watched the play, Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.
Lincoln died the following day at 7:22 am in the Petersen House opposite the theater.
Twelve days after the assassination Union soldiers tracked Booth down to a farm in Nortern Virginia and killed him.