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Share to Google class The Civil battle is the central event in America"s historical consciousness. If the revolution of 1776-1783 created the unified States, the Civil war of 1861-1865 established what kind of nation it would certainly be. The war solved two fundamental questions left unresolved by the revolution: whether the United says was to be a dissolvable confederation of sovereign states or an indivisible nation with a sovereign nationwide government; and also whether this nation, born of a declaration the all guys were created with an equal right to liberty, would proceed to exist as the largest slaveholding nation in the world.

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Northern win in the war maintained the United states as one country and ended the institution of enslavement that had split the country from that beginning. Yet these achievements came in ~ the price of 625,000 lives--nearly as numerous American soldiers as died in every the various other wars in which this country has dealt with combined. The American Civil battle was the largest and also most destructive problem in the western world between the finish of the Napoleonic wars in 1815 and also the beginning of people War i in 1914.

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national Archives

The Civil battle started due to the fact that of uncompromising differences in between the free and slave states over the power of the national government to prohibit slavery in the regions that had not yet end up being states. Once Abraham Lincoln won election in 1860 as the an initial Republican president on a platform pledging come keep enslavement out that the territories, seven slave says in the deep southern seceded and also formed a new nation, the Confederate says of America. The incoming Lincoln administration and many of the Northern civilization refused to acknowledge the legitimacy the secession. Castle feared the it would discredit democracy and also create a fatal criterion that would eventually fragment the no-longer joined States right into several small, squabbling countries.

The occasion that motivated war come at fort Sumter in Charleston just on April 12, 1861. Claiming this unified States ft as your own, the Confederate military on that day opened up fire ~ above the federal garrison and also forced the to reduced the American flag in surrender. Lincoln referred to as out the militia come suppress this "insurrection." Four an ext slave claims seceded and joined the Confederacy. Through the end of 1861 practically a million equipped men challenged each various other along a line extending 1200 miles from Virginia come Missouri. Several battles had already taken place--near Manassas Junction in Virginia, in the hills of western Virginia whereby Union victories led the way for development of the brand-new state of West Virginia, at Wilson"s Creek in Missouri, in ~ Cape Hatteras in north Carolina, and at Port imperial in southern Carolina whereby the Union navy established a base because that a blockade come shut turn off the Confederacy"s access to the outside world.

But the real fighting began in 1862. Substantial battles like Shiloh in Tennessee, Gaines" Mill, 2nd Manassas, and Fredericksburg in Virginia, and Antietam in Maryland foreshadowed also bigger campaigns and battles in succeeding years, native Gettysburg in Pennsylvania to Vicksburg top top the Mississippi to Chickamauga and also Atlanta in Georgia. By 1864 the original north goal the a minimal war to reclaim the Union had given means to a new strategy that "total war" to destroy the Old South and its basic institution of slavery and also to provide the revitalized Union a "new bear of freedom," as President Lincoln placed it in his deal with at Gettysburg come dedicate a cemetery because that Union soldiers eliminated in the battle there.

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Alexander Gardner"s renowned photo that Confederate dead prior to the Dunker Church on the Antietam Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Md., 1862. Library of congress

For three long years, indigenous 1862 come 1865, Robert E. Lee"s army of north Virginia staved off invasions and also attacks by the Union army of the grape max commanded by a series of ineffective generals till Ulysses S. Grant concerned Virginia native the Western theatre to end up being general in cook of all Union armies in 1864. After bloody war at locations with names like The Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg, give finally lugged Lee to bay at Appomattox in April 1865. In the while Union armies and also river fleets in the theater of war making up the slave says west of the Appalachian mountain chain won a long collection of victories end Confederate armies commanded by hapless or ominous Confederate generals. In 1864-1865 general William Tecumseh Sherman led his army deep into the Confederate heartland of Georgia and also South Carolina, destroying their financial infrastructure while basic George cutting board virtually ruined the Confederacy"s army of Tennessee in ~ the fight of Nashville.By the feather of 1865 all the major Confederate armies surrendered, and also when Union cavalry caught the fleeing Confederate chairman Jefferson Davis in Georgia on might 10, 1865, resistance collapsed and also the battle ended. The long, painful procedure of rebuilding a unified nation totally free of enslavement began.