I. Introduction

The American polite War, the bloodiest in the country history, result in about 750,000 deaths.1 The war touched the life of almost every American as armed forces mobilization got to levels never ever seen before or since. Most northern soldiers went to war to preserve the Union, but the war ultimately transformed into a struggle to eradicate slavery. Afri Americans, both enslaved and also free, pressed the concern of emancipation and nurtured this transformation. Simultaneously, ladies thrust us into an essential wartime roles while navigating a human being without plenty of men of military age. The Civil war was a specifying event in the background of the United states and, because that the americans thrust right into it, a wrenching one.

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II. The election of 1860 and Secession

The 1860 presidential choice was chaotic. In April, the autonomous Party convened in Charleston, south Carolina, the bastion the secessionist assumed in the South. The goal was to nominate a candidate because that the party ticket, yet the party to be deeply divided. North Democrats pulled because that Senator Stephen Douglas, a champion of famous sovereignty, while southerly Democrats were intent on endorsing who other than Douglas. The next leaders’ refuse to include a pro-slavery platform led to southern delegates walking the end of the convention, avoiding Douglas from acquiring the two-thirds majority required for a nomination. The Democrats ended up v two presidential candidates. A subsequent convention in Baltimore nominated Douglas, if southerners nominated the existing vice president, john C. Breckinridge of Kentucky, together their presidential candidate. The nation’s oldest party had split over differences in plan toward slavery.2

Initially, the Republicans to be hardly unified about a single candidate themselves. Numerous leading Republican males vied for their party’s nomination. A agreement emerged in ~ the may 1860 convention that the party’s nominee would require to bring all the complimentary states—for just in that case could a Republican nominee possibly win. New York Senator william Seward, a top contender, was passed over. Seward’s pro-immigrant place posed a potential obstacle, specifically in Pennsylvania and brand-new Jersey. Abraham Lincoln of Illinois, as a fairly unknown yet likable politician, rose from a pool of potential candidates and was selected through the delegates top top the 3rd ballot. The electoral landscape to be further complex through the appearance of a 4th candidate, Tennessee’s man Bell, heading the constitution Union Party. The constitutional Unionists, composed of previous Whigs that teamed up v some southerly Democrats, make it their mission to protect against the specter the secession when doing small else to address the problems tearing the nation apart.

Abraham Lincoln’s nomination showed a great windfall because that the Republican Party. Lincoln carried all cost-free states v the exception of new Jersey (which he break-up with Douglas). The the poll electorate, 81.2 percent came out to vote—at that allude the highest ever before for a presidential election. Lincoln received much less than 40 percent of the renowned vote, but with the field so split, that percentage yielded 180 electoral votes. Lincoln was trailed through Breckinridge through his 72 electoral votes, transporting eleven of the fifteen slave states; Bell come in 3rd with 39 electoral votes; and also Douglas come in last, only able come garner 12 electoral votes in spite of carrying nearly 30 percent the the renowned vote. Due to the fact that the Republican communication prohibited the development of slavery in future western states, all future Confederate states, through the exemption of Virginia, to exclude, Lincoln’s name from your ballots.3


Abraham Lincoln, august 13, 1860. Library that Congress.

The choice of Lincoln and the perceived threat come the college of slavery showed too much for the deep southern states. South Carolina acted nearly immediately, call a convention to explain secession. ~ above December 20, 1860, the southern Carolina convention vote unanimously 169–0 to dissolve their union v the joined States.4 The various other states throughout the Deep South easily followed suit. Mississippi embraced their very own resolution ~ above January 9, 1861, Florida adhered to on January 10, Alabama top top January 11, Georgia ~ above January 19, Louisiana ~ above January 26, and Texas top top February 1. Texas was the just state to put the problem up for a renowned vote, however secession was widely well-known throughout the South.

Confederates quickly burned their American identity and embraced a brand-new Confederate nationalism. Confederate nationalism was based on several ideals, foremost among these being slavery. Together Confederate vice chairman Alexander Stephens stated, the Confederacy’s “foundations are laid, the cornerstone rests, top top the good truth the the black is not equal to the white man; that slavery . . . Is his natural and also normal condition.”5 The election of Lincoln in 1860 demonstrated that the south was politics overwhelmed. Slavery was omnipresent in the prewar South, and also it served as the most usual frame of reference for uneven power. Come a southerly man, there was no fate an ext terrifying 보다 the believed of being lessened to the level that a slave. Religion similarly shaped Confederate nationalism, as southerners believed that the Confederacy to be fulfilling oh my gosh will. The Confederacy also veered native the American constitution by explicitly invoking Christianity in their founding document. Yet in every case, all rationale because that secession can be extensively tied to slavery. “Our position is thoroughly figured out with the college of slavery—the biggest material interest of the world,” proclaimed the Mississippi explain of secession.6 hence for the initial seven Confederate states (and the 4 that would consequently join), slavery’s existence was the necessary core that the fledging Confederacy.


The emblems that nationalism on this currency reveal much about the ideology underpinning the Confederacy: George Washington standing stately in a roman inn toga indicates the id in the South’s honorable and aristocratic past; john C. Calhoun’s portrait emphasizes the Confederate argument of the importance of states’ rights; and, many importantly, the image of african Americans functioning in fields demonstrates slavery’s place as foundational come the Confederacy. A five and one hundreds dollar Confederate says of America interest-bearing banknote, c. 1861 and 1862. Wikimedia.

Not all southerners participated in Confederate nationalism. Unionist southerners, most common in the upcountry where slavery was weakest, preserved their commitment to the Union. These southerners joined the Union army, the is, the military of the United says of America, and also worked to defeat the Confederacy.7 black color southerners, many of whom were enslaved, overwhelmingly supported the Union, frequently running far from plantations and forcing the Union army to reckon v slavery.8

President James Buchanan would not directly deal with the concern of secession before his term’s finish in beforehand March. Any type of effort to shot to deal with the issue thus fell top top Congress, particularly a Committee of Thirteen consisting of prominent men such as Stephen Douglas, william Seward, Robert Toombs, and John Crittenden. In what ended up being known as “Crittenden’s Compromise,” councilor Crittenden proposed a collection of constitutional amendments the guaranteed enslavement in southern states and also territories, denied the federal federal government interstate slave trade regulation power, and offered come compensate enslavers whose enslaved civilization had escaped. The Committee the Thirteen at some point voted down the measure, and also it likewise failed in the full Senate vote (25–23). Reconciliation showed up impossible.9

The 7 seceding says met in Montgomery, Alabama ~ above February 4 come organize a brand-new nation. The delegates selected Jefferson Davis the Mississippi together president and established a capital in Montgomery, Alabama (it would move to Richmond in May). Whether other states of the Upper southern would sign up with the Confederacy continued to be uncertain. By the early spring that 1861, phibìc Carolina and also Tennessee had not held secession conventions, while voters in Virginia, Missouri, and also Arkansas initially voted down secession. Despite this temporary boost to the Union, it became abundantly clear the these acts of commitment in the Upper southern were very conditional and relied ~ above a clear absence of treatment on the part of the commonwealth government. This was the precarious political situation facing Abraham Lincoln complying with his inauguration on march 4, 1861.

III. A battle for Union 1861-1863

In his inaugural address, Lincoln declared secession “legally void.”10 While that did no intend to attack southern states, he would use pressure to keep possession the federal home within seceded states. Attention conveniently shifted come the federal installation of ft Sumter in Charleston, south Carolina. The ft was in require of supplies, and Lincoln intended come resupply it. Southern Carolina called for U.S. Soldiers come evacuate the fort. Commanding officer significant Robert Anderson refused. Top top April 12, 1861, Confederate Brigadier basic P. G. T. Beauregard fired on the fort. Anderson surrendered top top April 13 and also the Union troops evacuated. In an answer to the attack, chairman Abraham Lincoln dubbed for seventy-five thousand volunteer to serve 3 months to suppress the rebellion. The American polite War had begun.


Sent to climate Secretary of battle Simon Cameron ~ above April 13, 1861, this telegraph announced the after “thirty hrs of defending ft Sumter, major Robert Anderson had accepted the evacuation offered by Confederate general Beauregard. The Union had actually surrendered ft Sumter, and also the polite War had actually officially begun. “Telegram native Maj. Robert Anderson to Hon. Simon Cameron, Secretary, announcing his tap the money from fort Sumter,” April 18, 1861; records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780’s-1917; Record group 94. National Archives

The assault on fort Sumter and subsequent contact for troops provoked several Upper South states to sign up with the Confederacy. In total, eleven says renounced your allegiance to the unified States. The brand-new Confederate country was predicated ~ above the college of slavery and also the promotion of any and all interests the reinforced the objective. Part southerners couched your defense of slavery as a conservation of states’ rights. However in bespeak to defend slavery, the Confederate constitution left also less strength to the claims than the U.S. Constitution, one irony not shed on many.

Shortly after ~ Lincoln’s contact for troops, the Union embraced General-in-Chief Winfield Scott’s Anaconda plan to suppress the rebellion. This strategy intended to strangle the Confederacy by cutting off access to coastal ports and inland waterways via a navy blockade. Soil troops would go into the interior. Choose an anaconda snake, lock planned come surround and squeeze the Confederacy.


Winfield Scott’s Anaconda arrangement meant to gradually squeeze the south dry that its resources, prevent all seaside ports and also inland waterways to protect against the income of products or the export of cotton. This print, while poorly drawn, does a great job of making clean the Union’s plan. J.B. Elliott, Scott’s an excellent snake. Gotten in according come Act of conference in the year 1861, 1861. Library of Congress.

The border states of Delaware, Maryland, Missouri, and also Kentucky kept geographic, social, political, and economic relations to both the North and the South. All four were immediately critical to the result of the conflict. Abraham Lincoln famously quipped, “I think to shed Kentucky is practically the same regarding lose the whole game.”11 Lincoln and his army advisors realized the the loss of the border states could mean a significant decrease in Union resources and threaten the capital in Washington. Consequently, Lincoln hoped to foster loyalty among their citizens, so Union forces could minimize their occupation. In spite of terrible guerrilla warfare in Missouri and Kentucky, the 4 border states continued to be loyal to the Union transparent the war.

Foreign countries, mostly in Europe, likewise watched the unfolding war through deep interest. The united States represented the greatest example of democratic thought in ~ the time, and individuals indigenous as far afield as Britain, France, Spain, Russia, and also beyond carefully followed events throughout the Atlantic Ocean. If the democratic experiment in ~ the United says failed, numerous democratic activists in Europe wondered what hope could exist for such experiments elsewhere. Vice versa, those through close ties come the cotton market watched with various other concerns. War intended the possibility of disrupting the noodle supply, and disruption could have catastrophic ramifications in commercial and financial markets abroad.

While Lincoln, his cabinet, and the battle Department devised methods to loss the rebel insurrection, black color Americans quickly forced the problem of slavery as a primary problem in the debate. As early on as 1861, black color Americans implored the Lincoln administration to serve in the army and also navy.12 Lincoln initially waged a conservative, restricted war. He believed that the visibility of afri American troops would threaten the loyalty of slaveholding border states, and also white volunteers can refuse to offer alongside black color men. However, army commanders could not disregard the farming populations of formerly enslaved people who escaped to freedom behind Union army lines. These previous enslaved civilization took a proactive stance early in the war and forced the federal government to act. Together the variety of refugees ballooned, Lincoln and also Congress found it more difficult to prevent the issue.13

In may 1861, basic Benjamin F. Butler talked about his superiors’ heads and also began agree freedom-seeking escapees who came to Fort Monroe in Virginia. In stimulate to protect against answering whether these human being were free, servant reasoned referred to as them “contraband the war,” and also he had as lot a best to grab them together he did come seize adversary horses or cannons.14 later that summer congress affirmed Butler’s plan in the first Confiscation Act. The plot left “contrabands,” together these runaways were called, in a state of limbo. Once an enslaved human escaped come Union lines, her enslaver’s case was nullified. She was not, however, a cost-free citizen that the unified States. Runaways lived in “contraband camps,” where an illness and malnutrition were rampant. Women and men were compelled to carry out the drudge work-related of war: raising fortifications, cooking meals, and also laying rail tracks. Still, life together a contraband available a potential path to freedom, and thousands that enslaved people seized the opportunity.


Enslaved afri Americans who took flexibility into their very own hands and ran come Union currently congregated in what were referred to as contraband camps, which exist alongside Union military camps. As is obvious in the drawing, these were crude, disorganized, and dirty places. However they were still centers of freedom for those fleeing slavery. Contraband camp, Richmond, Va, 1865. The Camp the the Contrabands on the banks of the Mississippi, fort Pickering, Memphis, Tenn, 1862. Courtesy American Antiquarian Society.

Fugitives make a dilemma for the Union military. Soldiers were forbidden come interfere with slavery or aid runaways, but many soldiers uncovered such a policy unchristian. Also those indifferent to slavery were wake up to rotate away potential job or assist the adversary by return his property. Also, enslaved human being could administer useful details on the neighborhood terrain and also the motions of Confederate troops. Union policemans became specifically reluctant to rotate away freedom-seeking people when Confederate commanders started forcing enslaved labor to occupational on fortifications. Every enslaved human who escaped come Union lines was a loss to the Confederate war effort.

Any really hopes for a brief conflict were eradicated as soon as Union and also Confederate pressures met at the battle of Bull Run, close to Manassas, Virginia. When not particularly deadly, the Confederate victory confirmed that the Civil battle would be long and costly. Furthermore, in an answer to the awkward Union rout, Lincoln removed Brigadier basic Irvin McDowell and also promoted significant General George B. McClellan to command of the freshly formed army of the Potomac. For almost a year after ~ the very first Battle of Bull Run, the east Theater remained reasonably silent. Smaller engagements only caused a bloody stalemate.

Photography captured the horrors of battle as never ever before. Some Civil war photographers i ordered it the gibbs in their frames to capture the best picture, also repositioning body of dead soldiers for battlefield photos. Alexander Gardner, , September 1862. Library the Congress.

But while the armed forces remained quiet, the same might not be said of republicans in Washington. The lack of fractious, stalling southerners in Congress allowed Republicans to finally pass the Whig economic package, including the house Act, the Land-Grant college Act (aka the morl reel Act), and also the Pacific rail Act.15 The federal government also began relocating toward a much more nationally controlled currency system (the greenback) and also the creation of banks with nationwide characteristics. Such acts proved important in the development of the commonwealth government and also industry.

New and an ext destructive warfare modern technology emerged throughout this time that made use of discoveries and also innovations in other areas of life, favor transportation. This photo shows Robert E. Lee’s rail gun and also crew offered in the main eastern theater of war at the siege that Petersburg, June 1864-April 1865. “Petersburg, Va. Rail gun and crew,” between 1864 and 1865. Library the Congress.

The democratic Party, lacking its southerly leaders, separated into 2 camps. Battle Democrats greatly stood behind chairman Lincoln. Peace Democrats—also well-known as Copperheads—clashed typically with both war Democrats and Republicans. Copperheads were sympathetic come the Confederacy; lock exploited public antiwar emotion (often the result of a lost fight or mounting casualties) and tried to push President Lincoln to negotiate an immediate peace, regardless of political leverage or bargaining power. Had actually the Copperheads prospered in bringing around immediate peace, the Union would have been compelled to acknowledge the Confederacy together a separate and also legitimate government and also the school of slavery would have actually remained intact.

While Washington buzzed v political activity, armed forces life had relative monotony punctuated by brief periods that horror. Everyday life because that a Civil battle soldier was among routine. A usual day began about six in the morning and involved drill, marching, having lunch break, and more drilling adhered to by policing the camp. Weapon inspection and cleaning followed, perhaps one final drill, dinner, and taps around nine or nine thirty in the evening. Soldiers in both militaries grew weary that the routine. Picketing or foraging afforded welcome distractions to the monotony.

Soldiers devised clever methods of handling the boredom the camp life. The most usual was writing. This were extremely literate armies; nine out of every ten Federals and eight the end of every ten Confederates can read and also write.16 Letters residence served together a tether linking soldiers to your loved ones. Soldiers additionally read; papers were in high demand. News that battles, occasions in Europe, politics in Washington and Richmond, and also local concerns were voraciously sought and also traded.

While there were nurses, camp followers, and some women that disguised themselves together men, camp life was overwhelmingly male. Soldiers drank liquor, exhilaration tobacco, gambled, and also swore. Society commentators fear that when these men returned home, with their hard-drinking and irreligious ways, all decency, faith, and also temperance would certainly depart. Yet not all approaches of distraction were detrimental. Soldiers likewise organized dispute societies, created music, sang songs, wrestled, raced horses, boxed, and also played sports.

Neither side could consistently provide supplies for your soldiers, so it was not uncommon, though officially forbidden, for typical soldiers come trade with the enemy. Confederate soldiers prized north newspapers and coffee. Northerners to be glad to exchange this for southerly tobacco. Supply shortages and also poor sanitation were identified with Civil battle armies. The nearby proximity of thousands of guys bred disease. Lice were soldiers’ day-to-day companions.

Music was popular amongst the soldiers of both armies, developing a diversion from the boredom and horror the the war. Together a result, soldiers frequently sang on exhaustion duty and while in camp. Favorite songs regularly reminded the soldiers that home, consisting of “Lorena,” “Home, Sweet Home,” and “Just before the Battle, Mother.” Dances held in camp readily available another way to gain music. Because there were often couple of women nearby, soldiers would certainly dance through one another.

When the civil War damaged out, among the most popular songs amongst soldiers and civilians was “John Brown’s Body,” which started “John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave.” began as a Union anthem praising man Brown’s actions in ~ Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, then supplied by Confederates to vilify Brown, both sides’ variation of the track stressed the they to be on the right side. Ultimately the words come Julia Ward Howe’s city “The fight Hymn of the Republic” were set to the melody, additional implying Union success. The themes of renowned songs adjusted over the food of the war, as feelings of inescapable success alternated through feelings that terror and also despair.17

After an extensive hold-up on the part of Union commander George McClellan, his 120,000-man military of the Potomac relocated via ship to the peninsula in between the York and also James Rivers in Virginia. Rather than cross overland via the former battlefield at Manassas Junction, McClellan attempted come swing roughly the rebel forces and enter the funding of Richmond before they knew what hit them. McClellan, however, was an overly cautious man who repetitively overestimated his adversaries’ numbers. This cautious approach played right into the Confederates’ favor on the outskirts of Richmond. Confederate basic Robert E. Lee, recently appointed command of the military of northern Virginia, required McClellan come retreat native Richmond, and his Peninsular Campaign came to be a incredible failure.18

Union pressures met with tiny success in the East, but the west Theater noted hope because that the unified States. In February 1862, males under Union general Ulysses S. Grant caught Forts Henry and also Donelson along the Tennessee River. Fighting in the West greatly differed from the in the East. At the first Battle the Bull Run, for example, two large armies fought for manage of the nations’ capitals, if in the West, Union and also Confederate pressures fought for regulate of the rivers, since the Mississippi River and also its tributaries were vital components the the Union’s Anaconda Plan. One of the most dangerous of this clashes arisen along the Tennessee flow at the battle of Shiloh ~ above April 6–7, 1862. This battle, lasting just two days, to be the costliest solitary battle in American background up to that time. The Union win shocked both the Union and also the Confederacy with approximately twenty-three thousands casualties, a number that gone beyond casualties from all of the united States’ previous battles combined.19 The subsequent record of new Orleans through Union pressures proved a hefty blow come the Confederacy and also capped one 1862 feather of success in the west Theater.

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The Union and also Confederate navies aided or hindered army movements around the numerous marine environments of the southern United States. Each marine employed the latest an innovation to outmatch the other. The Confederate navy, led by Stephen Russell Mallory, had the unenviable job of constructing a fleet from scratch and trying to fend turn off a vastly better equipped Union navy. Led by Gideon welles of Connecticut, the Union navy efficiently implemented General-in-Chief Winfield Scott’s Anaconda Plan. The future of navy warfare additionally emerged in the spring of 1862 as two “ironclad” warships battled a duel at Hampton Roads, Virginia. The age of the wooden sail to be gone and also naval war would be basically altered. While developments in naval an innovation ruled the seas, african Americans on the ground were complicating Union war intends to an also greater degree.