|What Caused the Civil War?|
The American Civil War was fought between two dozen Northern states and the eleven Southern states that seceded from the Union in 1861. Before the war was over there were almost a million casualties (3% of the population), and approximately 561,000 deaths. More American lives were lost than in any other conflict in U. S. history. |
The Union states included: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin.
Colorado, Dakota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Washington also fought on the Union side as territories as they were not yet states.
South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas seceded shortly after the election of Abraham Lincoln.
The Southern states, where slavery and cotton plantation agriculture were common, formed the Confederate States of America in 1861, with Jefferson Davis as President, and a constitution modeled after that of the North.
The Confederates attacked Fort Sumter in 1861 and President Lincoln called for troops to reclaim U. S. territory, resulting in the secession of four more states, including Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee.
The northwestern counties of Virginia re-entered the Union in 1863 as West Virginia. Four more slave states including: Maryland, Delaware, Missouri, and Kentucky did not secede, and became known as the Border States.
Both Missouri and Kentucky remained in the Union, but factions within each state organized desired secession.
The Civil War began when the South opened fire on Fort Sumter in South Carolina on April 12, 1861. The first shot of the war was fired by Private Edmund Ruffin. Although the bombardment lasted more than 39 hours, there were no deaths on either side.
At the beginning of the conflict, Northern soldiers were only signed up for ninety days, which was the length of time they thought it would take to force the Southern forces to surrender. They were in for a big surprise when the Confederacy put up a fight. It is estimated that almost 11,000 military incidents took place ranging from major battles to minor skirmishes.
Many of the early battles of the war were won by the South and Lincoln was forced to replace his commanding officers several times. The commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, General Robert E. Lee, waged a fierce battle and even invaded Northern territory, getting as far north as Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in July of 1863, where he was forced to retreat. After that loss, the Confederate forces suffered many more defeats at the hands of the Union.
General Ulysses S. Grant was made commander of all Union forces in 1864 and decided to wage a total war against the Confederates, destroying some areas completely. He surrounded General Lee's troops at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865, and they were forced to surrender. However, news was slow to travel and the last Southern troops did not surrender until November, 1865.
During the war, U.S. forces were commonly referred to as "the Union,", "Federals", "the North," or "Yankees," while the Confederates were usually called "the Confederacy," "the South," or "Rebels." Soldiers who fought for the Union were referred to as "Billy Yanks;" those who fought for the Confederacy were called "Johnny Rebs."
After the war, the country went through a period of Reconstruction where the Confederate states were slowly reintegrated into the Union. The period is marred by corruption and a lack of rights which lasted until 1878.
Questions remain today as to the legality of Lincoln's actions. Did the Southern states have the right to secede? The Constitution does not state the Union is permanent and in fact many states ratified it only under the condition that they could secede at any time.
It should be noted that no Confederate leader was ever brought to trial fro treason, because that would have caused a verdict to be rendered on the constitutionality of secession.
Another important question to consider is: If the South had succeeded, could the two nations have existed separately? Possibly not, as the South controlled the crops and the North controlled the industry. It took both halves of the country to make it a great and powerful nation.