I. Introduction

The American polite War, the bloodiest in the nation’s history, resulted in roughly 750,000 deaths.1 The war touched the life of virtually every American as military mobilization got to levels never ever seen prior to or since. Most northern soldiers went to war to preserve the Union, but the war eventually transformed right into a struggle to eradicate slavery. African Americans, both enslaved and free, pressed the issue of emancipation and nurtured this transformation. Simultaneously, ladies thrust themselves into an essential wartime functions while navigating a world without many men of armed forces age. The Civil war was a specifying event in the history of the United says 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 election was chaotic. In April, the autonomous Party convened in Charleston, south Carolina, the bastion of secessionist thought in the South. The goal to be to nominate a candidate for the party ticket, but the party was deeply divided. North Democrats pulled for Senator Stephen Douglas, a champion of well-known sovereignty, while southern Democrats were intent on endorsing who other than Douglas. The parties leaders’ refuse to include a pro-slavery platform brought about southern delegates walking the end of the convention, staying clear of Douglas from gaining the two-thirds majority required because that a nomination. The Democrats ended up through two presidential candidates. A succeeding convention in Baltimore nominated Douglas, while southerners nominated the present vice president, john C. Breckinridge of Kentucky, as their presidential candidate. The nation’s earliest party had separation over distinctions in plan toward slavery.2

Initially, the Republicans were hardly unified around a single candidate themselves. Several leading Republican men vied for your party’s nomination. A consensus emerged at the may 1860 convention the the party’s nominee would require to bring all the free states—for only in that instance could a Republican nominee possibly win. New York Senator william Seward, a leading contender, was passed over. Seward’s pro-immigrant place posed a potential obstacle, an especially in Pennsylvania and new Jersey. Abraham Lincoln the Illinois, as a fairly unknown however likable politician, increased from a pool of potential candidates and also was selected by the delegates ~ above the 3rd ballot. The electoral landscape to be further facility through the development of a 4th candidate, Tennessee’s john Bell, heading the constitutional Union Party. The constitution Unionists, composed of previous Whigs that teamed up v some southerly Democrats, made it your mission to stop the specter that secession when doing small else to deal with the concerns tearing the country apart.

Abraham Lincoln’s nomination showed a great windfall for the Republican Party. Lincoln carried all totally free states with the exemption of new Jersey (which he break-up with Douglas). Of the voting electorate, 81.2 percent come out to vote—at that allude the highest ever for a presidential election. Lincoln received less than 40 percent of the famous vote, yet with the field so split, that percentage yielded 180 electoral votes. Lincoln to be trailed through Breckinridge through his 72 electoral votes, transporting eleven of the fifteen servant states; Bell came in third with 39 electoral votes; and Douglas came in last, only able come garner 12 electoral votes regardless of carrying practically 30 percent the the renowned vote. Due to the fact that the Republican platform prohibited the growth of enslavement in future western states, all future Confederate states, v the exception of Virginia, exclude, Lincoln’s surname from their ballots.3


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

The choice of Lincoln and also the regarded threat to the institution of slavery proved too much for the deep southern states. South Carolina acted practically immediately, calling a convention to explain secession. ~ above December 20, 1860, the south Carolina convention poll unanimously 169–0 to dissolve their union v the unified States.4 The various other states throughout the Deep South conveniently followed suit. Mississippi adopted their very own resolution on January 9, 1861, Florida complied with on January 10, Alabama ~ above January 11, Georgia top top January 19, Louisiana on January 26, and also Texas ~ above February 1. Texas to be the only state to placed the problem up because that a renowned vote, however secession was widely well-known throughout the South.

Confederates quickly melted their American identity and adopted a brand-new Confederate nationalism. Confederate nationalism was based upon several ideals, foremost amongst these being slavery. Together Confederate vice chairman Alexander Stephens stated, the Confederacy’s “foundations are laid, that cornerstone rests, top top the great truth the the black is not equal come the white man; that slavery . . . Is his natural and normal condition.”5 The choice of Lincoln in 1860 demonstrated that the south was politics overwhelmed. Slavery was omnipresent in the prewar South, and it served as the most usual frame of recommendation for unequal power. Come a southerly man, there was no fate much more terrifying than the believed of being decreased to the level of a slave. Religion an in similar way shaped Confederate nationalism, together southerners thought that the Confederacy was fulfilling god’s will. The Confederacy even veered indigenous the American constitution by explicitly invoking Christianity in their establishing document. Yet in every case, all rationale because that secession could be thoroughly tied come slavery. “Our place is thoroughly determined with the college of slavery—the biggest material attention of the world,” proclaimed the Mississippi statement of secession.6 for this reason for the initial seven Confederate claims (and the 4 that would subsequently join), slavery’s existence was the important core the the fledging Confederacy.


The emblems that nationalism top top this currency reveal much around the belief underpinning the Confederacy: George Washington standing stately in a roman toga indicates the belief in the South’s honorable and aristocratic past; man C. Calhoun’s portrait emphasizes the Confederate argument of the prestige of states’ rights; and, most importantly, the image of afri Americans working in fields demonstrates slavery’s position as foundational come the Confederacy. A five and also one hundred dollar Confederate states of America interest-bearing banknote, c. 1861 and also 1862. Wikimedia.

Not every southerners participated in Confederate nationalism. Unionist southerners, most usual in the upcountry where enslavement was weakest, kept their loyalty to the Union. These southerners joined the Union army, that is, the military of the United claims of America, and worked to defeat the Confederacy.7 black southerners, most of whom were enslaved, overwhelmingly supported the Union, frequently running away from plantations and also forcing the Union army to reckon through slavery.8

President James Buchanan would certainly not directly resolve the issue of secession prior to his term’s end in at an early stage March. Any effort to shot to settle the issue thus fell upon Congress, especially a Committee the Thirteen including prominent males such as Stephen Douglas, wilhelm Seward, Robert Toombs, and John Crittenden. In what became known together “Crittenden’s Compromise,” councilor Crittenden proposed a series of constitution amendments the guaranteed slavery in southerly states and also territories, refuse the federal federal government interstate slave trade regulation power, and also offered come compensate enslavers whose enslaved people had escaped. The Committee of Thirteen ultimately voted down the measure, and also it likewise failed in the complete Senate vote (25–23). Reconciliation showed up impossible.9

The seven seceding says met in Montgomery, Alabama on February 4 to organize a new nation. The delegates selected Jefferson Davis of Mississippi together president and established a funding in Montgomery, Alabama (it would move to Richmond in May). Whether various other states that the Upper south would join the Confederacy continued to be uncertain. Through the at an early stage spring that 1861, phibìc Carolina and Tennessee had actually not held secession conventions, while voter in Virginia, Missouri, and also Arkansas at first voted under secession. Regardless of this temporary boost to the Union, it became abundantly clear that these acts of commitment in the Upper south were highly conditional and also relied ~ above a clear absence of intervention on the part of the commonwealth government. This to be the precarious political case facing Abraham Lincoln adhering to 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 invade southern states, he would use pressure to maintain possession of federal residential property within seceded states. Attention conveniently shifted to the federal installation of ft Sumter in Charleston, southern Carolina. The ft was in need of supplies, and also Lincoln intended to resupply it. Southern Carolina dubbed 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 top top the fort. Anderson surrendered on April 13 and the Union troops evacuated. In solution to the attack, chairman Abraham Lincoln called for seventy-five thousand volunteers to serve 3 months to suppress the rebellion. The American polite War had actually begun.


Sent to climate Secretary of battle Simon Cameron top top April 13, 1861, this telegraph announced the after “thirty hours of defending ft Sumter, significant Robert Anderson had welcomed the evacuation offered by Confederate general Beauregard. The Union had surrendered ft Sumter, and the civil War had officially begun. “Telegram from Maj. Robert Anderson come 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 attack on fort Sumter and subsequent contact for troops provoked several Upper South claims to join the Confederacy. In total, eleven says renounced their allegiance come the joined States. The new Confederate country was predicated on the school of slavery and also the promo of any and all interests that reinforced the objective. Some southerners couched their defense of enslavement as a conservation of states’ rights. However in stimulate to protect slavery, the Confederate structure left even less power to the claims than the U.S. Constitution, one irony not lost on many.

Shortly after ~ Lincoln’s contact for troops, the Union adopted General-in-Chief Winfield Scott’s Anaconda arrangement to suppress the rebellion. This strategy intended come strangle the Confederacy by cut off accessibility to seaside ports and inland waterways via a naval blockade. Floor troops would go into the interior. Like an anaconda snake, castle planned come surround and squeeze the Confederacy.


Winfield Scott’s Anaconda setup meant to slowly squeeze the southern dry that its resources, prevent all seaside ports and also inland rivers to avoid the importation of goods or the violin 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. Gone into according to Act of congress in the year 1861, 1861. Library that Congress.

The border states of Delaware, Maryland, Missouri, and Kentucky preserved geographic, social, political, and also economic relations to both the North and also the South. All four were immediately an important to the outcome of the conflict. Abraham Lincoln famously quipped, “I think to shed Kentucky is practically the same regarding lose the entirety game.”11 Lincoln and his military advisors realized the the ns of the border states could mean a far-reaching decrease in Union resources and threaten the capital in Washington. Consequently, Lincoln hope to foster loyalty amongst their citizens, therefore Union forces can minimize their occupation. In spite of terrible guerrilla war in Missouri and also Kentucky, the 4 border states remained loyal to the Union throughout the war.

Foreign countries, mostly in Europe, also watched the unfolding war through deep interest. The unified States represented the greatest instance of autonomous thought at the time, and individuals native as far afield together Britain, France, Spain, Russia, and also beyond carefully followed events across the Atlantic Ocean. If the democratic experiment within the United claims failed, countless democratic activists in Europe wonder what hope could exist for such experiments elsewhere. Whereas those v close ties come the cotton sector watched with other concerns. War expected the possibility of disrupting the noodle supply, and also disruption could have catastrophic effects in commercial and financial markets abroad.

While Lincoln, his cabinet, and also the war Department devised methods to defeat the rebel insurrection, black color Americans easily forced the concern of enslavement as a primary concern in the debate. As early on as 1861, black color Americans implored the Lincoln management to serve in the army and navy.12 Lincoln initially waged a conservative, limited 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 serve alongside black color men. However, military commanders might not disregard the growing populations of formerly enslaved civilization who escaped to flexibility behind Union military lines. These former enslaved human being took a proactive stance at an early stage in the war and forced the federal federal government to act. As the number of refugees ballooned, Lincoln and Congress discovered it more tough to stop the issue.13

In may 1861, general Benjamin F. Butler reviewed his superiors’ heads and also began accepting freedom-seeking escapees who pertained to Fort Monroe in Virginia. In stimulate to protect against answering even if it is these civilization were free, servant reasoned referred to as them “contraband of war,” and also he had as lot a best to grab them as he did come seize foe horses or cannons.14 later that summer congress affirmed Butler’s policy in the an initial Confiscation Act. The action left “contrabands,” together these runaways were called, in a state of limbo. When an enslaved human being escaped come Union lines, she enslaver’s claim was nullified. She to be not, however, a totally free citizen that the unified States. Runaways resided in “contraband camps,” where disease and malnutrition to be rampant. Women and also men were compelled to perform the drudge work-related of war: raising fortifications, cooking meals, and also laying rail tracks. Still, life together a contraband offered a potential route to freedom, and thousands the enslaved civilization seized the opportunity.


Enslaved afri Americans that took liberty into their very own hands and also ran come Union present congregated in what were dubbed contraband camps, which existed alongside Union military camps. As is evident in the drawing, these were crude, disorganized, and dirty places. But they to be still centers of liberty for those fleeing slavery. Contraband camp, Richmond, Va, 1865. The Camp that the Contrabands ~ above the banks of the Mississippi, ft Pickering, Memphis, Tenn, 1862. Courtesy American Antiquarian Society.

Fugitives do a dilemma for the Union military. Soldiers to be forbidden come interfere with enslavement or assist runaways, yet many soldiers found such a policy unchristian. Even those indifferent to enslavement were reluctant to turn away potential labor or assist the adversary by returning his property. Also, enslaved human being could carry out useful information on the local terrain and the movements of Confederate troops. Union officers became particularly reluctant to revolve away freedom-seeking people when Confederate commanders began forcing enslaved laborers to work on fortifications. Every enslaved person who escaped come Union lines to be a loss to the Confederate war effort.

Any really hopes for a quick conflict to be eradicated once Union and Confederate forces met at the battle of Bull Run, near Manassas, Virginia. If not an especially deadly, the Confederate victory proved that the Civil battle would it is in long and costly. Furthermore, in response to the embarrassing Union rout, Lincoln gotten rid of Brigadier general Irvin McDowell and also promoted significant General George B. McClellan to commander of the newly formed military of the Potomac. For nearly a year after ~ the an initial Battle that Bull Run, the eastern Theater remained fairly silent. Smaller sized engagements only brought about a bloody stalemate.

Photography captured the horrors of battle as never before. Some Civil war photographers arranged the gibbs in your frames to record the ideal picture, even repositioning body of dead soldiers because that battlefield photos. Alexander Gardner, , September 1862. Library that Congress.

But while the military remained quiet, the same can not be said of republicans in Washington. The absence of fractious, stalling southerners in Congress permitted Republicans to finally pass the Whig financial package, including the homestead Act, the Land-Grant university Act (aka the morl reel Act), and also the Pacific railroad Act.15 The commonwealth government additionally began moving toward a an ext nationally controlled currency system (the greenback) and also the development of financial institutions with national characteristics. Such acts proved important in the development of the commonwealth government and also industry.

New and an ext destructive warfare an innovation emerged throughout this time that made use of discoveries and also innovations in other areas of life, favor transportation. This picture shows Robert E. Lee’s railroad gun and crew provided in the key eastern theatre of war at the siege of Petersburg, June 1864-April 1865. “Petersburg, Va. Railroad gun and crew,” in between 1864 and 1865. Library of Congress.

The democratic Party, lacking its southern leaders, separated into 2 camps. War Democrats mainly stood behind chairman Lincoln. Tranquility Democrats—also known as Copperheads—clashed commonly with both war Democrats and Republicans. Copperheads to be sympathetic to the Confederacy; castle exploited publicly antiwar emotion (often the an outcome of a lost fight or mounting casualties) and also tried to push President Lincoln to negotiate an immediate peace, regardless of politics leverage or bargaining power. Had the Copperheads succeeded in bringing around immediate peace, the Union would have been required to recognize the Confederacy together a separate and legitimate government and also the college of slavery would have remained intact.

While Washington buzzed through political activity, military life included relative monotony punctuated by brief periods of horror. Daily life because that a Civil battle soldier was among routine. A common day began roughly six in the morning and involved drill, marching, having lunch break, and more drilling followed by policing the camp. Weapon inspection and cleaning followed, possibly one last drill, dinner, and also taps approximately nine or ripe thirty in the evening. Soldiers in both armies grew weary of the routine. Picketing or foraging afforded welcome distractions come the monotony.

Soldiers devised clever means of managing the boredom of camp life. The most common was writing. This were highly literate armies; nine out of every ten Federals and also eight out of every ten Confederates might read and also write.16 Letters home served together a tether linking soldiers to their loved ones. Soldiers also read; newspapers were in high demand. News the battles, occasions in Europe, national politics in Washington and Richmond, and also local comes to were voraciously sought and traded.

While there to be nurses, camp followers, and also some women who disguised themselves as men, camp life was overwhelmingly male. Soldiers drank liquor, exhilaration tobacco, gambled, and swore. Society commentators feared that as soon as these males returned home, through their hard-drinking and irreligious ways, all decency, faith, and also temperance would certainly depart. Yet not all methods of distraction were detrimental. Soldiers also organized debate societies, created music, sang songs, wrestled, raced horses, boxed, and also played sports.

Neither side can consistently carry out supplies for their soldiers, so that was no uncommon, despite officially forbidden, for usual soldiers come trade with the enemy. Confederate soldiers prized northern newspapers and coffee. Northerners were glad come exchange this for southern tobacco. Supply shortages and 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 among the soldiers the both armies, creating a diversion from the boredom and also horror that the war. As a result, soldiers often sang on fatigue duty and also while in camp. Favorite songs often reminded the soldiers the home, consisting of “Lorena,” “Home, Sweet Home,” and also “Just before the Battle, Mother.” Dances hosted in camp readily available another method to reap music. Since there to be often couple of women nearby, soldiers would dance with one another.

When the polite War broke out, among the most popular songs among soldiers and also civilians was “John Brown’s Body,” which started “John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave.” started as a Union anthem praising man Brown’s actions at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, then used by Confederates come vilify Brown, both sides’ version of the tune stressed that they to be on the appropriate side. Eventually the words come Julia Ward Howe’s poem “The battle Hymn the the Republic” were collection to the melody, additional implying Union success. The themes of famous songs changed over the course of the war, together feelings of unpreventable success alternated through feelings the terror and despair.17

After one extensive delay on the part of Union command George McClellan, his 120,000-man military of the Potomac relocated via ship to the peninsula between the York and also James Rivers in Virginia. Rather than crossing overland via the former battlefield at Manassas Junction, McClellan attempted to swing around the rebel forces and also enter the capital of Richmond prior to they knew what hit them. McClellan, however, was an overly cautious man who consistently overestimated his adversaries’ numbers. This cautious technique played right into the Confederates’ favor on the outskirts of Richmond. Confederate general Robert E. Lee, freshly appointed commander of the military of north Virginia, required McClellan come retreat from Richmond, and his Peninsular Campaign came to be a significant failure.18

Union pressures met with tiny success in the East, however the western Theater provided hope because that the unified States. In February 1862, men under Union basic Ulysses S. Grant recorded Forts Henry and Donelson along the Tennessee River. Fighting in the West greatly differed from the in the East. In ~ the very first Battle the Bull Run, for example, two huge armies combated for control of the nations’ capitals, when in the West, Union and also Confederate pressures fought for control of the rivers, due to the fact that the Mississippi River and its tributaries were crucial components of the Union’s Anaconda Plan. One of the most dangerous of this clashes developed along the Tennessee river at the fight of Shiloh on April 6–7, 1862. This battle, lasting only two days, was the costliest solitary battle in American background up to the time. The Union success shocked both the Union and also the Confederacy with approximately twenty-three thousand casualties, a number that surpassed casualties from all of the united States’ previous wars combined.19 The subsequent capture of new Orleans by Union pressures proved a heavy blow to 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 military movements around the countless marine environments of the southern United States. Each marine employed the latest an innovation to outmatch the other. The Confederate navy, led through Stephen Russell Mallory, had the unenviable task of creating a fleet indigenous scratch and trying to fend off a vastly better equipped Union navy. Led by Gideon welles of Connecticut, the Union navy effectively implemented General-in-Chief Winfield Scott’s Anaconda Plan. The future of marine warfare additionally emerged in the spring of 1862 as two “ironclad” warships fought a duel at Hampton Roads, Virginia. The age of the wooden sail to be gone and also naval war would be fundamentally altered. While developments in naval technology ruled the seas, afri Americans on the ground were complicating Union war aims to an even greater degree.