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The year was 1860, tensions were high between the Northern and Southern states in America. Neither side could agree on major topics, specifically slavery, and the separation of powers. This sparked the deadliest war in American history. During these vital years, the Southern states began to secede from the Union, the Northern states fought to preserve the Union, this started arguably the most influential war in US history.
The first Southern state to secede from the Union was South Carolina, which began a chain reaction that ended in 11 states forming the Confederate States of America. The motives for this secession was due to the South favoring stronger state government rather than a stronger federal government. Another key motive was the south being pro slavery, while the north opposed it, along with other reasons. The Confederate Army attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina, the Union surrendered Fort Sumter granting the Confederation their first victory of the war. Both sides were fighting for different reasons, according to ushistory.org, “The South was fighting to maintain its way of life, whereas the North was fighting to maintain a union. Slavery did not become a moral cause of the Union effort until Lincoln announced the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.” The Confederates population was 5.5 million, with 3.5 million slaves, while the Union had 18.5 million. The Confederates were outnumbered 2 to 1. However, they still had many advantages. Most of the war was fought in the south’s territory, therefore they had better knowledge of the terrain. The south also had better military leaders and strategists, including Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Another advantage was the geography, the coastline was longer which took additional time to advance upon, giving the Southern states more time to strategize. A possible mental advantage could have been that the Confederates had a better reason to fight, they wanted to preserve their lifestyle and protect their families, also to keep their slaves which they believed was their right. The Confederates crucial disadvantages outweighed the advantages. The south had difficulty acquiring foreign aid due to Europe not recognizing them as a separate entity. As previously stated, the Confederates were greatly outnumbered. The Confederate ports were blocked by the Union Navy, preventing supplies from coming in and causing trading to slow greatly. Because of this, the Confederate economy was terrible. The Battle of Antietam was a huge turning point for the Union, this led to the Emancipation Proclamation which stated, “that all persons held as slaves are, and henceforward shall be free.” This only applied to the rebellious states (excluding the border states). This act influenced the slaves to rebel against their masters even more. The end was near for the confederacy, in the final days of the rebellion the Confederate Capital of Richmond was captured by the Union after being under siege for 9 months. The war finally came to an end on April 19th, 1865 when General Robert E. Lee surrendered his army to Ulysses S. Grant at the Appomattox Courthouse. Even though the war was over, the last battle occured at Palmita Ranch, Texas, on May 13, 1865.
Abraham Lincoln was elected President on November 6th 1860, his victory influenced the start of the rebellion due to his clashing views with the south. Lincoln claimed that the states secession was unconstitutional, those states disagreed. Lincoln appealed to the states rebelling by asking them to return in peace, they declined. Shortly after Lincolns election, the federal troops lost the battle of Fort Sumter to the Confederates, and then lost the next battle: the Battle of Bull Run. The Union was off to a bad start in the war. However, the Northern states had better advantages. For example, according to The National Park Service, “By 1860, 90 percent of the nation’s manufacturing output came from northern states. The North produced 17 times more cotton and woolen textiles than the South, 30 times more leather goods, 20 times more pig iron, and 32 times more firearms. The North produced 3,200 firearms to every 100 produced in the South.”The Union was in possession of an abundance of factories, effective railroads, and farmland. These were major assets in fighting the war. The Union also had disadvantages that would prove to be a major setback, dragging out the war which should have been an easy victory. These disadvantages include, a lack of motivation, aggressive leaders, and knowledge of the Confederate terrain. Despite these drawbacks, with the addition of their massive military power, the Union won the Battle of Shiloh, then Antietam, these victories directly influenced the announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation which would free all slaves in the rebelling states. The war was finally beginning to look good for the Union, their economy was prospering while the opponents was declining greatly. There was plenty of supplies and men on the Northern side while the Southern side had minimal. The Union had the upper hand and because of this their forces eventually captured the Confederate Capital on May 10th, 1965. The climax of the war was the Unions victory of the Battle of Appomattox Courthouse. Shortly after this victory, General Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia. This surrender was the beginning of the end of the Civil War.
The Civil War, also named the deadliest war in American history, and the first modern war, is arguably the most influential in US history. The casualties totaled approximately 620,000 Americans, this occurred in the span of about 4 years (April 12, 1861 – April 9, 1865). The effect of this deadly war was, according to National Archives, “The Civil War had a greater impact on American society and the polity than any other event in the country’s history. It was also the most traumatic experience endured by any generation of Americans.” This war influenced the mentality of Americans across the nation, leading to major changes in government and daily life. The war was a massive tragedy to the country. However, According to The National Park Service, one thing that came out of the war was, “the first stages of an industrial revolution which would result in the United States becoming one of the world’s leading industrial powers by 1900.” The beginning of the industrial revolution came about due to this war. This revolution propelled the US into the superpower that it is today. Before the Civil War, the United States was a plural noun, after the war the United States became a singular noun.
The Civil War was the first time in American history that the nation split into two sides that opposed each other and fought against one another. Major disagreements on both sides lit the flame that became the country’s biggest test to date. Many of the Southern states seceded and became the Confederate States of America, while the Northern states fought to preserve the Union and become united once again, this split lead to many battles with victories on both sides that has defined our Nation into what it is today.
- “Strengths and Weaknesses: North vs. South.” Ushistory.org, Independence Hall Association, 2018, http://www.ushistory.org/us/33b.asp.
- “Facts.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, https://www.nps.gov/civilwar/facts.htm.
- “Civil War Facts.” American Battlefield Trust, 23 Apr. 2018, https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/civil-war-facts.
- Arrington, Benjamin T. “Story (U.S. National Park Service).” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, https://www.nps.gov/resources/story.htm?id=251.
- Mcpherson, James M. “Out of War, a New Nation.” National Archives and Records Administration, National Archives and Records Administration, 2010, https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2010/spring/newnation.html.
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