The Civil War
|1861||January-February||Six more states secede from the Union|
|February||Seceding states form Confederacy and choose Jefferson Davis as President|
Fall of Fort Sumter, South Carolina
Four more states secede from Union; West Virginia secedes from Virginia
|July||First Battle of Bull Run, Virginia (Battle of Manassas)|
|1862||February||Fall of Forts Lee and Donaldson, Tennessee|
Battle of Shiloh, Tennessee
Fall of New Orleans and Memphis
Battle of Antietam, Maryland
Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation
|November||Burnside replaces McClellan as commander of U.S. Army|
|December||Battle of Fredericksburg, Maryland|
|1863||January 1||Emancipation Proclamation|
|May||Battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia|
|June||Siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi, begins|
Attack on Fort Wagner, South Carolina
Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Battle of Vicksburg
|1864||Battles of Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor|
|August||Siege of Richmond, Virginia, begins|
|September||Fall of Atlanta, Georgia|
|October||Union victories in Shenandoah Valley|
Burning of Atlanta
Battle of Petersburg, Virginia
Fall of Richmond
Confederates surrender at Appomattox, Virginia
Lincoln assassinated; Andrew Johnson becomes president
The Civil War
Few were surprised when the bitter sectional violence that had divided the nation escalated into an all-out war. The election of Republican Abraham Lincoln had convinced many in the South that they would never succeed in their ambition to spread slavery throughout the nation. A total of eleven states seceded from the Union, forming the Confederate States of America.
The southern motive for war was clear: the southerners were not willing to change their economic and social system, particularly when they felt that the changes were being forced on them by outsiders. Southerners were convinced that northerners had no right to interfere with a system in which they themselves did not participate. The Union motives for the war were more ambiguous. Lincoln’s primary goal was to restore the United States of America; he opposed slavery and intended to end it, but freeing the slaves was only a secondary motive for war.
When the fighting began, the Confederacy faced many disadvantages. It was much smaller than the Union and thus had a much smaller population of boys and young men who could serve in the military. The South had few factories, little heavy industry, and much less money than the North. On the other hand, it did have greatly superior generals. This fact alone made the Civil War last probably three years longer than it otherwise would have.
The war began with a string of important victories for the South. When Confederate troops failed to take Gettysburg, however, they lost all hope of winning the war. They would never again penetrate into the northern states. The Battle of Gettysburg was lost on the same day that Vicksburg fell. The war dragged on for another year and a half, but in April 1865, the Confederacy surrendered to the Union.
The cost to both sides was heavy. An entire generation died on the battlefield or from wounds, disease, or starvation—more than 600,000 boys and young men. (This was roughly 20 times the number of soldiers who had died in all previous American wars combined.) There had been little fighting in the North, but many southern towns and cities had been battle sites, and were largely or entirely in ruins. Railroad lines had to be rebuilt and mail service reestablished. Slaves who had been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation suddenly found themselves unemployed and homeless. The defeated South cherished a bitter hatred toward the northerners—a destructive emotion that would fester for many decades to come, and that found immediate expression in the tragic assassination of President Lincoln by an emotionally unstable southern sympathizer. Perhaps most daunting of all, the South would now have to rebuild its entire society to function and prosper without slave labor.
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