Before the American Civil War, the United States was divided into two opposing camps, namely, the Union States and the Confederate States.
The states of Maine, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, California, Nevada, and Oregon were part of the Union.
The states of Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia made up the Confederacy.
The Union states were led by President Abraham Lincoln and were also referred to as the North or the Yankees.
The Confederate states were led by Jefferson Davis and were known as the South or the Rebels.
The states of Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri were called the Border States and had mixed sentiments about the prevalent issues of the United States.
The Union states and the Confederate states conflicted on the issues of taxation, slavery and westward expansion.
At that time, many states had decided to secede from the Union due to such conflicts.
However, the Union did not recognize their secession and insisted that they were still part of the USA.
Foreign nations also did not support the Confederate states and recognized only the Union as a legitimate political entity in North America.
The election of Abraham Lincoln propelled the South to leave the Union and form an army due to his anti-slavery stance.
After the Confederates attacked Fort Sumter in March 1861, the American Civil War broke out.
It is the most expensive and deadly conflict to have ever occurred in the United States of America. About 620,000 soldiers died and much of the infrastructure in the South was destroyed.
It resulted in the surrender of the Confederacy and was followed by the Reconstruction Era.
The Yankees and the Rebels
During the 1800s many conflicts arose between the Northern and the Southern States of America.
Even though most of the conflicts were centered around slavery, many other factors also played a significant role in setting the stage for the American Civil War fought from 1861 to 1865.
The economies of the two sides were vastly different. The north was very industrialized and its economy was diverse. The farms were small and run by individuals.
The South, on the other hand, completely depended on agriculture. The plantations required slave labor without which it would be impossible to maintain their economy.
The cash crops on which the southern economy depended were cotton and tobacco. Since both crops were labor-intensive it was critical for the southern farmers to keep slaves.
The North, on the other hand, had no such limitations, in fact, the population density of the North allowed it to flourish without having to enslave people.
The moral arguments of the North against Southern slavery angered the southerners because it challenged their livelihood and their way of life.
Another reason that fueled the fire was the issue of taxation. The states were taxed according to population.
Because the northern states were free, every person paid taxes, and every person was represented in the parliament. Taxation was dependent on population size.
However, in the south, there were more slaves than landowners. Only the landowners had the capacity to pay taxes and hence could have very little representation in the parliament.
They resented the rule of the majority in the North and fought for equal representation. It was a fight for political power and autonomy for the southern states.
The North’s moral argument about slavery irked the southerners as they did not see slavery as morally wrong. They believed that if you treat your slaves well, you are a good Christian.
These irreconcilable differences between the two sides intensified in 1854 with the passing of the Kansas-Nebraska Act proposed by Stephen Douglas who was the political opponent of Abraham Lincoln.
Key Figures and Important Events
The Kansas-Nebraska Act upheld popular sovereignty as the deciding factor on slavery. According to the act, it is upon the settlers of a particular region to decide if slavery was good for them or not.
It challenged the authority of the Congress on the matter and pitted the pro and anti-slavery settlers against each other.
The period of violent conflicts that occurred due to the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act is known as Bleeding Kansas.
This period also led to the creation of the Republican Party which focused mainly on opposing slavery in the Western United States.
The Dred Scott case was another reason for the growing enmity between the North and the South. The Supreme Court’s ruling in 1857 in this infamous case confirmed that slavery is legal in the territories of the United States.
The ruling, in this case, incensed abolitionist John Brown and he attacked the US military arsenal at Harpers ferry along with other abolitionists.
The goal of this attack was to create a stronghold of freed slaves in and around Maryland and Virginia.
John Brown was caught and then sentenced to death for treason but the incident had frightened the southerners enough to view their northern neighbors with suspicion.
Abraham Lincoln had openly stated his stance on slavery before he got elected. Many southerners opposed his election to the office.
However, despite their best efforts, Lincoln was elected to office in 1861 following which 7 states left the union one after the other.
South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas were the seven states that seceded the Union right after Lincoln’s victory was announced.
The American Civil War broke out on April 12, 1861, less than a month after Lincoln took office.
The Confederate army fired the first shots of the American Civil War when a fleet was sent to resupply Fort Sumter in Charleston South Carolina.
The bombing continued for two days and as a result the commander of Fort Sumter, Major Robert Anderson, had to surrender to the Confederate forces.
The attack on Fort Sumter was the first victory of the Confederates against the Union and pulled in massive support from Virginia, Arkansas, and North Carolina.
Though the Border States of Missouri, Kentucky, and Maryland shared sympathy for the cause of the Confederates they did not leave the Union.
Military, Infrastructure, and Population
The Union army was mostly volunteers. Many northerners joined for the sake of a consistent income and included new immigrants as well as African-Americans.
The total strength of the Union Army was 2,672,341 men, out of which 2,489,836 were white soldiers 178,975 were African American and a small unit of Native American troops consisted of 3530 men.
We are not sure how many soldiers were enlisted in the Confederate army because many records were destroyed, however, historians estimate that the number was somewhere between 750,000 to 1,227,890 soldiers.
At the beginning of the war, the troop strength of both sides was the same with about 200,000 men fighting on each side.
But in 1863, for every soldier in the Confederate army, the Union enlisted 2 which drastically tipped the scale in the Union’s favor.
Toward the end of the war, the Union still had 600,000 soldiers on the field while the Confederates were left with only 200,000.
Apart from the number of people that were willing to fight for the Union’s cause, there were other major factors that allowed the Union to defeat the Confederates.
Chief among them was the urbanized infrastructure that the North had built. The industry, transport, commerce, and finance was much more developed in the North.
There were 101,000 industries ready to supply the Union Army for all its needs while the Confederates had built only 21,000 before the war.
The factory workers far outnumbered the Confederacy. 1.1 million people worked in the factories of the North while the Confederate factories employed less than 112,000.
The railroads that supplied the requirements of the war were located more in the North than in the South. The North had 20,000 miles of railroad and the Confederate had only 9000 miles.
The population density of the two regions was another factor that helped the Union mobilize its resources more efficiently.
There were 18.5 million people who resided in the Union territories while the confederate population had only 9 million people out of which 3.5 million were enslaved.
Even though the Union Army was slow to use its advantages over the Confederacy, it was clear that the South could not compete with the North.
The American Civil War
The Union government was confident that due to sheer numbers, it would be easy to defeat the Confederates and gain control over the south, however, they were proven wrong in the First Battle of Bull Run.
On July 21, 1861, Thomas Jonathan Jackson led 35,000 confederate soldiers against a larger Union army.
They successfully pushed the Union forces back toward Washington D.C. prompting President Lincoln to recruit 500,000 more soldiers.
Neither party had initially expected that the war would last too long. However, the beginning of the war made it clear that the war would not just be lengthy but extremely costly as well.
The Union Army faced another defeat in the Seven Days’ Battle when Robert E Lee and Thomas Jackson strategically joined their forces against the reluctant army led by George B McClellan.
This defeat frustrated President Lincoln and he made the decision to withdraw his troops from Potomac. In 1862, he also replaced George McClellan with Henry Halleck.
The tide turned in the favor of the Union Army for a short time on August 29 1862 when John Pope led the Union troops in the Second Battle of Bull Run and defeated the unit led by Jackson.
However, Robert Lee came to Jackson’s rescue and unleashed a big assault on Pope’s troops pushing them back to Washington. With this victory, Robert Lee felt confident to invade the North.
However, McClellan proved his expertise at war when he pushed the Confederate forces into a defensive position on September 14 near Sharpsburg.
The Battle of Sharpsburg was one of the most deadly conflicts of the American Civil War.
Around 12,410 men were injured in the Union Army and 13,724 were injured on the Confederate side in just one day.
After the Union victory in the Battle of Sharpsburg, the Union army had won a considerable advantage. Robert Lee and his troops had to retreat to Virginia.
President Lincoln issued the Proclamation of Emancipation which freed all the slaves in the South, however, the proclamation did not apply to the Border States.
As a result, about 186,000 African Americans joined the war effort on the Union’s side. It not only strengthened the Union army but also weakened the southern infrastructure.
For the next two years, the war stretched on resulting in thousands of casualties. Some battles were won by the Confederates such as the Battle of Chancellorsville but not without heavy losses.
The Union Army successfully defeated the Confederates in the Siege of Vicksburg and the Battle of Chattanooga in late 1863.
A war of attrition was conducted by the Union army when they laid siege in Petersburg and Richmond. The goal was to exhaust the Confederate army and its resources.
Though the Confederate forces fought tooth and nail against the larger Union army, they were ultimately defeated when Robert Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House on April 9 1865.
Disgruntled by the loss, a Confederate sympathizer called John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Lincoln on April 14, 1865.
The American Civil War thus came to an end on April 26 1865 after the Union leader and about 620,000 men were martyred for the cause of abolishing slavery in America.
The American Civil War was followed by the Reconstruction Era where 3 amendments were made to the constitution of the United States of America to guarantee civil rights to the African American community.
This was the first time legislative changes were made to the constitution outlawing slavery altogether.