American Civil War

The American Civil War, widely known in the United States as simply the Civil War as well as other sectional names, was fought from 1861 to 1865. Seven Southern slave states individually declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America, known as the "Confederacy" or the "South". They grew to include eleven states, and although they claimed thirteen states and additional western territories, the Confederacy was never recognized by a foreign country. The states that did not declare secession were known as the "Union" or the "North". The war had its origin in the fractious issue of slavery, especially the extension of slavery into the western territories.[N 1] After four years of bloody combat that left over 600,000 Union and Confederate soldiers dead, and destroyed much of the South's infrastructure, the Confederacy collapsed, slavery was abolished, and the difficult Reconstruction process of restoring national unity and guaranteeing civil rights to the freed slaves began.

American Civil War
Clockwise from top: Battle of Gettysburg, Union and Confederate dead after the Battle of Antietam photographed by Mathew Brady, Battle of Hampton Roads between the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia, Richmond, the capital of the Confederate States of America, in ruins after the war, Battle of Franklin
DateApril 12, 1861 – May 9, 1865 (by declaration)[1]
(Template:Age in years, months, weeks and days)
(last shot fired June 22, 1865)
LocationSouthern United States, Northeastern United States, Western United States, Atlantic Ocean
ResultUnion victory
 United States Confederate States
Commanders and leaders
Abraham Lincoln

Edwin M. Stanton
Ulysses S. Grant
William T. Sherman
David Farragut
David D. Porter

and others
Jefferson Davis

Judah P. Benjamin
Robert E. Lee
Joseph E. Johnston
Raphael Semmes
Josiah Tattnall

and others
Casualties and losses
110,000 Army killed in action/dead of wounds[2]
25,000 Army dead in Confederate prisons[2]
2,260 Navy/Marines killed[3]

~ 365,000 total dead[4]
275,200 wounded
75,000 killed in action/dead of wounds (incomplete data)[3]
26,000–31,000 Army dead in Union prisons[3]

~260,000 total dead
137,000+ wounded

In the 1860 presidential election, Republicans, led by Abraham Lincoln, opposed the expansion of slavery into US territories. Lincoln won, but before his inauguration on March 4, 1861, seven slave states with cotton-based economies formed the Confederacy. The first six to secede had the highest proportions of slaves in their populations, a total of 48.8% for the six.[5] Outgoing Democratic President James Buchanan and the incoming Republicans rejected secession as illegal. Lincoln's inaugural address declared his administration would not initiate civil war. Eight remaining slave states continued to reject calls for secession. Confederate forces seized numerous federal forts within territory claimed by the Confederacy. A peace conference failed to find a compromise, and both sides prepared for war. The Confederates assumed that European countries were so dependent on "King Cotton" that they would intervene; none did and none recognized the new Confederate States of America.

Hostilities began on April 12, 1861, when Confederate forces fired upon Fort Sumter, a key fort held by Union troops in South Carolina. Lincoln called for every state to provide troops to retake the fort; consequently, four more slave states joined the Confederacy, bringing their total to eleven. Lincoln soon controlled the border states, after arresting state legislators and suspending habeas corpus,[6] ignoring the ruling of the Supreme Court's Chief Justice that such suspension was unconstitutional, and established a naval blockade that crippled the southern economy. The Eastern Theater was inconclusive in 1861–62. The autumn 1862 Confederate campaign into Maryland (a Union state) ended with Confederate retreat at the Battle of Antietam, dissuading British intervention.[7] To the west, by summer 1862 the Union destroyed the Confederate river navy, then much of their western armies, and the Union siege of Vicksburg split the Confederacy in two at the Mississippi River. In 1863, Robert E. Lee's Confederate incursion north ended at the Battle of Gettysburg. Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which made ending slavery a war goal.[8] Western successes led to Ulysses S. Grant's command of all Union armies in 1864. In the Western Theater, William T. Sherman drove east to capture Atlanta and marched to the sea, destroying Confederate infrastructure along the way. The Union marshaled the resources and manpower to attack the Confederacy from all directions, leading to the protracted Siege of Petersburg. The besieged Confederate army eventually abandoned Richmond, seeking to regroup at Appomattox Court House, though there they found themselves surrounded by union forces. This led to Lee's surrender to Grant on April 9, 1865. All Confederate generals surrendered by that summer.

The American Civil War was one of the earliest true industrial wars. Railroads, the telegraph, steamships, and mass-produced weapons were employed extensively. The mobilization of civilian factories, mines, shipyards, banks, transportation and food supplies all foreshadowed World War I. It remains the deadliest war in American history, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 750,000 soldiers and an undetermined number of civilian casualties.[N 2] One estimate of the death toll is that ten percent of all Northern males 20–45 years old, and 30 percent of all Southern white males aged 18–40 perished.[10] From 1861 to 1865 about 620,000 soldiers lost their lives.[11]

Causes of secessionEdit

The causes of the Civil War were complex and have been controversial since the war began. The issue has been further complicated by historical revisionists, who have tried to offer a variety of reasons for the war.[12] Slavery was the central source of escalating political tension in the 1850s. The Republican Party was determined to prevent any spread of slavery, and many Southern leaders had threatened secession if the Republican candidate, Lincoln, won the 1860 election. After Lincoln had won without carrying a single Southern state, many Southern whites felt that disunion had become their only option, because they felt as if they were losing representation, which hampered their ability to promote pro-slavery acts and policies.[13]

States' rightsEdit

Marais des Cygnes massacre of anti-slavery Kansans. May 19, 1858.

Everyone agreed that states had certain rights—but did those rights carry over when a citizen left that state? The Southern position was that citizens of every state had the right to take their property anywhere in the U.S. and not have it taken away—specifically they could bring their slaves anywhere and they would remain slaves. Northerners rejected this "right" because it would violate the right of a free state to outlaw slavery within its borders. Republicans committed to ending the expansion of slavery were among those opposed to any such right to bring slaves and slavery into the free states and territories. The Dred Scott Supreme Court decision of 1857 bolstered the Southern case within territories, and angered the North.[14]

Secondly, the South argued that each state had the right to secede—leave the Union—at any time, that the Constitution was a "compact" or agreement among the states. Northerners (including President Buchanan) rejected that notion as opposed to the will of the Founding Fathers who said they were setting up a "perpetual union".[14] Historian James McPherson writes concerning states' rights and other non-slavery explanations:


Status of the states, 1861.
   States that seceded before April 15, 1861
   States that seceded after April 15, 1861
   Union states that permitted slavery
   Union states that banned slavery

Sectionalism refers to the different economies, social structure, customs and political values of the North and South.[16][17] It increased steadily between 1800 and 1860 as the North, which phased slavery out of existence, industrialized, urbanized and built prosperous farms, while the deep South concentrated on plantation agriculture based on slave labor, together with subsistence farming for the poor whites. The South expanded into rich new lands in the Southwest (from Alabama to Texas).[18]

However, slavery declined in the border states and could barely survive in cities and industrial areas (it was fading out in cities such as Baltimore, Louisville, and St. Louis), so a South based on slavery was rural and non-industrial. On the other hand, as the demand for cotton grew, the price of slaves soared. Historians have debated whether economic differences between the industrial Northeast and the agricultural South helped cause the war. Most historians now disagree with the economic determinism of historian Charles Beard in the 1920s and emphasize that Northern and Southern economies were largely complementary. While socially different, the sections economically benefited each other.[19][20]

Fears of slave revolts and abolitionist propaganda made the South militantly hostile to abolitionism.[21][22] Southerners complained that it was the North that was changing, and was prone to new "isms", while the South remained true to historic republican values of the Founding Fathers (many of whom owned slaves, including Washington, Jefferson, and Madison). Lincoln said that Republicans were following the tradition of the framers of the Constitution (including the Northwest Ordinance and the Missouri Compromise) by preventing expansion of slavery.[23]

In the 1840s and 50s, the issue of accepting slavery (in the guise of rejecting slave-owning bishops and missionaries) split the nation's largest religious denominations (the Methodist, Baptist and Presbyterian churches) into separate Northern and Southern denominations.[24] Industrialization meant that seven European immigrants out of eight settled in the North. The movement of twice as many whites leaving the South for the North as vice versa contributed to the South's defensive-aggressive political behavior.[25]

Slave power and free soilEdit

"A Ride for Liberty" (1862). An unassisted family of fugitive slaves charges for the safety of Union lines.

Antislavery forces in the North identified the "Slave Power" as a direct threat to republican values. They argued that rich slave owners were using political power to take control of the Presidency, Congress and the Supreme Court, thus threatening the rights of the citizens of the North.[N 3][26]

"Free soil" was a Northern demand that the new lands opening up in the west be available to independent yeoman farmers and not be bought out by rich slave owners who would buy up the best land and work it with slaves, forcing the white farmers onto marginal lands. This was the basis of the Free Soil Party of 1848, and a main theme of the Republican Party.[27] Free Soilers and Republicans demanded a homestead law that would give government land to settlers; it was defeated by Southerners who feared it would attract to the west European immigrants and poor Southern whites.[28]

Territorial crisisEdit

Between 1803 and 1854, the United States achieved a vast expansion of territory through purchase, negotiation, and conquest. Of the states carved out of these territories by 1845, all had entered the union as slave states: Louisiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Florida and Texas, as well as the southern portions of Alabama and Mississippi. These were balanced by new free states created within the U.S.' original boundary east of the Mississippi River, and the free state of Iowa in 1846. With the conquest of northern Mexico, including California in 1848, slaveholding interests looked forward to the institution flourishing in much of these lands as well. Southerners also anticipated garnering slaves and slave states in Cuba and Central America.[29][30] Northern free soil interests vigorously sought to curtail any further expansion of slave soil. It was these territorial disputes that the proslavery and antislavery forces collided over.[31] The Compromise of 1850 over California, tried again to reach some political settlement on these issues.

The existence of slavery in the southern states was far less politically polarizing than the explosive question of the territorial expansion of the institution westward.[32] Moreover, Americans were informed by two well-established readings of the Constitution regarding human bondage: first, that the slave states had complete autonomy over the institution within their boundaries, and second, that the domestic slave trade – trade among the states – was immune to federal interference.[33][34] The only feasible strategy available to attack slavery was to restrict its expansion into the new territories.[35] Slaveholding interests fully grasped the danger that this strategy posed to them.[36] Both the South and the North drew the same conclusion: "The power to decide the question of slavery for the territories was the power to determine the future of slavery itself."[37][38]

Sen. Stephen Douglas, author of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854
Sen. John J. Crittenden, author of the Crittenden Compromise bill of 1860

By 1860, four doctrines had emerged to answer the question of federal control in the territories, and they all claimed they were sanctioned by the Constitution, implicitly or explicitly. Two of the "conservative" doctrines emphasized the written text and historical precedents of the founding document (specifically, the Northwest Ordinance and the Missouri Compromise), while the other two doctrines developed arguments that transcended the Constitution.[39]

The first of these "conservative" theories, represented by the Constitutional Union Party, argued that the historical designation of free and slave apportionments in territories (as done in the Missouri Compromise) should become a Constitutional mandate. The Crittenden Compromise of 1860 was an expression of this view.[40]

The second doctrine of Congressional preeminence, championed by Abraham Lincoln and the Republican Party, insisted that the Constitution did not bind legislators to a policy of balance – that slavery could be excluded altogether (as done in the Northwest Ordinance) in a territory at the discretion of Congress[41] – with one caveat: the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment must apply. In other words, Congress could restrict human bondage, but never establish it. The Wilmot Proviso announced this position in 1846.[42]

Of the two doctrines that rejected federal authority, one was articulated by northern Democrat of Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas, and the other by southern Democratic Senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi and Vice-President John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky.[43]

Douglas proclaimed the doctrine of territorial or "popular" sovereignty - which declared that the settlers in a territory had the same rights as states in the Union to establish or disestablish slavery – a purely local matter. Congress, having created the territory, was barred, according to Douglas, from exercising any authority in domestic matters. To do so would violate historic traditions of self-government, implicit in the US Constitution.[44] The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 legislated this doctrine.[45] In Kansas Territory, years of pro and anti-slavery violence and political conflict erupted; the congressional House of Representatives voted to admit Kansas as a free state in early 1860, but its admission in the Senate was delayed until after the 1860 elections, when southern senators began to leave.[46]

The fourth in this quartet is the theory of state sovereignty ("states' rights"),[47] also known as the "Calhoun doctrine",[48] named after the South Carolinian political theorist and statesman John C. Calhoun.[49] Rejecting the arguments for federal authority or self-government, state sovereignty would empower states to promote the expansion of slavery as part of the Federal Union under the US Constitution – and not merely as an argument for secession. The basic premise was that all authority regarding matters of slavery in the territories resided in each state. The role of the federal government was merely to enable the implementation of state laws when residents of the states entered the territories.[50] The Calhoun doctrine asserted that the federal government in the territories was only the agent of the several sovereign states, and hence incapable of forbidding the bringing into any territory of anything that was legal property in any state. State sovereignty, in other words, gave the laws of the slaveholding states extra-jurisdictional effect.[51]

"States' rights" was an ideology formulated and applied as a means of advancing slave state interests through federal authority.[52] As historian Thomas L. Krannawitter points out, the "Southern demand for federal slave protection represented a demand for an unprecedented expansion of federal power."[53][54]

By 1860, these four doctrines comprised the major ideologies presented to the American public on the matters of slavery, the territories and the US Constitution.[55]

Secession and war beginsEdit

The first published imprint of secession

Resolves and developmentsEdit

Beginning the warEdit

Lincoln's victory in the presidential election of 1860 triggered South Carolina's declaration of secession from the Union in December, and six more states did so by February 1861. A pre-war February Peace Conference of 1861 met in Washington, Lincoln sneaking into town to stay in the Conference's hotel its last three days. The attempt failed at resolving the crisis, but the remaining eight slave states rejected pleas to join the Confederacy following a two-to-one no-vote in Virginia's First Secessionist Convention on April 4, 1861.[56]

Lincoln's policyEdit

Since December, secessionists with and without state forces had seized Federal Court Houses, U.S. Treasury mints and post offices. Southern governors ordered militia mobilization, seized most of the federal forts and cannons within their boundaries and U.S. armories of infantry weapons. The governors in big-state Republican strongholds of Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania quietly began buying weapons and training militia units themselves.[57] President Buchanan protested seizure of Federal property, but made no military response apart from a failed attempt on January 9, 1861 to resupply Fort Sumter using the ship Star of the West, which was fired upon by South Carolina forces and turned back before it reached the fort.[56]

Merchant Star of the West intended to resupply Ft. Sumter. Lincoln's policy to hold federal property was unlike Buchanan's

On March 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln was sworn in as President. In his inaugural address, he argued that the Constitution was a more perfect union than the earlier Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, that it was a binding contract, and called any secession "legally void".[58] He had no intent to invade Southern states, nor did he intend to end slavery where it existed, but said that he would use force to maintain possession of federal property. The government would make no move to recover post offices, and if resisted, mail delivery would end at state lines. Where popular conditions did not allow peaceful enforcement of Federal law, U.S. Marshals and Judges would be withdrawn. No mention was made of bullion lost from U.S. mints in Louisiana, Georgia and North Carolina. In Lincoln's inaugural address, U.S. policy would only collect import duties at its ports; there could be no serious injury to justify revolution in the politics of four years. His speech closed with a plea for restoration of the bonds of union.[59]

The South sent delegations to Washington and offered to pay for the federal properties and enter into a peace treaty with the United States. Lincoln rejected any negotiations with Confederate agents because he claimed the Confederacy was not a legitimate government, and that making any treaty with it would be tantamount to recognition of it as a sovereign government.[60] Secretary of State William Seward who at that time saw himself as the real governor or "prime minister" behind the throne of the inexperienced Lincoln, engaged in unauthorized and indirect negotiations that failed.[60] President Lincoln was determined to hold all remaining Union-occupied forts in the Confederacy, Fort Monroe in Virginia, in Florida, Fort Pickens, Fort Jefferson, and Fort Taylor, and in the cockpit of secession, Charleston, South Carolina's Fort Sumter.

The WarEdit

The Civil War was a contest marked by the ferocity and frequency of battle. Over four years, 237 named battles were fought, as were many more minor actions and skirmishes, which were often characterized by their bitter intensity and high casualties. "The American Civil War was to prove one of the most ferocious wars ever fought". Without geographic objectives, the only target for each side was the enemy's soldier.[61]


As the first seven states began organizing a Confederacy in Montgomery, the entire US army numbered 16,000. However, Northern governors had begun to mobilize their militias.[62] The Confederate Congress authorized the new nation up to 100,000 troops sent by governors as early as February. By May, Jefferson Davis was pushing for 100,000 men under arms for one year or the duration, and that was answered in kind by the U.S. Congress.[63]

In the first year of the war, both sides had far more volunteers than they could effectively train and equip. After the initial enthusiasm faded, reliance on the cohort of young men who came of age every year and wanted to join was not enough. Both sides used a draft law—conscription—as a device to encourage or force volunteering; relatively few were actually drafted and served. The Confederacy passed a draft law in April 1862 for young men aged 18 to 35; overseers of slaves, government officials, and clergymen were exempt.[64] The U.S. Congress followed in July, authorizing a militia draft within a state when it could not meet its quota with volunteers. European immigrants joined the Union Army in large numbers, including 177,000 born in Germany and 144,000 born in Ireland.[65]

Union soldiers before Marye's Heights, Second Fredericksburg
Confederate dead overrun at Marye's Heights, reoccupied next day May 4, 1863.

When the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect in January 1863, ex-slaves were energetically recruited by the states, and used to meet the state quotas. States and local communities offered higher and higher cash bonuses for white volunteers. Congress tightened the law in March 1863. Men selected in the draft could provide substitutes or, until mid-1864, pay commutation money. Many eligibles pooled their money to cover the cost of anyone drafted. Families used the substitute provision to select which man should go into the army and which should stay home. There was much evasion and overt resistance to the draft, especially in Catholic areas. The great draft riot in New York City in July 1863 involved Irish immigrants who had been signed up as citizens to swell the vote of the city's Democratic political machine, not realizing it made them liable for the draft.[66] Of the 168,649 men procured for the Union through the draft, 117,986 were substitutes, leaving only 50,663 who had their personal services conscripted.[67]

North and South, the draft laws were highly unpopular. In the North, some 120,000 men evaded conscription, many of them fleeing to Canada, and another 280,000 soldiers deserted during the war.[68] At least 100,000 Southerners deserted, or about 10%. In the South, many men deserted temporarily to take care of their distressed families, then returned to their units.[69] In the North, "bounty jumpers" enlisted to get the generous bonus, deserted, then went back to a second recruiting station under a different name to sign up again for a second bonus; 141 were caught and executed.[70]

Rioters attacking a building during the New York anti-draft riots of 1863

From a tiny frontier force in 1860, the Union and Confederate armies had grown into the "largest and most efficient armies in the world" within a few years. European observers at the time dismissed them as amateur and unprofessional, but British historian John Keegan's assessment is that each outmatched the French, Prussian and Russian armies of the time, and but for the Atlantic, would have threatened any of them with defeat.[71]


Perman and Taylor (2010) say that historians are of two minds on why millions of men seemed so eager to fight, suffer and die over four years:

"Some historians emphasize that Civil War soldiers were driven by political ideology, holding firm beliefs about the importance of liberty, Union, or state rights, or about the need to protect or to destroy slavery. Others point to less overtly political reasons to fight, such as the defense of one's home and family, or the honor and brotherhood to be preserved when fighting alongside other men. Most historians agree that no matter what a soldier thought about when he went into the war, the experience of combat affected him profoundly and sometimes altered his reasons for continuing the fight."[72]


At the start of the civil war, a system of paroles operated. Captives agreed not to fight until they were officially exchanged. Meanwhile they were held in camps run by their own army where they were paid but not allowed to perform any military duties.[73] The system of exchanges collapsed in 1863 when the Confederacy refused to exchange black prisoners. After that, about 56,000 of the 409,000 POWs died in prisons during the war, accounting for nearly 10% of the conflict's fatalities.[74]

Economic impactEdit

Surdam argues that the blockade was a powerful weapon that eventually ruined the Southern economy, at the cost of few lives in combat. Practically, the entire Confederate cotton crop was useless (although it was sold to Union traders), costing the Confederacy its main source of income. Critical imports were scarce and the coastal trade was largely ended as well.[75] The measure of the blockade's success was not the few ships that slipped through, but the thousands that never tried it. Merchant ships owned in Europe could not get insurance and were too slow to evade the blockade; they simply stopped calling at Confederate ports.[76]

To fight an offensive war, the Confederacy purchased ships from Britain, converted them to warships, and raided American merchant ships in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Insurance rates skyrocketed and the American flag virtually disappeared from international waters. However, the same ships were reflagged with European flags and continued unmolested.[77] After the war, the U.S. demanded that Britain pay for the damage done, and Britain paid the U.S. $15 million in 1871.[78]

Eastern theaterEdit

Because of the fierce resistance of a few initial Confederate forces at Manassas, Virginia, in July 1861, a march by Union troops under the command of Maj. Gen. Irvin McDowell on the Confederate forces there was halted in the First Battle of Bull Run, or First Manassas.[79] McDowell's troops were forced back to Washington, D.C., by the Confederates under the command of Generals Joseph E. Johnston and P. G. T. Beauregard. It was in this battle that Confederate General Thomas Jackson received the nickname of "Stonewall" because he stood like a stone wall against Union troops.[80]

The Battle of Antietam, the Civil War's deadliest one-day fight. Union troops committed piecemeal had little effect
Confederate ironclads at Norfolk and New Orleans dispersed blockade, until Union ironclads could defeat them

Alarmed at the loss, and in an attempt to prevent more slave states from leaving the Union, the U.S. Congress passed the Crittenden-Johnson Resolution on July 25 of that year, which stated that the war was being fought to preserve the Union and not to end slavery.

Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan took command of the Union Army of the Potomac on July 26 (he was briefly general-in-chief of all the Union armies, but was subsequently relieved of that post in favor of Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck), and the war began in earnest in 1862. Upon the strong urging of President Lincoln to begin offensive operations, McClellan attacked Virginia in the spring of 1862 by way of the peninsula between the York River and James River, southeast of Richmond. Although McClellan's army reached the gates of Richmond in the Peninsula Campaign,[81][82][83] Johnston halted his advance at the Battle of Seven Pines, then General Robert E. Lee and top subordinates James Longstreet and Stonewall Jackson defeated McClellan in the Seven Days Battles and forced his retreat.[84] The Northern Virginia Campaign, which included the Second Battle of Bull Run, ended in yet another victory for the South.[85] McClellan resisted General-in-Chief Halleck's orders to send reinforcements to John Pope's Union Army of Virginia, which made it easier for Lee's Confederates to defeat twice the number of combined enemy troops.

Emboldened by Second Bull Run, the Confederacy made its first invasion of the North. General Lee led 45,000 men of the Army of Northern Virginia across the Potomac River into Maryland on September 5. Lincoln then restored Pope's troops to McClellan. McClellan and Lee fought at the Battle of Antietam near Sharpsburg, Maryland, on September 17, 1862, the bloodiest single day in United States military history.[84][86] Lee's army, checked at last, returned to Virginia before McClellan could destroy it. Antietam is considered a Union victory because it halted Lee's invasion of the North and provided an opportunity for Lincoln to announce his Emancipation Proclamation.[87]

When the cautious McClellan failed to follow up on Antietam, he was replaced by Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside. Burnside was soon defeated at the Battle of Fredericksburg[88] on December 13, 1862, when more than 12,000 Union soldiers were killed or wounded during repeated futile frontal assaults against Marye's Heights. After the battle, Burnside was replaced by Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker.

Hooker, too, proved unable to defeat Lee's army; despite outnumbering the Confederates by more than two to one, he was humiliated in the Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863.[89] Gen. Stonewall Jackson was mortally wounded by his own men during the battle and subsequently died of complications. Gen. Hooker was replaced by Maj. Gen. George Meade during Lee's second invasion of the North, in June. Meade defeated Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1 to 3, 1863).[90] This was the bloodiest battle of the war, and has been called the war's turning point. Pickett's Charge on July 3 is often considered the high-water mark of the Confederacy because it signaled the collapse of serious Confederate threats of victory. Lee's army suffered 28,000 casualties (versus Meade's 23,000).[91] However, Lincoln was angry that Meade failed to intercept Lee's retreat, and after Meade's inconclusive fall campaign, Lincoln turned to the Western Theater for new leadership. At the same time, the Confederate stronghold of Vicksburg surrendered, giving the Union control of the Mississippi River, permanently isolating the western Confederacy, and producing the new leader Lincoln needed, Ulysses S. Grant.

Western theaterEdit

While the Confederate forces had numerous successes in the Eastern Theater, they were defeated many times in the West. They were driven from Missouri early in the war as a result of the Battle of Pea Ridge.[92] Leonidas Polk's invasion of Columbus, Kentucky ended Kentucky's policy of neutrality and turned that state against the Confederacy. Nashville and central Tennessee fell to the Union early in 1862, leading to attrition of local food supplies and livestock and a breakdown in social organization.

The Battle of Chickamauga, the highest two-day losses. Confederate victory held off Union offensive for two months.
New Orleans captured. Union ironclads forced passage, sank Confederate fleet, destroyed batteries, held docks for Army.

The Mississippi was opened to Union traffic to the southern border of Tennessee with the taking of Island No. 10 and New Madrid, Missouri, and then Memphis, Tennessee. In April 1862, the Union Navy captured New Orleans,[93] which allowed Union forces to begin moving up the Mississippi. Only the fortress city of Vicksburg, Mississippi, prevented Union control of the entire river.

General Braxton Bragg's second Confederate invasion of Kentucky ended with a meaningless victory over Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell at the Battle of Perryville, although Bragg was forced to end his attempt at invading Kentucky and retreat due to lack of support for the Confederacy in that state.[94] Bragg was narrowly defeated by Maj. Gen. William Rosecrans at the Battle of Stones River in Tennessee.[95]

The one clear Confederate victory in the West was the Battle of Chickamauga. Bragg, reinforced by Lt. Gen. James Longstreet's corps (from Lee's army in the east), defeated Rosecrans, despite the heroic defensive stand of Maj. Gen. George Henry Thomas. Rosecrans retreated to Chattanooga, which Bragg then besieged.

The Union's key strategist and tactician in the West was Ulysses S. Grant, who won victories at Forts Henry and Donelson (by which the Union seized control of the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers); the Battle of Shiloh;[96] and the Battle of Vicksburg,[97] which cemented Union control of the Mississippi River and is considered one of the turning points of the war. Grant marched to the relief of Rosecrans and defeated Bragg at the Third Battle of Chattanooga,[98] driving Confederate forces out of Tennessee and opening a route to Atlanta and the heart of the Confederacy.

Victory and aftermathEdit


The causes of the war, the reasons for its outcome, and even the name of the war itself are subjects of lingering contention today. The North and West grew rich while the once-rich South became poor for a century. The national political power of the slaveowners and rich southerners ended. Historians are less sure about the results of the postwar Reconstruction, especially regarding the second class citizenship of the Freedmen and their poverty. The Freedmen did indeed get their freedom, their citizenship, and control of their lives, their families and their churches.

Historians have debated whether the Confederacy could have won the war. Most scholars, such as James McPherson, argue that Confederate victory was at least possible.[99] McPherson argues that the North's advantage in population and resources made Northern victory likely but not guaranteed. He also argues that if the Confederacy had fought using unconventional tactics, they would have more easily been able to hold out long enough to exhaust the Union.[100]

Comparison of Union and CSA, 1860–1864[101]
Year Union CSA
Population 1860 22,100,000 (71%) 9,100,000 (29%)
1864 28,800,000 (90%)[N 4] 3,000,000 (10%)[102]
Free 1860 21,700,000 (81%) 5,600,000 (19%)
Slave 1860 400,000 (11%) 3,500,000 (89%)
1864 negligible 1,900,000[N 5]
Soldiers 1860–64 2,100,000 (67%) 1,064,000 (33%)
Railroad miles 1860 21,800 (71%) 8,800 (29%)
1864 29,100 (98%)[103] negligible
Manufactures 1860 90% 10%
1864 98% negligible
Arms production 1860 97% 3%
1864 98% negligible
Cotton bales 1860 negligible 4,500,000
1864 300,000 negligible
Exports 1860 30% 70%
1864 98% negligible

Confederates did not need to invade and hold enemy territory to win, but only needed to fight a defensive war to convince the North that the cost of winning was too high. The North needed to conquer and hold vast stretches of enemy territory and defeat Confederate armies to win.[100] Lincoln was not a military dictator, and could only continue to fight the war as long as the American public supported a continuation of the war. The Confederacy sought to win independence by out-lasting Lincoln; however, after Atlanta fell and Lincoln defeated McClellan in the election of 1864, all hope for a political victory for the South ended. At that point, Lincoln had secured the support of the Republicans, War Democrats, the border states, emancipated slaves, and the neutrality of Britain and France. By defeating the Democrats and McClellan, he also defeated the Copperheads and their peace platform.[104]

Many scholars argue that the Union held an insurmountable long-term advantage over the Confederacy in industrial strength and population. Confederate actions, they argue, only delayed defeat.[105][106] Civil War historian Shelby Foote expressed this view succinctly: "I think that the North fought that war with one hand behind its back ... If there had been more Southern victories, and a lot more, the North simply would have brought that other hand out from behind its back. I don't think the South ever had a chance to win that War."[107]

A minority view among historians is that the Confederacy lost because, as E. Merton Coulter put it,"people did not will hard enough and long enough to win."[108][109] The black Marxist historian Armstead Robinson agrees, pointing to a class conflict in the Confederates army between the slave owners and the larger number of non-owners. He argues that the non-owner soldiers grew embittered about fighting to preserve slavery, and fought less enthusiastically. He attributes the major Confederate defeats in 1863 at Vicksburg and Missionary Ridge to this class conflict.[110] However, most historians reject the argument.[111] James M. McPherson, after reading thousands of letters written by Confederate soldiers, found strong patriotism that continued to the end; they truly believed they were fighting for freedom and liberty. Even as the Confederacy was visibly collapsing in 1864-5, he says most Confederate soldiers were fighting hard.[112] Historian Gary Gallagher cites General Sherman who in early 1864 commented, "The devils seem to have a determination that cannot but be admired." Despite their loss of slaves and wealth, with starvation looming, Sherman continued, "yet I see no sign of let up – some few deserters – plenty tired of war, but the masses determined to fight it out."[113]

Also important were Lincoln's eloquence in rationalizing the national purpose and his skill in keeping the border states committed to the Union cause. Although Lincoln's approach to emancipation was slow, the Emancipation Proclamation was an effective use of the President's war powers.[114] The Confederate government failed in its attempt to get Europe involved in the war militarily, particularly Britain and France. Southern leaders needed to get European powers to help break up the blockade the Union had created around the Southern ports and cities.

Lincoln's naval blockade was 95% effective at stopping trade goods; as a result, imports and exports to the South declined significantly. The abundance of European cotton and Britain's hostility to the institution of slavery, along with Lincoln's Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico naval blockades, severely decreased any chance that either Britain or France would enter the war.


The war produced about 1,030,000 casualties (3% of the population), including about 620,000 soldier deaths—two-thirds by disease, and 50,000 civilians.[115] Binghamton University historian J. David Hacker believes the number of soldier deaths was approximately 750,000, 20% higher than traditionally estimated, and possibly as high as 850,000.[116][117] The war accounted for roughly as many American deaths as all American deaths in other U.S. wars combined.[118]

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Based on 1860 census figures, 8% of all white males aged 13 to 43 died in the war, including 6% in the North and 18% in the South.[119][120] About 56,000 soldiers died in prison camps during the War.[121] An estimated 60,000 men lost limbs in the war.[122]

Confederate death toll estimates vary considerably. Union army dead, amounting to 15% of the over two million who served, was broken down as follows:[2]

  • 110,070 killed in action (67,000) or dead of wounds (43,000).
  • 199,790 dead of disease (75% of which was due to the war, the remainder would have occurred in civilian life anyway)
  • 24,866 dead in Confederate prison camps
  • 9,058 killed by accidents or drowning
  • 15,741 other/unknown deaths
  • 359,528 total dead

Black troops accounted for 10% of the Union death toll, they amounted to 15% of disease deaths but less than 3% of those killed in battle.[2] Losses among African Americans were high, in the last year and a half and from all reported casualties, approximately 20% of all African Americans enrolled in the military lost their lives during the Civil War.[123]: 16  Notably, their mortality rate was significantly higher than white soldiers;

Losses can be viewed as high considering that the defeat of Mexico in 1846–48 resulted in fewer than 2,000 soldiers killed in battle. One reason for the high number of battle deaths during the war was the use of Napoleonic tactics, such as charging. With the advent of more accurate rifled barrels, Minié balls and (near the end of the war for the Union army) repeating firearms such as the Spencer Repeating Rifle and the Henry Repeating Rifle, soldiers were mowed down when standing in lines in the open. This led to the adoption of trench warfare, a style of fighting that defined the better part of World War I.

The wealth amassed in slaves and slavery for the Confederacy's 3.5 million blacks effectively ended when Union armies arrived; they were nearly all freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. Slaves in the border states and those located in some former Confederate territory occupied before the Emancipation Proclamation were freed by state action or (on December 18, 1865) by the Thirteenth Amendment.

The war destroyed much of the wealth that had existed in the South. All accumulated investment Confederate bonds was forfeit; most banks and railroads were bankrupt. Income per person in the South dropped to less than 40% of that of the North, a condition that lasted until well into the 20th century. Southern influence in the US federal government, previously considerable, was greatly diminished until the latter half of the 20th century.[124] The full restoration of the Union was the work of a highly contentious postwar era known as Reconstruction.


Issue of Slavery During the WarEdit

While not all Southerners saw themselves as fighting to preserve slavery, most of the officers and over a third of the rank and file in Lee's army had close family ties to slavery. To Northerners, in contrast, the motivation was primarily to preserve the Union, not to abolish slavery.[125] Abraham Lincoln consistently made preserving the Union the central goal of the war, though he increasingly saw slavery as a crucial issue and made ending it an additional goal.[126] Lincoln's decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation angered both Peace Democrats ("Copperheads") and War Democrats, but energized most Republicans.[127] By warning that free blacks would flood the North, Democrats made gains in the 1862 elections, but they did not gain control of Congress. The Republicans' counterargument that slavery was the mainstay of the enemy steadily gained support, with the Democrats losing decisively in the 1863 elections in the northern state of Ohio when they tried to resurrect anti-black sentiment.[128]

See alsoEdit

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  1. ^ Territories are organized areas that could potentially become states.
  2. ^ A novel way of calculating casualties by looking at the deviation of the death rate of men of fighting age from the norm through analysis of census data found that at least 627,000 and at most 888,000 people, but most likely 761,000 people, died through the war.[9]
  3. ^ Before 1850, slave owners controlled the presidency for fifty years, the Speaker's chair for forty-one years, and the chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee that set tariffs for forty-two years, while 18 of 31 Supreme Court justices owned slaves.[26]
  4. ^ "Union population 1864" aggregates 1860 population, average annual immigration 1855–1864, and population governed formerly by CSA per Kenneth Martis source. Contrabands and after the Emancipation Proclamation freedmen, migrating into Union control on the coasts and to the advancing armies, and natural increase are excluded.
  5. ^ "Slave 1864, CSA" aggregates 1860 slave census of VA, NC, SC, GA and TX. It omits losses from contraband and after the Emancipation Proclamation, freedmen migrating to the Union controlled coastal ports and those joining advancing Union armies, especially in the Mississippi Valley.
  1. ^ "The Belligerent Rights of the Rebels at an End. All Nations Warned Against Harboring Their Privateers. If They Do Their Ships Will be Excluded from Our Ports. Restoration of Law in the State of Virginia. The Machinery of Government to be Put in Motion There". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Associated Press. 1865-05-10. Retrieved 2013-12-23.
  2. ^ a b c d Fox, William F. Regimental losses in the American Civil War (1889)
  3. ^ a b c Official DOD data
  4. ^ Chambers 1999, p. 849.
  5. ^ "Date of Secession Related to 1860 Black Population", America's Civil War
  6. ^ Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'Module:Citation/CS1/Suggestions' not found.
  7. ^ Jones 1999, p. 154.
  8. ^ Frank J. Williams, "Doing Less and Doing More: The President and the Proclamation—Legally, Militarily and Politically," in Harold Holzer, ed. The Emancipation Proclamation (2006) pp. 74–5.
  9. ^ Hacker 2011, p. 307-348.
  10. ^ Huddleston 2002, p. 3.
  11. ^ The American Civil War. By Garry.W.Gallagher, Stephen D Engle, Robert K Krick & Joseph T Glatthaar. Forward By Joseph M. McPherson
  12. ^ James C. Bradford, A companion to American military history (2010) vol. 1, p. 101
  13. ^ See sections below this introduction, including citations in these four: Freehling, William W., The Road to Disunion: Secessionists Triumphant 1854–1861, pp. 9–24, and Martis, Kenneth C., "The Historical Atlas of Political Parties in the United States Congress, 1789–1989", ISBN 0-02-920170-5, p. 111–115, and Foner, Eric. Politics and Ideology in the Age of the Civil War, Oxford U. Press, 1980 ISBN 0-19-502781-7, p. 18–20, 21–24, and Eskridge, Larry (Jan 29, 2011). "After 150 years, we still ask: Why 'this cruel war'?.". Canton Daily Ledger (Canton, Illinois). Retrieved 2011-01-29.
  14. ^ a b Forrest McDonald, States' Rights and the Union: Imperium in Imperio, 1776–1876 (2002)
  15. ^ McPherson 2007, pp. 3–9.
  16. ^ Charles S. Sydnor, The Development of Southern Sectionalism 1819–1848 (1948).
  17. ^ Robert Royal Russel, Economic Aspects of Southern Sectionalism, 1840–1861 (1973).
  18. ^ Adam Rothman, Slave Country: American Expansion and the Origins of the Deep South (2005).
  19. ^ Kenneth M. Stampp, The Imperiled Union: Essays on the Background of the Civil War (1981) p. 198; Richard Hofstadter, The Progressive Historians: Turner, Beard, Parrington (1969).
  20. ^ Woodworth 1996, p. 145, 151, 505, 512, 554, 557,684.
  21. ^ Clement Eaton, Freedom of Thought in the Old South (1940)
  22. ^ John Hope Franklin, The Militant South 1800–1861 (1956).
  23. ^ Abraham Lincoln, Cooper Union Address, New York, February 27, 1860.
  24. ^ Ahlstrom 1972, p. 648-649.
  25. ^ James McPherson, "Antebellum Southern Exceptionalism: A New Look at an Old Question," Civil War History 29 (September 1983).
  26. ^ a b Richards 2000, p. 1-9.
  27. ^ Eric Foner, Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party before the Civil War (1970).
  28. ^ Bolton 1993, p. 67.
  29. ^ McPherson 2007, p. 14.
  30. ^ Stampp 1990, p. 190-193.
  31. ^ Krannawitter 2008, p. 49-50.
  32. ^ McPherson 2007, pp. 13–14.
  33. ^ Bestor 1964, p. 17-18.
  34. ^ Guelzo 2012, p. 21-22.
  35. ^ Bestor 1964, p. 15.
  36. ^ Miller 2008, p. 153.
  37. ^ Bestor 1964, p. 19.
  38. ^ McPherson 2007, p. 16.
  39. ^ Bestor 1964, pp. 19–21.
  40. ^ Bestor 1964, p. 20.
  41. ^ Russell 1966, p. 468-469.
  42. ^ Bestor 1964, pp. 20–21.
  43. ^ Bestor 1964, p. 21.
  44. ^ Bestor 1964, pp. 21–23.
  45. ^ Johannsen 1973, p. 406.
  46. ^ "Territorial Politics and Government". Territorial Kansas Online: University of Kansas and Kansas Historical Society. Retrieved July 10, 2014.
  47. ^ Bestor 1964, p. 23.
  48. ^ Varon 2008, p. 58.
  49. ^ Russell 1966, p. 470.
  50. ^ Bestor 1964, p. 23-24.
  51. ^ Holt 2005, p. 34-35.
  52. ^ McPherson 2007, p. 7.
  53. ^ Krannawitter 2008, p. 232.
  54. ^ Gara, 1964, p. 190
  55. ^ Bestor 1964, p. 24-25.
  56. ^ a b McPherson 1988, pp. 234–266.
  57. ^ Schouler 1899, p. ?.
  58. ^ Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address, Monday, March 4, 1861.
  59. ^ Lincoln, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861.
  60. ^ a b Potter 1976, p. 572-573.
  61. ^ Keegan, "The American Civil War", p.73. Over 10,000 military engagements took place during the war, 40% of them in Virginia and Tennessee. See Gabor Boritt, ed. War Comes Again (1995), p. 247.
  62. ^ "With an actual strength of 1,080 officers and 14,926 enlisted men on June 30, 1860, the Regular Army ..." Civil War Extracts p. 199–221, American Military History.
  63. ^ E. Merton Coulter, Confederate States of America (1950) p.308. John G. Nicolay and John Hay, (Abraham Lincoln: a history, vol. 4, p. 264) state: "Since the organization of the Montgomery government in February, some four different calls for Southern volunteers had been made ... In his message of April 29 to the rebel Congress, Jefferson Davis proposed to organize for instant action an army of 100,000 ..." Coulter reports that Alexander Stephens took this to mean Davis wanted unilateral control of a standing army, and from that moment on became his implacable opponent.
  64. ^ Albert Burton Moore. Conscription and Conflict in the Confederacy (1924) online edition.
  65. ^ Albert Bernhardt Faust, The German Element in the United States (1909) v. 1, p. 523 online. The railroads and banks grew rapidly. See Oberholtzer, Ellis Paxson. Jay Cooke: Financier Of The Civil War, (1907) Vol. 2 at Google Books, pp. 378–430. See also Oberholtzer, A History of the United States Since the Civil War (1926) 3:69–122.
  66. ^ Barnet Schecter, The Devil's Own Work: The Civil War Draft Riots and the Fight to Reconstruct America (2007).
  67. ^ Eugene Murdock, One million men: the Civil War draft in the North (1971).
  68. ^ Judith Lee Hallock, "The Role of the Community in Civil War Desertion." Civil War History (1983) 29#2 pp: 123-134. online
  69. ^ Peter S. Bearman, "Desertion as localism: Army unit solidarity and group norms in the US Civil War." Social Forces (1991) 70#2 pp: 321-342 in JSTOR.
  70. ^ Robert Fantina, Desertion and the American soldier, 1776–2006 (2006), p. 74
  71. ^ Keegan 2009, p. 57.
  72. ^ Perman 2011, p. 177.
  73. ^ Roger Pickenpaugh (2013). Captives in Blue: The Civil War Prisons of the Confederacy. University of Alabama Press. pp. 57–73.
  74. ^ Spencer C. Tucker, ed. (2013). American Civil War: The Definitive Encyclopedia and Document Collection. ABC-CLIO. p. 1466. {{cite book}}: |author= has generic name (help)
  75. ^ Surdam, David G. (1998). "The Union Navy's blockade reconsidered". Naval War College Review. 51 (4): 85–107.
  76. ^ David G. Surdam, Northern Naval Superiority and the Economics of the American Civil War (University of South Carolina Press, 2001)
  77. ^ Anderson 1989, p. 300.
  78. ^ Jones 2002, p. 225.
  79. ^ McPherson 1988, pp. 339–345.
  80. ^ McPherson 1988, p. 342.
  81. ^ Foote 1974, p. 464-519.
  82. ^ Bruce Catton, Terrible Swift Sword, pp. 263–296.
  83. ^ McPherson 1988, pp. 424–427.
  84. ^ a b McPherson 1988, pp. 538–544.
  85. ^ McPherson 1988, pp. 528–533.
  86. ^ McPherson 1988, pp. 543–545.
  87. ^ McPherson 1988, pp. 557–558.
  88. ^ McPherson 1988, pp. 571–574.
  89. ^ McPherson 1988, pp. 639–645.
  90. ^ McPherson 1988, pp. 653–663.
  91. ^ McPherson 1988, p. 664.
  92. ^ McPherson 1988, pp. 404–405.
  93. ^ McPherson 1988, pp. 418–420.
  94. ^ McPherson 1988, pp. 419–420.
  95. ^ McPherson 1988, pp. 480–483.
  96. ^ McPherson 1988, pp. 405–413.
  97. ^ McPherson 1988, pp. 637–638.
  98. ^ McPherson 1988, pp. 677–680.
  99. ^ McPherson 1988, p. 855.
  100. ^ a b James McPherson, Why did the Confederacy Lose?. p. ?.
  101. ^ Railroad length is from: Chauncey Depew (ed.), One Hundred Years of American Commerce 1795–1895, p. 111; For other data see: 1860 US census and Carter, Susan B., ed. The Historical Statistics of the United States: Millennial Edition (5 vols), 2006.
  102. ^ Martis, Kenneth C., "The Historical Atlas of the Congresses of the Confederate States of America: 1861–1865" Simon & Schuster (1994) ISBN 0-13-389115-1 pp.27. At the beginning of 1865, the Confederacy controlled one-third of its congressional districts, which were apportioned by population. The major slave-populations found in Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama were effectively under Union control by the end of 1864.
  103. ^ Digital History Reader, U.S. Railroad Construction, 1860–1880 Virginia Tech, Retrieved 2012-08-21. "Total Union railroad miles" aggregates existing track reported 1860 @ 21800 plus new construction 1860–1864 @ 5000, plus southern railroads administered by USMRR @ 2300.
  104. ^ McPherson 1988, pp. 771–772.
  105. ^ Murray 1996, p. 235.
  106. ^ Heidler 2002, p. 1207–1210.
  107. ^ Ward 1990, p. 272.
  108. ^ E. Merton Coulter, The Confederate States of America, 1861–1865 (1950) p. 566
  109. ^ Richard E. Beringer, Herman Hattaway, Archer Jones and William N. Still Jr., Why the South Lost the Civil War (1991) ch 1
  110. ^ Armstead Robinson, Bitter Fruits of Bondage: The Demise of Slavery and the Collapse of the Confederacy, 1861–1865 (University of Virginia Press, 2004)
  111. ^ see Alan Farmer, History Review (2005) No. 52: 15–20.
  112. ^ McPherson 1997, pp. 169–172.
  113. ^ Gallagher 1999, p. 57.
  114. ^ Fehrenbacher, Don (2004). "Lincoln's Wartime Leadership: The First Hundred Days". University of Illinois. Retrieved 2007-10-16.
  115. ^ Nofi, Al (June 13, 2001). "Statistics on the War's Costs". Louisiana State University. Archived from the original on 2007-07-11. Retrieved 2007-10-14.
  116. ^ "U.S. Civil War Took Bigger Toll Than Previously Estimated, New Analysis Suggests". Science Daily. September 22, 2011. Retrieved 2011-09-22.
  117. ^ Hacker, J. David (September 20, 2011). "Recounting the Dead". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Associated Press. Retrieved 2011-09-22.
  118. ^ McPherson 1988, p. xix.
  119. ^ Vinovskis 1990, p. 7.
  120. ^ Richard Wightman Fox (2008)."National Life After Death".
  121. ^ "U.S. Civil War Prison Camps Claimed Thousands". National Geographic News. July 1, 2003.
  122. ^ Teresa Riordan (2004-03-08). "When Necessity Meets Ingenuity: Art of Restoring What's Missing". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Associated Press. Retrieved 2013-12-23.
  123. ^ a b Herbert Aptheker, "Negro Casualties in the Civil War", "The Journal of Negro History", Vol. 32, No. 1. (January, 1947).
  124. ^ The Economist, "The Civil War: Finally Passing", April 2, 2011, pp. 23–25.
  125. ^ Foner 1981, p. ?.
  126. ^ Foner 2010, p. 74.
  127. ^ McPherson, pp. 506–8
  128. ^ McPherson. p. 686

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