An Overview of America's Civil War 1861-1865
Why? A Very Brief Review
Southern states believed that the union no longer protected their rights or promoted their welfare. Specifically, they worried that Northern restrictions on slavery would undermine their way of life. Why secession?
Why Preserve the Union? • President Lincoln made the preservation of the union his paramount goal. • He argued that the South did not have the legal right to secede because the constitution was a contract the South couldn’t break.
1861 The Outbreak of War
Feb. 9, 1861 • Jefferson Davis is elected President of the Confederate States of America • Alexander Stephens is Vice President • 6 States had already seceded from the Union
March 4, 1861 • Abraham Lincoln is inaugurated as the 16th President of the United States • Lincoln in his first inaugural address: “In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressor”
April 12, 1861 • Fort Sumter, in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina is bombarded by South Carolina troops. • The Union is forced to surrender the fort • Lincoln reacts by declaring “a state of insurrection” and calls for volunteer soldiers • By May 6, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina and Arkansas secede bringing the number of Confederate states to 11.
April, 1861 • Lincoln orders a naval blockade of the South. • This is part of the Anaconda Plan--the strategy of economic strangulation of the South.. • In the long run, it was a significant union advantage. • Discussion Question: why would talk of a naval blockade be unpopular in 1861?
July 21, 1861 • The first major battle of the war, the First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas) is fought. • Both sides expect the war to be short. • Poorly trained Union forces are defeated by the Confederates. • Many Washington residents who had come to watch the battle were forced to flee in the ensuing chaos.
November 8, 1861 • 2 Confederate agents are taken from the British ship Trent by the U.S. Navy. • Britain considered this a hostile act and war nearly erupted. • Cooler heads prevailed after Lincoln released the prisoners. • Britain never did recognize the confederacy.
August, 1861 • Congress passes the first Confiscation Act. • The Act authorized the seizure of all property used in military rebellion, including slaves. • This was the first step toward emancipation • In 1862, the Second Confiscation Act declared that slaves that came within the Union lines would be “forever free”.
1862 A Bloody Stalemate
March 9, 1862 • The Monitor (Union) clashes with the Merrimac (Confederate). • This is history’s first battle between iron-clad ships--a naval innovation. • The Battle ends inconclusively. • In general, the Union has the advantage at sea.
April 6-7, 1862 • On the Western front, the Battle of Shiloh results in 13,000 Union casualties and 11,000 Confederate losses. • The Union is able to claim a costly victory. • Discussion question: how could the Union “win” but suffer more casualties?
April 16, 1862 • President Jefferson Davis signs the Conscription Act, the first draft in American History. • Exceptions were made for plantain owners with over twenty slaves and people could hire others to serve for them. This fueled class tensions that proved costly later in the war. • The Union also eventually used a draft (starting March 3, 1863)
Spring, 1862 • Union General McClellan plans the Peninsula Campaign, a strategy in which he would land troops on the peninsula between the York and James River and then march west from Richmond. • The plan unfolded well and by May McClellan was within five miles of Richmond. Then he got “the slows” (Lincoln’s term).
June 25-July 2, 1862 • McClellan’s delay gave Lee time to attack. • After the 7 Days Battle, General Lee forces the Union army to retreat, ending the threat to Richmond and the possibility of an early end to the war. • Union losses are at 16,000 dead and wounded. Confederates lose 20,000.
September 17, 1862 • The Battle of Antietam becomes the bloodiest single day of the war--and in American History. • The total casualties are 23,110 dead, wounded, or missing. • The battle is essentially a draw, but it ends Lee’s planned invasion of the North. • The aftermath...
September 23, 1862 • The preliminary text of the Emancipation Proclamation is issued. • Lincoln waited for a Union “victory” to issue the Proclamation. • It freed the slaves in the rebelling states as of January 1, 1863. • Discussion question: Why did Lincoln wait until 1863 to emancipate the slaves?
December 13, 1862 • The Battle of Fredricksburg is a major victory for the Confederates with significant Union Casualties. • At the conclusion of 1862, there is no end in sight to the war, with neither side holding a clear advantage on the battlefield.
1863 The Turning Point
May 1-4, 1863 • The Confederates win the Battle of Chancellorsville as Lee’s Army once again defeats the Union forces. • Despite the victory, the Confederates lose one of their best commanders--General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. He is accidentally killed by one of his own troops.
May 22-July 4, 1863 • Union General Ulysses S. Grant, commander on the Western front, begins his attack on Vicksburg, Mississippi. • Grant uses of siege or blockade of Vicksburg designed to starve the enemy into submission. • After running out of food, the Confederates surrender the city on July 4. • Vicksburg was key to controlling the Mississippi River and cutting the Confederacy in half.
July 1-3, 1863 • The Battle of Gettysburg rages in Pennsylvania—a confederate victory would open a path to Washington DC. • Both sides suffer extreme casualties (a combined total of over 50,000 dead and wounded). • The Confederates are defeated and Lee is forced to retreat back to Virginia.
July 13-16, 1863 • In a violent reaction to the Conscription Act, mobs riot in many Union cities. • Many felt the war was “a rich man’s war, but a poor man’s fight.” • The worst riot was in New York City where Irish mobs lynched blacks. • Federal troops were dispatched to end the mayhem.
September 19-20, 1863 • The Battle of Chickamaugua is fought in Georgia. • The Confederates defeat the Union troops and force them back to Tennessee. • This proves that although the Confederates are reeling, they are still able to fight effectively.
November 19, 1863 • Lincoln issues the Gettysburg Address:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth,upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle field of that war. We come to dedicate a portion of it, as a final resting place for those who died here, that the nation might live. This we may, in all propriety do. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow, this ground -- The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have hallowed it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here; while it can never forget what they did here.
It is rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people by the people for the people, shall not perish from the earth. Discussion Question: why is the Gettysburg address considered a great speech?
1864-1865 The Final Months
March 10, 1864 • After successfully leading his troops to victory in the West, Grant is named top commander of the Union Army. • Grant is the last in a long string of Generals given command. Many disappointed Lincoln by being too cautious, including McClellan. • On August 29, the Democrats nominate George McClellan for President.
September 2, 1864 • William T. Sherman captures Atlanta and burns much of the city. • He then proceeds on his infamous March to the Sea, destroying everything in his path. • This victory boosts Lincoln’s chance for reelection.
Total War • Definition: Warfare in which opponents attack civilians and the economic system of the enemy in addition to its soldiers. • Examples: Sherman’s March and the Siege of Vicksburg • Discussion: is total war moral? What limits would you place on total war if you were Commander-in-chief?
November 8, 1864 • Election Day. Lincoln is reelected by a wide electoral margin, but by fewer than 500,000 votes in the popular election. • Discussion question: should presidents face elections during times of war or should elections be delayed until after the war?
January 31, 1865 • The House passes the 13th amendment abolishing slavery. It then goes to the states for ratification. • Review: why didn’t the Emancipation Proclamation abolish slavery?
April 3, 1865 • Union troops enter Richmond. • 2 Days later, President Lincoln tours the City. He sits in President Davis’ chair. • The end is near.
April 9, 1865 • Lee formally surrenders to Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia. • Both men are cordial and respectful. Grant offers generous terms and food to Lee’s men.
April 14, 1865 • Lincoln is assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. He dies the next day. • Andrew Johnson, a former Southern Democrat, becomes President. Ford’s Theatre
Results of the Civil War • 620,000 killed • Union preserved • Slavery abolished • Power of federal government solidified • Southern society in shambles
An End and a New Beginning • What was won? • What was lost? • How would we rebuild?