Type of Project
The Civil War Begins
After taking office in March of 1861 Lincoln eventually decided to use force to bring the south back into the Union.
Using legal arguments Lincoln framed the actions of the southern states as a rebellion…his administration never actually recognized the legitimate status of the Confederate States.
In March of 1861, when Lincoln delivered his inaugural address in Washington DC, he said that the southern states did not have the right to secede because sovereignty rested with the entire nation, not only a portion of the population in the south.
In April of 1861 Lincoln issued a call to all states for 75,000 volunteers to serve in the Army for 90 days, to suppress the rebellion.
In many of the northern states almost twice that number of men volunteered for service demonstrating the strong pro-union desire in the northern regions.
But in the south after Lincoln’s call for volunteers 4 more states organized special legislative sessions to break away from the United States and join the rebellion.
These were Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee.
It seems that when faced with the options of fighting against fellow southerners or joining the rebellion, these states decided to join rebel forces.
(Several western counties in Virginia eventually voted to re-join the United States thus creating the new state of West Virginia; in Tennessee the US Army successfully occupied half the state early in the war and was able to keep the rebel forces there off balance.)
Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, and later West Virginia were the “border states” that were positioned geographically between the north and south…these states had mixed economies based on slave labor and some industry.
Eventually each of the 5 border states passed laws outlawing slavery between 1861 to 1865 and stayed with the union.
Most of the battles of the Civil War took place in the south, in places like Virginia and on the Carolinas and Georgia coast.
The first battle of the Civil War was Bull run in Virginia, taking place in July of 1861.
At Bull Run both sides were somewhat inexperienced; although southern forces tended to have more officers with experience fighting against American Indians and against Mexicans on the western frontier both sides had never fought each other before.
That morning that Bull Run began the US Army seemed to be gaining the upper hand until late in the day when several thousand rebel troops arrived after a forced march of over 20 miles with full military gear…when they arrived they immediately joined the battle and forced northern forces to retreat.
After Bull Run rebel forces won several more battles in Virginia, and up to early 1862 it seemed the south had more favor in battle winning more victories.
However, rebel commanders noticed early on that southern troops suffered constantly from lack of supplies, ammunition, and medical care.
This was because the south was dependent on agriculture not industry.
By autumn of 1862 the top Confederate commander Robert E. Lee knew that for the south to have any chance of winning the war, he would have to disrupt northern industry.
Lee turned his armies north into Maryland…at the battle of Antietam Creek in September of 1862, roughly 5,000 southern and northern troops died in one day, making this the single worst day of combat for American troops in history.
Combined dead and wounded at the end of 2 days of fighting at Antietam Creek was about 22,000, with rebel forces retreating in the end.
At Antietam Creek, Lee made the decision to retreat not because he lost militarily but because his forces were low on supplies and ammunition. (It was a “tactical” victory for the north.)
The war turned decisively against the south at the battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania, when during 3 days in July of 1863, nearly 50,000 troops on both sides were killed and wounded.
During the war northern commanders improved their ability to make effective tactical decisions on the battlefield.
In addition, the north always had several key advantages on their side that helped turn the tide of war against the south.
These included population numbers and industry together with Lincoln’s skillful diplomacy and political strategy.
Population–Cities in the north had higher numbers as well as more industry: New York and Philadelphia had over 500,000 people each, while Boston and Baltimore had over 100,000 people.
By contrast the largest city in the rebel territory was New Orleans with just over 100,000 people; Montgomery had about 25,000 people.
More people in the north meant more men in uniforms.
During the war Lincoln’s administration organized several drafts that compelled young men from northern cities to serve in the Army.
In the south by contrast by the end of the war any plantation owner with more than 10 enslaved persons could petition the government to avoid serving in the rebel military.
The Confederate states did this because slavery was so vital to the economy and war production.
In contrast the northern states did not suffer from lack of production numbers.
For example one factory in Springfield, Massachusetts produced more rifles for the US Army in one year than did all the factories in the south during the entire war
Where did the south acquire its guns and ammunition? From England and other European nations sympathetic to the south.
It may be hard to believe but in England and France some members of the upper class saw the southern plantation class in the United States as equals; they both owned a lot of land and had “servants” doing the work for them.
Because of this during the Civil War the Confederate navy (which was small) imported a steady stream of muskets, pistols, cannons, and ammunition from England and France.
In most cases they traded southern cotton or rum and sugar for guns and ammo.
Even members of Mexico’s upper class traded with southern states like Texas across the Rio Grande for cotton.
Because of these supply channels feeding the southern war effort Lincoln did two important things that relied on his diplomacy and political strategy: the Emancipation Proclamation and a naval blockade of most southern ports.
In January of 1863 Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which stated that “all persons held as slaves” within the rebel states “are, and henceforward shall be free”, and could apply to serve in the US Army and Navy.
By allowing African Americans in rebel states to apply to serve in the US Armed Forces, Lincoln was essentially saying to enslaved persons that they could train to fight against their oppressors.
Lincoln hoped to draw away the slave labor force that formed the base of the southern war effort.
This was an example of Lincoln’s wartime diplomacy and political strategy.
In response to the Emancipation Proclamation over 180,000 former enslaved African Americans joined the US Army and Navy.
Lincoln later said these “volunteers” helped turn the tide of war.
Another way that Lincoln hoped to erode southern economic support for the war was by cutting off supplies from European merchants to southern ports.
By 1862 Lincoln worked with the US Navy to block (hence “blockade”) 189 southern harbors, inlets, and river mouths across a span of 3,500 miles of southern Atlantic coastline, from Virginia to Texas.
The US Navy accomplished it by embarking on a crash course of building simple but reliable “modern” battleships with iron (not wood) hulls and modern cannons, all powered by steam boilers.
Together these things helped close off any chance of victory for the rebel states.
After Gettysburg in July of 1863, the south was drained of men and material, and from then on it fought a war on the defense…rebel forces never again led an attack against the north.
In March of 1864, Lincoln made Ulysses S. Grant commander of the US Army.
Lincoln was drawn to Grant because Grant’s battlefield strategy was simple; he believed that the main objective was to destroy enemy forces wherever they were, not capture territory or cities, etc.
In early April 1865, Grant’s army of 60,000 men caught up with Lee’s exhausted force of 35,000 rebel troops at Appomattox Court House in Virginia.
Lee signed the official surrender on April 9, and Grant told Lee to send his troops home and “put in a crop” in other words return to farming.
Earlier in January of 1865 Lincoln had pushed Congress to pass the 13th Amendment which prohibited slavery in most instances.
Lincoln was assassinated on April 15 of 1865 while attending a theater production with his family in Washington DC.
The perpetrator was a Maryland resident who had sympathies for the defeated southern states.
More than 600,000 Americans had been killed during the Civil War–to this day the bloodiest war in American history.
Another 500,000 or so Americans had been wounded or maimed on the battlefield.
The “old” United States had allowed legal slavery and enabled southern states to maintain strong legislative unity against the central government.
The “new” United States outlawed slavery in most cases and had used force to crush the southern rebellion, thereby ensuring that the central government retained overall supremacy.
Responses: Final Exam (due Monday May 11)
Why did southern states fear the election of a Republican candidate in 1860?
Explain in 2-3 sentences some of the disadvantages the southern states had during the Civil War.
What is an example of Lincoln’s diplomacy and political strategy he used to help win the war?