Civil War

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The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States from 1861 to 1865, between the North (the Union) and the South (the Confederacy). Below are listed some of the Causes of the American Civil War.


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Causes of the American Civil War

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“The Concept Of The Union”

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There were other motives as well, as some Northern newspapers admitted. If the South were allowed to secede and establish free trade, foreign commerce would be massively diverted from Northern ports to Southern ones, as merchants sought out the South’s low-tariff or free-trade regime. “Let the South adopt the free-trade system,” warned the Daily Chicago Times, and the North’s “commerce must be reduced to less than half what it now is.” Ohio congressman Clement Vallandigham believed that the tariff played a crucial role in persuading important sectors of Northern society to support war. As soon as the Confederate Congress adopted a low-tariff system, Vallandigham said, “trade and commerce . . . began to look to the South.”

The city of New York, the great commercial emporium of the Union, and the Northwest, the chief granary of the Union, began to clamor now, loudly, for a repeal of the pernicious and ruinous tariff. Threatened thus with the loss of both political power and wealth, or the repeal of the tariff, and, at last, of both, New England and Pennsylvania . . . demanded, now, coercion and civil war, with all its horrors, as the price of preserving either from destruction.. . . The subjugation of the South, and the closing up of her ports—first, by force, in war, and afterward, by tariff laws, in peace, was deliberately resolved upon by the East.

Following John Brown’s raid, Wendell Phillips’s description of the North’s Republican Party as a party pledged against the South took on a dangerous and disturbing significance. Some Southerners chose not to wait to see what a president from such a party had in store for them. And certainly some feared that Lincoln, despite his protestations to the contrary, might abolish slavery and thereby set Southern society on a path of social chaos and economic ruin.

But slavery was far from the only issue on Southerners’ minds, particularly since the great majority of Southerners did not even own slaves. For their part, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, two of the South’s best known generals, described slavery as “a moral and political evil.” Lee had even been an opponent of secession, but fought on the side of Virginia rather than stand by as the federal government engaged upon the mad project of waging war against his state. Recall that Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Arkansas seceded only after Lincoln had called up 75,000 volunteers to invade the South and prevent its secession. These four states, therefore, certainly did not secede over slavery, but rather over Lincoln’s decision to use military force to suppress Southern independence.

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American Civil War Summary

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Here’s a short American Civil War summary. It was a civil war fought in the United States from 1861 to 1865, between the North (the Union) and the South (the Confederacy).

A bit more context, however, is necessary. Strictly speaking, there never was an American Civil War. A civil war is a conflict in which two or more factions fight for control of a nation’s government. The English Civil War of the 1640s and the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s are two classic examples; in both cases, two factions sought to control the government. That was not the case in the United States between 1861 and 1865. The seceding Southern states were not trying to take over the United States government; they wanted to declare themselves independent.

What is sometimes suggested in place of Civil War is “War Between the States.” This term, too, is not quite accurate, since the conflict was not really fought between the states—i.e., Florida was not at war with New Hampshire, nor Rhode Island with Mississippi—but between the United States government and the eleven Southern states that formed the Confederate States of America in 1861. Other, more ideologically charged (but nevertheless much more accurate) names for the conflict include the War for Southern Independence.

1854: The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854

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The Civil War

The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 (10 Stat. 277) was an organic act that created the territories of Kansas and Nebraska.

The controversy over the Kansas Nebraska Act proved too much for the ramshackle Whig Party, which was torn apart by sectional antagonism. Filling the political vacuum left by the self-destruction of the Whig Party was the Republican Party, created in 1854 as a sectional party—just what so many American statesmen had tried to avoid. The Republicans attracted a variety of supporters with their free-soil position and their support for high protective tariffs.

As free-soilers, they opposed slavery in the territories, though the racialist motivation of such exclusion of slavery is clear from the party’s 1856 platform, which read, in part, that “all unoccupied territory of the United States, and such as they may hereafter acquire, shall be reserved for the white Caucasian race—a thing that cannot be except by the exclusion of slavery.” Their economic program, of which the protective tariff formed an important plank, could not have been better devised to attract Southern antipathy. Abraham Lincoln, who would be elected in 1860 as the first Republican president, had been a supporter of the protective tariff for several decades by the time he reached the White House.

Civil War/Total War: The Extent of Battle from 1861 to 1865

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Did the North win by waging total war in the Civil War? Total war is a “war that is unrestricted in terms of the weapons used, the territory or combatants involved, or the objectives pursued, especially one in which the laws of war are disregarded.”

The contention of some historians that the Civil War was the first modern “total war,” setting the precedent for the murderous wars of the twentieth century, appears to be a new twist on the Myth of the Lost Cause. It implies that the Union prevailed by waging war of unethical scope and severity. “It was Lincoln, Grant, and the Civil War that incorporated total war into modern experience,” asserts Charles Strozier. He adds that “the totality of the modern state seems to require unconditional surrender as a necessary correlative of its total wars. The American Civil War brought that into focus.”

The accusation of brutality in the Union armies’ conquest of the South began right after the war. In 1866, Pollard contrasted the Yankees’ behavior with that of Lee’s army, which, he maintained, abided by its commander’s order to protect the property that lay in the path of its Gettysburg campaign. “No house was entered without authority; no granary was pillaged; no property was taken without payment on the spot, and vast fields of grains were actually protected by Confederate guards. . . . ” In fact, however, the rebels in Pennsylvania foraged extensively and confiscated livestock, transportation vehicles, and thousands of wagon loads of grains and produce—sufficient to constitute a fifteen-, twenty- or fifty-mile reserve train of wagons. Confederate “payments” for property were made in essentially worthless Confederate currency, and as many as several hundred blacks were kidnapped and sent South into slavery.

1863: Emancipation Proclamation

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President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.  This executive order was a war measure directed at the rebel states and declared the ten states that were rebelling to be free. The proclamation excluded the areas that were under the Union’s control, but still applied to around 4 million slaves at that time. The Emancipation Proclamation was not a law that Congress had passed, but an executive order based on the president’s authority over the armed forces as specified in the Constitution.

In a way, the proclamation was a way to get more soldiers on the Union Army’s side. It specifies that suitable freed slaves could enroll and be paid to fight for the Union and that the Union’s military personnel had to recognize the freedom of these former slaves. Lincoln may have seen the Emancipation Proclamation as a necessity from a military perspective: in 1862 the Union wasn’t doing too well in the war. By taking away the Confederate’s slave workers, it would not only add to the strength of the Union Forces, but also weaken the Confederacy by taking away the labor that helps to produce their supplies.

1864: Abraham Lincoln Wins Re-Election

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File:Abraham Lincoln O-92 Imperial Albumen by Brady, 1864.jpg - Wikipedia

In 1864, Lincoln once again demonstrated a political aggressiveness that matched Grant’s military aggressiveness. In that year’s political campaign, he, along with Republican Radicals, insisted that the Republican platform contain a plank advocating a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery. He encouraged his secretary of war to work with his generals to allow as many soldiers from non-absentee-ballot states as possible to return home to vote for president.

But the election of 1864 results, especially before the fall of Atlanta, were not pre-ordained. Lincoln was vulnerable because the North was divided on the issues of war, the draft, and slavery. There had been draft riots in New York City, anti-war “Copperhead” sentiment flourished in the Midwest, and the Democrats adopted a peace platform at their convention. Just after McClellan’s nomination, Secretary of the Navy Welles worried that “McClellan will be supported by War Democrats and Peace Democrats, by men of every shade and opinion; all discordant elements will be made to harmonize, and all differences will be suppressed.” The next day, however, he took a contrary position: “Notwithstanding the factious and petty intrigues of some professed friends . . . and much mismanagement and much feeble management, I think the President will be reelected, and I shall be surprised if he does not have a large majority.”

“The Way that Lincoln Financed the Civil War Led to Transcontinental Railroads, Public Colleges, the Homestead Act, and Income Tax”

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1865: End Of The Civil War

(See Main Article: When Did the Civil War End?)

The last battle of the Civil War was however only fought over a month later, at Palmito Ranch in Texas. Although an unofficial truce existed between the Union and the Confederates, Theodore H. Barrett ordered his Confederate soldiers to attack a Union camp close to Fort Brown. His reasons for attacking are unknown, and some say that he was just eager to lead his first attack before the war was officially over. The 34th Indiana’s Union Private John J. Williams is said to have been the last death in combat of the Civil War.

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