‘Civil War’ is an odd term. To be ‘civil’ means to be polite. A civil war doesn’t mean a polite war. Civil War means war inside a country. The United States fought a Civil War for four years, from April 1861 to April 1865. After working so hard to gain their independence from England, after the bloody six year Revolutionary War, the United States was at war again, less than 80 years later. This time the opponents were not rival nations. They were people who shared a country.
There were several issues that divided the United States. First, states in the south owned slaves. In the north, slavery was illegal. The south claimed that it needed slave labor to work the huge cash crop farms called plantations. Cash crops are grown as a source of income. Tobacco and cotton were common cash crops. The north had industries that the south did not have. Southern land owners said business would not survive without slave labor. Northern abolitionists said that it was wrong to own slaves. As new states came into the Union, congress had to decide whether they would be slave or free states. The Missouri Compromise, the Kansas-Nebraska Act and other legislation was passed. Another issue that divided the United States was states rights. Southern states favored more rights for individual states while the north favored a stronger federal government.
Problems got worse and the southern states decided to secede, or separate into a new group called the Confederacy. The first confederate states included Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina and Florida. On April 12, 1861, confederate president Jefferson Davis ordered soldiers to fire on the Union (federal) Fort Sumpter in South Carolina. This was the first battle of the American Civil War. On April 15, President Abraham Lincoln called for federal union troops. After this, four more states joined the confederacy: Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee. Kentucky, Missouri, West Virginia and Maryland were border states.
Union states included Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Delaware, Kentucky, Missouri, California and Maryland. The other states were territories at the time. The confederate troops were led by General Robert E. Lee. President Lincoln had asked Lee to lead the union soldiers. Lee refused because his home state of Virginia had seceded. Union troops were led by several generals.Ulysses S. Grant was the last and best. Grant was elected president of the United States after the Civil War. The union army wore blue and the confederates wore gray.
All the battles of the Civil War were fought in the south, except for Antietam, in Maryland and Gettysburg in Pennsylvania. No one expected the war to last four years. Confederate soldiers were outnumbered, poorly equipped and lacked supplies. The Civil War ended with General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. Five days later, President Lincoln was assassinated. For more information, click on the links in the article or visit the sites listed below. There were 630,000 casualties in the north and 340,000 in the south. That’s almost one million people killed or wounded.
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