Chapter 14: The Civil War, 1861–1865
Lincoln makes first inaugural address • Fort Sumter attacked • Upper South secedes • Southern capital moves from Montgomery, Alabama, to Richmond, Virginia • First Battle of Bull Run takes place
Battle of Antietam takes place • Second Battle of Bull Run takes place
Emancipation Proclamation takes effect • Blacks recruited for Union army • Battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg take place • Lincoln makes “Gettysburg Address”
Sherman takes Atlanta and marches to the sea • Lincoln re-elected
13th Amendment passed by Congress • Lee surrenders at Appomattox Courthouse • Lincoln assassinated • 13th Amendment adopted by states
IMPORTANT PEOPLE, PLACES, EVENTS, AND CONCEPTS
General Ulysses S. Grant
General George McClellan
General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson
General William Tecumseh Sherman
Battles of Bull Run
General Robert E. Lee
Sherman’s march to the sea
John Wilkes Booth
“Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’”
—Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865
More than 620,000 Americans died in the Civil War—more than in any war until the Second World War. The conflicts over state power versus federal power, in existence from the earliest days of the republic, came to a head in 1861 concerning the fate of slavery in the West. When Lincoln was inaugurated, seven states had seceded, but there was still no war.
THE BEGINNING OF WAR
Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address
In his first inaugural address, on March 4, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln attempted to convince the South that secession was not only illegal but impossible. His key task was to protect the Union. He believed in the Theory of Perpetual Union: that the Continental Congress had predated the Constitution and no state could break the Union “contract” by itself. The main dispute was whether slavery should extend to the west. There was no cause to fight, because he had promised not to attack slavery in the South. Peace, however, could last only to the point of rebellion, because his presidential oath was to “defend the Union.”
The Confederate government had formed on February 9, 1861, with former Mississippi Senator Jefferson Davis as president and its capital in Montgomery, Alabama. However, Fort Sumter, in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina, was still loyal to the Union. Major Robert Anderson refused to surrender to the state militia, but he needed supplies. Trying to prevent a fight, Lincoln notified South Carolina that he would send supplies but not troops. Nevertheless, Davis ordered the fort to be bombarded on April 12. Anderson held out for 34 hours before surrendering. Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Arkansas all seceded after the attack, bringing the number of states in the Confederacy to 11. Davis’s capital subsequently moved to Richmond, Virginia.
THE BALANCE OF FORCES
In industry, merchant shipping, guns, and agriculture, the North outproduced the South by overwhelming proportions. The South recruited 80 percent of its white men to military service, while the North was able to mount even larger armies with only 50 percent of its men.
The North had the advantage of a centralized government, while the South had trouble with the believers in states’ rights. The Confederacy lost West Virginia, which refused to secede along with Virginia. Similarly, non-cotton-producing areas of northern Alabama and East Tennessee were pockets of opposition to Confederate rule. Lincoln kept the border states of Maryland, Delaware, Missouri, and Kentucky loyal to the Union. Garrisonians were constantly calling for Lincoln to free the slaves, and the Northern Democrats were divided; some were for the war (“war Democrats”), some wanted to make peace with the Confederacy (“peace Democrats”), and some were actively disloyal to the union (“copperheads”).
The South had more talented generals than the North; Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were among them. Lincoln fired generals until he found Ulysses S. Grant who, along with William Tecumseh Sherman and Phillip Sheridan, won the war by following the president’s strategy of putting “all their men in.” Union General George McClellan was an excellent organizer of troops but was reluctant to put them into battle.
The South had the advantages of defending their own land, short supply lines, and a revolutionary cause. If they could preserve their army, they could win. The North tried to capture the South’s capital, Richmond, and to destroy the Confederate Army.
The Union’s naval blockade could not prevent all shipping, but the North did capture major ports, including New Orleans. The Confederates had commerce raiders that destroyed merchant ships. The famous battle off the coast of Virginia in 1862 between the two ironclads, the Monitor of the North and the former Northern ship the Merrimac (renamed the Virginia), ended in a draw.
Both the North and the South drafted men and allowed richer men to pay others to substitute for them. One white man on every Southern plantation with 20 or more slaves was exempt. The poor on both sides could call it “a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight.” The 1863 Irish laborers’ antidraft riot in New York City turned into an attack on blacks. Desertions were about 13 percent for the South and 9.6 percent for the North. The Union army totaled 2,100,000, of whom nearly 200,000 were ex-slaves and free blacks. The Confederates mobilized 800,000. At the very end of the war, they unveiled a plan to draft slaves, but it was never put into effect.
Much of the war was fought in Virginia. The battles of Bull Run, Seven Days, and Chancellorsville were Confederate victories, while the battles of Wilderness and Appomattox were Union victories. Robert E. Lee, who commanded the Army of Northern Virginia, showed that he could outlast massive Union attacks both because his tactics were flexible and because the Union generals, especially George McClellan, commander of the Army of the Potomac, consistently overestimated the size of Lee’s army and refused to follow up on their victories. When Lee tried to go north into Maryland in the battle of Antietam in September 1862, McClellan defeated him but did not follow up. Lincoln fired the timid Democratic general and at the same time issued the Emancipation Proclamation, a war measure that freed slaves in the states still in rebellion after January 1, 1862.
Grant and Sherman
The farthest Lee was able to go into the North was Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where the Union won on July 3, 1863. Vicksburg in Mississippi fell to Grant on July 4. The Union armies cut the South in two by marching from Mississippi to Atlanta while simultaneously fighting in Virginia. When the South still refused to give up despite huge losses, Sherman, in his march from Atlanta to the sea (Sherman’s march to the sea), turned from destroying only soldiers to burning the land and supplies. This was the first total war. After the capture of Richmond, Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865.
LINCOLN AND THE POLITICS OF SLAVERY AND WAR
Lincoln identified the cause of the Union and the course of the war with God’s will, or fate. At each point, he attempted to hold the Union together and proceed to victory. He began with a “personal wish that all men everywhere could be free.” When he sought to “preserve the Union” politically above all else at the beginning of the war, he backed the Democratic General McClellan. When the South refused to end the war between September 1862 and January 1, 1863, he fired McClellan and declared all the slaves in the counties and states still in rebellion “forever free.” This Emancipation Proclamation was not immediate abolition, as the Garrisonians had been calling for, but it did change the character of the war. Now black troops could fight, however poorly paid they were, and England and France could no longer give the Confederates open support. In 1858, he had told the citizens of Illinois that blacks were not equal but deserved equal rights, but in his “Gettysburg Address,” he hung the fate of the Union on the “proposition that all men are created equal,” the postulate of democracy.
Lincoln as a Leader
By the time of his second inaugural, Lincoln discovered that the South would not be defeated “until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword.” If he suspended the civil liberties (right of habeas corpus) of copperheads, called up troops months before the consent of Congress, and refused to allow the emancipation of slaves in Missouri, he also engineered the passage of the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery, won the votes of McClellan’s men in the 1864 election, and kept the army and government intact. If some call him a racist because he would preserve the Union in 1862 “with” or “without” slavery, others would say along with abolitionist Wendell Phillips in 1863: “Abe grows.” When John Wilkes Booth killed Lincoln on April 14, 1865, he ended the life of a man who was as big and as complex as the country he led.
The South fought without shoes or food, and its smaller population severely limited its ability to muster reinforcements, but it fought for four years. Slaves ran away by the hundreds of thousands, depriving the South of its workforce and providing soldiers to the North. Lincoln freed them as “contraband of war.” By the end of the war, Lincoln could join his “personal wish” that every man “could be free” with his political duty to “preserve the Union.” In his “Gettysburg Address” at the memorial to the fallen, he called for a “new birth of freedom” as the moral basis for “government by the people.” For the first time, Union was capitalized. Slavery was destroyed, but the country was still comprised of freedmen, ex-slaveholders, ex-abolitionists, ex-Free Soilers, ex-peace Democrats, and ex-war Democrats. These elements made for an explosive political climate.
THINGS TO REMEMBER
• Contraband of war: This was Lincoln’s Civil War policy of treating runaway slaves as enemy war property. He accepted the slaves as a way to hurt the Southern cause. They were freed and employed as aides to the Union army until Lincoln started recruiting black troops after the Emancipation Proclamation.
• Theory of Perpetual Union: It was Lincoln’s contention that the Union pre-existed the Constitution because it began with the Articles of Association in 1774—because the states had signed on to that document, the Union could not be broken. He discussed this theory in his first inaugural address.
1. Of the states below, which one was President Lincoln most concerned about how the population felt about the Civil War?
(E) South Carolina
2. Match the battle with its state.
(A) V-3, W-1, Y-5, Z-2, X-4
(B) V-3, X-4, Y-5, Z-1, W-2
(C) W-1, X-4, Y-5, Z-3, V-2
(D) V-2, W-1, X-4, Y-5, Z-3
(E) W-1, X-3, Y-5, Z-4, V-2
3. Place the following events in chronological order:
1) Lincoln elected
2) Lincoln took office
3) Upper South secedes
4) Lower South secedes
5) Fort Sumter attacked
(A) 1, 2, 5, 3, 4
(B) 3, 4, 1, 2, 5
(C) 4, 3, 1, 2, 5
(D) 1, 4, 2, 5, 3
(E) 1, 5, 3, 4, 2
4. Which is the BEST explanation for why the South lost?
(A) They used slaves to fight.
(B) They had poor generals.
(C) They had weak support from the population.
(D) They had too many deserters.
(E) The war lasted too long.
ANSWERS AND EXPLANATIONS
Kentucky was a border state. It had slavery, but it did not vote for secession. Keeping the border states in the union was one of Lincoln’s chief concerns.
Vicksburg was fought in Mississippi, Atlanta was fought in Georgia, Gettysburg was fought in Pennsylvania, Antietam was fought in Maryland, and Richmond was fought in Virginia.
Lincoln was elected in November 1860. The Lower South seceded before Lincoln took office in March 1861. The attack on Fort Sumter, a pro-Union fort in Charleston, South Carolina, followed Lincoln’s inauguration. Finally, the Upper South seceded after the attack.
The South called slaves to fight only at the very end. Their generals are usually considered better than the North’s. Their support from the population was very strong, and the number of deserters was only slightly more than in the North. The main reason the South lost was that its armies had been destroyed in a war of attrition.