Civil War (American Civil War)

American Civil War was a significant conflict in the history of the United States of America , which took place between the years 1861 and 1865 .

The two opposing sides were the forces of the northern states (the Union) against the newly formed Confederate States of America, made up of eleven southern states that proclaimed their independence.

The first act of war was the Confederate assault on the garrison at Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. The army’s repression in recapturing Fort Sumter, brought the states together with Virginia , Arkansas , Tennessee, and North Carolina . Thus began the civil war between the Confederate States of the South and the States of the North, which would end with the victory of the latter in 1865.


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  • 1 History
    • 1 Causes of war
    • 2 Secession
    • 3 The states of the Union
    • 4 Border States
    • 5 Start of the war
    • 6 Military actions
    • 7 End of the war 1864-1865
  • 2 References
  • 3 Sources


Causes of war

The Civil War was the culmination of four decades in which deep and entrenched economic, social, and political differences were forged between the northern and southern states.

To the conditions of racial difference and slavery in which the South based its economic performance on, which was fundamentally agricultural (cotton, sugar, rice and tobacco), it opposed the northern manufacturing industry, where the performance was based on the birth of a new class of proletarians, who despite not being slaves, but free citizens, had economic levels that led them to true conditions of slavery.

Abolitionist groups emerged in the north, advocating violence as a suitable means to achieve their goals. In the south there were also organized groups for violence, in both places the supporters of the union of the nation, who were the majority, who were prevented even from expressing such an opinion on the penalty of being considered traitors.

Between the years 1845 and 1860 , acts were happening that, with the help of agitators in both areas, the spirits of the most peaceful and respected people were irritated and transforming the details into problems of honor were some of these examples; the publication of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s ” Uncle Tom’s Cabin ” and its clandestine distribution in the South, the Supreme Court ruling on the trial of the slave Dreed Scott , the rejection of the pro-slavery Constitution of the future State of Kansas and the ban of allowing the concurrence of slaves for the construction of railroads in the territory of Nebraska by southern companies, among others.

This schism deepened after the constitution the new Republican Party, which was made up of dissident Conservatives and Democrats from the North and South, mainly on issues related to slavery or freedom. This whole problem was also accompanied by increasing competition from both regions in international trade, competition encouraged by the protection provided by the United Kingdom to the South, since the North constituted a very important competition for its main manufactured products.

In the presidential election of 1860 , the division in the ranks of the Democratic Party resulted in the candidacy by the southern wing of John Breckinridge of Kentucky and by the northern wing of Stephen Douglas. The newly formed Constitutional Union Party, reflecting the still entrenched sentiment of concession in the border states, nominated John Bell of Tennessee . Republicans elected Abraham Lincoln, in a campaign in which they opposed the expansion of slavery and supported a protectionist tariff, federal subsidies for internal improvements and a residency law. The secessionist Democrats practically secured Lincoln’s election, and this in turn convinced Southerners that they had to make an effort to achieve independence rather than being politically isolated.


Before Lincoln took office, seven states declared secession from the Union. They established a government in the South, the Confederate States of America on February 9, 1861. They took control of the forts and other federal possessions that lay between their borders with little resistance from the outgoing President, James Buchanan , whose term ended on 4 March 1861. Buchanan said: ” The South has no right to secede, but I have no power to prevent it .” [1] A quarter of the United States Army, the entire Texas garrison, surrendered to General David Twiggs and joined the Confederacy.

The seven states that seceded from the Union in February 1861: South Carolina , Mississippi , Florida , Alabama , Georgia , Louisiana, and Texas . [2]


Jefferson Davis

These seven states were united to form the Confederate States of America on February 4 , with Jefferson Davis as president and a governmental structure similar to that of the Union. Following the attack on Fort Sumter , President Lincoln recruited a volunteer army in each state. Within two months, four more southern states declared their union with the Confederacy: Virginia , Arkansas , North Carolina, and Tennessee . [3]

The northwestern region of Virginia broke away from it, joining the Union under the name West Virginia on June 20 , 1863 . Towards the end of 1861 Missouri and Kentucky were divided, both having two governments, one prosurian and the other pro-Union.

Several Amerindian tribes, possessors of slaves, supported the Confederacy, provoking in the Indian Territory a very bloody little civil war. The capital of the Confederate states was located in Montgomery , Alabama between February 4 and May 29, 1861. From May 30 the capital moved to Richmond, Virginia. At the end of the war the government had to be evacuated and relocated until the end of the conflict in Danville, also in the state of Virginia.

The states of the Union

Twenty-three states remained loyal to the Union: California , Connecticut , Delaware , Illinois , Indiana , Iowa , Kansas , Kentucky , Maine , Maryland , Massachusetts , Michigan , Minnesota , Missouri , New Hampshire , New Jersey , New York , Ohio , Oregon , Pennsylvania , Rhode Island , Vermont, and Wisconsin . [4] During the war, Nevada and West Virginia were created and joined the Union. Tennessee and Louisiana re-aligned with the northern states shortly after the armed conflict began.

The territories of Colorado , Dakota , Nebraska , Nevada , New Mexico , Utah, and Washington fought on the side of the Union.

Border states

The Union’s border states were West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Missouri, and Kentucky.

Maryland had numerous pro-Confederate officers who allowed anti-Union riots in Baltimore and the burning of bridges. Lincoln responded with martial law and the dispatch of troops. Militia units that had been penetrating northern territory rushed toward Washington and Baltimore. [5] Before the Confederate government realized what was happening, Lincoln had achieved firm control over the entire state of Maryland and the District of Columbia and had arrested the separatist members of the state government and subjected them to judgment.

In Missouri, a convention elected to decide on secession voted to remain loyal to the Union. When pro-Confederate Governor Clairborne F. Jackson called in the state militia, they were attacked by federal forces under General Nathaniel Lyon, who cornered the governor and the State Guard in the southwestern corner of the state. The group chosen to decide on secession took power as the provisional government after the expulsion of the governor.

Kentucky did not depart from the Union. For a time he declared himself neutral. However, the Confederates broke neutrality by taking Coumbus in September 1861. This led the state to a confrontation against the Confederacy and the reaffirmation of its loyalty to the Union despite trying to uphold its slave laws. During the brief invasion of the Confederate forces, sympathizers of the southern government organized a secessionist convention, established a governor, and won the acceptance of the Confederacy. The rebel government soon had to go into exile and never came to control the state.

Following the declaration of secession from Virginia in 1861, pro-Unionists in fifty northwestern Virginia counties voted on October 24 of that same year to create a new state loyal to the Union. Most of the voters in what became West Virginia had voted against Secession. [6] About half of West Virginia’s soldiers stayed in the Confederate Army. This new state was admitted to the Union on June 20 , 1863.

Similar pro-Unionist secessionist attempts occurred in Tennessee although they were suppressed by the Confederacy – Jefferson Davis arrested approximately 3,000 men suspected of being Union loyalists and were hanged without trial.

Start of the war


Abraham Lincoln

On March 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln was sworn in as President. In his inaugural speech he indicated that the Constitution was the most perfect union and that all secession was declared legally void. [7] He also stated that he had no intention of invading the southern states or ending slavery where it was still in force but that he would use force to maintain federal possessions. His speech ended with a call for the restoration of the Union’s borders.

The South sent delegates to Washington and offered to pay for federal property and sign a peace treaty with the United States. Lincoln refused to carry out any negotiations with the Confederates since signing any treaty with them would be to recognize the Confederacy as a sovereign government. [8] However, Secretary of State William Seward held several unauthorized meetings with Confederate agents, although they failed.

Fort Sumter, Fort Monroe, Fort Pickens, and Fort Taylor were the only forts that remained in federal hands on Confederate territory, and Lincoln was determined to keep them under his command. Under orders from Confederate President Davis, southern troops led by Pierre Gustave de Beauregard shelled Fort Sumter on April 12 , forcing the fort’s surrender.

Many Northerners responded to Lincoln’s call to all states to send troops to recover lost forts and maintain the Union. As so far the rebellion seemed small, the American president asked to recruit 75,000 men for 90 days. [9] Some months before these events, some governors had already recruited their own state militias, which began to move the day after the presidential order. [10]

Four states in the upper South ( Tennessee , Arkansas , North Carolina, and Virginia ) that had hitherto refused to join the Confederacy then refused to send troops against their neighbors, declared their independence, and joined the South. To reward Virginia, the Confederate capital was moved to Richmond . The city was the symbol of the Confederacy. Richmond was in a very vulnerable position at the end of a difficult supply line. Although heavily fortified, supplies were reduced after the capture of Atlanta by Sherman and practically annulled after Grant’s siege of the city of Petesburg, from which the southern capital was supplied.

In May 1861, Lincoln ordered the blockade of all southern ports, thus ending virtually all of the Confederacy’s international trade. The ships that violated the blockade were seized. The blockade ended King Cotton , ruining the southern economy.

The 8 of March of 1862 , the Confederate Navy maintained a confrontation with unionist when the battleship CSS Virginia attacked the blockade ships off the coast of Virginia. At first he had victory on his part but the next day the new Union warship, the USS Monitor, arrived at the Battle of Hampton Roads. The battle ended in a draw, which was a strategic victory for the Union since the blockade was maintained.

The Confederacy lost to CSS Virginia when it was sunk to avoid capture. The Union, for its part, began producing numerous copies of the USS Monitor. Lacking the necessary technology to build proper warships, the Confederacy tried to obtain them from Great Britain . The Union victory at the second Battle of Fort Fisher in January 1865 closed the last southern port and practically ended Confederate trade.

Military actions

A march of Union troops led by Major General Irvin McDowell on the Confederate forces was halted due to fierce resistance from a small force in Manassas, Virginia, in July 1861. Generals Joseph E. Johnston and Beauregegard, commanding the The Confederate army succeeded in stopping the advance of the Unionist column at the First Battle of Bull Run, 68 also known as the First Battle of Manassas, after which McDowell’s troops withdrew towards Washington.

Alarmed by the losses and in an attempt to prevent more slave states from leaving the Union, the United States Congress passed the Crittenden-Johnson Resolution on July 25 , which ensured that the war was being fought to maintain the Union and not to end slavery.


Robert E. Lee

Major General George B. McClellan, who took control of the Unionist army on the Potomac River on July 26 , began offensive operations on Lincoln’s orders. McClellan attacked Virginia in the spring of 1862 across the peninsula between the York and James rivers, southeast of Richmond . Although McClellan’s army reached the gates of the Confederate capital in the Peninsula Campaign, Johnston stopped it at the Battle of Seven Pines, after which General Robert E. Lee defeated McClellan in the Battles of the Seven Days and killed him. they forced to withdraw.

The Northern Virginia Campaign ended with another Southern victory. McClellan failed to comply with General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck’s orders to send reinforcements to John Pope’s army in Virginia, which made it easier for Lee to defeat him despite being heavily outnumbered.

Encouraged by victory at the second Battle of Bull Run, the Confederacy carried out its first invasion of the North. General Lee led 45,000 men from the Virginia Army across the Potomac into Maryland on September 5. Lincoln then ceded Pope’s troops to McClellan, who faced Lee on September 17 at the Battle of Antietam , near Sharpsburg , Maryland . This was the bloodiest day in America’s military history. Lee’s army was forced to return to Virginia to avoid being destroyed by McClellan.

The only clear victory for the Confederacy in the West was at the Battle of Chickamauga . Braxton Bragg, aided by Lieutenant General James Longstreet’s troops, defeated Roecrans, despite the heroic defense of George Henry Thomas . Rosecrans withdrew to Chattanooga, a city that was besieged by Bragg.


Ulysses S. Grant

The Union’s greatest strategist and tactician in the Western theater was General Ulysses S. Grant , who won the victories at Forts Henry and Donelson, by which the Union took control of the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers. He also won the battles of Shiloh and Vicksburg, cementing Union control of the Mississippi River . Grant advanced to aid the Rosecrans and defeated Bragg in the Third Battle of Chattanooga, leading Confederate forces out of Tennessee and clearing the way to Atlanta and into the heart of the Confederacy.

End of the war 1864-1865

In early 1864, Lincoln made Grant commander of all the Union armies. Grant put Major General Sherman in command of the western troops. Grant understood the concept of total war and believed, along with Lincoln and Sherman, that only the complete defeat of the Confederate forces and their economy could bring the end of the war.

Grant’s battles of attrition in Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor claimed heavy casualties in the Union ranks, but forced Lee to retreat after each encounter. An attempt to flank Confederate forces from the south led by Butler failed. Grant was tenacious and, despite suffering 65,000 casualties in seven weeks, continued to pressure Lee’s army as far as Richmond. He managed to encircle the Confederate army during the siege of Petesburg, where the two armies engaged in trench warfare for nine months.

Sherman advanced from Chattanooga toward Atlanta, defeating Confederate Generals Joseph E. Johnston and John Bell Hood along the way. The fall of Atlanta 2 of September of 1864 was an important factor in the reelection of Lincoln as president. Hood left the Atlanta area to attempt to cut Sherman’s supply lines and invade Tennessee. Union Major General John M. Schofield defeated Hood at the Battle of Franklin and George Thomas destroyed Hood’s army by defeating him at the Battle of Nashville.

The Confederate army, dwindled by casualties and desertions, was much smaller than Grant’s. Union forces won the decisive Battle of Five Forks on April 1 , forcing Lee to evacuate Petesburg and Richmond. The Confederate capital fell into the hands of the XXV Union Corps, composed almost exclusively of African-American troops. The remaining Confederate troops fled west, and after a defeat at Sayler’s Creek, Lee realized that it was tactically and logistically impossible to continue the fight against the United States .

Lee surrendered his Virginia army on April 9 , 1865 , in the Appomattox courthouse. In an unusual gesture that showed Grant’s respect for Lee and in anticipation of the return of the Confederate states to the Union, Lee was allowed to retain possession of his officer’s saber and his horse, Traveler. On April 14, 1865, Lincoln was shot dead. Andrew Johnson became president. Twelve days later, on April 26 Johnston surrendered his troops to Sherman at Durham. The June 23Stand Watie signed a ceasefire treaty with Union representatives, becoming the last Confederate general to be defeated. The last naval unit of the confederation to surrender was the CSS Shenandoah , on November 4 , 1865 in Liverpool , England .

José Martí , already at the height of 1894 , when he had carefully studied the economic, political and social specificities of the United States, in his last examination about North American society, “The truth about the United States”, which appeared in the newspaper Patria , on March 23, 1894, when he was already immersed in the preparation of the Necessary War , makes an interesting comparison between the two Americas:

In a single war, that of the Secession, which was more to dispute between North and South the dominance of the republic than to abolish slavery, the United States lost more men […] than in equal time, and with the same number of inhabitants, they have lost together all the republics of America , […] “, after having become independent from Spain .

The victory of the States of the North over the States of the South would create the essential basic premises that could stand the present United States of North America; before -July 1863- after the victory obtained at the Battle of Gettysburg, Lincoln had expressed:

(…) that the Union under a new protection of God, have a new sprout of freedom, and that the government of the people, by the people and for the people, does not disappear from the face of the earth.

These principles were not enshrined in the North American Constitution. The later republican life of the United States would never enshrine these postulates in subsequent amendments to the Constitution to this day and much less the object of internal politics; the process of national formation and the North American nation lacked from the beginning the humanistic principles that the “Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen” postulated.

The people of the United States have been very far from being able to enforce the principles of sovereignty since its foundation, since the power elites were not postulated in different historical times, totally removed from the postulates of Lincoln.


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