An Introduction to the American Civil War
Civil War, American, a military conflict between the United States of America (the Union) and the Confederate States of America (the Confederacy) from 1861 to 1865.
The American Civil War is sometimes called the War Between the States, the War of Rebellion, or the War for Southern Independence. It began on April 12, 1861, when Confederate General P. G. T. Beauregard opened fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, and lasted until May 26, 1865, when the last Confederate army surrendered. The war took more than 600,000 lives, destroyed property valued at $5 billion, brought freedom to 4 million black slaves, and opened wounds that have not yet completely healed more than 125 years later.
Causes of the Civil War
The chief and immediate cause of the war was slavery. Southern states, including the 11 states that formed the Confederacy, depended on slavery to support their economy. Southerners used slave labor to produce crops, especially cotton. Although slavery was illegal in the Northern states, only a small proportion of Northerners actively opposed it. The main debate between the North and the South on the eve of the war was whether slavery should be permitted in the Western territories recently acquired during the Mexican War (1846-1848), including New Mexico, part of California, and Utah. Opponents of slavery were concerned about its expansion, in part because they did not want to compete against slave labor.
Economic and Social Factors
By 1860, the North and the South had developed into two very different regions. Divergent social, economic, and political points of view, dating from colonial times, gradually drove the two sections farther and farther apart. Each tried to impose its point of view on the country as a whole. Although compromises had kept the Union together for many years, in 1860 the situation was explosive. The election of Abraham Lincoln as president was viewed by the South as a threat to slavery and ignited the war.
During the first half of the 19th century, economic differences between the regions also increased. By 1860 cotton was the chief crop of the South, and it represented 57 percent of all U.S. exports. The profitability of cotton, known as King Cotton, completed the South's dependence on the plantation system and its essential component, slavery.
The North was by then firmly established as an industrial society. Labor was needed, but not slave labor. Immigration was encouraged. Immigrants from Europe worked in factories, built the railroads of the North, and settled the West. Very few settled in the South.
The South, resisting industrialization, manufactured little. Almost all manufactured goods had to be imported. Southerners therefore opposed high tariffs, or taxes that were placed on imported goods and increased the price of manufactured articles. The manufacturing economy of the North, on the other hand, demanded high tariffs to protect its own products from cheap foreign competition.
Before the Civil War, the federal government's chief source of revenue was the tariff. There were few other sources of revenue, for example, neither personal nor corporate income taxes existed. The tariff paid for most improvements made by the federal government, such as roads, turnpikes, and canals. To keep tariffs low, the South preferred to do without these improvements.
The expanding Northwest Territory, which was made up of the present-day states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and part of Minnesota, was far from the markets for its grain and cattle. It needed such internal improvements for survival, and so supported the Northeast's demands for high tariffs. In return, the Northeast supported most federally financed improvements in the Northwest Territory.
As a result, although both the South and the West were agricultural, the West allied itself with the Northern, rather than the Southern, point of view. Economic needs sharpened sectional differences, adding to the interregional hostility.
In the early days of the United States, loyalty to one's state often took precedence over loyalty to one's country. A New Yorker or a Virginian would refer to his state as ""my country."" The Union was considered a ""voluntary compact"" entered into by independent, sovereign states for as long as it served their purpose to be so joined. In the nation's early years, neither North nor South had any strong sense of the permanence of the Union. New England, for example, once thought of seceding, or leaving the Union, because the War of 1812 cut off trade with England.
As Northern and Southern patterns of living diverged, their political ideas also developed marked differences. The North needed a central government to build an infrastructure of roads and railways, protect its complex trading and financial interests, and control the national currency. The South depended much less on the federal government than did other regions, and Southerners therefore felt no need to strengthen it. In addition, Southern patriots feared that a strong central government might interfere with slavery.
The Fight Over Slavery
Up to 1860 only a few extremists in the South, called fire-eaters, wanted to apply the doctrine of secession to create a separate Southern country. Moderates of both North and South kept hoping to compromise their differences over slavery, tariffs, and the territories in the forum of the Congress of the United States. Compromise was possible as long as neither side controlled the Senate.
With the admission of Alabama in 1819, the Senate became perfectly balanced. However, vast territories in the West and Southwest, acquired through the Louisiana Purchase and the Mexican War, would soon be petitioning for statehood. North and South began a long and bitter struggle over whether the territories would enter the Union as free or slave states.
Under the Constitution of the United States, the federal government had no authority to interfere with slavery within the states. Northern opponents of slavery could hope only to prevent it from spreading. They tried to do this in 1818, when Missouri sought admission to the Union with a constitution permitting slavery. After two years of bitter controversy a solution was found in the Missouri Compromise. This compromise admitted Missouri to the Union as a slave state and admitted Maine as a free state to keep the balance in the Senate. It also provided that slavery would be excluded from the still unorganized part of the Louisiana Territory. A line was drawn from Missouri's southern boundary, at the latitude of 36 °30', and slavery would not be allowed in the territory north of that line,with the exception of Missouri.
Compromise of 1850
Agitation against slavery continued in the North. The South reacted by defending it ever more strongly. The Mexican War, by which the United States made good its annexation of Texas and acquired New Mexico, Arizona, California, and several of the present Rocky Mountain states, led to a new crisis. Antislavery forces demanded that slavery be excluded from any lands ceded by Mexico. Slaveholders pressed for their share of the new territories and for other safeguards to protect slavery. For a time the country seemed to be headed for civil war. Again a solution was found in compromise.The settlement was the Compromise Measures of 1850. Among other things, this compromise admitted California as a free state and set up territorial governments in the remainder of the Mexican cession with authority to decide for themselves whether to permit slavery or not. Moderates in both North and South hoped that the slavery question was settled, at least for a while.
Uncle Tom's Cabin
The year after the compromise a literary event shook the country. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote an antislavery novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, that was published serially in a newspaper in 1851 and in book form the year after. It was widely read in the United States and abroad and moved many to join the cause of abolition. The South indignantly denied this indictment of slavery. Stowe's book increased partisan feeling over slavery and intensified sectional differences.
In 1854, Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois introduced a bill to organize the territories of Kansas and Nebraska, thus opening these areas to white settlement. As finally passed, the Kansas-Nebraska Act repealed the Missouri Compromise and provided that settlers in the territories should decide ""all questions pertaining to slavery."" This doctrine was known as popular sovereignty. Since Kansas and Nebraska were north of the line established in the Missouri Compromise, the act made possible the extension of the slave system into territory previously considered free soil. Soon, settlers in Kansas were engaged in a bloody battle to decide the slavery issue (see Border War).
The passage of the act caused a political explosion in the North. Abraham Lincoln, a longtime member of the Whig Party, represented the view of many thousands when he wrote, in the third person, that ""the repeal of the Missouri Compromise aroused him as he had never been before."" Antislavery groups met to form a new party, which they named the Republican Party. By 1856 the party was broad enough and strong enough to put a national ticket, headed by John C. Fréémont, into the presidential election. The Republicans lost by a relatively narrow margin.
Dred Scott Case
In 1857 the Supreme Court of the United States added to the mounting tension by its decision in the Dred Scott Case. In that case, Dred Scott, a slave, sued for his freedom on the grounds that when his master had taken him to free territories, Scott was no longer a slave. In separate opinions a majority of the justices held that Scott did not have the right to file suit in state or federal courts because he was not a citizen of the United States. As a slave, he was considered property. The justices continued to write that Congress had no power to exclude slavery from the territories. Therefore, the Missouri Compromise and other legislation limiting slavery were unconstitutional.
In 1858 Douglas was running for reelection to the Senate. His opponent was Abraham Lincoln, then the leader of the Republican Party in Illinois. In a series of seven debates, Lincoln and Douglas argued, among other things, the question of the extension of slavery. Douglas stood on his doctrine of popular sovereignty, holding that the people of the territories could elect to have slavery. They could also elect not to have it. Lincoln, on the other hand, argued that slavery was ""a moral, a social, and a political wrong"" and that it was the duty of the federal government to prohibit its extension into the territories.
Although the Republicans carried the state ticket and outvoted the Democrats, the Illinois legislature reelected Douglas to the Senate. The campaign, widely reported in the newspapers, had an importance far beyond the fate of the two candidates. It demonstrated to the South that the Republican Party was steadily growing in strength and that it would oppose the extension of slavery by every possible means. The campaign also showed Douglas to be an unreliable ally of the South. He had said repeatedly in the debates that he did not care whether slavery was voted up or down. In addition, Lincoln, hitherto known only locally, gained a national reputation even in defeat.
John Brown's Raid
As soon as the 1858 elections were over, political maneuvering began over the 1860 presidential election. Many states were in the process of choosing delegates to the national conventions when news of a raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia), swept the nation. On October 16, 1859, the raiders had seized the federal armory and arsenal there. They surrendered two days later. Authorities found that the raid had been led by John Brown, whose raids and murders in Kansas and Missouri had already made him an outlaw. Brown and his followers had planned to march their army into the South to forcibly free slaves. Brown was arrested, tried, and convicted. When he was executed for his crime, thousands of Northerners hailed him as a martyr, while Southerners became increasingly fearful of armed intervention in their states by Northern abolitionists.
Election of 1860
The slavery question overshadowed all others in the presidential election year of 1860. At the Democratic National Convention, held in Charleston, South Carolina, on April 23, the delegates from the South refused to support Douglas, the leading contender, because of his position on slavery, and they prevented the naming of a candidate. The convention adjourned to meet on June 18 in Baltimore, Maryland. On May 16 the Republican National Convention met in Chicago, Illinois, and passed over the two most popular aspirants, William H. Seward and Salmon P. Chase. Instead they nominated the lesser known Abraham Lincoln. In Baltimore, at the reconvened Democratic convention after several days of wrangling, the Southern delegates walked out of the convention. Those who remained nominated Douglas. On June 28 the Southern Democrats nominated John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky. The Democratic Party, long a unifying force in the nation, was thus split over sectional differences into two bitterly opposed factions. The Constitutional Union Party, a group of conservatives who condemned sectional parties, placed a fourth ticket, headed by John Bell of Tennessee, in the field.
Because of this division, Lincoln won easily, although he did not receive a majority of the popular vote. The popular vote was: Lincoln, 1,866,452; Douglas, 1,376,957; Breckinridge, 849,781; Bell, 588,879. Lincoln won in the electoral college, where he received 180 votes against 72 for Breckinridge, 39 for Bell, and 12 for Douglas.
The South Secedes
During the campaign many Southerners had threatened that their states would secede from the Union if Lincoln was elected because they feared that a Lincoln administration would threaten slavery. Few people in the North believed them. A month before the election, however, Governor William Henry Gist of South Carolina wrote the governors of all the Cotton States except Texas that South Carolina would secede in the event of Lincoln's election and asked what course the other states would follow.
As soon as it was certain that Lincoln had won, the South Carolina legislature summoned a special convention. It met on December 17, 1860, in Charleston. Three days later the convention unanimously passed an ordinance dissolving ""the union now subsisting between South Carolina and other States."" Similar conventions were held by other Southern states, and similar ordinances were adopted, although not by unanimous votes. The first states to follow South Carolina's course in 1861 were: Mississippi, January 9; Florida, January 10; Alabama, January 11; Georgia, January 19; Louisiana, January 26; and Texas, February 1. In April, Lincoln called for states to send militias for national service to suppress the rebellion. The upper South refused to send their militias to coerce the seceded states. Instead they joined the lower South in secession beginning with Virginia on April 17th; Arkansas, May 6; North Carolina, May 20; and Tennessee, June 8.
On February 4, delegates from the first six states to secede met in Montgomery, Alabama, to set up a provisional government for the Confederate States of America. Four days later they adopted a constitution modeled to a large extent on the Constitution of the United States. On February 9 the provisional Confederate Congress elected Jefferson Davis of Mississippi provisional president and Alexander H. Stephens of Georgia provisional vice president. Both men were to hold office until February 22, 1862. On that date, after an uncontested election in November 1861, Davis and Stephens were given permanent status.
When Lincoln took the oath of office on March 4, 1861, seven states had seceded and organized a working government. Southern leaders believed that their action was lawful, but Lincoln and a majority of Northerners refused to accept the right of Southern states to secede.
The new president announced in his inaugural address that he would ""hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the government."" He promised that the government would not ""assail"" the states of the South, and he pleaded with the Southern people not to act hastily but to give the new administration a chance to prove that it was not hostile. Lincoln seems to have believed that with time, and without an act of provocation, the states in secession might return to the Union, but time ran out.
Civil War Begins
As the Southern states seceded, they seized and occupied most of the federal forts within their borders or off their shores. Only four remained in the hands of the Union. Fort Sumter stood guard in the mouth of the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina. The other three forts were in Florida: Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas, Fort Pickens in Pensacola Bay, and Fort Taylor at Key West. Of the four, Sumter was the most important.
In January 1861 President James Buchanan tried to send troops and supplies to Major Robert Anderson, commander of the garrison at Fort Sumter. Star of the West, the ship Buchanan sent, was an unarmed merchant vessel. When the shore batteries at Charleston Harbor fired on the ship, it sailed away. Lincoln, during his first full day in office, learned that Anderson had only enough provisions for a month and could obtain no supplies from the mainland. Sumter had become a symbol of the Union. To give it up, Lincoln felt, was to violate his sworn oath to protect the properties of the United States. On the other hand, there was grave doubt that a relief expedition could succeed in supplying the fort. If it failed, it might touch off war.
Early in April, President Lincoln came to a decision. He would send a relief expedition to Sumter, but the ships would land provisions only if they were not attacked. On April 6, he notified the governor of South Carolina of the action he was taking. Three days later the relief ships sailed from New York City.
Surrender of Fort Sumter
On April 11, 1861, General P. G. T. Beauregard, commanding the Confederate troops in Charleston, served Anderson with a demand that he surrender the fort. Anderson refused, but he stated that lack of supplies would compel him to give up the fort by April 15. His reply was so hedged with qualifications that Beauregard considered it unsatisfactory, and, at 4:30 AM on April 12, he ordered his batteries to open fire on the fort.
For a day and a half, Anderson returned the fire. The relief expedition, weakened by storms and without the tugs it needed, appeared at the bar of the harbor but made no effort to land men. On the second day, with Sumter badly damaged by fire, Anderson surrendered the fort.
North and South Mobilize
The North responded to the attack on Fort Sumter with shock and anger. Everywhere people were determined to support the government in whatever measures it might take. On April 15, Lincoln issued a proclamation that called up a total of 75,000 militia from the states. At the same time, calls for troops were sent to the governors of all states that had remained in the Union. On April 19 a second proclamation announced that Southern ports would be blockaded. A third proclamation, dated May 3, called for 42,000 three-year volunteers for the regular army and for 18,000 volunteers to serve one to three years in the navy.
The South responded with equal determination. Virginia and the rest of the upper South seceded. The Congress of the Confederacy authorized President Davis to wage the war now beginning. The border slave states of Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland, and Delaware never seceded. However, many thousands of men in Kentucky, Missouri, and Maryland volunteered for service in the Confederate armies.
Both the North and South raised troops as quickly as possible and struggled with the problem of equipping and training them. The states recruited volunteers and organized them into regiments. Officers were elected by the men and commissioned by the governors. In the beginning the length of service was usually short, but as soon as it became clear that the war would not end with one decisive battle, three-year-enlistments became the rule, although there were many exceptions.
In the North the first troops ready for service were sent to Washington, D.C., and to points along the Ohio River. Confederate troops were concentrated in Tennessee and in northern Virginia, where they could threaten the federal capital.
As men poured into the armies, Northern and Southern leaders discussed strategies that would achieve victory. These strategies contrasted significantly because the two sides had very different war aims. The Confederacy sought independence and only had to defend itself. The North sought to restore the Union, which meant it had to compel the seceded states to give up their hopes to found a new nation. Northern armies would have to invade the Confederacy, destroy its capacity to wage war, and crush the will of the Southern people to resist. The Confederacy could win by prolonging the war to a point where the Northern people would consider the effort too costly in lives and money to persist. The South had a compelling example in the American Revolution of a seemingly weaker power defeating a much stronger one. The colonies had been at an even greater material disadvantage in relation to Britain than were the Confederate states in relation to the North, yet the colonies won, with the help of France, by dragging the war out and exhausting the British will to win. If the North chose not to mount a military effort to coerce the seceded states back into the Union, the Confederacy would win independence by default.
Lincoln and other Northern leaders, however, had no intention of letting the Southern states go without a fight. The most prominent American military figure in the spring of 1861 was Winfield Scott, the general-in-chief of the United States Army. Physically frail but with a brilliant mind, Scott conceived a long-range strategy to bring Northern victory. Subsequently named the ""Anaconda Plan"" (after the South American snake that squeezes its prey to death), Scott's plan sought to apply pressure on the Confederacy from all sides. A combined force of naval and army units would sweep down the Mississippi River, dividing the Confederacy's eastern and western states. At the same time, the Union navy would institute a blockade to deny the Confederacy access to European manufactured goods. Should the South continue to resist even after the loss of the Mississippi and the closing of its ports, Scott envisioned a major invasion into the heart of the Confederacy. He estimated it would take two to three years and 300,000 men to carry out this strategy.
Except for underestimating, by about half, the length of time and number of men it would take to bring success, Scott had sketched the broad strategy the North would implement to defeat the South over the next four years. The United States Navy applied increasing pressure along the Confederate coasts, Northern forces took control of the Mississippi River by the middle of 1863, and large armies marched into Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, and the Carolinas, eventually forcing a Confederate surrender in the spring of 1865.
The Confederacy pursued what often is termed a defensive-offensive strategy. Simply put, Confederate armies generally adopted a defensive strategy, protecting as much of their territory as possible against Northern incursions. However, when circumstances seemed to offer an opportunity to gain a decided advantage over Northern forces, the Confederacy launched offensives——the three most important of which culminated in the battles of Antietam (Maryland) and Perryville (Kentucky) in 1862, and Gettysburg (Pennsylvania) in 1863.
Effects of Geography
Geography played a major role in how effectively the two sides were able to carry out their strategies. The sheer size of the Confederacy posed a daunting obstacle to Northern military forces. Totaling more than 1,940,000 sq km (750,000 sq mi) and without a well- developed network of roads, the Southern landscape challenged the North's ability to supply armies that maneuvered at increasing distances from Union bases. It was also almost impossible to make the North's blockade of Southern ports completely effective because the South's coastline stretched 5600 km (3500 mi) and contained nearly 200 harbors and mouths of navigable rivers. The Appalachian Mountains also hindered rapid movement of Northern forces between the eastern and western areas of the Confederacy while the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia offered a protected route through which Confederate armies could invade the North. The placement of Southern rivers, however, favored the North. The Mississippi, Tennessee, and Cumberland rivers provided excellent north-south avenues of advance for Union armies west of the Appalachians. In Virginia, Confederates defended from behind the state's principal rivers, but the James River also served as a secure line of communications and supply for Union offensives against Richmond in 1862 and again in 1864.
Technological advances helped both sides deal with the great distances over which the armies fought. The Civil War was the first large conflict that featured railroads and the telegraph. Railroads rapidly moved hundreds of thousands of soldiers and vast quantities of supplies; the North contained almost twice as many miles of railroad lines as the South. Telegraphic communication permitted both governments to coordinate military movements on sprawling geographical fronts.
The combatants also took advantage of numerous other recent advances in military technology. The most important was the rifle musket carried by most of the infantrymen on both sides. Prior to the Civil War, infantry generally had been armed with smoothbore muskets, weapons without rifling in the barrels. These muskets had an effective range of less than 90 m (300 ft). As a result, massed attacks had a good chance of success because one side could launch an assault and not take serious casualties until they were almost on top of the defenders. The rifle musket, with an effective range of 225 to 275 m (750 to 900 ft), allowed defenders to break up attacks long before they reached the defenders' positions. Combined with field fortifications, which were widely used during the war, the rifle musket changed military tactics by making charges against defensive positions more difficult. It also gave a significant advantage to the defending force.
Other new technologies included ironclad warships, which were used by both sides; the deployment of manned balloons for aerial reconnaissance on battlefields, used mainly by the North; the first sinking of a warship by the South's submarine, known as the CSS Hunley; and the arming of significant numbers of soldiers with repeating weapons, carried mainly by the northern cavalry. The technology for all of these weapons had been present before the Civil War, but never before had armies applied the technology so widely.
Manpower and Finance
At the beginning of the war, state militias provided most of the troops for both Union and Confederate armies. Soon large numbers of civilians were volunteering for military service. Throughout the war, the bulk of the forces consisted of volunteers.When the number of volunteers lagged behind the growing battle casualties, both the Northern and Southern governments resorted to drafting men into the armies.
The Confederacy passed the first draft act in April 1862. The Union followed almost a year later. In both North and South, men of certain classes, occupations, and professions were exempted from the draft. Furthermore, a man who was drafted in the North could avoid military service by making a money payment to the government and in both the North and South, a draftee could hire a substitute to go to war for him. Opposition to the draft was general throughout the country. In New York City the publication of the first draft lists caused four days of violent rioting in which many were killed and $1.5 million worth of property was destroyed. Although the draft itself did not produce a sufficient number of soldiers, the threat of being drafted led many to volunteer and collect a bounty, which was paid to volunteers. Some soldiers were unscrupulous enough to enlist, desert, and reenlist to collect the bounty more than once.
The Civil War, like all wars, called for great sums of money to pay troops and supply them with equipment. At the outset of the war the Confederacy depended on loans, but this source of finance soon disappeared as Southerners began to be affected financially by the cost of the war and unable to buy bonds. The South never really tried heavy taxation because the government had no means to collect taxes and people in the South were reluctant and often unable to pay them. Instead it relied on paper money, freely printed. Backed only by the possibility of Southern victory, the money dropped in value as the war went on and as its outcome became more uncertain. The Confederacy suffered greatly from severe inflation and debt throughout the war. The Confederate rate of inflation was about 9000 percent, meaning that an item that cost $1 in the Confederacy at the beginning of the war would have cost $92 at the end of the war. In contrast, the North's rate of inflation was only about 80 percent. As the value of money declined, prices rose accordingly.
The Union financed its armies by loans and taxes to a much greater degree than the Confederacy, even resorting to an income tax. The people of the North were more prosperous than those of the South. A national banking system was established by Congress to stimulate sales of U.S. bonds. Northerners had savings with which they could buy the bonds and had earnings from which taxes could be taken. The North also resorted to printing large amounts of paper money, called greenbacks, which were not backed by gold in the U.S. Treasury. As in the South, though to a much lesser degree, the paper money dropped in value in relation to gold, and prices rose. However, the North and South continued to fight as if their treasuries were full.
Civil War, 1861
Both sides prepared for what would become a much longer war than either at first imagined. Hundreds of thousands of volunteers poured into the armies, and the respective economies tried to adjust to meet the demands of supplying huge military forces. On the battlefield, the Confederates won victories in Virginia at the First Battle of Bull Run in mid- July, and in Missouri at Wilson's Creek in August. Despite these setbacks, the Union army and navy took steps to begin operations along the upper Mississippi River and along the southern Atlantic coast. The goal was to implement Winfield Scott's Anaconda Plan to seize control of the Mississippi River and institute a naval blockade of the Confederacy. Away from the military sphere, the Trent Affair presented the Lincoln administration with a major diplomatic crisis that threatened to involve Britain in the American war.
First Battle of Bull Run
On July 16, 1861, a Union army, led by General Irvin McDowell, began to move toward Confederate troops under General Beauregard that were grouped about Manassas Junction, 40 km (25 mi) southwest of Washington, D.C. The two armies did not meet until July 21. The battle, known as First Bull Run or First Manassas, started well for the North. However, with the arrival of Confederate reinforcements and the heroic stand of General Thomas J. Jackson, who earned the nickname ""Stonewall,"" the battle ended in an overwhelming victory for the South. Most of the Union troops straggled back to Washington in near panic.
The defeat shocked the North. The people suddenly realized that the war could be a grim struggle that might last for years. Governors offered more troops and hurried forward regiments with full ranks. The Union War Department pushed the organization of long- term volunteers. General George B. McClellan was ordered to Washington from western Virginia, where he had made a name for himself in a series of small battles. McClellan took charge of the troops in and around the capital, enforcing discipline and instituting intensive training. By the end of October he had a well-equipped, well-trained army that was known as the Army of the Potomac. In November he replaced the aged general Winfield Scott as general-in-chief.
Fighting in the West
Fighting had also begun farther west. In St. Louis, Missouri, on May 10, 1861, a Union force captured a large band of men believed to be training for Confederate service. The seizure of the men caused a riot in the streets where 30 people were killed. Thereafter, Missouri, torn between North and South, would be a state with a civil war of its own. On August 10 a Union Army under Nathaniel Lyon attacked a pro-Southern force under Ben McCulloch and Sterling Price at Wilson's Creek, near Springfield, in southwestern Missouri. Lyon and the Union forces were decisively defeated. For the remainder of 1861 Missouri continued to be a battleground for both Northern and Southern sympathizers.
As early as April 22, Union forces had begun to concentrate at Cairo, Illinois, where the Ohio River flows into the Mississippi. By fall, Kentucky, which had remained neutral for several months, had shown that it would definitely remain in the Union. Neither side needed to respect Kentucky's neutrality any longer. In early September the Confederates grouped troops at several places in Kentucky, with the largest number in Columbus, on the Mississippi River. When the Confederates occupied Columbus, the Kentucky legislature asked the U.S. government for help. In response to the Confederate troop movements, a Union force under Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant occupied Paducah, Kentucky, at the mouth of the Tennessee River. On November 7, Grant occupied Belmont, Missouri, opposite Columbus. The Confederates quickly threw a strong force across the river. After a sharp battle, Grant succeeded in withdrawing most of his 4000 men, and the battle ended without a clear victory for either side. Belmont was the Union commander's first battle of the war.
South Carolina Forts
Also on November 7, 1861, a federal naval officer, Flag Officer Samuel F. du Pont, took 17 wooden cruisers into Port Royal Sound on the South Carolina coast. Du Pont's guns pounded the shore batteries at Fort Beauregard and Fort Walker so effectively that after several hours the defenders evacuated the forts. Du Pont sent in convoy transports, supply ships, and 12,000 men under General Thomas W. Sherman. The men landed with little opposition late in the afternoon and took possession of the forts. Thus, early in the war, the Union established an important base for operations along the southern coast.
Simultaneously the Union met and survived its first diplomatic crisis of the war, known as the Trent Affair. In the fall of 1861 the Confederacy sent James Murray Mason and John Slidell as commissioners to Britain and France. The two men ran the Northern blockade to Havana, Cuba. On November 7, 1861, they left Cuba on the British ship Trent. The next day, Captain Charles Wilkes of the U.S. vessel San Jacinto stopped the Trent, searched it, and took the two Confederate representatives on board his own ship and later to Fort Warren in Boston Harbor.
The North hailed Wilkes as a hero, but by seizing the commissioners from a neutral ship, he had violated principles of international law that the United States had upheld for 50 years and had even gone to war for in 1812. The British ministry demanded an apology and the release of the two men. Many in the North clamored for war with Britain. Lincoln, however, was cautious, and in England, Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's consort, used his influence on behalf of peace. After allowing time for the war fever to cool, the United States admitted that Wilkes had acted without authorization, disavowed him, and liberated the Southern commissioners. A war that might have been fatal to the Union was thus averted.
Civil War, 1862
Furious military action flared in both the eastern and western theaters. In the West, Union victories at forts Henry and Donelson in February and at Shiloh in April gave the Union control of the heartland of Tennessee. The Battle of Pea Ridge in March frustrated a Confederate effort to gain a hold in Missouri, and the capture of New Orleans in late April cost the Confederacy its largest city and busiest port. Confederates responded with an invasion of Kentucky in late summer and fall, which ended in failure at the Battle of Perryville in October. Heavy fighting for the year ended with the inconclusive battle of Stones River or Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and unsuccessful opening movements in the Union campaign to capture Vicksburg, Mississippi. In the East, a Confederate victory at the Seven Days Battle in late June and early July turned back a major threat to Richmond, followed by another Southern triumph at Second Bull Run in late August, and the Union's strategic success at Antietam in mid-September, which ended Robert E. Lee's first invasion of the North. The year closed in Virginia with a costly Union setback at Fredericksburg in mid-December. The year also saw the Confederacy enact the first national conscription act in American history, and the North place emancipation alongside unification as a second great war aim.
Minor Actions and Skirmishes
It would be a mistake to think of the Civil War only as a succession of major battles. Once the fighting was well under way, some kind of military action took place almost daily. The month of October 1862 was typical. Within its 31 days, two battles that resulted in heavy losses were fought. On October 3 and 4 the Confederates attacked Union forces holding Corinth, Mississippi. They were repulsed, but not until they had lost 4133 men killed, wounded, and prisoners, against a total Union loss of 2520 men. On October 8 Union and Confederate troops clashed in the Battle of Perryville, in Kentucky, and the casualties totaled 7600.
The same month saw smaller conflicts. One took place on the Hatchie River near Corinth, Mississippi, on October 5, and a chronicler describes the losses as merely ""heavy."" The next day, in a 30-minute conflict at La Vergne, Tennessee, the Confederates lost 25 men and a Union force lost 14. On October 10 and 11 the Confederate cavalry leader J. E. B. Stuart occupied Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, destroyed cars and engines belonging to the Cumberland Valley Railroad, and seized 500 horses and a large quantity of Union Army supplies. On October 18 Confederate cavalry commanded by General John Hunt Morgan dashed into Lexington, Kentucky, and took 125 prisoners. In an action at Labadieville on the Bayou Lafourche, in Louisiana, on October 27, the Confederates lost 6 killed, 15 wounded, and 208 taken prisoner, while the Union loss was reported as 18 killed and 74 wounded. The month of October 1862 also saw numerous reconnaissances and skirmishes in which only one or two men were killed or wounded, casualties too small to be reported.
It would also be a mistake to think of the Civil War as a steady series of military actions, large or small. The stubbornest enemy of every soldier was not his opponent, but inactivity and boredom. For every hour a man spent in action, he endured many days during which he did nothing but respond to the routine formations of reveille, mess call, and retreat or march mile after mile on expeditions that led nowhere.
As 1862 began, the Army of the Potomac remained inactive. McClellan, although still popular with his troops, was now subject to mounting criticism from an impatient administration and public. The phrase ""All quiet on the Potomac"" became a taunt.
Grant's Campaign in the West
On the western front, Grant waited for permission from his superior, Henry W. Halleck, to strike at the Confederates in Tennessee. Grant had picked his targets: Fort Henry on the Tennessee River; then Fort Donelson a few miles to the east on the Cumberland River. In January 1862 Halleck ordered the advance. It was to be a joint campaign with naval forces under the command of Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote. Foote's gunboats attacked Fort Henry on February 6. The fort surrendered before Grant's troops could be engaged. Fort Donelson proved to be a different story. Fighting began on February 12, but Fort Donelson held out until February 16. The two victories lifted spirits in the North, and Grant's demand for ""unconditional and immediate surrender"" in response to the Confederate commander's request for terms made the Union general famous.
The North, its elation heightened by a decisive Union victory in the Battle of Pea Ridge, also known as the Battle of Elkhorn Tavern, in Arkansas, on March 7 and 8, soon received more good news with a victory at Shiloh.
Battle of Shiloh
After taking Fort Donelson, Grant had wanted to move on the Confederate base in Corinth, Mississippi, where Albert Sidney Johnston, the Confederate commander in the West, was known to be assembling troops. Grant was ordered to delay his advance until Union General Don Carlos Buell, who had been operating in East Tennessee, could join him.
Early on Sunday, April 6, 1862, Johnston's army, which had come up to the federal lines undetected, struck Grant's army, which was encamped at Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River. The Battle of Shiloh followed. At the end of the second day of fighting the Union forces drove back the attackers. Shocking losses, 13,000 out of more than 62,000 Federals and 10,700 out of 40,000 Confederates, appalled both sections of the country. Although victorious, Grant was accused of lacking elementary caution and found himself reviled in the North. The South mourned the loss of Johnston, one of its ablest commanders, who was shot and bled to death.
Monitor and Virginia
In the spring of 1862, McClellan proposed to Lincoln that the North invade Virginia by way of the peninsula between the James and York rivers. However, an unexpected development in that area threatened to prevent the offensive. On March 8 the Confederate ironclad vessel, the Virginia, which was made from the salvaged Merrimack, entered Hampton Roads, Virginia, at the mouth of the James. A number of wooden men-of-war of the Union fleet were in the roads enforcing the blockade. The Virginia destroyed two ships and disabled another. The North was thrown into panic. The next morning, however, the Virginia was challenged by the Monitor, a Union ironclad. The two armored ships bounced shells off each other's sides for four hours without doing any serious damage. Although the battle ended in a draw, the Virginia no longer controlled the area's waters. Soon after, when the Confederates withdrew from Norfolk, they destroyed the Virginia to keep it from falling into Northern hands. McClellan continued with his plans for invading Virginia.
Lincoln agreed with McClellan that an attempt should be made to capture Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy. Lincoln favored an overland invasion route. McClellan, however, insisted on moving the Army of the Potomac by water to the peninsula between the York and James rivers and attacking Richmond from the southeast. Lincoln finally consented to this plan on condition that generals Irvin McDowell and Nathaniel P. Banks be left behind for a short time with about half of the army to defend Washington, D.C.
Shenandoah Valley Campaign
Lincoln needed the troops in Washington, D.C., because the federal capital was threatened by Stonewall Jackson, operating with a handful of men in the Shenandoah Valley. When McClellan's invasion began, Jackson was ordered to prevent reinforcements from reaching the Union commander. Jackson then opened a remarkable campaign, deceiving the enemy into believing he had a huge army. Even in a battle he lost at Kernstown on March 23, he convinced his adversary, General James Shields, of his strength although he had only 4200 men. By mobility and inventiveness, Jackson won victories in the valley at McDowell, Front Royal, Winchester, Cross Keys, and Port Republic before withdrawing to help in the defense of Richmond. Jackson's tactics succeeded; to oppose him and the 16,000 men who fought with him for most of the campaign, the North held back 55,000 men under Banks, McDowell, and John C. Fréémont, men that McClellan needed badly on the peninsula.
On April 2, 1862, McClellan arrived with 100,000 men at Fort Monroe, at the southeastern tip of the peninsula. He took Yorktown after a month's siege but let its defenders escape. On May 31 Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston tried unsuccessfully to stop McClellan's drive at Fair Oaks, only 10 km (6 mi) from Richmond. Johnston was wounded in the battle, and Robert E. Lee replaced him as commander of the Army of Northern Virginia. Lee's courage and courtesy won him the warm affection of his troops. His outstanding ability as a general was to make him idolized in the South and respected and feared in the North. At times, as the war progressed, only the genius and personality of General Robert E. Lee kept the Confederate Army from crumbling.
Soon after Lee's appointment, a series of engagements known as the Seven Days' Battle took place, lasting from June 25 through July 1, 1862. On the second day, Union General Fitz-John Porter drove back a Confederate attack at Mechanicsville, 8 km (5 mi) northeast of Richmond. However, instead of pushing on to Richmond, McClellan began to withdraw. He ordered Porter to fall back to Gaines's Mill. There, on June 27, a Confederate charge led by John B. Hood broke the Union center. McClellan then ordered the army to fall back on Harrison's Landing on the James River, where he would have the cover of Union gunboats. On July 2, after sharp rear guard actions at Savage's Station, Frayser's Farm, and Malvern Hill, the last engagement in the Seven Days' Battle, McClellan reached Harrison's Landing and safety.
The Peninsular campaign was over, with heavy losses on both sides. There were 16,000 Union casualties. Lee suffered even more, with casualties of over 20,000 men, about one- fifth of his army. However, he had stopped McClellan's drive on Richmond. Lincoln's administration held McClellan at fault for not having taken Richmond. McClellan blamed the administration for not having sent reinforcements.
Capture of New Orleans
Both North and South tended to underrate an event that took place while the country's attention was fixed on the peninsula. To make the blockade of the South effective, the Union had to win control of New Orleans and the lower Mississippi. Early in April 1862, Flag Officer David G. Farragut started up the Mississippi with a squadron of combat ships and transports carrying 18,000 federal troops. Attempts to stop him with chain cables and fire rafts failed. Farragut pressed on past Fort Jackson and Fort Saint Philip and arrived at New Orleans, Louisiana, on April 25. He demanded the surrender of the city. Its Confederate defenders, numbering only 3000, withdrew. For the rest of the war, New Orleans, the biggest Confederate city and the key to the Mississippi, remained in Union hands. Its loss was a disaster for the Confederacy.
Second Battle of Bull Run
After the failure of the Peninsular campaign, Lincoln named Henry W. Halleck general-in- chief of the Union armies. The Army of Virginia was organized in June 1862. General John Pope, a former subordinate of Halleck's, was put in command of the new army. Halleck ordered McClellan to bring his men back to Washington, where he was to join with the forces under Pope.
Lee concentrated on preventing this junction of Union armies. On August 9, 1862, Jackson attacked Pope's advance units at Cedar Mountain, near Culpeper, Virginia, and defeated them. Pope withdrew to the north side of the Rappahannock River and waited for McClellan. Jackson, with 23,000 men, swung in a wide circle around Pope's army. On August 26 he swooped down on the federal base at Manassas Junction, captured or destroyed supplies, and then made a stand at Manassas, the site of the First Battle of Bull Run.
On August 29, Pope with 62,000 men attacked Jackson. Jackson withstood the offensive, which was not well coordinated. Nevertheless, Pope believed that he had defeated Jackson and sent a wire to that effect to Washington. The following day, James Longstreet and Lee moved up to reinforce Jackson. Pope's army was shattered by Longstreet's artillery and infantry and fled in disorder. Lee pursued and tried to cut off Pope's retreat the next day at Chantilly.
Pope, thoroughly and humiliatingly beaten, limped back to Washington. He had lost about 14,500 men to Lee's 9200. Pope's force was merged with the Army of the Potomac, and McClellan again was put in command of the entire force.
Battle of Antietam
After the Second Battle of Bull Run, Lee decided to invade Maryland. Although he knew that he could not successfully attack Washington, he wanted to move the fighting out of war-torn Virginia, and he wanted to interrupt the North's supply lines. In addition, he thought that a success in the North might lead France or Britain to recognize the Confederacy. Lee moved across the Potomac River with his entire army and then sent the majority of his army under Jackson to Harpers Ferry. They were to seize the area and open up supply routes to the Shenandoah Valley. He then stationed the rest of his army at Sharpsburg, near Antietam Creek. McClellan with 75,000 men faced Lee across the creek. Jackson rejoined Lee after successfully capturing Harpers Ferry and the additional troups brought the total Confederate forces to about 35,000 soldiers.
The fighting began on September 17, and despite the superior number of Union forces, the Confederate Army was able to hold them off. Just as Union General Ambrose E. Burnside captured a bridge and led his men across the creek, A. P. Hill arrived with fresh reinforcements for Lee. The Union attack was repulsed, and the fighting stopped. Lee led his men in orderly retreat back to Virginia, and the North did not pursue him. Both sides had lost heavily, with total Union casualties of about 12,500 and Confederate casualties of about 10,500. The fighting was so fierce and the casualties so high that Antietam was the bloodiest one-day battle of the Civil War (and in all of U.S. history).
Although the outcome of the fighting was indecisive, Antietam was a major success for the Union. As a result of the battle, Lee lost approximately one-third of his men and gave up the idea of invading the North. Diplomatically the Confederate defeat at Antietam made it more difficult for France or Britain to openly support the Confederacy.
Antietam was also the signal for a major shift in Union policy. From the beginning of the war, President Lincoln had insisted that his primary aim was the restoration of the Union, not the abolition of slavery. As the war continued, however, Lincoln saw that the preservation of the Union depended, in part, on the destruction of slavery. The Lincoln Administration believed that if they made the abolition of slavery a war aim, they could stop Britain or France from recognizing the Confederacy. Both Britain and France had long since abolished slavery and would not support a country fighting a war to defend it. Furthermore, emancipation might allow the North to undercut the South's war effort, which was supported by slave labor.
Emancipation would also clarify the status of slaves who were running away to the Union lines. These black people were refugees and later soldiers in the Union Army. This activity, called self-emancipation, presented a problem to the Union Army. Were these black people free, or enslaved? Should they be returned to their Southern masters under the fugitive slave laws? Some military leaders had already tried to deal with this dilemma. Benjamin F. Butler, a Northern general stationed in Virginia, claimed that he would not return slaves to their masters because they were property, and in war time, the enemy's property can be seized. The Lincoln Administration agreed with Butler's policy.
In addition, public opinion in the North had begun to favor abolition, and Congress, no longer needing to be concerned about the Southern states, had started passing legislation to end slavery. In 1862 Congress abolished slavery in the District of Columbia and prohibited slavery in the territories.
On July 22, 1862, Lincoln had informed his Cabinet that he intended to free the slaves in states that were in active rebellion. However, they had persuaded him to wait until a Northern victory because it would seem less like a desperate measure. Antietam served that purpose. Five days afterward, on September 22, Lincoln issued the first, or preliminary, Emancipation Proclamation. The final proclamation, issued on January 1, 1863, freed the slaves only in the states that had rebelled: Arkansas, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and parts of Louisiana and Virginia.
The president issued the proclamation under the powers granted during war to seize the enemies' property. Lincoln only had the authority to end slavery in the Confederate states, and then the slaves were freed only as the Union armies made their way throughout the South.In the states that remained loyal to the Union slavery was protected by the Constitution. Slavery was only completely abolished throughout the United States by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which was ratified in 1865.
The Battle of Perryville
In August and September 1862, on the western front, the Confederate army invaded Kentucky. Although Kentucky was a slave state, it had not seceded from the Union. The people of Kentucky were divided over the issue of the war, and Kentucky recruits joined both the Confederate and the Union forces. When General Braxton Bragg, who was in charge of the Army of Tennessee, and Major General Edmund Kirby Smith decided to move into Kentucky, they split their forces and headed north from Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Union forces in Kentucky were under the command of Major General Don Carlos Buell. The armies met at the Battle of Perryville on October 8, 1862. The battle was marked by confusion on both sides and did not produce a clear victory, but the Confederates retreated.
After the Battle of Antietam, McClellan refused to take the offensive against Lee's army. His patience at an end, Lincoln relieved McClellan, this time permanently. The command of the Army of the Potomac was given to Ambrose E. Burnside. On December 13, 1862, Burnside's troops engaged the Army of Northern Virginia, placed in strong defensive positions on the hills near Fredericksburg, Virginia, south of the Rappahannock River. The result was a slaughter. Union losses in killed, wounded, and missing amounted to 12,600, as opposed to Confederate losses of 5300. In January 1863 Lincoln relieved Burnside and put General Joseph Hooker in command of the army.
Murfreesboro, or Stones River
Two weeks after Fredericksburg, the western front was the scene of an even bloodier battle. On December 31, 1862, General William S. Rosecrans, commanding the Union Army of the Cumberland, and General Braxton Bragg, leading the Confederate Army of Tennessee, engaged each other at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, 47 km (29 mi) southeast of Nashville. After three days of fighting, in which the two armies lost nearly 25,000 of the 76,000 men engaged, Bragg withdrew from the field, but he left the Army of the Cumberland too badly hurt to resume operations for several months.
At the beginning of the war the Union blockade of Southern ports was not effective, because the North lacked ships to make it so. Blockade-runners, mainly British, made fortunes by landing cargoes of munitions and scarce goods at Southern ports. The Union, however, soon converted all kinds of seagoing craft to armed blockaders and began tightening the net. Armed forces closed a number of important ports. One federal expedition took Roanoke Island, North Carolina, on February 8, 1862. Another occupied New Bern, North Carolina, on March 14. A third expedition captured Beaufort, South Carolina, on April 11. Fort Pulaski, which guarded the approach to Savannah, Georgia, was taken by the Federals on the same day. At the end of 1862 the blockade was well on the way to strangling Southern commerce. In 1860, $191 million of cotton was exported, but the 1862 cotton exports amounted to only $4 million. In addition, the South had difficulty importing goods such as ammunition, shoes, and salt.
Although the Confederacy had no navy, it still found ways to cripple Northern commerce. In spite of its lack of shipyards, it managed to equip a number of ships for service at sea. It also ordered the construction or purchase of other ships in England. Over the protests of the Union government, three English-built ships, the Florida, the Alabama, and the Shenandoah, were delivered to Confederate naval officers and given the task of destroying the U.S. merchant fleet. These three raiders alone inflicted damage estimated at $16.6 million on Union shipping. The loss, while serious, was trivial in comparison to the effect of the Union blockade on the Southern economy.
Civil War, 1863
The year opened poorly for the Northern military. In the West, their efforts to capture Vicksburg during the winter and spring were continually frustrated. In the East, the Union forces were defeated at Chancellorsville in early May. The North rebounded in June and July with a trio of successes: the Tullahoma campaign, which cleared major Confederate forces from Tennessee; the capture of Vicksburg, which together with the fall of Port Hudson, Louisiana, gave the North control of the Mississippi River; and the Battle of Gettysburg, where Lee's last movement across the Potomac River ended in bloody repulse. Another success at Chattanooga in late November closed a most auspicous year of campaigning for the North. The Union also adopted a national conscription act in 1863, prompting wide opposition and considerable violence. The Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on January 1, and soon thereafter the North began recruiting black soldiers on a large scale. Shortages of food and material goods became quite severe in the Confederacy, which experienced bread riots at several locations.
Beginning of the Vicksburg Campaign
In December 1862 Grant began to gather troops for a campaign directed at opening the Mississippi River to the Union and dividing the Confederacy in two. The key to the Confederate defenses was Vicksburg, the heavily fortified Mississippi city that commanded the river from its high bluffs. Grant first planned to march south from Memphis, Tennessee, while another army under William Tecumseh Sherman proceeded by water to Chickasaw Bluffs, just north of Vicksburg. Grant's advance was stopped on December 20, when Confederate General Earl Van Dorn cut in behind him and destroyed Grant's supply base at Holly Springs, Mississippi. Sherman's advance continued, but a week later he was repulsed with heavy losses at the Battle of Chickasaw Bluffs. His report was short but accurate: ""I reached Vicksburg at the time appointed, landed, assaulted, and failed.""
Before crossing the river, Grant had sent the federal cavalry commander Benjamin H. Grierson on a daring raid that Grant hoped would divert the attention of the Confederates from his own operations. Grierson and 1700 men left La Grange, Tennessee, on April 17, 1863. Sixteen days later, after covering 966 km (600 mi), he reached Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He had destroyed miles of railroad, taken 500 prisoners, and eluded thousands of Confederate troops sent against him. He achieved this great feat with the loss of only 24 men.
At the same time that the western army was poised on the banks of the Mississippi, the Union Army of the Potomac and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia were locked in battle. Hooker had spent three months strengthening the Army of the Potomac, restoring discipline, and building up supplies. When the warm winds of spring dried the roads, he had 134,000 well-equipped men ready for duty. In late April, leaving part of his army outside Fredericksburg, he moved 70,000 troops across the Rappahannock as a first step in a drive on Richmond. Lee, learning that Hooker had divided his force, also left part of his army in Fredericksburg. He sent another part under Stonewall Jackson against Hooker's right wing. On May 2, 1863, Jackson hit with such force that Hooker's whole line was driven back. The next day, Lee attacked Hooker's center with the remainder of the army. Hooker had reserves waiting to be called in, but he had been stunned by a shell that had struck headquarters and was unable to give the necessary orders. His line gave way. On May 5 Hooker retreated north of the Rappahannock. The Army of the Potomac had again failed to reach Richmond.
Union casualties at the Battle of Chancellorsville were 17,300 against 12,750 Confederate casualties. However, the Union percentage lost was much lower, and Lee and his army suffered grievously because of the death of Stonewall Jackson, Lee's ablest subordinate.
Fall of Vicksburg
In the west Grant turned to new land and water tactics in cooperation with the Union river fleet commanded by Admiral David D. Porter. From January through March 1863, four attempts were made to bypass Vicksburg by cutting canals or changing the course of rivers. All failed.
In April Grant put his final plan into operation. He would march his army down the west side of the Mississippi to a point below Vicksburg. Porter's gunboats and barges would run past the Confederate artillery on the river, thus supplying the army and furnishing transports for ferrying the men to the east side of the river. The army would then march into Mississippi behind Vicksburg. It would either defeat the Confederates in open battle or drive them into the river stronghold, where they would be forced to surrender sooner or later. On the night of April 16, 1863, Porter ran through the fire from the shore batteries and lost only 1 of his 12 boats. A few nights later, 6 transports and 13 barges tried the same feat, and 5 transports and 6 barges came through. In spite of the losses, Grant had enough supplies and shipping to proceed with his plan.
Along the Mississippi, Grant moved out from his base on May 7 with 44,000 men. His first objective was Jackson, Mississippi, the capital of the state, held by 6000 Confederates. In a battle on May 12, the Confederates were defeated and withdrew northward.
Having disposed of the only force that could threaten his rear, Grant turned west. At Champion's Hill, halfway between Jackson and Vicksburg, two of his corps commanders, James B. McPherson and McClernand, attacked John C. Pemberton, the commander of the Confederate Army defending Vicksburg. The battle, fought on May 16, was the most severe of the campaign. The Union troops were victorious, and Pemberton retreated. On the next day he made a stand at the Big Black River, was again defeated, and withdrew his army to prepared positions in Vicksburg. After two assaults in which he lost heavily, Grant decided that Vicksburg would have to be starved out. The siege lasted almost six weeks, until July 4, 1863, when Pemberton surrendered.
The Campaign of Vicksburg was of utmost importance to the cause of the Union. It took a Confederate army from the field (the captured Confederates were paroled) and freed Grant's army for other operations. It cut the Confederacy in two and opened a highway for trade between the Middle West and the outside world. In Lincoln's picturesque phrase, "the Father of Waters" would henceforth flow "unvexed to the sea."
One reason for the success of Grant's campaign was that Confederate troops that might have been sent from Tennessee to relieve Pemberton were held there by the Army of the Cumberland. After Murfreesboro, Rosecrans kept his army in its camps until the middle of June, much to the dismay of the impatient authorities in Washington. Bragg, however, opposing Rosecrans with the Army of Tennessee, dared not weaken his forces. When Rosecrans did move, he undertook a series of maneuvers known as the Tullahoma campaign, which with very little fighting forced Bragg to retreat. In two weeks, Bragg moved about 200 km (about 125 mi) to the southeast and left Middle Tennessee defenseless
While Grant slowly strangled Vicksburg and Rosecrans feinted Bragg halfway across Tennessee, Lee decided to march his troops north toward Pennsylvania. There were several reasons for this bold move. The Confederate government hoped that a decisive victory on Northern soil would win foreign recognition of the Confederacy. In addition, Lee argued that an invasion of the wealthiest urban area of the North would probably lessen the pressure on Confederate forces in Tennessee and at Vicksburg. Perhaps most important, the lush Cumberland Valley would yield food and clothing for Lee's ragged and hungry army.
On June 3, 1863, Lee began to move his Army of Northern Virginia across the Rappahannock. Hooker, who was aware of Lee's movements, shifted the Army of the Potomac northward, using it as a shield between Lee and the capital at Washington. Late in June, Hooker resigned his command, convinced that he had lost the confidence of the administration. On June 28, General George G. Meade replaced Hooker. Meade had been one of Hooker's corps commanders.
On July 1 advance units of the two armies stumbled into each other near the little town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 16 km (10 mi) north of the Maryland border. Both Lee and Meade realized that a battle was unavoidable. Fighting began that day. Union troops, after early reverses, managed to hold a strategic position on Cemetery Hill. The second day, July 2, saw confused fighting on both Union flanks. Generals Longstreet and John B. Hood assaulted high ground at the Peach Orchard and Little Round Top, but by night the Federals held key positions. The most dramatic action of the battle came on the third day, when General George E. Pickett led a gallant but hopeless charge against the Union center, "the bloody angle." Pickett's drive tried to charge across an open field at Cemetery Ridge, but concentrated Union fire stopped him. The battle was a decisive Union victory, but both armies suffered very heavy losses. Meade's casualties numbered 23,000 and Lee's about 25,000. Lee began his retreat on July 4. To the great disappointment of President Lincoln, Meade did not pursue the Confederate army and make Lee stand and fight. By July 14 the Confederate commander had brought the remnant of his army back to the safety of Virginia. Gettysburg had been a severe defeat for the South, both in terms of men lost and the army's morale. In November 1863 President Lincoln dedicated a national cemetery to those who had died in the Battle of Gettysburg. His speech, known as the Gettysburg Address, became famous as an expression of the democratic spirit and reconfirmed Lincoln's intention to reunite the country.
Discontent in the North
From many points of view, Gettysburg and Vicksburg were among the most important Union victories in more than two years of war. Strangely, they coincided with a violent outburst of disloyalty in the North. From the beginning of the conflict, Lincoln had resorted to measures that many Northerners opposed. His suspension of the writ of habeas corpus enabled him to hold critics of the government in prison indefinitely. The Emancipation Proclamation had angered many who were willing to fight for the Union but not for the abolition of slavery. The military draft, which bore hard on men too poor to pay for substitutes, stirred thousands to the brink of revolt. Many others were simply weary of a war to which they could see no end. They wanted peace at almost any price.
The Peace Democrats, often called Copperheads, did not support the Lincoln Administration or the war. One of the most persuasive was Clement L. Vallandigham, an Ohio Democrat who had served three terms in Congress. On May 5, 1863, military authorities arrested Vallandigham after he had made an extreme antiwar speech in Mount Vernon, Ohio. A military court sentenced him to prison, but Lincoln changed the penalty to banishment to the Confederacy. On June 1 publication of the Chicago Times, which was violently anti- Lincoln, was suspended. At the urging of prominent Chicagoans who were sincerely devoted to free speech and a free press, the President quickly lifted the suspension. Before Lincoln acted, however, Fernando Wood, the mayor of New York City, and other fiery opponents of the war inflamed the tempers of the thousands who attended a protest meeting at Cooper Union in that city.
On July 13, 1863, in spite of the signs of trouble, federal authorities tried to put the draft into effect in New York City. A mob, made up mostly of foreign-born laborers, chiefly Irish Americans, who could not pay for substitutes, attacked the draft headquarters and burned and pillaged residences, stores, hotels, and saloons. For four days the mob fought off police, firemen, and the local militia. During that time, property worth $1.5 million was destroyed, and many people lost their lives. A number of the victims of the mob were blacks. The government rushed in troops from the Army of the Potomac and restored order. A month later, drawings for the draft took place without disorder. There were disturbances in other parts of the country, but they did not compare with those of New York City.
After two years each side had taken thousands of prisoners. In the beginning most prisoners were exchanged and returned to their armies after a few months, but after 1863 far fewer exchanges were taking place. One reason for decreasing exchanges was the South's treatment of Northern black soldiers. The South regarded black soldiers as runaway slaves and refused to treat them as legitimate prisoners of war. Confederate policy was to execute or enslave them. Although the South did not systematically carry out this order, the North was reluctant to continue prisoner exchanges. In April 1864 Grant stopped almost all exchanges because the South, with fewer soldiers, had more to lose. The North and its superior manpower could better withstand the loss of its troops.
The treatment of prisoners has been the subject of heated argument. Union prisoners suffered greatly in such Confederate camps as Andersonville Prison in Georgia, and Confederate prisoners suffered in such Union prisons as Camp Douglas, Illinois. In both sections the death rate among prisoners was appalling. Prison conditions, rather than willful mistreatment, caused most of the deaths. Poorly clothed Southern soldiers could not stand the harsh Northern winters. Northern soldiers suffered from the intense heat of Southern summers. Even when the supply of food was sufficient, the food was of poor quality. In general, prisoners received the same rations as the troops who guarded them. However, the fact that deplorable sanitary conditions resulted from ignorance and overcrowding, rather than from malice, did not make their effect less deadly.
Disease killed far more men in both armies than did bullets. Quartermasters knew little about balanced nutrition and very often could not have obtained the proper food anyway. Most of the time the men did their own cooking, usually in frying pans. Dysentery was common and was frequently fatal. Surgeons used no antiseptics and operated in the field with their arms bloodstained to the elbows. Medical knowledge was so inadequate that the sick or wounded soldier sent to a hospital was as likely to find it a step to the grave as a way to recovery.
In the North a voluntary organization, called the United States Sanitary Commission, did much to care for the sick and wounded and to provide small comforts for men in the field. The commission recruited both male and female nurses and sent delicacies and extra clothing to hospitals. Another voluntary organization, the United States Christian Commission, distributed Bibles, reading matter, and stationery. In addition, individuals often helped the war effort with their time or money. One was Clara Barton who organized efforts to provide food and medical supplies, and nursed wounded soldiers. The South had no general relief and aid organizations, but many local groups did what they could to make the life of the Confederate soldier more tolerable.
After the draft riots, the summer of 1863 slipped by in quiet except for the nameless skirmishes and minor engagements that took place somewhere almost every day. Early in September, Union General Rosecrans and the Army of the Cumberland began a campaign against Chattanooga, Tennessee, an important rail center and supply point where Bragg had concentrated his troops. Rosecrans split his forces so that they came toward Chattanooga from different directions.
Knowing that Rosecrans had divided his forces, Bragg decided to give up Chattanooga, withdraw to the south, and attack Rosecrans's forces piecemeal as they came out of the mountain passes to the west and north. At the last minute the federal commander realized the danger and frantically drew together his scattered troops.
On September 19 the two armies clashed along West Chickamauga Creek, a few miles south of Chattanooga. On the afternoon of the next day, Rosecrans, believing that he had been disastrously defeated, left the field for Chattanooga, where he planned to make a final stand. However, General George H. Thomas, the commander of the Federal 14th Corps, stood his ground, saved the day, and won the nickname by which he was ever after known, ""Rock of Chickamauga.""
On the Confederate side, Bragg refused to deliver the final blow that might have won the battle decisively for the Confederacy, despite urges from Longstreet and Nathan B. Forrest. The Union troops, or what was left of them, retreated toward Chattanooga in good order.
Siege of Chattanooga
Rosecrans soon discovered that his army was under siege. The Confederates held his supply routes. His men went on short rations and, in the cool days of fall, suffered for lack of firewood. When Rosecrans informed the authorities in Washington that he would be forced to give up Chattanooga, he was relieved of duty. Grant, who had been appointed on October 16 to the command of all the Union armies on the western front, hurried to Chattanooga. In less than a week he opened new supply routes. Soon the Union troops were reclothed, well fed, and supplied with enough ammunition to take the offensive.
Fall of Chattanooga
Confederate troops under Bragg had occupied two strong positions: Lookout Mountain, south of the town, and Missionary Ridge, a steep 8-km (5-mi) long height that flanked Chattanooga and the Tennessee River on the southeast. In three days, November 23 to November 25, Grant's troops performed the seemingly impossible feat of dislodging the Confederates from both positions. The taking of Missionary Ridge on November 25 was especially spectacular. The Union troops had been ordered to take only the first Confederate line near the base of the hills, but they swept upward without orders and overwhelmed the defenders. During the night, Bragg withdrew toward Dalton, Georgia. On November 30, Jefferson Davis accepted Bragg's resignation. Soon afterward, command of the Army of Tennessee went to Joseph E. Johnston.
Grant Becomes Union Commander
With the onset of winter, military operations practically stopped. In Washington, Lincoln came to a decision. In two and a half years of war, he had seen one Union commander rise above all others. Grant had made mistakes. At Shiloh he had been caught off guard. At Vicksburg he had ordered assaults that had cost many lives to no purpose. However, he fought, without complaining, with the men and resources the War Department could give him, and he won. On March 9, 1864, Grant was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general, a grade that Congress had recently revived for his benefit. Three days later, Lincoln placed him in command of all the Union armies, and Grant came east to fight.
Britain Abandons the South
Meanwhile, the Union had won a major diplomatic battle. Since the beginning of the war, the Confederacy had had a naval officer, James D. Bulloch, in Britain to buy or contract for cruisers to raid Northern commerce. In 1861 and 1862, Bulloch had managed to acquire and equip several ships. In 1862 he contracted through third parties with the British shipbuilding firm of Laird Brothers for two rams, or ironclads, which he believed would be able to sweep Northern commerce from the seas and destroy the trade from the Atlantic seaports of the Union.
Charles Francis Adams, the Union minister to Britain, knew very well that the rams were intended for Confederate service. Time after time, Adams warned the British government of the destination of the rams and demanded that their delivery be prevented. He could get no promise. The British government, however, had decided to prevent departure of the vessels and, on October 9, 1863, seized the ships. Bulloch sadly reported to the Confederate secretary of the navy: ""No amount of discretion or management on my part can effect the release of the ships."" Thereafter the Confederacy could no longer hope for aid from Europe.
Civil War, 1864
The year 1864 began optimistically for the North, which expected Grant, its new general- in-chief, to bring victory. However, the bloody Overland Campaign in Virginia during May and June, which featured clashes at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor, depressed Northern morale, as did the failure of General Sherman to capture Atlanta. A swift strike through the Shenandoah Valley brought a small Confederate army to the outskirts of Washington in early July, which further alarmed the North. By August, Northern morale had reached its lowest point of the war, and there were expectations that Lincoln would be defeated in his bid for reelection in November. As Grant and Lee settled into a siege along the Petersburg-Richmond lines, Union victories at Mobile Bay in late August, at Atlanta in early September, and in the Shenandoah Valley in September and October raised Northern morale and ensured Lincoln's reelection. Lincoln's political triumph in turn guaranteed that the North would continue to prosecute the war vigorously. The year ended with Union victories at Franklin and Nashville, Tennessee, in November and December, and Sherman's destructive march across the interior of Georgia. Hopes for Confederate success had virtually ended, the Northern blockade was tightening, and civilian and military morale in the South sagged badly.
For 1864 Grant planned an aggressive campaign. In the spring, when the roads had dried, the Army of the Potomac, still under Meade's direct command, moved against Lee in Virginia. Union General Benjamin F. Butler's Army of the James would advance from Bermuda Hundred, Virginia, on the James River. Sherman, now in full command in the West, would take the offensive against Johnston's army and Atlanta. For these moves the Union armies could muster 235,000 men. The Confederates had no more than 150,000 to oppose them.
On May 4 the Army of the Potomac crossed the Rapidan River in Virginia and camped in the Wilderness, a region of tangled woods and underbrush south of the old battlefields of Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg. The next day the federal troops engaged Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. A two-day battle followed. Maneuvering was next to impossible, and much of the time the men of the two armies could barely see one another. The losses, however, were heavy: about 18,000 on the Union side and about 11,000 for the Confederates.
Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor
When such losses had been inflicted on the Army of the Potomac in the past, its commanders had either halted or retreated. Now a new man was giving orders. Advance, Grant said, and strike Lee on his right flank. From May 8 to May 18, fighting swirled around the hamlet of Spotsylvania Courthouse, Virginia. The Union lost more than 17,000 men without decisive results. Grant again ordered an advance around Lee's right flank. This time, Lee shifted his army to meet the Union drive head on. At Cold Harbor, Virginia, north of the Chickahominy River and within sight of Richmond, Grant called for a frontal advance. On June 3 the federal troops suffered 7000 casualties during one day of the Battle of Cold Harbor, as the Union troops struggled against the entrenched Confederates, who lost fewer than 1500. For the next ten days the two armies were inactive, camped within sight of each other.
Grant then decided to cross the James River, circle around Lee's army and the Confederate capital to Petersburg, and fall suddenly on Richmond from the south before Lee could come to its defense. The plan was skillfully put into operation and almost succeeded. Just in time, however, the Confederates became aware of Grant's movements. Beauregard, with a numerically inferior force, managed to stop Grant's advance at Petersburg. Heavy fighting took place from June 15 to June 18, when Lee arrived from Richmond with his main army. Unable to take Petersburg by direct assault, Grant prepared to starve the city into surrender. Before the siege ended almost a year later, the entire Confederacy was on the verge of collapse.
Sinking of the Alabama
Grant's failure to take Richmond in a smashing attack spread gloom in the North. An important Union naval victory was won at the same time, but news of it was slow in coming.
The Confederate cruiser Alabama, since its commissioning in May 1862, had sunk or captured more than $6.5 million worth of Union merchant ships and cargoes. On June 11, 1864, the Alabama entered the harbor at Cherbourg, France, to land prisoners and be repaired. Three days later the USS Kearsarge, which had been tracking the raider, came into port to pick up the Alabama's prisoners. Ordered to withdraw beyond the territorial limits, Captain John A. Winslow of the Kearsarge waited for his prey. Captain Raphael Semmes of the Alabama sent out word that as soon as he had taken on coal he would come out and fight. The duel began on the morning of June 19 and ended less than two hours later, when the Alabama, mortally wounded, slipped stern first into the sea. The Kearsarge had destroyed the Confederacy's greatest single menace to Northern commerce.
The Florida, second among the great Confederate raiders, was captured in violation of international law in the harbor at Bahia (now Salvador), Brazil, in October 1864. The Shenandoah, which had been taking prize vessels, chiefly whalers, in the Pacific, did not learn that the war was over until August 2, 1865. It succeeded in making its way to Liverpool, England, in November 1865, and there its captain turned it over to the English authorities.
Sherman Moves Into Georgia
While the Kearsarge was establishing Union supremacy at sea, a great Union land victory was developing. In March 1864, when Grant became general-in-chief, Sherman was appointed supreme commander in the West. Soon Sherman started south with 105,000 Union troops of the Army of the Cumberland, the Army of Tennessee, and the Army of the Ohio. At Dalton, in northern Georgia, Johnston had posted the Confederate Army of Tennessee in a strong position. Sherman sent his troops around the Confederate left flank. On May 12 Johnston dropped back to Resaca, Georgia, 24 km (15 mi) farther south, and took another strong position. Again Sherman moved around Johnston's left flank. Again Johnston retreated, this time to Allatoona, Georgia. In a month, Sherman advanced 129 km (80 mi). There had been continuous fighting but no large battles and no heavy casualties.
On June 27 Sherman, whose patience was worn out by Johnston's evasive tactics, decided to attack the Confederate lines on Kennesaw Mountain. In a few hours, Sherman learned the lesson that Cold Harbor had taught Grant. The Union troops were repulsed with a loss of 2000 killed and wounded. Johnston had about 500 casualties.
After Kennesaw Mountain, Sherman resorted again to flanking movements. Johnston continued to retreat, thus keeping his army intact and ready to deliver a stinging blow should he catch Sherman off guard. By early July, Johnston had drawn back to the outskirts of Atlanta. Sherman shifted his troops into a crescent, confronting Johnston on the northwest, west, and southwest.
On July 17 Jefferson Davis, who disliked Johnston and had little faith in his ability, relieved him and appointed General John B. Hood in his place. Hood, who was brave but rash, could be counted on to use tactics different from those of his predecessor. On July 20 and on July 22, Hood sent his men from their trenches to strike at Sherman's lines. Both attacks were repulsed. On July 28 Hood tried again, with the same result. By this time, in the fighting around Atlanta, the Federals had lost 9000 men; the Confederates, with smaller forces, had lost 10,000 killed, wounded, and captured.
Attempt on Washington, D.C
While Sherman faced Atlanta, waiting for a chance to pierce the lines of the defenders, and while Grant besieged Petersburg, the Confederate high command made a desperate move. Lee sent one of his corps commanders, General Jubal A. Early, to threaten the Union capital. Early went down the Shenandoah Valley, crossed the Potomac River, and took supplies and money from the communities through which he passed. On July 9, at a point on the Monocacy River, 48 km (30 mi) from Washington, Union General Lew Wallace faced Early with a small force. The federal commander courted certain defeat, but he delayed Early long enough to permit troops from Grant's army to reach Washington and defend the city. Although Early took up a position within sight of the Capitol on July 11, he realized that an assault was hopeless and returned to the valley.
Fall of Mobile
As the summer advanced, the war took a new and decisive turn. On August 5 a federal fleet commanded by Admiral Farragut forced its way into Mobile Bay, in Alabama. Fort Gaines and Fort Morgan, which defended the city, surrendered on August 8 and August 23, and Mobile was closed to blockade-runners and lost to the Confederacy
Fall of Atlanta
The pace of the war continued to quicken, bringing fresh Union victories. On September 1 Hood evacuated Atlanta. The next day, Sherman's troops marched into the city, flags flying and bands playing. The fall of Atlanta was extremely important to the Union because of its strategic position and its impact on Southern morale.
Other Union victories followed. After Early's threat to Washington, Lee gave him a free hand to operate in the Shenandoah Valley. Lee hoped that Grant would be forced to weaken his grip on Petersburg to meet the new threat. Grant acted as Lee anticipated, but the federal commander sent a general who proved to be more than a match for Early. In three battles, at Winchester on September 19, at Fishers Hill on September 22, and at Cedar Creek on October 19, Philip H. Sheridan not only drove Early's troops from the valley but also devastated the area so thoroughly that its rich farms could no longer send food and supplies to Lee's troops.
While the armies went about their deadly business in the spring and summer of 1864, Northern politicians started the machinery for another presidential election. Many people in the North were dissatisfied with Lincoln. Battle losses in the East had been staggering, and Grant had neither destroyed Lee's army nor taken Richmond. Many Republicans complained that Lincoln was too moderate on the slavery question or was too easygoing in the prosecution of the war. A great many Democrats had come to believe that the South could not be defeated and wanted peace at almost any price.
The Republican National Convention met in Baltimore, Maryland, on June 7. To attract War Democrats, the name of the party was changed to the National Union Party. Although many delegates would have been happy to replace Lincoln, the administration's control of the party machinery secured his renomination with ease. His running mate was Andrew Johnson, a Democrat from Tennessee who had remained loyal to the Union. The platform called for the unconditional restoration of the Union.
On August 29 the Democratic National Convention met in Chicago, Illinois. The delegates hoped to elect their candidate by playing up the war situation as it was at that moment, with Grant's having failed to take Richmond and Sherman stalled outside Atlanta. The Democratic platform declared the war a failure and demanded that immediate efforts be made to bring the fighting to an end. The delegates nominated George B. McClellan for president and George H. Pendleton, senator from Ohio, for vice president. Ten days later, McClellan accepted the nomination but he refused to support the platform plank that called for peace without the restoration of the Union, thinking that it was an affront to the troops he had commanded.
Election of 1864
The election in the North took place on November 8. As late as August 23, 1864, Lincoln had commented to his Cabinet that it seemed ""exceedingly probable"" that he would not be reelected. However, he had not foreseen the steady succession of Northern victories. Before November the mood of the people changed. On election day the popular vote was 2,218,388 for Lincoln and 1,812,807 for McClellan. The popular margin was not nearly so large as that in the electoral college, where Lincoln polled 212 to McClellan's 21.
There was no 1864 presidential election in the South. Under the Confederate constitution, the president was elected for six years, and thus no election was held after 1861.
Sherman's March to the Sea
One week after the election, Sherman's troops, numbering about 60,000 men, marched out of Atlanta toward the east. They did not know their destination, but following parallel routes, they marched across Georgia along a 97-km (60-mi) front. Although under strict orders not to destroy private property, they burned and looted plantations and public buildings. Slaves by the thousands left their masters and followed the Union troops to freedom. Neither the Confederacy nor Georgia could offer much resistance. In his 1864 march across Georgia, Sherman applied the military concept of war against civilian property. He made a desert of the land through which he passed, destroying major Confederate sources of supply for Southern armies. He also brought home the war to the Southern people behind the lines in the hope that, by breaking their morale, he would weaken the will to fight. In short, he fulfilled his grim boast: ""I can make this march, and make Georgia howl!""
On December 10 Sherman deployed his men around Savannah, Georgia. Fort McAllister, the principal defense of the city, fell on December 13. On December 20 General William J. Hardee, who commanded the small force that the Confederate government could spare for the defense of the city, withdrew his men to positions north of the Savannah River. Two days later, Sherman telegraphed to Lincoln: ""I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the city of Savannah, with one hundred and fifty heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, also about twenty-five thousand bales of cotton.""
While holding Atlanta, Sherman had tried time after time to corner the Confederate army that Hood had withdrawn from that city. Hood kept out of reach. Sherman assumed that when Hood left Atlanta, he would strike north into Tennessee. To defend the state and prevent an invasion of the North, Sherman placed Thomas in command of all the troops left behind on the western front.
Thomas concentrated his forces in Nashville, Tennessee. General John M. Schofield, following the Confederates with part of the Union troops, clashed with Hood on November 30 in the bloody Battle of Franklin. Although victorious, Schofield withdrew his troops to Nashville. Hood followed and took up positions on the high ground south of the city.
Thomas made his plans deliberately, so deliberately that Grant, impatient at the delay, almost removed him from his command. On December 15 Thomas struck. The Confederates fought stubbornly but lost ground. The next day, Thomas renewed the attack. The result was a smashing Union victory. Hood's army was so disastrously defeated that it fell apart. Many of the Confederates drifted back to their homes, the war over so far as they were concerned.
Civil War, 1865
The Union moved toward victory during the first four months of 1865. In mid-January, the capture of Fort Fisher, which guarded Wilmington, North Carolina, closed the final significant Confederate port. On the political front, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery on January 31, and a last-ditch effort at negotiating an end to the war failed at the Hampton Roads conference in early February. In February and March, the siege of Petersburg and Richmond continued, while Sherman's army worked its way northward through South Carolina and into North Carolina. Union success at the Battle of Five Forks on April 1 signaled the end of the long defense of Richmond, after which Lee's army retreated westward until forced to surrender at Appomattox Court House on April 9. With Lee's surrender, the war was clearly drawing to a close. However, Northern celebrations were quickly silenced when Lincoln was shot on April 14 and died the next day. Large-scale Union raids into Alabama and Northern successes elsewhere further weakened an already reeling Confederacy, and in late April Sherman accepted surrender of the South's last major field army at Durham Station, North Carolina.
With Hood no longer a threat, Grant planned to have Sherman march north and join the Army of the Potomac in a joint campaign to crush Lee. To clear the way, an expedition was sent against Fort Fisher at the mouth of the Cape Fear River in North Carolina. The fort fell on January 15, 1865. The loss deprived the Confederacy of its last strongpoint along the Atlantic Coast and tightened the Union blockade. It also sealed the port of Wilmington, North Carolina, leaving only Galveston, Texas, open to blockade-runners.
Sherman had expected to start north soon after January 1, 1865, but bad weather delayed him until February 1. On that date he moved out with 60,000 men, 2500 wagons, and 600 ambulances. As in the march through Georgia, his men would live off the country. He could expect some fighting but no dangerous opposition, for the Confederates had only 25,000 troops in the Carolinas. Sherman fought only one sharp battle in the campaign. On March 19 at Bentonville, North Carolina, Johnston, restored to command by Lee, attacked one of the advancing Union columns. Sherman quickly concentrated his forces, and Johnston retreated. On March 23 Sherman reached Goldsboro, North Carolina, where he halted.
Yet the campaign through the Carolinas was not easy. Throughout the campaign the troops fought the weather if not the enemy. Heavy rains had made the roads soggy, but the guns and wagons came through with the foot soldiers. In 50 days, 10 of which were devoted to rest, the troops covered 684 km (425 mi). The march was notable because it proved that the South stood at the very edge of defeat. It could no longer defend itself against an invading army.
Burning of Columbia
Sherman's conduct of the campaign made his name hated throughout the South and left lasting scars. Troops living off the resources of an area were a hardship on civilians. In South Carolina, destruction went far beyond military needs. Northerners believed that the state had started the war and that its people should be made to pay for their sins. Many Union officers tried to restrain their men, but pillaging was common, and the smoking ruins of houses and barns all too often marked the Federals' path. Fifteen towns were burned in whole or in part, but no act of destruction compared with or caused more controversy than the burning of Columbia, the state capital. Sherman denied that he gave orders to burn the city. The fires in Columbia were most likely begun both by retreating Confederate forces, who wanted to deny supplies to the Northern troops, and by invading Federal soldiers.
Sherman Joins Grant
At the end of March, Sherman left General Schofield in charge and hurried to Petersburg for a conference with Grant. On March 27 and 28, the two met with Lincoln and Admiral Porter to make plans for the final campaign. At this time, Lincoln made his policy clear: He wanted the war brought to an end with no more bloodshed than necessary, and he had no desire to take harsh measures against the Confederates after they had laid down their arms. Grant warned the president that Lee could not be expected to surrender without a last-ditch effort.
Fall of Richmond
Grant planned to extend his lines westward around Petersburg and Richmond to cut the two railroads that still supplied the hemmed-in Confederates. On March 29 the federal commander started his columns. Lee moved troops to counter the threat. On April 1 at Five Forks, 24 km (15 mi) west of Petersburg, Sheridan defeated a Confederate force led by Pickett, capturing much artillery and many prisoners. Fearful of being completely encircled, Lee sent three brigades to Pickett's support and decided to evacuate Richmond. Learning that Lee had weakened his defenses, Grant ordered a general assault on April 2. The defenders resisted staunchly, giving Lee time to make an orderly withdrawal. Federal troops entered the abandoned city the next day.
Appomattox Court House
By taking his army out of Richmond and Petersburg, Lee hoped to join Johnston who had been in North Carolina, and at least to prolong the struggle. Grant's goal was clear: to prevent the two armies from uniting. From April 3 to April 7, Union and Confederate forces engaged in a series of running fights. On April 7 Sheridan managed to place his brigades across the line of Lee's retreat at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, 96 km (60 mi) west of Petersburg. Mindful of Lincoln's wish to avoid needless bloodshed, Grant sent Lee a note pointing out his hopeless condition and inviting surrender. Lee, who was keenly aware of his desperate situation, asked for terms. On the morning of April 9 the two commanders met at a private home in Appomattox Court House. Grant asked only that the officers and men of the Army of Northern Virginia surrender and give their word not to take up arms against the United States until properly exchanged. Lee accepted the terms. The war was over in Virginia.
The War Ends
President Lincoln lived to learn of Lee's surrender and to rejoice that the war was almost at an end. A few days later, on April 14, he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, a crazed actor and defender of the Confederacy. The North, overwhelmed with grief, was not disposed to be generous to the conquered Confederacy.
Meanwhile, news of Lee's surrender slowly made its way to Johnston and Sherman in North Carolina. Johnston made peace overtures to Sherman, and on April 17 the two commanders met in Durham Station, North Carolina, to discuss terms. Sherman thought he was carrying out Lincoln's wish to heal the wounds of war by offering more generous terms than Grant had offered Lee. However, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, embittered by Lincoln's murder, which he suspected had been inspired by the Confederate government, refused to approve the terms. On April 26 Johnston had to surrender his 37,000 men on the same conditions as those agreed on by Lee when he surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House.
Only two sizable Confederate armies remained. One was in Louisiana, led by General Richard Taylor. The other, commanded by General Edmund Kirby Smith, was in Texas. Taylor surrendered on May 4, and Smith surrendered on May 26, both of them to General E. R. S. Canby. On May 10 Jefferson Davis was captured in Georgia.
Assessment of the Civil War
Looking backward, anyone must marvel at the fact that the war lasted four years. All the advantages seemed to favor the North. In 1860 the 22 states that would remain in the Union (three more would come in before 1865) had a combined population of 22 million. The 11 states that made up the Confederacy could count only 9 million inhabitants, including almost 4 million black slaves. Most of the factories capable of producing war materials were located in the North, and the section was well equipped with railroads. It had a merchant marine and could maintain worldwide commerce. The South, on the other hand, was a region of farms. Although these farms produced products that Europe wanted, particularly cotton, the South had few ships, and its principal ports were soon closed.
Much has been made of the superiority of Southern commanders. Although Lee was more than a match for every opponent except Grant, Grant overcame the Confederate general by force of numbers and determination of will. Neither side had another corps commander equal to Stonewall Jackson, but Jackson was killed before the war was half over. In the West, the Union commanders clearly outmatched their opposites. No Confederate leader could stand comparison with Grant, Sherman, or Thomas. In naval operations, Foote, Farragut, and Porter had no Confederate rivals.
Little distinction can be made between Northern and Southern morale. Desertion was common on both sides. The North had its Copperheads, its bounty jumpers, and its draft rioters, and millions of Northerners were weary of the war long before its end. In the South, draft dodging and tax evasion were common, and fortunes were made by profiteers who preferred to run luxuries, instead of war supplies, through the blockade.
The South had two important advantages. First, it did not need to conquer the North. It could win the war simply by defending its soil and by waiting for the North to become so discouraged by repeated failures that it would grant independence. Second, the South could operate with shorter interior lines, thus making better use of its fewer men.
In the long run, Northern superiority in supplies and men was decisive. That Southern armies remained in the field and took a toll from their opponents until the spring of 1865 is a remarkable achievement in determination and fortitude. Lincoln's position on slavery and democracy was equally important in the outcome of the war. The Emancipation Proclamation put an end to Southern hopes of foreign intervention. In the North the majority of the people remained firmly resolved that the Union must be restored.
Costs of the War
The human cost of the war far exceeded what anyone had imagined in 1861. The North placed roughly 2.2 million men in uniform (180,000 of them blacks), of whom about 640,000 were killed, wounded in battle, or died of disease. Of the 360,000 Northern soldiers who died, two-thirds perished from illnesses such as dysentery, diarrhea, measles, malaria, and typhoid. Casualties in Confederate forces are more difficult to estimate, but they probably approached 450,000 out of approximately 750,000 to 850,000 Confederate soldiers. Of these, it is estimated that more than 250,000 died. The proportion of battlefield deaths to deaths by disease was probably the same as in the Northern armies. Total deaths thus exceeded 600,000, and the dead and wounded combined totaled about 1.1 million. More Americans were killed in the Civil War than in all other American wars combined from the colonial period through the later phase of the Vietnam War (1959- 1975).
Human suffering also extended beyond the military sphere and continued long after fighting ceased. During the conflict, thousands of black and white Southerners became refugees, losing many of their possessions and facing an uncertain future in strange surroundings. Far fewer Northern civilians experienced the war so directly, although the citizens of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, saw their town burned by Confederate cavalry in 1864. An unknown number of civilians perished at the hands of guerrillas, deserters, and, less frequently, regular soldiers in both armies. After the war, many thousands of veterans struggled to cope with lost limbs and other wounds. Thousands of families faced difficult financial circumstances due to the death of husbands and fathers. The United States government made available small pensions for disabled veterans and widows of soldiers, and southern states did the same for former Confederate soldiers and their widows. In neither instance, however, were the funds sufficient to provide for all the needs of a family.
The war generated spending on a scale dwarfing that of any earlier period in American history. In 1860, the federal budget was $63 million; in 1865, federal government expenditures totaled nearly $1.3 billion——a 200-fold increase that did not include the money spent by the Confederate government. An estimate in 1879 placed war-related costs to that date for the United States at $6.1 billion, including pension payments that would continue for many years. Figures for the Confederacy are very unreliable, but one estimate places expenditures through 1863 at $2 billion. After 1863, records for Confederate expenditures are not available. Whatever the total figure, there is no doubt that expenditures and indebtedness grew to a size that were not imaginable before the war.
The war also caused wide-scale economic destruction to the South. The Confederate states lost two-thirds of their wealth during the war. The loss of slave property through emancipation accounted for much of this, but the economic infrastructure in the South was also severely damaged in other ways. Railroads and industries in the South were in shambles, more than one-half of all farm machinery was destroyed, and 40 percent of all livestock had been killed. In contrast, the Northern economy thrived during the war. Two numbers convey a sense of the economic cost to the respective sections: between 1860 and 1870, Northern wealth increased by 50 percent; during that same decade, Southern wealth decreased by 60 percent.
Effects of the War
The Civil War was the central event in the lives of most of the men who served in the armed forces. Many of them had never traveled more than a few miles beyond their homes, and the war took them to places they otherwise would not have seen, made them participants in great events, and often left them with scars that constantly reminded them of how much they had sacrificed. During the postwar years, thousands of men joined veterans' organizations such as the Grand Army of the Republic in the North and the United Confederate Veterans in the South. They revisited the sites of their battles, raised monuments to commemorate their service, and, in large numbers, wrote reminiscences about their part in the war. For black men who fought for the Union, the war provided the strongest possible claim for full citizenship. They had risked their lives, along with their white comrades in the military, and they argued that they should have the right to vote and otherwise live as full members of American society.
The war touched the lives of almost every person in the United States. Women assumed larger responsibilities in the workplace because so many men were absent in the armies. In the North, they labored as nurses (previously a male occupation), government clerks, and factory workers and contributed to the war effort in other ways. Southern white women also worked as clerks and nurses and in factories, and thousands took responsibility for running family farms. Several hundred women disguised themselves as men and served in the military, a few of whom were wounded in battle. Although the war opened opportunities for work outside the household, its end brought a general return to old patterns of employment. Still, the war remained a major event in the lives of women as it did for the men in uniform.
Slave men and women in the South shouldered a major part of the labor burden, as they always had, and made it possible for the Confederacy to put nearly 80 percent of its military-age white men in uniform, a level of mobilization unequaled in American history. No group was more directly affected by the outcome of the war than the almost 4 million black people who were slaves in 1861. They emerged from the conflict with their freedom, which was confirmed by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in December 1865. However, blacks did not have equal rights until long after the war.
The war also touched children in profound ways. Fathers and brothers left home to fight, and thousands of boys 17 years old or younger entered military service as drummers, musicians, or soldiers in the ranks. Children behind the lines followed the progress of the war, pretending to be soldiers or nurses. All too often, they were affected by the loss of parents or siblings. Many grew to adulthood with a sense that whatever they might face in life, it would be less important than the great national crisis in which their fathers fought.
3. Long-Term Effects of the War
The war was followed by twelve years of Reconstruction, during which the North and South debated the future of black Americans and waged bitter political battles. In 1877, the white South tacitly conceded national power to the Republican Party in return for the right to rule their own states with minimal interference from the North. Republican domination of presidential politics and a solidly Democratic white South were two legacies of the war and Reconstruction. Despite ratification of the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, black Americans failed to win equal rights during the acrimonious postwar political debates. As the 19th century closed, they faced a rigidly segregated life in the South and hostility across most of the North.
Despite the destruction, the war did settle the question of secession. Since 1861 no state has seriously considered withdrawing from the Union. In addition, the war brought slavery to an end. After the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, there was widespread acceptance of the fact that Union victory would mean general emancipation. Since the proclamation was a war measure that might be held unconstitutional after the war, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which abolished slavery, was passed by both houses of Congress early in 1865. It was ratified by three-fourths of the states and was formally proclaimed in effect on December 18, 1865.
The war also set the South back at least a generation in industry and agriculture. Factories and farms were devastated by the invading armies. The labor system fell into chaos. Not until the 20th century did the South recover fully from the economic effects of the war. In contrast, the North forged ahead with the building of a modern industrial state.
In conclusion, it must be remarked that the Civil War did not raise blacks to a position of equality with whites. Nor did the war bring about that emotional reunion that Lincoln hoped for when he spoke in his first inaugural address of "the bonds of affection" that had formerly held the two sections together.