Footsteps of History
Civil War Dates
Officially, the Civil War began on 12 April 1861 with the firing upon of Fort Sumter and ended 9 April, 1865 with the Surrender of General Robert E. Lee. Basically, it was a military conflict between the Union (The United States of America) and the 11 Secessionist states known as the Confederate States of America (The Confederacy). Though these "official" dates span four years, the conflict gradually evolved over a period of several decades
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Civil War History - a brief summary
*This brief summary is not meant to be a comprehensive history of the Civil War, but only the highlights. See one of the many Civil War history pages for more complete histories.
The North and the South had many basic differences. The North was mainly a center for manufacturing and industry and the financial strength necessary for success. The South economy was based in agriculture, with cash crops of tobacco, cotton and sugarcane bringing in a large portion of the economic strength. The South depended greatly on the industry of the North and the northern commercial services to further its trade to the North and to Europe. The southern "planter class" held the majority of slaves during this time, with more than 4 million enslaved men, women and children. They were an economic and financial investment to the southern gentlemen. The non-slave owners also gave their nod to slavery to ensure there would be no unrest.
In the United States government, legislators avoided the slavery question like a plague to keep harmony between the northern and southern factions. But time overcame the avoidance. Growing anti-slavery opinions in the north and the growing expansion of slavery towards the north brought more and more verbal conflict. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 addressed this question by establishing a demarcation line at the 36o 30` parallel between Slavery areas and non-slavery areas. This temporarily settled the outright arguments until the USA began to expand westward. Once again in 1850, new boundaries were established in the Compromise Measures of 1850, which established California as a free state and created the Utah and New Mexico territories from land acquired in the Mexican War. In the two new territories, the local governments were allowed to choose their status between free or slave. These measures did not appease many and conflict continued to escalate. The southern factions believed their views were being ignored and that they were losing any control they may have had in the congress. The northern leaders, in the other hand, wanted funding for expansion, subsidies for improvements, good currency, homesteads and other items needed in a growing and expanding economy. The South felt the North was being favored while they were being discriminated against.
In 1854, discord reared its ugly head once again with the establishment of two new territories, Kansas and Nebraska. Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois sponsored a bill to give both territories popular sovereignty. In effect, this Kansas-Nebraska Act voided the Missouri Compromise and raised the ire of many northerners. Due to the uproar, a new political party, the Republican party, was created. This new party valiantly opposed slavery and gained great strength in the north. By 1856, it had grown so strong that its new candidate for President, John C. Fremont, was nearly elected. President Buchanan asked congress to admit Kansas as a slave state, further irritating the northern supporters.
On 7 March 1857, the Supreme Court ruled in the Dred Scott Case that congress could not prohibit slavery in US Territories. This action greatly infuriated the north. On 16 Oct 1859, John Brown, an anti-slavery leader, led his famous raid at Harper's Ferry, Virginia (which is now in West Virginia). These events, among others, led to great insecurity among Southern leaders. The 1860 election saw great division among the ranks. Candidates were John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky by the southern wing of the Democratic party, Stephen A. Douglas by the northern wing of the same party, John Bell by the newly formed Constitutional Union Party and Abraham Lincoln by the Republican party. The Democratic split mostly ensured Lincoln's election and he took office in March of 1861 on a platform that opposed the further expansion of slavery and endorsed a protective tariff, federal subsidies for internal improvements, and a homestead act.
By the time of his inauguration, the Confederate States of America had been formed with Jefferson Davis as president and seven states had gone along - Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas.
President Lincoln took a firm stand from the moment of his inauguration by stating that secession was not legal and further stating he would maintain the federal possessions in all southern states. On the infamous day of 12 April 1861, when an attempt was made to re-supply Fort Sumter at Charleston, South Carolina, the southern forces opened fire beginning the Civil War. Lincoln retaliated within a few days which also brought about the secession of Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. Though the North had more resources, more volunteers, more money and supplies than the South, neither side was prepared for a great conflict such as the Civil War would bring. Throughout the war, the north was able to muster more men, including troops of former slaves and freemen. The south was constantly hampered by lack in all areas, including military forces. Though more powerful in their resources and manpower, the North did not win as quickly and as efficiently as they had hoped. The South was able to bring in more experienced military men, such as Robert E. Lee while the North had more difficulty finding its military leadership, eventually finding great generals in Grant and Sherman.
Each side employed what they felt were certain advantage. The South wanted to keep the fighting in familiar territory until the North lost its will to fight, while the North wanted to attack broadly, cutting off supply to the South. The Northern leaders felt a march directly to Richmond, Virginia, the confederate capital would bring the war to a rapid end.
Both sides employed various techniques, all of which either worked or failed at some point. In other words, the battles went both ways, large areas were ravaged, lives were lost and not much ground was covered to end the conflict.
Later in 1861, several border states, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland and Missouri, were brought into the Northern sympathies, but these areas still maintained high levels of secessionism. Later, in September 1861, Kentucky joined the Union side as it was invaded by Confederate troops. West Virginia was also formed at this time from the western counties of Virginia and went to the Northern side. After a number of major battles with losses on both sides, Lee invaded Maryland in September 1862, resulting in major losses for both north and south in the Battle of Antietam. Further conflicts in all fronts moved the battle lines back and forth. The real turning point in the war appears to have been the Battle of Gettysburg beginning on 1 July, 1863, with Lee's army eventually retreating back into northern Virginia. By the end of 1863, the war had definitely turned in favor of the North, though, by no means, was the bloodshed over.
For many months in 1864 Grant's forces attempted to break down Richmond's supply lines by taking Petersburg, Virginia. Meanwhile, Atlanta had fallen and their supply lines obliterated. By September 1, the southern forces had to leave the city. Sherman's troops began their march from Atlanta, burning and destroying all that fell in their path that might help the confederate efforts. By April, 1865, Sheridan and Grant joined up to assail Lee's army for perhaps the final battle. Lee and his army fled to the west, only to be stopped by Grant. On 9 April, 1865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at the Appomattox Court House in southwestern Virginia.
Once the surrender was complete, what Confederate armies remained quickly fell apart. A naval blockage was initiated to prevent any re-supplying to the south. With a minimal navy, Union forces had trouble enforcing the blockade. Also coming into the picture during March of 1862, was the new southern weapon, the Merrimack, an old steam frigate covered with metal armor. The following day, the north responded with their own "ironclad" ship, the Monitor. The indecisive battle gave neither side a true victory.
Although the Merrimack returned to the safety of Norfolk Harbor, its presence forced McClellan to alter his route of march to Richmond. Other naval operations helped to cut off supply from New Orleans and other ports for the south during the remainder of the war. Lincoln had issued a preliminary proclamation of emancipation in September of 1862 stating that in those states or portions of states that were still engaged in rebellion, the slaves would be "forever free." He felt that the Confederate states would not return to the Union and slavery would not be so much an issue. But he clearly stated that the preservation of the Union was his primary objective! In issuing the emancipation proclamation, he maintained it would further weaken the south and was militarily necessary for victory and maintenance of the Union. Several states and portions of states were excluded from the proclamation. The 13th Amendment which abolished slavery in the entire United States was ratified by the legislature in December 1865.
On 8 December 1863, a Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction was issued by the President. Any Southerner who took an oath of loyalty to the Constitution and swore to obey the legislation and proclamations on slavery would be granted amnesty. New constitutions could be written and leaders sent to Congress once certain provisions were met. Republicans in congress were generally unhappy with this situation, wanting more protection for freed slaves and more reconstruction.
This internal war was the most costly to the American people in both physical devastation and in terms of human lives taken. By the end of the war, 620,000 men had been killed. Bear in mind that at this time there were only a total of 35 million people in the entire country! This does not include the many more who were injured. Most of the destruction took place in the south. Most of the large cities lay in ruins. The surrounding countrysides were ravaged, crops were destroyed and livestock either killed or taken.
After this war, other ways to voice grievances were employed by the states and the Union showed more permanence. The war needs had dramatically increased production and capital in the north as well as in the south. Once the war was over, these facilities were converted over to civilian use to the benefit of the general economy. This marked the beginning for the United States in becoming an industrial power in the world. Though the slaves had been freed, it took many, many years to change attitudes, which are still needing adjustment. Great advances have been made in Civil Rights since the end of the war, though change continues to be needed in many areas to this day.
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The Civil War Trail
Click on the first community to start the trail or choose one of them at random and then follow the trail along. You can always come back to the Civil War home page by clicking on the back button. These stops on the trail are mostly obscure facts and events rather than the prominent happenings of the Civil War. Once you reach the community page, click on history in the index.
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Other Civil War Links
Be sure to come on back to Key to the City after exploring these links
from the Signal Corp Association
West Virginia in the Civil War
GenWeb Civil War Sites and information for Ohio
American Civil War Research Database
The Re-enactors Home page
37th Texas Calvary (Terrells)
A Historically Accurate Confederate Re-enactment Unit
Sons of Confederate Veterans Home page
The Hernando Heritage Museum - Home of the Brooksville Raid, Brooksville, Florida
Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry
The Scandinavian Regiment:
"This website is dedicated to the 15th Wisconsin, which served with distinction in the Federal Army during the American Civil War (1861-1865).
It was called the Scandinavian Regiment because its soldiers were almost all immigrants from Norway, with some from Denmark and Sweden. While Norsemen served in both the Union and Confederate Armies, the 15th was the only all Scandinavian regiment in either. The 15th's history, now nearly forgotten, is one of great dedication and sacrifice. This website was created to honor and preserve the memory of Oberst Heg og hans gutter ~ Colonel Heg and his boys, especially for their descendants."
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