THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR: A BRIEF HISTORY
The American Civil War is considered by many to be the first modern war, and has certainly left a long-lasting impact to this day. It was fought between the United States of America, led by Republican leader Abraham Lincoln, and the unrecognised, secessionist Confederate States of America, led by Democratic leader Jefferson Davis. The Montgomery Convention on the 4th of February 1861 established the Confederation, due to seven Southern seceded states delegating to form a union against the United States, these states being, in order of secession, South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas. Many white people who lived within these states felt more Southern than American, which also saw the rise of Southern nationalism. The capital was placed in the city of Montgomery, Ala., and the Capitol building is still used as the State Capital of Alabama; now known as the First Confederate Capital. The main reasons of the war were economics of slavery and states’ rights. Abolitionists from the new Republican Party fought for the abolition of slavery throughout all of the United States, as well as the South, whereas the South fought to expand slavery into the western American territories (such as Oklahoma, Kansas, Nevada etc.). The 1860 election is one of the most important short-term causes of the war; none of Lincoln’s 180 electoral vote majority that he had secured were from the Southern states, which led to the Southern belief of them being underpower, and therefore rapid secession of the aforementioned states and war.
The combined strength of the Confederate Army, Marines and Navy is estimated to be around 1,000,000, while the combines strength of Union Army, Marines, Navy and Revenue Service is estimated to be around 2,200,000. The belligerents were definitely unmatched: the more affluent North had over 80% of the America’s factories and industrial processing, the vast majority of financial resources, food exports, minerals (produced 15 times as much iron and 38 times as much coal), as well as disparity in manpower, with the population of the Union being 22,000,000 compared to the Confederation’s 9,000,000. The Confederation had a clear shortage in men, with a guns-to-men ratio of 32:1. The North also possessed most of the weapon manufacturing and ship building facilities, while the South relied on trade from Europe, which was ever more difficult due to trade blockades from the recognised United States. Northerners from areas such as the rural New England and the Midwest possessed gun skills as good as their Southern counterparts, and were vitally better educated. Union soldiers were also of many different backgrounds, with almost a third of Union soldiers being foreigners, most of whom were from Germany, but also Great Britain, Ireland, Canada, France and Mexico. Industrial powerhouses such as Chicago, Detroit and Baltimore churned out well-educated officers, engineers and professors, whose diverse education served as a decisive factor of victory against the generally uneducated farmers of the Confederate Army. Foreigners also fought for the Confederation, generally Mexicans from Texas, Germans, Frenchmen and Poles, although the number was not nearly as high as it was for the Union. African Americans also served in the Confederate army as servants and labourers, and weren’t allowed to serve as armed soldiers until only a few months before the war ended.
The Union’s upper hand in manpower, industrial power and resources may have created the illusion that they were to be clear victors, although this was unquestionably not the case. The South were fighting on familiar terrain, that was all the way from the rough, mountainous terrain of West Virginia, down the Appalachian Mountains, as well as having the far larger coastline which made it difficult for the North to pinpoint and command attacks. The Confederacy also did not need to take the initiative and instead, just had to withstand the enemy attacks of the Union, which made them fight the war defensively with ease. Thus, this cancelled out the North’s numerical advantage of soldiers and labourers. Furthermore, a further 6 states seceding from the Union made it even more difficult for the North to wage an easy victory, and the secession of the border states changed the balance, most importantly perhaps the secession of Virginia and Maryland, which put them in direct range of the communications from the White House.
The war began on the 12th of April 1861, which was when the two-day Battle of Fort Sumter occurred, prompted by the Confederation’s bombardment of the Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina. Although no men on both sides died, this was to be the first crisis of the Lincoln administration, as the vast overpowering of the thousands of Confederate soldiers compared to as little as 80 Union soldiers forced the United States Army to surrender. Furthermore, President Lincoln’s 75,000 volunteers initiative, an initiative where the President called for a 75,000-man militia to serve following this attack, provoked six border slave states to declare their secession from the Union and joined the Confederation, worsening the troubles of Union army.
After over 150 battles fought within the Atlantic Ocean, the Union and the Confederation’s territory as well as the Indian territories, 25 of which were decisive (10 of which were Union victories, 8 of which were Confederate victories and the other 7 of which were inconclusive), the bloody Battle of Gettysburg began. This was a three-day war fought in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania between the Union’s Army of the Potomac, who had a military strength of 104,256 soldiers, and the Army of Northern Virginia, with an estimated 75,000 soldiers. This was to be the bloodiest battle in all of the Civil War. The Potomac Army were commanded by officer George “Old Snapping Turtle” Meade, while the North Virginian Army were commanded by Robert E. Lee, a commander who had established a reputation as an invincible general, having defeated many larger armies with his tactics. However, Lee was of failing health and was too overconfident upon fighting in the battle, and henceforth for these reasons his loss was attributed, as well as the poor management of his soldiers.
There were an estimated 28,000 casualties in the Confederate army, and an estimated 23,000 in the Union army, as well as a single civilian death. Due to tactical faults in Lee’s commanding, which forced the North Virginian army to retreat back into Virginia, the battle was considered a decisive Union triumph.
The war eventually ceased on 9th May 1865, when the Union cavalrymen captured the Confederate president Jefferson Davis after he fled from the then capital of the Confederation in Richmond, Vi. At this point, the Confederation were weak, since they controlled no ports or harbours. Consequently, Jefferson Davis surrendered and the Confederate States of America collapsed, with over 828,000 Union casualties, including 365,000 deaths, and over 864,000 Confederate casualties, including 290,000 deaths. About half the Confederate army was captured by Union forces and cavalrymen. The Thirteenth Amendment was thus signed and ratified by the required number of states in December of that year, and was a tremendously influential Union victory.
Also read the article documenting the politics after the war.