The American Civil War Essay Sample

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The American Civil War (1861 – 1865) was the most problematic period in the history of the United States. More than sixty thousand people became martyrs for their country in the Great Civil War. The war was between United States and 11 Southern States (Confederate States of America under the leadership of President Jefferson Davis)[1]. United States (the Union) was lead by Abraham Lincoln, the President and the Republican Party. They strongly opposed secession and fought against the expansion of slavery. The American Civil War began on 1861 April 12 as the Confederate forces commenced a fight against federal military installation at Fort Sumter in South Carolina.

Southern people made the slaves work for them to produce corps like cotton. Even though slavery was deemed illegal in the northern territories, not many of the Northern people opposed it. The main dispute between the Northerners and southerners was whether slavery needs to be retained in the Western regions that are secured through the Mexican War (1846-1848). Those who opposed slavery was particular about its expansion because they were not interested to compete against the slave labor. Apart from this there were numerous economic and social factors that widened the gap between the Northerners and the Southerners. Economic differences between the north and the south increased by the first half of the 19th century.

The North was gradually strengthened as an industrial society. Immigrants from Europe offered them labor. They built rails for them and settled in the Western areas. The South however moved on with its cotton cultivation, depending upon the slave trade. They opted the plantation system and there fore the slave labor. They showed zero interest in industrialization and did not manufacture goods. They required the goods to be imported and therefore opposed high tariffs, or taxes. The North manufacturing society but demanded tariff increase keeping their products from foreign competition. The federal government’s main source of revenue was nothing but the tariff. Southerners demanded a tariff decrease which was not acceptable to the government. All these increased the problems between the North and the South that culminated into the Civil War.

The federal government and the 11 states fought over the issue of trade and tariffs and the doctrine of states’ rights apart from the issue of slavery. During the 1840s and ’50s the Northern states opposed slavery which became a serious threat to the Southern States. Slavery constituted the major economic source for the Southern States. Slavery abolition started spreading fast in the North during the 1850s when Abraham Lincoln[2] the Republican candidate became the President in 1860. The Southern states considered that it is rightful to keep slaves, and were extremely unhappy with the slavery abolition attempts of the Northern States. They formed union under Jefferson Davis for fighting against the North. However, the North under Lincoln constituted double the population of the Confederacy and excelled their in terms of the manufacturing and transportation capacity. The great confrontation commenced in Charleston, S.C as the Confederate artillery attacked the Fort Sumter. Both groups started launching more and people into the battlefield that by July 1861 nearly thirty thousand Union troops rallied to the Confederate capital at Richmond, Va.

The troops were however blocked by the Confederate forces in the Battle of Bull Run as they moved back to Washington, D.C. This unexpected defeat shocked the Union as they had to launch more than 500,000 more people into the battlefield. The first main campaign started by 1862 February as the army of the Union under the leadership of Ulysses S. Grant conquered Confederate forts in western Tennessee. After that Union repeated their success at Shiloh and New Orleans. Robert E. Lee could make many Confederate victories in the East (in the Seven Days’ Battles) though they encountered defeat in the Battle of Fredericksburg (Battle of Antietam in 1862 December). Lee attacked the North and engaged Union troop under the leadership of George Meade at the historic fight at Gettysburg. He had already secured victory at Confederate in the battle of Chancellorsville. The most crucial turning point in the Civil War happened on July 1863 as Grant secured victory in the Vicksburg Campaign that made the Mississippi river[3] to the Union’s possession. Grant further extended the power after the Union surrendering at the Battle of Chickamauga.

Lincoln, later in the year 1864 entrusted Grant with the Supreme commandership of the Union armies. He followed the policy of aggressive attrition even though the Union army suffered great causalities in the fight at the Wilderness and Spotsylvania. His troop trapped the Lee’s army in Petersburg, Va. However at the same time William T. Sherman attacked Atlanta, commenced a great march along Georgia and captured the Savannah. Grant conquered Richmond on 1865 April 3 and made Lee surrender at Appomattox Court House on April 9. Sherman got Joseph Johnston surrender on April thereby making the war conclude. The last Confederate army surrendered and the Union found victory over the South army. The death rate and the causalities started rising at a fast rate; out of 2.4 million soldiers, nearly 620,000 perished. The war destroyed tremendous resources; property valuing nearly $5 billion. The whole South was demolished as they lost several thousands. The Union, however, did not suffer much loss and was preserved. This great victory of the Union over the slavery-supporting South abolished slavery from America. The Civil War ended the cruel era of slavery. Even though the Civil war was a tearful chapter in the history of America, it brought freedom, light and life to almost four million black slaves.

The American Civil War was the most expensive war that America has ever witnessed. The brutal war split the country into two, and generated more than 1,000,000 casualties besides 600,000 deaths. In the battles, very few (victors) remained alive in the battlefield. The war made the entire America lament as each and every individual of the subcontinent was affected in some or the other way. However, the Great War accomplished its purpose; the abolishment of slavery from the American land, though the country paid a heavy price for it.


Beringer, Richard E., Archer Jones, and Herman Hattaway, Why the South Lost the Civil War, 1986.

Davis, William C. The Imperiled Union, 1861-1865 3, 1983.

Donald, David Ed. Why the North Won the Civil War (1977) (ISBN 0-02-031660-7), short interpretive essays.

Donald, David et al. The Civil War and Reconstruction, 2001.

Eicher, David J., The Longest Night: A Military History of the Civil War, 2001.

Fellman, Michael et al. This Terrible War: The Civil War and its Aftermath, 2003.

Hesseltine, William B. ed.; The Tragic Conflict: The Civil War and Reconstruction , 1962.

Weigley, Russell Frank. A Great Civil War: A Military and Political History, 1861-1865, 2004.

Woodworth, Steven E. ed. American Civil War: A Handbook of Literature and Research, 1996.

[1] Jefferson Davis (June 3, 1808 – December 6, 1889) was an American statesman and politician who served as President of the Confederate States of America for its entire history from 1861 to 1865 during the American Civil War. Davis believed that corruption had destroyed the old Union and that the Confederacy had to be pure to survive.

[2] Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809—April 15, 1865) was the 16th President of the United States (March 4, 1861 – April 15, 1865). As an outspoken opponent of the expansion of slavery and a political leader in the western states, he won the Republican Party nomination in 1860 and was elected president later that year.

[3] The Mississippi River, derived from the old Ojibwe word misi-ziibi meaning ‘great river’ (gichi-ziibi ‘big river’ at its headwaters), is the second-longest named river in North America, with a length of 2320 miles (3733 km) from Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico.

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