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The American Civil War Essay Sample

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The American Civil War, also known as the War between the States or simply the Civil War (see naming), was a civil war fought from 1861 to 1865 between the United States (the “Union” or the “North”) and several Southern slave states that had declared their secession and formed the Confederate States of America (the “Confederacy” or the “South”). The war had its origin in the fractious issue of slavery, and, after four years of bloody combat (mostly in the South), the Confederacy was defeated, slavery was abolished, and the difficult Reconstruction process of restoring unity and guaranteeing rights to the freed slaves began.

In the presidential election of 1860, Republicans led by Abraham Lincoln opposed expanding slavery into the territories. Lincoln won but before his inauguration on March 4, 1861, seven cotton-based slave states formed the Confederacy. Outgoing Democrat James Buchanan and the incoming Republicans rejected the legality of secession. Lincoln’s inaugural address insisted his administration would not initiate civil war, leading eight remaining slave states to reject immediate calls for secession. A Peace Conference failed to find a compromise. Both sides prepared for war. The Confederates assumed that European countries were so dependent on “King Cotton”

for its industry that they would intervene; none did and none recognized the new Confederate States

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of America.

Hostilities began on April 12, 1861, when Confederate forces fired upon Fort Sumter, a key fort held by Union troops in South Carolina. Lincoln called for the creation of an army to retake it; meanwhile, four border slave states joined the Confederacy, bringing their total to eleven. The Union soon controlled the border states and established a naval blockade that crippled the southern economy. The Eastern Theater was inconclusive in 1861–62. The Fall 1862 Confederate campaign into Maryland ended at the Battle of Antietam, dissuading British intervention.[3] Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which made ending slavery a war goal.[4]

To the west, by summer 1862 the Union destroyed the Confederate river navy, then much of their western armies, and the Union at Vicksburg split the Confederacy in two at the Mississippi River. In 1863, Robert E. Lee’s Confederate incursion north ended at the Battle of Gettysburg. Western successes led to Ulysses S. Grant command of all Union armies in 1864. In the Western Theater William T. Sherman drove east to capture Atlanta and marched to the sea, destroying Confederate infrastructure along the way. The Union marshaled the resources and manpower to attack the Confederacy from all directions, and could afford to fight battles of attrition through the Overland Campaign towards Richmond. The defending Confederate army failed leading to Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.

The American Civil War was one of the earliest true industrial wars. Railroads, the telegraph, steamships, and mass-produced weapons were employed extensively. The mobilization of civilian factories, mines, shipyards, banks, transportation and food supplies all foreshadowed World War I. It remains the deadliest war in American history, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 750,000 soldiers[5] and an undetermined number of civilian casualties. Historian John Huddleston estimates the death toll at ten percent of all Northern males 20–45 years old, and 30 percent of all Southern white males aged 18–40.[6]

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