American Civil War in 10 Minutes


Since winning their independence and
ratifying their Constitution, the United States of America began expanding across
North America through purchase, conquest, forced migration and genocide, bringing in
new territories to the Union. Since its colonial times America saw huge trade
in slaves from Africa as these people were bought and sold as property. After
independence, the states in the North looked against slavery, many believing it
to be contradictory to the ideas of a republic. The importing of slaves to the
US was prohibited in 1808, but the internal slave trade in the southern
states continued strongly. With the invention of the cotton gin, used for
quickly and easily processing cotton, the cotton industry took off in the South,
fuelled by slave labour. The northern states had become more industrialised
and people worked on a basis of Free Labour; being paid to work by an employer.
The southern states hadn’t industrialised, relying on agriculture,
the slave trade, and the cotton industry for the economy. The presidential
election of 1860 saw the rise of the new Republican Party candidate Abraham
Lincoln who proposed banning slavery in all the American territories to stop it
spreading. People in the South saw this as a move towards the eventual abolition
of slavery in all of the states. After Lincoln’s election, the southern states
were ready to leave! There were attempts to compromise on slavery, but they were
rejected and thus, seven of the southern states declared their secession from the
United States and became the Confederate States of America, with its capital in
Montgomery, Alabama. The North and indeed unionists in the South saw this as illegal,
believing the Founding Fathers establishing a perpetual union! Along
with the conflict of ideology towards slavery, there was also strong
nationalism between the northern and southern states; the South worrying they
would become proverbial slaves to the industrial North. James Buchanan, who was
still President at this point, didn’t want to aggravate the South and start a war,
but Confederacy forces began to capture federal forts in their territories.
Lincoln was sworn in as president on March 4th, 1861 and he insisted on the perpetual
Union and any secession was legally void. He wasn’t going to enforce federal law
where it wasn’t wanted, but he would use force to maintain federal property. The
Confederacy offered pay for the property, but Lincoln wouldn’t treat with them as
it would give some recognition to the Confederate government.
Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, ordered the surrender of
Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, but negotiations didn’t work. Confederate
forces bombarded Fort Sumter on April 12 1861 which sparked the beginning of the
Civil War. This attack rang across the northern states, rallying them together
against the Confederacy, believing it to be a minority of
secessionists in the South, but that was not the case! Lincoln called for 75,000
troops to fight! He began ordering more and more troops
south to recapture the federal buildings which were falling to the Confederacy.
U.S. war veteran and military leader Robert E. Lee was offered command of the
Union Army but he declined, refusing to fight against his native state Virginia,
as its sympathies lay with the Confederacy. Refusing to send troops
against their neighbours, slave states Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and
Arkansas actually joined the Confederacy, with the Capitol getting moved to
Richmond, Virginia. Some Native American tribes in the Indian Territories sided
with the Confederacy, becoming their allies, hoping for support from the
Confederacy. That paid off… [ahem] Other border states, Maryland,
Kentucky, Delaware and Missouri were slave states, but were against both
the South’s secession and fighting against the South, so they tried to remain neutral.
As Union soldiers from the North moved towards Maryland, anti-Lincoln protestors
rioted! Lincoln declared martial law in Maryland and Union naysayers were
imprisoned, otherwise Washington DC could be surrounded by Confederate states!
Feeling forgotten by the Union, the Arizona Territory seceded and later
joined the Confederacy. As more states left the Union, US Congress stated that
the war was to preserve the Union, not to end slavery! Some slaves began fleeing
their owners to reach the northern states, but when they got there, they were
held as wartime contraband and put to work for the Union! General Winfield
Scott came up with the Anaconda plan to blockade the South and weaken the
Confederacy without bloodshed, but people demanded Richmond be taken back! The odds
were very much on the Union side as it had the greater population. Just under
half of the Confederacy’s population were slaves and the slave owners weren’t
gonna arm them anytime soon! In July 1861, the Union Army began to advance into
Virginia, but met Confederacy forces at Bull Run near Manassas in the first
major battle of the war! Although initially successful, the Union forces
were stopped by General Thomas Jackson who gained the nickname “Stonewall”
Jackson because of his stern defence. The famous Rebel Yell of the Confederate
Army drove the Union back to Washington. George McClellan would become General-in-chief to whip the Union Army into shape! This war was not going to be as short as
expected! This war was the first fully industrial war where railways, telegrams,
armoured ships and improved weapons came into play. The cotton industry in the
south was being crippled by the Union’s blockade. The Confederacy forces hoped
that the countries of Europe would step in, supporting the South, being avid
customers of slave-made cotton, but Europe found its cotton elsewhere and
let the Americans sort out their differences!
The British although developed small blockade runners to continue
trading for cheap cotton from the South, which just about kept the South’s economy
going for a little while. With the absence of the southerners from the US
Senate, the House Republicans were able to bring many bills previously blocked
by southerners, including income tax which would help fund the war. Kentucky
ended its neutrality in favour of the Union when it was invaded by Leonidas
*Polk’s Confederacy forces. At the end of 1861, splinter governments of Missouri
and Kentucky joined the Confederacy, but held little sway in those states. In 1862,
the Union forces chose to move in on multiple fronts through Virginia,
Kentucky, and up the Mississippi. In Missouri, Confederacy forces were driven
out early. Ulysses S Grant pushed through Kentucky, capturing fort Henry and Fort
Donelson, opening up the Tennessee River. Accepting only unconditional surrender
from the Confederates, he became known as “Unconditional Surrender” Grant and was a
hero to the Union. The blockaded Confederacy knew they couldn’t match the
Union’s fleet, so they developed ships with iron hulls and began converting
their smaller fleet into ironclads. When the CSS Virginia went up against the
wooden Union fleet, it decimated them, but the following day, the Union’s first
ironclad, the USS Monitor, arrived and the Battle of the Ironclads was fought to a
draw, but it revolutionised naval warfare forever! Wooden warships were now
redundant! In April, as the Union moved further into Tennessee, the Confederacy
led a surprise attack in Shiloh, pushing Union forces to the river, but as the
Union Navy arrived, Grant’s forces mounted a counter-attack and won a bloody battle
and decisive victory against the Confederacy.
Meanwhile in Northern Virginia, Union forces under George McClellan had been
moving very slowly towards Richmond. They were ultimately forced to retreat after
the Seven Days Battle by General Robert E Lee’s superiorly numbered forces.
Union forces under John Polk tried to push south again… and failed again!
Confident after their victories, Confederacy forces invaded the North,
General Lee pushing into Maryland on September 5th. Two weeks later, Lee’s
forces met McClellan’s at the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single-day in
United States history, ending in Confederacy retreat. In December, new
Major General Ambrose Burnside once again pushed for Richmond, but was
heavily defeated by Lee at Fredericksburg.
Frederick Douglass, a former slave and well-travelled social reformer, had been
campaigning for the abolition of slavery, that that’s what this war was truly
about! In January 1863, Lincoln brought about the Emancipation Proclamation, an
executive order that led to the freeing of three million slaves in the
Confederate States. Many African- Americans joined
the Union Army to fight against slavery. The Union went through a few different
generals in the East, unable to defeat General Lee’s forces. Despite being
outnumbered 2:1, Lee was victorious at Chancellorsville, although
he did lose Stonewall Jackson to friendly fire.
West Virginia separated from Virginia. As General Lee made
another push into the North, Major General George Meade took charge of the
Union forces and they fought for three days in July at the Battle of Gettysburg,
the bloodiest battle of the war, with huge losses on both sides. Lee retreated
but Meade was not able to capture their forces. This battle was the turning point
of the war as the Confederacy threat was never as great. The draft laws in the
North weren’t popular and riots broke out in New York. Many got into this war
for ideological reasons; some for the adventure or simply to defend their
home, but the horrors of war changed many of their minds. In the West, Grant
captured Vicksburg, the last Confederacy stronghold on the Mississippi. The Union
now had complete control of the Great River and effectively split Confederacy
forces in two. Texas was cut off from the Confederacy but under General Kirby
Smith, they managed to hold up strong defences and a self-sufficient economy!
In November, Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg and recalled back to the foundation of
the United States, how all men are created equal and how this nation shall
have a new birth of freedom! Grant relieved besieged Union forces at
Chattanooga, pushing Confederacy forces out of Tennessee, leaving Union forces
looking at the heartland of the Confederacy! With the start of 1864, Grant
was made commander of all Union armies by Lincoln. They decided upon a huge
coordinated campaign pushing into the Confederacy from all directions.
Grant pushed his forces down through Virginia towards the Confederacy capital
Richmond, fighting Lee’s army along the way, both sides suffering heavily. It was
a war of attrition! Despite setbacks for the Union, Grant pushed on, driving Lee to
Richmond and close by Petersburg. Lee moved to defend Petersburg as it was the
railway supply line for the capital. Grant dug trenches and a ten month siege
ensued. Meanwhile Union forces under William Tecumseh Sherman moved from
Chattanooga and captured Atlanta, Georgia in September 1864. Other Union forces
swept along the Shenandoah Valley, fighting the other remaining Confederate
Army, ultimately defeating them. That November, Abraham Lincoln was re-elected
president, defeating Democrat candidate George
McClellan. Sherman marched his army through Georgia towards Savannah,
destroying industry, infrastructure and civilian property along the way; the
march to the sea! Sherman captured Savannah on December 21st and offered it as a
Christmas present to the newly elected Lincoln. The Confederate Army of
Tennessee was also defeated in Nashville. Only the army in North Carolina
and Lee’s besieged Army in Petersburg were all that remained to fight for the
Confederacy. At the start of 1865, the 13th amendment to the US Constitution to
abolish slavery was approved by the US Congress. Change was happening! With
advancing Union reinforcements, Lee ultimately evacuated Petersburg and
Richmond. Union forces secured the city. Outnumbered and outgunned, General Lee
surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9th 1865. Grant would not arrest
the Confederate Army and they could keep their sidearms and horses. News of the
surrender spread and celebrations erupted in Washington! On April 14th the
Stars and Stripes was raised over Fort Sumter where it all began!
That evening, Abraham Lincoln went to a play with his wife in Ford’s Theatre.
There, he was shot by John Wilkes Booth and later died.
Vice President Andrew Johnson became president. Throughout May, the remainder
of the Confederacy forces surrendered and the Civil War ended. The States of
America were united once more. Over 700,000 people died in this war, the
deadliest war in American history. In December 1865 the Thirteenth Amendment
was ratified and slavery was officially abolished. Grant would become president
in 1869. Life would go on. The United States endured, although divisions
remained in the minds of many. Racism didn’t end with slavery. (Much of) the Republican
Party abandoned civil rights for African Americans in favor of big business. The
20th century saw black communities segregated from white communities,
especially in the Deep South. It wouldn’t be until the 1950s and 60s that many
people stood together to demand equal rights for people of colour. Today racism
is still an element in the lives of many; sometimes bubbling below the surface,
sometimes not so much. The Civil War still lingers in the mind of many
Americans and acts as a reminder of how far people can go when faced with giving
up what they see as their god-given right, even when it is to the detriment
of the lives of others. Once again thank you so much for watching and if you
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