Welcome to Civil War Soldier
An introduction to the American Civil War
The American Civil War was one of the defining moments in American history. The Revolution of 1776-1783 may have formed the United States of America as a united entity - on paper at least, but it was the Civil War that took place between 1861 and 1865 that really determined the type of nation America would be.
It was the Civil War that decided whether the United States of America was merely a loose association of states that could easily be dissolved, or an indivisible nation with a sovereign government. And of course the question of slavery, which is most often associated with the war - would the United States truly be a nation that gave equal rights to all its inhabitants or would it remain a country in which slaveholding was an accepted practice. Was it not for the victory of the North over the South, America would have looked very differently today.
But it all came at a very high price, nearly 630,000 lives were lost in the fighting. To put this in perspective, the US lost about 420,000 lives in the Second World War.
What was the cause of the Civil War? Most historians agree that one of the main causes was the differences in opinion between free states and slave states concerning the national government's power to prohibit slavery in areas that were not yet states. It was Abraham Lincoln's election in 1860, and his determination to remove the scourge of slavery from all territories - and to keep it out - that made seven states in which slavery was permitted to form the Confederate States of America. The new administration and a majority of Northerners refused to recognize the secession of these 7 states. If they did recognize the legitimacy of the secession, that what would keep other states from leaving the union as well? It would turn America into a territory of smaller states constantly fighting each other.
In 1861 the Confederate army opened fire on a federal garrison in Charleston Bay, forcing the garrison's soldiers to lower the American flag. President Lincoln had to act, and thus ordered troops to deal with the insurrection at Fort Sumter. It wasn't long after this event that an additional 4 states joined the Confederate States of America. Battles took place between Confederacy and Union soldiers in Missouri, Virginia, as well as North and South Carolina.
Actual full-blown war started in 1862, with large-scale battles taking place in Tennessee, Maryland and Virginia. What started as a small war for the national government to restore order in the Union, ended in a complete war between the North and those states refusing to end the act of slavery. President Lincoln's goal changed from restoring order to eradicating slavery. His Gettysburg address indirectly references the latter in the famous sentence : “a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal”.
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