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The American Civil War 1861 1865

The American Civil war was fought between 1861-1865. This war is also known as the War Between the States. This war was the consequence of the eleven Southern slave states declaring their separation from the United States. These slaves had formed the Confederate States of America or the Confederacy, under the guidance of Jefferson Davis. The American Civil war was regarded as one of the earliest industrial wars.

The American Civil War 1861 1865
The American Civil War 1861 1865

Background of The American Civil War

In 1860 Republican Party leader, Abraham Lincoln had won the Presidential elections. Within a year of Lincolns win six more Southern slave states declared their independence and joined the Confederates. Prior to the war, a Peace Conference in 1861 was held which proved futile to solve the slavery problems.

Lincoln suggested for the restoration of the bonds of the union but dismissed any possibility of negotiations with the Confederates as it was not a legitimate government. The forts under the control of the Union were Fort Monroe, Fort Sumter, Fort Pickens, Fort Jefferson and Fort Taylor. However, problems began in 1861 when the Confederates launched an attack on Fort Sumter. The Union had to surrender the fort. After the attack, the Confederates moved their capital to Richmond.

During the first year of the war, both sides engaged a large number of volunteers which were beyond their capacity to train for the war. The volunteers were encouraged or at times even forced to join the war. This was done by using a draft law known as Conscription. These draft laws were unpopular amongst the volunteers.


The Union suffered a major defeat in the First Battle of Bull Run wherein they were forced to return back to Washington D.C. The U.S.Congress in an effort to prevent more states declaring independence passed the Crittenden-Johnson Resolution. As per this resolution, the war was to preserve slavery and not end it.

The Eastern theater and the Western theater wars were fought between 1861-1863. The Battle of Antietam is regarded as the bloodiest day in the American history. The Battle of Gettysburg fought in 1863 was the bloodiest battle in the Eastern theater and was considered to be the turning point in this battle. The Union defeated the Confederates in the Eastern theater.

The Battle of Chickamauga was considered to be one of the deadliest battles in the Western theater wherein the Confederates emerged victoriously. The Union under the directions of Ulysses S. Grant captured the Forts of Henry and Donelson. The Battle of Shiloh and the Battle of Vicksburg gave the control of the Mississippi River in the hands of the Union. The Western theater ended with the defeat of the Confederates.

The U.S army under the direction of Commanding General Winfield Scot planned the Anaconda Plan to win the war against the Confederates. In 1861, Union blockade was declared in respect of the Southern ports. This directly hampered the economy of the Confederates. The Southern ports thrived on their export of cotton but after the blockade, King Cotton was dead as barely 10 % of the cotton could be exported. The blockade also affected the food supplies, railroads, there was a loss of control of the main rivers, the standard of living of the people fell drastically. All these problems led to inflation and by 1864 the internal food distribution had broken down.

In the early 1864 Grant, the commander appointed for all the Union armies realized that the only way to put an end to the on-going war was to completely defeat the Confederates. The victory of the Union was to be achieved by destroying the homes, farms, and railroads of the Confederacy. In short, to completely shatter their economy. Thus a strategy was planned to launch an attack on Confederacy from all sides.

The Union suffered heavy losses at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania and Cold Harbour but they were successful in forcing the Confederates to fall back repeatedly. The two armies were engaged in trench warfare for more than nine months in the Siege of Petersburg. General Philip Sheridan chosen by Grant to fight for the Union was successful in defeating Maj. Gen. Jubal A.

Early in many battles like the Battle of Cedar Creek. Sherman was also successful in defeating the Confederates and had claimed victory over the territory ranging from Chattanooga to Atlanta. Another important win for the Union was the Battle of Nashville. The Battle of Five Forks was the decisive battle in which the Union came out as winners. The Confederate capital was captured by the Union XXV Corps and the surviving units escaped to the west after the lost at Sayler’s Creek.

After this large scale loss, the Confederates realized that it was tactically and logically impossible to continue the war. In 1865, Confederate commander Lees army surrendered at the McLean House and after Lees surrender, the Confederates in the South also surrendered. This marked the end of the long war. However, on 14th April 1865, after the Confederates surrendered, Abraham Lincoln was shot.

He succumbed to his injuries the next morning. The war had resulted in the deaths of almost 3% of the country’s population. The number of casualties in this war is believed to be the same as the number of deaths in other American wars combined together.

The reconstruction work of the whole of the Union had begun during the war-time and continued until 1877. It was an attempt made to resolve the issues which had arisen as a result of the reunion. The main issue was the legal status of the states which had declared their secession. By the virtue of Emancipation Proclamation, almost all the Confederacy slaves were freed.

The slaves in the Border States and those in the previously occupied Confederate territory were released in 1865 by the Thirteenth Amendment. The reasons for the devastating war remain ambiguous even today. The positive aspect of this war was that slavery was abolished everywhere in America.