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American Civil War
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American Civil War

Military history of the United States
Conflict American Civil War
Date 18611865
Place Central and southern USA
Result Defeat of seceding CSA
Battles of the American Civil War
United States of America Confederate States of America
2,803,300 1,064,200
KIA: 110,070
Total dead: 359,528
Wounded: 275,175
KIA: 74,524
Total dead: 198,524
Wounded: 137,000+

The American Civil War was fought in the United States from 1861 until 1865 between the northern states, popularly referred to as the USA, or the Union, the North, or the Yankees; and the seceding southern states, commonly referred to as the Confederate States of America, the CSA, the Confederacy, the South, the Rebels, or Dixie. Individual soldiers who fought for the North were referred to as Billy Yank; those who fought for the South were called Johnny Reb.

Table of contents
1 Naming conventions
2 The coming of the Civil War
3 Historical summary
4 Major battles
5 Military developments in the war
6 Civil War leaders
7 Aftermath
8 See also
9 External links

Naming conventions

The war was also known in the South as The War Between the States, The War of Southern Independence, Mr. Lincoln's War or, simply, as The War. However, these names are seldom heard openly today, except among Southern nationalist, historical and cultural groups such as the League of the South (LS) and the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV). The preferred usage of "War Between the States" (WBTS) as used by the SCV and many modern reenactors is based upon a Congressional resolution of the 1920's declaring this the proper designation for the war, in deference to those who asserted that the generic category of "civil war" did not apply to the events of 1861-65 in the United States.

More obscure names for the war include The Second American Revolution and The War in Defense of Virginia. In the period following the war, it was also known as The Late Unpleasantness. Northerners were known to refer to this conflict as The War of the Rebellion or The War of Southern Rebellion, The War to Save the Union and The War for Abolition; Southerners have referred to it as The War of Northern Aggression.

Outside of the United States, it is sometimes referred to as the War of Secession.

The coming of the Civil War

For details see the main article The coming of the Civil War. See also the Timeline of events leading to the American Civil War.

Several states seceded right after the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. They were South Carolina (December 20, 1860) Mississippi (January 9, 1861), Florida (January 10, 1861), Alabama (January 11, 1861), Georgia (January 19, 1861), Texas (February 1, 1861). After the attack on Fort Sumter, 4 more states seceded. They were Virginia (April 17, 1861), Arkansas (May 6, 1861), Tennessee (May 7, 1861), and lastly, North Carolina (May 20, 1861). Three "slave states" did not secede: Delaware, Maryland, and Kentucky (May 7, 1861). Although Kentucky did not secede, it declared itself neutral in the conflict. Delaware and Maryland were garrisoned by Union forces throughout the war to prevent their secession. Missouri's government split, with a Unionist government in the capitol and a secessionist government-in-exile run from Camden, Arkansas and Marshall, Texas. The state of West Virginia was created by the secession from Virginia of its northwestern counties, and added to the Union in 1863. The unaligned or undecided states were known as the "border states."

The Confederacy elected Jefferson Davis to be their president.

Historical summary

, used from May 1863 to the end of the war. (compare Stars and Bars)]]

Lincoln's victory in the presidential election of 1860 triggered South Carolina's secession from the Union. Leaders in the state had long been waiting for an event that might unite the South against the antislavery forces. Once the election returns were certain, a special South Carolina convention declared "that the Union now subsisting between South Carolina and other states under the name of the 'United States of America' is hereby dissolved." By February 1, 1861, six more Southern states had seceded. On February 7, the seven states adopted a provisional constitution for the Confederate States of America and established their capital at Montgomery, Alabama. The remaining southern states as yet remained in the Union.

Less than a month later, on March 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln was sworn in as president of the United States. In his inaugural address, he refused to recognize the secession, considering it "legally void". His speech closed with a plea for restoration of the bonds of union. The South, particularly South Carolina, ignored the plea, and on April 12, the South fired upon the Federal troops stationed at Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina until the troops surrendered.

Lincoln called for all of the states in the Union to send troops to defend the country against the secessionist forces. Most Northerners believed that a quick brutal victory for the Union would put out the rebellion, and so Lincoln only called for volunteers for 90 days. This was an impetus for the rest of the Southern states to vote for secession. Once Virginia seceded, the Confederate capital was moved to Richmond, Virginia.

Even though the Southern states had seceded, there was considerable anti-secessionist sentiment within several of the seceding states. Eastern Tennessee, in particular, was a hotbed for pro-Unionism. Winston County, Alabama issued a resolution of secession from the state of Alabama. The Red Strings were a prominent Southern anti-secession group.

Winfield Scott created the Anaconda Plan as the Union's main plan of attack during the war.

16th President

As a Confederate force was built up by July 1861 at Manassas, Virginia, a march by Union troops under the command of Maj. Gen. Irvin McDowell on the Confederate forces there, was halted in the First Battle of Bull Run, or First Manassas, whereupon they were forced back to Washington, DC by Confederate troops under the command of Generals Joseph E. Johnston and P.G.T. Beauregard. Alarmed at the loss, and in an attempt to prevent more slave states from leaving the Union, the United States Congress passed the Crittenden-Johnson Resolution on July 25 of that year which stated that the war was being fought to preserve the Union and not to end slavery.

Major General George McClellan took command of the Union Army of the Potomac on July 26 (he was briefly given supreme command of all the Union armies, but was subsequently relieved of that post in favor of Maj. Gen. Henry Halleck), and the war began in earnest in 1862. Ulysses S. Grant gave the Union its first victory of the war, by capturing Fort Henry, Tennessee on February 6 of that year.

McClellan reached the gates of Richmond in the spring of 1862, but when Robert E. Lee defeated him in the Seven Days Campaign, he was relieved of command of the Army of the Potomac. His successor, John Pope, was beaten spectacularly by Lee at Second Bull Run in August. Emboldened, the Confederacy made its first invasion of the North, when General Lee led 55,000 men of the Army of Northern Virginia across the Potomac River at White's Ford near Leesburg, Virginia into Maryland on September 5. Lincoln then restored McClellan, who won a bloody, almost Pyrrhic victory at the Battle of Antietam near Sharpsburg, Maryland, on September 17, 1862. Lee's army, checked at last, returned to Virginia.

Antietam is considered a Union victory primarily because it happened in Union-controlled Maryland.

When McClellan failed to follow up on Antietam, he was replaced by Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside. Burnside suffered near-immediate defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg, and was in his turn replaced by Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker. Hooker, too, proved unable to defeat Lee's army, and was relieved after the Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863. He was replaced by Maj. Gen. George Meade, who stopped Lee's invasion of Union-held territory at what is sometimes considered the war's turning point, the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863), inflicting 28,000 casualties on Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, and again forcing it to retreat to Virginia.

While the Confederate forces had some success in the Eastern theater holding on to their capital, they failed in the West. Confederate forces were driven from Missouri early in the war as result of the Battle of Pea Ridge.

First and only President of the Confederate States of America]]

Nashville, Tennessee fell to the Union early in 1862. The Mississippi was opened, at least to Vicksburg, with the taking of Island No. 10 and New Madrid, Missouri and then Memphis, Tennessee. New Orleans, Louisiana was captured in January, 1862, allowing the Union forces to begin moving up the Mississippi as well.

The Union's key strategist and tactician was Ulysses S. Grant, who won victories at Fort Donelson, Battle of Shiloh, Vicksburg, Mississippi, and Chattanooga, Tennessee, driving Confederate forces out of Tennessee. Grant understood the concept of total war and realized, along with Lincoln, that only the utter defeat of Confederate forces would bring an end to the war.

At the beginning of 1864, Grant was given command of all Union armies. He chose to make his headquarters with the Army of the Potomac although Meade remained the actual commander of that army. Union forces in the East attempted to maneuver past Lee and fought several battles during that phase of the Eastern campaign: the Battle of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House, and Cold Harbor. An attempt to outflank Lee from the South failed under Generals Butler and Smith, who were 'corked' into the Bermuda Hundred river bend. Grant was tenacious and kept pressing the Army of Northern Virginia under the command of Robert E. Lee. He extended the Confederate army, pinning it down in the Siege of Petersburg and, after two failed attempts (under Siegel and Hunter), finally found a commander, Philip Sheridan, who could clear the threat to Washington DC from the Shenandoah Valley.

Meanwhile General William Tecumseh Sherman marched from Chattanoga on Atlanta and laid waste to much of the rest of Georgia after he left Atlanta and marched to the sea at Savannah. Burning towns and plantations as they went, Sherman's armies hauled off crops and killed livestock to retaliate and to demonstrate Union power. When Sherman turned north through South Carolina and North Carolina to approach the Virginia lines from the south, it was the end for Lee and his men, and for the Confederacy.

Advantages widely believed to have contributed to the Union's success include:

Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia on April 9, 1865 at Appomattox Court House. Joseph E. Johnston, who commanded Confederate forces in North Carolina, surrendered his troops to Sherman shortly thereafter. The Battle of Palmito Ranch, fought on May 13, 1865, in the far south of Texas was the last land battle of the war and ended with a Confederate victory. All Confederate land forces had surrendered by June 1865. Confederate naval units surrendered as late as November of 1865.

Major battles

Main article: Battles of the American Civil War

Major battles included First Bull Run, Second Bull Run, Battle of Shiloh, The Seven Days, Antietam, Vicksburg, Gettysburg, and the Siege of Petersburg. There was the Atlanta Campaign, Red River Campaign, Missouri Campaign, and many coastal battles.

Military developments in the war

The American Civil War is often called the first total war because of its tremendous drain on the economies of the participants. It was the first war fought after the Industrial Revolution which tapped an entire economy of an emerging first world power. It was also the first war between two industrialized nations.

The repeating rifle was first used in large quantities during the American Civil War. The American Civil War was also the first war in which trenches were dug on a wide scale, such as in defense of Vicksburg or at Cold Harbor. Also a first in the American Civil War was use of machine guns in warfare. Rifled artillery was also first used heavily during the war. Land Mines were also introduced during the American Civil War, but were initially rejected as being inhumane.

A naval battle between the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia was the first battle in history between steam-powered, iron-armored ships with shell-firing guns called ironclad. The Union's naval blockade of the Confederate coast was one of the most ambitious up to that time, and was the first major blockade under the Declaration of Paris of 1856. The CSS Hunley, a Confederate submarine, was built during the war. It was the first submarine to sink an enemy ship known as the USS Housatonic.

Railroads were first used at the first Battle of Manassas to transport troops into combat. telegraphs were also used on a wide scale to communicate orders between a capital and an army. The concept of Total War was also worked out, particularly during General Sherman's famous March to the Sea.

Civil War leaders

Significant Southern leaders included Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Joseph E. Johnston, Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, James Longstreet, P.G.T. Beauregard, John Mosby, Braxton Bragg, James Ewell Brown (JEB) Stuart, Judah P. Benjamin, and Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Northern leaders included Abraham Lincoln, William H. Seward, Edwin M. Stanton, Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, George B. McClellan, Henry W. Halleck, Joseph Hooker, Ambrose Burnside, Irvin McDowell, Philip Sheridan, George Crook, George Armstrong Custer, Christopher "Kit" Carson, John E. Wool, George G. Meade, and Abner Read.


During the War, Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation was written to free all slaves held in territory under Confederate control at the time of the Proclamation. Lincoln knew that the South was not bound to obey. However, many slaves after hearing that President Lincoln had "freed" them, walked right off plantations for the North. The South had no way of stopping them with all of the men and most of the older boys off fighting. Many believe the Proclamation was a symbol that the war was now openly about slavery. Slaves were not freed in the remaining states and parts of the Confederacy until the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment by 3/4 of the states, which did not occur until December of 1865, 8 months after the end of the war. A good deal of ill will among the Southern survivors resulted from the resulting shift of political power to the North, the destruction inflicted on the South by the Union armies as the end of the war approached, and the Reconstruction program instituted in the South by the Union after the war's end.

According to data from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, the last surviving Union veteran of the conflict, Albert Woolson, died on August 2, 1956 at the age of 109, and the last Confederate veteran, John Salling, died on March 16, 1958 at the age of 112. However, William Marvel investigated the claims of both for a 1991 piece in the Civil War history magazine Blue & Gray. Using census information, he found that Salling was born in 1858, far too late to have served in the Civil War. In fact, he concluded, "Every one of the last dozen recognized Confederates was bogus." He found Woolson to be the last true veteran of the Civil War on either side; he had served as a drummer boy late in the war.

In 1905, a campaign medal was authorized for Civil War veterans, known as the Civil War Campaign Medal.

See also

External links

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