The American Civil War
With the election of the anti-slavery Republican candidate for President, Abraham Lincoln, the Southern states decided they had to take drastic action in order to protect their own interests. On December 20, 1860, a secession convention met in South Carolina and adopted an Ordinance of Secession from the Union. Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas quickly followed suit.
These states sent delegates to Montgomery, Alabama and on February 8, 1861 adopted a provisional constitution for the newly formed Confederate States of America. Jefferson Davis was chosen as the President for a six-year term of office, with the Confederate white house based in Richmond. Most blamed Northerners for failing to live up to their obligations, although some thought it was structural flaws in the U.S. Constitution that made secession necessary.
The Permanent Confederate Constitution, signed on March 11, 1861, created a political structure for what became the eleven-state Confederate nation (adding North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, and Arkansas to the original seven states). The Constitution varied in very few particulars from the Constitution of the United States, preserving carefully the fundamental principles of popular representative democracy and confederation of co-equal States. Some differences include the right for a president to only hold one term in office (the term being six years), and limiting the power of the national government while protecting the rights of the individual states, particularly the right to slavery.
At least 600,000 Americans would lose their lives fighting for constitutional principle, sectional differences, economic self-interest, and moral righteousness.
On April 10, 1861, Brig. Gen. Beauregard, in command of the provisional Confederate forces at Charleston, South Carolina, demanded the surrender of the Union garrison of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbour. Garrison commander Anderson refused. On April 12, Confederate batteries opened fire on the fort, which was unable to reply effectively. The following day Major Anderson surrendered Fort Sumter, evacuating the garrison. The bombardment of Fort Sumter was the opening engagement of the American Civil War.
For four years the fighting between the Southern Confederate States under President Jefferson Davis and the Northern Union States under President Abraham Lincoln continued. President Lincoln issued a Proclamation of Blockade against Southern ports on 19 April 1861 for the duration of the war, to limit the ability of the rural South to stay well supplied in its war against the industrialized North. 1861-64 saw heavy casualties on both sides, with the Confederates emerging the victors in the 21/7/1861 (the first) Battle of Bull Run, but the Union victorious on 6/2/1862 in Tennessee, capturing Fort Henry, and ten days later Fort Donelson.
On 1/1/1863, President Lincoln issued the final Emancipation Proclamation freeing all slaves in territories held by Confederates and emphasizes the enlisting of black soldiers in the Union Army. The tide of war turned against the South on 1-3/7/1863 as the Confederates were defeated at the Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania.
In Vicksburg, the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River, surrendered on 4/7/1863 to Gen. Grant and the Army of the West after a six week siege. With the Union now in control of the Mississippi, the Confederacy was effectively split in two, cut off from its western allies.
On 8/11/1864, Abraham Lincoln was re-elected president, defeating Democrat George B. McClellan. Lincoln carries all but three states. “I earnestly believe that the consequences of this day’s work will be to the lasting advantage, if not the very salvation, of the country,” Lincoln tells supporters.
On 31/1/1865, the U.S. Congress approved the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, to abolish slavery. The amendment was then submitted to the states for ratification.
On 3/2/1865 a peace conference occurred as President Lincoln met with Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens at Hampton Roads in Virginia, but the meeting ended in failure – the war will continue. Only Lee’s Army at Petersburg and Johnston’s forces in North Carolina remain to fight for the South against Northern forces now numbering 280,000 men.
During the March inauguration ceremonies for President Lincoln in Washington, he says “With malice toward none; with charity for all…let us strive on to finish the work we are in…to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”
On 2/4/1865 Gen Grant’s Union forces began a general advance and broke through Gen. Lee’s Confederate lines at Petersburg. Lee evacuated Petersburg. The Confederate Capital, Richmond, was evacuated. Fires and looting broke out. The next day, Union troops entered and raised the Stars and Stripes. President Lincoln toured Richmond on 4/4/1865. He entered the Confederate White House and sat at the desk of Jefferson Davis for a few moments.
On 9/4/1865 Gen. Lee surrendered his Confederate Army to Gen. Grant in Virginia. Grant allowed Rebel officers to keep their sidearms and permitted soldiers to keep horses and mules. “After four years of arduous service marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources,” Lee told his troops.
April 10 1865- Celebrations broke out in Washington.
April 14 1865 – The Stars and Stripes was ceremoniously raised over Fort Sumter. That night, Lincoln and his wife Mary saw the play “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theater. At 10:13 p.m., during the third act of the play, John Wilkes Booth shot the president in the head. Doctors attended to the president in the theatre then moved him to a house across the street. He never regained consciousness. President Abraham Lincoln died at 7:22 in the following morning. Vice President Andrew Johnson assumed the presidency.
Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston surrendered to Sherman near Durham in North Carolina on 18/4/1865.
John Wilkes Booth is shot and killed in a barn in Virginia on 26/4/1865.
In May 1865 the remaining Confederate forces surrendered. The Nation was reunited as the Civil War ended and slavery was abolished.
Another Through the Ages article coming soon…