American Civil War

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Who: Confederate States of America, led by Jefferson Davis, and the United States of America, led by Abraham Lincoln.

What: A civil war.

Where: From St Albans, Vermont to Lee County, Florida, as far west as Tucson, Arizona.

Why: Controversial. Slavery often cited, but States’ Rights, economic and social differences and Lincoln’s election compounded the issue.

When: April 12 1861 – May 9 1865, last shot fired June 22 1865.

“We have shared the incommunicable experience of war, we have felt, we still feel, the passion of life to its top… In our youth our hearts were touched by fire” – Oliver Wendell Holmes

The American Civil War was fought between eleven southern states who seceded from the USA known as the Confederacy, and the remaining states, known as the Union. Geographically, it was North vs. South. The war was one of the first industrial wars, but the tactics remained unchanged from Napoleonic times despite the new weaponry, and therefore claimed the lives of around 620,000 soldiers and 50,000 civilians – more than all the American war dead in all other wars combined – around 6% of all eligible white males in the North, and just under 20% in the South. One in thirteen veterans were amputees, and the state of Mississippi spent one-fifth of its 1866 budget on artificial limbs. At the Battle of Cold Harbour, according to historian Shelby Foote, 6,000 casualties were suffered in eight minutes. After initial Confederate victories at Manassas, the Seven Days Battles and Second Bull Run, the North finally gained a victory of sorts at Antietam. The turning point came in 1863. After Confederate victories at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation, Confederate General Robert E Lee’s foray into Northern territory ended with a pivotal loss at the Battle of Gettysburg, and Ulysses S Grant won the Siege of Vicksburg, cutting the Confederacy in two and claiming control of the Mississippi. From there, the Union’s industrial power proved too much for the South, and after going through a string of generals, President Lincoln finally appointed Grant. Whilst his friend General William Tecumseh Sherman ploughed through Tennessee, Atlanta and towards the sea, destroying all infrastructure as he went, Grant entered into a protracted Siege of Petersburg and the Confederate capital, Richmond. Lee eventually retreated, and surrendered after being surrounded at Appomattox Court House. Lincoln was assassinated five days later.

Further reading:

https://web.archive.org/web/20070711050249/http://www.cwc.lsu.edu/other/stats/warcost.htm

http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/civil-war-overview/overview.html

http://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war

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