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Causes Of The Civil War

The Events That Caused The American Civil War

The Northern and Southern sections of the United States developed along different lines. The South remained a predominantly agrarian economy while the North became more and more industrialized. Different social cultures and political beliefs developed. All of this led to disagreements on issues such as taxes, tariffs and internal improvements as well as states rights versus federal rights.

Slavery

The burning issue that led to the disruption of the union, however, was the debate over the future of slavery. That dispute led to secession, and secession brought about a war in which the Northern and Western states and territories fought to preserve the Union, and the South fought to establish Southern independence as a new confederation of states under its own constitution.

The agrarian South utilized slaves to tend its large plantations and perform other duties. On the eve of the Civil War, some 4 million Africans and their descendants toiled as slave laborers in the South. Slavery was interwoven into the Southern economy even though only a relatively small portion of the population actually owned slaves. Slaves could be rented or traded or sold to pay debts. Ownership of more than a handful of slaves bestowed respect and contributed to social position, and slaves, as the property of individuals and businesses, represented the largest portion of the region’s personal and corporate wealth, as cotton and land prices declined and the price of slaves soared.

The states of the North, meanwhile, one by one had gradually abolished slavery. A steady flow of immigrants, especially from Ireland and Germany during the potato famine of the 1840s and 1850s, insured the North a ready pool of laborers, many of whom could be hired at low wages, diminishing the need to cling to the institution of slavery.  Learn more about Slavery in America

The Dred Scott Decision

Dred Scott was a slave who sought citizenship through the American legal system, and whose case eventually ended up in the Supreme Court. The famous Dred Scott Decision in 1857 denied his request stating that no person with African blood could become a U.S. citizen. Besides denying citizenship for African-Americans, it also overturned the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which had restricted slavery in certain U.S. territories. Learn more about Dred Scott

States’ Rights

States’ Rights refers To the struggle between the federal government and individual states over political power. In the Civil War era, this struggle focused heavily on the institution of slavery and whether the federal government had the right to regulate or even abolish slavery within an individual state. The sides of this debate were largely drawn between northern and southern states, thus widened the growing divide within the nation. Learn more about States’ Rights.

Abolitionist Movement

By the early 1830s, those who wished to see that institution abolished within the United States were becoming more strident and influential. They claimed obedience to "higher law" over obedience to the Constitution’s guarantee that a fugitive from one state would be considered a fugitive in all states. The fugitive slave act along with the publishing of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin helped expand the support for abolishing slavery nationwide. Learn more about the Abolitionist Movement.

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabins was published in serial form in an anti-slavery newspaper in 1851 and in book format in 1852. Within two years it was a nationwide and worldwide bestseller. Depicting the evils of slavery, it offered a vision of slavery that few in the nation had seen before. The book succeeded at its goal, which was to start a wave of anti-slavery sentiment across the nation. Upon meeting Stowe, President Lincoln remarked, "So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war." Learn more about Harriet Beecher Stowe and her famous novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin

The Underground Railroad

Some abolitionists actively helped runaway slaves to escape via "the Underground Railroad," and there were instances in which men, even lawmen, sent to retrieve runaways were attacked and beaten by abolitionist mobs. To the slave holding states, this meant Northerners wanted to choose which parts of the Constitution they would enforce, while expecting the South to honor the entire document. The most famous activist of the underground railroad was Harriet Tubman, a nurse and spy in the Civil War and known as the Moses of her people. Learn more about The Underground Railroad

The Missouri Compromise

Additional territories gained from the U.S.–Mexican War of 1846–1848 heightened the slavery debate. Abolitionists fought to have slavery declared illegal in those territories, as the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 had done in the territory that became the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. Advocates of slavery feared that if the institution were prohibited in any states carved out of the new territories the political power of slaveholding states would be diminished, possibly to the point of slavery being outlawed everywhere within the United States. Pro- and anti-slavery groups rushed to populate the new territories. Learn more about The Missouri Compromise

John Brown

In Kansas, particularly, violent clashes between proponents of the two ideologies occurred. One abolitionist in particular became famous—or infamous, depending on the point of view—for battles that caused the deaths of pro-slavery settlers in Kansas. His name was John Brown. Ultimately, he left Kansas to carry his fight closer to the bosom of slavery. Learn more about John Brown

The Raid On Harper’s Ferry

On the night of October 16, 1859, Brown and a band of followers seized the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia), in what is believed to have been an attempt to arm a slave insurrection. (Brown denied this at his trial, but evidence indicated otherwise.) They were dislodged by a force of U.S. Marines led by Army lieutenant colonel Robert E. Lee.

Brown was swiftly tried for treason against Virginia and hanged. Southern reaction initially was that his acts were those of a mad fanatic, of little consequence. But when Northern abolitionists made a martyr of him, Southerners came to believe this was proof the North intended to wage a war of extermination against white Southerners. Brown’s raid thus became a step on the road to war between the sections. Learn more about The Raid On Harper’s Ferry

The Election Of Abraham Lincoln

Exacerbating tensions, the old Whig political party was dying. Many of its followers joined with members of the American Party (Know-Nothings) and others who opposed slavery to form a new political entity in the 1850s, the Republican Party. When the Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 presidential election, Southern fears that the Republicans would abolish slavery reached a new peak. Lincoln was an avowed opponent of the expansion of slavery but said he would not interfere with it where it existed. Learn more about Abraham Lincoln’s Election.

Southern Secession

That was not enough to calm the fears of delegates to an 1860 secession convention in South Carolina. To the surprise of other Southern states—and even to many South Carolinians—the convention voted to dissolve the state’s contract with the United States and strike off on its own.

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South Carolina had threatened this before in the 1830s during the presidency of Andrew Jackson, over a tariff that benefited Northern manufacturers but increased the cost of goods in the South. Jackson had vowed to send an army to force the state to stay in the Union, and Congress authorized him to raise such an army (all Southern senators walked out in protest before the vote was taken), but a compromise prevented the confrontation from occurring.

Perhaps learning from that experience the danger of going it alone, in 1860 and early 1861 South Carolina sent emissaries to other slave holding states urging their legislatures to follow its lead, nullify their contract with the United States and form a new Southern Confederacy. Six more states heeded the siren call: Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. Others voted down secession—temporarily. Learn more about Secessionism

Fort Sumter

On April 10, 1861, knowing that resupplies were on their way from the North to the federal garrison at Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina, provisional Confederate forces in Charleston demanded the fort’s surrender. The fort’s commander, Major Robert Anderson, refused. On April 12, the Confederates opened fire with cannons. At 2:30 p.m. the following day, Major Anderson surrendered.

War had begun. Lincoln called for volunteers to put down the Southern rebellion. Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee, refusing to fight against other Southern states and feeling that Lincoln had exceeded his presidential authority, reversed themselves and voted in favor of session. The last one, Tennessee, did not depart until June 8, nearly a week after the first land battle had been fought at Philippi in Western Virginia. (The western section of Virginia rejected the session vote and broke away, ultimately forming a new, Union-loyal state, West Virginia. Other mountainous regions of the South, such as East Tennessee, also favored such a course but were too far from the support of Federal forces to attempt it.) Learn more about the battle of Fort Sumter


 

Articles Featuring Causes Of The Civil War From History Net Magazines

True Causes of the Civil War

Irreconcilable Differences
Simmering animosities between North and South signaled an American apocalypse

Any man who takes it upon himself to explain the causes of the Civil War deserves whatever grief comes his way, regardless of his good intentions. Having acknowledged that, let me also say I have long believed there is no more concise or stirring accounting for the war than the sentiments propounded by Irish poet William Butler Yeats in “The Second Coming,” some lines of which are included in this essay. Yeats wrote his short poem immediately following the catastrophe of World War I, but his thesis of a great, cataclysmic event is universal and timeless.

It is probably safe to say that the original impetus of the Civil War was set in motion when a Dutch trader offloaded a cargo of African slaves at Jamestown, Va., in 1619. It took nearly 250 eventful years longer for it to boil into a war, but that Dutchman’s boatload was at the bottom of it—a fact that needs to be fixed in the reader’s mind from the start.

Of course there were other things, too. For instance, by the eve of the Civil War the sectional argument had become so far advanced that a significant number of Southerners were convinced that Yankees, like Negroes, constituted an entirely different race of people from themselves.

It is unclear who first put forth this curious interpretation of American history, but just as the great schism burst upon the scene it was subscribed to by no lesser Confederate luminaries than president Jefferson Davis himself and Admiral Raphael Semmes, of CSS Alabama fame, who asserted that the North was populated by descendants of the cold Puritan Roundheads of Oliver Cromwell—who had overthrown and executed the king of England in 1649—while others of the class were forced to flee to Holland, where they also caused trouble, before finally settling at Plymouth Rock, Mass.

Southerners on the other hand, or so the theory went, were the hereditary offspring of Cromwell’s enemies, the “gay cavaliers” of King Charles II and his glorious Restoration, who had imbued the South with their easygoing, chivalrous and honest ways. Whereas, according to Semmes, the people of the North had evolved accordingly into “gloomy, saturnine, and fanatical” people who “seemed to repel all the more kindly and generous impulses” (omitting—possibly in a momentary lapse of memory—that the original settlers of other Southern states, such as Georgia, had been prison convicts or, in the case of Louisiana, deportees, and that Semmes’ own wife was a Yankee from Ohio).

How beliefs such as this came to pass in the years between 1619 and 1860 reveals the astonishing capacity of human nature to confound traditional a posteriori deduction in an effort to justify what had become by then largely unjustifiable. But there is blame enough for all to go around.

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From that first miserable boatload of Africans in Jamestown, slavery spread to all the settlements, and, after the Revolutionary War, was established by laws in the states. But by the turn of the 19th century, slavery was confined to the South, where the economy was almost exclusively agricultural. For a time it appeared the practice was on its way to extinction. Virginia’s Thomas Jefferson probably summed up the attitude of the day when he defined the South’s “peculiar institution” as a necessary evil, which he and many others believed, or at least hoped, would wither away of its own accord since it was basically wasteful and unproductive.

Then along came Eli Whitney with his cotton gin, suddenly making it feasible to grow short-staple cotton that was fit for the great textile mills of England and France. This in turn, 40 years later, prompted South Carolina’s prominent senator John C. Calhoun to declare that slavery—far from being merely a “necessary evil”—was actually a “positive good,” because, among other things, in the years since the gin’s invention, the South had become fabulously rich, with cotton constituting some 80 percent of all U.S. exports.

But beneath this great wealth and prosperity, America seethed. Whenever you have two people—or peoples—joined in politics but doing diametrically opposing things, it is almost inevitable that at some point tensions and jealousies will break out. In the industrial North, there was a low, festering resentment that eight of the first 11 U.S. presidents were Southerners—and most of them Virginians at that. For their part, the agrarian Southerners harbored lingering umbrage over the internal improvements policy propagated by the national government, which sought to expand and develop roads, harbors, canals, etc., but which the Southerners felt was disproportionately weighted toward Northern interests. These were the first pangs of sectional dissension.

Then there was the matter of the Tariff of Abominations, which became abominable for all concerned.

This inflammatory piece of legislation, passed with the aid of Northern politicians, imposed a tax or duty on imported goods that caused practically everything purchased in the South to rise nearly half-again in price. This was because the South had become used to shipping its cotton to England and France and in return receiving boatloads of inexpensive European goods, including clothing made from its own cotton. However, as years went by, the North, particularly New England, had developed cotton mills of its own—as well as leather and harness manufactories, iron and steel mills, arms and munitions factories, potteries, furniture makers, silversmiths and so forth. And with the new tariff putting foreign goods out of financial reach, Southerners were forced to buy these products from the North at what they considered exorbitant costs.

Smart money might have concluded it would be wise for the South to build its own cotton mills and its own manufactories, but its people were too attached to growing cotton. A visitor in the 1830s described the relentless cycle of the planters’ misallocation of spare capital: “To sell cotton to buy Negroes—to make more cotton to buy more Negroes—‘ad infinitum.’”

Such was the Southern mindset, but the tariff nearly kicked off the war 30 years early because, as the furor rose, South Carolina’s Calhoun, who was then running for vice president of the United States, declared that states—his own state in particular—were under no obligation to obey the federal tariff law, or to collect it from ships entering its harbors. Later, South Carolina legislators acted on this assertion and defied the federal government to overrule them, lest the state secede. This set off the Nullification Crisis, which held in theory (or wishful thinking) that a state could nullify or ignore any federal law it held was not in its best interests. The crisis was defused only when President Andrew Jackson sent warships into Charleston Harbor—but it also marked the first time a Southern state had threatened to secede from the Union.

The incident also set the stage for the states’ rights dispute, pitting state laws against the notion of federal sovereignty—an argument which became ongoing into the next century, and the next. “States’ rights” also became a Southern watchword for Northern (or “Yankee”) intrusion on the Southern lifestyle. States’ rights political parties sprang up over the South; one particular example of just how volatile the issue had become was embodied in the decision in 1831 of Nathaniel and Elizabeth Gist (ironically from Union, S.C.) to name their firstborn son “States Rights Gist,” a name he bore proudly until November 30, 1864, when, as a Confederate brigadier general, he was shot and killed leading his men at the Battle of Franklin in Tennessee.

Though the tariff question remained an open sore from its inception in 1828 right up to the Civil War, many modern historians have dismissed the impact it had on the growing rift between the two sections of the country. But any careful reading of newspapers, magazines or correspondence of the era indicates that here is where the feud began to fester into hatred. Some Southern historians in the past have argued this was the root cause of the Civil War. It wasn’t, but it was a critical ingredient in the suspicion and mistrust Southerners were beginning to feel about their Northern brethren, and by extension about the Union itself. Not only did the tariff issue raise for the first time the frightening specter of Southern secession, but it also seemed to have marked a mazy kind of dividing line in which the South vaguely started thinking of itself as a separate entity—perhaps even a separate country. Thus the cat, or at least the cat’s paw, was out of the bag.

All the resenting and seething naturally continued to spill over into politics. The North, with immigrants pouring in, vastly outnumbered the South in population and thus controlled the House of Representatives. But the U.S. Senate, by a sort of gentleman’s agreement laced with the usual bribes and threats, had remained 50-50, meaning that whenever a territory was admitted as a free state, the South got to add a corresponding slave state—and vice versa. That is until 1820, when Missouri applied for statehood and anti-slavery forces insisted it must be free. Ultimately, this resulted in Congress passing the Missouri Compromise, which decreed that Missouri could come in as a slave state (and Maine as a free state) but any other state created north of Missouri’s southern border would have to be free. That held the thing together for longer than it deserved.

In plain acknowledgement that slavery was an offensive practice, Congress in 1808 banned the importation of African slaves. Nevertheless there were millions of slaves living in the South, and their population continued growing. Beginning in the late 18th century, a small group of people in New England concluded that slavery was a social evil, and began to agitate for its abolition—hence, of course, the term “abolitionist.”

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Over the years this group became stronger and by the 1820s had turned into a full-fledged movement, preaching abolition from pulpits and podiums throughout the North, publishing pamphlets and newspapers, and generally stirring up sentiments both fair and foul in the halls of Congress and elsewhere. At first the abolitionists concluded that the best solution was to send the slaves back to Africa, and they actually acquired land in what is now Liberia, returning a small colony of ex-bondsmen across the ocean.

By the 1840s, the abolitionists had decided that slavery was not simply a social evil, but a “moral wrong,” and began to agitate on that basis.

This did not sit well with the churchgoing Southerners, who were now subjected to being called unpleasant and scandalous names by Northerners they did not even know. This provoked, among other things, religious schisms, which in the mid-1840s caused the American Methodist and Baptist churches to split into Northern and Southern denominations. Somehow the Presbyterians hung together, but it was a strain, while the Episcopal church remained a Southern stronghold and firebrand bastion among the wealthy and planter classes. Catholics also maintained their solidarity, prompting cynics to suggest it was only because they owed their allegiance to the pope of Rome rather than to any state, country or ideal.

Abolitionist literature began showing up in the Southern mails, causing Southerners to charge the abolitionists with attempting to foment a slave rebellion, the mere notion of which remained high on most Southerners’ anxiety lists. Murderous slave revolts had occurred in Haiti, Jamaica and Louisiana and more recently resulted in the killing of nearly 60 whites during the Nat Turner slave uprising in Virginia in 1831.

During the Mexican War the United States acquired enormous territories in the West, and what by then abolitionists called the “slave power” was pressing to colonize these lands. That prompted an obscure congressman from Pennsylvania to submit an amendment to a Mexican War funding bill in 1846 that would have prevented slavery in any territory acquired from Mexico—which became known, after its author, as the Wilmot Proviso. Even though it failed to pass into law, the very act of presenting the measure became a cause célèbre among Southerners who viewed it as further evidence that Northerners were not only out to destroy their “peculiar institution,” but their political power as well.

In 1850, to the consternation of Southerners, California was admitted into the Union as a free state—mainly because the Gold Rush miners did not want to find themselves in competition with slave labor. But for the first time it threw the balance of power in the Senate to the Northern states.

By then national politics had become almost entirely sectional, a dangerous business, pitting North against South—and vice versa—in practically all matters, however remote. To assuage Southern fury at the admission of free California, Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which made Northerners personally responsible for the return of runaway slaves. Contrary to its intentions, the act actually galvanized Northern sentiments against slavery because it seemed to demand direct assent to, and personal complicity with, the practice of human bondage.

During the decade of the 1850s, crisis seemed to pile upon crisis as levels of anger turned to rage, and rage turned to violence. One of the most polarizing episodes between North and South occurred upon the 1852 publication of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which depicted the slave’s life as a relentless nightmare of sorrow and cruelty. Northern passions were inflamed while furious Southerners dismissed the story en masse as an outrageously skewed and unfair portrayal. (After the conflict began it was said that Lincoln, upon meeting Mrs. Stowe, remarked, “So you are the little lady who started this great war?”)

In 1854 the Kansas-Nebraska Act, sponsored by frequent presidential candidate Stephen A. Douglas, overturned the Missouri Compromise and permitted settlers in the Kansas Territory to choose for themselves whether they wanted a free or slave state. Outraged Northern abolitionists, horrified at the notion of slavery spreading by popular sovereignty, began raising funds to send anti-slave settlers to Kansas.

Equally outraged Southerners sent their own settlers, and a brutish group known as Border Ruffians from slaveholding Missouri went into Kansas to make trouble for the abolitionists. Into this unfortunate mix came an abolitionist fanatic named John Brown riding with his sons and gang. And as the murders and massacres began to pile up, newspapers throughout the land carried headlines of “Bleeding Kansas.”

In the halls of Congress, the slavery issue had prompted feuds, insults, duels and finally a divisive gag rule that forbade even discussion or debate on petitions about the issue of slavery. But during the Kansas controversy a confrontation between a senator and a congressman stood out as particularly shocking. In 1856, Charles Sumner, a 45-year-old Massachusetts senator and abolitionist, conducted a three-hour rant in the Senate chamber against the Kansas-Nebraska Act, focusing in particular on 59-year-old South Carolina Senator Andrew Butler, whom he mocked and compared to a pimp, “having taken as his mistress the harlot, Slavery.” Two days later Congressman Preston Brooks, a nephew of the demeaned South Carolinian, appeared beside Sumner’s desk in the Senate and caned him nearly to death with a gold-headed gutta-percha walking stick.

By then, every respectable-sized city, North and South, had a half-dozen newspapers and even small towns had at least one or more; and the revolutionary new telegraph brought the latest news overnight or sooner. Throughout the North, the caning incident triggered profound indignation that was transformed into support for a new anti-slavery political party. In the election of 1856, the new Republican Party ran explorer John C. Frémont, the famed “Pathfinder,” for president, and even though he lost, the party had become a force to be reckoned with.

In 1857 the U.S. Supreme Court delivered its infamous Dred Scott decision, which elated Southerners and enraged Northerners. The court ruled, in essence, that a slave was not a citizen, or even a person, and that slaves were “so far inferior that they [have] no rights which the white man [is] bound to respect.” Southerners were relieved that they could now move their slaves in and out of free territories and states without losing them, while in the North the ruling merely drove more people into the anti-slavery camp.

Then in 1859, John Brown, of Bleeding Kansas notoriety, staged a murderous raid on the U.S. arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Va., hoping to inspire a general slave uprising. The raid was thwarted by U.S. troops, and Brown was tried for treason
and hanged; but when it came out that he was being financed by Northern abolitionists, Southern anger was profuse and furious—especially after the Northern press elevated Brown to the status of hero and martyr. It simply reinforced the Southern conviction that Northerners were out to destroy their way of life.

As the crucial election of 1860 approached, there arose talk of Southern secession by a group of “fire-eaters”— influential orators who insisted Northern “fanatics” intended to free slaves “by law if possible, by force if necessary.” Hectoring abolitionist newspapers and Northern orators (known as Black, or Radical Republicans) provided ample fodder for that conclusion.

The 1850s drew to a close in near social convulsion and the established political parties began to break apart—always a dangerous sign. The Whigs simply vanished into other parties; the Democrats split into Northern and Southern contingents, each with its own slate of candidates. A Constitutional Union party also appeared, looking for votes from moderates in the Border States. As a practical matter, all of this assured a victory for the Republican candidate, Abraham Lincoln, who was widely, if wrongly, viewed in the South as a rabid abolitionist. With the addition of Minnesota (1858) and Oregon (1859) as free states, the Southerners’ greatest fears were about to be realized—complete control of the federal government by free-state, anti-slavery politicians.

With the vote split four ways, Lincoln and the Republicans swept into power in November 1860, gaining a majority of the Electoral College, but only a 40 percent plurality of the popular vote. It didn’t matter to the South. In short order, always pugnacious South Carolina voted to secede from the Union, followed by six other Deep South states that were invested heavily in cotton.

Much of the Southern apprehension and ire that Lincoln would free the slaves was misplaced. No matter how distasteful he found the practice of slavery, the overarching philosophy that drove Lincoln was a hard pragmatism that did not include the forcible abolition of slavery by the federal government—for the simple reason that he could not envision any political way of accomplishing it. But Lincoln, like a considerable number of Northern people, was decidedly against allowing slavery to spread into new territories and states. By denying slaveholders the right to extend their boundaries, Lincoln would in effect also be weakening their power in Washington, and over time this would almost inevitably have resulted in the abolition of slavery, as sooner or later the land would have worn out.

But that wasn’t bad enough for the Southern press, which whipped up the populace to such a pitch of fury that Lincoln became as reviled as John Brown himself. These influential journals, from Richmond to Charleston and myriad points in between, painted a sensational picture of Lincoln in words and cartoons as an arch-abolitionist—a kind of antichrist who would turn the slaves loose to rape, murder and pillage. For the most part, Southerners ate it up. If there is a case to be made on what caused the Civil War, the Southern press and its editors would be among the first in the dock. It goes a long way in explaining why only one in three Confederate soldiers were slaveholders, or came from slaveholding families. It wasn’t their slaves they were defending, it was their homes against the specter of slaves-gone-wild.

Interestingly, many if not most of the wealthiest Southerners were opposed to secession for the simple reason that they had the most to lose if it came to war and the war went badly. But in the end they, like practically everyone else, were swept along on the tide of anti-Washington, anti-abolition, anti-Northern and anti-Lincoln rhetoric.

To a lesser extent, the Northern press must accept its share of blame for antagonizing Southerners by damning and lampooning them as brutal lash-wielding torturers and heartless family separators. With all this back and forth carrying on for at least the decade preceding war, by the time hostilities broke out, few either in the North or the South had much use for the other, and minds were set. One elderly Tennessean later expressed it this way: “I wish there was a river of fire a mile wide between the North and the South, that would burn with unquenchable fury forevermore, and that it could never be passable to the endless ages of eternity by any living creature.”

The immediate cause of Southern secession, therefore, was a fear that Lincoln and the Republican Congress would have abolished the institution of slavery—which would have ruined fortunes, wrecked the Southern economy and left the South to contend with millions of freed blacks. The long-term cause was a feeling by most Southerners that the interests of the two sections of the country had drifted apart, and were no longer mutual or worthwhile.

The proximate cause of the war, however, was Lincoln’s determination not to allow the South to go peacefully out of the Union, which would have severely weakened, if not destroyed, the United States.

There is the possibility that war might have been avoided, and a solution worked out, had there not been so much mistrust on the part of the South. Unfortunately, some of the mistrust was well earned in a bombastic fog of hatred, recrimination and outrageous statements and accusations on both sides. Put another way, it was well known that Lincoln was anti-slavery, but both during his campaign for office and after his election, he insisted it was never his intention to disturb slavery where it already existed. The South simply did not believe him.

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The Lincoln administration was able to quell secession movements in several Border States—Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland and what would become West Virginia—by a combination of politics and force, including suspension of the Bill of Rights. But when Lincoln ordered all states to contribute men for an army to suppress the rebellion South Carolina started by firing on Fort Sumter, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina also joined the Confederacy rather than make war on their fellow Southerners.

“Because of incompatibility of temper,” a Southern woman was prompted to lament, “we have hated each other so. If we could only separate, a ‘separation a l’agreable,’ as the French say it, and not have a horrid fight for divorce.”

Things had come a long way during the nearly 250 years since the Dutchman delivered his cargo of African slaves to the wharf at Jamestown, but in 1860 almost everyone agreed that a war wouldn’t last long. Most thought it would be over by summertime.


Article originally published in the September 2010 issue of America’s Civil War.

Did the Supreme Court Ever Rule on the Legality of Secession?

Was the legality of secession ever brought before the Supreme Court? If not, why?

–SH

? ? ?

Dear SH:
 
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Reviews

Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War by Tony Horwitz (Henry Holt, 2011, $29)

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A bird's-eye view of pre-war New York displays the shipping commerce that made the city rich. Image courtesy of Library of Congress.

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If we want the young to learn history, we must find appealing ways to teach it


The Lincoln restaurant offers this large white leather banquette as an inviting version of the president's perch at the Lincoln Memorial. Photo courtesy of …

Churchill Imagines How the South Won the Civil WarIn Winston Churchill’s fanciful alternative history, Robert E. Lee wins at Gettysburg, and Jeb Stuart prevents World War I
MHQ Reviews: Notable Books, Autumn 2011Notable Books for Autumn 2011
The Ultimate Political Action Committee

A congressional war panel proves too many cooks can poison the pot

By any standard, Ball's Bluff was a fiasco. What began as a raid in October 1861 escalated into an unintended battle for Leesburg, Va. The Yankees so badly …

The art of war

The 150th anniversary of our greatest conflict implores us to take another look

Back in February, the London-based Art Newspaper, the most important journal in the museum world, published a front-page article bemoaning the shocking absence of American art …

What a difference a day makes


Confederate soldiers under the command of Gen. Robert E. Lee camp on the outskirts of Hagerstown, Maryland, in September of 1862. Image courtesy of Weider History Group archive.

War seemed far away to the editors of a Maryland weekly newspaper–until

Irreconcilable DifferencesWinston Groom, author of Vicksburg 1863, explores the reasons the North and South found themselves at war.
Battle of Black Jack Battlefield 155th Anniversary Events Planned

[PRESS RELEASE] Baldwin City, KS – Four events organized by the Black Jack Battlefield Trust will commemorate the 155th Anniversary of the Battle of Black Jack. On Thursday, June 2nd at 5:00am the actual date and time of the battle, …

We Are All Rebels

A Louisiana youth wages a personal war with the Yankees on his doorstep

Aleck Mouton was 10 years old, barefoot and Confederate to the core when he confronted Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks, who had just invaded the tiny south Louisiana …

Harold Holzer on the best and worst civil war books

War Stories
It's time to remember good Civil War lit—and close the door on the bad stuff

Several months ago, literary critic Adam Kirsch—full disclosure: he's my son-in-law—published an essay in the New York Times voicing concern about recent decisions …

Eric Foner on Lincoln and Slavery

The evolution of Father Abraham
Respected historian Eric Foner's new book, The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, examines what the president truly believed about human bondage
Author Eric Foner. Courtesy of Eric Foner.

Q Why another book on …

Union Cavalry Escapes from Besieged Harpers FerryIn September 1862 some 1,600 Union cavalrymen seemingly trapped at Harpers Ferry carried out one of the Civil War's most successful missions of stealth and deception.
Abraham Lincoln Book Shop, Daniel Weinberg and Bjorn Skaptason

A place for all things Lincoln—with a modern twist
Daniel Weinberg and Bjorn Skaptason of Chicago's Abraham Lincoln Book Shop bring the traditional book signing into the 21st century



Dan Weinberg. Photo by M. Sylvia Castle.What was the impetus for …

Secession - Revisionism or Reality

Secession fever revisited
We can take an honest look at history, or just revise it to make it more palatable

Try this version of history: 150 years ago this spring, North Carolina and Tennessee became the final two Southern states …

Stonewall Jackson at Harpers Ferry

Jackson, Johnston and conflicting interests
The fate of strategic Harpers Ferry hung on the leadership styles of two Southern commanders


Confederate Battery at Harper's Ferry. Courtesy of the Harper's Ferry National Historic Park.

Ten weeks before earning the sobriquet "Stonewall" …

The First Battle Of The Civil War - Philippi *

*Note on Philippi, the Civil War's First Battle Inland: Many people ask, "What was the first battle of the Civil War?" The answers that are often given are 'The Battle Of First Bull Run'  or 'Fort Sumter.'  Chronologically, Fort Sumpter

Calm Before the Storm: 8th Georgia Infantry Regiment in the Northern Shenandoah Valley, 1861After Virginia's secession in 1861 and the start of the Civil War, General Joseph E. Johnston and his men experienced an idyllic summer in the northern Shenandoah Valley.
Last Chance for Peace: Fort Sumter at 150For months the Confederates trained dozens of guns on Fort Sumter. But no one seemed eager for war.
Two Virginias Two Civil Wars

Two Virginias, two Civil Wars?
The state in the forefront of war remembrance still argues over what happened

The state of Virginia has been back in the news, again at war with itself and again over issues relating to the …

The Civil War in the New York Times

The New York Times Complete Civil War, 1861-1865
Edited by Harold Holzer and Craig L. Symonds
Black Dog & Leventhal Publishing, 2010, $40

It is no stretch to say the New York Times was the nation's most powerful newspaper during …

A Nation Divided

So many people insist on viewing the American Civil War (or any war, for that matter) from a good-guys-won perspective. It's a sure way to obscure at least half the facts and distort the meaning of the rest. As long …

Union Spy in Confederate TerritoryUnion agent Pryce Lewis had his share of close calls
Civil War Sesquicentennial Kickoff in TennesseeWhile many states are depending on volunteer groups to promote the Civil War Sesquicentennial, Tennessee is using the 5-year event to promote tourism and had a 2-day kickoff in Nashville.
Scientists at Arms: Naturalists in the MilitaryIn an age of biological discovery, a few modern-day warriors furthered science and saved lives
Pre Civil War Peace ConferenceAs secession fever spreads through the South, political patriarchs try to avert war—-but at what price?
The Confederacy: America's Worst IdeaWhy did the South lose the Civil War? Because it ignored black slaves and white women.
Lincoln Campaigns in New HampshireA wonderfully intimate glimpse of Lincoln the public speaker comes to us from his trip to New Hampshire in 1860 to visit his eldest son, Robert, at Phillips Exeter Academy.
Civil War MemoryHarold Holzer explores revisionism and Civil War memory
True Causes of the Civil War

Irreconcilable Differences
Simmering animosities between North and South signaled an American apocalypse

Any man who takes it upon himself to explain the causes of the Civil War deserves whatever grief comes his way, regardless of his good intentions. Having acknowledged …

Nocona's Raid and Cynthia Ann Parker's RecaptureTaken by Comanches at age 9 in 1836, Cynthia Ann Parker was recaptured by whites nearly 24 years later when she returned to Texas with a raiding party led by her Indian husband.
Buchanan the Peacemaker?Could Buchanan Have Stopped the Civil War? Either the much-maligned James Buchanan was the unmitigated disaster of legend, or he deserves an apology.
Dred Scott vs. the Law

He signed documents with an "X" and left no known recorded quotes or memoir of his experiences.

Yet because of his determination to be free, we know his name: Dred Scott, the intrepid slave who battled an unjust system through …

Causes of the Civil War

Americans who lived through the Civil War established four great interpretive traditions regarding the conflict. The Union Cause tradition framed the war as preeminently an effort to maintain a viable republic in the face of secessionist actions that threatened both …

Slave to Soldier: Fighting for Freedom‘We Must Make Free Men of Them’ Confederate General Patrick Cleburne wanted to enlist slaves to fight for the Rebel cause
Women's History Articles - Suggested Online ReadingDescriptions of some online articles related to Women's History, with links; includes Irena Sendler, Queen Elizabeth I, and women of the Wild West!
Preston Brooks' Diplomacy

Preston Brooks' big stick diplomacy:
Heated oratory leads to violence in the hallowed halls of the U.S. Senate

With swift, powerful strokes, South Carolina Congressman Preston Brooks battered the prostrate body in the aisle of the nearly empty U.S. Senate …

Notes from the Underground RailroadFormer slave Arnold Gragston tells of how he became involved in the Underground Railroad.
Why the Civil Rights Movement Was an InsurgencyMilitary historian Mark Grimsley makes the startling assertion that the American civil rights movement was an insurgency.
1864: McClellan vs. Lincoln Gallery EXTRAIn the 1864 “bayonet election,” the soldier vote—and a timely Union success—helped a pro-war civilian, Lincoln, defeat a pro-peace general, McClellan.
The Impending Crisis Of The South By Hinton R. HelperHinton R Helper's book "The Impending Crisis Of The South: How to Meet It," published in 1857, was a call for the confederate south to abandon slave and adopt industrialization.
Lincoln’s Political Generals

Lincoln's Political Generals, by David Work
University of Illinois Press, 2009

Abraham Lincoln made his share of mistakes as commander in chief during the Civil War, but did his politically motivated appointments of nonmilitary men as Union generals help or …

Students Campaign for James Ashely


Future Congressman James Ashley helped 24 slaves escape from bondage in Kentucky when he was 17.The Research History class at Washington High School is working to see that their favorite abolitionist gets a spot in the U.S. Capitol. For these …

'A White Man's War'William T. Sherman’s adamant refusal to field African-American troops amounted to outright insubordination
Why Cotton got to be KingThe South’s cash crops buoyed America’s trade and industry before the war—but the planter economy could be as volatile as Wall Street
New Missouri Park to Honor 1st Kansas Colored Infantry: October/November 2009

State officials as well as volunteers are working to establish a state park in an area of Bates County, Mo., where the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry skirmished with Confederate guerrillas in October 1862. The encounter is known today as the …

Resources: October/November 2009P. 28, General Grant's 'Living and Speaking Conscience

Read James Harrison Wilson's The Life of John A. Rawlins online with Google Books.


P. 42, The 'Madness' of John Brown

The 150th Commemoration of Brown's Raid on Harpers Ferry will take …

A Promise FulfilledThe Emancipation Proclamation all but guaranteed the death of slavery, but exactly what that document did–and did not–do remains the subject of heated debate
The Madness of John BrownIn the 150 years since Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry, historians have struggled to come to grips with his mental state.
Decision 1864

 

(PLACE CURSOR OVER MCCLELLAN'S AND LINCOLN'S HEADS AND LISTEN)

As the war-weary Union anticipated the upcoming presidential election, beleaguered incumbent Abraham Lincoln faced the prospect of losing his office to the man he had fired as commander of the …

John Brown's Moonlight March


Historynet Image

On a chill foggy autumn evening in 1859, abolitionist John Brown and a rough gang of 21 men with guns and pikes and revolt in their hearts quietly hiked five miles from a farm in Western Maryland to …

Riverside resort threatens Harpers Ferry's viewshed

A developer hoping to build a resort near Harpers Ferry, W.Va., faces several regulatory roadblocks.

The developer, Rattling Springs Associates of McLean, Va., has submitted plans for a 50-room lodge and as many as 60 cottages along the banks of …

Hanging Captain GordonNathaniel Gordon was the only American sent to the gallows for slave traiding.
South Carolina takes on the FedsThe birth of the states' rights movement can be traced to the Tariff of 1828.
Seeds of conflictThe convergence of cotton and new farm technology made the Southern economy flourish.
Missouri Compromise exposed the raw nerve of slaveryMissouri Compromise: Problem arose when Missouri wanted to join the Union with slavery, threatening the balance between free and slave states.
Crusaders against slaveryThe history of abolitionists in America dates back to colonial times.
Henry "Box" Brown: a slave signed, sealed and deliveredSlave Henry Brown mails himself to freedom.
Three Views of the Lincoln-Douglass Dynamic: August/September 2009In the past two years four authors have undertaken joint biographies of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Contextualizing the overlapping roles of these complex personalities proves to be a fascinating and challenging litmus test of the political values not only of two iconic individuals but also of the historians interpreting them.

Vicksburg: From Mint Juleps to Bomb Bursts

Vicksburg 1863, by Winston Groom, Alfred A. Knopf

Winston Groom is a first-rate spinner of yarns, and like the tales of his most famous fictional character, Forrest Gump, his accounts seamlessly transport readers into the story. Vicksburg 1863 is …

What Do We Owe the Indians?Paul VanDevelder writes about the troubled history of the 562 Native American nations, their 371 treaties with the United States, and the emerging importance of natural resources found on Native American lands.
Lincoln Defines the War Powers: February/March 2009James M. McPherson may be the most distinguished of the current generation of Civil War historians, and he is surely one of the most prolific. His latest offering, Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief, traces Lincoln’s struggle to master the responsibility that would inevitably dominate his presidency.
Diehard Rebels: Jason Phillips and Aaron Sheehan-Dean Interview

It's perfectly feasible to imagine that if the South had successfully left the Union, the West would also have split away

Did Confederate soldiers lose the will to fight as the outlook began to appear bleak for the South late …

Nicholas Biddle:The Civil War's First BloodJust days after Fort Sumter, a pro-Confederate mob in Maryland turned ex-slave Nicholas Biddle into the war's first casualty.
Decision 1864:Hawks vs. Doves—Sound Familiar?The Democratic and Republican platforms are highlighted in the presidential race of 1864.
Shot by Cupid's Bow - Fanny and John Brown GordonConfederate General John Brown Gordon and his wife Fanny shared a loyal and passionate marriage for nearly 50 years. She spent much of the Civil War nursing him as he recovered from wounds and illness.
The 9 Lives of General John Brown GordonIndestructible Confederate general John B. Gordon survived multiple wounds and serious illnesses during the Civil War. From First Manassas to Appomattox, he proved nothing could keep a good man down.
Lincoln's Second Inaugural SpeechAbraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural speech addressed the need to prosecute the Civil War to a successful conclusion, but with "malice toward none."
Reimaginining the SouthA Southerner learns the skeleton in her family closet wore a coat of Union blue.
Coming Apart From the Inside: How Internal Strife Brought Down the ConfederacyPoliticians and generals on the Confederate side have long been lionized as noble warriors who heroically fought for an honorable cause that had little chance of succeeding. In reality, the Confederate leadership was rife with infighting.
Letter From American History - December 2007

An Election Unlike Any Other

Over the course of the next 12 months a presidential election unlike any we've seen in American history is likely to unfold. Not since 1952 has the race for the White House been so wide …

Fighting and Dying for the Colors at Gettysburg

Nearly two months after the battle of Gettysburg 24-year-old Isaac Dunsten of the 105th Pennsylvania Infantry lay on officers' row at Camp Letterman, the large tent hospital established just east of the town. On July 2, 1863, the second day …

Alabama governor signs slavery apology2007-06-01 | Gov. Bob Riley signed a resolution Thursday expressing 'profound regret' for Alabama's role in slavery and apologizing for slavery's wrongs and lingering effects.

Timeline: The Abolition of the Slave TradeWilliam Wilberforce waged a long campaign to convince Britain to abolish the slave trade.
Boston Combusts: The Fugitive Slave Case of Anthony BurnsAn eruption in the nation's abolitionist capital nearly seven years before Fort Sumter foreshadowed the irreconcilable divide between North and South and the fracture to come.

By Chuck Leddy

William H. Carney: 54th Massachusetts Soldier and First Black U.S. Medal of Honor RecipientWilliam H. Carney's grit with the 54th Massachusetts at Fort Wagner earned him the distinction of being the first black soldier to receive the Medal of Honor.
America's Civil War: Why the Irish Fought for the Union

The Irish experience in the Civil War has probably received more attention — and celebration — than that of any other ethnic group. Mention of the Irish commonly conjures up images of the Irish Brigade's doomed charge at Fredericksburg, of …

Abraham Lincoln Takes the HeatCartoonists & commentators, politicians & publishers, Southerners & Northerners--everyone seemed to feel free to lampoon Abraham Lincoln. How the president responded revealed his greatness.

By Harold Holzer

British Textiles Clothe the WorldHow did Britain come to dominate the global production of cloth?

By Claire Hopley

Battle of Antietam: 7th Maine's Senseless Charge On the Piper Farm

It had no effect on the battle — other than adding to the casualty lists — and there was no good reason for ordering it in the first place. But for the whim of a subpar brigade commander, whose sobriety …

Union Officer Julian Bryant: A Voice for Black SoldiersUnion officer Julian Bryant used every tool at his disposal -- including influential family connections -- to win equal rights and fair treatment for black Union troops.
Confederate Emancipation: Southern Plans to Free and Arm Slaves During the Civil War (Book Review)

Reviewed by Craig Symonds
By Bruce Leviner
Oxford University Press

There has been a lot of discussion in the last decade or so about black Confederates. Some of that discussion has questioned the number of African Americans who labored or …

Dred Scott Decision: The Lawsuit That Started The Civil WarSlavery, threats of seccesion and other factors made America a tinderbox in 1857 -- all it needed was a match.
Baltimore & Ohio Railroad: The Union's Most Important Supply LineThe Baltimore & Ohio Railroad survived numerous hardships of the Civil War in its service to the Union.
American History: Harry Truman and the 1948 U.S. Presidential ElectionThe press and the polls agreed: Harry Truman was certain to lose. But instead of giving up, the president decided to 'give 'em hell.'
Battle of Harpers FerryHarpers Ferry was the scene of an important 1862 battle in Lee's Maryland campaign and a prelude to 'Bloody Antietam.'
Second Boer WarAlthough not regular soldiers, Australian Lancers, Mounted Rifles, Bushmen and other colonials from Down Under gave the Boers reason to worry.
Ely Parker: Iroquois Chief and Union OfficerA lifelong friend and trusted aide of Ulysses S. Grant, Ely Parker rose to the top in two worlds, that of his native Seneca Indian tribe and the white man's world at large. Through the Civil War and Reconstruction he strove to serve both worlds as best he could.
Silas Soule: Massachusetts AbolitionistDedicated Massachusetts abolitionist Silas Soule ironically gave his life for the red man, not the black.
From Under Iron Eyelids: The Biography of James Henry Burton, Armorer to Three Nations (Book Review)

Reviewed by Robert K. Krick
By Thomas K. Tate
AuthorHouse, www.authorhouse.com, Bloomington, Ind., 2005

Keeping ordnance supplied to its soldiers in the field must rank among the most amazing achievements of the nascent Confederate military establishment. The genius, efficiency and …

John C. Calhoun: He Started the Civil WarIf one person could be called the instigator of the Civil War, it was John C. Calhoun -- genius pragmatist, and racist.
Frederick Stowe: In the Shadow of Uncle Tom's CabinThe fame of novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe followed her son throughout the Civil War.
Battle of Wilson's CreekThe Battle of Wilson's Creek helped to keep a critical border state out of the Confederacy.
'The Birth of a Nation': When Hollywood Glorified the KKKNinety years after its first screening and 100 years after the publication of the novel that inspired it, D.W. Griffith's motion picture continues to be lauded for its cinematographic excellence and vilified for its racist content. The film came from Griffith's personal vision, and as such it reflected the strengths and weaknesses of the man himself.
The Fox Sisters: Spiritualism's Unlikely FoundersOut of the pranks of precocious sisters in upstate New York in 1847 grew a religious and social movement that swept across America. Often associated with abolition, suffrage and the brotherhood of all souls, spiritualism continued to evolve and flourish through the 20th century.
America's Civil War Comes to West PointThough the Corps of Cadets was forced apart by political differences in 1860-61, and passions grew intense, there were more tears than hurrahs among the Northerners when their Southern friends resigned. The last institution to divide, the Academy was one of the first to reunite.
Firebrand in a Powder Keg: Nathaniel Lyon in St. LouisWhen secession fever threatened Missouri, a hotheaded gesture by a Yankee touched off riots but helped keep the state in the Union.
Elizabeth Van Lew's American Civil War ActivitiesEccentric enough to hide in plain sight within the Confederate capital, Elizabeth Van Lew was Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's eyes and ears in Richmond.
Abraham Lincoln: Tyrant, Hypocrite or Consummate StatesmanThe key to understanding Abraham Lincoln's philosophy of statesmanship is that he always sought the meeting point between what was right in theory and what could be achieved in practice.
37th North Carolina Infantry Regiment in the American Civil WarThe service of the 37th North Carolina epitomized the grit and determination of Tar Heel fighters.
Salt of the Earth: The Movie Hollywood Could Not StopNot many people remember the 1954 film Salt of the Earth, a low-budget account of a mining strike in New Mexico. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the movie is that it was made at all.
John Brown's Family: A Living LegacyFor decades after John Brown swung from the gallows in 1859, his family lived in the long shadow of the notoriety he had generated.
America's Civil War: George Custer and Stephen RamseurGeorge Custer and Dodson Ramseur had a friendship that survived the Civil War -- until the Battle of Cedar Creek.

Harry Macarthy: The Bob Hope of the ConfederacyHe could make tired soldiers laugh, and his 'Bonnie Blue Flag' churned southern audiences into a frenzy. That was why Harry Macarthy was loved from one end of the confederacy to the other.
America's Civil War: Struggle for St. LouisThe dark clouds of civil war gathered over the nation as two aggressive factions -- the Wide-Awakes and the Minutemen -- plotted to gain political control of Missouri and its most important city, St. Louis. As is often the case, political power began at the end of a gun.
Joseph Scroggs: Observations From His Diary About the 1864 Petersburg CampaignExcerpts from Joseph Scroggs' diary provide his observations on the service of Negro troops under his command on the Civil War battlefields.
Slave Mutiny on the AmistadAn 1839 mutiny aboard the Spanish ship, Amistad, in Cuban waters raised basic questions about freedom and slavery in the United States.
America's Civil War: Missouri and KansasFor half a decade before the Civil War, residents of the neighboring states of Missouri and Kansas waged their own civil war. It was a conflict whose scars were a long time in healing.
Oklahoma Panhandle: Badmen in No Man's LandUntil the last decade of the 19th Century, the long, narrow strip that would become known as the Oklahoma Panhandle had no government and plenty of men who didn't mind at all.
Picture of the Day: November 20


Julia Ward Howe & The Battle Hymn of the Republic

On November 18, 1861, poet and abolitionist Julia Ward Howe accompanied her husband, Dr. Samuel Howe, to Fort Griffin, Virginia to review Union troops defending the capital. The ceremony was …

When the Bugle Sounded: Stampede for Oklahoma's Unassigned LandsWild as a gold rush, the stampede for Oklahoma's Unassigned Lands was a dream come true for some, a heartbreaking nightmare for others. They were the good and the bad, the tough and the weak, who raced for their 160-acre parcels on a spring day in 1889.
William W. Brown: Abolitionist and HistorianAfter his 1834 escape to freedom, fugitive slave William Wells Brown used his literary talents for the abolitionist cause and to record the history of America's blacks.
Many African Americans Were Dedicated Patriots During the American Revolutionary WarDuring the American Revolution some of the most ardent Patriots could be found among the colonies' African-Americans.
Picture of the Day: May 27


Wild Bill Hickok
Legendary gunfighter James Butler 'Wild Bill' Hickok was born on May 27, 1837. As a youth, Hickok helped his father operate an Underground Railroad stop for runaway slaves and during the Civil War became a daring Union …

Picture of the Day: October 16


On Sunday evening, October 16, 1859, radical abolitionist John Brown and a tiny army of five black and 13 white supporters seized the Federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia). Convinced that local slaves would rise up behind …

Drones in the Great Hive: A Letter from an African-American Civil War SoldierChristian A. Fleetwood -- an African-American Medal of Honor-winner -- writes bitterly of the way the Union army treats its black soldiers.
Seneca Falls Convention: First Women's Rights ConventionMore than one hundred and fifty years ago the people attending the first Women's Rights Convention adopted the radical proposition that 'all men and women are created equal.'
An Englishman's Journey Through the Confederacy During America's Civil WarSuave, gentlemanly Lt. Col. Arthur Fremantle of Her Majesty's Coldstream Guards picked an unusual vacation spot: the Civil War-torn United States.
George Washington: Hero of the ConfederacyThe cost of political greatness, it's been said, is to be forced to campaign long after your death. That's certainly true of George Washington, whose name, image and legacy were appropriated by the Confederacy.
Robert Smalls: Commander of the Planter During the American Civil WarWhen opportunity knocked, an imaginative Charleston slave sailed himself, his family, and some friends to freedom -- and set to work for the Union cause.
Battle of Brawner's Farm: Black Hat Brigade's Baptism of FireJohn Gibbon's mostly green Midwestern troops found themselves in quite a scrape as the sun set on August 28, 1862.
Camp William Penn: Training Ground for FreedomUnder the stern but sympathetic gaze of Lt. Col. Louis Wagner, some 11,000 African-American soldiers trained to fight for their freedom at Philadelphia's Camp William Penn. Three Medal of Honor recipients would pass through the camp's gates.
Second Naval Battle of Guadalcanal: Turning Point in the Pacific WarThe Second Naval Battle of Guadalcanal spelled the difference between victory and defeat for the United States in the Pacific war.
Northern Volunteer Nurses of America's Civil WarA cadre of dedicated Northern women from all walks of life traveled to the charnel houses of the Civil War to care for the sick and wounded.
Picture of the Day: March 11


The Dred Scott Case
Dred Scott was a slave who accompanied his owner — army surgeon John Emerson — to military posts in Wisconsin and Illinois in 1834-35. In 1846 Scott — backed by abolitionists — sued for his freedom …

Sand Creek Massacre: The Real VillainsThe Real Villains of Sand Creek
Sand Creek MassacreMore often called a massacre than a battle, the attack by Colonel John M. Chivington's Colorado volunteers on Chief Black Kettle's village will forever be controversial.
America's Civil War: May 2001 From the Editor


From the Editor
America's Civil War

For one brief moment, President Andrew Johnson was more popular with Radical Republicans than Abraham Lincoln.

Given the fact that he was soon to become the first American president to be impeached, it is …

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