Civil War (Občianska vojna v USA) - complete version
The Election of 1860
In April 1860, the Democratic party assembled in Charleston, South Carolina to select a presidential nominee. Southern delegates insisted that the party endorse a federal code to guarantee the rights of slaveholders in the territories. When the convention rejected the proposal, delegates from the deep South walked out. The remaining delegates reassembled six weeks later in Baltimore and selected Stephen Douglas as their candidate. Southern Democrats proceeded to choose John
C. Breckinridge as their presidential nominee.
In May, the Constitutional Union party, which consisted of conservative former Whigs, Know Nothings, and pro-Union Democrats nominated John Bell of Tennessee for President. This short-lived party denounced sectionalism and tried to rally support around a platform that supported the Constitution and Union. Meanwhile, the Republican party nominated Abraham Lincoln on the third ballot.
The 1860 election revealed how divided the country had become. There were actually two separate sectional campaigns: one in the North, pitting Lincoln against Douglas, and one in the South between Breckinridge and Bell. Only Stephen Douglas mounted a truly national campaign. The Republicans did not campaign in the South and Lincoln's name did not appear on the ballot in ten states.
In the final balloting, Lincoln won only 39.9 percent of the popular vote, but received 180 electoral college votes, 57 more than the combined total of his opponents.
South Carolina Leaves the Union
Convinced that a Republican administration would attempt to undermine slavery by appointing antislavery judges, postmasters, military officers, and other officials, a secession convention in South Carolina voted unanimously to secede from the Union on December 20, 1860. The convention issued a declaration in which it attempted to justify its decision. Drawing on arguments developed by John C. Calhoun, the convention held that the states were sovereign entities that could leave the Union as freely as they joined. Among the many indictments of the northern states and people, nothing seems more central than the issue of trust with respect to the capture and return of fugitive slaves.
James L. Petigru (1789-1863), a staunch South Carolina unionist, reportedly responded to the Palmetto State's actions by saying that his state was too small for a country and too large for an insane asylum.
In just three weeks, between January 9, 1861 and February 1, six states of the Deep South joined South Carolina in leaving the Union: Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. Unlike South Carolina, where secessionist sentiment was almost universal, there was significant opposition in the other states. Although an average of 80 percent of the delegates at secession conventions favored immediate secession, the elections at which these delegates were chosen were very close, particularly in Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana. To be sure, many voters who opposed immediate secession were not unconditional Unionists. But the resistance to immediate secession did suggest that some kind of compromise was still possible.
In the Upper South, opposition to secession was even greater. In Virginia, on February 4, opponents of immediate secession received twice as many votes as proponents, while Tennessee voters rejected a call for a secession convention.
On February 1, a secession convention in Texas voted to leave the Union. Three weeks later, a popular vote ratified the decision by a three-to-one margin. Texas Governor Sam Houston (1793-1863), who owned a dozen slaves, repudiated secession and refused to take an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy. As a result, he was forced from office. Houston predicted: "Our people are going to war to perpetuate slavery, and the first gun fired in the war will be the [death] knell of slavery."
Establishing the Confederacy
In early February 1861, the states of the lower South established a new government, the Confederate States of America, in Montgomery, Alabama, and drafted a constitution. Although modeled on the U.S. Constitution, this document specifically referred to slavery, state sovereignty, and God. It explicitly guaranteed slavery in the states and territories, but prohibited the international slave trade. It also limited the President to a single six-year term, gave the President a line-item veto, required a two-thirds vote of Congress to admit new states, and prohibited protective tariffs and government funding of internal improvements.
As President, the Confederates selected former U.S. Senator and Secretary of War Jefferson Davis (1808-1889). The Alabama secessionist William L. Yancey (1814-1863) introduced Davis as Confederate President by declaring: "The man and the hour have met. Prosperity, honor, and victory await his administration."
At first glance, Davis seemed much more qualified to be President than Lincoln. Unlike the new Republican President, who had no formal education, Davis was a West Point graduate. And while Lincoln had only two weeks of military experience, as a militia captain, without combat experience in the Black Hawk War, Davis had served as a regimental commander during the Mexican War. In office, however, Davis's rigid, humorless personality; his poor health; his inability to delegate authority; and, above all, his failure to inspire confidence in his people would make him a far less effective chief executive than Lincoln. During the war, a southern critic described Davis as "false and hypocritical...miserable, stupid, one-eyed, dyspeptic, arrogant...cold, haughty, peevish, narrow-minded, pig-headed, [and] malignant."
Following secession, the Confederate states attempted to seize federal property within their boundaries, including forts, customs houses, and arsenals. Several forts, however, remained within Union hands, including Fort Pickens in Pensacola, Florida, and Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina's harbor.
Last-Ditch Efforts at Compromise
Threats of secession were nothing new. Some Southerners had threatened to leave the Union during a Congressional debate over slavery in 1790, the Missouri Crisis of 1819 and 1820, the Nullification Crisis of 1831 and 1832, and the crisis over California statehood in 1850. In each case, the crisis was resolved by compromise. Many expected the same pattern to prevail in 1861.
Four months separated Lincoln's election to the presidency and his inauguration. During this period, there were two major compromise efforts. John J. Crittenden (1787-1863) of Kentucky, who held Henry Clay's old Senate seat, proposed a series of Constitutional amendments, including one to extend the Missouri Compromise line to the Pacific Ocean, in defiance of the Compromise of 1850 and the Dred Scott decision. The amendment would prohibit slavery north of the line but explicitly protect it south of the line. On January 16, 1861, however, the Senate, which was controlled by Democrats, refused to consider the
Crittenden compromise. Every Republican Senator opposed the measure and six Democrats abstained. On March 4, the Senate reconsidered Crittenden's compromise proposal and defeated it by a single vote.
Meanwhile, Virginia had proposed a peace convention to be held in Washington, D.C., February 4, 1861, the very day that the new Confederate government was to be set up in Alabama. Delegates, who represented 21 of the 34 states, voted narrowly to recommend extending the Missouri Compromise line to the Pacific. The delegates also would have required a four-fifths vote of the Senate to acquire new territory. The Senate rejected the convention's proposals 28 to 7.
Compromise failed in early 1861 because it would have required the Republican Party to repudiate its guiding principle: no extension of slavery into the western territories. President-elect Lincoln made the point bluntly in a message to a Republican in Congress: "Entertain no proposition for a compromise in regard to the extension of slavery. The instant you do, they have us under again; all our labor is lost, and sooner or later must be done over.... The tug has to come and better now than later."
With compromise unattainable, attention shifted to the federal installations located within the Confederate states, especially to a
fort located in the channel leading to Charleston harbor. In November 1860, the U.S. government sent Colonel Robert A. Anderson (1805-1871), a pro-slavery Kentuckian and an 1825 West Point graduate, to Charleston to command federal installations there. On December 26, under cover of darkness, he moved his forces (10 officers, 76 enlisted men, 45 women
and children, and a number of laborers) from the barely defensible Fort Moultrie to the unfinished Fort Sumter. On January 9, 1861, President James Buchanan made an effort to reinforce the garrison, but the supply ship was fired on and driven off.
By late February, Fort Sumter had become a key symbol of whether the Confederate states exercised sovereignty over their territory. South Carolina demanded that President Buchanan surrender Fort Sumter in exchange for monetary compensation. To the rebels' surprise, he refused. As the following letter from Jefferson Davis makes clear, any decision about forcing the surrender of the fort by force carried profound consequences. Eight slave states in the Upper South remained in the Union. But their stance would clearly depend on the steps that South Carolina and the federal government took toward Fort Sumter.
Lincoln Responds to Secession
In his inaugural address, Lincoln attempted to be both firm and conciliatory. He declared secession to be wrong; but he also promised that he would "not interfere with the institution of slavery where it exists." He announced that he would use "the power confided to me...to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the Government." But he assured Southerners that "there would be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere."
When he delivered his inaugural address, the new President assumed that there was time for southern pro-union sentiment, which he greatly overestimated, to reassert itself, making a peaceful resolution to the crisis possible. The next morning, however, he received a letter from Robert Anderson informing him that Fort Sumter's supplies would be exhausted in four to six weeks and that it would take a 20,000-man force to reinforce the fort.
Lincoln received conflicting advice about what to do. Winfield Scott, his commanding general, saw "no alternative to surrender," convinced that it would take eight months to prepare naval and ground forces to relieve Fort Sumter. Secretary of State William H. Seward also favored abandoning the fort to avoid provoking a civil war, but also considered the possibility of inciting a foreign war (probably with France or Spain) as a way to reunite the country. Lincoln's Postmaster General Montgomery Blair and Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase favored dispatching a force of warships and transports to relieve the fort and assert federal authority, since "every hour of acquiescence ... strengthens [the rebels'] hands at home and their claims to recognition as an independent people abroad."
In the end, Lincoln decided to try to peacefully re-supply the fort with provisions and to inform the Confederate government of his
decision beforehand. Unarmed ships with supplies would try to relieve the fort. Only if the South Carolinians used force to stop the mission would warships, positioned outside Charleston harbor, go into action. In this way, Lincoln hoped to make the Confederacy responsible for starting a war.
Upon learning of Lincoln's plan, Jefferson Davis ordered General Pierre G.T. Beauregard (1818-1893) to force Fort Sumter's surrender before the supply mission could arrive. At 4:30 a.m. April 12, Confederate guns began firing on Fort Sumter. Thirty-three hours later, the installation surrendered. Incredibly, there were no fatalities on their side.
Ironically, the only fatalities at Fort Sumter occurred just after the battle ended. During the surrender ceremony, a pile of cartridges ignited, killing one soldier, fatally wounding another, and injuring four.
Lincoln was convinced that the Confederate states had seceded from the Union for the sole purpose of maintaining slavery. Like President Jackson before him, he considered the Union to be permanent, an agreement by the people and not just of the states. Further, he strongly agreed with the sentiments voiced by Daniel Webster (1782-1852), when that Whig Senator declared in 1830, "Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable." Lincoln, too, believed that a strong Union provided the only firm safeguard for American liberties and republican institutions. By attacking Fort Sumter, the Confederacy had directly challenged federal authority. And so the war came.
Lincoln responded to the attack on Fort Sumter by calling on the states to provide 75,000 militiamen for 90 days service. Twice that number volunteered. But the eight slave states still in the Union refused to furnish troops, and four--Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia--seceded.
One individual who felt especially torn by the decision to support the Union or join the Confederacy was Robert E. Lee (1807-1870) of Virginia. Lee was Winfield Scott's choice to serve as field commander of the Union army, but when a state convention voted to secede, he resigned from the U.S. army, announcing to his sister that he could not "raise my hand against my birthplace, my home, my children. Save in defense of my native state, I hope I may never be called on to draw my sword." After joining the Confederate army, he predicted "that the country will have to pass through a terrible ordeal, a necessary expiation perhaps for national sins."
Prospects for Victory
Many Northerners felt confident of a quick victory. In 1861, the Union states had 22.5 million people, compared to just 9 million in the Confederate states (including 3.7 million slaves). Not only did the Union have more manpower, it also had a larger navy, a more developed railroad system, and a stronger manufacturing base. The North had 1.3 million industrial workers, compared to the South's 110,000. Northern factories manufactured nine times as many industrial goods as the South; seventeen times as many cotton and woolen goods; thirty times as many boots and shoes; twenty times as much pig iron; twenty-four times
as many railroad locomotives--and 33 times as many firearms.
But Confederates also felt confident. For one thing, the Confederacy had only to wage a defensive war and wait for northern morale to erode. In contrast, the Union had to conquer and control the Confederacy's 750,000 square miles of territory. Further, the Confederate army seemed superior to that of the Union. More Southerners had attended West Point or other military academies, had served as army officers, and had experience using firearms and horses. At the beginning of 1861, the U.S. army consisted of only 16,000 men, most of whom served on the frontier fighting Indians. History, too, seemed to be on the South's
side. Before the Civil War, most nations that had fought for independence, including, of course, the United States, had won their
struggle. A school textbook epitomized southern confidence: "If one Confederate soldier can whip seven Yankees," it asked, "how many soldiers can whip 49 Yanks?"
Why the Civil War Was So Lethal
The Civil War was the deadliest war in American history. Altogether, over 600,000 died in the conflict, more than World War I and World War II combined. A soldier was 13 times more likely to die in the Civil War than in the Vietnam war.
One reason why the Civil War was so lethal was the introduction of improved weaponry. Cone-shaped bullets replaced musket balls, and beginning in 1862, smooth-bore muskets were replaced with rifles with grooved barrels, which imparted spin on a bullet and allowed a soldier to hit a target a quarter of a mile away. The new weapons had appeared so suddenly that commanders did not immediately realize that they needed to compensate for the increased range and accuracy of rifles.
The Civil War was the first war in which soldiers used repeating rifles (which could fire several shots without reloading), breechloading arms (which were loaded from behind the barrel instead of through the muzzle), and automated weapons like the Gatling gun. The Civil War also marked the first use by Americans of shrapnel, booby traps, and land mines.
Outdated strategy also contributed to the high number of casualties. Massive frontal assaults and massed formations resulted in large numbers of deaths. In addition, far larger numbers of soldiers were involved in battles than in the past. In the Mexican War, no more than 15,000 soldiers opposed each other in a single battle, but some Civil War battles involved as many as 100,000 soldiers.
Any hopes for a swift northern victory in the Civil War were dashed at the First Battle of Bull Run (called Manassas by the Confederates). After the surrender of Fort Sumter, two Union armies moved into northern Virginia. One, led by General Irvin McDowell (1818-1885), had about 35,000 men; the other, with about 18,000 men was led by General Robert Patterson (1792-1881). They were opposed by two Confederate armies, with about 31,000 troops, one led by General Joseph E. Johnston
(1807-1891), another led by General Pierre G.T. Beauregard (1818-1893). Both Union and Confederate armies consisted of poorly trained volunteers.
McDowell hoped to destroy Beauregard's forces while Patterson tied up Johnston's men; in fact, Johnston's troops eluded McDowall and joined Beauregard. At Bull Run in northern Virginia 25 miles southwest of Washington, the armies clashed. While residents of Washington ate picnic lunches and looked on, Union troops launched several assaults. When Beauregard counterattacked, Union forces retreated in panic, but Confederate forces failed to take up pursuit.
A War for Union
In July 1861, Congress adopted a resolution by a vote of 117 to 2 in the House and 30 to 5 in the Senate that read: "This war is not waged...for the purpose of overthrowing or interfering with the established institutions of those States, but to maintain the States unimpaired; and that as soon as these objects are accomplished the war should cease." Fearful of alienating the slave states that remained in the Union--Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri--or of antagonizing Northerners who would support anti-war Democrats if the conflict were transformed into a war to abolish slavery, Lincoln felt that he had to proceed cautiously. Nevertheless, opponents of slavery regarded the war as a providential opportunity to destroy slavery and the slave power.
In its analysis of the Civil War's causes, the London Times rejected the notion that this was a war about slavery. It argued that the conflict had the same roots as most wars: territorial aggrandizement, political power, and economic supremacy. But few Northerners or Southerners saw the war in such simple terms. To many white southern soldiers, it was a war to preserve their liberty and their way of life, to prevent abolition and its consequences--race war, racial amalgamation, and, according to one militant Southerner's words, "the Africanization of the South." To many northern soldiers, it was a war to preserve the Union, uphold the Constitution, and defeat a ruthless slave power, which had threatened to subvert republican ideals of liberty and equality.
The Anaconda Plan
The initial Union strategy involved blockading Confederate ports to cut off cotton exports and prevent the import of manufactured goods; and using ground and naval forces to divide the Confederacy into three distinct theaters. These were the far western theater, west of the Mississippi River; the western theater, between the Mississippi and the Appalachians; and the eastern theater, in Virginia. Ridiculed in the press as the "Anaconda Plan," after the South American snake that crushes its prey to death, this strategy ultimately proved successful. Although about 90 percent of Confederate ships were able to break through the blockade in 1861, this figure was cut to less than 15 percent a year later. Although the Union army suffered repeated defeats and stalemates in the East, victories in the western theater undermined the hopes for Confederate independence.
Pressure for Emancipation
In August 1862, Lincoln stated: "If I could save the union without freeing any slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that." In fact, by that time, immense pressure was building to end slavery and Lincoln had privately concluded that he could save the Union only by issuing an emancipation proclamation, which he had already drafted.
The pressure came from a handful of field commanders, Republicans in Congress, abolitionists, and slaves themselves. In May 1861, General Benjamin Butler (1818-1893), who had been a lawyer and a politician before the war, had declared slaves who escaped to Union lines "contraband of war," not returnable to their masters. In August, Major General John C. Freemont, commander of Union forces in Missouri, had issued an order freeing the slaves of Confederate sympathizers in Missouri. Lincoln, incensed by Freemont assumption of authority and fearful that the measure would "alarm our Southern Union friends, and
turn them against us," revoked the order, but allowed Union generals discretion in providing refuge to fugitive slaves.
Congress, too, adopted a series of antislavery measures. In August 1861, it passed a Confiscation Act, authorizing the seizure of all property, including slaves, used for Confederate military purposes. Then in the Spring and Summer of 1862, Congress abolished slavery in the District of Columbia and the territories; prohibited Union officers from returning fugitive slaves; allowed the President to enlist African Americans in the army; and called for the seizure of the Confederate property.
The border states' intransigence on the issue of slave emancipation also pushed the President in a more active direction. In the spring of 1862, Lincoln persuaded Congress to pass a resolution offering financial compensation to states that abolished slavery voluntarily. Three times, Lincoln met with border state members of Congress to discuss the offer, and even discussed the possibility of emancipation over a 30-year period. In July, however, the Congressmen rejected Lincoln's offer.
War in the West
Under the Anaconda Plan, Union forces in the West were to seize control of the Mississippi River while Union forces in the East tried to capture the new Confederate capital in Richmond. In the western theater, the Confederates had built two forts, Fort Donelson along the Cumberland River and Fort Henry on the Tennessee River, which controlled the Kentucky and western Tennessee region and blocked the Union's path to the Mississippi.
The Union officer responsible for capturing these forts was Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885), a West Point graduate who had resigned from the army because of a drinking problem and who was working in his father's tanning shop when the war began. In February 1862, gunboats under Grant's command took Fort Henry and ten days later, Grant's men took Fort Donelson, forcing 13,000 Confederates to surrender.
Grant and some 42,000 men then proceeded south along the Tennessee River. A Confederate force of 40,000 men, under the command of Beauregard and Johnston tried to surprise Grant before other Union forces could join him at the Battle of Shiloh. In two days of heavy fighting during which there were 13,000 Union casualties and over 10,000 Confederate casualties, Grant successfully pushed back the southern forces. By early June, Union forces controlled the Mississippi River as far south as Memphis, Tennessee.
A Will to Destroy
The Civil War witnessed a will to destroy and a spirit of intolerance that conflicted with Americans' self-image as a tolerant people
committed to compromise. Not only did the conflict see the use of shrapnel and booby traps, it reportedly saw a few southern women wear necklaces made of Union soldiers' teeth. In a notorious 1862 order, Union General Ulysses S. Grant expelled all Jews from his military department on the grounds that they were speculating in cotton.
While Grant was driving toward the Mississippi from the north, northern naval forces under Captain David G. Farragut (1801-1870) attacked from the south. In April 1862, Farragut steamed past weak Confederate defenses and captured New Orleans. In New Orleans, Union forces met repeated insults from the city's women. Major General Benjamin F. Butler ordered that any woman who behaved disrespectfully should be treated as a prostitute. Reaction in the North was mixed. Southern reaction to "Beast" Butler was predictably harsh.
The Eastern Theater
In the eastern theater, Union General George McClellan's plan was to land northern forces on a peninsula between the York and James rivers southeast of Richmond and then march on the southern capital. In March 1862, McClelland landed over 100,000 men on the peninsula, only to find his path along the James River blocked by an iron-clad Confederate warship, the Virginia. Nevertheless by May, McClellan's forces were within six miles of Richmond.
The Confederacy was in desperate straits. The Confederate government had packed up its official records and was prepared to evacuate its capital. It had already lost most of Tennessee, much of the Mississippi Valley, and New Orleans, its largest city and most important port. Between March and June, Confederate forces suffered serious military defeats in Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Tennessee.
In June, however, Robert E. Lee assumed command of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. As a diversionary move to prevent Union forces from concentrating on Richmond, Lee relied on General Thomas J. ("Stonewall") Jackson to launch lightning-like raids from Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. Then in a series of encounters between June 26 and July 2, 1862, known as the Seven Days' Battles, Lee and Jackson forced McClellan, who mistakenly believed he was hopelessly outnumbered, to withdraw back to the James River.
Union forces still hoped to capture Richmond and bring the war to a quick end. But ten days after President Davis offered the following assessment of the conflict, Lee again repulsed a northern advance. At the Second Battle of Bull Run, Union General John Pope found his army almost surrounded and retreated, giving the Confederacy almost total control of Virginia.
Native Americans and the Civil War
In 1861, many Cherokees, Chickasaws, Choctaws, Creeks, and Seminoles decided to join the Confederacy, in part because some of the tribes' members owned slaves. In return, the Confederate states agreed to pay all annuities that the U.S. government had provided and let the tribes send delegates to the Confederate Congress. A Cherokee chief, Stand Watie (1806-1871), served as a brigadier general for the Confederacy and did not surrender until a month after the war was over.
After the war, these nations were severely punished for supporting the Confederacy. The Seminoles were required to sell their reservation at 15 cents an acre and buy new land from the Creeks at 50 cents an acre. The other tribes were required to give up half their territory in Oklahoma. This land would become reservations for the Arapahos, Caddos, Cheyennes, Commanches, Iowas, Kaws, Kickapoos, Pawnees, Potawatomis, Sauk and Foxes, and Shawnees. In addition, all these nations had to allow railroads to cut across their land.
War Within a War
In the midst of the Civil War, a thirty-year conflict began as the federal government sought to concentrate the Plains Indians on
reservations. Violence erupted first in Minnesota, where, by 1862, the Santee Sioux were confined to a territory 150 miles long and just 10 miles wide. Denied a yearly payment and agricultural aid promised by treaty, these people rose up in August 1862 and killed more than 350 white settlers at New Ulm. Lincoln appointed John Pope (1822-1892), commander of Union forces at the Second Battle of Bull Run, to crush the uprising. Pope promised to deal with the Sioux "as maniacs or wild beasts, and by no means as people with whom treaties or compromises can be made."
When the Sioux surrendered in September 1862, 1808 were taken prisoner and 303 were condemned to death. Defying threats from Minnesota's governor and a Senator who warned of the indiscriminate massacre of Indians if all 303 convicted Indians were not executed, Lincoln commuted the sentences of most, but did finally authorize the hanging of 37. This was the largest mass execution in American history, but Lincoln lost many votes in Minnesota as a result of his clemency.
In 1864, fighting spread to Colorado, after the discovery of gold led to an influx of whites. In November, 1864, a group of Colorado volunteers, under the command of Colonel John M. Chivington (1821-1894), fell on a group of Cheyennes at Sand Creek, where they had gathered under the governor's protection. "We must kill them big and little," he told his men. "Nits make lice" (nits are the eggs of lice). The militia slaughtered about 150 Cheyenne, mostly women and children.
The United States achieved independence in part because foreign countries such as France and Spain, entered the war against Britain on the American side. The Confederacy, too, hoped for foreign aid. In a bold bid to win European support, the Confederacy sought to win a major victory on northern soil.
In September 1862, Lee launched a daring offensive into Maryland. No one could be sure exactly what Lee planned to do. But in an incredible stroke of luck, a copy of Lee's battle plan (which had been wrapped around three cigars) fell into the hands of Union General George B. McClellan. After only a brief delay, on September 17, 1862, McClellan forces attacked Lee at Antietam Creek in Maryland.
The Battle of Antietam (which is sometimes referred to as the Battle of Sharpsburg) produced the bloodiest single day of the Civil War. Lee suffered 11,000 casualties; McClellan, 13,000. Lee was forced to retreat, allowing the North to declare the battle a Union victory. But Union forces failed to follow up on their surprise success and decisively defeat Lee's army.
Lincoln deeply mistrusted McClellan, an obsessively cautious general and a Democrat who bitterly opposed the Emancipation Proclamation and who called Lincoln the "Gorilla." Lincoln was outraged by the statement of one Union officer, Major John J. Key, whose brother was a key McClellan adviser, that it was not the objective of the war to crush the Confederate army. Instead, Key implied, the goal was simply to drag the war out until both sides gave up and the Union could be restored with slavery intact. Key was the only officer to be dismissed from
service for uttering disloyal sentiments.
The Significance of Names
During the Civil War, the Union and Confederate armies tended to give battles different names. Thus the battle known to the Union as Bull Run was called Manassas by the Confederacy. Similarly, the Battle of Antietam was known by the Confederacy as the Battle of Sharpsburg. In general, the North tended to name battles and armies after bodies of water (such as the Army of the Potomac or the Army of the Mississippi), while the Confederacy tended to name battles after towns and armies after land areas (such as the Army of North Virginia or the Army of Kentucky). It seems plausible that the Confederacy used such names to
convey a sense that its soldiers were defending something of pivotal importance: their homeland.
The Emancipation Proclamation
In July 1862, about two months before President Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, Congress adopted a second confiscation act calling for the seizure of the property of slaveholders who were actively engaged in the rebellion. It seems unlikely that this act would have freed any slaves, since the federal government would have to prove that individual slaveholders were traitors. (In fact, one of the largest slaveholders in South Carolina was a Baltimore Unionist). Lincoln felt that Congress lacked the legal authority to emancipate slaves; he believed that only the President acting as commander-in-chief had the authority to abolish slavery.
On September 22, 1862, less than a week after the Battle of Antietam, President Lincoln met with his cabinet. As one cabinet member, Samuel P. Chase, recorded in his diary, the President told them that he had "thought a great deal about the relation of this war to Slavery": You all remember that, several weeks ago, I read to you an Order I had prepared on this subject, which, since then, my mind has been much occupied with this subject, and I have thought all along that the time for acting on it might very probably come. I think the time has come now. I wish it were a better time. I wish that we were in a better condition. The action of the army against the rebels has not been quite what I should have best liked. But they have been driven out of Maryland, and Pennsylvania is no longer in danger of invasion. When the rebel army was at Frederick, I determined, as soon as it should be driven out of Maryland, to issue a Proclamation of Emancipation such as I thought most likely to be useful. I said nothing to any one; but I made the promise to myself, and (hesitating a little)--to my Maker. The rebel army is now driven out, and I am going to fulfill that promise.
The preliminary emancipation proclamation that President Lincoln issued on September 22 stated that all slaves in designated parts of the South on January 1, 1863, would be freed. The President hoped that slave emancipation would undermine the Confederacy from within. Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles reported that the President told him that freeing the slaves was "a military necessity, absolutely essential to the preservation of the Union....The slaves [are] undeniably an element
of strength to those who [have] their service, and we must decide whether that element should be with us or against us."
Fear of foreign intervention in the war also influenced Lincoln to consider emancipation. The Confederacy had assumed, mistakenly, that demand for cotton from textile mills would lead Britain to break the Union naval blockade. Nevertheless, there was a real danger of European involvement in the war. By redefining the war as a war against slavery, Lincoln hoped to generate support from European liberals.
Even before Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, Postmaster General Montgomery Blair (1813-1883), a former Democrat from Maryland, had warned the President that this decision might stimulate antiwar protests among northern Democrats and cost the administration the fall 1862 elections. In fact, Peace Democrats did protest against the proclamation and Lincoln's assumption of powers not specifically granted by the Constitution. Among the "abuses" they denounced were his
unilateral decision to call out the militia to suppress the "insurrection," impose a blockade of southern ports, expand the army
beyond the limits set by law, spend federal funds without prior congressional authorization, and suspend the writ of habeas corpus (the right of persons under arrest to have their case heard in court). The Lincoln administration imprisoned about 13,000 people without trial during the war, and shut Democratic newspapers in New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago for varying amounts of time.
The Democrats failed to gain control of the House of Representatives in the Fall 1862 election, in part because the preliminary emancipation proclamation gave a higher moral purpose to the northern cause.
The Meaning of the Emancipation Proclamation
In October 1862, the London Times dismissed the preliminary emancipation proclamation as an empty gesture. "Where he has no power Mr. Lincoln will set the Negroes free," the newspaper commented; "where he retains power he will consider them as slaves. This is more like a Chinaman beating his two swords together to frighten his enemy than like an earnest man pressing forward his cause."
In recent years, it has sometimes been charged that the Emancipation Proclamation did not free any slaves, since it applied only to areas that were in a state of rebellion, and explicitly exempted the border states, Tennessee, and portions of Louisiana and Virginia. This view is incorrect. The proclamation did officially and immediately free slaves in South Carolina's sea islands, Florida, and some other locations occupied by Union troops. Certainly, the Emancipation Proclamation was only a crucial first step toward complete emancipation, but in effect it transformed the Union forces into an army of liberation.
At the time he issued the preliminary proclamation, Lincoln defended it as a war measure necessary to defeat the Confederacy and preserve the Union. But it seems clear that Lincoln regarded this argument as necessary on tactical grounds. When he issued the final proclamation on January 1, 1863, he described it not only as "a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion," but an "act of justice."
In July 1863, Hannah Johnson, the daughter of a fugitive slave, heard an erroneous report that Lincoln was going to reverse the Emancipation Proclamation. She wrote the President: "Don't do it. When you are dead and in Heaven, in a thousand years that action of yours will make the Angels sing your praises...."
The Home Front
The Civil War separated families in unprecedented numbers and freed women to assume many new roles. With the departure of many men into the military, women entered many occupations previously reserved for men only: in factories, shops, and especially, the expanding civil service, where women took jobs as clerks, bookkeepers, and secretaries. A number of women also served as spies (like Rose O'Neal Greenhow (1814-1864), a Confederate spy in Washington) and even as soldiers (like Albert
Cashier, whose real name was Jennie Hodgers).
But it was as nurses that women achieved particular prominence. Louisa May Alcott and Clara Barton were among thousands of women, North and South, who carried supplies to soldiers and nursed wounded men on the battlefield and in hospitals. Through organizations like the Christian Commission (formed by the North's YMCAs) and the U.S. Sanitary Commission (one of whose founders was Elizabeth Blackwell, the first American woman to earn a medical degree), women agents distributed medical supplies, organized hospitals, passed out Bibles and religious tracts, and offered comfort to wounded or dying soldiers.
The Death Toll
Almost as many soldiers died during the Civil War as in all other American wars combined. Union combat deaths totaled 111,904; another 197,388 died of disease, 30,192 in prison, and 24,881 as a result of accidents. Another 277,401 Union solders were wounded. Confederate casualties were nearly as high, with approximately 94,000 combat deaths, 140,000 deaths by disease; and 195,000 men wounded.
Over half of all deaths were caused by disease. As a result of poor sanitation, primitive medical practices, and contaminated water supplies, the average regiment lost half its fighting strength from disease during the first year.
The Second American Revolution
During the war, the Republican-controlled Congress enacted a series of measures that carried long-term consequences for the future. The Homestead Act of 1862 provided public land free to pioneers who agreed to farm the land for five years. The Morrill Act of 1862 helped states establish agricultural and technical colleges. Congress also authorized construction of the nation's first transcontinental railroad.
The Civil War also brought vast changes to the nation's financial system. Before the Civil War, the federal government did not issue paper money. Instead, paper notes were issued by more than 1,500 state banks in 1860, which issued more than 10,000 different kinds of currency.
To end this chaotic system and to impose federal regulation on the financial system, Congress enacted two important pieces of legislation. The Legal Tender Act of 1862 authorized the federal government to issue paper money. Because these notes were printed on green paper, they became known as greenbacks. The National Bank Act of 1863 created the nation's first truly national banking system.
As finally adopted by Congress, the National Banking Act of 1863 chartered national banks which met certain requirements, made the notes of national banks legal tender for all public and private debts, and levied a tax of 2 percent on state bank notes, which gradually increased over time. By imposing a tax on state bank notes, the federal government forced state banks to join the federal system. By 1865, national banks had 83 percent of all bank assets in the United States. After 1870, interestingly, state banks made a comeback; they avoided the tax on their bank notes by issuing checks.
The Confederacy Begins to Collapse
By early 1863, the Civil War had begun to cause severe hardship on the southern home front. Not only was most of the fighting taking place in the South, but as the Union blockade grew more effective and the South's railroad system deteriorated, shortages grew increasingly common. In Richmond, food riots erupted in April 1863. A war department clerk wrote: "I have lost twenty pounds, and my wife and children are emaciated."
The Confederacy also suffered rampant inflation. Fearful of undermining support for the war effort, Confederate leaders refused to raise taxes to support the war. Instead, the Confederacy raised funds by selling bonds and simply printing money without gold or silver to back it. The predictable result was skyrocketing prices. In 1863, a pair of shoes cost $125 and a coat, $350. A chicken cost $15 and a barrel of flour $275.
Defeatism and a loss of will began to spread across the Confederacy. Military defeats suggested divine disfavor. Hardships on the home front generated discontent within the ranks.
In the South, the imposition of a military draft in April 1862 produced protests that this was "a rich man's war and a poor man's fight." Although the law made all able-bodied men ages 18 through 35 liable for three years' service, the draft law allowed draftees to pay a substitute to serve for him (the North adopted a similar draft law in March 1863). Further aggravating tension was enactment of the "Twenty Negro Law" in October 1862 which exempted one white man from the draft on every plantation with 20 or more slaves.
The New York City Draft Riots
As the war dragged on, enthusiasm faded and class tensions flared. In the North, the worst mob violence in American history took place in New York City in July 1863, two weeks after the Battle of Gettysburg. About 120 people were killed, mainly by police and soldiers. Irish Catholic immigrants and their children had been egged on by Democratic leaders who told them that Republicans wanted to free the slaves in order bring them north to replace Irish workers. During four days of rioting, mobs lynched at least a dozen African American men, destroyed draft offices, burned and looted black neighborhoods and the homes of leading Republicans and abolitionists.
Blacks in Blue
By early 1863, voluntary enlistments in the Union army had fallen so sharply that the federal government instituted an unpopular military draft and decided to enroll black, as well as white, troops. Indeed, it seems likely that it was the availability of large numbers of African American soldiers that allowed President Lincoln to resist demands for a negotiated peace that might have including the retention of slavery in the United States. Altogether, 186,000 black soldiers served in the Union Army and another 29,000 served in the Navy, accounting for nearly 10 percent of all Union forces and 68,178 of the Union dead or missing.
Twenty-four African Americans received the Congressional Medal of Honor for extraordinary bravery in battle.
Three-fifths of all black troops were former slaves. The active participation of black troops in the fighting made it far less likely
that African Americans would remain in slavery after the Civil War.
While some white officers, like Robert Gould Shaw (1837-1863), who commanded the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, were proud to lead black troops in battle, others exhibited a deep resistance.
Black soldiers participated in the war at great threat to their lives. The Confederate government threatened to summarily execute or sell into slavery any captured black Union soldiers--and did sometimes carry out those threats. Lincoln responded by threatening to retaliate against Confederate prisoners whenever black soldiers were killed or enslaved.
In July 1863, the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, the first black regiment raised in the North, led an assault against Fort Wagner, which guarded Charleston, South Carolina's harbor. Two of Frederick Douglass's sons were members of the regiment. Over forty percent of the regiment's members were killed or wounded in the unsuccessful attack, including Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, a member of a prominent antislavery family, who was shot dead in the charge.
The Battle Against Discrimination
During the war, African American troops also faced a different kind of battle: a battle against discrimination in pay, promotions, and medical care. Despite promises of equal treatment, blacks were relegated to separate regiments commanded by white officers. Black soldiers received less pay than white soldiers, inferior benefits, and poorer food and equipment. While a white private was paid $13 a month plus a $3.50 clothing allowance, blacks received just $10 a month, out of which $3 was deducted for clothing. Furthermore, black soldiers were not provided with the enlistment bonuses commonly given to white soldiers, and, until the end of the war, the federal government refused to commission black officers.
Within the ranks, black troops faced repeated humiliations; most were employed in menial assignments and kept in rear-echelon, fatigue jobs. They were punished by whipping or by being tied by their thumbs; if captured by the Confederates, they faced execution. But despite these trials, African American soldiers won their fight for equal pay (in 1864) and in 1865 they were allowed to serve as line officers. Drawing upon the education and training they received in the military, many former troops became community leaders during Reconstruction.
One Union captain explained the significance of black military participation on the attitudes of many white soldiers. "A great many
[white people]," he wrote, "have the idea that the entire Negro race are vastly their inferiors. A few weeks of calm unprejudiced life here would disabuse them, I think. I have a more elevated opinion of their abilities than I ever had before. I know that many of them are vastly the superiors of those...who would condemn them to a life of brutal degradation."
After the Battle of Antietam, Lee's forces retreated into Virginia's Shenandoah Valley with almost no interference. Frustrated by
McClellan's lack of aggressiveness, Lincoln replaced him with General Ambrose E. Burnside (1824-1881). In December 1862, Burnside attacked 73,000 Confederate troops at Fredericksburg, Virginia. Six times Burnside launched frontal assaults on Confederate positions. The Union army suffered nearly 13,000 casualties, twice the number suffered by Lee's men, severely damaging northern morale.
After the defeat at Fredericksburg, Lincoln removed Burnside and replaced him with Joseph Hooker (1814-1879). In May 1863, Hooker tried to attack Lee's forces from a side or flanking position. In just ten minutes, Confederate forces routed the Union army at the Battle of Chancellorsville. But the Confederate victory came at a high cost. Lee's ablest lieutenant, Stonewall Jackson, was accidentally shot by a Confederate sentry and died of a blood clot.
Despite Confederate victories at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, the Union showed no signs of giving up. In a bid to shatter northern morale and win European recognition, Lee's army launched a daring invasion of Pennsylvania.
When his forces drove northward into Pennsylvania, Lee assumed, mistakenly, that Union forces were still in Virginia. When he suddenly realized that Union forces were in close pursuit, he ordered his forces, which were strung out from Maryland to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to converge at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, a central location where a number of roads met. Lee, who did not want to risk a battle until he had gathered all his troops together, ordered his men not to engage the enemy. But on July 1, 1863, a Confederate brigade ran into Union cavalry near Gettysburg and the largest battle ever fought in the West Hemisphere broke out before anyone realized what was happening.
The Battle of Gettysburg
On the evening of July 1, most of Lee's army of 75,000 reached Gettysburg. Meanwhile, most of the 90,000-man Union army of General George Meade (1815-1872) arrived at Gettysburg that same evening.
On July 2, Lee tried to attack Union positions from the left and right flanks, but northern troops repelled the attack. The next day, the Union army, which expected Lee to attack again on the flanks, reinforced its flanks. But Lee launched a frontal attack on the center of the Union lines, which came as a shock and a surprise. However, a frontal assault against a well-fortified defensive position on a hill was very unlikely to succeed. Some 15,000 Confederate troops, led by General George E. Pickett (1825-1875), marched three-quarters of a mile into withering Union rifle and artillery fire. Although about a hundred Confederate soldiers succeeded in temporarily breaking through the Union defenses, the northern lines held firm. When Lee finally ordered a retreat back into Virginia, it became clear that the Confederacy had suffered a disastrous defeat.
Nearly 25,000 Confederate soldiers were killed, wounded, or missing in action at the Battle of Gettysburg. After Gettysburg, Lee was never able to mount another major offensive.
The four days between July 1 and July 4, 1863 marked a major turning point of the Civil War. Beginning in mid-May, Ulysses S. Grant's troops had begun a siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi. Located on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi, Vicksburg allowed the Confederacy to control river traffic between Memphis and New Orleans. The day after the defeat of Lee's army at Gettysburg, Vicksburg surrendered. Five days later, Union forces captured Port Hudson, Louisiana. These victories gave the North complete control of the Mississippi River and isolated confederate territory west of the Mississippi from areas east of the river.
After the defeats at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, southern morale began to sag. Yet despite military defeats, inflation, shortages, desertions, the flight of thousands of slaves, and flagging resolve, the Confederacy continued to fight for another 22 months.
Was Lincoln a 'Honkie'?
For much of his political career, Lincoln, like his political idol Henry Clay, was an advocate of colonization, based on his belief that
"the great mass of white people" would refuse to extend equal rights to African Americans. This assumption and prediction, Lincoln believed, "whether well or ill-founded, cannot be safely disregarded."
In 1862, the President met with a group of African Americans at the White House (no previous President had dreamed of inviting blacks to the White House), and, in what was perhaps the lowest point of his presidency, seemed to blame blacks for the Civil War and predicted that they would have to migrate overseas. Lincoln said "your race are suffering, in my judgment, the greatest wrong inflicted on any people...but on this broad continent, not a single man of your race is made the equal of a single man of ours."
Frederick Douglass condemned the President's remarks. "No sincere wish to improve the condition of the oppressed has dictated" his words, Douglass wrote. " It expresses merely the desire to get rid of them, and reminds one of the politeness with which a man might try to bow out of his house some troublesome creditor or the witness of some old guilt."
In that year, 450 African Americans were recruited to settle on the Island of Vache, off the coast of present-day Haiti. Small pox and mismanagement by a white government-appointed manager contributed to the colony's failure. The transport ship dispatched by President Lincoln picked up only 368 survivors.
The Thirteenth Amendment
The Emancipation Proclamation freed only those slaves in states still at war. As a wartime order, it could subsequently be reversed by presidential degree or congressional legislation. The permanent emancipation of all slaves therefore required a constitutional amendment.
In April 1864, the Senate passed the Thirteenth Amendment to abolish slavery in the United States. Opposition from Democratic
Representatives prevented the amendment from receiving the required two-thirds majority. If McClellan and the Democrats had won the election of 1864, as Lincoln and most Northerners expected in the summer, the amendment would almost certainly have been defeated and slave emancipation repudiated as a war aim. Only after Lincoln was reelected did Congress approve the amendment. Ratification by the states was completed in December 1865.
Initially, Lincoln and his generals anticipated a conventional war in which Union soldiers would respect civilians' property. Convinced that there was residual unionist support in the South, they expected to preserve the South's economic base, including its factories and rail lines. But as the war dragged on, the Civil War became history's first total war, a war in which the Union sought the Confederacy's total defeat and unconditional surrender. To achieve success, Union officers such as Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman believed that it was necessary to break the South's will to fight. Sherman summed up the
idea of total war in blunt terms: "We are not only fighting hostile armies," he declared in 1864, "but a hostile people, and must make old and young, rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war."
A year earlier, a general order was issued that declared that military necessity "allows of all destruction of property" and "appropriation of whatever an enemy's country affords necessary for the subsistence and safety of the Army." This order allowed soldiers to destroy anything that might be of use to the Confederacy.
Slaves' Role in Their Own Liberation
Slaves played a critical role in their own liberation. Southern slaves deserted plantations and fled to Union lines. Slaves also staged a few small insurrections during the war as the slave system itself began to unravel. Planters were stunned to see trusted house slaves and field drivers lead field hands in deserting to the Union army. Eventually, 150,000 former slaves fought as soldiers in the Union army. The plantation system of labor and discipline was beginning to break down in the face of protracted war.
The 1864 Presidential Election
The 1864 presidential election was one of the most critical in American history. At stake was whether the war would end in unconditional surrender or a negotiated settlement, which might result in the preservation of slavery as a legal institution. Even though hundreds of thousands of slaves deserted to Union lines during the war, it is not at all inconceivable that slavery could have survived if the President had not been committed to emancipation. During the American Revolution a third of Georgia's slaves had been freed by the British, and tens of thousands of Virginia's slaves had escaped bondage. Nevertheless, slavery survived the revolutionary upheavals in the South, and soon began to flourish and expand. Similarly, slavery was temporarily
reinstituted by the French in St. Domingue and greatly expanded in Guadeloupe, Martinique and other colonies despite the Haitian
Revolution and the French emancipation decree of 1794.
In August 1864, Lincoln expressed his view in moving words. Observing that over 130,000 blacks were fighting to preserve the Union, he said that they were motivated by the "strongest motive...the promise of freedom. There have been men who proposed to me to return to slavery the black warriors. I would be damned in time & in eternity for so doing. The world shall know that I will keep my faith to friends and enemies, come what will."
Deeply anxious about the election's outcome, Republicans and pro-war Democrats formed the National Union Party, which renominated Lincoln and selected Andrew Johnson (1808-1875), a former Democratic Senator from Tennessee, for Vice President. Johnson replaced Lincoln's first Vice President, Hannibal Hamlin (1809-1891), a former U.S. Senator from Maine.
As their presidential nominee, the Democrats chose General George B. McClellan, who opposed the Emancipation Proclamation and who ran on a platform which condemned Lincoln for "four years of failure" and called for a negotiated end to the war.
Some Radical Republicans also opposed Lincoln's reelection. Lincoln had asked Congress to seat representatives from three recently conquered Confederate states--Arkansas, Louisiana, and Tennessee--and also announced that when 10 percent of the voters in the rebel states (excluding high Confederate officials) pledged loyalty to the Union (including government actions concerning slavery) they would be readmitted to the Union. Radicals denounced the "10 Percent Plan" as too lenient. Congress in July 1864 adopted a much more radical measure, the Wade-Davis Bill, which required rebel states to abolish slavery, repudiate the Confederate war debt, disfranchise Confederate leaders, and require fifty percent of the citizens to pledge loyalty to the
Union. The radicals nominated General John C. Freemont for President, but he withdrew a month before the election.
Lincoln feared that northern battlefield victories might be lost at the polls. During the summer of 1864, he confessed, "it seems exceedingly probable that this administration will not be reelected." There seems little doubt that a McClellan victory would have resulted in an agreement to maintain slavery in the United States.
The capture of Atlanta, a major southern railroad and manufacturing center, in September, electrified northern voters, who gave Lincoln a resounding victory. He received 55 percent of the popular vote to just 21 percent for McClellan.
Grant Takes Command
In March 1864, Lincoln gave Ulysses S. Grant command of all Union armies. Vowing to end the war within a year, Grant launched three major offenses. General Philip E. Sheridan's task was to lay waste to farm land in Virginia's Shenandoah valley, a mission he completed by October. Meanwhile, General William Tecumseh Sherman advanced southeastward from Chattanooga and seized Atlanta, a major southern rail center, while Grant himself pursued Lee's army and sought to capture Richmond, the Confederate capital.
Grant started his offensive with 118,000 men; by early June, half of his men were casualties. But Lee's army had been reduced by a third to 40,000 men. In a month of fighting in northern and eastern Virginia, Grant lost almost 40,000 men, leading Peace Democrats to call him a "butcher." But Confederate losses were also heavy--and southern troops could not be replaced. At the Battle of the Wilderness, in northern Virginia, Lee's army suffered 11,000 casualties; at Spotsylvania Court House, Lee lost another 10,000 men. After suffering terrible casualties at Cold Harbor--12,000 men killed or wounded--Grant advanced to
Petersburg, a rail center south of Richmond, and began a nine-month siege of the city.
At the same time that Grant was pursuing Lee's army, Sherman, with a force of 100,000 men, marched toward Atlanta from Chattanooga, and captured the rail center on September 2, 1864. After leaving Atlanta in flames, Sherman's men marched across Georgia toward Savannah. In order to break the South's will to fight, Sherman had his men destroy railroad tracks, loot houses, and burn factories. Sherman seized Savannah December 21, and then drove northward, capturing Charleston and Columbia, South Carolina, then heading through North Carolina to Virginia. Sherman summed up the goal of his military maneuvers in grim terms: "We cannot change the hearts of those people, but we can make war so terrible...[and] make them so sick of war that generations would pass away before they would again appeal to it."
A Stillness at Appomattox
By April 1865, Grant's army had cut off Lee's supply lines, forcing Confederate forces to evacuate Petersburg and Richmond. Lee and his men retreated westward, but Grant's troops overtook him about a hundred miles west of Richmond. Recognizing that further resistance would be futile, Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. The aristocratic Lee wore a full-dress uniform, with a ceremonial sash and sword, while Grant wore a private's coat.
The next day, in a final message to his troops, Robert E. Lee acknowledged that he was "compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources." Three-quarters of the Confederate white male population of military age had fought in the war, but by 1865, the North had four times as many troops as the Confederacy. At the time he surrendered, Lee's entire army had shrunk to just 35,000 men, compared to Grant's total of 113,000. Lee's decision to surrender, however, probably helped to prevent large-scale guerrilla warfare.
'The President is murdered'
At noon on Good Friday, April 14, 1865, Major General Robert Anderson raised the U.S. flag over Fort Sumter. It was the same flag that he had surrendered four years before.
That evening, a few minutes after 10 o'clock, John Wilkes Booth (1838-1865), a young actor and Confederate sympathizer (who had spied for Richmond and been part of a plot to kidnap Lincoln), entered the presidential box at Ford's Theater in Washington and shot the President in the back of the head. Booth then leaped to the stage, but he caught a spur in a flag draped in front of the box. He fell and broke his leg. As he fled the theater he is said to have cried out: "Sic semper tyrannis"--thus always to tyrants, the motto of the State of Virginia.
Simultaneously, a Booth accomplice, Lewis Paine, brutally attacked Secretary of State William Seward (1801-1872) at his home with a knife. Seward survived because Paine's knife was deflected by a metal collar he wore from a severe accident. Seward slowly recovered from his wounds and continued to serve as Secretary of State under Lincoln's successor, Andrew Johnson.
Lincoln was carried unconscious to a neighboring house. He was pronounced dead at 7:22 a.m., April 15. A few minutes later, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton (1814-1869) stepped outside and announced to the assembled crowd, "he belongs to the ages."
Following the shooting, Booth fled to Maryland on horseback. A friend then helped him escape to Virginia. On April 26, two weeks after he had shot Lincoln, the army and Secret Service tracked Booth down and trapped him in a barn near Port Royal, Virginia. When Booth refused to surrender, his pursuers set the barn on fire. Booth was found dead, apparently of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Lincoln's assassination was part of a larger plot to murder other government officials, including Vice President Andrew Johnson,
Secretary of State William H. Seward, and General Ulysses S. Grant. Only Lincoln was killed. Following the assassination, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton ordered War Department agents to apprehend the conspirators. Despite wild rumors of involvement by top Confederate officials, the actual conspirators included, apart from Booth, an ex-Confederate soldier, a carriage maker, and a druggist's clerk. Eight individuals were arrested; a military commission found all of them guilty. Four were hanged. Of the remaining four, one died in prison in 1867 and three others received presidential pardons in 1869.
Many Northerners blamed the Confederate leadership for the President's death. Anger and a thirst for vengeance against "traitors" were surely widespread. This makes it all the more remarkable that the North's victory was not followed by a massive and bloody extermination of Confederate leaders and their northern sympathizers.
The War's Costs
As a result of the Civil War, the South lost a fourth of its white male population of military age, a third of its livestock, half of its farm machinery, and $2.5 billion worth of human property. Factories and railroads had been destroyed, and such cities as Atlanta, Charleston, Columbia, and Richmond had been largely burned to the ground. In South Carolina, the value of property plunged from $400 million in 1860, ranking it third in the nation, to just $50 million in 1865.
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