The American civil war was a war fought between the union soldiers and the confederate soldiers. Many facts remain unclear about the American civil war but some of them are well known. The civil war began when confederate soldiers from the south attacked union soldiers at fort Sumter in South Carolina on April 21st 1861. The war was fought over four years in many great battles. However, majority of the fighting took place in the confederate states of Virginia and Tennessee. The American civil war is attributed as the single war where America lost the highest number of troops, approximated at 620,000 soldiers (Thompson & Butzer, 2014). This figure is more than the soldiers lost during the first and Second World War combined.
The American civil war officially ended when General Robert lee surrendered to Ulysses Grant on April 9th 1865. However, the last battle of the American civil war was fought on May 13th 1865 in Texas. During this war, the union army comprising of northern and eastern states won over the southern confederate armies. During this time, the confederate states had a combined population of slightly over nine million people while the union states had a population of over twenty two million people. This was also reflected in the respective armies with the confederate armies outnumbered almost two to one by the union states. This can be seen as one of the major reasons why the confederate states were defeated (Thompson & Butzer, 2014).
Causes of the civil war
After Christopher Columbus discovered the new continent, settlers slowly settled into the new continent. The new continent was divided among a number of European powers including the British, the French, the Spanish and the Portuguese. The present day United States of America happened to have been mainly under the British at the time. Many of the new population consisted of settlers who originated from the colonial powers. Over the years, they continued to be ruled by the colonial powers in Europe. However, in the late 18th century, a group of thirteen American states revolted against the colonial rule. These states are referred to as patriots while those who supported colonial rule were known as loyalists (Gallagher, 2003). The new settlers were mainly farmers and they relied heavily on slaves for labor in their huge plantations which were located primarily in the present day southern states. The patriots’ revolt against the loyalists and the British led to the American Revolution. This is generally regarded as the war of independence for the United States. This war was fought over a number of years but eventually culminated in the declaration of independence in 1776 (Kingseed, 2004).
After the declaration of independence, the northern states which would comprise of the union pursued industry and manufacturing while the southern states which later comprised the confederate states continued with agriculture and continued to rely heavily on the manual labor provided by slaves. During this period, people who had been loyalties were persecuted for supporting the British and many ended up being killed or fleeing to the north to Canada as refugees (Kingseed, 2004). Although a peace treaty was signed in 1884 by the British who negotiated on behalf of the loyalists and prevented their persecution by the patriots, the persecution did not stop. This divergence of the paths taken by the different regions of the new states would eventually lead to the American civil war over eighty years later. Because of the difference in the two regions, there were differences in political views, taxes and tariffs imposed in the country (Doyle, 2014).
In the elections of 1860, Abraham Lincoln won the presidency on a republican party. Among his first pronunciations as president was the abolishment of slavery. This is normally regarded as the main cause of the American civil war. Abraham Lincoln is fondly remembered up to the present day because of this proclamation which changed the course of history of the United States and the world (Gallagher, 2003). By then, slaves were treated as property of their owners and their children became slaves by birth. However, things had already started to change in the north where blacks could buy their freedom from their owners or emancipation. After the election of Abraham Lincoln as president and his subsequent abolishment of slavery, southern states had a lot to lose. They were mainly dependent on agriculture as they had not industrialized like the northern states. At this time, the northern states had gradually abolished slavery. This was influenced by immigration with many immigrants from Ireland and Germany at the time.
These immigrants provided cheap labor and this removed the need for the northern states to hold on to slavery. The labor they depended on in the plantations was provided by the slaves. The abolishment of slavery by Abraham Lincoln was to apply throughout the United States. The slave states were opposed to the decision of the federal government to implement rules even in territories that had not even been fully recognized as states. In order to avoid this rule, the southern states decided to secede from the United States and form a confederate in the south. In 1860, South Carolina seceded and was followed by Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee in 1861 (Doyle, 2014).
Following the secession, the northern and eastern states were against it and did not recognize the confederate. The northern states refused to accept and recognize the confederate states because of fear. The United States was a young democracy at the time. There was fear that if the union states recognized the confederate states, it would set a precedent where states would secede if they did not agree to the federal government. This would lead to a situation where there would be many tiny nations comprised of fragments of former united states that would be perpetually at war. The world had also developed at eh time and slave trade had been abolished for many years, although it still went on fuelled by the demand of the American plantations (Doyle, 2014).
As a result, it was a dilemma why the United States continued to practice slavery years after it had been officially abolished in most of the world. After the emancipation declaration of 1862 by the Lincoln administration, many slaves volunteered for the union army (Thomas, 2008). It is reported that up to two hundred African American soldiers participated in the civil war fighting for the union forces. Although slavery can be concluded as the reason for the civil war, it generated a lot of issues, such as state rights. The issue of state rights revolved around the tug of war between the states and the federal government over political power. This mainly revolved around the right for the federal government to abolish slavery within an individual state (Thomas, 2008).
As the report indicates, the American civil war was a war between the union states mainly from the north and the confederate states mainly from the south. The main issue of contention was slavery. The north had gradually abolished slavery since independence eighty years before and had industrialized gradually. The southern states on the other hand had stuck with slavery to provide labor for their plantations. The slaves were almost entirely African Americans whose ancestors had been shipped from Africa. After the election of Abraham Lincoln as president in 1860, he abolished slavery in the United States. Because of the perceived loses, the southern states opposed this decision. They questioned the power of the federal government over matters of the state (Gallagher, 2003).
In an effort not to comply with this declaration, the southern states decided to secede from the United States and form a separate confederacy. The northern states did not recognize the confederate states’ new union. Being a young democracy, the union states feared that this secession would be undermining democracy. They also feared that if they approved of the secession, it would for a precedent where other states would secede if they had a disagreement with the federal government (Gallagher, 2003).
Finally, on April 21st 1861, confederate soldiers attacked union soldiers at fort Sumter in South Carolina which was officially the first battle of the American civil war. Four years and many battles later, the American civil war ended after bloodshed in previously unseen proportions (Thomas, 2008). The union or northern states which wanted the preservation of the United States of America as a single nation won. This was mainly due to their advantage in terms of numbers in the armies. At the time, most of the casualties were from close quarter warfare and the union army outnumbered the confederate army by almost two to one. The union army was also strengthened by African Americans who had until recently fled from slavery or had been emancipated in the south (Gallagher, 2003).
Doyle, D. H. 2014. Theœ Cause of All Nations: An International History of the American Civil War. New York: Basic Books.
Gallagher, G. E. 2003. The American Civil War. Oxford: Osprey Publ.
Kingseed, C. C. 2004. The American Civil War. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press.
Thomas, E. G. 2008. American Civil War. Chicago: Square One Publishers.
Thompson, B., & Butzer, C. M. 2014. Guts & glory: The American Civil War. New York, NY : Little, Brown and Company.