Overview of the American Civil War – Secession
The Civil War was a fight to preserve the Union which was the United States of America. From the conception of the Constitution, there were two differing opinions on the role of the federal government. Federalists believed that the federal government and the executive needed to maintain their power in order to ensure the survival of the union. On the other hand, anti-federalists held that states should retain much of their sovereignty within the new nation. Basically they believed that each state should have the right to determine the laws within its own borders and should not be forced to follow the mandates of the federal government unless absolutely necessary.
As time passed the rights of the states would often collide with various actions the federal government was taking. Arguments arose over taxation, tariffs, internal improvements, the military, and of course slavery.
Northern Versus Southern Interests
Increasingly, the Northern states squared off against the Southern states. One of the main reasons for this was that the economic interests of north and south were opposed to each other. The South was largely comprised of small and large plantations that grew crops such as cotton which were labor intensive. The North, on the other hand, was more of a manufacturing center, using raw materials to create finished goods. Slavery had been abolished in the north but continued in the south due to the need for inexpensive labor and the ingrained culture of the plantation era. As new states were added to the United States, compromises had to be reached concerning whether they would be admitted as slave or as free states. The fear of both groups was for the other to gain an unequal amount of power. If more slave states existed, for example, then they would garner more power in the nation.
The Compromise of 1850 - Precursor to the Civil War
The Compromise of 1850 was created to help stave off open conflict between the two sides. Among the five parts of the Compromise were two rather controversial acts. First Kansas and Nebraska were given the ability to decide for themselves whether they wanted to be slave or free. While Nebraska was decidedly a free state from the start, pro and anti-slavery forces traveled to Kansas to try and influence the decision. Open fighting broke out in the territory causing it to be known as Bleeding Kansas. Its fate would not be decided until 1861 when it would enter the union as a free state.
The second controversial act was the Fugitive Slave Act which gave slave owners great latitude in traveling north to capture any escaped slaves. This act was hugely unpopular with both abolitionists and more moderate anti-slavery forces in the north.
Abraham Lincoln's Election Leads to Secession
By 1860 the conflict between northern and southern interests had grown so strong that when Abraham Lincoln was elected president South Carolina became the first state to break off from the Union and form its own country. Ten more states would follow with secession: Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina. On February 9, 1861, the Confederate States of America was formed with Jefferson Davis as its president.
The Civil War Begins
Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated as president in March, 1861. On April 12, Confederate forces led by General P.T. Beauregard opened fire on Fort Sumter which was a federally held fort in South Carolina. This began the American Civil War.
The Civil War lasted from 1861 until 1865. During this time, over 600,000 soldiers representing both sides were killed either by battle deaths or disease. Many, many more were wounded with estimates of more than 1/10th of all soldiers being wounded. Both the north and the south experienced major victories and defeats. However, by September 1864 with the taking of Atlanta the North had gained the upper hand and the war would officially end on April 9, 1865.
Major Battles of the Civil War
First Battle of Bull Run – July 21, 1861. Location: Virginia. Confederate victory.
Battle of Fort Donelson – February 11-16, 1862. Location: Tennessee. Union victory.
Battle of Shiloh – April 6-7, 1862. Location: Tennessee. Union victory.
Second Battle of Bull Run – August 28-30, 1862. Location: Virginia. Confederate victory.
Battle of Antietam – September 16-18, 1862. Location: Maryland. While the result was not an obvious victory for either side, the battle did give the North a strategic victory.
Battle of Fredericksburg – December 11-15, 1862. Location: Virginia. Confederate victory.
Battle of Chancellorsville – April 30-May 6, 1863. Location: Virginia. Confederate victory.
Siege of Vicksburg – May 18-July 4, 1863. Location: Mississippi. Union victory.
Battle of Gettysburg – July 1-3, 1863. Location: Pennsylvania. Union victory.
Battle of Chickamauga – September 18-20, 1863. Location: Georgia. Confederate victory.
Battle of Spotsylvania – May 8-21, 1864. Location: Virginia. Confederate victory.
Sherman’s March to the Sea (Savannah Campaign) – Late 1864. Location: Atlanta to Savannah. Union Victory
Battle of Appomattox Courthouse – April 9, 1865. Location: Virginia. Final Major Union Victory.
Aftermath of the Civil War
The beginning of the end for the confederacy was with General Robert E. Lee's unconditional surrender at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865. Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Union General Ulysses S. Grant. However, skirmishes and small battles continued to occur until the last general, Native American Stand Watie, surrendered on June 23, 1865. President Abraham Lincoln wanted to institute a liberal system of Reconstructing the South. However, his vision of Reconstruction was not to become reality after Abraham Lincoln's assassination on April 14, 1865. The Radical Republicans wanted to deal harshly with the South. Military rule was instituted until Rutherford B. Hayes officially ended Reconstruction in 1876.
The Civil War was a watershed event in the United States. The individual states after years of reconstruction would end up joined together in a stronger union. No longer would questions concerning secession or nullification be argued by individual states. Most importantly, the war officially ended slavery.
Overview of Colonial America 1607 - 1754
The New England, Middle, and Southern Colonies
From the foundation of the colonies beginning with the founding of Jamestown until the beginning of the Revolutionary War, different regions of the eastern coast had different characteristics. Once established, the thirteen British colonies could be divided into three geographic areas: New England, Middle, and Southern. Each of these had specific economic, social, and political developments that were unique to the regions.
Colonies: New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. These were known for being rich in forests and fur trapping. Harbors were located throughout the region. The area was not known for good farmland. Therefore, the farms were small, mainly to provide food for individual families. New England flourished instead with fishing, shipbuilding, lumbering, and fur trading along with trading goods with Europe. The famous Triangle Trade occurred in the New England colonies where slaves were sold in the West Indies for molasses. This was sent to New England to make Rum which was then sent to Africa to trade for slaves.
In New England, small towns were the centers of local government. In 1643, Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, Connecticut, and New Haven formed the New England Confederation to provide defense against Indians, Dutch, and the French. This was the first attempt to form a union between colonies.
A group of Massasoit Indians organized themselves under King Philip to fight the colonists. King Philip's War lasted from 1675-78. The Indians were finally defeated at a great loss.
Colonies: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. This area was excellent for farming and included natural harbors. Farmers grew grain and raised livestock. The Middle Colonies also practiced trade like New England, but typically they were trading raw materials for manufactured items.
One important event that happened in the Middle Colonies during the colonial period was the Zenger Trial in 1735. John Peter Zenger was arrested for writing against the royal governor of New York. Zenger was defended by Andrew Hamilton and found not guilty helping to establish the idea of freedom of the press.
Colonies: Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. Southern colonies grew their own food along with growing three major cash crops: tobacco, rice, and indigo. These were grown on plantations typically worked by slaves and indentured servants. The main commerce of the South was with England. Plantations kept people widely separate which prevented the growth of many towns.
An important event that occurred in the Southern Colonies was Bacon's Rebellion. Nathaniel Bacon led a group of Virginia colonists against Indians who were attacking frontier farms. The royal governor, Sir William Berkeley, had not moved against the Indians. Bacon was labeled a traitor by the governor and ordered arrested. Bacon attacked Jamestown and seized the government. He then became ill and died. Berkeley returned, hanged many of the rebels, and was eventually removed from office by King Charles II.