The Civil War

Prior to his inauguration, Lincoln remained very quiet about his position on Southern secession. He constantly claimed it was a matter of record, and it would do no good to repeat it. He made a roundabout railroad trip to Washington by train, making speeches along the way; but when he reached Baltimore, he was forced to slip into Washington at night, as there had been threats against his life. Many people in the North used this as justification of their belief that he had no style; this was not the way a President entered town.

In his inaugural address, Lincoln did state his position more clearly:

He believed he had no lawful right to interfere with slavery, and he had no inclination to do so.

The Union was perpetual; it had been in existence even before the Constitution. "no State upon its own mere motion can lawfully get out of the Union.

Appealed for unity:

I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Supplies at Fort Sumter were running out; Lincoln notified the governor of S.C. that he planned to supply the fort with "provisions only." April 9, Jefferson Davis and company decided that would not happen. April 12, Fort Sumter attacked by Confederate forces under Pierre P.T. Beauregard. (Beauregard had studied under Major Anderson, the commander of Ft. Sumter, at West Point. So had Jefferson Davis. He sent his kind regards to Anderson when the Fort surrendered). Fort surrendered.

April 19, Lincoln proclaimed a blockade of Southern ports. This act confirmed the existence of war. Lincolnís proclamation upset people in South, several other states seceded rather than furnish troops to fight against their sister states:

Virginia left first; Richmond became new capital of Confederacy. Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina followed. All had strong Union constituents. Part of Virginia broke away, formed state of West Virginia, which remained loyal to the Union. Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri remained loyal to Union, although all had slaves.

A Brotherís War: Gen Winfield Scott offered command of union forces to Robert E. Lee. (Lee was son of Lighthorse Harry Lee of the Revolutionary War.) Lee declined, and said he could not bear the thought of fighting against his native Virginia. He resigned his commission, and later led the Confederate Army.

Many families had people fighting on both sides. One confederate ship sank a union ship on which the commanderís brother was on board. Mary Lincoln had a brother, three half brothers, and three brothers-in-law fighting for the Confederacy.

Many in South opposed war, primarily German immigrants. American Indians fought on either side of the war. Cherokees in Georgia who held slaves fought for the Confederacy.

Civil War is often romanticized; the idea of the South fighting for a hopeless cause. Henry Timrod, in "Magnolia Cemetery," wrote:

Stoop, Angels hither from the skies;

There is no holier spot of ground,

Than where defeated valor lies,

By morning beauty crowned.

The cause may have been hopeless, but it was not romantic; it was the bloodiest war in American history; with 50 per cent more battlefield losses than in World War II. There is nothing romantic about seeing young men in their late teens blown to pieces. At the time, although now it appears to have been almost inevitable that the North would win; it was not so obvious.

Northern Advantages:

North had four to one population advantage.

North had 93% of nationís heavy industry; 97 % of firearms and 96% of railroad equipment.

North had surplus of agricultural development Ėespecially wheat, when it was in great demand in Europe.

More wagons, horses and ships.

North had 20,000 miles of railroad to Southís 10,000. Many of Southís lines were short lines with gauges that did not connect.

Southern Advantages:

South fighting on home turf. "Home field advantage.

Southern soldiers better marksmen.

South had strong military tradition, and better commanding officers: Robert E. Lee; Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, who had been a professor of Geometry at VMI.

Both sides expected short war, perhaps only one battle. With Washington and Richmond so close, the obvious strategy for each side was to capture the otherís capital. General Winfield Scott was the only one who didnít see it that way. He expected a long war, and planned accordingly.

Scott proposed a strategy known as the Anaconda Strategy:

Blockade Atlantic and Gulf Coast.

Take the Mississippi, Tennessee, and Cumberland Rivers, moving south. This would cut the Confederacy in two.

Many Northern Newspapers downplayed Scottís plan. They thought it was too slow, he was getting too old, and war wouldnít last past one battle.

Note: The Union typically identified battlefields by natural features, such as Creeks and Rivers. The Confederates identified them by nearby towns or cities.

Battle of Bull Run: (Bull Run Creek; the Confederates called it the Battle of Manassas.) Each side marched against otherís capital. Washington thought it would be an easy route for the Union troops. Members of Congress packed Picnic baskets, and took carriages out to the field to watch the battle. It turned out to be a rout the other way, with the Union army in disorganized retreat. They often stumbled over the picnickers, who hurled insults at them, and even pulled guns, ordering them not to retreat. It did no good. Conclusion: The war was going to last much longer than anyone had previously believed.

A South Carolinian saw Jackson holding his ground, and said, "there is Jackson, standing like a stone wall." Hence his nickname: "Stonewall Jackson."

Jackson was an intensely religious, extremely intelligent, but peculiar man. He had been professor of Geometry and Mathematics at VMI; he firmly believed with all his heart that he would not die before his time, and would in fact die at that time; therefore, he had no reason to fear. As a result, he often charged recklessly, as he was literally fearless. At Bull Run, several bullets passed through his coat. He sucked lemons almost constantly; and would not eat pepper, as he believed it would cause him to have a pain in his leg.

Washington was threatened at this point, but the Confederates were exhausted and disorganized; plus a heavy rain made the road muddy. Otherwise, they might have taken Washington.

After Bull Run, Lincoln decided that the Anaconda Plan might be the best approach. The Southís approach was to hold on, and hope that France and Great Britain might come in on their side.

In the most famous naval battle of the war, the Confederates had raised a Union ship, the Merrimack, ironclad it, and re-christened it the Virginia. It sank several Union ships before meeting the U.S.S. Monitor off Hampton Roads, Va. The battle was a draw; but it was the first battle of ironclads; the day of the wooden battleship was over.

Both sides resorted to a military draft to fill ranks. Both sides allowed draftees to "buy" their way out, or special exemptions, which were often carried to ridiculous extremes. School Teachers were exempt; so many people suddenly wanted to teach. In the South, each plantation with twenty or more slaves could exempt one white from fighting. The end result was the accusation, perhaps true, that it was "a rich manís war, and a poor manís fight."

Shiloh: Spring, 1862, U.S. Grant working up Tennessee River. While sleeping at night, his forces were attacked by a Confederate force under Gen. Albert Sidney Johnson. Johnson admonished his men to "be worthy of your race and lineage, worthy of the women of the South. Shiloh was a nearby Church. Ultimately, the Confederates withdrew, but only after 25,000 casualties were suffered on both sides; more than in the Revolutionary War, Mexican War, and War of 1812 combined.

Because of Shiloh, Grant was replaced by Gen. Henry Halleck, commonly called "old Brains." He was jealous of Grant anyway, and claimed he (Grant) had been drinking at Shiloh, which led to the disaster. Halleck was too timid, and was replaced by Gen. George B. McClellan, who also was too timid. He kept getting reports from Allan Pinkerton (who founded the Detective Service) of large numbers of confederates, and kept drilling and increasing his numbers, when Lincoln wanted him to take Richmond. McClellan called Lincoln a "well intentioned baboon," and never attacked Richmond.

Lincoln visited McClellan in the field at which time McClellan saw fit to tell Lincoln how to fight the war. Lincoln demoted him for his arrogance. He could very easily have fired him completely.

Robert E. Lee was appointed commander in chief of Confederate Forces.

Second Bull Run Lee whipped McClellan.

Lee was encouraged, and decided to invade Maryland. His plan was if he invaded the North, the Confederacy might gain recognition from Europe. BUT, a Union soldier found his a copy of Leeís battle plans wrapped around a package of cigars. McClellan, a vain, arrogant braggart, then said, "Hereís a paper with which, if I cannot whip Bobby Lee, I will be willing to go home." McClellan almost blew it, waiting to long to attack. At any rate, a battle ensued at Sharpsburg, Md., which became the battle of Antietam. It was the bloodiest single day of the war. Each side lost over 10,000 men; but the Confederacy, with the smaller army, could not afford such a loss.

Confederates retreated, and Lincoln wanted McClellan to pursue them; but McClellan delayed. Lincoln got very angry with McClellan, and sent him a note: "If you donít want to use the Army, I should like to borrow it for a while. " McClellan ignored the hint, so Lincoln fired him, and replaced him with Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside.

Burnside was famous for his side-whiskers down his cheeks; which his men called "sideburns," hence the term.

Lee whipped Burnside at the Battle of Fredericksburg. Union forces were getting demoralized; many Northern Democrats wanted a negotiated peace; while Radicals wanted more stringent war measures. Both sides questioned Lincolnís competence.

What could not be seen was that the very duration of the war was wearing down the South; it did not have the resources as did the North, to withstand a long siege.

Lincoln then changed the very nature of the war; when, on January 1, 1963, he signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

Originally, Lincoln had said he would preserve the Union, but also respect slavery where it existed. As late as August 22, 1862, he had written to Horace Greeley (who had pleaded for emancipation) "My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union and is not either to save or destroy slavery." This was a dramatic change; but one that came very slowly and deliberately, and in fact was a painful decision for Lincoln.

Several things argued against Emancipation:

It would alienate the border states where slavery still existed.

Racial prejudice was rampant. Most abolitionists wanted slavery prohibited only in the West; they could live with it in the South.

If he truly believed the states had not left the Union, he was not sure he had the authority to free slaves.

He finally did it on the basis of military necessity and war powers.

Slave labor was helping the South. Emancipation would encourage the slaves to rebel.

It would give the North the moral high ground.

It would close the door on France and England coming in on the side of the Confederacy; both thought slavery was evil, and if they came in under these circumstances, they would be supporting slavery.

The Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in all states in rebellion against the United States. He also said that free blacks would now be received into the U.S. armed forces.

No slaves within Union lines or Union territory were freed by the Proclamation.

Congress then authorized general recruitment of blacks all over the country. Before, only those who escaped North, or were freed by Union Soldiers had served. Several all black military units were formed. The most famous was the Massachusetts Fifty fourth Regiment under Maj. Robert Gould Shaw. The movie Glory is about this unit. By employing black soldiers, the war indeed became a war to overcome the racial and social status quo of the South. One black soldier, when he encountered his former master, now a prisoner of war, he said to him, "Hello, Massa, bottom rail on top now."

Over 10 per cent of the Union forces were black. Although there was some prejudice, for most it was an important step.

December 18, 1865, Congress passed the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery.

Women and the War

Women on both sides played important parts. They sewed uniforms, raised money and supplies, and served as medical personnel. Two of most famous were Dorothea Dix, who served as a nurse, as well as Clara Barton, who became the first Superintendent of Women Nurses. She later founded the American Red Cross.

At Antietam, Ms. Barton was working on a wounded soldier when a bullet ripped through the sleeve of her dress, and killed the poor soldier.

With the men off fighting, women were responsible for keeping the home fires burning. They became the farmers, managers, plant workers, and schoolteachers. Many women in the South found these new roles difficult; they were not used to manual labor, and few of them served as nurses. Many cold not cook, sew, or knit, and didnít like the idea of performing menial chores. Some few were murdered by slaves when the master of the plantation was not around.

Battlefield losses took its toll on morale on the home front. One North Carolina mother lost seven sons at Gettysburg. Women were not the same after the war; and were unwilling to go back to their dutiful little housewife roles.

Government during the War

With the South leaving the Union, the power base in Washington, which had always been in the South, shifted to the North. Several pieces of legislation that had been stalled by Southern Congressmen was suddenly passed: a protective tariff, a transcontinental railroad, and the Morrill Land Grant Act which gave federal aid to state colleges of "agricultural and mechanical arts."


North: Congress had three options: higher taxes, print paper money, borrow.

Internal Revenue Act of 1862: created Bureau of Internal Revenue to collect taxes.

Legal Tender Act (1862) Authorized printing of paper money. They were green, so were called "greenbacks." Supply was limited, so inflation did not become runaway.

Two billion dollars in Government Bonds sold. New banks were required to invest 1/3 of capital in government bonds.

A number of businesses profited from the war effort, some to an extravagant extent, and many engaged in displays of wealth that were downright vulgar. The New York Herald complained in an editorial:

The world has seen its iron age, its silver age, its golden age, and its brazen age. This is the age of shoddy. . . shoddy brokers in Wall Street, or shoddy manufacturers of shoddy goods, or shoddy contractors for shoddy articles for shoddy government. Six days a week they are shoddy businessmen. On the seventh day, they are shoddy Christians.

Many Americans who made their fortunes during this time helped fund expansion of the Country later. Among these: J. Pierpont Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Mellon, and Andrew Carnegie.

South: Finances were a disaster from the start. They taxed everything, as did the North, but the tax return proved negligible. So, they began printing money. The result was staggering inflation. A wild turkey in Richmond cost $100.00; flour was $425.00 per barrel; bacon $10.00 per pound. Townspeople on a fixed income were devastated.

Confederate Diplomacy: South hoped to get European Countries to come into the war on their side. They even imposed a voluntary embargo on cotton to try and help things along; but Europe had a surplus of cotton to last them a while, and when it ran out, they simply bought it from India and Egypt. "King Cotton diplomacy" just didnít work.

Napoleon III originally received the Confederate ambassadors informally, and offered to recognize the government if Great Britain would do so, but the British Prime Minister refused to even receive them. They came close when Union forces stopped the Trent, a British ship and took as prisoner Confederate emissaries on board. Britain became outraged, and demanded release of the captives. Lincoln finally gave in, and released them.

Politics: Stephen A. Douglas was dead at this point; Northern Democrats were against Lincoln, his own party was acting up. Most severe, the Copperheads, seemed to prefer peace at any cost. Most were in states with some Confederate sympathizers.

Lincoln suspended Writ of Habeas Corpus, which was questionable constitutionally. Most arrested were Confederates, but some foreign nationals and union citizens were also arrested. One prominent copperhead, who questioned arbitrary arrests, was sentenced to imprisonment for the duration of the war. Lincoln was so embarrassed by this that he commuted the manís sentence.

Election of 1864: Democrats called for an Armistice, and nominated General George B. McClellan; Radical Republicans tried to derail Lincoln, but he outmaneuvered them. He named Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, a Southerner who had remained loyal to the Union, as his Vice Presidential running mate. Lincoln fully expected to lose, but military victories in the field turned public opinion in his favor.

The Confederacy had problems of its own. Most Confederate officials were states righters, who questioned any action by the central government. Jefferson Davis was himself very dogmatic, whereas Lincoln was practical when he had to be. 

The Faltering Confederacy

After Burnsideís defeat, Lincoln named "Fighting Joe" Hooker as his chief commander. Even Lincoln had his doubts about the man. Hooker had suggested that the country needed a dictator; Lincoln wrote to him, "only those generals who gain successes can set up dictators; what I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship."

Hooker failed miserably, was defeated at Battle of Chancellorsville. Sadly, Stonewall Jackson was shot in the left arm by friendly fire. He later lost the arm, which caused Lee to write to him, "you have lost your left arm, and I have lost my right." He died shortly thereafter from pneumonia aggravated by his wounds.

Chancellorsville was the Southís last significant victory; and the most costly. Lee suffered 12,000 casualties; more than 1,600 killed.

Meanwhile Gen. U.S. Grant attacked Vicksburg, Mississippi, which soon fell. Admiral David Farragut took New Orleans; South was cut in two.

Farragutís claim to fame is his order to "damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead." Grant, because he insisted on unconditional surrender earned the nickname Unconditional Surrender Grant, the U.S. in his name standing for as much.

Lee planned an attack on the north which he hoped would take the pressure off forces on the Mississippi; the battle occurred at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The battle occurred over July 3 Ė 5, 1863.

Most famous part of Battle: Gen George Pickettís Charge up Cemetery Ridge. At 2:00 p.m. on July 3, 15,000 men attacked the Union lines. Only 5,000 reached the ridge; all were quickly overwhelmed. Lee took the blame, and Pickett agreed. Years later he said of Lee, "That old man had my division slaughtered.

July 4, Leeís troops retreated. Vicksburg had surrendered in the meantime, and Lee had lost a fourth of his troops.

Gettysburg is considered the Battle which marks the turning point of the war; at which point everyone knew that it was almost over.

Third great Union Victory was at Chattanooga (called Chickamauga by the South). This was September 19, 20, 1863. Grant successful, Lincoln then named him general-in-chief.

Winter of 1863-64, Confederates knew it was over. Grant adopted policy of a War of attrition, rather than attempt a single climactic battle. He planned total war, destroying or confiscating all civilian property of military use. Grant began a pursuit of Lee, and in the South, Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman burned Atlanta to the ground; thence he turned to Savannah, and then Columbia. It was Sherman who said "War is hell." He destroyed railroad cars; burned bales of cotton, slaughtered livestock, and set fire to fields, all in an attempt to punish the South, and literally allow them to experience the "hell" of war.

Sherman referred to South Carolina as "that hellhole of secession," and singled it out for particularly brutal punishment. Any number of towns were destroyed. The Courthouse in Columbia has no records beyond 1865, when the building was burned. Records in Horry County state that the originals were "burned by Yankee soldiers."

The story is that Shermanís soldiers particularly wanted to burn the First Baptist Church in Columbia, where the secession convention had met. They asked a black custodian its location, when they were standing right in front of it. He directed them to Washington Street Methodist Church, which they destroyed.

In April, 1865, Grant cut the last rail line to Petersburg, Va., and Lee abandoned Richmond. President Davis had to flee. He was captured in Georgia by Union Cavalry on May 10. Lee contacted Grant, and asked to meet to surrender. The two men met April 9 (Palm Sunday) at a private home in Appomattox Courthouse, Va. (It was four years to the day since Davis et. al. had decided to attack Ft. Sumter.)

Lee arrived first, wearing his dress uniform, sharply dressed. Grant was late, and his uniform was spattered with mud. The two men shook hands, and discussed the fact that they had last met during the Mexican War. Lee asked, and Grant agreed, that his men could keep their side arms, and personal horses and mules. Gen. George Armstrong Custer, at that point, the youngest Brigadier in the history of the army, was present as Grantís flag bearer.

When Lee and his men left, Union troops saluted them. There was more relief than defeat; and men on both sides wept openly. A number of Grant's officers asked permission (which was readily granted) to cross over to the Confederate lines to speak to old friends on that side whom they had not seen since the war broke out.

A Modern War: The Civil War was the first modern war. One out of every 12 American males served in the war; 620,000 Americans died (50 per cent more than in World War II). Over 50,000 survivors lost a limb. It was the first war in which killing was impersonal and mechanical. Opposing forces used many new weapons, including rifled artillery, repeating rifles, ironclad ships, wire entanglements. Many men were killed without even seeing the shot fired.

Main cause of South losing and North winning open to much debate. It appears that firepower and manpower were the deciding factors, of which the North had an advantage in both.

Robert E. Leeís own words sum it up: After four years of arduous service marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources.