1861: The first shots of the US Civil War are fired. The northern or Union forces fought against southern or Confederate forces as they elected to secede from the United States of America. There were 34 states in the union when the seven southern slave states first declared their desire to leave and form their own Confederate States of America. The Confederacy would eventually grow to eleven states while it claimed to include thirteen and the territory of Arizona. The CSA was never recognized by any foreign state and remained as a rebellious portion of the USA throughout the four year war.
The state of South Carolina seceded on December 20, 1860 and within the week, US Army Major Robert Anderson abandoned Fort Moultrie located outside Charleston on the mainland. He took as many guns and as much ammunition as was movable and destroyed the rest before fleeing to Fort Sumter located in the Charleston Harbor. Sumter was not a finished fortification and Anderson hoped brining more cannon and shot would help to create a stronger defense should the South Carolina militia attack. On January 31, 1861 South Carolina Governor Francis Pickens sent a letter to US President James Buchanan demanding the evacuation of Sumter. It was ignored.
Over the next months, more demands were made from Pickens and from CSA Brigadier General PGT Beauregard and all were ignored, the fort remained staffed with Union troops. The men on the island were unable to be resupplied or reinforced as cadets from the Citadel, a military college in Charleston, were able to keep ships from approaching and it was these young men who actually fired the first shots of the period, doing so on January 9, 1861. But that is not what led to all out war. That was the attack on this day as the Union sent in ships to supply and reinforce their holding.
The US Civil War was the bloodiest fighting on American soil with the Union suffering over 828,000 casualties (dead, wounded, captured) with the CSA suffering over 864,000 casualties. More than 50,000 free civilians were killed as were over 80,000 slaves. The total cost in lives was nearly a million dead. The Union was able to be preserved and the grueling work of reconstruction began without Abraham Lincoln still in charge. It was Lincoln’s election that spurred the South into rebellion and his assassination at the end of the war meant his vision of reunification was sidelined. The major outcome of the war was that slavery was abolished throughout what was once again the United States of America.
Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other. – Abraham Lincoln
Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power. – Abraham Lincoln
Neither current events nor history show that the majority rule, or ever did rule. – Jefferson Davis
I worked night and day for twelve years to prevent the war, but I could not. The North was mad and blind, would not let us govern ourselves, and so the war came. – Jefferson Davis
1861: The Confederate States of America (CSA) is formed. South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas voted to create a government separate from that of the United States of America. These seven southern states had an economy based on agriculture which was dependent on slaves. During the 1860 elections, many in the South were fearful of Abraham Lincoln taking the White House. His opposition to the expansion of slavery was a threat to the way of life south of the Mason-Dixon line. Before he could take office in March, they left the Union and created their own state, which the North considered an illegal act.
After the Civil War began, four more states – Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee – joined the CSA. They also accepted Missouri and Kentucky as members although neither of these two states ever officially seceded. The Union or original US did not recognize this new government and the Civil War began on April 12, 1861 when the Confederacy fired upon Fort Sumter off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina. At the time, four states issued statements as to their reasons for secession and each of them listed a threat against slaveholders’ rights as a major cause of leaving a Union. Although Lincoln did not campaign to erase slavery from where it existed, he did vow to stop its expansion.
The Montgomery Convention was the location for the origination of the new country. Montgomery, Alabama saw the provisional President, Jefferson Davis, elected as well. They opened ceremonies on this day, and by February 8 they adopted the Provisional Confederate States Constitution and the began the process of governance with their own Congress with John Tyler (10th US President) serving in this body. From Montgomery came a call for 100,000 men from various state militias to defend the newly formed country. All federal property was seized as was all gold bullion in the three US mints found in the South.
Montgomery served as the new nation’s capital until May 29, 1861. Richmond, Virginia became the new capital and the last sessions of the Provisional government were held there. The Civil War dragged on with over a half million deaths, mostly fought on Southern soil, until the South’s military collapse on April 9, 1965. With the war over, the never internationally recognized CSA was dissolved on May 5, 1865. The international community regarded the renegade state as a local problem. The United Kingdom and France both had granted it belligerent status, but failed to ever formally recognize the CSA as a separate country. After the war, Jefferson Davis noted the Confederacy had simply “disappeared”.
Our new government is founded upon exactly [this] idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. – Alexander Stephens, CSA Vice President
Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally. – Abraham Lincoln
The injustices endured by black Americans at the hands of their own government have no parallel in our history, not only during the period of slavery but also in the Jim Crow era that followed. – Jim Webb
Excess of liberty, whether it lies in state or individuals, seems only to pass into excess of slavery. – Plato
1861: Jefferson Davis resigns from the US Senate. Davis was an American politician born in Mississippi in 1807 or 1808, giving both years as his birth date, the youngest of ten children. His ancestors had emigrated from Wales in the early 1700s and arrived in the colonies before the family finally settled in the Georgia colony. Since international slave trade ended in 1808, the family used domestic slaves to work their acreage. When the father of the family died, Joseph, the eldest brother and 24 years older than Jefferson, took over his upbringing and encouraged his further education. Joseph got his baby brother into West Point in 1824 and he graduated 23rd out of a class of 33 in 1828.
Davis married Sarah Taylor, daughter of the commander of his first assignment and future President of the US Zachary Taylor. In order to do so, he had to resign from his Army career. They went to Louisiana in the hopes of beginning a life together and instead, they both caught malaria or yellow fever. Sarah died just three months after they were married. By 1840, plantation and slave owner Davis entered politics when he was surprisingly chosen as a delegate to the state’s convention in Jackson, Mississippi. He entered his first political race and lost but became an exemplary Democrat, campaigning for James Polk in 1844. That same year he met the future second Mrs. Davis when he was 35 and she was 17. They married in 1845. Later that year, he was elected to the House of Representatives.
In 1846, he resigned his seat in the House in order to fight in the Mexican-American War. He rose to the rank of colonel and after successfully leading his troops, President Polk offered him a commission as brigadier general, but Davis declines, pointing out that militia appointments were to come at the state level. After the war, Governor Brown of Mississippi offered the recently vacated Senate seat of Jesse Speight to Davis. He was then elected to the Senate and did a remarkable job. In 1853, President Franklin Pierce made Davis Secretary of War. Throughout the country, the question of slavery escalated. After the Dred Scott case was decided, Davis once again returned to the Senate.
Davis spent the summer of 1858 in Maine and wrote anti-secessionist works and gave a speech on July 4, pleading for unity. He spoke with Southerners about holding fast. But the 1860 presidential elections brought Abraham Lincoln to the Presidency. South Carolina adopted an ordinance of secession on December 20, 1860. Mississippi followed on January 9, 1861. With a heavy heart, Jefferson Davis tendered his resignation on what he called “the saddest day of my life” as he delivered his farewell address and then returned to Mississippi. He would go on to be the one and only President of the Confederate States.
Neither current events nor history show that the majority rule, or ever did rule.
I worked night and day for twelve years to prevent the war, but I could not. The North was mad and blind, would not let us govern ourselves, and so the war came.
If the Confederacy fails, there should be written on its tombstone: Died of a Theory.
Everyone must understand that, whatever be the evil of slavery, it is not increased by its diffusion. Every one familiar with it knows that it is in proportion to its sparseness that it becomes less objectionable. Wherever there is an immediate connation between the master and slave, whatever there is of harshness in the system is diminished. – all from Jefferson Davis
July 24, 1866: Tennessee becomes the first state to be readmitted to the Union after the American Civil War. The war was fought between April 12, 1861 and April 9, 1865 with the last battle ending on May 13. Long before the first shots were fired in anger, there was a rift between the North and South. The agricultural South was dependent on slave labor. Issues with State Rights over Federal interference were of major importance. As the country grew, more states were included in the Union, further upsetting a delicate balance.
On December 24, 1860 South Carolina issued a legal proclamation setting forth the causes she felt would justify Secession from the Union. First was States Rights to choose whether to be slave or free. Secondly, the Fugitive Slave Act was not being enforced, thereby diminishing the authority of the Southern States. Even before Lincoln took office, seven states seceded from the Union. South Carolina first then Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas – in that order – left the Union and established the Confederate States of America (CSA). After the attack on Fort Sumter, four more states (Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina) joined the CSA.
Reconstruction began even before the war ended. The period covers 1863-1877. The era is defined as the time when slavery was abolished and the CSA was totally eradicated. The Emancipation Proclamation began the journey towards reuniting the war torn country. Reconstruction began in each state as federal troops took control of the region. The period’s end date coincides with the Compromise of 1877 where the last three Republican supported state governments were removed.
Tennessee was the last state to officially join the CSA. East Tennessee tired to remain aligned with the US. Many battles were fought inside the state’s boundaries. By the time of the Emancipation Proclamation, most of Tennessee was under Union control (which is why the state isn’t named in the Proclamation). The Tennessee state legislature outlawed slavery on February 22, 1865 with the state’s voters approving in March. In 1864 Andrew Johnson, a War Democrat from Tennessee, became Vice President with Lincoln’s second term. After Lincoln’s assassination, Johnson’s leniency toward Tennessee allowed members to be admitted back into the US Congress on this date. This allowed for Tennessee to be the only seceded state to avoid being ruled by a military governor during Reconstruction.
“All we ask is to be let alone.” – Confederate President Jefferson Davis
“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery.” – President Abraham Lincoln
“[The house Rhett Butler built for Scarlett] could have been in Omaha so little does it resemble any dwelling in the Atlanta of the Reconstruction period.” – Margaret Mitchell
“Gettysburg proved a significant turning point in the war, and therefore in the preservation of the United States and abolition of slavery. The Civil War ended lingering doubts since its conception about whether the United States would survive.” – James McPherson
This article first appeared at Examiner.com in 2009. Editor’s update: The Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1, 1863. It was an order to all segments of the Executive branch of the US including the Army and Navy. The order stated that all slaves in Confederate territory were free. Thus, 3.1 million of the 4 million slaves in the country were immediately freed. It further proclaimed that “suitable” people among the now free ex-slaves should be enrolled in the paid services of the US forces. Because the President is Commander in Chief of the military, this order was issued constitutionally. It was not a law passed by Congress and it could not be enforced in areas still in rebellion. However, there was already much of the South that had been subdued and in these areas, the slaves were now freed. This order did not involve the five slave states that were not in rebellion and did not outlaw slavery itself. It also did not compensate the owners for the loss of their property nor did it make the ex-slaves citizens.
April 9, 1865: Robert E. Lee tells his troops, “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” and the United States Civil War ends. Ulysses S. Grant accepted Lee’s surrender at the Appomattox Court House [McLean house] in Virginia.
Causes to the War between the States, War of Rebellion, War of Secession, or War for Southern Independence are varied and difficult to pin down. While slavery and the abolitionist movement played a role, state’s rights were also at issue. The political, social, economic, and psychological factors are varied. The southern plantation growing cotton with slave labor was vying against a growing economic gain of the industrialized north.
Abraham Lincoln was elected President on November 6, 1860. He had stated that a “government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free.” The southern states were distressed by this sentiment and on December 20, 1860 South Carolina seceded from the Union. Within two months Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas also left the Union. On February 9, 1861 The Confederate State of America formed with Jefferson Davis as President. Lincoln was sworn in on March 4, 1861.
On April 12, 1861 General Pierre Beauregard opened fired on the Union Fort Sumter off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina. The fort fell and two days later, the Stars and Bars was raised. The war raged across the southern and border states for four years resulting in 620,000 American deaths, twice as many from disease as from wounds. After Lee, head of the CSA military forces, surrendered to Grant, head of the US military forces, the war was officially over. In a symbolic act, on April 14, 1865 the Stars and Bars came down over Fort Sumter and the Stars and Stripes was raised. Lincoln, finally able to relax, went to the theater. He was assassinated that night. The war was over, but the country was not healed. Reconstruction followed.
“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong.” – Abraham Lincoln
“If the Confederacy fails, there should be written on its tombstone: Died of a Theory.” – Jefferson Davis
“In every battle there comes a time when both sides consider themselves beaten, then he who continues the attack wins.” – Ulysses S. Grant
“What a cruel thing is war: to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world.” – Robert E. Lee in a letter to his wife, 1864