The Civil War was an armed conflict in the United States of America, taking place between 1861 and 1865. The term 'civil war' means an organized war between groups within the same country. The difference between a civil war and a revolution is that, in a civil war, both sides claim to be the rightful government of a country, whereas a revolution involves one group trying to change the system of government entirely. The Civil War was fought over the issue of slavery, as well as for the states' right to 'secede', or leave the Union diplomatically.
Leading up to the war, the United States was composed of 34 states, and had just elected Abraham Lincoln as president. Lincoln had run on a platform of abolishing slavery in all states and won. This victory angered the Southern states, who thought it was their Constitutional right to have slaves, and South Carolina was the first to call a vote to secede in 1860, citing the right of all states to leave the Union if they chose.
The states of Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and, finally, Texas, also seceded in 1861, in that order. These states banded together to form the Confederate States of America. President Lincoln faced quite an issue when he was inaugurated, just two months afterwards. At first, Lincoln called for the Confederacy to rejoin the Union, but he refused to sign treaties of peace with them because he thought this would legitimize them. He also ordered all Union forts in Confederate territory not to surrender.
This brought about the start of the war at Fort Sumter in North Carolina. The Confederates demanded that the Union garrison, who had been holed up in the fort during all these events, surrender, and the Union soldiers refused. The Confederates then opened fire on the fort with cannons and captured it.
In response, Lincoln began arming soldiers and calling for volunteers. In the meantime, four other states, Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, and North Carolina, which were all slave states but had refused to secede at first, now joined the Confederacy. West Virginia split from Virginia and remained in the Union.
Both sides had recruitment campaigns and took volunteers. In 1963, when the Emancipation Proclamation-a ruling which freed slaves and abolished slavery in the Union-took effect, thousands of ex-slaves joined the Union army. It turned out that the Union had the more powerful navy, which it used to blockade the South and cut off their main source of income-the sale of cotton to European countries.
Notable battles included Second Battle of Bull Run, which had the largest assault of the war and was won by the Confederates, and the Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania, which lasted for three days, was the bloodiest battle of the war with 50,000 dead on both sides, but which the Union won. Gettysburg was the turning point of the war, in which General Meade of the Union defeated Confederate General Lee, who had been thought to be invincible.
However, Meade did not chase down and destroy Lee's army, which caused President Lincoln to replace Meade with Ulysses S. Grant, who would later go on to the 18th President of the US. Grant managed to surround and trap General Lee's army in Virginia, where Lee surrendered on April 9th, 1865, and with that surrender, the Union won the war. Five days later, President Lincoln was assassinated by Southern sympathizer John Wilkes Booth.
The Civil War is the bloodiest war in US history, with over a million-total dead. However, the outcome of the war can be seen as positive, as it led to slavery being abolished. It also set an important precedent-that states cannot secede from the Union without being challenged by the federal government.
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