The Furnace of Civil War
Bull Run Ends the "Ninety-Day War"
President Abraham Lincoln concluded that an attack on a smaller Confederate force at Bull Run would be worth trying. If successful, the victory would show the superiority of Union arms and might eventually lead to the capture of Richmond.
On July 21, 1861, the Union and Confederate forces met. A Union victory was thought to be for sure, as evident when spectators showed up. The Confederates won as "Stonewall" Jackson held his line of Confederate soldiers until reinforcements arrived.
"Tardy George" McClellan and the Peninsular Campaign
In 1861, General George B. McClellan was given command of the Army of the Potomac.
Starting the Peninsula Campaign, McClellan's army launched a waterborne attack in the spring of 1862 and captured Yorktown. He came within sight of Richmond and attacked "Stonewall" Jackson. General Robert E. Lee launched a counterattack against the Union forces-the Seven Days' Battles-from June 26 to July 2, 1862 and drove McClellan's forces back to the sea.
The Northern military plan had 6 components: 1. Slowly suffocate the South by blockading its coasts.
2. Liberate the slaves and undermine the very economic foundation of the South.
3. Cut the Confederacy in half by seizing control of the Mississippi River.
4. Dismember the Confederacy by sending troops through Georgia and the Carolinas.
5. Capture its capital at Richmond.
6. Try everywhere to engage the enemy's main strength and grind it into submission.
The War at Sea
The Northern sea blockades were concentrated at the principle ports.
Blockade was the chief offensive weapon of Britain. Britain did not want to tie its hands in a future war with the U.S. by insisting that Lincoln maintain impossibly high blockading standards.
In order to combat the strong blockades, ships were developed to run through them. Some fast ships had the capability of running through blockades in order to make profits transporting cotton. These ships were able to break the blockades up until the latter part of the war when blockades were strengthened.
In 1862, the Confederates created the Merrimack, renamed the Virginia. It was an old U.S. wooden ship that was plated with metal armor. It was a great threat to the Northern blockades because it had the ability to crush through the wooden ships.
On March 9, 1862, the Union ironclad, the Monitor, and the Confederate Merrimack met and fought to a standstill.
The Pivotal Point: Antietam
After General Lee crushed McClellan's forces in Richmond, Lee moved northward. In the Second Battle of Bull Run (August 29-30, 1862), General Lee defeated General Pope's Union forces.
As Lee moved into Maryland, he met McClellan's forces again at the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862. McClellan managed to halt Lee's forces after his forces discovered Lee's battle plans. Although not a victory, the Union stopped the Confederate march northward.
Antietam provided Lincoln with the military backing to issue the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 23, 1862. On January 1, 1863, Lincoln issued a final proclamation. Lincoln now made the Civil War a war to end slavery because he declared that "the rebels could not experiment for 10 years trying to destroy the government and if they fail still come back into the Union unhurt."
The Confiscation Act of 1862 punished "traitors" by declaring their slaves property of war who shall be free.
A Proclamation without Emancipation
The Emancipation Proclamation called for the freeing of all slaves in Confederate territory, except in locations where the Union had mostly regained control. Lincoln did not include the freeing of slaves in the Border States for fear that they, too, would secede. The proclamation fundamentally changed the nature of the war because it effectively removed any chance of a negotiated settlement between the North and the South.
Editor's Note: Wikipedia has a great map that shows the regions covered by the Proclamation (right side of page).
The Emancipation Proclamation caused an outcry to rise from the South who said that Lincoln was trying to stir up slave rebellion.
The North now had a much stronger moral cause. It had to preserve the Union and free the slaves.
Blacks Battle Bondage
After the Emancipation Proclamation and as manpower ran low, blacks were allowed to enlist in the Union army. Towards the end of the war, the Confederacy allowed blacks to enlist, but by then it was too late.
Lee's Last Lunge at Gettysburg
After Antietam, Lincoln replaced McClellan as commander of the Army of the Potomac with General A. E. Burnside. But due to Burnside's massive defeat at Fredericksburg, Virginia on December 13, 1862, he was replaced by Hooker. During the battle at Chancellorsville, Virginia on May 2-4, 1863, Hooker was badly beaten, but not before Jackson was mortally wounded. Hooker was replaced by General George G. Meade.
As Lee moved his Confederate force to the north again (this time to Pennsylvania), he was met by Meade's force at Gettysburg on July 1-3, 1863. The failure of General George Pickett's charge enabled the Union to win the battle. President Jefferson Davis was planning to deliver negotiators to the Washington D.C. with the Confederate victory at Gettysburg. Since the Union won the battle instead, Lincoln did not allow the negotiators to come.
The War in the West
Ulysses S. Grant became a colonel in the Union volunteer army. His first victory was when he captured Fort Henry and Fort Donelson in February 1862. He then moved to capture the junction of the main Confederate north-south and east-west railroads in the Mississippi Valley at Corinth. His plan was foiled when he was defeated by a Confederate force at the Battle of Shiloh on April 6-7, 1862.
General Grant was given command of the Union forces attacking Vicksburg. The city fell and surrendered on July 4, 1863.
Due to back-to-back Union military victories at the Battle of Gettysburg and the Battle of Vicksburg, all Confederate hopes for foreign help were lost.
Sherman Scorches Georgia
General Grant won the battle at Chattanooga, and the state of Tennessee was cleared of Confederates. Grant was made general in chief due to this win.
The invasion of Georgia was left up to General William Tecumseh Sherman. He captured Atlanta in September of 1864 and burned it in November. He destroyed rail lines and burned buildings. He continued on through Georgia, with the main purposes of destroying supplies destined for the Confederate army and to weaken the morale of the men at the front by waging war on their homes. Sherman captured Savannah on December 22, 1864. He moved up through South Carolina, capturing and burning Columbia on February 17, 1865.
The Politics of War
Critics in President Lincoln's own party were led by secretary of the Treasury, Salmon Chase.
The Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War, formed in late 1861, was dominated by radical Republicans who resented the expansion of presidential power in wartime and who pressed Lincoln on emancipation.
After Stephen A. Douglas, the leader of the Democratic Party in the North, died, the party split between those who supported Lincoln (War Democrats) and those who didn't (Peace Democrats).
Congressman Clement L. Vallandigham was a prominent member in a group called the Copperheads, which were radical Peace Democrats. Vallandigham was banished from the North to the South by Lincoln but he later returned after the war had ended.
The Election of 1864
Fearing defeat, the Republicans joined with the War Democrats to form the Union Party in the election of 1864. Lincoln's running-mate was Andrew Johnson, a local War Democrat.
The Democrats, including the Copperheads, nominated General McClellan was their presidential candidate.
The Northern Democrats lost the election of 1864. This was one of the most crushing losses suffered by the South. The removal of Lincoln was the last hope for a Confederate victory.
Grant Outlasts Lee
President Lincoln chose General Grant to lead the assault on the Confederate capital of Richmond. Grant had 100,000 men and engaged Lee in a series of battles in the Wilderness of Virginia (Wilderness Campaign).
On June 3, 1864, Grant ordered the frontal assault on Cold Harbor. Thousands of Union soldiers were killed within a matter of minutes, but Grant's strategy of losing two men and killing one Confederate worked. He captured Richmond and cornered Lee. On April 9, 1865, Lee was forced to surrender the Army of Northern Virginia (a significant portion of the Confederate army) at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia, effectively ending the Civil War.
The Martyrdom of Lincoln
On April 14, 1865, President Lincoln was shot and killed at Ford's Theater by John Wilkes Booth. Andrew Johnson took over as President.
The Aftermath of the Nightmare
The Civil War claimed over 600,000 lives and cost over $15 billion (year 2001 dollars).