Early America—Civil War Period
1850 to 1877
Compromise of 1850 to End of Reconstruction
Era Summary—Civil War Period
During the early 19th century the political interests of the north and south diverged sharply on other issues besides slavery. The north had industrialized while the south remained largely dependent on cotton, and the states differed on tariffs, states' rights, and foreign policy. As more states were admitted to the union, southern politicians became fearful that the critical balance of power between free and slave states would be in jeopardized. In 1820 the Missouri Compromise was passed, an act which attempted to force the balance of power.
The issue arose again in 1850, when California sought to be admitted as a free state, and this time, the dispute was papered over with the Kansas-Nebraska act and Fugitive Slave Law. Both of these acts, however, were controversial and created more problems than they solved. At the same time, opposition to slavery in the north was becoming more strident and in 1854 the Republican Party was formed. Led by anti-slavery activists, it quickly became the dominant political party in the North. When Abraham Lincoln, an outspoken opponent of slavery was elected president, the southern states realized they could not maintain their institutions under a Republican government and voted to secede. By the time Abraham Lincoln took office, in March 1861, seven states had voted to leave the Union, and the country was on the brink of war.
The war got off to a rough start in the north. Union forays into central Virginia during the first two years of the war resulted in a series of defeats and inconclusive battles. The southern states were well-drilled and led by, an exceptional commander. Lincoln struggled to find a general for the Union troops with comparable skill and replaced the commander-in-chief several times in the first few years.
In spite of battlefield losses in Virginia, the North made excellent progress on several important fronts. It used its navy to good effect by taking several key southern ports and blockading most ships provisioning the south. In 1862, the Union navy undertook New Orleans and closed off access to the Mississippi River from the south. The navy then worked its way up the river, cutting off Confederate access to supplies from their western allies.
Late Battles: 1863-1865—By the summer of 1863 the Confederacy was surrounded and cut off from outside provisions, but the Union still had not taken significant Confederate territory. However, Grant's success in the west convinced Lincoln that he was the man to lead the Union armies, and from the time he was appointed commander-in-chief, the Union took a much more aggressive stand.
Under Grant's direction,took command in the west and conducted his famous "March to the Sea" across Georgia, destroying everything in his path. This further weakened the Confederacy and isolated Lee's army, who were still resisting Union forces in Virginia. Grant understood that the North could survive a war of attrition much better than the South, so he forced Lee to fight continuous battles on all sides. The Confederates were irrepressible, but Grant did not retreat even after suffering losses. Unable to get adequate provisions or replace men lost in battle, Lee understood he had no other option and surrendered at Appomattox in April 1865.
Five days after Lee's surrender, President Lincoln was assassinated and the leader who could have been most effective in healing the wounds of war was lost to history.
There was no easy way forward for the south after the war, but vicious partisan politics managed to make things worse. Both Lincoln and Johnson favored a gradual reconciliation with the south and did not want to impose harsh terms on ex-confederates. The Radical Republicans in congress, however, sought to force the south to change their economic structure, grant equal rights to freedmen immediately, and backed a military occupation of the region to enforce their agenda. They first dis-enfranchised all men who had taken arms against the Union and then worked with former slaves to elect their Republican allies to Congress.
The intentions of many of the Republican reformers were good, but the southerners could not be coerced. Many southern states willingly passed the 13th amendment, which abolished slavery, but balked at the 14th amendment, which guarentees "equal protection" to all citizens. Southerners who had been stripped of their ability to govern themselves legally felt justified in forming secret societies and militias to oppose the northern schemes. The Klu Klux Klan was the most famous of these groups, but it was only one of many ways that southerners conspired to frustrate unwelcome interference.
While some progress was made in favor of the freed slaves, the effects of
Reconstruction were mostly negative. After the election of Rutherford B. Hayes,
in 1877, Congress agreed to remove the federal troops who were
propping up Republican governments in the southern states.
Left to their own devices, southern whites elected Democrats and passed
laws permitting segregation of races.
Characters—Civil War Period
|Prominent abolitionist, well-known as the publisher of the Liberator, an abolitionist newspaper.|
|President of the Confederacy during the Civil War.|
|President of the United States during the American Civil War.|
|Anti-slavery Senator from Massachusetts who was an imortant ally of Lincoln, and influential during the Reconstruction era.|
|General of the Confederate Army during the American Civil War.|
|American Naval hero of the Civil War. At the Battle of Mobile Bay, he famously said 'Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!"|
|Confederate general who was influential in the early years of the civil war.|
|Commander and Chief of the Union forces in the Civil War, and President of the United States.|
|American Civil War General. Marched "From Atlanta to the Sea."|
|Leading Confederate General of the American Civil War, especially notable at Bull Run. Died at Chancellorsville.|
|Force Japan to open its ports to the west through very skillful and forceful diplomacy.|
Abolitionists and Advocates
|Radical abolitionist who condoned violence in order to abolish slavery. Led a raid on the armory in Harper's Ferry.|
|American Negro orator who spoke elequently against slavery.|
|Influential author of the book Uncle Tom's Cabin. Abolitionist in the pre-war era.|
|Reformer who sought to better the conditions of the mentally ill.|
|Publisher of the New York Tribune, one of the most influential newspapers of his era.|
|Civil War Nurse and Humanitarian. Founder of the American Red Cross.|
|Civil war General who later oversaw the Freedman's bureau, founded Howard University, and was involved in the Indian Wars.|
Industry and Invention
|Swedish-American engineer who designed the Moniter, the first iron-clad in the United States Navy.|
|American inventor of the sewing machine. His great innovation was the "lock stitch".|
|Led the effort by the Atlantic Telegraph Company to lay the first transatlantic Cable.|
Art and Literature
|American Poet whose works were very popular. Wrote Paul Revere's Ride and other works.|
Timeline—Civil War Period
|1850||The Compromise of 1850 establishes California as a free State and strenghens Fugitive Slave law.|
|1850||Harriet Tubman makes her first trip back to the south on the "Underground Railroad".|
|1852||Uncle Tom's Cabin is published byand inflamed anti-slavery sentiment in the North.|
|1854||Kansas-Nebraska Act opens new territories to Settlement.|
|"Bleeding Kansas" violence between slave-owners and abolitionists.|
|1857||Dred Scott decision ruled that slaves were not citizens and had no rights, even in free territories.|
|1859||Abolitionistmakes a raid on the armory at Harper's Ferry, Virginia.|
|, a vocal opponent of slavery, is elected President.|
|South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana secede from the Union.|
|Jefferson Davis elected president of the Confederacy.|
American Civil War
|First Shots offired at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.|
|Battle of Antietam, deadliest one-day battle of the Civil War|
|introduces the ironclad Monitor in time to defeat the Confederates' Merrimac.|
|is killed at the Battle of Chancelorsville|
|advance into northern territory is stopped at the Battle of Gettysburg.|
|takes the last confederate stronghold on the Mississippie at the Battle of Vicksburg|
|Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln declares all slaves in U.S. Territory free.|
|Marches from Atlanta to the Charleston, cutting supplies to Lee's army in Virginia.|
|Lee surrenders to Grant at Appomattox Court House|
|is assassinated at the Ford Theatre, by a confederate sympathizer.|
|1865||Beginning of "Reconstruction". Union troops occupy the south.|
|1865||Thirteenth Ammendment, outlawing slavery in the United States, is enacted|
|1866||Radical Republicans are swept into office, establish harsh terms for "reconstruction" of south.|
|1868||President Andrew Johnson is impeached by Republicans favoring harsher measures on the south.|
|1868||Fourteenth Amendment guarentees rights of former slaves, but disenfranchises many southerners.|
|1869||, a proponent of reconstruction, elected president.|
|1872||Freedman's Bureau, tasked with helping ex-slaves adjust, defunded and closed.|
|1877||Last federal troops are recalled from the south.|
Recommended Reading—Civil War Period
Read chapters from "core" texts before reviewing study questions.