American Civil War

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American Civil War
Battle of Gettysburg, by Currier and Ives.png
The Battle of Gettysburg
Date April 12, 1861 – April 9, 1865 (last shot fired June 22, 1865)
Location Southern United States, Northeastern United States, Western United States, Atlantic Ocean
Result Union victory
United States United States of America Confederate States of America Confederate States of America
Commanders and leaders
United States Abraham Lincoln

United States Winfield Scott
United States George B. McClellan
United States Henry Wager Halleck
United States Ulysses S. Grant
United States Gideon Welles

and others
Confederate States of America Jefferson Davis

Confederate States of America P.G.T. Beauregard
Confederate States of America Joseph E. Johnston
Confederate States of America Robert E. Lee
Confederate States of America Stephen Mallory
<center>and others

2,100,000 1,064,000
Casualties and losses
140,414 killed in action[1]
~365,000 total dead[1]
275,200 wounded
72,524 killed in action[1]
~260,000 total dead
137,000+ wounded

The American Civil War or the War Between the States (1861–1865) was a major war between the United States (the " Union") and eleven Southern states which declared that they had a right to secession and formed the Confederate States of America, led by President Jefferson Davis. The Union, led by President Abraham Lincoln and politically dominated by his Republican Party, included all of the free states and four slaveholding border states. Republicans opposed the expansion of slavery into territories owned by the United States, which increased Southern desires for secession. However, Republicans (and the previous Democratic administration under Buchanan) rejected any right of secession. Fighting commenced on April 12, 1861, when Confederate forces attacked a United States (federal) military installation at Fort Sumter in South Carolina, the first state to secede.

During the first year, the Union assumed control of the border states and established a naval blockade as both sides raised large armies. In 1862 large, bloody battles such as Shiloh and Antietam were fought, causing massive casualties unprecedented in U.S. military history. A deadly combination of new weapons (including rifles using the Minié ball) and old battlefield tactics such as mass infantry charges led to thousands of casualties per major battle.

In September 1862, Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation made the freeing of slaves in the South a war goal and gave a higher moral cause to the war, despite opposition from Northern Copperheads who tolerated both secession and slavery. The likelihood of intervention from Britain and France, both of which opposed slavery, was thus reduced. The border states and War Democrats opposed emancipation at first, but gradually accepted it as part of total war needed to save the Union.

In the East, Confederate general Robert E. Lee assumed command of the Army of Northern Virginia and rolled up a series of victories over the Army of the Potomac, but his best general, Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson, was killed at the Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863. Lee's invasion of the North was repulsed at the Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania in July 1863; he barely managed to escape back to Virginia with his badly mauled force. The Union Navy captured the port of New Orleans in 1862, and Ulysses S. Grant seized control of the Mississippi River by capturing Vicksburg, Mississippi in July 1863, thus splitting the Confederacy in two.

By 1864, long-term Union advantages in geography, manpower, industry, finance, political organization and transportation were overwhelming the Confederacy. Grant fought a number of bloody battles with Lee in Virginia in the summer of 1864. Lee's defensive tactics resulted in extremely high casualties for Grant's army, but Lee's army was shrinking daily due to casualties and desertions; he was forced to retreat into trenches around his capital, Richmond, Virginia. Meanwhile, General William Sherman, the leader of the Union Military Division of the Mississippi, captured Atlanta, Georgia and began his March to the Sea, during which he destroyed a hundred-mile-wide swath of Georgia. In 1865, Confederate resistance collapsed after Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House.

All slaves in the Confederacy were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, which stipulated that slaves in Confederate-held areas, but not in border states or in Washington, D.C., were free. Slaves in the border states and Union-controlled parts of the South were freed by state action or by the Thirteenth Amendment, although slavery effectively ended in the U.S. in the spring of 1865.

The full restoration of the Union was the work of a highly contentious postwar era known as Reconstruction. The war produced about 970,000 casualties (3% of the population), including approximately 620,000 soldier deaths—two-thirds by disease. The war accounted for more casualties than all other U.S. wars combined. The causes of the war, the reasons for its outcome, and even the name of the war itself are subjects of lingering controversy today.

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  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 John W. Chambers, II, ed. in chief, The Oxford Companion to American Military History. (Oxford University Press, 1999, ISBN 0-19-507198-0), p. 849.
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