The Civil War A War of Attrition
Lincoln’s Inauguration On March 4th, 1861, Abraham Lincoln became President of the United States as it faced its greatest crisis in its young history. His inaugural address made it clear what his intentions would be and proffered a warning to the South. I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery where it already exists…In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine is the momentous issue of…war. The government will not assail [attack] you…We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our strains of affection [for one another]. Abraham Lincoln – Inaugural Address, March 4th, 1861
Fort Sumter In order to avoid conflict, Lincoln announced he would send supplies, but no weapons and no soldiers. As Lincoln struggled to respond to continued Southern aggression as they seized post offices, forts, and other federal property, Lincoln’s most pressing issue was Fort Sumter. Located on a small island in the middle of Charleston, SC harbor, the commander refused to surrender, so Southern authorities decided blockade the fort, allowing no supplies in or out. Confederate leaders saw this as a threat. On April 12th, Confederate artillery opened fire on Fort Sumter, forcing the Union troops to surrender. The Civil War had begun.
The Border States The Border States (specifically KY, MD, MO) remained divided at the outset of the war. Initially these states leaned toward supporting the South, as many of their citizens owned slaves or openly supported slavery. These states were crucial to the war effort for both the North and South. Kentucky and Missouri were important to controlling the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, both important supply and transportation routes. Unless the Union could control Maryland, Washington would be completely surrounded by the Confederacy.
North Against South Southern Advantages: To win, northern armies would have to invade and conquer the South. Confederates would be fighting on their own land with help from local citizens. The three most experienced and decorated U.S. military commanders (Albert Johnston, Joseph Johnston, and Robert E. Lee) all resigned from the Union army to fight for the South.
North Against South Northern Advantages: The North had more than 85% of the country’s factories (110,000 of the 130,000). The North had two-thirds of the country’s total population (AND 1/3 of the South’s population was enslaved). With more resources, the North was able to field, feed, and equip more soldiers.
Which of these factors will have the greatest impact on the outcome of the war?
“Both parties [condemned] war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and so the war came.” Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address (1865) What is Lincoln saying about the country as a whole…about political parties?
War Strategy • Northern Strategy: • To isolate the Confederacy, Lincoln had the Navy blockade the southern seaports. A blockade is a military action to prevent traffic coming into or leaving a seaport. • Lincoln wanted to gain control of the Mississippi River, the South’s key transportation link. • The Union also planned on invading Virginia and capturing Richmond, the Confederate capital (only 100 miles from Washington D.C.) • Southern Strategy: SIMPLE… • The Confederates did not need to invade the North, only defend their land until the North tired of fighting. So…they just waited. • The South actively sought support from Britain (hoping Britain’s desire for cotton, indigo, etc. would drive their support)
Battle of Bull Run The Union Army quickly gained the upper hand in the war. However, reinforcements arrived led by an unknown colonel, Thomas Jackson. The Confederate lines were broken, but Jackson and his men stood their ground. One Confederate soldier yelled out, “There is Jackson, standing like a stone wall…let us determine to die here and we shall conquer!” Thomas Jackson earned his now famous nickname “Stonewall” Jackson at the Battle of Bull Run. After the attack on Fort Sumter, northerners were clamoring for revenge. General McDowell was concerned though that his armies were not well enough prepared for battle. President Lincoln reassured him, saying “You are green, it is true, but they are green also; you are all green alike.” Yielding to public pressure, McDowell mounted the opening offensive of the Battle of Bull Run outside Manassas, VA. After “Stonewall” Jackson’s heroic stand, all the momentum shifted to the Confederate side. Union troops began to panic after volley after volley was fired upon them. Eventually they turned and retreated to Washington D.C. The Battle of Bull Run was a resounding victory for the Confederacy.
Battle of Bull Run One of the most startling facts about the Battle of Bull Run was who else attended the battle. Many of Washington’s elite, including several congressmen, brought their families to watch the battle while enjoying a picnic lunch!! This famous photograph was taken (one of the earliest group photographs) showing the finely dressed elite enjoying lunch. Northerners had anticipated an easy victory. The Battle of Bull Run proved to the country that this was going to be a long and bloody war. As they watched, horrified at the carnage they saw, they were unknowingly playing an important role. The elite watching the battle returned to tell of its horrors.
Prisoners of War As the war waged on, both armies built prison camps to house enemies soldiers captured in battle. Two of the most famous were the Union camp in Elmira, NY and the Confederate camp in Andersonville, GA. 24% of prisoners at Elmira died during captivity. 29% of captives died in the Andersonville camp. In all, nearly 10% of the casualties during the Civil War occurred in prison camps. Andersonville, GA – Confederate Prison Camp
New Technology Traditionally, battles were won and lost with man power. Generals relied on all out charges to overwhelm the enemy. New rifles and cannon were much more accurate and could target the enemy before they reached the defender’s position There was also a major advancement in naval technology. Ironclads, warships covered with protective iron plates, were put into use by both the the Union and Confederate navies. The battle between the USS Monitor and the CSS Merrimack – the first battle between ironclads.
War in the East After the embarrassing defeat at Bull Run, Lincoln replaced General McDowell with General McClellan. Though a good organizer and commander, he was very cautious. He made no moves for nearly 7 months. Lincoln commented, “If General McClellan does not want to use the army, I should like to borrow it for a while.” McClellan and nearly 60,000 men advanced on Richmond, the Confederate capital, but McClellan stalled, asking Lincoln for more men. In the meantime, the Confederate reinforced the city and repelled a Union attack at the Battle of Seven Pines.
Battle of Antietam By a stroke of luck, McClellan came into possession of a letter outlining Robert E. Lee’s troop movements, and learned that Lee had divided his army into two. McClellan decided to attack the larger of Lee’s two armies near Antietam Creek, near Sharpsburg Maryland on September 17th, 1862. In all, the Union suffered 14,000 casualties and the Confederacy nearly12,000, making the Battle of Antietam the bloodiest day of the Civil War.
War in the West General Ulysses S. Grant was the polar opposite of General McClellan. He was poorly dressed, drank, and took risks. At the Battle of Shiloh on April 6th, Grant met General Johnston on the battlefield. Both sides sustained heavy losses, but in forcing Johnston to retreat, Grant was able to secure the upper Mississippi river for the North. Grant Johnston On April 26th, Admiral Farragut of the Union Navy entered the Mississippi from the Gulf of Mexico. Within days he captured New Orleans. The Western Campaign secured the Mississippi River, placing it entirely under Union control.
Emancipation Proclamation On January 1st, 1863, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it, and if I could do it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it…What I do about slavery…I do because I believe it helps to save the Union.” Despite its fame, the proclamation is limited in many ways: ~ The proclamation only applied to states that had seceded from the Union ~ It exempted areas of the South already controlled by the Union armies ~ All provisions depended wholly on a Union victory Although the Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery, it did capture the hearts and minds of millions of Americans, transforming the Civil War into a for freedom. By the end of the war, more than 200,000 freed blacks served in the Union Army.
Changes Brought About by War As the war waged on, the greatest challenge for each respective army was dealing with the large number of desertions. Citizens on both sides were actively trying to sabotage war efforts. Helping prisoners of war to escape, protesting at recruitment and enlistment events were just a few ways people attempted to disrupt the war. With desertion becoming a major problem, each side implemented a draft to meet the need for troops. A draft is a system of required military service. In order to combat such problems, both President Lincoln and Jefferon Davis suspended the right of habeas corpus during the war. Habeas Corpus is a constitutional protection against unlawful imprisonment. In the North alone, more than 13,000 people were imprisoned without a trial. People on both sides complained that the draft simply made the conflict “a poor man’s fight,” as the rich could pay their way out of service. There were profound economic effects as well. In order to pay for the cost of war, Congress levied the country’s first income tax, or tax on money earned. In addition, the Union printed $400,000,000 to help pay its expenses, causing sharp inflation, or a general rise in prices.
Women in the War The most common opportunity for women though was in nursing. At the height of the war, more than 10,000 female nurses were serving in the war. As the war waged on, women took on a more and more active role. Many women took over farms or family run businesses. Some worked in factories. Others, at least 400 that we know of, dressed up as men in order to fight in the army. Elizabeth Blackwell, America’s first female physician, trained nurses for the Union Army. Both Dorothea Dix and Harriet Tubman served as Union nurses during the war. Clara Barton earned the nickname “angel of the battlefield” for her work caring for soldiers during battle.
Battle of Gettysburg After a string of Confederate victories, Robert E. Lee was convinced that a decisive victory in Union territory would force the Union to end the war. He marched his troops North, through Maryland and into the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. By the start of the second day, 85,000 Union troops would face a Confederate force of nearly 75,000. Constant artillery and rifleman attacks lasted throughout the first full day of fighting. On the afternoon of July 3rd, General Pickett led an all-out attack on the center of the Union lines. To get there, the Confederates had to cross a half-mile of open field. As they attacked, Union artillery and rifle fire rained down on them. Almost by mistake, Confederate scouts happened across Union soldiers from General Meade’s army. Shots were exchanged and before long, more troops joined the fight. Only a few hundred men reached the Union lines, and were quickly driven back. In all, nearly 7,500 men were killed in what is now known as Pickett’s charge.
Gettysburg Address Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
William Tecumseh Sherman Over the course of seven weeks of near constant fighting, the Union Army had suffered more than 50,000 casualties, with the Confederate suffering more than 35,000. Grant could count on a steady stream of troops and supplies. Lee could not. As Grant and Lee’s armies clashed in Petersburg, a second Union general would bring a crushing blow to the South. William Tecumseh Sherman, a tough soldier in his own right, moved his troops towards Atlanta. Sherman was a belief in total war – all-out attacks aimed at destroying an enemies army, its resources, and its people’s will to fight. Sherman captured Atlanta on September 2nd. In November, Sherman ordered Atlanta burned to the ground. He then turned and marched towards the Carolinas, setting fire to buildings, pulling up railroad tracks, and seizing crops and livestock. He left a path of destruction up to 60 miles wide. “We are not only fighting hostile armies, but a hostile people, and must make young and old, rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war.”
Surrender at Appomattox After a series of devastating losses, Lee knew the end was near. He had lost nearly 1/3 of his army, supplies were running thin, and desertion was at a wartime high. Lincoln too knew the end of the war was near. In his second inaugural address, Lincoln said, “With malice toward none, and charity for all;…let us strive together…to bind up the nation’s wounds.” On April 2nd, Grant’s troop finally broke through Confederate lines, forcing Lee’s troops to retreat to the small town of Appomattox. On April 9th, 1865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered at the Appomattox Courthouse, ending the Civil War.
The Cost of War Why the disparity? One historian estimates Union losses accounting for 9% of the total male population between the ages of 18-40 years old, but 31% of the same demographic in the South. • Still not impressed? Consider these… • 3.5% of the total U.S. Population, according to the 1860 census, died during the war • 9% of all males in the United States ages 13-43 died during the war • 66,000 soldiers died in prison camps • There were 60,000 amputations during the war, OR 1 out of every 13 soldiers lost a limb • The 1,030,000 casualties, including approximately 650,000 deaths – the same number of casualties and deaths as all other U.S. wars COMBINED – make the Civil War the deadliest war in U.S. History.