The Civil War
On April 12, 1861, after years of bitter debate, war began between the North and the South when Confederate troops fired at Union troops stationed at Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina. After the attack, President Lincoln called on the states' governors to send 75,000 militia
to serve three-month terms as federal soldiers. This forced the governors
to decide which side they were on. Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Arkansas seceded from the Union and joined South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, which had already seceded
to form the Confederate States of America. The border states of Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware stayed in the Union.
Both the Union and Confederate armies were made up largely of inexperienced recruits
, but many of the commanders had been educated at West Point and other military schools and had seen action in the Mexican War. Hopes were high on both sides that the war would be very short and either the South would be allowed to form its own government or it would be quickly defeated and forced back into the Union.
However, the South scored victories at the first battle of Bull Run and while defending the Confederate capital at Richmond, Virginia, during the Seven Days' Campaign. The Confederates won the second battle of Bull Run, and the Union army failed to stop Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia from escaping after the bloody
battle at Antietam Creek. Southern commanders included Thomas (Stonewall) Jackson, Joseph Johnston, James Longstreet, and J.E.B. Stuart.
President Lincoln could not seem to find a commander
who could win and keep pushing to finish off the Confederates. Command of the North's Army of the Potomac went from Irwin McDowell to George McClellan to Ambrose Burnside to Joe Hooker to George Meade. After further Union defeats at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, it was an accidental meeting of the two armies at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, that would turn the tide of the war.
The armies first clashed on July 1, 1863, near Gettysburg, and the battle lasted for three days. The Union army, commanded by General Meade, held Cemetery Ridge and managed to hold off the Confederates. General Lee felt that one grand rush might break the Union army's spirit. On July 3, he ordered George Pickett and his 15,000 men to charge the Union line. About 7,000 men were lost in the attempt. On July 4, the Confederates began to retreat, but again Meade failed to attack them, and Lincoln was again disappointed. Casualties on both sides totaled at least 47,000 men.
Also on July 4, 1863, General Ulysses Grant was able to force the surrender of the besieged city of Vicksburg, Mississippi. Finally, Lincoln had found a man who could produce victory. Grant was appointed general in chief of the Union army. Grand and soldiers such as William T. Sherman and Phil Sheridan began pushing the Southern armies relentlessly. After bloody battles in Virginia's wilderness, at Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor, and Sherman's march through Georgia, the war stalled
in a siege
of Petersburg, Virginia. In April 1865, Lee's army abandoned Petersburg and Richmond and moved to the interior of Virginia. Grant's army soon caught up with them, and Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865, at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia.