The Civil War brought nearly three million Americans to battle against each other. The union army of the North and confederate army of the South. Often brother against brother.
Their backgrounds, from farmers, teachers, lawyers, and shop owners to ironworkers, locksmiths, blacksmiths and carpenters, were as diverse as their beliefs. Not every Northerner was an abolitionist, nor every Southerner a slave holder. Patriotism inspired some to enlist, adventure or the promise of steady pay prompted others.
Both armies were courageous and their sacrifices many.
Major battles were not fought every day. Both sides had to deal with boredom between combat. Letter writing, checkers and baseball were among their diversions. Soldiers also faced unsanitary conditions in their camps. Typhoid fever, malaria, pneumonia and whooping cough caused more deaths than bullets.
In 1860 Abraham Lincoln won the presidency and was the first Republican to win by pledging to keep slavery out of the territories. Following his victory, seven slave states seceded and formed a new nation, the Confederate States of America.
Southerners felt that the North would to take away their right to govern themselves and abolish slavery. The North refused to recognize the secession. They feared it would question democracy and create a dangerous precedent.
The event that eventually triggered the war took place at Fort Sumter, on April 12, 1861, when the Confederate Army opened fire on the federal garrison and forced it to lower the American flag in surrender.
By 1864 the conflict to resolve the union had escalated into a major war as the North set out to abolish slavery. During his Gettysburg address to dedicate a cemetery for Union soldiers killed in battle there, President Lincoln stated that the War was a test for democracy. And that the outcome of the conflict would determine the fate of representative government for the entire world. His eloquent words still ring true today:
“Government of the people, by the people, for the people,
On April 9th, 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia effectively ending the war. Resistance collapsed and the war ended on May 10, 1865. The long turbulent process of rebuilding a united country free of slavery began.
On December 6, 1865, the United States adopted the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which outlawed the practice of slavery. The states were again united as a democracy and the American flag was raised throughout the land.