I. Significance of Lincoln’s election
A. Northern Candidate
Lincoln had been elected on the strength of the Free states alone. With Republicans opposed to slavery’s expansion, the South’s power base could only diminish. It was not unrealistic for the South to believe that Lincoln would use federal aid to induce the Border States to voluntarily free their slaves. With slavery abolished there, and with the addition of new states—like Kansas, Nevada, etc, the necessary ¾ majority would exist to pass a constitutional amendment banning slavery. Or perhaps the Republicans would incite an insurrection or a riot to free the slaves in the South. It was obvious to the South that the North was attacking slavery. Republicans seemed to encourage the growth of Free states, to encourage the flight of slaves, to abolish slavery in the territories and in D.C. Given all these possibilities, the South believed that secession was the only way to protect Southern liberty and equality. (That is, Southern “liberty” to own slaves and White Southerners’ “equality” in the U.S. Senate with free states.)
B. Secession of the Lower South
On December 20, 1860, South Carolina seceded from the Union. A peace convention held in Washington on February 4 failed to achieve anything meaningful. Instead, on February 7, the Confederate Convention was effective and efficient. The rest of the Deep South followed, and on February 7, 1861, the states stretching from South Carolina to Texas—SC, GA, AL, FL, MS,
LA, TX—organized the Confederate States of America and elected Jefferson Davis president. Jefferson Davis was one of the more moderate of the secessionists. Alexander Stephens of Georgia, vice president.
The Confederate States of America wrote a constitution that reinforced states’ rights, gave the legislative branch more powers than the other two branches, and in all aspects protected slavery. The Confederate democracy was based on the ideal of protecting private property. Note that they protecting states’ rights only when this doctrine is convenient to them and the preservation of slavery – Southerners are almost always talking about slaves when they talk about “property,” and when slaves ran away to Northern states (states where slavery was outlawed and African-Americans were people, not property), Southern states resisted letting those Northern states protect their own (free) states’ rights to let escaped slaves remain free.
The Upper South and the Border States declined to secede, hoping that Congress could make some sort of settlement. Senator John Crittenden of Kentucky proposed what’s known as the Crittenden Compromise: extend the old Missouri Compromise line-36’30, to California, and proposed an “unamendable amendment” to the Constitution stating that slavery could not be prohibited anywhere it already existed. Yet neither the Crittenden Compromise nor any other compromise could undo Lincoln’s election, a direct threat to the Southern way of life. (Meaning agricultural economy based on slave labor.)
A policy of waiting carefully prevailed, but the government had to execute the laws and maintain the existing government. As he finished off his term, Buchanan asked northerners to stop criticizing the South and to repeal their personal liberty laws and obey the Fugitive Slave Act. But republicans refused to make these concessions. Confederate troops then began seizing United States army forts and facilities.
C. Lincoln takes office
Lincoln made a whistle-stop tour as he traveled to Washington, but the tour made him seem uneducated and ineffective, and he ended up calling off the public appearances and arrived in Washington under the cover of darkness for his inauguration.
In his inaugural speech, Lincoln’s theme that morning was to preserve an undivided union, and he pledged to leave slavery where is existed and to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act. Republicans saw the speech as firm and moderate, Democrats (Southerners) as inciting war.
We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
Pause for 60-second Quiz #1: Why did the Southern states secede and how did Lincoln react?
Which answer is true?
Southern states wanted to preserve slavery in the face of Republican pressure to abolish it
Lincoln promised to abolish slavery immediately
Lincoln pledged to go to war
Southern states wanted to be allowed to gradually abolish slavery
II. The Attack on Fort Sumter
A. Siege and Surrender
Upon Lincoln’s first day in office, he was handed a letter from Major Robert Anderson, commander of the federal fort at Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor. Anderson informed the President that he was out of food and unless resupplied, he would have to surrender in six weeks. After a month, Lincoln finally sent a relief expedition. He notified the governor of South Carolina that this was simply a relief expedition, and that no guns or men were being brought in.
Jefferson Davis had to respond to this situation. Secession was constitutional, he believed, and to allow the United States to hold property and maintain military forces within the Confederacy would destroy its claim of independence. Davis therefore instructed the Confederate commander at Charleston to demand the immediate surrender of Fort Sumter, and if refused to open fire. When Anderson refused to surrender, Confederate cannons began firing on the fort on April 12 at 4:30 A.M.
33 hours later, Anderson surrendered. In response, Lincoln called for troops to put down the rebellion. “Let our enemies perish by the sword.” Four states in the Upper South, led by Virginia, then seceded. There would be no compromise.
B. High stakes
As Eric Foner said in Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party before the Civil War (1970), “[f]or each believed that its own system must expand, not only to ensure its own survival, but to prevent the expansion of all the evils the other represented. To agree to the containment of slavery, the South would have had to abandon its whole ideology that had come to view slavery as a positive good.”
When the Civil War
broke out after the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter in the spring of 1861 both sides assumed that it would be a short war. The Civil War, however, was neither short nor easy. Both sides suffered from high casualties and the war claimed more than 600,000 lives.
C. What they fought for: 1. South
Southern soldiers compared the civil war to the Revolutionary War. The CSA wanted to protect its national independence and the southern way of life, which included slavery. Soldiers’ letters spoke of liberty, self-government, of their willingness to die for their country. They feared subjugation and enslavement to Yankee rule. Most letters focused on day-to-day events and basic concerns, rather than these issues. Negative attitudes seemed highest among poor North Carolinians. NC desertion was highest.
The lower South was more patriotic and emotional about their beliefs. For many southern soldiers, the defense of home and hearth against an invading enemy also motivated them, as did hatred and revenge. Confederate soldiers despised the “Black Republicans,” and the money-grubbing abolitionists. They wanted to defend their women from the vile Yankees. They wanted to avenge their friends’ deaths, and to seek revenge for those whose property had been confiscated or destroyed. For some, it became pathological, delighting in the sight of the Yankee dead. The initial patriotism and ideological commitment of many Confederates became hatred and revenge.
According to one southern soldier, it was “a struggle between Liberty on one side and Tyranny on the other.” To another, he fought “in defense of innocent girls and women from the fangs of lecherous northern hirelings.” To another, the soil had been “polluted by a horde of Abolitionist incendiaries.”
believed that they were upholding the legacy of the American Revolution. Remembering the Revolution, they expressed a desire to preserve the Republic. As Lincoln said, once the North conceded that a state could secede at will, Republican government by majority rule would come to an end. The dis-United states would fragment into several petty, squabbling aristocracies, proving the Democratic experiment could not work. Many Union soldiers believed that preserving the Union would be a beacon of freedom for humanity, that it would set the tone for liberty and for democracy throughout the world.
¼ of all white Union soldiers were foreign-born. The Irish drew clear parallels with the struggle for Liberty in Ireland. It was a test: could a modern free government sustain itself against internal enemies? Could republics succeed? Many believed that secession would start anarchy. They were fighting for law and order. Others expressed simple patriotism. Northerners too were willing to die for the cause of the Union, expressing emotional and dramatic language. Most Yankees did not have the same consciousness of fighting to defend home and hearth like the Confederates, but those from Confederate states and border areas expressed bitter hatred and desire for vengeance, and these feelings burned in their hearts. Many perceived (like southerners) an arrogant aristocracy and a conned masses. The soldier’s idealism faded over time, but not a deep senses of purpose and determination. The North did not give up, and white soldiers professed to fight for the freedom of another race.
In the words of a Pennsylvania Private in the Shenandoah Campaign, “I cannot believe Providence intends to destroy this Nation, a great Asylum for the oppressed of all other nations and build a slave Oligarchy on the ruins thereof.” Another wrote, “the hope of the freedom of Nations and Millions in Europe and Elsewhere [will be] driven back and obscured for ages,” if the Union didn’t win.
D. Union Advantages
The Union had significant advantages over the Confederacy. In population, they outnumbered the Confederate States 22 million to 9 million. The Confederate States of America were not urbanized. The typical county seat had a population of less than a thousand, and cities were rare. Only New Orleans was in the list of top 10 U.S. cities in the 1860 census. Only 15 southern cities ranked among the top 100 US cities in 1860, most of them ports whose economic activities were shut down by the Union blockade. The population of Richmond swelled after it became the national capital, reaching an estimated 128,000 in 1864, but this still made it only about the 10th largest city overall in the former U.S.
The north had nine times the industry of the South, especially in textiles, boots, iron and firearms. The Union at the start controlled over 80% of the shipyards, steamships, river boats, and the Navy. It augmented these by a massive shipbuilding program. This enabled the Union to control the river systems and to blockade the entire southern coastline.
They had more railroads, and produced more meat, wheat and corn. The Confederacy focused mainly on cotton and tobacco, and though many poor farmers produced wheat and corn, not as much has the North. Transportation was slower and less reliable in the South, too.
Pause for 60-second Quiz #2: What were some of the causes for which North and South each fought? What were some advantages wielded by each? Which answer is NOT true? a. The North fought to protect the union of states that was the U.S.A.
The South fought to defend independence from a national government and it fought for the right to hold slaves
The North had a larger population (ergo more soldiers and workers to support them)
The South had more large cities (erg more places to easily recruit soldiers and workers for the war industry
III. The War/Military History
Except for naval battles and at Gettysburg, the battles were almost all fought in the South, which tried the patience of the South and destroyed its land, homes, farms, and resources. The Civil War lasted four years, from April 1861-1865.
A. Northern Strategy
Winfield Scott, the commanding general of the U.S. Army, devised the Anaconda Plan to win the war with as little bloodshed as possible. His idea was that a Union blockade of the main ports would strangle the rebel economy; then the capture of the Mississippi River would split the South. The war was fought just off the coast (the most notable example being the battle between the CSA Virginia (Merrimack) and the Monitor; the Union’s naval supremacy was unquestioned.
The war was fought along the Mississippi River at Vicksburg, Memphis and New Orleans; in the eastern states, especially in Virginia, Maryland, and later with Sherman’s March through Georgia and SC; and along the western margins of the Confederacy in Tennessee, where Union general Grant was most active. There was even fighting in New Mexico territory, which was claimed and run by Confederate supporters who wanted New Mexico to become a confederate state, and in Oklahoma, where many of the Indians were sympathetic to the Confederacy.
B. Southern Strategy
To win independence the South had to convince the North it could not win, but it did not have to invade the North. The strategy of the South was mainly to hold off the North and to get international support— money, maybe even troops (they hoped from Great Britain or Germany) to win the war. In 1862 the British considered mediation —The Union victory in the Battle of Antietam caused them to delay this decision. The Emancipation Proclamation further reinforced the political liability of supporting the Confederacy. As the war continued, the Confederacy's chances with Britain grew hopeless, and they focused increasingly on France. Napoléon III proposed to offer mediation in January 1863, but this was dismissed by Seward.
Despite some sympathy for the Confederacy, France's own seizure of Mexico ultimately deterred them from war with the Union. Confederate offers late in the war to end slavery in return for recognition were not seriously considered by London or Paris.
C. Selection of the main battles and their significance 1. First Bull Run/First Manassas (1861) The first major land
battle was the First Battle of Bull Run (a.k.a. 1st Manassas), in July, 1861. The South won, forcing Union troops to retreat to Washington, D.C. In response, the South tried to seek European recognition and aid and Congress increased the size of the northern Army. This is the Battle in which Stonewall Jackson earned his nickname, “Stonewall.”
2. Battle of Shiloh (1862)
In early-1862, the Union focused on the Mississippi River region. With battles along the Tennessee River, in Tennessee, and Kentucky, battles like Fort Donelson and the Battle of Shiloh were decisive union victories.
3. Second Bull Run/Manassas
In the Second Battle of Bull Run (a.k.a. 2nd Manassas), fought in Northern Virginia, the Confederacy won, and the Confederacy then pressed northwards on the offensive.
. Battle of Antietam (1862)
In the Battle of Antietam, also known as the Battle of Sharpsburg, in September, 1862, took place in Maryland. It was the single bloodiest day of the Civil War, with over 23,000 men killed or wounded. (These numbers represented 25% of the Union force and 31% of the Confederate force). While technically a tie, it became a loss for the South, because soon after, Lincoln announced the
The emancipation proclamation, which went into effect on Jan. 1, 1863, declared the freedom of all slaves in Confederate territory not already under Union control. Its immediate impact was to free only some runaway slaves, but thousands more slaves were liberated as the Union armies advanced. The great majority of 4 million slaves were freed through operation of the Emancipation Proclamation.
5. Battle of Fredericksburg (1862)
In the Battle of Fredericksburg, in December, 1862, The Confederacy won the battle, a battle that pitted Lee’s Army of Virginia against General Ambrose Burnside.The significance of this battle is that it protected Richmond from a Union invasion.
6. Battle of Chancellorsville (1863)
In the battle of Chancellorsville, fought in May, 1863, in-between Richmond and Washington, D.C., Robert E. Lee’s army faced a northern army more than double its size but won. Though a Confederate victory, 22% of the troops were killed or wounded, and more damaging was the loss of Stonewall Jackson, who was shot in the arm, lost the arm, and died from infection a few days later.
7. Battle of Gettysburg (1863)
In July, 1863, came the Battle of Gettysburg. General Lee had steadily invaded northward through the Shenandoah Valley with great success. In this battle, he hoped to strike an offensive punch at the North, one that would demoralize it. Union Major General George G. Meade's Army of the Potomac defeated attacks by Confederate General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, ending Lee's invasion of the North. ¼ of the Union troops at Gettysburg were either dead or wounded, and 1/3 of Lee’s army was killed or wounded. Made famous in the movie Gettysburg, was Pickett’s Charge, a brave act by Major General George Pickett that was a tremendous failure.
The Battle of Gettysburg marked a turning point (the “high water mark”), because the South would never again invade, and certainly wouldn’t invade further, and the South was never able to recover the lost men and equipment.
By about the same time was the Siege of Vicksburg, (MS). Grant cornered the confederate army there in and around Vicksburg and bombarded the city. Finally, it surrendered in July, 1863, which gave the Union control of the Mississippi River. It had sealed off the south, and could now continue to choke off supplies. At this point, with the war in the west won, Grant became the commander of the Union Army, which provided decisive leadership and military expertise.
a. The Gettysburg Address
On November 19, 1863, Lincoln appeared at Gettysburg to dedicate a memorial to the fallen soldiers, and delivered a 272 word speech that became his most famous, perhaps one of the most famous speeches in American history.
This is known as the 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.
This once again won public approval and stated publicly just how important the War was—it was a battle to prove that the Revolution had not been fought in vain, and to prove for the world that the United States could be a place of freedom and of democracy.
9. Battle of Spotsylvania (1864)
Most of 1864, which included battles in Virginia such as the Battle of Spotsylvania, were decisive Union victories. Grant relentlessly pursued the retreating Confederates in Virginia, and General Philip Sheridan raided farms along the Shenandoah Valley to deprive Lee’s army of critical supplies.
10. Sherman’s March (18641865)
To finally bring the south to its knees, Union General William T. Sherman led a brutal march from Atlanta to Savannah, burning everything in his path. He then passed north, and went through the city of Columbia, destroying almost everything but USC. While the soldiers fired their cannons on Columbia, they also destroyed a statue of George Washington at the State House. Sherman’s army then continued to North Carolina, where it fought a few battles and ultimately forced the Confederate troops in Raleigh to surrender by April, 1865.
D. End of the War
In April, 1865, the Union invaded Richmond, and just a few days later, Lee surrendered after 4 years of fighting at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. This is considered the official end of the war. In other areas, Confederate troops surrendered, and the war was over.
Just days later, on April 14, 1865, Lincoln went to see a comedy play at Ford’s Theater in Washington. In the middle of the performance, John Wilkes Booth, an actor and confederate sympathizer, slipped into the presidential box and shot Lincoln. Carried across the street to a home, Lincoln died a few hours later of his injuries. With this, Lincoln’s vice-president, Andrew Johnson, took over.
3. More surrender
On April 26th General Joseph Johnston surrendered to Major General W. T. Sherman near Durham, North Carolina (Bennett Place State Historical Park), on May 4th General Richard Taylor (son of Zachary Taylor 12th President of the United States) surrendered at Citronelle, Alabama, on June 2nd General Edmund Kirby Smith surrendered the Confederate Department of the Trans Mississippi to Major General Canby, and on June 23rd General Stand Watie surrendered Cherokee forces in Oklahoma.
4. More captures
President Davis was captured at Irwinville, Georgia on May 10 and the remaining Confederate armies surrendered by June 1865. The last Confederate flag was hauled down, on CSS Shenandoah on November 6, 1865.
With the surrender of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House, Edmund Ruffin, the determined fire-eater who had bribed a VMI cadet to sit in the front row at John Brown’s execution, who had fired the first shot at Fort Sumter, was in a state of depression. He had watched his own life, fortune, and morale take a nose dive. Now, maybe he would be captured. His slaves gone, his finances and family life ruined, he opened his diary on June 17, 1865, and wrote the following words:
I here declare my unmitigated hatred to Yankee rule -- to all political, social and business connection with the Yankees and to the Yankee race. Would that I could impress these sentiments, in their full force, on every living Southerner and bequeath them to every one yet to be born! May such sentiments be held universally in the outraged and down-trodden South, though in silence and stillness, until the now far- distant day shall arrive for just retribution for Yankee usurpation, oppression and atrocious outrages, and for deliverance and vengeance for the now ruined, subjugated and enslaved Southern States!
...And now with my latest writing and utterance, and with what will be near my latest breath, I here repeat and would willingly proclaim my unmitigated hatred to Yankee rule-
-to all political, social and business connections with Yankees, and the perfidious, malignant and vile Yankee race.
Ruffin then took out a pistol and shot himself through the head. Ruffin today is seen as a hero by many of the “Confederate” worshippers.
Pause for 60-second Quiz #3: What were some of the major battles and campaigns of the war, and what were the results? Which answer is true?
The Battle of First Bull Run was the single bloodiest day of the war.
The Battle of Antietam was considered the turning point of the war.
The Siege of Vicksburg gave access to the Mississippi to the North, completing the blockade of the
Sherman’s March through Georgia and South Carolina ended with Lee’s surrender to Sherman at Appomattox Court House.
IV. Lived Experience of War A. Casualties
The War effected a tremendous loss of human life: The Union had 364,511 dead, and the Confederacy had at least 260,000 dead (about 10% of all men in the South died in the war); there were over 620,000 American men dead as a result of the war, more than all American wars to this day put together. (In Vietnam, 57,000 men died, in Korea, 33,700 died, in the Revolution, 25,000 died)
B. Camp Life
By the end of the war, 2 million men served in the Union Army and another million had served in the Confederacy. They were mostly young, about 40 percent 21 or younger, they were mainly poor farmers and laborers, or unskilled workers. The majority were native-born, though there were immigrants that fought.
Most soldiers were given salt pork or pickled (salted) beef, cornbread or hardtack, crackers about an inch thick that were difficult to bite through. Coffee was the other main food source, yet because of the Union blockade, the Confederacy was short on it. Hungry troops also invaded farms and fields to get additional food. The poorest soldiers served as cooks, often the “slow” or clumsy soldiers had this honor.
Camp life was unhealthy as soldiers faced the deadly risk of disease, food poisoning, sunstroke or sunburn, and in the Confederate case, lack of hospital supplies. Nurses and surgeons lacked an understanding of germs, so infections were highly likely. Many battlefield injuries resulted in amputations.
C. The War on the Northern Homefront
The war had some important effects on both the North and the South. In the North, those who opposed the war were called Copperheads.
They frequently spoke out against Lincoln and criticized both the draft and the Emancipation Proclamation. They were sympathetic to the South. The most famous Copperhead was Clement Vallandingham whom Lincoln eventually banished to the south.
Not everyone in the North supported the war; there were draft riots in New York City in the summer of 1863. Workers in the Irish neighborhoods of New York City rose up, attacked draft officials and prominent Republicans, and lashed out on African American neighborhoods, whom they saw as responsible for the war. Over a four day period, over 100 people were killed. (This incident is shown in the end of the movie Gangs of New York). Indeed, as the war dragged on and was connected to slavery there were several racially-motivated riots in cities throughout the North.
The war did, however, help Northern industry because the millions of mobilized men required clothing, tents, and supplies, as a result new factories developed and government contracts helped industry continue to grow.
The Civil War provided new opportunities for northern reformers, especially women. The U.S. Sanitary Commission, a medical organization led by males, was staffed mainly by women. They collected and distributed medical supplies, clothing, and food, and advised on hospital conditions. Most nurses were women, including reformer Dorothea Dix, who headed up the Union’s nursing corps and Clara Barton, who later founded the American Red Cross.
Some women used the war and the emphasis upon ending slavery to push for women’s rights. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony founded the Women’s National Loyal League to draw attention to women’s rights and to get attention for women’s suffrage, but with no success. The war did nothing for women’s rights, and women continued to be paid less.
D. Southern Life
Prices increased, the South experienced a shortage in food and basic items and was really desperate. Cotton production dropped dramatically, and food was scarce. With the military blockade, European manufactured goods couldn’t reach the South, so the confederacy had to increase manufacturing and was able to provide guns and ammunition.
The Confederate draft produced an outcry; people could be required to serve in the war, but the rich could provide substitutes if they could pay the cost. The Confederacy eventually abolished this practice, but only towards the end of the war. Further, the draft exempted any white man from service if he owned 20 (or later, 15) slaves. More and more people complained that it was a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight. As a result, many of the poorer white farmers, the non-slave owning yeomen, turned against the rich, and often times, refused to comply with the draft or after suffering massive casualties, deserted and returned home where they could then be tracked down and imprisoned, tortured, killed, or forced back to fight (this is shown in the movie Cold Mountain).
Women had new opportunities for both supervising the plantations in the place of their husbands, and working in manufacturing, which would have been unheard of if it wasn’t for the war.
E. African Americans in the War 1. For the Union
Although Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery, it did allow African Americans to serve on the front lines of the Union Army. Before the Proclamation, slaves had been allowed to serve as ditch-diggers and other manual laborers but not as soldiers. Beginning in 1863 however, African Americans could serve as soldiers. Serving under white officers and earning less than white soldiers, they made up about 10% of the Union army. They made several important battlefield contributions.
In general, white soldiers and officers believed that black men lacked the courage to fight and fight well. A group of African American soldiers from Kansas won the respect of the Union in the Battle of Island Mound, Missouri in October 1862. By 1863, 14 African American Regiments were in the field and ready for service.
After a battle in Oklahoma against Confederate-supporting Indians, the 1st Kansas again fought with courage, and their commander, General James G. Blunt remarked, "I never saw such fighting as was done by the Negro regiment....The question that negroes will fight is settled; besides they make better solders in every respect than any troops I have ever had under my command."
The most widely known battle fought by African Americans was the assault on Fort Wagner, South Carolina, which was on Morris Island near Charleston. The assault was done by the 54th Massachusetts on July 18, 1863. The 54th volunteered to lead the assault on the strongly-fortified Confederate positions. The soldiers of the 54th scaled the fort's parapet, and were only driven back after brutal hand-to-hand combat. This is shown in the Movie Glory, starring Denzel Washington (it premiered in the early-1990s).
Although black soldiers proved themselves as reputable soldiers, discrimination in pay and other areas remained widespread. According to the Militia Act of 1862, soldiers of African descent were to receive $10.00 a month, plus a clothing allowance of $3.50. Many regiments struggled for equal pay, some refusing any money until June 15, 1864, when Congress granted equal pay for all black soldiers.
As the war continued, African American soldiers participated in every major campaign of 1864-
1865 except Sherman’s invasion of Georgia. In the Battle of Fort Pillow, in Tennessee, critics accused Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest of intentionally targeting and massacring African American Union troops. African Americans also served with distinction in the Shenandoah Valley in 1864.
In actual numbers, African American soldiers comprised 10% of the entire Union Army. Losses among African Americans were high, and from all reported casualties, approximately one-third of all African Americans enrolled in the military lost their lives during the Civil War.
At the end of the U.S. Civil War, many of these African American veterans served in the West. The army reorganized and formed two regiments of cavalry and two of infantry, commanded mainly by white officers, but by a few African American officers for the first time. These regiments served in the Great Plains and in the Indian Wars, and were known as “Buffalo Soldiers.”
2. African Americans for the Confederacy
The lack of surviving records makes it difficult, but one estimate states that about 60,00090,000 blacks, both slave and free, served in the confederate military in some capacity, however the majority of these were cooks, porters, musicians, and hospital attendants.1
For most of the war, the Confederate Government prohibited the enlistment of African Americans as armed soldiers, however, black musicians could be paid. Some individual states allowed free blacks to enlist;
Tennessee and Louisiana are examples.
In 1864, CSA General Patrick Cleburne and several other officers in Tennessee recommended offering slaves their freedom if they fought and survived, but President Davis refused to consider it. In the latter stages of the war, General Lee urged the CSA Congress to allow this, and only on March 23, 1865 did the law go into effect, by that time, the war was two weeks from being over, and the war ended. One of the units accompanied General Lee's retreat toward Appomattox and fought in a minor battle just two days before Lee’s surrender.
For most plantation blacks, though some ran away to find their families, or because they were starving on the most fertile land in the world during the war, many waited to be liberated by Union troops. At this point, many stayed with their families to wait and see what would happen and to try to figure out where to go from there. Many remained on the plantation, but simply no longer worked.
F. Why did the North win and the South lose?
1. Why did the North Win?
Obviously the superior economic advantages, population and transportation superiority, and higher industrial output helped the South, but there were other factors as well. Lincoln’s leadership was more effective than Davis’s, and he kept the Border States in the Union. Further, Great Britain and France never jumped in to help the Confederacy. Lincoln defined the reasons of the war for the North as a matter of national pride; in the Gettysburg Address, as a way of preserving the republican experiment, and showing that the Revolution had not been fought in vain. Northern morale and support was high. In terms of military strategy, the Union’s was solid, and it had far more troops.
2. Why did the Confederacy lose?
The Confederacy was forced to create a new government and military structure while at war from one that didn’t already exist. They were unprepared and did not have the industry or the transportation, they faced the threat of internal dividedness especially between rich and poor whites, and desertions from the Army. Further, the South was choked off with the blockade on the East coast and along the Mississippi River, and was hemmed in by the Anaconda Plan.
Thus with the war over, the South defeated, a debate would ensue in the Congress and in the North more broadly, about how to deal with the Confederacy, its leaders, its soldiers, and its victims. Eventually the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution would be ratified (outlawing slavery, guaranteeing citizenship, and outlawing voting rights discrimination based on race).
Despite the apparent turn toward guaranteeing racial equality, Reconstruction would end after 1877 and institutionalized racial discrimination would return, cloaked in the abolition of slavery but barely hiding the brutality of lynching, poverty, and inequality. Decades later, the myth of the Lost Cause would erase slavery from the history of the war while it planted memorials and statues praising the nobility of Southern sacrifice and the cause of states’ rights. Although it lost the war, the South slowly won the battle for Americans’ memory of the war, which might reveal more about American history than the war itself.
Pause for 60-second Quiz #4: What were some of the problems or disadvantages that caused the South to lose the war? Which answer is not true?
The South was short of food and could not import much
Southerners were apathetic about the war and saw no point in fighting
The South was reluctant to arm and deploy African-American soldiers
Southern men were resistant to a draft that privileged the wealthy
Key for 60-second Quizzes:
See Kevin M. Levin, “The ‘Loyal Slave’ Photo That Explains the Northam Scandal,” The Atlantic (February 13, 2019), https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/02/ralph-northam-and-myth-loyal-slave/582619/↩