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The bloodiest four years in American history begin when Confederate shore batteries under General P.G.T. Beauregard open fire on Union-held Fort Sumter in South Carolina’s Charleston Harbor. During the next 34 hours, 50 Confederate guns and mortars launched more than 4,000 rounds at the poorly supplied fort. On April 13, U.S. Major Robert Anderson surrendered the fort. Two days later, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for 75,000 volunteer soldiers to quell the Southern “insurrection.”
As early as 1858, the ongoing conflict between North and South over the issue of slavery had led Southern leadership to discuss a unified separation from the United States. By 1860, the majority of the slave states were publicly threatening secession if the Republicans, the anti-slavery party, won the presidency. Following Republican Abraham Lincoln’s victory over the divided Democratic Party in November 1860, South Carolina immediately initiated secession proceedings. On December 20, the South Carolina legislature passed the “Ordinance of Secession,” which declared that “the Union now subsisting between South Carolina and other states, under the name of the United States of America, is hereby dissolved.” After the declaration, South Carolina set about seizing forts, arsenals, and other strategic locations within the state. Within six weeks, five more Southern states–Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana–had followed South Carolina’s lead.
In February 1861, delegates from those states convened to establish a unified government. Jefferson Davis of Mississippi was subsequently elected the first president of the Confederate States of America. When Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated on March 4, 1861, a total of seven states (Texas had joined the pack) had seceded from the Union, and federal troops held only Fort Sumter in South Carolina, Fort Pickens off the Florida coast, and a handful of minor outposts in the South. Four years after the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter, the Confederacy was defeated at the total cost of 620,000 Union and Confederate soldiers dead.
READ MORE: 7 Important Civil War Battles
American Civil War 101
Fought from 1861–1865, the American Civil War was the result of decades of sectional tensions between the North and South. Focused on enslavement and states rights, these issues came to a head following the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. Over the next several months, 11 southern states seceded and formed the Confederate States of America. During the first two years of the war, Southern troops won numerous victories but saw their fortunes turn after losses at Gettysburg and Vicksburg in 1863. From then on, Northern forces worked to conqueror the South, forcing them to surrender in April 1865.
Prelude to war
The secession of the Southern states (in chronological order, South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina) in 1860–61 and the ensuing outbreak of armed hostilities were the culmination of decades of growing sectional friction over slavery. Between 1815 and 1861 the economy of the Northern states was rapidly modernizing and diversifying. Although agriculture—mostly smaller farms that relied on free labour—remained the dominant sector in the North, industrialization had taken root there. Moreover, Northerners had invested heavily in an expansive and varied transportation system that included canals, roads, steamboats, and railroads in financial industries such as banking and insurance and in a large communications network that featured inexpensive, widely available newspapers, magazines, and books, along with the telegraph.
By contrast, the Southern economy was based principally on large farms (plantations) that produced commercial crops such as cotton and that relied on slaves as the main labour force. Rather than invest in factories or railroads as Northerners had done, Southerners invested their money in slaves—even more than in land by 1860, 84 percent of the capital invested in manufacturing was invested in the free (nonslaveholding) states. Yet, to Southerners, as late as 1860, this appeared to be a sound business decision. The price of cotton, the South’s defining crop, had skyrocketed in the 1850s, and the value of slaves—who were, after all, property—rose commensurately. By 1860 the per capita wealth of Southern whites was twice that of Northerners, and three-fifths of the wealthiest individuals in the country were Southerners.
The extension of slavery into new territories and states had been an issue as far back as the Northwest Ordinance of 1784. When the slave territory of Missouri sought statehood in 1818, Congress debated for two years before arriving upon the Missouri Compromise of 1820. This was the first of a series of political deals that resulted from arguments between pro-slavery and antislavery forces over the expansion of the “peculiar institution,” as it was known, into the West. The end of the Mexican-American War in 1848 and the roughly 500,000 square miles (1.3 million square km) of new territory that the United States gained as a result of it added a new sense of urgency to the dispute. More and more Northerners, driven by a sense of morality or an interest in protecting free labour, came to believe, in the 1850s, that bondage needed to be eradicated. White Southerners feared that limiting the expansion of slavery would consign the institution to certain death. Over the course of the decade, the two sides became increasingly polarized and politicians less able to contain the dispute through compromise. When Abraham Lincoln, the candidate of the explicitly antislavery Republican Party, won the 1860 presidential election, seven Southern states (South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas) carried out their threat and seceded, organizing as the Confederate States of America.
In the early morning hours of April 12, 1861, rebels opened fire on Fort Sumter, at the entrance to the harbour of Charleston, South Carolina. Curiously, this first encounter of what would be the bloodiest war in the history of the United States claimed no victims. After a 34-hour bombardment, Maj. Robert Anderson surrendered his command of about 85 soldiers to some 5,500 besieging Confederate troops under P.G.T. Beauregard. Within weeks, four more Southern states (Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina) left the Union to join the Confederacy.
With war upon the land, President Lincoln called for 75,000 militiamen to serve for three months. He proclaimed a naval blockade of the Confederate states, although he insisted that they did not legally constitute a sovereign country but were instead states in rebellion. He also directed the secretary of the treasury to advance $2 million to assist in the raising of troops, and he suspended the writ of habeas corpus, first along the East Coast and ultimately throughout the country. The Confederate government had previously authorized a call for 100,000 soldiers for at least six months’ service, and this figure was soon increased to 400,000.
Today in military history: Desmond Doss rescues 75 casualties one-by-one at Okinawa
Posted On May 05, 2021 08:31:00
On May 5, 1945, U.S. Army corporal Desmond Doss saved 75 men at the battle of Okinawa…all without the use of a weapon.
Desmond Doss, the first conscientious objector in history to receive the Medal of Honor, went through a lot just to get the opportunity to serve his country. Since he refused to even touch a rifle, Doss had a tough time convincing his superiors to let him finish basic training, let alone ship off to war.
Let’s just say there are at least 75 men that were glad the Army let Doss join up.
When Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941, Doss was working at the Newport News Naval shipyard where he could have remained, had he requested a deferment. Instead, the Seventh-day Adventist volunteered to join the Army. His fellow soldiers weren’t too keen on having a conscientious objector in their midst — he was bullied, harassed, given extra duties, and even threatened by the other men in his unit. He remained steadfast: he just wanted to serve God and his country (in that order).
Through his expertise, however, the combat medic began to earn their trust. He answered the cry for “medic” on the islands of Guam, Leyte, and Okinawa, ignoring the danger of mortar shells and weapon fire around him.
On May 5, 1945, at the Battle of Okinawa, while Doss’ unit was fiercely attempting to capture the Maeda Escarpment — a final barrier to an Allied invasion of Japan — of an imposing rock face known as Hacksaw Ridge, enemy forces surprised the American troops with a vicious counterattack. The troops were ordered to retreat — but only less than one third of the men made it back down to safety.
Two Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment during fighting at Wana Ridge during the Battle of Okinawa, May 1945. (Public Domain)
And one man defied orders completely.
Doss single-handedly charged into the firefight to rescue as many of his fellow soldiers as he could. His determination and courage resulted in at least 75 lives saved that day.
Featured Image: President Harry S. Truman warmly shook the hand of Corporal Desmond Thomas Doss, and then held it the entire time his Medal of Honor citation was read aloud to those gathered outside the White House on October 12, 1945. “I’m proud of you,” Truman said. “You really deserve this. I consider this a greater honor than being president.” (Image via Desmond Doss Council)
Today in Military History
- A Dutch ship arrives in the Virginia Colony carrying about twenty black Africans as indentured servants. From this beginning, African slavery is introduced to the future United States. 
- The General Court of Virginia orders John Punch, a runaway black servant, to "serve his master or his assigns for the time of his natural Life here or elsewhere." Thus, "John Punch, a black man, was sentenced to [a] lifetime [of] slavery." 
- After earlier laws in the Massachusetts Bay Colony (1641) and Connecticut Colony (1650) limit slavery to some extent, a 1652 law in the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations clearly limits bond service to no more than 10 years or no later than a person attaining the age of 24.  Nevertheless, Newport becomes a large slave trade center a century later. 
- of Northampton County is the first Virginian to be judicially confirmed as a slave for life other than for violation of the law. 
- About 2,000 of the 40,000 inhabitants of colonial Virginia are imported slaves. White indentured servants working for five years before their release are three times as numerous and provide much of the hard labor. 
- in New York City causes significant property damage and results in severe punishment or execution of the rebels. 
- Non-slaveholding farmers in Virginia persuade the Virginia General Assembly to discuss a prohibition of slavery or a ban on importing slaves. In response, the assembly raises the tariff on slaves to five pounds, which about equals the full price of an indenture, so as not to make importation of slaves as initially attractive or preferable to a mere indenture for a term of years. 
- In South Carolina, the Stono Rebellion becomes the largest slave uprising yet in the Thirteen Colonies, with 25 white people and 35 to 50 black people killed. 
- Another insurrection of slaves in New York City causes significant property damage slaves are severely punished or executed. 
- , led by James Pemberton and others including Benjamin Rush and Benjamin Franklin, organize the first abolitionist society in the colonies, the Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery, in Philadelphia. 
- The United States Declaration of Independence declares "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Slavery remains legal in the new nation. 
- The Republic of Vermont, an independent state at the time, prohibits slavery in its constitution. 
- The Virginia legislature passes a law, with Thomas Jefferson's support and probably authorship, that bans importing slaves into Virginia. It is the first state to ban the slave trade, and all other states eventually follow suit. 
- A gradual emancipation law is adopted in Pennsylvania.  bans slavery in its constitution. 
- Virginia liberalizes its very strict law preventing manumission under the new law, a master may emancipate slaves in his will or by deed. 
- The New Hampshire Constitution says children will be born free, but some slavery persists until the 1840s. 
- and Connecticut pass laws providing for gradual emancipation of slaves. 
- The Continental Congress rejects by one vote Jefferson's proposal to prohibit slavery in all territories, including areas that become the states of Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee. 
- writes: "There is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a plan adopted for the abolition of it [slavery]."  Civil War era historian William Blake says these "sentiments were confined to a few liberal and enlightened men." 
- July 13: Under the Articles of Confederation, the Continental Congress passes the Northwest Ordinance to govern the frontier territory north of the Ohio River and west of Pennsylvania, which includes the future states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and Minnesota. In the ordinance, Congress prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude in the Northwest Territory and requires the return of fugitive slaves captured in the territory to their owners. The law no longer applies as soon as the territories become states. In the following years, anti-slavery Northerners cite the ordinance many times as precedent for the limitation, if not the abolition, of slavery in the United States. Despite the terms of the ordinance, Southern-born settlers try and fail to pass laws to allow slavery in Indiana and Illinois. 
- The Constitutional Convention drafts the new United States Constitution with many compromises between supporters and opponents of slavery, including the Three-Fifths Compromise, which increases legislative representation in the House of Representatives and Electoral College by counting each slave as three-fifths of a person (Article I, Section 2). Additionally, the passage of any law that would prohibit the importation of slaves is forbidden for 20 years (Article I, Section 9) and the return of slaves who escape to free states is required (Article IV, Section 2). 
- August 7: Congress re-adopts the Northwest Ordinance under the Constitution. 
- The total U.S. slave population according to the 1790 United States Census is 697,681.  The number will grow to nearly 4 million by 1860, 3.5 million of whom live in the seceding Southern states. 
- is admitted to the Union as a free state.  is admitted to the Union by a joint resolution of Congress before the state has adopted a constitution.  of Virginia gradually begins to free his 452 slaves. He will perform the largest manumission of slaves in U.S. history. 
- Kentucky drafts a constitution permitting slavery and is admitted to the Union. 
- Congress passes the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, based on Article IV Section 2 of the Constitution and guaranteeing a slaveholder's right to recover an escaped slave.  invents the cotton gin, making possible the profitable large-scale production of short-staple cotton in the South. The demand for slave labor increases with the resulting increase in cotton production. 
- In the Slave Trade Act of 1794 Congress prohibits ships from engaging in the international slave trade.  By 1794, every existing state has banned the international slave trade (though South Carolina reopens it in 1803). 
- is admitted to the Union as a slave state. 
- The legislatures of Kentucky and Virginia pass the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, which are anonymously written by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Most other states reject the Resolutions, which claim that the states can negate federal laws that go beyond the federal government's limited powers. In the second Kentucky resolution of November 1799, the Kentucky legislature says the remedy for an unconstitutional act is "nullification". 
- enacts a law that gradually abolishes slavery. It declared children of slaves born after July 4, 1799, to be legally free, but the children had to serve an extended period of indentured servitude: to the age of 28 for males and to 25 for females. Slaves born before that date were redefined as indentured servants but essentially continued as slaves for life.  dies on December 14, 1799. His will frees the 124 slaves that he owns outright upon the death of his wife, Martha. They are freed by Martha in 1801, about 18 months before her death. Richard Allen, a black minister, calls on the nation's white leaders to follow Washington's lead. 
- The U.S. slave population according to the 1800 United States Census is 893,605 (as corrected by late additions from Maryland and Tennessee). 
- The Gabriel Plot is led by Gabriel Prosser, a literate blacksmith slave. He plans to seize the Richmond, Virginia armory, then take control of the city, which would lead to freedom for himself and other slaves in the area. The plot is discovered before it can be carried out Gabriel, along with 26 to 40 others, is executed. 
- The United States purchases the Louisiana Territory from France. Slavery already exists in the territory and efforts to restrict it fail the new lands thereby permit a great expansion of slave plantations.  is admitted to the Union as a free state. Three hundred Blacks live there and the legislature tries to keep others out. 
- enacts a law that provides for the gradual abolition of slavery. All states north of the Mason–Dixon line (the boundary between Maryland and Pennsylvania) have now abolished or provided for the gradual abolition of slavery within their boundaries. 
- The American Convention of Abolition Societies meets without any societies from Southern states in attendance.  becomes the first independent country in the Americas made up of freed slaves after the conclusion of the Haitian Revolution. Following the revolution, under the orders of the radical general Jean-Jacques Dessalines, almost the entirety of the remaining white French population of Haiti is ethnically cleansed in the 1804 Haiti Massacre. As a result of these events, white supremacist sentiment was bolstered in the Antebellum South.
- January: Slaves overpower and whip their overseer and assistants at Chatham Manor, near Fredericksburg, Virginia, in protest of shortened holidays. An armed posse of white men quickly gathers to capture the slaves, killing one slave in the attack. Two others die trying to escape and the posse deports two more, likely to slavery in the Caribbean. 
- Virginia repeals much of the 1782 law that had permitted more liberal emancipation of slaves, making emancipation much more difficult and expensive. Also, a statute permits a widow to revoke a manumission provision in her husband's will within one year of his death. 
- With the expiration of the 20-year ban on Congressional action on the subject, President Thomas Jefferson, a lifelong enemy of the slave trade  , calls on Congress to criminalize the international slave trade, calling it "violations of human rights which have been so long continued on the unoffending inhabitants of Africa, and which the morality, the reputation, and the best interests of our country have long been eager to proscribe".  At Jefferson's urging, Congress outlaws the international slave trade in an Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves, whereby importing or exporting slaves becomes a federal crime, effective January 1, 1808 in 1820 it is made the crime of piracy. Previously about 14,000 new foreign-born slaves had arrived in the U.S. each year. This number is dramatically reduced following the new law, but illegal smuggling continues to bring in about 1,000 new slaves per year.  During the debates, Congressman John Randolph of Roanoke warns that outlawing the slave trade might become the "pretext of universal emancipation" and further warns that it would "blow up the constitution". If ever there should be disunion, he prophesies, the line would be drawn between the states that did and those that did not hold slaves. 
- The U.S. slave population according to the 1810 United States Census is 27,510 slaves in the North and 1,191,364 in the South.  The percentage of free blacks increases in the Upper South from less than one percent before the American Revolution to 10 percent by 1810. Three-quarters of all blacks in Delaware are free. 
- is admitted to the Union as a slave state. 
- The Hartford Convention, featuring delegates from Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island and others, discusses New England's opposition to the War of 1812 and trade embargoes. The convention report says that New England had a "duty" to assert its authority over unconstitutional infringements on its sovereignty, a position similar to the later nullification theory put forward by South Carolina. The war soon ends and the convention and the Federalist Party which had supported it fall out of favor, especially in the South, although leaders in Southern states later adopt the states' rights concept for their own purposes. 
- , James Monroe, Bushrod Washington, Robert Finley, Samuel John Mills Jr. and others organize the American Colonization Society to fund the migration of about 10,000 freed slaves to Liberia. 
- In Philadelphia, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the first black denomination in the United States, is established by Richard Allen.  is admitted to the Union as a free state. The 1816 state constitution frees all the slaves within state lines. 
- is admitted to the Union a slave state. 
- is admitted to the Union as a free state. 
- The Missouri Territory petitions Congress for admission to the Union as a slave state. Missouri's possible admission as a slave state threatens the balance of 11 free states and 11 slave states. Three years of debate ensue. 
- is admitted to the Union as a slave state. 
- Missouri again petitions for admission to the Union. 
- U.S. Representative James Tallmadge, Jr. of New York submits an amendment to the legislation for the admission of Missouri which would prohibit further introduction of slaves into Missouri. The proposal would also free all children of slave parents in Missouri when they reached the age of 25. Representative Thomas W. Cobb of Georgia threatens disunion if Tallmadge persists in attempting to have his amendment enacted.  The measure passes in the House of Representatives but is defeated in the Senate. 
- Southern Senators delay a bill to admit Maine as a free state in response to the delay of Missouri's admission as a slave state. 
- The U.S. slave population according to the 1820 United States Census is 1,538,000. Henry Clay of Kentucky proposes the Missouri Compromise to break the Congressional deadlock over Missouri's admission to the Union.  The compromise proposes that Missouri be admitted as a slave state and that the northern counties of Massachusetts, later the State of Maine, be admitted as a free state, thereby preserving the balance between slave and free states.  The Missouri Compromise also includes a provision that prohibits slavery in all territory west of the Mississippi River and north of 36°30' latitude, with the exception of Missouri. Many Southerners argue against the exclusion of slavery from such a large area of the country, but the compromise passes nevertheless. 
- March 15: Maine is admitted to the Union as a free state.
- The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church is founded in New York City. 
- August 10: Missouri is admitted to the Union as a slave state. Its legislature soon passes a law excluding free blacks and mulattoes from the state in violation of a Congressional condition to its admission. 
- The Vesey Plot causes fear among whites in South Carolina, who are convinced that Denmark Vesey and other slaves are planning a violent slave uprising in the Charleston area. The plot is discovered and Vesey and 34 of his presumed followers are seized and hanged. 
- Congregationalist minister Charles Grandison Finney, a leader of the religious revivals of the Second Great Awakening, includes abolitionism among its social reforms. 
- New Jersey, later followed by Pennsylvania, passes the first personal liberty laws, which require a judicial hearing before an alleged fugitive slave can be removed from the state. 
- Thomas Cooper of South Carolina publishes On the Constitution, an early essay in favor of states' rights. 
- The process of gradual emancipation is completed in New York state and the last indentured servant is freed. 
- Congress passes the Tariff of 1828. It is called the "Tariff of Abominations" by its opponents in the cotton South. 
- The opposition of Southern cotton planters to transfer of federal funds in one state to another state for internal improvements and to protective tariffs to aid small Northern industries competing with foreign goods leads a South Carolina legislative committee to issue a report entitled South Carolina Exposition and Protest.  The report outlines the nullification doctrine, which proposes to reserve to each state the right to nullify an act of Congress that injures perceived reserved state rights as unconstitutional and permit the state to prevent the law's enforcement within its borders. James Madison of Virginia calls the doctrine a "preposterous and anarchical pretension." The report threatens secession of South Carolina over high tariff taxes. In 1831, Vice President John C. Calhoun admits he was the author of the previously unsigned South Carolina committee report. 
- , a freed slave from North Carolina living in Boston, publishes Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World, calling on slaves to revolt and destroy slavery. 
- The U.S. slave population according to the 1830 United States Census is 2,009,043. 
- In North Carolina v. Mann, the Supreme Court of North Carolina rules that slave owners have absolute authority over their slaves and cannot be found guilty of committing violence against them. delivers a speech entitled Reply to Hayne. Webster condemns the proposition expressed by Senator Robert Y. Hayne of South Carolina that Americans must choose between liberty and union. Webster's closing words become an iconic statement of American nationalism: "Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!" 
- The National Negro Convention, a black abolitionist and civil rights organization, is founded. 
- Abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison begins publishing The Liberator, a greatly influential publication. About this time, abolitionism takes a radical and religious turn. Many abolitionists begin to demand immediate emancipation of slaves. 
- August: Nat Turner leads a slave revolt in Southampton County, Virginia. At least 58 white persons are killed. Whites in turn kill about 100 blacks in the area during the search for Turner and his companions and in retaliation for their actions. Turner is captured several months later, after which he and 12 of his followers are executed. Turner's actions outrage Southerners and some suspect abolitionists supported him. They prepare for further uprisings. 
- Southern defenders of slavery start describing it as a "positive good", not just a "necessary evil". 
- Congress enacts a new protective tariff, the Tariff of 1832, which offers South Carolina and the South little relief and provokes new controversy between the sections of the country.  further explains the nullification doctrine in an open letter to South Carolina Governor James Hamilton, Jr., arguing that the Constitution only raises the federal government to the level of the state, not above it. He argues that nullification is not secession and does not require secession to take effect.  writes Review of the Debate in the Virginia Legislature of 1831 and 1832, a strong defense of slavery and attack on colonization in Africa by freed slaves. 
- November 19: South Carolina calls a state convention, which passes an Ordinance of Nullification with an effective date of February 1, 1833. The convention declares the tariff void because it threatens the state's essential interests. The South Carolina legislature acts to enforce the ordinance. 
- President Andrew Jackson, a Southerner and slave owner, calls nullification "rebellious treason" and threatens to use force against possible secessionist action in South Carolina caused by the Nullification Crisis.  Congress passes the "Force Bill", which permits the President to use the Army and Navy to enforce the law. Jackson also urges Congress to modify the tariff, which they soon do. 
- The Compromise Tariff of 1833 proposed by Henry Clay ends the Nullification Crisis by lowering some tariff rates. No other states support South Carolina's argument and position and, after Clay's compromise legislation passes, South Carolina withdraws its resolution. 
- The abolitionist American Anti-Slavery Society is founded in Philadelphia. The movement soon splits into five factions  that do not always agree but which continue to advocate abolition in their own ways. 
- Abolitionist Lydia Maria Child of Massachusetts publishes An Appeal in Favor of That Class of Americans Called Africans. Wendell Phillips and Charles Sumner are persuaded to become abolitionists. 
- Anti-slavery "debates" are held at Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio. Lane had been founded by abolitionist evangelist and writer Theodore Dwight Weld with financial help from abolitionist merchants and philanthropists Arthur Tappan and Lewis Tappan. 
- A Georgia law prescribes the death penalty for publication of material with the intention of provoking a slave rebellion. 
- May 26: The U.S. House of Representatives passes the Pinckney Resolutions. The first two resolutions state that Congress has no constitutional authority to interfere with slavery in the states and that it "ought not" to do so in the District of Columbia. The third resolution, from the outset known as the "gag rule", says: "All petitions, memorials, resolutions, propositions, or papers, relating in any way, or to any extent whatsoever, to the subject of slavery or the abolition of slavery, shall, without being either printed or referred, be laid on the table and that no further action whatever shall be had thereon."  Massachusetts representative and former President John Quincy Adams leads an eight-year battle against the gag rule. He argues that the Slave Power, as a political interest, threatens constitutional rights. 
- The Republic of Texas declares and wins its independence from Mexico in the Texas Revolution.  is admitted to the Union as a slave state. 
- Committed abolitionists Angelina Grimké Weld and her sister Sarah Grimké who were born in Charleston, South Carolina, move to Philadelphia because of their anti-slavery philosophy and Quaker faith. In 1836, Angelina publishes "An Appeal to the Christian Women of the South", inviting them to overthrow slavery, which she declares is a horrible system of oppression and cruelty. 
- Democratic Party nominee Martin Van Buren, a New Yorker with Southern sympathies, wins the 1836 presidential election. 
- In Alton, Illinois, a mob kills abolitionist and anti-Catholic editor Elijah P. Lovejoy, whose newspaper angered Southerners and Irish Catholics. 
- Michigan is admitted to the Union as a free state. 
- , built by the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society, was destroyed by arson three days after it opened.
- Kentucky Congressman William J. Graves kills Maine Congressman Jonathan Cilley in a duel. 
- Anti-slavery societies claim to have 250,000 members. 
- Slaves revolt on the Spanish ship La Amistad and attempt to return it to Africa, but the ship ends up in the U.S. After a highly publicized Supreme Court case argued by John Quincy Adams, the slaves are freed in March 1841, and most return to Africa. 
- Northern abolitionist Reverend Theodore Dwight Weld condemns slavery in American Slavery As It Is. He makes his argument by quoting slave owners' words as used in southern newspaper advertisements and articles. 
- The U.S. slave population according to the 1840 United States Census is 2,487,000. 
- The abolitionist Liberty Party nominates James G. Birney of Kentucky for President.  wins the 1840 Presidential election. 
- Arthur Tappan and Lewis Tappan organize the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. 
- The last lifetime indentured servant in New York is freed.  after 30 days of becoming president, and his VP, John Tyler, takes over. 
- Slaves being moved from Virginia to Louisiana seize the brig Creole and land in the Bahamas, which as a British colony had already abolished slavery. The British give asylum to 111 slaves (giving the 19 ringleaders accused of murder their freedom once the case is decided in court). The U.S. government protests and in 1855 the British paid $119,000 to the original owners of the slaves. 
- In Prigg v. Pennsylvania, the U.S. Supreme Court declares the Pennsylvania personal liberty law unconstitutional as in conflict with federal fugitive slave law. The Court holds that enforcement of the fugitive slave law is the responsibility of the federal government. 
- Massachusetts and eight other states pass personal liberty laws under which state officials are forbidden to assist in the capture of fugitive slaves. 
- The Methodist Episcopal Church, South breaks away from the Methodist Episcopal Church on the issue of slavery. 
- Well-known black abolitionist, Charles Lenox Remond, and famous white abolitionist, William Lloyd Garrison, declare they would rather see the union dissolved than keep the Constitution only through the retention of slavery. 
- is admitted to the Union as a slave state. 
- The Southern Baptist Convention breaks from the Northern Baptists but does not formally endorse slavery.  publishes his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself. The book details his life as a slave. 
- Former U.S. Representative and Governor of South Carolina and future U.S. Senator James Henry Hammond writes Two Letters on Slavery in the United States, Addressed to Thomas Clarkson, Esq., in which he expresses the view that slavery is a positive good. 
- Anti-slavery advocates denounce Texas Annexation as evil expansion of slave territory. Whigs defeat an annexation treaty but Congress annexes Texas to the United States as a slave state by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress on a joint resolution without ratification of a treaty by a two-thirds vote in the U.S. Senate.  is admitted to the Union as a slave state. 
- The Walker Tariff reduction leads to a period of free trade until 1860. Republicans (and Pennsylvania Democrats) attack the low level of the tariff rates.  establishes DeBow's Review, the leading Southern magazine, which becomes an ardent advocate of secession. DeBow warns against depending on the North economically. 
- The Mexican–American War begins. The administration of President James K. Polk had deployed the Army to disputed Texas territory and Mexican forces attacked it.  Whigs denounce the war. Antislavery critics charge the war is a pretext for gaining more slave territory. The U.S. Army quickly captures New Mexico. 
- Northern representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives pass the Wilmot Proviso which would prevent slavery in territory captured from Mexico. Southern Senators block passage of the proviso into law in the U. S. Senate. The Wilmot Proviso never becomes law but it does substantially increase friction between the North and South. Congress also rejects a proposal to extend the Missouri Compromise line to the west coast and other compromise proposals.  is admitted to the Union as a free state. 
- The Massachusetts legislature resolves that the "unconstitutional" Mexican–American War was being waged for "the triple object of extending slavery, of strengthening the slave power, and of obtaining control of the free states". 
- John C. Calhoun asserts that slavery is legal in all of the territories, foreshadowing the U.S. Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision in 1857. 
- Democrat Lewis Cass of Michigan proposes letting the people of a territory vote on whether to permit slavery in the territory. This theory of popular sovereignty would be further endorsed and advocated by Democratic Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois in the mid-1850s. 
- The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo confirms the Texas border with Mexico and U.S. possession of California and the New Mexico territory. The U.S. Senate rejects attempts to attach the Wilmot Proviso during the ratification vote on the treaty. 
- Radical New York Democrats and anti-slavery Whigs form the Free-Soil party. The party names former President Martin Van Buren as its presidential candidate and demands enactment of the Wilmot Proviso. The party argues that rich planters will squeeze out small white farmers and buy their land. The Whig Party candidate, General Zachary Taylor, who owned slaves, wins the United States Presidential Election of 1848. Taylor expresses no view on slavery in the Southwest during campaign. After the election, he reveals a plan to admit California and New Mexico to the Union as free states covering entire Southwest and to exclude slavery from any territories. Taylor warns the South that he will meet rebellion with force. His moderate views on the expansion of slavery and the acceptability of the Wilmot Proviso angered his unsuspecting Southern supporters but did not fully satisfy Northerners who wanted to limit or abolish slavery.  is admitted to the Union as a free state. 
- The Oregon Treaty between the United States and Great Britain ends the Oregon boundary dispute, defines the final western segment of the Canada–United States border and ends the scare of a war between the U.S. and Great Britain. Northern Democrats complain that the Polk administration backed down on the demand that the northern boundary of Oregon be set at 54°40' latitude and sacrificed Northern expansion while supporting Southern expansion through the Mexican–American War and the treaty ending that war. 
- The Polk administration offers Spain $100 million for Cuba. 
- Southerners support Narciso López's attempt to cause an uprising in Cuba in favor of American annexation of the island, which allows slavery. López is defeated and flees to the United States. He is tried for violation of neutrality laws but a New Orleans jury fails to convict him. 
- The California Gold Rush quickly populates Northern California with Northern-born and immigrant settlers who outnumber Southern-born settlers. California's constitutional convention unanimously rejects slavery and petitions to join the Union as a free state without first being organized as a territory. President Zachary Taylor asks Congress to admit California as a free state, saying he will suppress secession if it is attempted by any dissenting states.  escapes from slavery. She makes about 20 trips to the South and returns along the Underground Railroad with slaves seeking freedom. 
- The U.S. slave population according to the 1850 United States Census is 3,204,313. 
- March 11: U.S. Senator William H. Seward of New York delivers his "Higher Law" address. He states that a compromise on slavery is wrong because under a higher law than the Constitution, the law of God, all men are free and equal. 
- April 17: U.S. Senator Henry S. Foote of Mississippi pulls a pistol on anti-slavery Senator Benton on the floor of the Senate. 
- President Taylor dies on July 9 and is succeeded by Vice President Millard Fillmore. Although he is a New Yorker, Fillmore is more inclined to compromise with or even support Southern interests.  proposes the Compromise of 1850 to handle California's petition for admission to the union as a free state and Texas's demand for land in New Mexico. Clay proposes (1) admission of California, (2) prohibition of Texas expansion into New Mexico, (3) compensation of $10 million to Texas to finance its public debt, (4) permission to citizens of New Mexico and Utah to vote on whether slavery would be allowed in their territories (popular sovereignty), (5) a ban of the slave trade in the District of Columbia slavery would still be allowed in the district, and (6) a stronger fugitive slave law with more vigorous enforcement.
- Under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, a slave owner could reclaim a runaway slave by establishing ownership before a commissioner rather than in a jury trial. Clay's initial omnibus bill that included all these provisions failed. Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois then established different coalitions that passed each provision separately. 
- Responses to the Compromise of 1850 varied. Southerners cease movement toward disunion but are angered by Northern resistance to enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act. Anti-slavery forces are upset about possible expansion of slavery in the Southwest and the stronger fugitive slave law that could require all U.S. citizens to assist in returning fugitive slaves. 
- The Nashville Convention of nine Southern states discusses states' rights and slavery in June in November, the convention talks about secession but adjourns due to the passage of the laws that constitute the Compromise of 1850. 
- The Utah Territory is organized and adopts a slave code. Only 29 slaves are found in the territory in 1860. 
- October: The Boston Vigilance Committee frees two fugitive slaves, Ellen and William Craft, from jail and prevents them from being returned to Georgia. 
- in several states defeat secession measures. Mississippi's convention denies the existence of the right to secession. 
- February: a crowd of black men in Boston frees fugitive slave Shadrach Minkins, also known as Fred Wilkins, who was being held in the federal courthouse, and helps him escape to Canada. 
- April: The federal government guards fugitive slave Thomas Sims with 300 soldiers to prevent local sympathizers from helping him with an escape attempt. 
- September: Free blacks confront a slave owner, his son and their allies who are trying to capture two fugitive slaves at Christiana, Pennsylvania. In the gunfight that follows, three blacks and the slave owner are killed while his son is seriously wounded. 
- October: Black and white abolitionists free fugitive slave Jerry McHenry from the Syracuse, New York jail and aid his escape to Canada. 
- In Lemmon v. New York, a New York court frees eight slaves in transit from Virginia with their owner. 
- After magazine publication, Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe is published in book form. The powerful novel depicts slave owner "Simon Legree" as deeply evil, and the slave "Uncle Tom" as the Christ-like hero.  It sells between 500,000 and 1,000,000 copies in U.S. and even more in Great Britain. Millions of people see the stage adaptation. By June 1852, Southerners move to suppress the book's publication in the South and numerous "refutations" appear in print. 
- April 30: A convention called by the legislature in South Carolina adopts "An Ordinance to Declare the Right of this State to Secede from the Federal Union". 
- The Whig party and its candidate for president, Army general Winfield Scott, are decisively defeated in the election and the party quickly fades away.  Pro-South ("doughface") Democrat Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire is elected president. 
- Democrats control state governments in all the states which will form the Confederate States of America. 
- The United States adds a 29,670-square-mile (76,800 km 2 ) region of present-day southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico to the United States through the Gadsden Purchase of territory from Mexico. The purposes of the Gadsden Purchase are the construction of a transcontinental railroad along a deep southern route and the reconciliation of outstanding border issues following the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican–American War. Many early settlers in the region are pro-slavery. 
- Filibusterer William Walker and a few dozen men briefly take over Baja California in an effort to expand slave territory. When they are forced to retreat to California and put on trial for violating neutrality laws, they are acquitted by a jury that deliberated for only eight minutes. 
- Democratic U.S. Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois proposes the Kansas–Nebraska Bill to open good Midwestern farmland to settlement and to encourage building of a transcontinental railroad with a terminus at Chicago. Whether slavery would be permitted in a territory would be determined by a vote of the people at the time a territory is organized. 
- Congress enacts the Kansas–Nebraska Act, providing that popular sovereignty, a vote of the people when a territory is organized, will decide "all questions pertaining to slavery" in the Kansas–Nebraska territories. This abrogates the Missouri Compromise prohibition of slavery north of the 36°30' line of latitude and increases Northerners' fears of a Slave Power encroaching on the North.  Both Northerners and Southerners rush to the Kansas and Nebraska territories to express their opinion in the voting. Especially in Kansas, many voters are pro-slavery Missouri residents who enter Kansas simply to vote. 
- Opponents of slavery and the Kansas–Nebraska Act meet in Ripon, Wisconsin in February, and subsequently meet in other Northern states, to form the Republican Party.  The party includes many former members of the Whig and Free Soil parties and some northern Democrats. Republicans win most of the Northern state seats in the U.S. House of Representatives in the fall 1854 elections as 66 of 91 Northern state Democrats are defeated. Abraham Lincoln emerges as a Republican leader in the West (Illinois).  forms the New England Emigrant Aid Society to encourage settlement of Kansas by persons opposed to slavery. 
- Bitter fighting breaks out in Kansas Territory as pro-slavery men win a majority of seats in the legislature, expel anti-slavery legislators and adopt the pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution for the proposed state of Kansas. 
- The Ostend Manifesto, a dispatch sent from France by the U.S. ministers to Britain, France and Spain after a meeting in Ostend, Belgium, describes the rationale for the United States to purchase Cuba (a territory which had slavery) from Spain and implies the U.S. should declare war if Spain refuses to sell the island. Four months after the dispatch is drafted, it is published in full at the request of the U.S. House of Representatives. Northern states view the document as a Southern attempt to extend slavery. European nations consider it as a threat to Spain and to imperial power. The U.S. government never acts upon the recommendations in the Ostend Manifesto.  , a fugitive slave from Virginia, is arrested by federal agents in Boston. Radical abolitionists attack the courthouse and kill a deputy marshal in an unsuccessful attempt to free Burns. 
- Abolitionist editor Sherman Booth was arrested for violating the Fugitive Slave Act when he helped incite a mob to rescue an escaped slave, Joshua Glover, in Wisconsin from U.S. Marshal Stephen V. R. Ableman. 
- The Knights of the Golden Circle, a fraternal organization that wants to expand slavery to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean Islands, including Cuba, and northern South America, is founded in Louisville, Kentucky. 
- Former Mississippi Governor John A. Quitman begins to raise money and volunteers to invade Cuba, but is slow to act and cancels the invasion plan in spring 1855 when President Pierce says he would enforce the neutrality laws. 
- The Know-Nothing Party or American Party, which includes many nativist former Whigs, sweeps state and local elections in parts of some Northern states. The party demands ethnic purification, opposes Catholics (because of the presumed power of the Pope over them), and opposes corruption in local politics. The party soon fades away.  's pro-slavery Sociology for the South is published. 
- Violence by pro-slavery looters from Missouri known as Border Ruffians and anti-slavery groups known as Jayhawkers breaks out in "Bleeding Kansas", as pro- and anti-slavery partisans try to organize the territory as slave or free. Many Ruffians vote illegally in Kansas. Estimates will show that the violence in Kansas resulted in about 200 persons killed and $2 million worth of property destroyed during the middle and late 1850s. Over 95 percent of the pro-slavery votes in the election of a Kansas territorial legislature in 1855 are later determined to be fraudulent. 
- Anti-slavery Kansans draft the Topeka Constitution and elect a new legislature which actually represents the majority of legal voters. Kansas now has two constitutions, one pro- and one anti-slavery, and two different governments in two different cities, each claiming to be the legitimate government of Kansas. 
- May 21: Missouri Ruffians and local pro-slavery men sack and burn the town of Lawrence, Kansas, an anti-slavery stronghold.  , an abolitionist born in Connecticut, and his sons kill five pro-slavery men from Pottawatomie Creek in retaliation for the Sacking of Lawrence. 
- May 22: Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina beats with a cane and incapacitates Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts on the floor of the U.S. Senate. In a speech in the Senate chamber, The Crime Against Kansas, Sumner ridicules slaveowners—especially Brooks's cousin, U.S. Senator Andrew Butler of South Carolina—as in love with a prostitute (slavery) and raping the virgin Kansas. Brooks is a hero in the South, Sumner a martyr in the North. 
- In the 1856 U.S. presidential election, Republican John C. Frémont crusades against slavery. The Republican slogan is "Free speech, free press, free soil, free men, Frémont and victory!" Democrats counter that Fremont's election could lead to civil war. The Democratic Party candidate, James Buchanan, who carries five northern and western states and all the southern states except Maryland, wins.  , a New York Democrat, writes Southern Wealth and Northern Profits, a lengthy statistical pamphlet about the economies of the Northern and Southern regions of the country. The book receives wide acclaim among secessionists in the South and much derision from anti-slavery politicians in the North, even though some historians think Kettell intended it as an argument that the two regions are economically dependent upon each other. 
- Filibuster William Walker, in alliance with local rebels, overthrows the government of Nicaragua and proclaims himself president. He decrees the reintroduction of slavery. Many of Walker's men succumb to cholera and he and his remaining men are rescued by the U.S. Navy in May 1857. 
- publishes Cannibals All! Or Slaves Without Masters, which defends chattel slavery and ridicules free labor as wage slavery. 
- Commercial conventions in the South call for the reopening of the African slave trade, thinking that a ready access to inexpensive slaves would spread slavery to the territories.  , a North Carolinian, publishes The Impending Crisis of the South, which argues that slavery was the main cause of the South's economic stagnation. This charge angers many Southerners. 
- The U.S. Supreme Court reaches the Dred Scott v. Sandford decision, a 7 to 2 ruling that Congress lacks the power to exclude slavery from the territories, that slaves are property and have no rights as citizens and that slaves are not made free by living in free territory. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney concludes that the Missouri Compromise is unconstitutional. If a court majority clearly agreed (which it did not in this decision), this conclusion would allow all territories to be open to slavery. Scott and his family were purchased and freed by a supporter's children. Northerners vowed to oppose the decision as in violation of a "higher law". Antagonism between the sections of the country increases. 
- Anti-slavery supporters in Kansas ignore a June election to a constitutional convention because less populous pro-slavery counties were given a majority of delegates. The convention adopts the pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution. Meanwhile, anti-slavery representatives win control of the state legislature. 
- August: The Panic of 1857 arises, mainly in large northern cities, as a result of speculation in and inflated values of railroad stocks and real estate. Southerners tout the small effect in their section as support for their economic and labor system. 
- Buchanan endorses the Lecompton constitution and breaks with Douglas, who regards the document as a mockery of popular sovereignty because its referendum provision does not offer a true free state option. A bitter feud begins inside the Democratic party. Douglas's opposition to the Lecompton constitution erodes his support from pro-slavery factions. 
- The Tariff of 1857, authored primarily by R. M. T. Hunter of Virginia, uses the Walker Tariff as a base and lowers rates. 
- is admitted to the Union as a free state. 
- February: A fistfight among thirty Congressmen divided along sectional lines takes place on the floor of Congress during an all-night debate on the Lecompton constitution. 
- The U.S. House of Representatives rejects the pro-slavery Lecompton constitution for Kansas on April 1. 
- Congress passes the English Bill, proposed by Representative William Hayden English of Indiana, which sends the Lecompton constitution back to the voters of Kansas. 
- May 19: Pro-slavery Missourians capture 11 free-staters in Kansas, then attempt to execute them in the Marais des Cygnes Massacre. Five are killed and five wounded. 
- June 16: Lincoln gives his "House Divided" speech. 
- August 2: Kansas voters reject the pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution. 
- The New School Presbyterians split as the New Schoolers in the South who support slavery split and form the United Synod of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. In 1861, the Old School church splits along North–South lines. 
- The Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858 focus on issues and arguments that will dominate the Presidential election campaign of 1860. Pro-Douglas candidates win a small majority in the Illinois legislature in the general election and choose Douglas as U.S. Senator from Illinois for another term. However, Lincoln emerges as a nationally known moderate spokesman for Republicans and a moderate opponent of slavery. 
- In a debate with Lincoln at Freeport, Illinois, Douglas expresses an opinion which becomes known as the "Freeport Doctrine". Lincoln asks whether the people of a territory could lawfully exclude slavery before the territory became a state. In effect, this question asks Douglas to reconcile popular sovereignty with the Dred Scott decision. Douglas says they could do so by refusing to pass the type of police regulations needed to sustain slavery. This answer further alienates pro-slavery advocates from Douglas. 
- Senator James Henry Hammond of South Carolina proclaims: "No, you dare not make war on cotton. No power on earth dares to make war upon it. Cotton is King until lately the Bank of England was king but she tried to put her screws, as usual. on the cotton crop, and was utterly vanquished", which argues that even Europe is dependent on the cotton economy of the Southern states and would have to intervene in any U.S. conflict, even an internal threat, to protect its vital source of raw material, King Cotton.  and Edmund Ruffin found the League of United Southerners. They advocate reopening the African slave trade and the formation of a Southern confederacy. 
- U.S. Senator William H. Seward says there is an "irrepressible conflict" between slavery and freedom. 
- Although solid evidence of their guilt is presented, the crew of the illegal slave ship The Wanderer is acquitted of engaging in the African slave trade by a Savannah, Georgia jury. Similarly, a Charleston, South Carolina jury acquits the crew of The Echo, another illegal slave ship which is caught with 320 Africans on board. 
- Southerners block an increase in the low tariff rates of 1857. 
- February: U.S. Senator Albert G. Brown of Mississippi says that if a territory requires a slave code in line with Douglas' Freeport Doctrine, the federal government must pass a slave code to protect slavery in the territories. If it does not, Brown says he will urge Mississippi to secede from the Union.  is admitted to the Union as a free state, but prohibits the residency of any person of African origin, slave or free. 
- In Ableman v. Booth, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law is constitutional and that state courts cannot overrule federal court decisions. 
- President Buchanan and Southern members of Congress, including Senator John Slidell of Louisiana, make another attempt to buy Cuba from Spain. Douglas supports the proposed annexation of Cuba. Republicans block funding. 
- Southern senators block a homestead act that would have given settlers in the West each 160 acres of land. 
- The Southern Commercial Convention endorses reopening the African slave trade to reduce the price of slaves and widen slaveholding. Many members think this would lessen feelings that the slave trade was immoral and provide an incentive or tool for Southern nationalism. 
- October 4: Kansas voters adopt the anti-slavery Wyandotte Constitution by a 2-to-1 margin. 
- October 16: Kansas abolitionist John Brown attempts to spark a slave rebellion in Virginia through seizure of weapons from the federal armory at Harpers Ferry.  Brown holds the arsenal for 36 hours. No slaves join him and no rebellion ensues but 17 persons, including 10 of Brown's men, are killed. Brown and his remaining men are captured by U.S. Marines led by Army Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee.  Brown is tried for treason to the state of Virginia, murder, and inciting a slave insurrection. He was found guilty of all charges.
- November 2: John Brown is sentenced and delivers his famous "last speech".
- The New Mexico Territory adopts a slave code, but no slaves are in the territory according to the 1860 census. 
- December 2: John Brown is hanged, in Charles Town, Virginia (now West Virginia).  Across the North it is treated as a national calamity church bells are rung, rallies held, speeches and sermons given. Brown is seen as a martyr to the cause of ending slavery. Brown is seen in the South as a fanatical Yankee abolitionist trying to start a bloody race war,  as well as stealing their property (the enslaved). The reaction in the North to his execution reinforces the Southern fear that more such raids would soon be coming. Secession, for which support had grown steadily since the Nullification Crisis of 1832–33, is believed by Southern leaders to be their only option. 
- Members of the Congress which convenes in December insult, level charges at, threaten, and denounce each other. Members come to the sessions armed. The House of Representatives requires eight weeks to choose a Speaker. This delays consideration of vitally important business. 
- The U.S. slave population according to the 1860 United States Census is 3,954,174.  The census also concludes that the total U.S. population has increased from 23,191,875 to 31,443,321 since the 1850 Census, an increase of 35.4 percent  26 percent of all Northerners but only 10 percent of Southerners live in towns or cities  and that 80 percent of the Southern workforce but only 40 percent of the Northern workforce is employed in agriculture. 
- Southern opposition kills the Pacific Railway Bill of 1860. President James Buchanan vetoes a homestead act. 
- February: U.S. Senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi presents a resolution stating the Southern position on slavery, including adoption of a Federal slave code for the territories. 
- February 27: Abraham Lincoln gives his Cooper Union speech against the spread of slavery. 
- The Knights of the Golden Circle reach maximum popularity and plan to invade Mexico to expand slave territory. 
- April 23 – May 3: The Democratic Party convention begins in Charleston, South Carolina. Southern radicals, or "fire-eaters", oppose front-runner Stephen A. Douglas' bid for the party's Presidential nomination. The Democrats begin splitting North and South as many Southern delegates walk out.  Douglas cannot secure the two-thirds of the vote needed for the nomination. After 57 ballots, the convention adjourns to meet in Baltimore six weeks later. 
- May 9: Former Whigs from the border states form the Constitutional Union Party and nominate former U.S. Senator John C. Bell of Tennessee for President and Edward Everett of Massachusetts for Vice President on a one-issue platform of national unity. 
- May 16: William H. Seward of New York, Salmon P. Chase of Ohio, and Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania are leading contenders for the Republican presidential nomination, along with the more moderate Abraham Lincoln of Illinois, when the Republican convention convenes in Chicago. Lincoln supporters from Illinois skillfully gain commitments for Lincoln. On May 18, Lincoln wins the Republican Party nomination for president.  The Republicans adopt a concrete, precise, and moderately worded platform which includes the exclusion of slavery from the territories but the affirmation of the right of states to order and control their own "domestic institutions". 
- June 18: The main group of Democrats meeting in Baltimore, bolstered by some new Douglas Democrats from Southern states who are seated to the exclusion of the Southern delegates from the previous session of the convention, nominate Douglas for President. 
- June 28: Southern Democrats nominate Vice President John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky for President. Their platform endorses a national slave code.  militia stop another filibuster effort by William Walker. They capture and execute him before a firing squad on September 12, 1860. 
- November 6: Abraham Lincoln wins the 1860 presidential election on a platform that includes the prohibition of slavery in new states and territories.  Lincoln wins all of the electoral votes in all of the free states except New Jersey, where he wins 4 votes and Stephen A. Douglas wins 3.  The official count of electoral votes occurs February 13, 1861.
- November 7: Charleston, South Carolina authorities arrest a Federal officer who had attempted to move supplies to Fort Moultrie from Charleston Arsenal. Two days later, the Palmetto Flag of South Carolina is raised over the Charleston harbor batteries. 
- November 9: A false report that U.S. Senator Robert Toombs of Georgia has resigned reaches Columbia, South Carolina. 
- November 10: The South Carolina legislature calls for an election on December 6 for delegates to a convention for December 17 to consider whether the State should secede from the Union. U.S. Senators James Chesnut, Jr. and James Henry Hammond of South Carolina resign from the U.S. Senate. 
- November 14:
- Congressman Alexander H. Stephens of Georgia, later Vice President of the Confederate States of America, speaks to the Georgia legislature in opposition to secession. 
- The Governor of Alabama says he will call for an election on December 6 or December 24 for delegates to a convention to meet on January 7 to consider whether the State should secede from the Union. 
- The Governor of Mississippi calls for an extraordinary session of the legislature on November 26. On November 29, the legislature votes for an election on December 29 for delegates to a convention to meet on January 7 to consider whether the State should secede from the Union. 
- Major Robert Anderson of the First United States Artillery, a 55-year-old career army officer from Kentucky, was ordered to take command of Fort Moultrie and the defenses in Charleston Harbor, including Fort Sumter.  Lieutenant Tunis Craven informs authorities in Washington, D.C. that he is proceeding to take moves to protect Fort Taylor at Key West, Florida and Fort Jefferson on the Dry Tortugas, Florida. Craven rightly suspects Southern States will try to seize federal property and military supplies. 
- The Georgia legislature voted on November 18 for an election on January 2 for delegates to a convention to meet on January 16 to consider whether the State should secede from the Union. 
- The Florida legislature voted to call a convention. 
- January 2:
- South Carolina troops take control of dormant Fort Jackson in Charleston harbor. 
- Colonel Charles Stone begins to organize the District of Columbia militia. 
- South Carolina commissioners propose a meeting to form a provisional government for February 4 in Montgomery, Alabama. 
- Delaware legislators reject secession proposals. 
- The unarmed merchant vessel Star of the West, which is under contract to the War Department, heads for Fort Sumter from New York with 250 reinforcements and supplies. 
- U.S. Senators from seven deep South states meet and advise their states to secede. 
- Mississippi secedes from the Union. 
- South Carolina state troops at Charleston fire upon the merchant ship Star of the West and prevent it from landing reinforcements and relief supplies for Fort Sumter. After being struck twice, the ship heads back to New York. 
- Virginians vote for convention delegates, only 32 of 152 are immediate secessionists the voters require any action by the convention to be submitted to the voters. 
- U.S. Senators Judah Benjamin and John Slidell of Louisiana leave the U.S. Senate. 
- Tennessee voters vote against calling a secession convention.  arrives with reinforcements for Fort Pickens but does not land because of a local agreement of both sides not to alter the military situation. 
- U.S. Brigadier General and Brevet Major General David E. Twiggs surrenders U. S. military posts in the Department of Texas to the State of Texas and effectively surrenders the one-fourth of the United States Army which is stationed in Texas. Twiggs tells authorities in Washington he acted under threat of force but they consider his actions to be treason.  On March 1, U. S. Secretary of War Joseph Holt orders Brigadier General Twiggs dismissed from the U. S. Army "for his treachery to the flag of his country" in his surrender of military posts and Federal property in Texas to state authorities.  Twiggs soon joins the Confederate States Army.
- Arkansas voters elect a majority of Unionists to their convention. 
- Missouri voters elect all conditional or unconditional Unionists to their convention. 
- Jefferson Davis is inaugurated as President of the Confederacy. 
- The Confederate States take over the military at Charleston, South Carolina. Confederate President Davis appoints P. G. T. Beauregard as brigadier general and assigns him to command Confederate forces in the area.  Beauregard assumes command of Confederate troops at Charleston on March 3. 
- Major Anderson warns Washington authorities that little time remains to make a decision whether to evacuate or reinforce Fort Sumter. Local authorities had been allowing the fort to receive some provisions but Confederates were training and constructing works around Charleston harbor. 
- The Provisional Confederate Congress admits Texas to the Confederacy. 
- Congress approved by joint resolution a proposed constitutional amendment that would prohibit a further constitutional amendment to permit Congress to abolish or interfere with a domestic institution of a state, including slavery. It is too late to be of practical importance.  and Dakota Territory are organized. 
- President Davis names three commissioners to Britain they will not be officially received by the British government. 
- Pro-Confederates declare Arizona part of the CSA. 
- Governor Sam Houston of Texas refuses to take oath of allegiance to Confederacy and is deposed by the Texas secession convention.  Houston said: "You may, after the sacrifice of countless millions of treasures and hundreds of thousands of precious lives, as a bare possibility, win Southern independence. but I doubt it." 
- Confederate Brigadier General Braxton Bragg forbids the garrison at Fort Pickens at Pensacola, Florida to receive more supplies. 
- President Lincoln's representative, former naval commander Gustavus Vasa Fox, visits Charleston and Fort Sumter and talks both to Major Anderson and the Confederates. Fox thinks that ships still can relieve the fort. 
- Speaking at Savannah, Georgia, Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens acknowledges that black slavery is the "cornerstone" of the Confederate government. 
- President Lincoln sends Allan B. Magruder to Richmond to attempt to arrange talks with Virginia unionists. 
- A Confederate battery on Morris Island in Charleston harbor shoots at the American vessel Rhoda H. Shannon. 
- A Virginia State Convention rejects a motion to pass an ordinance of session. 
- President Lincoln advises Gustavus V. Fox that Fort Sumter will be relieved. He drafts a letter for Secretary of War Cameron to send to Major Anderson. 
- President Lincoln informs South Carolina that an attempt will be made to resupply Fort Sumter but only with provisions. 
- Since an earlier order was not carried out, orders were sent from Washington to reinforce Fort Pickens with Regular Army troops. 
- Leroy Pope Walker tells Brigadier General Braxton Bragg to resist Union reinforcement of Fort Pickens. 
- Confederate Brigadier General Beauregard tells Major Anderson that no further commerce or communication between Fort Sumter and the City of Charleston will be permitted. 
- clerk Robert S. Chew and United States War Department Captain Talbot give President Lincoln's message to Governor Pickens. 
- The U. S. Revenue Cutter Harriet Lane leaves New York with supplies for Fort Sumter.  Robert Toombs opposes using force against Fort Sumter but President Jefferson Davis says that the Confederate States had created a nation and he had a duty as its executive to use force if necessary. 
Several small skirmishes and battles as well as bloody riots in St. Louis and Baltimore took place in the early months of the war. The Battle of First Bull Run or Battle of First Manassas, the first major battle of the war, occurred on July 21, 1861. After that, it became clear that there could be no compromise between the Union and the seceding states and that a long and bloody war could not be avoided. All hope of a settlement short of a catastrophic war was lost.
The reality of the war
Losses to the Army in significant battles had the Union mired in a bloody quagmire. Moreover, Britain and France were considering support for the Confederacy by recognizing it as a sovereign country, which could have solidified secession and put Lincoln’s forces at risk of having to fight against Confederate allies from Europe.
Until September 1862, the stated purpose of the war had been to preserve the Union. With the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln sought to change the focus of the war. But the Emancipation Proclamation freed no one. Not a single slave:
All persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.
The Southern states were “in rebellion,” and Lincoln had no control over the Confederacy. Nor did he have the power to free the slaves in the South or the Union. That would require a Constitutional amendment, which wouldn’t occur until after the Civil War. In 1865, the 13th Amendment abolished slavery.
Indeed, this was a last-ditch effort to incapacitate the Confederate Army. Lincoln hoped that it would entice Southern slaves to leave and join the ranks of the Union Army, depleting the Confederacy’s labor force that was sorely needed to wage war against the Union.
Woodrow Wilson, writing in History of the American People, proposed, “It was necessary to put the South at a moral disadvantage by transforming the contest from a war waged against states fighting for their independence into a war waged against states fighting for the maintenance and extension of slavery.”
Prior to the proclamation, Lincoln confessed to New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley, “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.”
Amateur officers and West Pointers
The performance of the socalled amateur officers of the Civil War—civilians who were made captains or generals despite a lack of military training or experience—varied tremendously. Some of these officers were completely incompetent, and their companies or regiments suffered accordingly. The shortcomings of many of these officers were discovered fairly quickly though. Both the Union and the Confederacy eventually created military review boards to examine officers and remove those who were unable to do their jobs. After these boards were created, hundreds of officers were discharged or resigned voluntarily rather than face examination. The practice of electing officers on the basis of political considerations also faded away over time. It was replaced by systems that rewarded military experience and battlefield accomplishments.
Many civilian officers proved unable to handle their military duties, especially in the North. But a considerable number of them recognized the extraordinary responsibilities of their new positions. These men studied hard to gain a mastery of military strategy and an understanding of their many other duties. In fact, a number of officers pulled from civilian life performed admirably during the Civil War for both sides. In some cases they even outperformed graduates of West Point, The Citadel, and other military schools.
Still, students and graduates of West Point and the Southern military schools comprised the backbone of both sides' armies. For many of these men, the decision to fight for the North or the South was a difficult one, influenced by sometimes conflicting loyalties to family, state, and the Federal army. West Pointers who had become officers in the Federal army were courted by both sides. For example, West Pointer Robert E. Lee (1807–1870)—who eventually assumed command of the entire Confederate Army—was offered field command of the Union Army in April 1861. But he reluctantly declined the offer, choosing instead to fight for his native Virginia on the side of the South.
As West Point cadets and graduates serving in the Federal military left to take their places in the Union and Confederate armies, a strange situation took shape. The opposing armies would be led by men who in many cases had served together under the same flag only weeks earlier. In fact, many of the veterans who took command positions with the North and the South assumed their duties with the grim knowledge that they would likely face former comrades—men with whom they had become friends during the Mexican War or during stints at frontier outposts—on some future field of battle.
A Brief Overview of the American Civil War
The Civil War is the central event in America's historical consciousness. While the Revolution of 1776-1783 created the United States, the Civil War of 1861-1865 determined what kind of nation it would be. The war resolved two fundamental questions left unresolved by the revolution: whether the United States was to be a dissolvable confederation of sovereign states or an indivisible nation with a sovereign national government and whether this nation, born of a declaration that all men were created with an equal right to liberty, would continue to exist as the largest slaveholding country in the world.
Northern victory in the war preserved the United States as one nation and ended the institution of slavery that had divided the country from its beginning. But these achievements came at the cost of 625,000 lives--nearly as many American soldiers as died in all the other wars in which this country has fought combined. The American Civil War was the largest and most destructive conflict in the Western world between the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 and the onset of World War I in 1914.
The Civil War started because of uncompromising differences between the free and slave states over the power of the national government to prohibit slavery in the territories that had not yet become states. When Abraham Lincoln won election in 1860 as the first Republican president on a platform pledging to keep slavery out of the territories, seven slave states in the deep South seceded and formed a new nation, the Confederate States of America. The incoming Lincoln administration and most of the Northern people refused to recognize the legitimacy of secession. They feared that it would discredit democracy and create a fatal precedent that would eventually fragment the no-longer United States into several small, squabbling countries.
The event that triggered war came at Fort Sumter in Charleston Bay on April 12, 1861. Claiming this United States fort as their own, the Confederate army on that day opened fire on the federal garrison and forced it to lower the American flag in surrender. Lincoln called out the militia to suppress this "insurrection." Four more slave states seceded and joined the Confederacy. By the end of 1861 nearly a million armed men confronted each other along a line stretching 1200 miles from Virginia to Missouri. Several battles had already taken place--near Manassas Junction in Virginia, in the mountains of western Virginia where Union victories paved the way for creation of the new state of West Virginia, at Wilson's Creek in Missouri, at Cape Hatteras in North Carolina, and at Port Royal in South Carolina where the Union navy established a base for a blockade to shut off the Confederacy's access to the outside world.
But the real fighting began in 1862. Huge battles like Shiloh in Tennessee, Gaines' Mill, Second Manassas, and Fredericksburg in Virginia, and Antietam in Maryland foreshadowed even bigger campaigns and battles in subsequent years, from Gettysburg in Pennsylvania to Vicksburg on the Mississippi to Chickamauga and Atlanta in Georgia. By 1864 the original Northern goal of a limited war to restore the Union had given way to a new strategy of "total war" to destroy the Old South and its basic institution of slavery and to give the restored Union a "new birth of freedom," as President Lincoln put it in his address at Gettysburg to dedicate a cemetery for Union soldiers killed in the battle there.
Alexander Gardner's famous photo of Confederate dead before the Dunker Church on the Antietam Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Md., 1862. Library of Congress
For three long years, from 1862 to 1865, Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia staved off invasions and attacks by the Union Army of the Potomac commanded by a series of ineffective generals until Ulysses S. Grant came to Virginia from the Western theater to become general in chief of all Union armies in 1864. After bloody battles at places with names like The Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg, Grant finally brought Lee to bay at Appomattox in April 1865. In the meantime Union armies and river fleets in the theater of war comprising the slave states west of the Appalachian Mountain chain won a long series of victories over Confederate armies commanded by hapless or unlucky Confederate generals. In 1864-1865 General William Tecumseh Sherman led his army deep into the Confederate heartland of Georgia and South Carolina, destroying their economic infrastructure while General George Thomas virtually destroyed the Confederacy's Army of Tennessee at the battle of Nashville.
By the spring of 1865 all the principal Confederate armies surrendered, and when Union cavalry captured the fleeing Confederate President Jefferson Davis in Georgia on May 10, 1865, resistance collapsed and the war ended. The long, painful process of rebuilding a united nation free of slavery began.
10 Facts: What Everyone Should Know About the Civil War
Fact #1: The Civil War was fought between the Northern and the Southern states from 1861-1865.
The American Civil War was fought between the United States of America and the Confederate States of America, a collection of eleven southern states that left the Union in 1860 and 1861. The conflict began primarily as a result of the long-standing disagreement over the institution of slavery. On February 9, 1861, Jefferson Davis, a former U.S. Senator and Secretary of War, was elected President of the Confederate States of America by the members of the Confederate constitutional convention. After four bloody years of conflict, the United States defeated the Confederate States. In the end, the states that were in rebellion were readmitted to the United States, and the institution of slavery was abolished nation-wide.
Abraham Lincoln in 1865. Library of Congress
Fact #2: Abraham Lincoln was the President of the United States during the Civil War.
Abraham Lincoln grew up in a log cabin in Kentucky. He worked as a shopkeeper and a lawyer before entering politics in the 1840s. Alarmed by his anti-slavery stance, seven southern states seceded soon after he was elected president in 1860—with four more states to soon follow. Lincoln declared that he would do everything necessary to keep the United States united as one country. He refused to recognize the southern states as an independent nation and the Civil War erupted in the spring of 1861. On January 1, 1863, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed the slaves in the areas of the country that "shall then be in rebellion against the United States." The Emancipation Proclamation laid the groundwork for the eventual freedom of slaves across the country. Lincoln won re-election in 1864 against opponents who wanted to sign a peace treaty with the southern states. On April 14, 1865, Lincoln was shot by assassin John Wilkes Booth, a southern sympathizer. Abraham Lincoln died at 7:22 am the next morning.
Fact #3: The issues of slavery and central power divided the United States.
Slavery was concentrated mainly in the southern states by the mid-19th century, where slaves were used as farm laborers, artisans, and house servants. Chattel slavery formed the backbone of the largely agrarian southern economy. In the northern states, industry largely drove the economy. Many people in the north and the south believed that slavery was immoral and wrong, yet the institution remained, which created a large chasm on the political and social landscape. Southerners felt threatened by the pressure of northern politicians and “abolitionists,” who included the zealot John Brown, and claimed that the federal government had no power to end slavery, impose certain taxes, force infrastructure improvements, or influence western expansion against the wishes of the state governments. While some northerners felt that southern politicians wielded too much power in the House and the Senate and that they would never be appeased. Still, from the earliest days of the United States through the antebellum years, politicians on both sides of the major issues attempted to find a compromise that would avoid the splitting of the country, and ultimately avert a war. The Missouri Compromise, the Compromise of 1850, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and many others, all failed to steer the country away from secession and war. In the end, politicians on both sides of the aisle dug in their heels. Eleven states left the United States in the following order and formed the Confederate States of America: South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee.
Fact #4: The Civil War began when Southern troops bombarded Fort Sumter, South Carolina.
When the southern states seceded from the Union, war was still not a certainty. Federal forts, barracks, and naval shipyards dotted the southern landscape. Many Regular Army officers clung tenaciously to their posts, rather than surrender their facilities to the growing southern military presence. President Lincoln attempted to resupply these garrisons with food and provisions by sea. The Confederacy learned of Lincoln’s plans and demanded that the forts surrender under threat of force. When the U.S. soldiers refused, South Carolinians bombarded Fort Sumter in the center of Charleston harbor. After a 34-hour battle, the soldiers inside the fort surrendered to the Confederates. Legions of men from north and south rushed to their respective flags in the ensuing patriotic fervor.
Bombardment of Fort Sumter, Charleston Harbor: 12th & 13th of April, 1861. Library of Congress
Fact #5: The North had more men and war materials than the South.
At the beginning of the Civil War, 22 million people lived in the North and 9 million people (nearly 4 million of whom were slaves) lived in the South. The North also had more money, more factories, more horses, more railroads, and more farmland. On paper, these advantages made the United States much more powerful than the Confederate States. However, the Confederates were fighting defensively on territory that they knew well. They also had the advantage of the sheer size of the Southern Confederacy. Which meant that the northern armies would have to capture and hold vast quantities of land across the south. Still, too, the Confederacy maintained some of the best ports in North America—including New Orleans, Charleston, Mobile, Norfolk, and Wilmington. Thus, the Confederacy was able to mount a stubborn resistance.
Fact #6: The bloodiest battle of the Civil War was the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
The Civil War devastated the Confederate states. The presence of vast armies throughout the countryside meant that livestock, crops, and other staples were consumed very quickly. In an effort to gather fresh supplies and relieve the pressure on the Confederate garrison at Vicksburg, Mississippi, Confederate General Robert E. Lee launched a daring invasion of the North in the summer of 1863. He was defeated by Union General George G. Meade in a three-day battle near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania that left nearly 51,000 men killed, wounded, or missing in action. While Lee's men were able to gather the vital supplies, they did little to draw Union forces away from Vicksburg, which fell to Federal troops on July 4, 1863. Many historians mark the twin Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, Mississippi, as the “turning point” in the Civil War. In November of 1863, President Lincoln traveled to the small Pennsylvania town and delivered the Gettysburg Address, which expressed firm commitment to preserving the Union and became one of the most iconic speeches in American history.
Fact #7: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee did not meet on the field of battle until May of 1864.
Arguably the two most famous military personalities to emerge from the American Civil War were Ohio born Ulysses S. Grant, and Virginia born Robert E. Lee. The two men had very little in common. Lee was from a well respected First Family of Virginia, with ties to the Continental Army and the founding fathers of the nation. While Grant was from a middle-class family with no martial or family political ties. Both men graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point and served in the old army as well as the Mexican-American War. Lee was offered command of the federal army amassing in Washington, in 1861, but he declined the command and threw his hat in with the Confederacy. Lee's early war career got off to a rocky start, but he found his stride in June of 1862 after he assumed command of what he dubbed the Army of Northern Virginia. Grant, on the other hand, found early success in the war but was haunted by rumors of alcoholism. By 1863, the two men were by far the best generals on their respective sides. In March of 1864, Grant was promoted to lieutenant general and brought to the Eastern Theater of the war, where he and Lee engaged in a relentless campaign from May of 1864 to Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House eleven months later.
Fact #8: The North won the Civil War.
After four years of conflict, the major Confederate armies surrendered to the United States in April of 1865 at Appomattox Court House and Bennett Place. The war bankrupted much of the South, left its roads, farms, and factories in ruins, and all but wiped out an entire generation of men who wore the blue and the gray. More than 620,000 men died in the Civil War, more than any other war in American history. The southern states were occupied by Union soldiers, rebuilt, and gradually re-admitted to the United States over the course of twenty difficult years known as the Reconstruction Era.
A battle-scarred house in Atlanta, Georgia. Library of Congress
Fact #9: After the war was over, the Constitution was amended to free the slaves, to assure “equal protection under the law” for American citizens, and to grant black men the right to vote.
During the war, Abraham Lincoln freed some slaves and allowed freedmen to join the Union Army as the United States Colored Troops (U.S.C.T.). It was clear to many that it was only a matter of time before slavery would be fully abolished. As the war drew to a close, but before the southern states were re-admitted to the United States, the northern states added the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution. The amendments are also known as the "Civil War Amendments." The 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the United States, the 14th Amendment guaranteed that citizens would receive “equal protection under the law,” and the 15th Amendment granted black men the right to vote. The 14th Amendment has played an ongoing role in American society as different groups of citizens continue to lobby for equal treatment by the government.
Fact #10: Many Civil War battlefields are threatened by development.
The United States government has identified 384 battles that had a significant impact on the larger war. Many of these battlefields have been developed—turned into shopping malls, pizza parlors, housing developments, etc.—and many more are threatened by development. Since the end of the Civil War, veterans and other citizens have struggled to preserve the fields on which Americans fought and died. The American Battlefield Trust and its partners have preserved tens of thousands of acres of battlefield land.
Explore by Timeline: Civil War (1861-1865)
On April 12, 1861, the South fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, and the Civil War began. After a 34-hour bombardment, the Union surrendered the fort and would not regain it until the final days of the war.
The monumental U.S. Custom House, designed by Ammi B. Young, was still under construction when the war started and was damaged in the shelling. Construction came to a halt, and did not begin again until 1870. The building was finally completed in 1879.
The War Continues
As both sides devoted their resources to their respective war efforts, public building construction throughout the country came to an abrupt halt. Federal buildings located near the fighting felt an even greater impact, as they were enlisted to serve new purposes. The U.S. Custom House in New Orleans, though occupied, was still incomplete when the war began. After initial occupation by the Confederacy, it was captured by Union forces in 1862. A makeshift prison, the building held up to 2000 captured Confederate soldiers at one point during the war. Construction resumed in 1871, and the building was finally completed in 1881.
Isaiah Rogers Chosen to Lead Office of the Supervising Architect
In 1862, Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase decided to replace Supervising Architect Ammi B. Young. He appointed a prominent architect named Isaiah Rogers &ldquoEngineer in Charge&rdquo of the Bureau of Construction by 1863, his title had changed to &ldquoSupervising Architect&rdquo. At the time of Rogers&rsquo appointment, construction throughout the country was stalled due to the Civil War. Rogers supervised the completion of the Treasury Department Building&rsquos west wing, and oversaw smaller repair and alteration projects at several other buildings.
Rogers&rsquos tenure with the Treasury Department was brief. He resigned in 1865 due to discord with one of his employees, Alfred B. Mullett, who would succeed him as Supervising Architect.
Fall of Richmond
During the Civil War, the Confederacy chose Richmond, Virginia, as its capital. Six days before General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant in Appomattox on April 9, 1865, the Confederate government abandoned the city. As Confederate troops evacuated Richmond, they set fire to much of the city. All but two of the buildings in the historic cored burned. One of these surviving structures was the 1858 U.S. Custom House, which had been occupied by the Treasury Department of the Confederacy for the war&rsquos duration.
Originally designed by Ammi B. Young as a custom house with a post office and courtroom, the building reverted to its original use after the war. On May 10, 1866, Confederate President Jefferson Davis was indicted in the building where he had once had a third floor office. The building was renamed in 1993 after former Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr., and is the oldest courthouse in GSA&rsquos inventory.
Remembering the American Civil War
The American Civil War was the largest and most cataclysmic conflict in the Western world between the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 and the onset of World War I in 1914. The Civil War has been commemorated in many capacities ranging from the reenactment of battles to statues and memorial halls erected, to films being produced, to stamps and coins with Civil War themes being issued, all of which helped to shape public memory.
The current Civil War battlefield preservation organization began in 1987 with the founding of the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites (APCWS), a grassroots organization created by Civil War historians and others to preserve battlefield land by acquiring it. In 1991, the original Civil War Trust was created in the mold of the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Foundation, but failed to attract corporate donors and soon helped manage the disbursement of U.S. Mint Civil War commemorative coin revenues designated for battlefield preservation. Today, there are five major Civil War battlefield parks operated by the National Park Service namely Gettysburg, Antietam, Shiloh, Chickamauga/Chattanooga and Vicksburg. Attendance at Gettysburg in 2018 stood at 950,000 people.
Numerous technological innovations during the Civil War had a great impact on 19th-century science. The Civil War was one of the earliest examples of an “industrial war”, in which technological might is used to achieve military supremacy in a war. New inventions, such as the train and telegraph, delivered soldiers, supplies and messages at a time when horses were considered to be the fastest way to travel. Repeating firearms such as the Henry rifle, Colt revolving rifle and others, first appeared during the Civil War. The Civil War is one of the most studied events in American history, and the collection of cultural works around it is enormous.
The developments that took place after the American Civil War helped define the history of the United States throughout the 20th century. The Civil War was the central event in America’s historical consciousness. While the Revolution of 1776-1783 created the United States, the Civil War determined what kind of nation it would be. But with social structures still in place today that subjugate Black Americans, many argue the American Civil War, although instrumental in ending slavery, did not touch the racial undertones of American society that still exist today.
Plus, in today’s world, there are still stark political differences between the South and the rest of the country, and a big part of this comes from this idea that Southerners are “Southerners first, Americans second.”
Furthermore, the United States still struggles to remember the Civil War. A large part of the American population (around 42 percent according to a 2017 poll) still believe the Civil War was fought over “states’ rights” instead of slavery. And this misrepresentation has caused many to overlook the challenges race and the institution of oppression have caused in American society.
The American Civil War also had a tremendous impact on the nation’s identity. By responding to secession with force, Lincoln stood up for the idea of an eternal United States, and by sticking to that ideology, he reshaped the way the United States of America sees itself.
Of course, it took decades, if not longer, for the wounds to heal, but few people today respond to political crisis by saying, ‘Let’s just leave!’ Lincoln’s efforts, in many ways, reaffirmed commitment to the American experiment and to working out differences within the context of a Union.
Perhaps this is more relevant now than in any other moment in American history. Today, American politics are deeply divided, and geography plays an important role in that. Yet, most people are seeking a way to move forward together, a perspective we owe in large part to Abraham Lincoln and the Union soldiers of the American Civil War.