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The Civil War-I
The Confederate States of America
In 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States. Lincoln was from the North, and he ran as a Republican. The Republicans said they would not allow slavery to spread. In the election of 1860, no Southern state voted for Lincoln.
When it became clear that Lincoln had won, the people of the South were frightened. Would this Northerner free the slaves? Would he do bad things to the South? Most Southerners did not know what to do, but the people of one state did. A month after the election, the people of South Carolina said they were leaving the United States. Five other Southern states soon followed—Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
Early in 1861, people from these six states held a meeting. At the meeting they set up a new country: The Confederate States of America. They also chose a President, Jefferson Davis. Soon after the meeting, Texas joined the Confederacy.
This was the situation when Abraham Lincoln took the oath as president. Seven states said they had left the Union. Lincoln said that no state could leave the Union. To him, the seven states were not a new country. There was no such thing as the Confederate States of America. The seven states were rebels.
In 1861, a U.S. fort in South Carolina was attacked. Lincoln called for troops to put down the rebellion. His call caused four more states—Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas—to join the Confederacy. The Civil War had begun.
Thousands of young men answered President Lincoln’s call for troops. Most agreed to serve for ninety days. Many Northerners thought the war would be over very quickly. They wanted Lincoln to send these troops to capture the Confederate capital at Richmond, Virginia. “Onward to Richmond,” they shouted. In July 1861, Lincoln gave the order for an attack on Richmond.
On the way to Richmond, the Northern army met a Southern army near a small creek called Bull Run. The soldiers in both armies were untrained. Almost none of them had ever been in a battle before. Yet both sides fought bravely. At one point, it looked as though the Northern army would win. But one group of Southerners, led by Thomas J. Jackson, would not budge. They stood “like a stone wall,” and Thomas J. Jackson became known as Stonewall Jackson, one of the greatest Confederate generals.
After many hours of fighting, the Northerners grew tired. Fresh troops arrived to help the South. The North tried to call a retreat, but the untrained young men just started running for their lives. The Battle of Bull Run, the first major battle of the Civil War, turned into a terrible defeat for the North. No Northerner would shout “Onward to Richmond” again for a long time.
In a way, though, the loss at Bull Run was good for the North. It made Lincoln and other leaders see this would be a long, tough war. The North would need a well-trained army of men ready to fight for years to bring the country back together.
Bull Run nearly wrecked the army sent to capture Richmond. It took almost a year before that army was ready to fight again.
Meanwhile, another Northern army was taking shape under the command of Ulysses S. Grant. Early in 1862, Grant moved his army into the Confederate state of Tennessee. There he captured two forts. These were the first major Northern victories in the Civil War. The little-known Grant became a hero in the North.
Grant moved his army further south in Tennessee. He stopped at Pittsburg Landing and set up camp. Not far away was a little church called Shiloh. Shiloh, in Hebrew, means “place of peace.”
On April 6, 1862, a Confederate army charged into Grant’s camp, catching the Northern soldiers by surprise. The South had the advantage at first, but then Grant’s men fought back. The two sides went at each other all day. No man on either side had ever seen such fighting. Thousands fell dead and wounded.
By the end of the day, Grant’s army seemed beaten. But Grant was not a man who gave up. That night he told a friend that he’d “Lick’em tomorrow.” Fresh troops came to help, and Grant attacked the next day. The Confederates fell back, and the Battle of Shiloh turned into a great Northern victory.
But the victory came at a high price. More Americans died in two days at Shiloh than died in all battles of the War of Independence, War of 1812, and Mexican War added together. It was a preview of what was coming in the bloody Civil War.