The American Civil War began on April 12, 1861. The first shots were fired in South Carolina against the Union’s Fort Sumpter. The South won the early battles, but the Union won the war. That’s why the United States stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific today, and the Confederacy is just a memory.
The War Begins
The war was fought between the Union (northern states) and the Confederacy (southern states). It began after a few southern states left the United States to form their own country.
South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union, leaving on December 20, 1860. The next six – Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas – followed. They came together and formed the Confederate States of America.
The Union wasn’t happy about this, and so a conflict started.
In May 1861, three more states joined the Confederacy, after Union President Abraham Lincoln told them to send men to fight in the war. These were Virginia, Arkansas, and North Carolina.
Round One to the Confederacy
One of the biggest events of the early war was the First Battle of Bull Run (it was called the First Battle of Manassas by the South). On July 22, the two armies fought the first major battle. The Confederates won even though they were outnumbered.
Emancipation and the Changing Tide
On September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This declared all the slaves in the Confederate states to be free. From then on, people saw the war as an issue of slavery. The North became known as anti-slavery, while the South still wanted to keep slaves.
Gettysburg and the End
The Battle of Gettysburg was fought in Pennsylvania from July 1 to July 3, 1863. It may be the most important battle of the war. The Confederacy lost. Even though the war kept going for two more years, the South never recovered from this defeat.
On April 9, 1865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered his Confederate troops. Even then, not everyone was ready to stop fighting. Battles were still fought for months after the surrender.