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Current R., Williams T. H., Freidel F., Brinkley A. American History: a survey. 7th edition; New York, 1987.


 

PART FOUR. War and Reunion, 1860-1877

To most of the South, and even to much of the North, the election of Abraham Lincoln to the presidency in 1860 marked the ultimate failure of compromise. The nation's highest office was now to be in the possession of a man unanimously opposed by the residents of one of the sections. No longer, apparently, were there leaders or programs capable of appealing across regional lines to a common national interest. Sentiment on both sides had hardened to the point where there no longer seemed any way for North and South to exist in amicable union. And so the war came.

Yet despite the apparent irreconcilability of the sections, the war came as something of a surprise to both sides. The Southern states, when they began late in 1860 to secede from the Union, assumed at first that the North would not in the end use force to oppose them. The national government in Washington, for its part, believed that secession was a momentary aberration, that the rebellious states could be made to come to their senses and return to their proper relation to the Union. Even after the first shots over Fort Sumter had signaled the beginning of hostilities, both sides expected at most a brief and limited conflict.

As the fighting continued, however, year after murderous year, killing more than 600,000 people, maiming and injuring many more, and devastating large portions of the nation, Americans on both sides were forced finally to confront the real price of their inability to settle their differences. The Civil War was like no conflict in the nation's history, perhaps like no conflict in the history of the human race to that point. Waged on a scale hitherto unknown, employing horrible new technology that made widespread slaughter the new norm of combat, the war did not so much settle the differences between North and South_as_exhaust both sides. When, at last, General Robert E. Lee surrendered the last major force of the once great Confederate army to General Ulysses S. Grant in 1865, only two issues were effectively settled. The Union was to survive, and the institution of slavery was to be abolished. Other questionsthe future economic relationship between the sections, the distribution of political power, the status of freed blacks in the nationremained unanswered. The Civil War had determined that the United States would remain a single nation. It had not, however, determined what kind of a nation it would be.

Nor was the troubled aftermath of the fighting successful in resolving the difficult sectional issues that remained. The spirit of compromise that had died so painfully in the 1850s did not quickly revive; and both North and South remained intransigent in many ways after the war. White Southerners quickly attempted to rebuild a social order that resembled their antebellum society as closely as possible. Above all, they attempted to reduce the now emancipated black population to a level of economic bondage hardly distinguishable from slavery. Northernersmotivated partly by bitterness and a desire for revenge, partly by a genuine commitment to protecting the freed slavesresponded by imposing their own system of government on the South, a system that greatly restricted the power of the region's traditional ruling class and so deeply embittered the white residents of the section that even a century later they would refer to Reconstruction as an "outrage" and an "abomination." When finally, in 1877, the last Reconstruction governments began to be replaced and conservative white Southerners once again gained control of their region, they rejoiced that the South had been "redeemed," that the long nightmare of Northern tyranny was over.

There were others, however, who looked on the end of Reconstruction with less enthusiasm. Black Americans had viewed the postwar policies in a very different light from whites. They saw in the actions of the federal government the first systematic effort in the history of their nation to provide them with the elemental rights of citizenship. Only federal protection, they believed, could effectively guard them from the determination of the Southern white population to keep blacks isolated and demeaned. The withdrawal of this federal support, the result of a series of political bargains between the whites of both regions, consigned black Southerners to another century of poverty and discrimination. It had been the issue of race that had helped to produce the Civil War in the first place. Now, after four years of bloodshed and twelve more years of political acrimony, the issue remained unresolved. Instead, white Americans in both regions of the nation had returned to the spirit of compromise that had permitted the Union to survive during the first half of the nineteenth century. And in the 1870s, as in the 1830s and 1840s, compromise meant abandoning the difficult effort to resolve the status of blacks. It meant leaving the question unsettled to confront and frustrate future generations of Americans.

Chapter 14. The War of the Rebellion

By the end of 1860, the cords that had once bound the Union together appeared to have snapped. The almost mystical veneration of the Constitution and its framers was no longer working to unite the nation; residents of the North and Southparticularly after the controversial Dred Scott decision now differed fundamentally over what the Constitution said and what the framers had meant. The romantic vision of America's great national destiny had ceased to be a unifying force; the two sections now defined that destiny in different and apparently irreconcilable terms. The stable two-party system could not dampen sectional conflict any longer; that system had collapsed in the 1850s, to be replaced by a new one that accentuated rather than muted regional controversy. Above all, the federal government was no longer the remote, unthreatening presence it once had been; the need to resolve the status of the territories had made it necessary for Washington to deal with sectional issues in a direct and forceful way. And thus, beginning in 1860, the divisive forces that had always existed within the United States were no longer counterbalanced by unifying forces; and the Union began to dissolve.

To the South, the war that ensued was a legitimate struggle for independence, a conflict no less glorious than the American Revolution of nine decades before. Ultimately, they would call it the "War Between the States," as if to imply that it had reflected a constitutional exercise of states' rights. To the North, however, the conflict was nothing more than a criminal insurrectionillegal, unjustifiable, even treasonous. And the Union government, therefore, assigned to the struggle an official name that attributed far less dignity to the Southern cause: the "War of the Rebellion."

Despite the differences in outlook between the sections, however, both sides encountered very similar experiences. Both were forced to mobilize a high proportion of their resources for victory; both were required to confront problems of production and organization never before encountered in a modern society; and by the end, both found themselves fighting a war that had resulted from supposedly fundamental regional differences in markedly similar ways.

The Secession Crisis

Almost as soon as the news of Abraham Lincoln's election reached the South, the militant leaders of the regionthe champions of the new concept of Southern "nationalism," men known both to their contemporaries and to history as the "fire-eaters"began to demand an end to the Union. The Southern states, they argued, should withdraw from the federal system and form a new nation of their own; and their vehicle should be a device that had, they claimed, firm legal grounding in the Constitution: secession.

The Withdrawal of the South

The concept of secession was rooted in the political philosophy that the South had developed over the course of several decades to protect its minority status in the nation. According to this doctrine, the Union was an association of sovereign states. The individual states had once joined the Union; they could, whenever they wished, dissolve their connections with it and resume their status as separate sovereignties. It was a momentous act to leave the Union, supporters of secession believed. But it was a lawful act.

The Constitution did not, of course, specify a method by which a state could secede; but most of the Southern states came to agree that the proper course was to follow the same procedures they had used when they originally ratified the federal Constitution. The governor would call an election for delegates to a special state convention, which could then pass an ordinance of secession. South Carolina, long the hotbed of Southern separatism, led off the secession parade. Its convention took the state out of the Union on December 20, 1860, by a unanimous vote. Even before Lincoln assumed the presidency, six other Southern statesMississippi (January 9, 1861), Florida (January 10), Alabama (January 11), Georgia (January 19), Louisiana (January 26), and Texas (February 1)had left the Union. And in February 1861, representatives of the seven seceded states met at Montgomery, Alabama, and formed a new, Southern nationthe Confederate States of America.

Many Northerners reacted at first with confused indecision, no one more so than President James Buchanan. In a message to Congress in December 1860, Buchanan declared that no state had the right to secede from the Union. At the same time, he questioned whether the federal government had the authority to force a state back into the Union. Buchanan's real goal at this point, however, was not to resolve these difficult questions. He simply wanted to avoid an open conflict and to maintain the symbolic authority of the national government until his successor could take office.

Among the first acts of the seceding states was to take possession of federal propertyforts, arsenals, officeswithin their boundaries. But they did not at first have sufficient military power to seize two important offshore forts: Fort Sumter, on an island in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina, garrisoned by a small force under Major Robert Anderson; and Fort Pickens in the harbor of Pensacola, Florida. South Carolina sent commissioners to Washington to ask for the surrender of Sumter; but Buchanan, fearful though he was of provoking a clash, refused to yield the fort. In January 1861, he decided to reinforce it. He ordered an unarmed merchant ship, the Star of the West, to proceed to Fort Sumter with additional troops and supplies. When the vessel attempted to enter the harbor, it encountered fire from Confederate guns on shore and turned back. The first shots between the North and the South had been fired. Even so, neither section was ready to admit that a war had begun. And in Washington, attention turned once more to efforts to resolve the controversy through compromise.

The Failure of Compromise

As the situation in South Carolina deteriorated, President Buchanan urged Congress to try again to find a peaceful solution to the crisis that might hold the Union together. The Senate and the House appointed committees to study various plans of adjustment; and graduallyin the Senate at leastattention began to center on a proposal submitted by Senator John J. Crittenden of Kentucky. The Crittenden Compromise, as it was known, called for a series of constitutional amendments. One would have guaranteed the permanence of slavery in the states; others were designed to satisfy Southern demands on such matters as fugitive slaves and slavery in the District of Columbia. But the heart of Crittenden's plan dealt with slavery in the territories. He proposed to reestablish the Missouri Compromise line of 36°30' in all the territory that the United States then held or thereafter acquired. Slavery was to be prohibited north of the line and permitted south of it. Southern members of a Senate committee appointed to draft the compromise indicated they would accept this territorial division if the Republicans would. The Republicans, after conferring with President-elect Lincoln in Illinois, voted against the proposal. Lincoln maintained that the restoration of the Missouri Compromise line would encourage the South to embark on imperialist adventures in Latin America. It also, of course, would have represented an abandonment by the Republicans of their most basic position: that slavery could not be allowed to expand.

There was one notable attempt outside Congress to produce a compromise. The legislature of Virginia called for a national peace conference at Washington.

Representatives from twenty-one of the thirty-four states assembled early in February and produced a series of proposals that closely resembled the Crittenden scheme. The convention submitted the plan to the Senate, but the proposal received almost no support.

And so nothing had been resolved when Abraham Lincoln arrived in Washington for his inauguration sneaking into the city in disguise by train in the dead of night, to avoid assassination as he passed through the slave state of Maryland en route. The country was now divided into two hostile nations, waiting for what was coming to seem an inevitable war.

In his eloquent inaugural address, Lincoln laid down several basic principles. The Union, he said, was older than the Constitution; hence no state could of its own volition leave the Union. The ordinances of secession were illegal, and acts of violence to support secession were insurrectionary or revolutionary. Of most immediate significance, given the ongoing struggle over Fort Sumter, Lincoln declared that he would enforce the laws and would "hold, occupy, and possess" federal property in the seceded states.

Conditions at Fort Sumter quickly forced Lincoln to translate his words into action. Major Anderson was running short of supplies; unless he received fresh provisions, the fort would have to be evacuated. Lincoln was convinced that if he surrendered Sumter, the South (and perhaps also the North) would never believe that he meant to sustain the Union. After much deliberation, therefore, he dispatched a naval relief expedition to the fort. At the same time, he carefully informed the authorities in South Carolina that ships were on the way, with supplies, and that there would be no attempt to send troops or munitions to the fort unless the supply ships met with resistance. The new Confederate government now faced a dilemma. If it permitted the expedition to land, it would appear to be bowing tamely to federal authority and would lose credibility among its own people. If it fired on the ships or the fort, it would appear (to the North, at least) to be the aggressor. After hours of anguished discussion, the government in Montgomery decided that to appear cowardly would be worse than to appear belligerent. It ordered General P. G. T. Beauregard, commander of Confederate forces at Charleston, to demand Anderson's surrender and, if the demand was refused, to attack the fort. Beauregard made the demand; Anderson rejected it. The Confederates then bombarded the fort for two days, April 12-13, 1861. On April 14, Anderson surrendered. The Civil War had begun.

In both the North and the South, events moved quickly. Lincoln immediately requested an expansion of the regular army and called for the states to raise their own forces to contribute to the struggle for the Union. In the South, four more slave states seceded andjoined the Confederacy: Virginia (April 17, 1861), Arkansas (May 6), Tennessee (June 8), and North Carolina (May 20). The mountain counties in northwestern Virginia refused to accept the decision of their state, established their own "loyal" government, and in 1863 secured admission to the Union as the new state of West Virginia. The four remaining slave states, Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky, and Missouri, cast their lot with the Union, although not without considerable controversy (and in large part because of heavy pressure from Washington). These border states were crucial to the Union's hopes, and Lincoln kept a close watch on their actions. In two of them, Maryland and Missouri, he used military force to ensure that secessionists would have no opportunity to prevail.

The Question of Inevitability

Was the outbreak of war inevitable? Was there anything that Lincoln (or those before him) could have done to settle the sectional conflict peaceably? Those questions have preoccupied historians for more than a century without resolution. (See "Where Historians Disagree," pp. 404-405.)

In one sense, of course, the war was not inevitable. If the nation had not acquired new Western lands in the 1840s, if Douglas had not presented the Kansas-Nebraska Act to Congress in 1854, if the Supreme Court had chosen not to rule on the Dred Scott case, if John Brown had not raided Harpers Ferry, if Lincoln had not rejected the Crittenden Compromise, or if the North had agreed (as some urged) to let the Southern states leave in peaceif any number of things that did happen had not happened, then there might not have been a war. Even after Lincoln's election, even after the secession of the South, it would have been technically possible for the nation to avoid armed conflict.

The real question, however, is not what hypothetical situations might have reversed the trend toward war but whether the preponderance offerees in the nation were acting to hold the nation together or to drive it apart. And by 1861, it seems clear that in both the North and the South, sectional antagonismswhether justified or not--had risen to such a point that the existing terms of union had become untenable. People in both regions of the country had come to believe that two distinct and incompatible civilizations had developed in the United States and that those civilizations were incapable of living together in peace. Ralph Waldo Emerson, speaking for much of the North, said at the time: "I do not see how a barbarous community and a civilized community can constitute one state." And a slaveowner, expressing the sentiments of much of the South, said shortly after the election of Lincoln: "These [Northern] people hate us, annoy us, and would have us assassinated by our slaves if they dared. They are a different people from us, whether better or worse, and there is no love between us. Why then continue together?"

That the North and the South had come to believe these things may have made secession and war virtually inevitable. Whether these things were actually truewhether the North and the South were really as different and incompatible as they thought-is another question, one that the preparations for and conduct of the war helped to answer.

The Opposing Sides

A comparison of the combatants on the eve of war reveals that in one crucial area, at least, there were indeed basic differences between the sections. All the great material factors were on the side of the North.

These advantages, important from the beginning, became more significant as the conflict continued and the superior economy of the North became geared for war production. The North had a larger manpower reservoir from which to draw its armed forces. There were twenty-three states still in the Union, with a population of approximately 22 million. There were only eleven Confederate states, with a population of about 9 million, of whom 3.5 million were slaves.

The North had an even greater advantage in its levels of industrial production. Southern industry, particularly in those areas necessary for the conduct of a war, was almost nonexistent; the North already possessed an advanced industrial system. In the first year of the war, before Northern factories had converted to war production, both sides had to purchase large amounts of supplies, particularly arms, from Europe. After 1862, however, the North was able to manufacture practically all of its war materials.

The South, on the other hand, had to rely on Europe throughout the war. It tried desperately to expand its own industrial facilities. The brilliant Confederate chief of ordnance, Josiah Gorgas, accomplished wonders in building arsenals and in supplying the armies with weapons and munitions. Nevertheless, both the quantity and the quality of Confederate firearms were inferior to those of the North. The Southern economic system was also unable to provide its soldiers with the other necessities of modern war; clothes, boots, blankets, medical supplies, and the like. The Northern armies (and Northern society in general) had more of everything after 1862 than the armies or the society of the South; and that was one reason why Confederate morale began rapidly to deteriorate by the end of 1863.

In addition, the transportation system of the North was superior in every respect to that of the South. The North had more and better means of inland water transportation (steamboats, barges), more surfaced roads, more wagons and animals. Above all, the North had approximately 20,000 miles of railroads, while the Confederacy, which comprised at least as large a land area, had only 10,000 miles. The trackage figures, however, do not tell the whole story of Southern railroad inferiority. There were important gaps between key points in the South, which required supplies to make detours over long distances or to be carried between rail lines by wagon. As the war continued, the Confederate railroad system steadily deteriorated, and by the last year and a half of the struggle it had almost collapsed.

The enormous imbalance in the material forces of the two sides suggests that the South had absolutely no chance to win the war. But in the beginning, at least, the material strengths of the North were not as decisive as they appear. The South was, for the most part, fighting a defensive war on its own land and thus had the advantage of local support and familiarity with the territory. The South also had an advantage among its own people: It was fighting for something concrete, something easy for its people to understand. It simply wanted to be independent, to be left alone; it had no aggressive designs on the North.

The North, on the other hand, faced a more difficult task, both militarily and politically. Its armies were fighting largely within the South. They had to maintain long lines of communications, deal with hostile local populations, and rely on the South's own inadequate transportation system. The Northern public, moreover, was far less united in support of the war than that of the South. Union war aims were more difficult to define, especially since many Northerners so disliked the South that they saw no reason to fight to keep the Union together. As late as 1864, Northern sentiment often wavered. Thus a major Southern victory at any one of several crucial moments might have proved decisive by breaking the North's will to continue the struggle.

There was, moreover, one additional factor that Southerners at first thought would virtually guarantee them a victory: cotton. The rapidly growing textile industries of England and France were, the South believed, dependent on their cotton. They would have no choice but to intervene in the conflict on the side of the Confederacy and force the North to acquiesce^ in the South's independence.

The Mobilization of the North

For the North, the war years were a time of political and social discord, of frustration, and of the inevitable suffering that accompanies battle. Yet they were also a period of prosperity and expansion. The war provided a major stimulus to both industry and agriculture. Not only did the rising productivity of the North contribute to its ultimate victory; it also ensured that the region would be more highly developed at the end of the war than at the start.

Economic Measures

The expanding Northern economy received a powerful stimulant during the war from the economic legislation of the now dominant Republican party. With Southern opposition removed, the Republicans proceeded to enact an aggressively nationalistic program to promote economic development.

The Homestead Act and the Morrill Land Grant Act, both passed in 1862, were measures that the West had long sought. The Homestead Act entitled any citizen, or anyone who intended to become a citizen, to claim 160 acres of public land and to purchase it for a small fee after living on it for five years. The Morrill Act gave every state 30,000 acres of public land for each of its congressional representatives. The states were to use the proceeds from the sale of that acreage to finance public education in agriculture, engineering, and military science. This provided a basis for the development of many new state colleges and universities, the so-called land-grant institutions.

A few days before President Buchanan left office, Congress passed the Morrill Tariff Act, which moderately increased duties and brought the rates up to approximately what they had been before 1846. Later measures, in 1862 and 1864, were even more frankly protective. By the end of the war, customs duties were, on average, the highest in the nation's history, and more than double the prewar rate.

Business achieved other victories in promoting railroads and immigration. One of the great dreams of those who believed in industrial growth was a railroad link between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Two laws, passed in 1862 and 1864, paved the way to realization of that dream. Congress created two new federally chartered corporations: the Union Pacific Railroad Company, which was to build westward from Omaha, and the Central Pacific, which was to build eastward from California. The two companies were to meet somewhere in the middle and complete the link. The government would provide free public lands and generous loans to the companies.

Immigration from Europe fell off in the first years of the war, partly because of the unsettled conditions in America. That decrease, coupled with the military's demand for manpower, threatened to produce a serious labor shortage. Business leaders, with the support of the president, persuaded Congress to pass new legislation to encourage immigration: a contract labor law, enacted in 1864, which authorized employers to import laborers and collect the costs of transportation from future wages.

Perhaps the most important measure affecting the business and financial worlds was the National Bank Act, passed in 1863 and amended in 1864. The act created a national banking system, which survived without serious modification until 1913. Under the new system, existing state banks or newly formed corporations were entitled to apply for federal charters and become national banks. To qualify for such charters, an institution had to possess a minimum amount of capital and had to invest one-third of that capital in government securities. In return, it would receive U.S. Treasury notes that it could issue as currency. In addition, Congress (in 1865) placed a tax on all state bank notes, which forced state notes out of existence and induced reluctant state banks to seek federal charters. At the outbreak of the war, 1,500 banks chartered by twenty-nine states had been issuing bank notes. The new system eliminated much of the chaos and uncertainty in the nation's currency and created a new, uniform system of national bank notes.

But reforming the currency did not alone solve one of the North's principal problems: financing the war. The government raised funds in three ways. It levied taxes, it borrowed money, and it issued paper currency.

Not until 1862, when war expenses began rapidly to mount, did Congress face the necessity of raising substantial new taxes. It passed the Internal Revenue Act, which placed duties on practically all goods and most occupations. For the first time, in 1861, the government levied an income tax: a duty of 3 percent on incomes above $800. Later, the rates were increased to 5 percent on incomes between $600 and $5,000 and 10 percent on incomes above $5,000. Through the medium of the various war taxes, the hand of the government was coming to rest on most individuals in the country. The United States was in the process of acquiring a national internal revenue systemin fact, a national tax systemone of the many nationalizing effects of the war. Even so, taxation never raised more than a small proportion of the funds necessary for financing the war$667 million in all (including tariff revenues); and strong popular resistance prevented the government from raising the rates. Other methods, therefore, became increasingly important.

The most significant of these was borrowing. In America's previous wars, the government had sold bonds only to banks and to a few wealthy investors. Now, however, the Treasury employed the services of Jay Cooke, a Philadelphia banker, to persuade ordinary citizens to buy bonds. Through high-pressure propaganda techniques, Cooke disposed of $400 million worth of bondsthe first example of mass financing of a war in American history. In all, the United States borrowed $2.6 billion.

The most controversial method of financing (and the least productive of revenue) was the printing of paper currency, or "greenbacks." The new currency paid no interest and was not supported by a specie reserve (gold or silver). Holders of greenbacks had only the good faith of the government (and its ability to win the war) to rely on. The value of the greenbacks fluctuated, therefore, according to the fortunes of the Northern armies. Early in 1864, with the war effort bogged down, a greenback dollar, in relation to a gold dollar, was worth only 39 cents. Even at the close of the war, its value had advanced to only 67 cents. The uncertain value of greenbacks made it difficult for the government to use them to pay many of its expenses. The Treasury issued only $450 million worth of paper currency in all. That was, however, enough to produce serious problems of inflation in the later years of the war.

Raising the Union Armies

When hostilities began, there were only about 16,000 troops in the regular army of the United States, many of them scattered throughout the West to keep order between whites and Indians along the frontier. Lincoln realized, therefore, that the Union would have to rely heavily on state militias if it hoped to suppress the rebellion. Shortly after assuming office, he called 75,000 militiamen into service for three months, the usual period of service set for state troops by existing militia laws. The president quickly recognized that the war would last longer than three months; and (without clear legal sanction) he called up 42,000 state volunteers for national service for three years and authorized an increase of 23,000 in the regular army. When Congress convened in July 1861, it passed legislation that not only endorsed Lincoln's previous acts but called for enlisting 500,000 volunteers to serve for three years.

For a time, this voluntary system brought out enough men to fill the armies. But after the first flush of enthusiasm had subsided, enlistments declined. Finally, in March 1863, Congress enacted the first national draft law in its history. (The Confederacy had begun conscription almost a year earlier.) Few exemptions were permitted: only high national and state officials, ministers, and men who were the sole support of dependent families. But a drafted man could escape service by hiring someone to go in his place or by paying the government a fee of $300.

Supporters of the law hoped that the threat of conscription would spur voluntary enlistments. Each state was assigned a quota of men to be raised. If a state could fill its quota, it would escape the draft completely; if it did not, the draft would make up the difference. Although only about 46,000 men were ever actually conscripted, the draft greatly increased voluntary enlistments. A total of approximately 1.5 million men served in the Union armies, (The Confederate armies had the services of about 900,000.) To a people accustomed to a government that had hardly touched their daily lives, conscription seemed a strange and ominous thing. Opposition to the law was widespread, particularly from laborers, immigrants, and Democrats opposed to the war (known as "Peace Democrats"). In places it erupted into violence. Demonstrators against the draft rioted in New York City for four days in July 1863, killed several hundred people, mostly blacks, and burned down homes and businesses, again mostly those of free blacks. (Some Northern opponents of the war believed that blacks were responsible for the conflict.) Only the arrival of federal troops managed to subdue the rioters. Some Democratic governors (Horatio Seymour of New York among them) supported the war but contended that the national government had no constitutional power to conscript; they openly challenged the Lincoln administration on the issue.

Political Challenges

When Abraham Lincoln arrived in Washington early in 1861, most national leaders considered him a minor politician from the prairies. Lincoln's folksy, unpretentious demeanor helped strengthen some in their conviction that he was unfit for his position. But the new president had few doubts about his own abilities, as he demonstrated when he selected his cabinet. He assembled a group of men representing every faction of the Republican party and every segment of Northern opinionmen of extraordinary prestige and political influence, as difficult a set of prima donnas as any president had ever attempted to manage. Three of the secretaries, William Seward, Salmon P.Chase, and Edwin Stanton, were men of great abilityand no one was more certain of that than they themselves. Seward and Chase were convinced that they, not Lincoln, should be president. For a time early in the administration, Seward tried to dominate Lincoln. He failed and ultimately became the president's loyal supporter. Chase never ceased trying to outshine the president and enhance his own political prospects.

Lincoln demonstrated confidence as well by his bold exercise of the war powers of his office. In order to accomplish his purposes, he ignored certain parts of the Constitution. It would be foolish, he explained, to lose the whole by being afraid to disregard a part. He called for troops to repress the rebellion without asking Congress for a declaration of war. He increased the size of the regular army without legislative authority to do so. He unilaterally proclaimed a naval blockade of the South.

Lincoln's greatest political problems, however, came not from legal obstacles, but from widespread popular opposition to the war. The opposition came principally from two sources: from Southern sympathizers in the slave states that had remained in the Union, and from the peace wing of the Democratic party. Many Democrats did support the war and even accepted office from the administration. But Peace Democrats (or, as their enemies called them, "Copperheads") feared that agriculture and the Northwest were being subordinated to industry and the East, and that Republican nationalism was threatening states' rights. Some Peace Democrats called for a truce in the fighting and proposed a national convention to amend the Constitution in ways that would satisfy Southern demands. Some advocated the formation of an independent Western confederacy. Some joined such secret societies as the Knights of the Golden Circle and the Sons of Liberty, which many people believed conspired to aid the Southern rebels.

Lincoln used extraordinary methods to suppress opposition to the war. He ordered military arrests and suspended the right of habeas corpus. Suspected offenders could, therefore, be arrested and held without trial. Those who were tried appeared before military courts, where they would not have the benefit of sympathetic localjuries. At first, Lincoln used these methods only in particularly sensitive areas, such as the border states; but in 1862, he proclaimed that all persons who discouraged enlistments or engaged in disloyal practices would be subject to martial law. In all, more than 13,000 persons were arrested and imprisoned for varying periods. The most prominent Copperhead in the countryClement L. Val-landigham, a member of Congress from Ohiowas seized by military authorities and exiled to the Confederacy. Lincoln defied all efforts to curb his authority to suppress opposition. He even defied the Supreme Court. When Chief Justice Taney issued a writ (Ex parte Merryman) requiring him to release an imprisoned Maryland secessionist leader, Lincoln simply ignored it. (After the war, in 1866, the Supreme Court held, in Ex parte Milligan, that military trials in areas where the civil courts were capable of functioning were unconstitutional.)

Early in the war, and particularly after the election of 1862, in which the Republicans suffered heavy losses, leaders of the party began working to create a broad coalition of all the groups that supported the war. In particular, they tried to attract the War Democrats. They called the new organization the Union party; but it was, in reality, little more than the Republican party and a small fringe of War Democrats. It encountered its major political test in the presidential election of 1864.

The Union convention met in June 1864 and nominated Lincoln for another term as president and Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, a War Democrat who had opposed his state's decision to secede, for the vice presidency. In August, the Democratic convention nominated George B. McClellan, a celebrated former Union general who had been relieved of his command by Lincoln. The peace faction won approval of a plank in the party platform denouncing the war as a failure and calling for a truce and a settlement with the South. McClellan repudiated the plank, but the Democrats stood before the country as the peace partyready to profit from the growing war weariness of the nation and from the dismal state of the Union's military position. At this crucial moment, however, several Northern military victories, particularly the capture of Atlanta, Georgia, early in September, rejuvenated Northern morale and gave promise of Republican success in November.

The election was a smashing electoral triumph for Lincoln, who won 212 votes to McClellan's 21 and carried every state except Kentucky, New Jersey, and Delaware. Lincoln's popular majority, however, was uncomfortably small, 2,214,000 to 1,805,000, an advantage of only 400,000. A slight shift of popular votes in some of the more populous states would have changed the result. Had Union victories not occurred when they did, had Lincoln not made special arrangements to allow Union troops to vote (presumably for him), the Democrats might have won and the future course of the nation might have been altered considerably.

The Politics of Emancipation

Lincoln had faced a challenge in 1864 not only from the Democrats but from members of his own Republican party, who almost succeeded in blocking his renomination. For the Republicans, no less than the Democrats, were plagued with factional divisions: between two groups known as the Radicals and the Conservatives. On most questions, including economic matters, the two groups were in fundamental agreement. But they differed violently on slavery. Radicals wanted to seize the opportunity presented by the war to abolish slaveryimmediately and decisively. They had the benefit of influential and articulate congressional leaders: Representative Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania, master of the party machine in the House; Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts; and Senator Benjamin F. Wade of Ohio. The Conservatives opposed slavery too, but they wanted to eliminate it in what they thought would be a less disruptive wayslowly and gradually. And they had the support of the president. Lincoln feared that too rapid an effort to abolish slavery would divide Northern opinion and so antagonize the border states, whose allegiance to the Union was already precarious, that it would become impossible to prevent them from seceding.

Nevertheless, legal attacks on slavery had gathered steady momentum throughout the early years of the war. Lincoln had made several attempts to persuade the loyal slave states to agree to a program of compensated gradual emancipation, but without notable success. A Confiscation Act, passed in August 1861, declared free all slaves used for "insurrectionary" purposes. Subsequent laws in the spring of 1862 abolished slavery, with compensation to owners, in the District of Columbia and in the Western territories. In the summer of 1862, the Radicals decided that Northern opinion had reached a point where they could move still further. In July, they pushed through Congress the second Confiscation Act, a bold attempt to accomplish emancipation by legislative action. It declared free the slaves of persons aiding and supporting the insurrection, and authorized the president to employ blacks, including freed slaves, as soldiers.

As the war progressed, the country seemed slowly to accept emancipation as a central war aim; nothing less, many believed, would justify the enormous sacrifices of the prolonged and costly struggle. As a result, the Radicals gained increasing influence within the Republican partya development that did not go unnoticed by the astute master of politics in the White House, who decided to seize the leadership of the rising antislavery sentiment himself.

On September 22, 1862, after the Union victory at the Battle of Antietam, the president issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation; and on the first day of 1863, he signed a final Emancipation Proclamation, which declared forever free the slaves in most areas of the Confederacy. He exempted from the edict those areas already under Union control: the state of Tennessee, western Virginia, and southern Louisiana. And the proclamation did not apply to the border slave states, which had never seceded from the Union. Since these areas were not enemy territory, the president reasoned that they were not subject to his war powers.

The proclamation freed immediately only a few slaves. But it clearly and irrevocably established that this was a war being fought not only to preserve the Union but also to eliminate slavery. Eventually, as federal armies occupied much of the South, the proclamation became a practical reality and led directly to the freeing of thousands of slaves. About 186,000 of these emancipated blacks served as soldiers, sailors, and laborers for the Union forces. And even in areas not directly affected by the proclamation, the antislavery impulse was gaming strength. By the end of the war, slavery had been abolished in two Union slave states, Maryland and Missouri, and in three "reconstructed" or occupied Confederate states, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Louisiana. The final step came early in 1865, when Congress approved the Thirteenth Amendment, which freed all slaves everywhere and abolished slavery as an institution. The required number of states ratified the amendment shortly after the end of the war. After more than two centuries, legalized slavery forever ceased to exist in the United States.

The War and Society

The Civil War did not, as many people once believed, transform the North from an agrarian to an industrial society. Industrialization was already far advanced when the war began; and in some respects, the war itself did not so much encourage as retard further growthby diverting labor and resources to military purposes.

On the whole, however, the war served to advance the Northern industrial economy. That was in part a result of the new dominance of the Republican party and its promotion of nationalistic economic legislation. But it was also because the war itself required expansion in certain sectors. Coal production increased by nearly 20 percent during the war. Railroad facilities improvedmainly through the adoption of a standard gauge (track width). The loss of farm labor to the military forced many farmers to increase the mechanization of agriculture.

Not all the effects of the war were so progressive. Industrial workers experienced a substantial loss of purchasing power, as their wages failed to rise fast enough to keep pace with the substantial wartime inflation. Prices in the North rose by more than 70 percent during the war, while wages rose only about 40 percent. (Inflation was, however, a far less serious problem than in the South; see next section.) The liberalization of immigration laws began to introduce new competition into the labor market and helped keep wages low. The increasing mechanization of production threatened many skilled workers with the loss of their jobs. One result was a substantial increase in union membership in many industries and the creation of a group of national unions for coal miners, railroad engineers, and other workers. Employers reacted by establishing blacklists of union members and using brutal methods to prevent organization and suppress strikes.

Women found themselves, either by choice or by necessity, thrust into new and often unfamiliar roles. They took over positions vacated by men as teachers, retail sales clerks, office workers, and at times mill and factory hands. Above all, they became nurses. Nursing had previously been a primarily male occupation (although women had been entering the profession since the 1840s); in the course of the war, women became increasingly dominant within the field. In the process, they redefined the image of nursing. Gradually, society came to think of it as a profession less dependent on medical expertise than on a spirit of benevolence and self-sacrifice, a spirit that women were considered to possess in particular abundance. By the end of the century, nursing had become an almost entirely female profession.

The U.S. Sanitary Commission, an organization of civilian volunteers, mobilized large numbers of female nurses to serve in field hospitals. The federal government appointed the reformer Dorothea Dix to serve under the surgeon general and help mobilize a women's nursing corps. Female nurses not only cared for patients but performed other tasks considered particularly appropriate for women: cooking, cleaning, and laundering.

For many women, especially those who had become committed in the prewar years to feminist causes, the war seemed to be an enormously important and liberating experience. Clara Barton, who was active during the war in collecting and distributing medical supplies and who later became an important figure in the nursing professsion, said in 1888: "At the war's end, woman was at least fifty years in advance of the normal position which continued peace would have assigned her." That was a considerable exaggeration. But it captured the degree to which many women looked back on the war as a crucial moment in the redefinition of female roles and in the awakening of a sense of independence and new possibilities.

The Mobilization of the South

The first seven Southern states to secede left the Union as individual sovereignties. But they intended from the first to join together in a common confederation, which they hoped the states of the upper South would eventually join. Accordingly, representatives of the seceded states assembled at Montgomery, Alabama, early in February 1861, to create a Southern nation. When Virginia seceded, the government moved to Richmondpartly out of deference to Virginia, partly because Richmond was one of the few Southern cities large enough to house the government.

Southerners were acutely aware, and boastfully proud, of the differences between their new nation and the nation they had left. Those differences were real. But there were also important similarities between the Union and the Confederacy, which became particularly clear as they mobilized for war: similarities in their political systems, in the methods they used for financing the war and conscripting troops, and in the way they fought.

The Confederate Government

The Confederate constitution was in most respects identical to the Constitution of the United States, but it contained a number of provisions designed to satisfy particular Southern demands. It expressly recognized the sovereignty of the individual states (although it made no mention of the right of secession) . It gave the president an "item veto"the power to veto part of a bill without rejecting the whole thing. And it specifically sanctioned slavery and made its abolition (even by one of the states) practically impossible.

Besides framing a constitution and passing temporary laws, the Montgomery convention named a provisional president and a provisional vice president: Jefferson Davis of Mississippi and Alexander H. Stephens of Georgia. Later, in a general election, the same two men were chosen, without opposition, for regular six-year terms. Davis had been a firm but not extreme advocate of Southern rights in the former Union; he was a moderate but not an extreme secessionist. Stephens had been the chief among those who had contended that secession was unnecessary. Indeed the Confederate government, like the Union government, was dominated throughout the war by men of the center. Just as Radical Republicans never managed to dominate the Lincoln administration, so in the Confederacy the extremist fire-eaters found themselves generally excluded from power.

Jefferson Davis embodied the spirit of the nation he had been called to lead. His family, which was of Southern yeoman stock, had moved from Kentucky, where he was born, to the new lush cotton lands of Mississippi, where they became rich planters almost overnight. Davis was a first-generation aristocrat. So also were most of the members of his government. The Confederacy was run by the cotton nabobs of the newer lower (or "Western") South, not by the old aristocracy of the seaboard states.

Lincoln's task was to preserve a nation. Davis's was the far more difficult task of making one. Lincoln succeeded; Davis failed. He was a reasonably good administrator and served as his own secretary of war. And he dominated his administration completely, encountering little interference from the generally tame members of his unstable cabinet. But Davis rarely provided genuinely national leadership. He spent too much time on routine items, on what one observer called "little trash." Moreover, he demonstrated a punctiliousness about legal and constitutional niceties that was totally inappropriate to the task of ensuring the survival of a new nation. Lincoln, without clear constitutional sanction, suspended habeas corpus; Davis asked his Congress for permission to do so and received only part of what he asked. One shrewd Confederate official (R. G. H. Kean) wrote: "All the revolutionary vigor is with the enemy. . . . With us timidityhair splitting."

Outside the administrationin the Confederate Congress and among the public at largeopposition and dissent were widespread. Just as in the North, disenchanted citizens throughout the South spoke openly and bitterly about the disappointing progress of the war effort, the incompetence of the president and the government, the problems of the economy. The Confederacy had been established on the ideal of the unity and homogeneity of the South; it was that ideal, in fact, that underlay the decision of the founders that there should be no party system in the new nation, that the public should form a single united group. (A similar impulse supported the effort to create the Union party in the North in 1864.) But the quest for unity was in many ways no more successful in the Confederacy than in the Union. And the absence of a party system meant that disagreements often became far more destructive than they did within the government of the United States.

Money and Manpower

In contrast to the burgeoning prosperity of the wartime North, the South in the war years experienced shortages, suffering, and sacrifice. The Southern economy, despite a frantic expansion of industrial facilities, was unable to supply the needs of its armies and civilian population.

The officials in charge of financing the Confederacy's war effort faced several hard facts. They had to create a national revenue system capable of supporting a major war effort; and they had to do so in a society whose people were unaccustomed to bearing large tax burdens. Southern banking houses, except in New Orleans, were fewer and smaller than those of the North. Because excess capital in the South was usually invested in slaves and land, liquid assets were in short supply. The Confederacy's only specie was that seized from the U.S. mints located in the South, and it amounted to only about $1 million.

The Confederate Congress, like its counterpart in the North, was reluctant to enact rigorous wartime taxes. At first, it attempted to requisition funds from the individual statesmost of which were unwilling to impose taxes on their citizens and paid their shares by issuing bonds or their own notes. Moving more boldly in 1863, Congress passed a bill that included license levies and an income tax. A unique feature was the "tax in kind." Farmers and planters had to contribute one-tenth of their produce to the government. But taxation in the end provided the Confederacy with only modest revenue; it was the source of only about 1 percent of the government's total income.

The borrowing record of the Confederacy was little better than its tax program. Eventually, the government issued bonds in such large amounts that people doubted its ability to redeem them. The Confederacy also attempted to borrow money in Europe by pledging cotton stored in the South for future delivery. None of these efforts produced more than minimal results; and thus the Confederacy had to rely primarily on the least stable, most destructive form of financing: paper currency.

The Confederacy began issuing paper money and Treasury notes (the equivalent of the Northern greenbacks) in 1861. Once started, the process could not be stopped. By 1864, the staggering total of $1 billion had been issued, more than twice what the Northern government issued. And unlike the Union, the Confederacy did not establish a uniform currency system; thus states and cities issued their own notes. The result was a rapid depreciation of the value of Confederate moneyinflation, of a kind far worse than anything the North experienced. Prices skyrocketed to astronomical heights, with predictable effects on the new nation's morale.

Like the United States, the Confederate States first raised armies by calling for volunteers. And as in the North, by the end of 1861 voluntary enlistments had begun to decline. By the beginning of 1862, the Confederacy was threatened by a manpower crisis. The government met the situation decisively. At Davis's recommendation, Congress in April enacted a Conscription Act, which declared that all able-bodied white males between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five were liable to military service for three years. A man who was drafted could escape his summons if he furnished a substitute. The prices for substitutes eventually went as high as $10,000 in Confederate currency. The purpose of the provision was to exempt men in charge of agricultural and industrial production. It aroused such bitter opposition from poorer whites, however, that it was repealed in 1863. But that was not the only feature of the draft that angered the common people of the region. A particular target of resentment was the provision exempting one white man on each plantation with twenty or more slaves. Angrily denounced as the "twenty-nigger law," it caused ordinary men to say: "It's a rich man's war but a poor man's fight."

Despite the opposition, conscription seemed for a time to work. At the end of 1862, an estimated 500,000 soldiers were in the Confederate armies. After that, however, conscription provided fewer and fewer men, and the armed forces steadily decreased in size. That was partly because federal armies seized large areas of the South and deprived the Confederacy of access to the manpower in the occupied regions. But it was also because of declining enthusiasm for the war within the areas the Confederacy continued to control. Military reverses in the summer of 1863 convinced many Southerners that the war was lost, causing a kind of passive resistance to the draft as men sought to avoid it by hiding in the hills and woods.

As 1864 opened, the government faced a critical manpower shortage. In a desperate move, Congress lowered the age limit for drafted men to seventeen and raised it to fifty, reaching out, it was said, toward the cradle and the grave. But the measure produced few new recruits in a nation now suffering from intense war weariness and becoming certain that defeat was inevitable. In 1864-1865, there were 100,000 desertions. An observant Confederate diarist, Mary Boykin Chesnut, wrote in her journal in March 1865: "I am sure our army is silently dispersing. Men are moving the wrong way, all the time. They slip by with no songs and no shouts now. They have given the thing up." In a frantic final attempt to raise men, Congress in 1865 authorized the drafting of 300,000 slaves. The war ended before this incongruous experiment could be attempted.

Both in financing the war and in raising men to fight it, the South used methods in many ways indistinguishable from those being used by the North. Only the results were different. As the war continued, the disparity between the resourcesboth economic and humanavailable to the two nations became increasingly clear. The North, despite many difficulties, managed to finance its war effort reasonably successfully and to raise enough men to fill its armies. The South suffered constantly, and increasingly, from shortages of both money and men.

States' Rights Versus Centralization

Many Southerners criticized the Davis administration's handling of the war. Many opposed the draft. But except for isolated pockets of Union sentiment in some of the mountain areas (see above, pp. 327-328), there was at first very little opposition in the Confederacy to the war itself. Southerners were, however, bitterly divided over how the war should be conducted.

The greatest dividing force was, ironically enough, the principle of states' rightsthe foundation of Southern political philosophy, for whose conservation and consecration the South had left the Union. States' rights had become such a cult with many Southerners that they resisted virtually all efforts to exert national authority, even those necessary to win the war. The most adamant opponents of centralization were a group of quixotic men who counted Vice President Alexander Stephens as their leader. They supported the war, but they were unwilling to sacrifice one iota of state sovereignty to win it. If victory had to be gained at the expense of states' rights, they preferred defeat. As the pressures of centralization grew, Stephens and his followers became increasingly attracted to the idea of a negotiated peace with the North and even implied at times that Southern independence need not be a precondition of such a peace.

The states' righters obstructed the national government's conduct of the war at many points. They were particularly critical of Davis's efforts to impose martial law and suspend habeas corpus, and they placed crippling restrictions on his ability to use such powers. They obstructed conscription at many points. Recalcitrant governors such as Joseph Brown of Georgia and Zebulon M. Vance of North Carolina at times went so far as to attempt to keep their own states' troops separate from the Confederate forces. Brown at one point had a substantial surplus of uniforms, which were badly needed by undersupplied Southern soldiers; nevertheless, he refused to allow them to be used for any but Georgia troops.

Despite the opposition, however, the Confederate government did make substantial strides in centralizing power in the South. The Confederate bureaucracy grew rapidly and by war's end was even larger than the bureaucracy in Washington. Davis imposed not only a manpower draft but a food draft soldiers of the Confederate armies were empowered to seize crops from farms in their path in order to feed themselves. The government impressed slaves, often over the objections of their owners, to work as laborers on military projects. The Confederacy seized control of the railroads and shipping; it imposed regulations on industry; it limited corporate profits. States' rights sentiment was a significant handicap; but the South nevertheless took dramatic steps in the direction of centralizationbecoming in the process increasingly like the region whose institutions it was fighting to escape.

Social Effects of the War

The war worked to transform Southern society in many of the same ways that it was changing the society of the North. The forced expansion of industry caused a substantial swelling of the region's previously modest urban population. Atlanta, Mobile, Richmond, and other cities experienced major growth; the population of Richmond more than doubled during the war.

The wartime experience was particularly significant for Southern women. Because so many men left their farms and plantations to fight, the task of keeping families together and maintaining agricultural production fell increasingly to women. Slaveowners' wives often became responsible for managing large slave work forces; the wives of more modest farmers learned to plow fields and harvest crops. Many women, moreover, involved themselves in public activities that had previously been considered the province of men. Substantial numbers of females worked in government agencies in Richmond. Even larger numbers chose nursing, both in hospitals and in temporary facilities set up to care for wounded soldiers. Others became schoolteachers.

The long-range results of the war for Southern women are more difficult to measure but equally profound. The experience of the 1860s almost certainly forced many women to question the prevailing Southern assumption that females were unsuited for certain activities, that they were not fit to participate actively in the public sphere. A more concrete legacy was the decimation of the male population and the creation of a major sexual imbalance in the region. After the war, there were many thousands more women in the South than men. In Georgia, for example, women outnumbered men by 36,000 in 1870; in North Carolina by 25,000. The result, of course, was a large number of unmarried (or widowed) women who, both during and after the war, had no choice but to find employmentthus, by necessity rather than choice, expanding the number of acceptable roles for women in Southern society.

Perhaps the principal social effect of the war on the South, however, was widespread suffering and privation. Particularly once the effects of the Northern naval blockade began to be felt, the South experienced massive shortages of almost everything. The region was overwhelmingly agricultural; but since it had concentrated so single-mindedly for so long on producing cotton and other export crops, it did not grow enough food to meet its own needs. And despite the efforts of women to keep farms functioning, the departure of male workers seriously diminished the region's ability to keep up what food production there had been. Doctors were conscripted in large numbers to serve the needs of the military, leaving many communities without any medical care. Craftsmen such as blacksmiths and carpenters were in short supply.

Many Southerners responded to the scarcity of crucial goods by hoarding them or by selling them at exorbitant prices on the black market. Such practices were encouraged further by the nation's disastrous inflationprices rose more than 7,000 percent in the course of the warwhich made many reluctant to exchange any goods for money that they had reason to believe would soon be worthless.

As the war continued, the shortages, the inflation, and the suffering created increasing instability in Southern society. There were major food riots in cities in Georgia, North Carolina, and Alabama in 1863, as well as a large demonstration in Richmond that soon turned violent. Resistance to conscription, food impressment, and taxation increased throughout the nation. And in the meantime, increasing numbers of Southerners were becoming aware that the privations of war were not equally shared by people of different classes. The traditional deference toward the great planters of the region was eroding.

Strategy and Diplomacy

In the realm of military planning, the objectives of the Union were positive and those of the Confederacy negative. To achieve a victory, the Union had to conquer the rebels and reduce them to subjection, to obedience to federal law. The Confederacy had only to stave off defeat.

In the realm of diplomacy, the situation was reversed. The objectives of the Confederacy in its dealings with European powers were positive, those of the Union negative. The Confederacy hoped to persuade foreign governments to step into the war and help make their independence a reality. The Union aimed only to preserve the status quo: to prevent foreign recognition and intervention.

The CommandersNorth and South

It was the responsibility of the president as commander in chief of the army and navyof Abraham Lincoln for the Union and Jefferson Davis for the Confederacyto see to the making and carrying out of an overall strategy for winning the war. Lincoln, a civilian all his life, had had no military education and no military experience except for a brief militia interlude. Yet he became a great war president and a great commander in chiefsuperior to Davis, who was a trained soldier. Lincoln made himself a fine strategist, often showing keener insight than his generals. He recognized that numbers and resources were on his side, and he moved immediately to mobilize the maximum strength of Northern resources. He urged his generals to keep up a constant pressure on the whole defensive line of the Confederacy until a weak spot was found and a breakthrough could be made. At an early date, he realized that the proper objective of his armies was the destruction of the Confederate armies and not the occupation of Southern territory.

During the first three years of the war, Lincoln performed many functions that in a modern command system would be assumed by the chief of the general staff or the joint chiefs of staff. He formulated policy, devised strategic plans, and even directed tactical movements. Some of his decisions were wise, some wrong; but the general effect of his "interference" with the military machine was fortunate for the North.

At the beginning, Lincoln was inclined to take the advice of General Winfield Scott, the aging hero of the Mexican War who became the president's first chief of staff. The old general, however, was unable to adjust his thinking to the requirements of mass war. He retired from service on November 1, 1861, and Lincoln replaced him as general in chief with the young George B. McClellan, who was also the commander of the federal field army in the East, the Army of the Potomac. McClellan was a proud, even arrogant man who utterly lacked the abilities needed either to formulate strategy or to command an army. The one grand strategic design he submitted was defective because it envisioned operations in only one theater of the war, his own, and because it made places instead of enemy armies its objective. When McClellan took the field in March 1862, Lincoln removed him as general in chief and replaced him (four months later) with General Henry W. Halleck. The foremost American student of the art of war, Halleck had won an undeserved reputation as a successful general in the West. Now he cast himself in the role of an adviser instead of a decision maker. Again, Lincoln himself was forced to form and direct military strategy, a task that he performed until March 1864, when the nation finally achieved a modern command system.

In that system, Ulysses S. Grant, who had emerged as the North's greatest general, was named general in chief. Charged with directing the movements of all Union armies, Grant, because he disliked the political atmosphere of Washington, established his headquarters with the Army of the Potomac but did not technically become commander of that army. Grant proved to be the man for whom Lincoln had been searching. He possessed in superb degree the ability to think of the war in overall terms and to devise strategy for the war as a whole. Because Lincoln trusted Grant, he gave the general a relativgfy free hand. Grant, however, always submitted the broad outlines of his plans to the president for approval before putting them into action. By the new arrangement, Halleck became "chief of staff," acting as a channel of communication between Lincoln and Grant and between Grant and the departmental commanders.

Lincoln's active command role underlines one of the most important changes occurring with the advent of modern warfare: the emergence of the civilian in strategic planning. As war became larger and more technological, strategy became a problem of directing the whole resources of a nation. It was too vast a problem for any one set of leaders, especially for the military.

The most dramatic example of civilian intervention in military affairs was the Committee on the Conduct of the War, a joint investigative committee of both houses of Congress and the most powerful agency that the legislative branch has ever created to secure for itself a voice in formulating war policies. Established in December 1861, under the chairmanship of Senator Benjamin F. Wade of Ohio, it became the spearhead of the Radical attack on Lincoln's war program. The Radicals believed that many of the Northern generals were not animated by a sufficiently driving, ruthless desire for victory. In one sense, they were right. Many of the generals were for a time unable to abandon the eighteenth-century concept of war as a kind of gameas chessboard maneuvers conducted in leisurely fashion and without heavy casualties. But the Radicals ascribed the generals' hesitancy to a secret sympathy for slavery, which the professionals were supposed to have imbibed at West Point. The generals whom the committee favored most of them incompetent amateurswould have been no improvement; and the committee's efforts often seriously interfered with the conduct of the war. But the Radicals did helpeven if not always in ways they had intendedto infuse a hard, relentless purpose into the conduct of the war.

Southern command arrangements centered on President Davis, and under his leadership the Confederacy failed to achieve a modern command system. Early in 1862, Davis assigned General Robert E. Lee to duty at Richmond, where, ''under the direction of the President," he was "charged" with the conduct of the Confederate armies. Despite the fine words, Davis had no intention of sharing control of strategy with anyone. Thus Lee, who had a brilliant military mind, acted only as Davis's adviser, furnishing counsel when called on. After serving a few months, Lee went into the field, and Davis did not appoint another adviser until February 1864. Then he selected Braxton Bragg, whom he had been forced to remove from field command after Bragg was defeated in the West. Bragg had real strategic ability, but he understood the political weakness of his position and restricted his function to providing technical advice.

In February 1865, the Confederate Congress, in a move directed at Davis, created the position of general in chief, which was intended for Lee. Davis named Lee to the post but took care to announce that legally he himself was still commander in chief. Lee accepted the job on the basis offered by the president: as a loyal subordinate instead of the dictator some people wanted him to be. The war ended before the new command experiment could be fully tested.

Below the level of highest command, the war was conductedin both North and Southby men of markedly similar backgrounds. Much of the professional military leadership on both sides was a product of the national military academies of the United Statesthe army academy at West Point and the naval academy at Annapolis, Maryland. Union and Confederate officers, in other words, had been trained along similar lines; many were intimately acquainted, even friendly, with their counterparts on the other side. The amateurs who played an important role in both armies were also in many respects similar. These were the commanders of volunteer regimentsusually the acknowledged economic or social leaders of their communities, who appointed themselves officers and rounded up troops to lead. Although occasionally this system produced officers of real ability, it more often led to disorganization and frustration.

The Role of Sea Power

The Union had a particular advantage in the area of sea power, where it had an overwhelming preponderance of strength. Lincoln made the most of it. The Union navy had two principal functions. One was to enforce the blockade of the Southern coast that the president proclaimed at the beginning of the war, on April 19, 1861. The other was to assist the Union armies in combined land-and-water operations.

In the Western theater of warthe vast region between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi Riverthe larger rivers were navigable by vessels of considerable size. The Union navy helped the armies to conquer this area by transporting supplies and troops for them and joining them in attacking Confederate strong points. In defending themselves against the Union gunboats on the rivers, the Confederates had to depend mainly on land fortifications because of their lack of naval power. These fixed defenses proved no match for the mobile land-and-water forces of the Union.

At first, the blockade of the South was too large a task for the Union navy; and even after the navy had grown to its maximum size, it was unable to seal off completely the long shoreline of the Confederacy. Although large ocean-going ships could generally be kept away, small blockade runners continued to carry goods into and out of some Southern ports. Gradually the federal forces tightened the blockade by occupying stretches of the coast and seizing one port after another. They seized the last remaining important portWilmington, North Carolinaearly in 1865. Fewer and fewer blockade runners got through, and the blockade increasingly hurt the South's economy.

In bold and ingenious attempts to break the blockade, the Confederates introduced some new weapons, among them an ironclad warship. They constructed this ship by plating with iron a former United States frigate, the Merrimac, which the Yankees had scuttled in Norfolk harbor when Virginia seceded. On March 8, 1862, the Merrimac steamed out from Norfolk to attack the blockading squadron of wooden ships in nearby Hampton Roads. It destroyed two of the ships and scattered the restan event that caused jubilation in Richmond and consternation in Washington. But the federal government had already placed orders for the construction of several ironclads of its own (designed by Swedish immigrant engineer John Ericsson). One of these, the Monitor, arrived at Virginia on the night of March 8, shortly after the Merrimac*s dramatic foray. When the Merrimac emerged on the following day to hunt for more victims, it encountered the Monitor, and the first battle between ironclad ships ensued. Neither vessel was able to penetrate the other's armor, but the Monitor put an end to the raids of the Merrimac.

The Confederates later experimented with other new kinds of craft in the effort to pierce the blockade. One was a torpedo boat, which carried the torpedo on a long pole projecting in front. Another was a small, cigar-shaped, hand-powered submarine, the first ever to be used in war. In 1864, in Charleston harbor, such a submarine, pulling its mine behind it on a cable, dived under a blockading vessel, exploded the mine against the hulland then was dragged to the bottom by the sinking ship. But such efforts, however ingenious, fell far short of breaking or even weakening the blockade.

After more than a year of these unsuccessful efforts, the South generally ceased trying to break the blockade and used its navy instead primarily to defend its ports. But the Confederacy never stopped hoping for a new way to challenge the blockade. The government tried, for example, to build or buy fast ships to prey on the Northern merchant marine on the high seas. The hope was that the Union would detach ships from the blockade to pursue the commerce raiders. The Confederates also hoped to purchase from abroad a specially built "ram" with which to smash the wooden blockading ships. As a result of these efforts, the naval war became an important element in the relations of both the Union and the Confederacy with the powers of Europe.

Europe and the Disunited States

Judah P. Benjamin, who occupied the Confederate foreign office for the greater part of the war, was a clever and intelligent man, but he lacked strong confictions and confined most of his energy to routine idministrative tasks. William Seward, on the other land, learned his job well after some initial blunders and went on to become one of the outstanding American secretaries of state. Of perhaps equal importance, the United States was represented in the key diplomatic post at London by a distinguished minister, Charles Francis Adams, who seemed to have inherited the diplomatic brilliance of his father, John Quincy Adams, and his grandfather, John Adams.

In the relationship of Europe to the Civil War, the key nations were Great Britain and France. They had acted together against Russia in the Crimean War and were united by an entente, one of the understandings of which was that questions concerning the United States fell within the sphere of British influence. Napoleon III, therefore, would not act in American affairs without the concurrence of Britain.

At the beginning of the war, the sympathies of the ruling classes of England and France lay largely with the Confederacy. But important English liberals such as John Bright and Richard Cobden saw the war as a struggle between free and slave labor, and they urged their followers to support the Union cause. The politically conscious but largely unenfranchised workers in Britain expressed their sympathy for the fry North frequently and unmistakablyin mass meetings, in resolutions, and, through the medium of Bright and other leaders, in Parliament itself. After Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, these groups intensified their activities on behalf of the Union cause.

In the minds of Southern leaders, cotton was their best diplomatic weapon. England and France needed Southern cotton to keep their textile industries functioning; they would intervene on behalf of the Confederacy so as not to lose their supply. But this King Cotton diplomacy never worked as its champions had envisioned. In 1861, English manufacturers had a surplus of both raw cotton and finished goods on hand; thus the immediate effect of the blockade was merely to enable textile manufacturers to dispose of their remaining goods at high prices. Thereafter, the supply became increasingly short, and many mills were forced to close. But even then, both England and France managed to avoid a complete shutdown of their textile industries by importing supplies from new sources, notably Egypt and India. Most important of all, the workers, the people most seriously affected by the shortage, did not clamor to have the blockade broken. Even the 500,000 English textile workers thrown out of jobs continued to support the North.

The result of all this was that no European nation extended diplomatic recognition to the Confederacy. Although several times England and France considered offering to mediate the conflict, they never moved to intervene in the war. Neither could afford to do so unless the Confederacy seemed on the point of winning; and the South never came close enough to victory to convince its potential allies to support it. Even so, several crises emerged during the war that almost produced hostilities between the United States and Great Britain.

Immediately after the outbreak of war, Great Britain issued a proclamation of neutrality, which implicitly gave the Confederacy the status of a belligerent. France and other nations followed suit. The Northern government, which officially insisted that the war was not a war but a domestic insurrection, bitterly resented England's action. But the British government had proceeded in conformity with accepted rules of neutrality and in accordance with the realities of the situation. The United States was fighting a war, a fact that Lincoln himself had recognized in his proclamation establishing a blockade. Thereafter three crises or near crises developed, any one of which could have resulted in war between the two countries.

The first crisis, and the most dangerous onethe so-called Trent affairoccurred late in 1861. The Confederate commissioners to England and France, James M. Mason andjohn Slidell, had slipped through the then ineffective blockade to Havana, Cuba, where they boarded an English steamer, the Trent, for England. Hovering in Cuban waters was an American frigate, the San Jacinto, commanded by Captain Charles Wilkes, an impetuous officer who knew that the Southern diplomats were on the Trent. Acting without authorization from his government, Wilkes stopped the British vessel, arrested the commissioners, and bore them off in triumph to Boston. The British government drafted a demand for the release of the prisoners, reparation, and an apology. Lincoln and Seward, well aware that war with England would be suicidal, spun out the negotiations until American opinion had cooled off, then returned the commissioners with an indirect apology.

The second issuera case involving Confederate ships known as commerce destroyersgenerated a long-lasting diplomatic problem. Lacking the resources to construct the vessels, the Confederacy contracted to have them built and equipped in British shipyards. British companies sold six ships to the Confederacy, of which the most famous were the Alabama, the Florida, and the Shenandoah. The British government liked to claim that these were private transactions of which they had no prior knowledge. In fact, they knew exactly what was going on; Charles Francis Adams was informing them of it constantly and indignantly. The United States protested that this sale of military equipment to a belligerent violated the laws of neutrality. The protests formed the basis, after the war, for damage claims that the United States served on Great Britain. (See below, pp. 453-454.)

The third incidentthe affair of the Laird rams could have developed into a crisis but did not because the British government suddenly decided to mend its ways. In 1863, the Confederacy placed an order with the Laird shipyards in England for two powerful ironclads with pointed prows for ramming and sinking Union vessels and thus breaking the blockade. Adams was instructed to inform the British that if the rams, or any other ships destined for the Confederacy, left port, there would be danger of war. Even before Adams delivered his message, the British government acted to detain the rams and to prevent the Confederacy from obtaining any other ships.

If Napoleon III had had his way, France and England would have intervened on behalf of the Confederacy at an early date. Unable to persuade Britain to act, he had to content himself with expressing sympathy for the Southern cause and permitting the Confederates to order commerce destroyers from French shipyards. The emperor's primary motive for desiring an independent South was his ambition to establish French colonial power in the Western Hemisphere. A divided America would be less able to block his plans. He seized the opportunity of the war to set up a French-dominated empire in Mexico.

Napoleon's Mexican venture was a clear violation of the Monroe Doctrine, perhaps the most serious one that had ever occurred. The United States viewed it in such a light, but for fear of provoking France into recognizing the Confederacy, it could do no more than register a protest. Only after the Civil War ended did the United States feel strong enough to put pressure on France to get out of Mexico. By then, the French venture was already in trouble in Mexico itself. In 1866, Napoleon withdrew his troops from Mexico; and the following year, the emperor he had installed there was captured and shot by insurrectionists led by a former (and future) Mexican president, Benito Juarez.

Campaigns and Battles

In the absence of direct intervention by the European powers, the two contestants in America were left to settle their conflict between themselves. They did so in four long years of bloody combat that produced more carnage than any war in American history, before or since. More than 600,000 Americans died in the course of the Civil War, far more than the 115,000 who perished in World War I or the 318,000 who died in World War II. And in proportion to the total population, the losses suffered in the 1860s were even higher. There were nearly 2,000 deaths for every 100,000 of population during the Civil War. In World War I, the comparable figure was only 109; in World War II, 241.

It was not only battle itself that produced the remarkable death toll. It was disease, to which the miserable conditions in which both armies had to live made soldiers highly vulnerable, and for which only the most primitive medical knowledge or facilities were available. Even minor battle injuries, moreover, could lead to death through infection or other complications because of inadequate health care. Despite the efforts of such volunteer organizations as the American Sanitary Commission, military medicine on both sides remained primitive. Not until World War I would scientific knowledge reach the point where disease would claim fewer victims than battle.

And the combat itself in the Civil War was of frightful intensity. After the Battle of Antietam, according to observers, one could have walked all the way across the vast battlefield atop the bodies of the fallen soldiers; the ground was almost entirely covered with the dead. Nearly 5,000 soldiers had been killed in a single day's fighting.

Despite the gruesome cost, the Civil War has become perhaps the most romanticized, the most intently studied, of all American wars. In large part, that is because the conflict producedin addition to hideous fatalitiesa series of military campaigns of classic strategic interest and a series of military leaders who displayed unusual daring and charisma.

The Opening Clashes, 1861

The year 1861 witnessed several small battles that accomplished large results and one big battle that had no important outcome. The small engagements occurred in Missouri and in western Virginia, the mountainous region that shortly would become the state of West Virginia.

In Missouri, the contending forces were headed on the one hand by Governor Claiborne Jackson and other state officials, who wanted to take the state out of the Union, and on the other by Nathaniel Lyon, commanding a small regular army force at St. Louis. Lyon led his column into southern Missouri, where he was defeated and killed by a superior Confederate force at the Battle of Wilson's Creek (August 10). He had, however, seriously blunted the striking power of the Confederates, and Union forces were able to hold most of the state.

Crossing the Ohio River into western Virginia came a Union force that had been assembled in Ohio under the command of George B. McClellan. Mc-Clellan succeeded by the end of the year in "liberating" the mountain people, who created their own state government loyal to the Union. Although possession of the region placed the Union forces on the flank of Virginia, they could not, because of the transportation obstacles presented by the mountains, use it as a base from which to move eastward. The occupation of western Virginia was, however, an important propaganda victory for the North: A Union-sympathizing area in the Confederacy had been wrenched from Southern control.

The one big battle of the year was fought in Virginia in the area between the two capitals. Just south of Washington was a Union army of over 30,000 under the command of General Irvin McDowell. A Confederate army of over 20,000 under P. G. T. Beauregard was based at Manassas in northern Virginia, about thirty miles southwest of Washington. If McDowell's army could knock out Beauregard's, Union leaders believed, the war might be ended immediately. In mid-July, McDowell marched his inexperienced troops toward Manassas. His movement was well advertised to the Confederates by Northern newspapers and Southern spies.

Beauregard retired behind Bull Run, a small stream north of Manassas, and called for reinforcements. They reached him the day before the battle, making the two armies approximately equal in size. In the First Battle of Bull Run, or First Battle of Manassas (July 21), McDowell's attack almost succeeded. But the Confederates stopped a last strong Union assault, then began a counterattack. A sudden wave of panic struck the Union troops, wearied after hours of hot, hard fighting. They retreated across the Bull Run Creek in a rout. Unable to reorganize his troops north of the stream, McDowell had to order a retreat to Washingtona chaotic withdrawal complicated by the presence along the route of many civilians, who had ridden down from the capital, picnic baskets in hand, to watch the battle from nearby hills. The Confederates, as disorganized by victory as the Union forces were by defeat, and lacking supplies and transportation, were in no condition to undertake a forward movement.

Lincoln replaced McDowell with General McClellan, the victor of the fighting in western Virginia, and took measures to increase the army. Both sides girded themselves now for a real war.

The Western Theater

After the battle at Manassas, military operations in the East settled into a long and frustrating stalemate. The first decisive operations in 1862 occurred, therefore, in the Western theater. Here the Union forces were trying to secure control of the Mississippi River, which would enable them to divide the Confederacy and provide them with easy transportation into its heart. Most of their offensives were combined land-and-water operations, as Union forces moved on the river itself or along its banks. Northern soldiers advanced on the southern Mississippi from both the north and south, moving down from Kentucky and up from the Gulf of Mexico toward New Orleans. In April, a Union squadron of ironclads and wooden vessels commanded by David G. Farragut

(destined to be the first American to be awarded the rank of admiral) appeared in the Gulf. Smashing past the weak Confederate forts near the mouth of the river, Farragut ran up to New Orleans, which had been left virtually defenseless because the Confederate high command had expected the attack to come from the north. Farragut forced the civil authorities to surrender the city on April 25the first major Union victory (even if one that occurred virtually without bloodshed) and an important turning point in the war. Throughout the rest of the war, Union forces controlled New Orleans and southern Louisiana. They thus closed off the mouth of the great river to Confederate trade, grasped the South's largest city and greatest banking center, and secured a base for future operations.

All Confederate troops in the West were under the command of one general, Albert Sidneyjohnston, who had permitted a fatal weakness to appear in his long line of defense. The center of that line lay in Tennessee, at Fort Henry on the Tennessee River and Fort Donelson on the Cumberlandand the forts were located well to the south of (and hence behind) the main Southern flanks. If the Union forces, with the aid of naval power, could capture these outposts, they would be between the two Confederate flanks and in a position to destroy either.

This was exactly what the Union forces did in February 1862. Ulysses S. Grant proceeded to attack Fort Henry, whose defenders, awed by the ironclad river boats accompanying the Union army, surrendered with almost no resistance (February 6). Grant then marched to Donelson, while his naval auxiliary moved to the Cumberland River. At Donelson, the Confederates put up a fight; but eventually the garrison of 20,000 had to capitulate (February 16). Grant, by the simple process of cracking the Confederate center and placing himself astride the river communications, had inflicted a near disaster on the Confederacy. As a result of his movement, the Confederates were forced out of Kentucky and had to yield half of Tennessee.

With about 40,000 men, Grant now advanced up the Tennessee River (southward) to seize control of railroad lines that were vital to the Confederacy. He landed his army at Pittsburg Landing, and marched to nearby Shiloh, where a force almost equal to his and commanded by Albert Sidney Johnston and P. G. T. Beauregard caught him with a surprise attack. In the ensuing Battle of Shiloh (April 6-7), the Southerners drove Grant back to the river in the first day's fighting (during which Johnston was killed). The next day, reinforced by 25,000 newly arrived troops, Grant took the offensive and recovered the lost ground. Beauregard then withdrew. After the narrow victory at Shiloh, Union forces managed to occupy Corinth, Mississippi, which was the hub of several important railroads, and established control of the banks of the Mississippi River as far south as Memphis.

The Confederate army in Mississippi, now under the command of Braxton Bragg, moved north to Chattanooga, to be in a position to launch an offensive and win back the lost territory. The Confederates still controlled the eastern half of Tennessee; Bragg's task was to recover the rest of the state and, if possible, to carry the war into Kentucky. Opposing him was a Union army under Don Carlos Buell, whose assignment was to capture Chattanooga. Bragg chose not to risk an engagement near there and decided instead to draw Buell away from Tennessee by going north. When the two armies met, in central Kentucky, they fought an indecisive battle at Perry ville (October 8). Bragg then turned back to Tennessee, and Buell followed him slowlyso slowly that Lincoln finally removed him from command and replaced him with William S. Rosecrans. Bragg and Rosecrans met finally in the Battle of Murfreesboro, or Stone's River (December 31-January 2). Again Bragg withdrew to the south, his campaign a failure.

In the course of the year, the Union forces had made considerable progress toward the achievement of their objectives in the West. But the major conflict remained in the East; and they were having much less success with their land campaigns there.

The Virginia Front, 1862

In the Eastern theater in 1862, Union operations were directed by young George B. McClellan, commander of the Army of the Potomac and the most controversial general of the war. McClellan was a superb trainer of men, but he never seemed willing to commit his troops to decisive battle. Opportunities for important engagements came and went, and McClellan continually failed to take advantage of them claiming always that his preparations were not yet complete or that the moment was not quite right.

During the winter of 1861-1862, McClellan had concentrated on training his army of 150,000 men near Washington. He finally settled on a plan of operations for the spring campaign designed to capture the Confederate capital at Richmond. Instead of heading overland directly toward Richmond, he decided on a roundabout route. He would have the navy transport his troops south down the Potomac to the peninsula between the York and the James rivers. Then he would move up the peninsula and approach Richmond from the east.

McClellan began his Peninsular campaign with about 100,000 men. President Lincoln held back another 30,000McDowell's corpsto protect the Union capital, although McClellan insisted that Washington would be safe as long as he was threatening Richmond. As he neared Richmond, he finally persuaded Lincoln to send him the additional men. But before he could do so, the Confederates took steps to divert him. A Confederate army under Thomas J. ("Stonewall") Jackson marched rapidly northward in the Shenandoah Valley as if to cross the upper Potomac and attack Washington from above. Alarmed, Lincoln dispatched McDowell's corps to head off Jackson. In his brilliant Valley campaign (May 4-June 9), Jackson defeated two separate Union armies and slipped away before McDowell could catch him.

Meanwhile, just outside Richmond, Confederate troops under Joseph E. Johnston attacked McClellan's army, but in the two-day Battle of Fair Oaks, or Seven Pines (May 31-June 1), could not budge it. Johnston, badly wounded, was replaced by Robert E. Lee, who was to prove a masterly commander in leading the Army of Northern Virginia throughout the rest of the war. Lee recalled Jackson from the valley and, with a combined force of 85,000 (as compared with McClellan's 100,000), launched a new offensive, which resulted in a series of engagements known as the Battle of the Seven Days (June 25-July 1). Lee intended to cut McClellan off from his base on the York River and then to destroy McClellan's isolated army. Instead, McClellan managed to fight his way across the peninsula and set up a new base on the James. There, with naval support, the Army of the Potomac was safe. But so was Richmond.

Only twenty-five miles from Richmond, with a secure line of water communications, the Army of the Potomac was in a good position to renew the campaign. McClellan, however, time and again found reasons for delay. And Lincoln, instead of replacing McClellan with a more aggressive commander, decided to remove the army to northern Virginia and combine it with a smaller force under John Pope. Lincoln wished to start a new offensive on the direct Washington-to-Richmond overland route that he himself preferred.

As the Army of the Potomac left the peninsula by water, Lee moved the Army of Northern Virginia northward to strike Pope before McClellan couldjoin him. Pope, who was as rash as McClellan was cautious, attacked the approaching Confederates without waiting for the arrival of all of McClellan's troops. In the ensuing Second Battle of Bull Run, or Second Battle of Manassas (August 29-30), Lee threw back the assault and routed Pope's army, which fled to Washington. Removing Pope from command, Lincoln put McClellan in charge of all the federal forces around the city.

Lee soon went on the offensive again, heading north through western Maryland. With some misgivings, Lincoln let McClellan move out to meet Lee. McClellan had the good luck to come into possession of a copy of Lee's orders, which revealed to him that the Confederate army was divided. A part of it, under Stonewall Jackson, had gone to capture Harpers Ferry. McClellan should have attacked quickly, before the Confederates could recombine. Instead, he gave Lee time to pull most of his forces together behind Antietam Creek, near the town of Sharpsburg. Here, in the bloodiest engagement of the war (September 17), McClellan with 87,000 men repeatedly assaulted Lee, who had 50,000. Late in the dayafter appalling casualties on both sidesit seemed that the Confederate line might break, but the rest ofjackson's troops arrived from Harpers Ferry to fill the gap. Even then, McClellan might have broken through with one more effort. Instead, he allowed Lee to retreat into Virginia. Technically, Antietam was a Union victory; but in reality, it represented another opportunity squandered. In November, Lincoln finally removed McClellan from command, for good. McClellan's replacement, Ambrose E. Burnside, was a short-lived mediocrity. He chose to drive at Richmond by crossing the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg, the strongest defensive point on the river. There (December 13) he flung his army at Lee's defenses in repeated attacks, all bloody, all hopeless. After losing a large part of his army, he withdrew to the north bank of the Rappahannock. He was relieved at his own request.

Year of Decision, 1863

As 1863 opened, Burnside's successor, Joseph Hooker (popularly known as "Fighting Joe"), was at the head of the Army of the Potomac, which, 120,000 strong, still lay north of the Rappahannock, opposite Fredericksburg. With part of the army, Hooker crossed the river upstream from Fredericksburg and threatened the town and Lee's army. But at the last minute, apparently, he lost his nerve and drew back to a defensive position in a desolate area of brush and scrub trees known as the Wilderness. Here, in the Battle of Chancellorsville (May 1-5), with only half as many men as Hooker had, Lee daringly divided the Confederate forces for a dual assault. He sent Jackson to hit the Union right while he himself charged the front. Hooker barely managed to extricate his army. Again Lee had frustrated Union objectives, but he had not won the decisive victory he was hoping for. And he had lost his ablest officer, Jackson, who was fatally wounded at the close of the battle.

While the Union forces were suffering repeated frustrations in the East, they continued to do much better in the West. Ulysses S. Grant kept driving at Vicksburg, Mississippi, one of the Confederates' two remaining strongholds on the southern Mississippi River. Coming downriver with naval support, he struck several unsuccessful blows at the Confederate defenses. The terrain in front of Vicksburg was difficult, with rough country on the north and low, marshy ground on the west. Finally, in May, Grant had the navy run supply boats past the river batteries to a point below Vicksburg. He moved his army safely southward by land, down the Louisiana side of the river and out of range of Vicksburg's powerful guns. Then, once he was south of the city, he transported his troops back across the river. Here the terrain was much more suitable for maneuvering. Moving swiftly to the east, Grant twice defeated Confederates trying to stop him. Then he turned back to the west and approached Vicksburg from the rear. After attempting to take the town by storm, he settled into a prolonged siege. Six weeks later, on July 4, Vicksburgwhose residents were by then literally starvingsurrendered. Almost immediately, the other Confederate strong point on the river, Port Hudson, Louisiana, also surrenderedto a Union force that had moved north from New Orleans.

At last the Union had achieved one of its basic military aims: control of the whole length of the Mississippi. The Confederacy was split in twoLouisiana, Arkansas, and Texas were now cut off from the other seceded states. The victories on the Mississippi were one of the great turning points of the war.

The siege of Vicksburg had other effects on the Confederate war effort. Early in the siege, the Confederate government had begun considering various plans for relieving the town. Lee proposed an invasion of Pennsylvania, which would, he argued, serve to remove the pressure on Vicksburg. If he could win a sudden victory on Northern soil, he said, England and France would probably come to the Confederacy's aid, and the Union might even quit the war before Vicksburg fell.

Lee started the campaign into Pennsylvania in June. He moved west to the Shenandoah Valley and then north through Maryland and into Pennsylvania. Hooker moved his troops west, to keep parallel with the Confederates' movement and to remain between Lee and Washington. Then, in mid-campaign, he was replaced by George C. Meade, a solid if unimaginative soldier. Units of Lee's and Meade's armies finally encountered one another at the small town of Gettysburg. And there, from July 1-3, 1863, they fought the most celebrated battle of the war.

Meade's army established a strong, well-protected position on the hills south of the town. Lee, combative by nature and confident of his men, decided to attack even though his army was at a tactical disadvantage and was outnumbered 75,000 to 90,000. His first assault failed to reach the main line of the Union forces on Cemetery Ridge, so, a day later, he ordered a second and larger effort. In what is remembered as Pickett's Charge, a force of 15,000 advanced for almost a mile over open country that was swept by hostile fire. Only about 5,000 made it up the ridge, and this remnant finally had to surrender or retreat. Lee was compelled to withdraw from Gettysburg, having lost nearly a third of his army. Meade failed to prevent the return of the Confederates to Virginia; but the Southern army had been so weakened that Lee never again attempted a serious invasion of the North. The Confederate retreat from Gettysburg, which began on the same day as the surrender at Vicksburg (July 4), was another great turning point in the war.

Before the end of the year, there was a third important turning point, this one in Tennessee. The Union army under Rosecrans occupied Chattanooga (September 9) after Bragg and the Confederates had evacuated the town. Rosecrans then went, unwisely, in pursuit of Bragg. Just across the Georgia line, Bragg, with reinforcements from Lee's army, was lying in wait. He fell upon Rosecrans in the Battle of Chickamauga (September 19-20), one of the few battles in which the Confederates enjoyed a numerical superiority (70,000 to 56,000). The Union right broke and ran, although the left, under George H. Thomas (who became known as "the Rock of Chickamauga"), continued to fight. Finally Thomas, along with the re$t of the beaten army, sought refuge behind the Chattanooga defenses.

Soon the Union army in Chattanooga was under siege. Bragg held the heights nearby and controlled the roads and the Tennessee River, thus cutting off almost all fresh supplies. Finally Grant came to the rescue. In the Battle of Chattanooga (November 23-25), the reinforced Union army drove the Confederates back into Georgia. Northern troops then proceeded to occupy most of eastern Tennessee.

The Union forces had achieved a second important objective: control of the Tennessee River. At Chattanooga they were in a position to split the Confederacy againwhat was left of it. No longer could the Southerners hope to gain their independence by some great military victory. They could hope to win only by holding on and exhausting the Northern will to fight.

The Last Stage, 1864-1865

Grant, who was now general in chief of all the Union armies, planned two grand offensives for 1864. In Virginia, the Army of the Potomac (which Meade continued to command but which Grant accompanied and actually directed) was to advance toward Richmond and force Lee into a decisive battle. In Georgia, the Western army, under William T. Sherman, was to advance east toward Atlanta and destroy the opposing Confederate force, now under the command of Joseph E. Johnston.

The twofold campaign began when the Army of the Potomac, 115,000 strong, crossed the Rappahan-nock and Rapidan rivers and plunged into the rough, wooded Wilderness area. Lee, with about 75,000 men, was determined to avoid a showdown unless he saw a chance to deal a decisive blow. In the Battle of the Wilderness (May 5-7), Lee stopped Grant, but only for the moment. Instead of withdrawing to rest and reorganize, as his predecessors had done after every battle, Grant resumed his march in the general direction of Richmond. Lee intercepted him a second time in the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House and engaged him in a bloody five-day struggle, which cost the Union armies 12,000 men; the heavy Confederate casualty figures were never released. Despite the enormous losses, Grant still refused to stop his advance. He moved now to the southeast, and Lee continued to keep between him and the Confederate capital. Just a few miles northeast of Richmond, at Cold Harbor (June 1-3), Grant made a desperate attack and was repulsed. In the whole month-long Wilderness campaign Grant had lost a total of 55,000 men (killed, wounded, and captured) to Lee's 31,000. And still, the decisive victory eluded him.

"I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer," Grant had declared during the Battle of Spotsylvania; but he now tried a different tack. He slipped away with his army, bypassed Richmond, and headed for Petersburg, a railroad center directly south of the capital. If he could seize Petersburg, he could cut off the capital's communications and force Lee to fight for them. But Grant's initial assault on Petersburg failed. Both sides settled down to a siege, with trenches stretching for miles from Richmond to and around Petersburg. Grant kept trying to extend his left around Lee's right so as to get at the railroads that served as Lee's lifeline. But success was not to come until after nine months of struggle.

In Georgia, meanwhile, Sherman had been facing less resistance than Grant in Virginia. Sherman had 90,000 men and faced Confederate forces under Johnston of 60,000. Johnston was unwilling to risk the destruction of his army through a direct engagement with Sherman's superior force; and so, as Sherman advanced, he tried to delay him by maneuvering. Johnston stopped long enough to fight only one real battleKennesaw Mountain, northwest of Atlanta (June 27). Despite an impressive victory there, Johnston was unable to stop the Union advance toward Atlanta. Realizing that Sherman would soon reach the city, President Davis replaced Johnston with the combative John B. Hood. Twice Hood daringly attacked; he accomplished nothing except seriously weaken his own army. Sherman took Atlanta on September 2. (News of the victory electrified the North and helped unite the previously divided Republican party behind President Lincoln.)

Hood now schemed to draw Sherman out of Atlanta by moving back up through Tennessee and threatening an invasion of the North. Sherman refused to followhe had other plansbut he sent reinforcements under George H. Thomas and John M. Schofield to help defend Nashville. Hood caught up with Schofield's force and, in the Battle of Franklin (November 30), further weakened his own army by ordering senseless charges against Schofield's well-protected positions. Then, in the Battle of Nashville (December 15-16, 1864), Thomas not only put Hood's army to flight but practically disintegrated it. Meanwhile Sherman had started on a march from Atlanta to the sea. Living off the land, destroying supplies it could not use, his army cut a sixty-mile-wide swath of desolation across Georgia. "War is hell," Sherman maintained. By that he meant not so much that war is terrible, and to be avoided, as that it should be made as horrible and costly as possible for the opponent. He sought not only to deprive the Confederate army of war materials and railroad communications but also to bring the war home to the Southern people and break their will to fight. By December 20, he had reached Savannah, which surrendered two days later and was offered to President Lincoln as a Christmas gift (and which, almost alone among the areas he conquered, he did not destroy; the city was, he claimed, too beautiful to burn). Early in 1865, Sherman turned northward and carried his destruction through South Carolina. On his entire march, he was virtually unopposed until he was well inside North Carolina, where a small force under Johnston could do no more than cause a brief delay.

In April 1865, Grant's Army of the Potomac still engaged in the prolonged siege at Petersburg finally captured a vital railroad junction southwest of the town. Lee could no longer hope to defend Richmond. With the remnant of his army, now reduced to about 25,000, Lee began moving west in the forlorn hope of finding a way to avoid Union forces to his south so that he could move toward North Carolina and link up with Johnston. But the Union army pursued him and blocked his escape route. Realizing that further bloodshed was futile, Lee arranged to meet Grant at the courthouse at the small town of Appomattox, Virginia. There, on April 9, he surrendered what was left of his forces. Nine days later, near Durham, North Carolina, Johnston surrendered to Sherman.

In military terms, at least, the long war was now over. But Jefferson Davis remained defiant and refused to accept defeat. He fled south and was finally captured in Georgia. Only a few Southern diehards continued to fight; even their resistance collapsed before long. Well before the last shot was fired, the painful process of trying to reunite the shattered nation had begun.

WHERE HISTORIANS DISAGREE

The Causes of the Civil War

The debate over the causes of the Civil War began even before the war itself. In 1858, Senator William H. Seward of New York took note of the two competing explanations of the sectional tensions that were then inflaming the nation. On one side, he claimed, stood those who believed the sectional hostility to be "accidental, unnecessary, the work of interested or fanatical agitators." Opposing them stood those who believed there to be "an irrepressible conflict between opposing and enduring forces." Although he did not realize it at the time, Seward was drawing the outlines of a debate that would survive among historians for more than a century to come.

The "irrepressible conflict" argument was the first to dominate historical discussion. In the first decades after the fighting, histories of the Civil War generally reflected the views of Northerners who had themselves participated in the conflict. To them, the war appeared to be a stark moral conflict in which the South was clearly to blame, a conflict that arose inevitably as a result of the threatening immorality of slave society. Henry Wilson's History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power (1872-1877) was (as the title suggests) a particularly vivid version of this moral interpretation of the war, which argued that Northerners had fought to preserve the Union and a system of free labor against the aggressive designs of the "slave power."

A more temperate interpretation, but one that reached generally the same conclusions, emerged in the 1890s, when the first serious histories of the war began to appear. Preeminent among them was the seven-volume History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850 . . . (1893-1900) by James Ford Rhodes. Like Wilson and others, Rhodes identified slavery as the central, indeed virtually the only, cause of the war. "If the Negro had not been brought to America," he wrote, "the Civil War could not have occurred." And because the North and the South had reached positions on the issue of slavery that were both irreconcilable and unalterable, the conflict had become "inevitable."

Although Rhodes placed his greatest emphasis on the moral conflict over slavery, he suggested, too, that the struggle reflected fundamental differences between the Northern and Southern economic systems. Not until the 1920s, however, did the idea of the war as an irrepressible economic rather than moral conflict receive full expression. As on so many other issues, it was the great historians Charles and Mary Beard who most clearly expressed this viewpoint, in The Rise of American Civilization (2 vols., 1927). Slavery, the Beards claimed, was not so much a social or cultural institution as an economic one, a labor system. There were, they insisted, "inherent antagonisms" between Northern industrialists and Southern planters. Each group sought to control the federal government so as to protect its own economic interests. Both groups used arguments over slavery and states' rights only as a smoke screen.

The economic determinism of the Beards influenced a generation of historians in important ways, but ultimately most of those who believed the Civil War to have been "irrepressible" returned to an emphasis on social and cultural factors. Allan Nevins argued as much in his great work, The Ordeal of the Union (8 vols., 1947-1971). The North and the South, he wrote, "were rapidly becoming separate peoples." At the root of these cultural differences was the "problem of slavery"; but "fundamental assumptions, tastes, and cultural aims" of the regions were diverging in other ways as well.

More recent proponents of the "irrepressible conflict" argument have taken more hostile views of the Northern and Southern positions on the conflict but have been equally insistent on the role of culture and ideology in creating them. Eric Foner, in Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men (1970) and other writings, emphasized the importance of the "free-labor ideology" to Northern opponents of slavery. The moral concerns of the abolitionists were not the dominant sentiments in the North, he claimed. Instead, most Northerners (including Abraham Lincoln) opposed slavery largely because they feared it might spread to the North and threaten the position of free white laborers. Convinced that Northern society was superior to that of the South, increasingly persuaded of the South's intentions to extend the "slave power" beyond its existing borders, Northerners were embracing a viewpoint that made conflict inevitable. Eugene Genovese, writing of Southern slaveholders in The Political Economy of Slavery (1965), emphasized their conviction that the slave system provided a far more humane society than industrial labor, that the South had constructed "a special civilization built on the relation of master to slave." Just as Northerners were becoming convinced of a Southern threat to their economic system, so Southerners believed that the North had aggressive and hostile designs on the Southern way of life. Like Foner, therefore, Genovese saw in the cultural outlook of the section the source of an all but inevitable conflict.

Historians who argue that the conflict emerged naturally, even inevitably, out of a fundamental divergence between the sections have, therefore, disagreed markedly over whether moral, cultural, social, ideological, or economic issues were the primary causes of the Civil War. But they have been in general accord that the conflict between North and South was deeply embedded in the nature of the two societies, that the crisis that ultimately emerged was irrepressible. Other historians, however, have questioned that assumption and have argued that the Civil War could have been avoided, that the differences between North and South were not important enough to have necessitated a war. Like proponents of the "irrepressible conflict" school, advocates of the war as a "repressible conflict" emerged first in the nineteenth century. President James Buchanan, for example, believed that extremist agitators were to blame for the conflict; and many Southerners writing of the war in the late nineteenth century claimed that only the fanaticism of the Republican party could account for the conflict.

But the idea of the war as avoidable did not gain wide recognition among historians until the 1920s and 1930s, when a group known as the "revisionists" began to offer new accounts of the prologue to the conflict. One of the leading revisionists was James G. Randall, who saw in the social and economic systems of the North and the South no differences so fundamental as to require a war. Slavery, he suggested, was an essentially benign institution; it was, in any case, already "crumbling in the presence of nineteenth century tendencies." Only the political ineptitude of a "blundering generation" of leaders could account for the Civil War, he claimed. Avery Craven, another leading revisionist, placed more emphasis on the issue of slavery than had Randall. But in The Coming of the Civil War (1942), he too argued that slave laborers were not much worse off than Northern industrial workers, that the institution was already on the road to "ultimate extinction," and that war could, therefore, have been averted had skillful and responsible leaders worked to produce compromise.

More recent students of the war have kept elements of the revisionist interpretation alive by emphasizing the role of political agitation in the coming of the war. David Herbert Donald, for example, argued in 1960 that the politicians of the 1850s were not unusually inept but that they were operating in a society in which traditional restraints were being eroded in the face of the rapid extension of democracy. Thus the sober, statesmanlike solution of differences was particularly difficult. Michael Holt, in The Political Crisis of the 1850s (1978), similarly emphasized the actions of politicians, rather than the irreconcilable differences between sections, in explaining the conflict, although he avoided placing blame on any one group. "Much of the story of the coming of the Civil War," he wrote, "is the story of the successful efforts of Democratic politicians in the South and Republican politicians in the North to keep the sectional conflict at the center of the political debate."

Like the proponents of the "irrepressible conflict" interpretation, the "revisionist" historians have differed among themselves in important ways. But the explanation of the Civil War has continued, even a century later, to divide roughly into the same two schools of thought that William Seward identified in 1858. And while the idea of the war as inevitable remains, as it has always been, the dominant interpretation, it has yet to establish unchallenged dominance.

 

 


 

 



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