By February 1861, seven states seceded from the Union to form the Confederate States of America. Lincoln began to call up reinforcements. Lincoln's decision caused Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas to secede. Four states that allowed slavery yet remained in the Union were Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware. These four states became known as border states because the people living in them were divided over which side to support. Missouri, Kentucky, and Maryland were on the verge of secession. Lincoln had to tread lightly so as not to push them over the edge. Losing these states would damage the North since they all held strategic locations like control of parts of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, a close boundary to major cities like Philadelphia, and major routes to the West. Not all people in the South favored secession. Some Virginians opposed the idea. In the western portion of Virginia, a movement to secede from the state of Virginia and rejoin the Union grew. In 1861, 48 Virginian counties separated from Virginia and formed the state West Virginia, which was admitted into the Union in 1863. States were not the only ones with a tough choice to make. Individuals also had to decide with which side they intended to fight. Robert E. Lee chose instead to fight with his home, Virginia, and seceded from the Union. Many families and friends would be torn apart when deciding which cause to fight for. Regardless of which side one chose, each side thought the war would be over within months and no more than a year. However, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman predicted the length of the war correctly. He said, "I think it is to be a long war - very long - much longer than any politician thinks."
Comparing the North and South
When the war began, both sides had advantages and disadvantages. It is how each side would utilize those strengths that would determine the outcome of the war.
The North had a larger population, more industry, and more resources, including a better banking system and money, more ships and a larger Navy force, and a larger and more efficient railway system. Despite being underestimated, the North also had the resilience, dedication, and intelligence of Abraham Lincoln. However, the North would have a difficult time bringing the South back into the Union because of the South's strong support. Many recalled how the smaller, weaker colonies of the American Revolution defeated the greater, more wealthy Great Britain. So, many believed the South stood a great chance at wining.
The South had the strong support of the white population towards the war. One of the Confederacy's greatest advantages was fighting in familiar territory to defend their homes and way of life. As proven by the American Revolution, it was far easier to defend the familiar territory. Another key advantage was the outstanding military leadership due to a strong tradition of military training and service. Several military college graduates were officers in the Confederate Army. The Confederate president, Jefferson Davis, was a West Point graduate himself and an experienced soldier. Despite these great advantages, the South had a small population of free men, few factories to manufacture weapon and supplies, and produced less than half as much food as the North. The South also had less than half as many miles of railroad tracks to transport the food, weapons, and supplies to the troops.
Military Technology Advancements
There were new advancements in military technology introduced and used for the first time.
1. Minie Ball - a cone shaped bullet that was more accurate
2. Trenches and Barricades
4. Ironclads - iron ships that would ram into wooden ships
5. Balloons - used for spying on the enemy
The North chose to attack the South with a strategy called the Anaconda Plan. Like the snake, the North would surround and strangle the South by eliminating any supply routes until they were forced to give up. On the other hand, the South chose to fight a defensive war. The Confederacy planned to wear down the North until they gave in.
Army of the Potomac
Army of Northern Virginia
Major Battles of the Civil War
The war would prove difficult when the fighting actually begun. Some of the major battles of the Civil War occurred in the early stages of the war. Major battles and brief summaries are listed below.
The First Battle of Bull Run (July 21, 1861) at Manassas Junction, Virginia was the first battle of the Civil War. Spectators came out to watch the fighting as if it were a picnic in the park. For the first time, war opened the eyes of many, especially that of civilians. Thomas Jackson gained fame when he stood like a stone wall during the fight. He was nicknamed "Stonewall". The South won the first battle, leading to Lincoln's call for 500,000 more troops. The loss was a shock for the North.
The ironclads had their own battles at sea. One of the greatest battles was between the Monitor and the Merrimack in March of 1862. The North had chose to enforce a blockade on Southern ports even before Bull Run. The South challenged the blockade using one of the North's captured wooden ships covered with iron plates and renamed Virginia. This ship had shells bounce off and went about its own vicious attack of Northern ships. In 1862, the two ships came to blows. The Union kept the Merrimack in the harbor so as to never threaten Northern ships again.
The battle of Shiloh truly opened the eyes to what war would be. In April 1862, General Ulysses S. Grant was fighting in the western front. He led 40,000 troops toward Corinth, Mississippi where an important railroad junction was stationed. They camped about 20 miles from Corinth near a small church named Shiloh. The Rebels struck first. The battle lasted 2 days with horrible, bitter fighting. At one point in the battle, the bodies were so numerous and the blood so thick that it turned a nearby pond blood red. On the first day, the Union troops were driven back, but the second day they recovered. Both armies together suffered 20,000 casualties. Union forces gained control of Corinth because of this battle.
New Orleans, Louisiana was the largest city in the South and a key port to control the Mississippi River. In April 1862, Union forces under the command of David Farragut captured the city. The capture of New Orleans and victory at Shiloh gave Union forces control of almost all the Mississippi River.
In the Peninsular Campaign, the Union's goal was to capture the Confederate capitol of Richmond. George McClellan was given control of the Union Army and led the troops into battle. McClellan proved too cautious. Even with President Lincoln urging the commander to fight, McClellan held back. The Union drew slowly closer to Richmond, eventually meeting the Rebel forces in an encounter known as the Seven Days' Battles. Confederate General Robert E. Lee and cavalry leader James E.B. (J.E.B.) Stuart led their troops in a circle around the Union army gaining information about Union positions and boosting the Southern morale. Stuart only lost one man in action. Lee drove the Yanks back, and McClellan failed to capture Richmond.
After a second battle and loss at Bull Run, the North was on the run. Confederate President Jefferson Davis and General Robert E. Lee pursued the advancement into Maryland. Hoping Maryland would join the cause, Lee proceeded across the Potomac River with 55,000 troops. Prior to the battle, 2 Yankee soldiers found a copy of Lee's orders wrapped around 3 cigars. General "Cautious" McClellan waited to long to attack so Lee and his forces were able to reorganize and make their way towards Sharpsburg. On September 17, the two forces met near Antietam Creek. General Hooker's men fired on the "Stonewall" brigade, but Stonewall drove them back. Meanwhile, General French fought a bloody 4 hour long battle along a road which would become known as Bloody Lane. Still, at another point General Ambrose Burnside (where we get the name side burns from) was still trying to cross a bridge since early that morning. After 4 hours, Burnside would cross what is now called Burnside's Bridge. On that fatal day, 6,000 troops died and 17,000 were wounded. The battle of Antietam would be dubbed the bloodiest single day in the Civil War. The Union reigned victorious and gave the North confidence. The battle marked a significant change in Northern war aims because President Lincoln could and would take action against slavery.