Outline of the Civil War
by Gordon Leidner of Great American History
The outline that follows covers the American Civil War's major political and military events.
Also, check out our Outline of the American Revolution
For those educators interested in providing their students a test in which this outline can be used to find answers, go to Civil War Quizzes page.By clicking on the topic, you will jump to that part of the website that has the links on that subject.
I. Background and Causes of the War
- A. Economic developments in the U.S.
B. Slav ery
C. States Rights vs. Strong Federal Government
II. Political and Social Catalysts for the War
- A. Missouri Compromise
B. Kansas-Nebraska Act
C. Dred Scott Decision
D. John Browns Raid
E. Uncle Toms Cabin
F. Lincoln Douglas Debates
G. Presidential Election of 1860
III. Major Political and Military Leaders
- A. Southern Political Leaders
- 1. Jefferson Davis
2. Alexander Stephens
3. Robert B. Rhett, Louis T. Wigfall, William L. Yancey, Robert Toombs
- 1. Abraham Lincoln
2. William H. Seward
3. Stephen A. Douglas, Charles Summer, Salmon P. Chase
- 1. Robert E. Lee
2. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson and James Longstreet
3. Albert Sidney Johnston and Joseph E. Johnston
4. Various Others
- 1. Ulysses S. Grant
2. William Tecumseh Sherman and George B. McClellan
3. Phil Sheridan, George G. Meade, Joshua L. Chamberlain
4. George H. Thomas, William Rosecrans, and various Others
IV. Events & Battles of 1861-1862
- A. Events
- 1. Secession of the Confederate States
2. Fort Sumter
3. Mobilization of the North and South
4. European Intervention and the Trent Affair
- 1. First Manassas (Bull Run)
2. Forts Henry and Donelson
3. Shiloh (Pittsburgs Landing)
4. Shenandoah Valley
5. Seven Days
6. Second Manassas (Bull Run)
7. Antietam (Sharpsburg)
9. Murphreesboro (Stones River)
V. Naval War
- A. The Navies
- 1. Blockaders and Blockade Runners
- 1. USS Monitor vs. the CSS Virginia (Merrimack)
2. New Orleans
3. Charleston Harbor
4. Mobile Bay
5. The CSS Alabama and the USS Kearsarge
6. The Blockade
VI. Events & Battles of 1863
- 1. Emancipation Proclamation
2. The Gettysburg Address
- 1. Chancellorsville
VII. Events & Battles of 1864-1865
- A. Events
- 1. Presidential Election of 1864
2. Copperhead Activities in the North
3. Surrender of Lee
4. Passage of the Thirteenth Amendment
5. Assasination of Lincoln
- 1. Atlanta
3. Spotsylvania Courthouse
4. Cold Harbor
5. Shermans March
9. Appomattox Campaign
VIII. Civilians and Miscellaneous
- A. Women During the Civil War
B. African-Americans in the Civil War
C. Native Americans in the Civil War
D. Religious leaders and events in the Civil War
E. Hospitals & Medicine
G. Photography and Matthew Brady
I. Newspapers and the Press
J. Weapons of War
K. Civil War Food and Cooking
L. Civil War Music
M.Hispanic-Americans in the Civil War
- A. The Struggle for Equality
B. Actions of the US Government
C. Ratification of 13th, 14th, 15th Amendment
Essay on The Civil War in the United States in 1861-1865
After getting independence and adoption of the Federal Constitution, practically nothing prevented the development of the United States. The first US president George Washington (1789-1797) strengthened the country’s finances, created the National Bank, introduced a unified monetary system and commenced payment of public debt. At the end of the 18th – first decades of the 19th century, the country was far behind the Western Europe, especially Britain, in terms of economic development. Its industry just started developing, but the accumulation of capital, folding of the market and borrowing of English technical advances boosted the industrial revolution. Individual enterprises of factory type appeared in the US in the 90s of the 18th century, and in the second decade of the 19th century began to take factory system – first in textiles, then in other industries. Establishment of transport network was of great importance.
South states represented a special world, which was dominated by slave-owning planters. They used the most archaic form of exploitation, had unlimited power over the slaves, lived a life of aristocratic landowners, called themselves “gentlemen”, but otherwise were capitalist entrepreneurs.
Southern society was infected by racist prejudices. Types of jobs performed by black, were considered unworthy of the white man, even the poor one. The paradox in the United States was the fact that the system of slavery, on the one hand, was holding back the development of a “normal” capitalism, on the other hand, it provided the factory with raw materials and made a profit (Blattman, 2010).
- Contradictions between North and South
In the first half of the 19th century, when resettlement to the western lands acquired a mass character, there were two streams of colonization – northern and southern. Despite the fact that both systems, slavery and free capitalism, coexisted in the same country, the constitution of northern states prohibited slavery.
Their interests differed in Congress, too. Each Party made sure the Union took on an equal number of both states. In 1820, adopted Missouri Compromise showed that the question of slavery in the new lands became a national problem. The South expanded the boundaries of slavery.
Citizens of the Northern states sympathized slaves, but few dared to advocate for their release because they were property of planters. Sometimes slave uprisings happened (the largest attempt was in 1831), but usually slaves ran away to free states from which could go to Canada. Opponents of slavery (abolitionists) organized the “Underground Railroad”, helping slaves to run away. Abolitionist literature and press influenced the mobilization of the American and world public opinion against slavery in the southern states. The famous novel of Harriet Beecher Stowe, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” (1852) was translated into several languages and was very popular. In 1848, there appeared a mass political party “Soil fries”, which standed for the non-proliferation of slavery in the new territories.
Joining lands of Mexico caused a new political crisis temporarily settled by compromise in 1850. California, where gold was found, was accepted as a free state, New Mexico and Utah were allowed to determine their status themselves. There was dominated by southerners, who declared slavery. Three years later, the same question arose in Kansas and Nebraska. Southerners made his decision in a “democratic” way, and the principle of the direct will of the people was used in the interests of slaveholders.
They intended to legalize slavery throughout the country, depriving Congress of the right to cancel or allow it in any state. The US Supreme Court could do that in “Dred Scott case”, a slave who formally appealed to the court for release, as he along with the owner lived for a while in a free state. Rejecting his claim in 1857, the Supreme Court at the same time declared unconstitutional any law prohibiting slavery.
Meanwhile, in Kansas there was a struggle between supporters and opponents of slavery. The flow of immigrants from Missouri and other southern states faced an even more powerful flow of farmers from the free states, and it came to fighting. By 1860, the latter managed to win not only in combat, but also at the ballot box.
Republican Party, which appeared at that time, gathered all dissatisfied with the policy of the South, which prevented a radical solution of the land question in favor of the broad masses of farmers. Abraham Lincoln led Republicans; he was elected the president of the United States in 1861.
It was truly a “people’s” president, who came from a poor family, knew the hard work but “made himself” due to the relentless pursuit of education (he became a lawyer), and political activities. Lincoln was famous for his honesty, ability to win in difficult political debates, at the same time being charming, tactful and kind.
Conflict in Kansas and the famous “raid” of John Brown in Virginia preceded the Civil War. John Brown passionately hated slavery. He fought against it in Kansas, and planned an uprising of slaves in Virginia. In October 1859, he with 22 brave men captured an army arsenal, which stores 100 thousand guns. However, this initiative was premature and was not supported. Brown was captured and executed (Harvey, 2010).
- The Civil War 1861 – 1865
The civil war between northern and southern states was the inevitable consequence of the contradictions between the two social systems in the country. The question of slavery, which was entirely determined by the economic and political interests of the planters, was the key issue. “Maximum program” of the most aggressive circles of the South was turning the US into a single slave power, but they were quite satisfied with separation from the Union as an independent state.
- Desire of the South to secede
Southern states wanted independence long before the Civil War. In 1832, South Carolina planters, basing on the doctrine of the sovereignty of states, declared federal laws null in the state and announced its exit from the US. President Jackson stopped this attempt, sending warships to its coast. In 1850, Southerners again threatened secession, but US President Zachary Taylor said he would lead the army to the south and punish the “traitors.” The idea of a single union state firmly controlled the minds of the federal government, including Lincoln administration.
The ruling circles of the North did not want South to be independent because it would mean the emergence of opponent. Split and the war was inevitable, and slaveholders forced its beginning. Lincoln’s victory in the presidential election in 1860 meant a loss of power and was the signal to unauthorized separation of the South from the US.
- Outbreak of hostilities
In the winter-spring 1861, Confederation of 11 southern states was formed. On April 13, southerners unleashed hostilities with shelling federal Fort Sumter in Charleston bay (South Carolina), whose small garrison capitulated and lowered the American flag. Thus began a four-year Civil War – the most bloody and destructive of all that took place on the territory of the United States.
Most of the industrial capacity and human resources of the country was concentrated in the North, but the South was more united and had strong militarily. Southerners had most regular officers, significant stocks of weapons, and most importantly, they needed a quick and decisive victory. Southerners – planters were fighting for their survival and well-being of the past. They hated “Yankee” (Northerners).
Complacency and slow at the beginning of the war was costly to northerners. 1861 brought them only defeat, already in the first grappling in June of the same year they almost lost the capital. Washington became a front city. By the end of 1861, the army of northerners, continuously contributed by volunteers, accounted more than 650 thousand people, but one numerical superiority could not decide the outcome of the war, largely due to miscalculations of Command. The general plan of conducting a campaign against the South was limited to its surroundings and gradual compression of the ring (“Anaconda Plan”), but stretched for thousands of miles up front was easy to break, which happened in 1862.
- The turning point in the war
The turning point in the war in favor of the free states was achieved through conducting it “in a revolutionary way.” Homestead Acts from May 20, and the act of freeing the slaves from September 22, 1862 had a crucial meaning. The first gave the right of every citizen, not having participated in the rebellion against the United States, for $ 10 take Homestead – a piece of land of 160 acres under the farm on vacant land. After five years of residence in the area, its processing and development, it became the property. This was a radical solution of the agrarian question, promised by the Republican Party in 1860. This law made people, including immigrants, want to achieve victory over the South, without which they could not count on the free settling of the West.
The second law declared slaves free from January 1, 1863. Although Confederation had own laws, it became clear for slaves which side to support. Despite the terror unleashed by the slaveholders, the Confederacy lost lasting rear, and many blacks went to the side of northerners to serve in the federal army.
Essay on The Civil War in the United States in 1861-1865 part 2