Civil wars are conflicts that ensue between two or more factions in the same country or state. Despite their adverse effects, they have been quite common in the past and current century. These wars have led to the loss of lives, destruction of property, and have prevented governance by stable governments (Hall et al., 2019). This essay will focus on the American Civil War that took place from 1861 to 1865. Some of the issues covered include the causes of the war, the fighting that ensued, and the effects that the war had. Studying these topics will help us reach the revelation that the Civil War was indeed a significant hallmark in the history of the United States of America. Some might even say it was the most important event of its century.
The Civil War happened mid-19th century. It is important to put into context the atmosphere of this period in history to understand the causes of the war. There had been decades of tension between both northern and southern states over slavery. The North opposed the extension of slavery into new territories which led the South to fear for the future of slavery in their states. This was because the South’s economy was directly dependent on the labor of slaves. This was the main cause of the civil war. The position of the constitution on the matter was also highly contested by people such as Frederick Douglas (a former slave that managed to escape). His position was that the constitution contained no clause that argued for the enslavement of people. He argued that it protected the liberty of all people including slaves (Douglass, 1869). The final nail on the coffin was Abraham Lincoln’s ascent into the presidency in 1860. Within less than four months, a total of seven southern states had seceded from the United States, namely: Florida, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.
The fighting of The Civil War was characterized by a series of battles between the Confederate army (made up of the seven states that seceded) and the Union (made up of twenty-three states). The First Battle of Bull Run favored the Confederate soldiers and thus forced the Union to retreat towards Washington. The Second Battle of Bull Run saw the first Confederate invasion of the North. However, the Battle of Antietam became a turning point in the war as it halted the Confederate advance to Maryland. At this point, President Lincoln swiftly issued the famous Emancipation Proclamation which declared that all slaves in the seceded states were henceforth free. This was a major blow to the Confederate army as they lost the majority of their labor force. In a surprising turn of events, the Confederates were able to win the Battle of Chancellorsville but at the cost of losing almost twenty-two percent of their troops. Tables turned once more in the Battle of Chattanooga which led to the victory of the Union after the expansion of their army. The Battle of the Wilderness saw the devastation of the Confederate army and led to the subsequent surrender of Confederate commander Lee. This led to the Union’s victory which marked the official end of the Civil War. President Lincoln was, however, unfortunately, assassinated on the eve of the Union’s victory. The effects of the war were devastating, to say the least. It led to the loss of lives of those who fought on either side of the war. In addition, there was a decline in labor as a result of emancipation as slaves were no longer available. The undeniable positive outcome of the Civil War was the freeing of millions of slaves as well as the unification of the Union with the Confederates to form the United States of America as we know it today.
Thus far, it is safe to conclude that the Civil War was an important milestone in the history of the United States that formed the basis of its core values and principles that are still held fast to this very day. The conflict had devastating long-lasting effects such as attacks made to the constitution and democracy of the country, the temporary cessation of some states, as well as the loss of millions of lives. However, at the end of the day, liberty and justice were able to unite all the people of the United States of America. Indeed, the emancipation declaration (though initially only meant to free slaves in the confederacy), had a snowball effect that later led to the freeing of all slaves. This, in turn, later gave rise to the popular Civil Rights Movement of the 20th Century led by Martin Luther King Jr (a fete termed as the most important movement of its time). It further proved that Americans would always continue in their quest to fight for what is right and ensure rights are upheld for all, regardless of race. But to appreciate how far America has come, we must recognize where the struggle began, and that is, The Civil War of 1861-1865.
- HALL, A. B., HUFF, C., & KURIWAKI, S. (2019). Wealth, Slaveownership, and fighting for the Confederacy: An empirical study of the American Civil War. American Political Science Review, 113(3), 658-673.
- com Editors. “Civil War.” HISTORY, 15 Oct. 2009, www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/american-civil-war-history.
- Douglass, F. (1869). The Constitution of the United States: Is it pro-slavery or anti-slavery?