The American Civil War Between North and South


The American Civil War is one of the most important events that played a significant role in the creation of the United States. According to historians, the states were formed owing to the outcomes of the Revolution of 1776-1783. On the other hand, the Civil War was a determinant in deciding the type of a nation the US would be. The war was fought in the US and involved the participation of two parties: the Union and the Confederacy, representing the North and the South respectively.

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The main cause of the war was the enslavement of the black people. The war broke out after the secessionist armies attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina, owing to differences between the two factions. The North supported the Constitution which upheld human equality while the South supported the rights of individual states, the majority of which allowed slavery. The war ended in 1865 after General Robert Lee surrendered, followed by other confederate generals.

A Brief Overview

As mentioned earlier, the American Civil War was fought between the northern and southern states, which supported the Union and the Confederacy respectively. The South was intolerant of the North making unacceptable laws and telling them what to do. In that regard, a majority of the southern states decided to come together and form the Confederacy (Reid 45). The North was opposed to the move, and as a result, war began between the two. Prior to the commencement of the war, John Brown spearheaded the Harpers Ferry Raid, which was a rebellion against slavery. However, it failed and he was executed by hanging for treason.

A year later, Lincoln was elected as the president. He was anti-slavery and the South was opposed to his presidency. On December 20 1860, South Carolina seceded from the US and formed their own country (Varon 55). A few months later, other states, including Texas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi did the same (Reid 45). The southern states formed the Confederacy and Jefferson Davis was elected as the president. After Lincoln became President, his main objective was to restore the Union and bring the states back together as one country.

The beginning of the war was marked by an attack on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, shortly after the swearing in of Abraham Lincoln as the President of the United States. Constituent states belonging to the Union (Virginia, Arkansas, and North Carolina) joined the Confederacy and Lincoln announced the Union Blockade. Between 1861 and 1862, many battles that led to deaths of soldiers were fought. For example, the Battle of Fredericksburg, The Battle of Antietam, The Battle of Shiloh, and the Battles of Bull Run were fought during this period (Reid 54).

On January 1 1863, Lincoln issued an executive order that freed all slaves and served as the foundation for the implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment (Varon 60). The Battle of Gettysburg was a major turning point because it marked the beginning of the North’s victory in the Civil War (Nagler et al. 47). On September 2 1864, Sherman captured Atlanta and destroyed large territories as he and his army marched toward Savannah.

Events that Led to the War

The causes of the Civil War have been debated since it ended in 1865. However, historians have not yet come to a consensus regarding the cause because it involved a combination of events. Several events have been cited as the primary causes of the war: slavery, states and federal rights, slave and non-slave states, the Abolitionist Movement, and the election of Abraham Lincoln (Varon 75). These factors created tensions and disagreements regarding politics and American life in general.

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The politicians of the northern and southern states never agreed on key matters of national concern. For instance, they had varying opinions on critical issues like cultural values, the economy slavery, and the control of the states by the federal government (Nagler et al. 49). The majority of the issues would have been mitigated through diplomatic talks. However, slavery was a controversial issues that could not have been solved through diplomacy. The South depended on slavery for its survival because slaves provided a cheap source of labor for their agricultural endeavors (“American Civil War”).


The Declaration of Independence took place in 1776 at a time when slavery was widespread and allowed in British American colonies. Slavery played an important role in supporting their economies and societies (Kelly par. 3). Slavery was limited to African Americans. Therefore, white supremacy was predominant and the US Constitution did not mitigate the situation (Reid 74). Slaves were barred from voting and owning property. During that time, the emergence and growth of an anti-slavery movement compelled several northern states to abandon slavery through the enactment of abolishment laws.

The North relied primarily on industry, and the influx of European immigrants provide cheap labor, thus the waning need for slaves (Varon 73). On the contrary, the South relied mainly on agriculture, and needed slaves to work on the vast white-owned plantations. The invention of the cotton gin in 1793 meant that many farmers shifted to cotton as their crop of choice (Kelly par. 5). As a consequence, more slaves were needed to work on the cotton plantations. The southern economy became dependent on cotton and slavery.

The differences in the economies of the North and South led to conflicting differences regarding societal values and politics. In the North, immigration led to the development of a diverse society in which people from different cultures lived together in harmony (Nagler et al. 51). In contrast, the South was dominated by white supremacy in all areas of life (Kelly par. 7). These differences influenced their opinions regarding the control of the states by the federal government.

States and Federal Rights

The American Revolution created two camps regarding the function of the government. One camp held that the states deserved greater rights while the other camp advocated for more control over the states by the federal government (“American Civil War”). The first government after the revolution operated under the Articles of Confederation that gave the federal government minimal powers (Varon 65). However, when conflicts emerged, the leaders of the various territories met at the Constitutional Convention and created the United States Constitution (McPherson par. 8).

The new order gave more power to the federal government to control the states. Many people were in opposition because they argued that it did not support the independent operations of the states. They demanded more rights to the states so that they could support certain federal laws. As a result, the idea of nullification emerged. The states could reject federal acts if they deemed them unconstitutional. However, the federal government declined to give the states that right. The southern states took the decision as a sign of disrespect, and therefore, the move towards secession emerged (McPherson par. 10).

Slave and Non-Slave States

The expansion of America through the Louisiana Purchase and the Mexican War raised several pertinent questions that needed to be addressed. One of the major ones was whether the new states would allow slavery or not (“American Civil War”). As a result, an attempt was made to ensure that the number free and slave states joining the Union were equal. However, the move failed. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 introduced a rule that prohibited slavery in the new states acquired form the Louisiana Purchase (McPherson par. 8). The Mexican War revived the debate. As a result, David Wilmot proposed a law to ban slavery in the territories that the US would conquer (Kelly par. 12).

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However, it was rejected. Afterwards, the Compromise of 1850 was passed to address the issue of balance and protect the interests of the southern and northern states (“American Civil War”). The admission of California as a free state led to the implementation of the Fugitive Slave Act that held individuals liable for protecting fugitive slaves (McKenna 78). Tensions heightened after the enactment of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. The law formed two territories that gave power to the states to determine their status as free or slave states. Conflicts emerged when people from Missouri moved to Kansas in order to make it a slave state (Kelly par. 17). The conflicts led to violent clashes that occurred even on the floor of the senate as opponents and proponents faced each other.

The Abolitionist Movement

With time, the northern states began developing different opinions regarding slavery. As a result, support for abolitionists grew significantly as well as opposition toward slavery and slaveholders. The popular opinion deemed slavery as both unjust and immoral (Kelly par. 20). The abolitionists had varying perspectives. William Lloyd and Fredrick Douglass fought for immediate release of slaves while others like Arthur Tappan and Theodore Weld supported a gradual release. On his part, Abraham Lincoln’s main agenda was to stop the expansion of slavery. Several events supported the cause for abolition that occurred in the 1850s.

A popular novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe titled “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” exposed people to the ills of slavery (Kelly par. 21). The Dred Scott Case at the Supreme Court involved various issues regarding the rights, freedom, and citizenship of slaves (Kelly par. 21). Moreover, other opponents of slavery reacted violently to certain issues. For instance, the Pottawatomie Massacre was executed by John Brown and his family, and it involved the killing of five settlers who supported slavery (McKenna 86). Brown was later hanged after the attack on Harper’s Ferry in 1859.

The Election of Abraham Lincoln

The election of Lincoln as the President of the United States was the last event that heightened the tensions and led to the Civil War. At the time, political discussions were as stormy as anti-slavery initiatives. The prevailing political and social issues caused divisions among parties and reshaped the two-party system that was comprised of Whigs and Democrats (McKenna 98). On one hand, the Democratic Party was experiencing internal divisions because it had supporters both in the north and south. On the other hand, the Compromise of 1850 and the conflicts in Kansas led to the transformation of the Whig party into the Republican Party.

The new party was considered anti-slavery and a supporter of economic growth. The presidential election of 1860 was critical because it would determine the fate of the Union. Each party had its representatives, both in the north and south. A win by Lincoln polarized the states, and South Carolina seceded form the US as they were opposed to Lincoln who was anti-slavery (Kelly par. 27). Before Lincoln’s inauguration, seven more states seceded from the Union and at the same time, the south took control of federal installation in the region.

The War’s Conclusion

On April 9, 1865, the leader of the Confederacy General Lee surrendered to General Ulysses Grant as the North had overpowered the South. A few days later, President Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth at the Ford’s Theater. The reconstruction began in 1865: federal troops occupied the South as the rebuilding of state governments and economies continued. The war caused massive destruction of infrastructure, the confederacy collapsed, and 4 million slaves enjoyed freedom after the abolishment of slave trade.


The American Civil War marked a monumental period in the history of the United States. The North and the South had been engaged in social, political, and economic ideologies for many decades. The issue of slavery was a controversial topic, as well as the control of states by the federal government. The election of Lincoln in 1860 initiated the secession of states from the Union, as they were divided regarding his anti-slavery stand. The Civil War ended after the North overpowered the South, leading to the surrender of the Confederacy in 1865. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers were killed, infrastructure was destroyed, and economies were adversely affected. However, the war determined the fate of America.

Works Cited

American Civil War. Ohio History Connection. Web.

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Kelly, Martin. “What Were the Top 4 Causes of the Civil War?Thought Co. 2019. Web.

McKenna, Joseph. British Blockade Runners in the American Civil War. McFarland & Company Inc. Publishers, 2019.

McPherson, James. “A Brief Overview of the American Civil War: A Defining Time in Our Nation’s History.American Battlefield Trust. Web.

Nagler, Jorg, Doyle, Don, and Marcus Graser. Editors. The Transformational Significance of the American Civil War. Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.

Reid, Brian Holden. The Origins of the America Civil War. Routledge, 2014.

Varon, Elizabeth. Armies of Deliverance: A New History of the Civil War. Oxford University Press, 2019.

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