Church of God, New World Ministries

Ascent To Greatness - Part 12

America’s Bloody Civil War

Why did America have to suffer the ordeal of a bloody Civil War? What would cause brother to draw sword against brother, father against son?

What were the main issues which divided North and South? Could not their differences have been settled peacefully?

America’s Civil War was the costliest (in human lives) this nation has ever fought, over 617,000 died and over 400,000 were wounded – well over a million in all.

During World War I, only 116,000 died, and America’s World War II deaths of 405,400 were well below the Civil War deaths.

About 140,000 Union men actually died in battle, and 224,511 died from sickness and disease, accidents and other causes. All told, Union deaths amounted to about 364,511. Far more died from non-combat death causes than in actual battle. The Confederate States lost about 164,821 in war. Their actual battle deaths amounted to about 75,000, with 89,821 non-battle fatalities.

Why this horrible price in human lives? What had happened in the United States that made the States willing to fight a bloody fraternal war?

There were many causes which lay behind the eruption of the Civil War. Many (if not most) historians think the main issue was slavery. Perhaps in the eyes of the Southerners, slavery was the main issue. But this was not considered to be the main issue which provoked the way, at least among the North’s leaders such as Lincoln and his ministers. To Lincoln, and many Northerners, slavery was merely the catalyst. They issue of the Negro slavery merely triggered the far greater issue, that of secession!

Did individual states have the right to secede from the Union at will? Southerners generally supported the “states’ rights” view which held that the Union was merely a league of sovereign states, each of which had the right to withdraw from the Union when it so desired.

It must be remembered that the “secession” issue was very old in U.S. history. Various threats and actual attempts to secede were made in 1798, 1812 and lastly in 1860-61.

The first secession threat followed the adoption of the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798. These acts gave the federal government what some political leaders felt were bold-faced tyrannical powers. As a result of these acts, the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions (1798 and 1799) clearly asserted that the government was merely a “compact” and the individual states, therefore, had the right to nullify unacceptable federal legislation.

By extension, this argument provided constitutional justification for secession in case the federal government attempted to enforce legislation which any state deemed was constitutional unacceptable.

Steps to secede from the Union were actually taken by certain New England states during the War of 1812.

As early as 1832, the burning issue of the national tariff had brought the secession issue to a head. In that year South Carolina nullified the tariff acts of 1828 and 1832, and warned that she would secede from the Union if the federal government attempted to force the state into obeying the laws. What actually prevented South Carolina from seceding from the Union at that time? President Andrew Jackson was firmly against secession, and he threatened to hang their leader, John C. Calhoun, if South Carolina withdrew from the Union. Jackson issued a proclamation which declared that no state had a constitutional right to secede from the federal Union. In proposing a toast in 1830, President Jackson said: “Our Federal Union – it must be preserved.”

John C. Calhoun believed that the Constitution was an agreement between the states which any state could break at will. He thought a state was sovereign and had the power of “nullification” if it so chose.

But Daniel Webster argued in the Congressional debates of 1830 that no state had the right to secede. Secession would smash the Union. And if the Union were destroyed, this meant “a land rent with civil feuds or drenched it may be in fraternal blood.” Webster’s final words were: “Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable.”

And note carefully, that it was not the slavery issue, but the despised national tariff (which many Southerners thought hurt their economy), which nearly ruptured the Union in 1828-32. Slavery was not even an issue at the time. But the threat had been made, and would continue to be made for the next three decades.

Then when the extension of slavery into the Louisiana, Mexican and other new territories erupted in the 1840s and 1850s, this once again brought the secession issue to a head.

Strong leaders in the Congress (Daniel Webster, Patrick Henry, John C. Calhoun, Stephen A Douglas and others) had tried to avert bloodshed over this issue.

But instead of going to the real heart of the issue of slavery, they merely nibbled at its edges – merely papered over the serious ideological cracks which were appearing in the Union.

During the period from 1820 to 1854, the leaders tried the political expedient of compromise. After a series of lesser compromises, the Missouri Compromise of 1821 declared that one slave state must be added to the Union for very new free state.

The final compromise occurred in the Kansas-Nebraska Acts of 1854 by which any territory (such as Kansas or Nebraska) could choose, if they so desired, to legislate slavery. Stephen A. Douglas was the champion of “popular sovereign.” But neither Northerners nor Southerners were totally satisfied with this Congressional Act. Northerners didn’t want a further extension of the South’s “peculiar institution of slavery” and the Southerners were determined to see that the new territories became “slave “states.

What was it which finally killed the idea that it was possible by compromise to settle the slavery issue?

In 1857, the Supreme Court issued its famous Dred Scott decision. By this new ruling, slavery was, in effect, declared legal in any of the new territories – or so far as that mattered, according to the Constitution, it could not be legally prevented in any state which wanted it.

To Northerners, this was the last straw. They believed they had lost the legal battle to prevent the extension of slavery into the North. But the South was jubilant! They believed (what they had always known to be true) that the supreme law of the land, the U.S. Constitution, protected their “peculiar institution.” And the final interpreter of the Constitution, the Supreme Court, had ruled in their favor – saying that slavery could not be prohibited in the United States.

Thus, the North and the South had reached a complete impasse. The economy of the North was based primarily on industry (with also considerable agricultural underpinnings) while that of the South was based almost wholly on agriculture.

In the South, King Cotton ruled supreme. When Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin in 1782, suddenly the rapid expansion of the cotton industry was made possible. Previously, it took one slave a whole day to remove the seed from a pound of cotton lint. Now with even a small hand operated cotton gin, it was now possible for slaves to remove ten or twenty times that amount. And with new innovations in the cotton gin, the South could easily handle all the cotton they could ever hope to grow.

Southerners could now rapidly expand the cotton industry. This not only required new land, but it would take many more slaves to help plant, and pick cotton. An inexhaustible supply of slaves was needed to reap this ever-increasing crop. And cotton soon became America’s chief export to Europe – her number one-dollar earner.

This fact convinced many Southerners that they could get along very well without the North. Furthermore, they came to believe that if the slavery issue provoked a showdown between North and South, they would have no trouble selling all their cotton to Europe, especially to France and England. They believed that the English and French were so dependent upon American cotton, that they would support a secessionist Southern cause – should the South decide to withdraw from the Union. Since nearly all American industry was located in the North, the South knew they could not hope to win a war unless they had the support of Europe. They would have to import massive shipments of weapons, machines and various products in order to provide their troops with the necessary equipment to fight the North.

With these views in mind, South Carolina was the first to secede from the Union in November 1860. By early 1861, the time of Lincoln’s inauguration on March 4, six other Southern states had joined South Carolina in rebelling against the Union.

     In 1860, President Buchanan pronounced secession illegal, but he concluded he was not empowered by the Constitution to coerce the rebel states to return to the Union. He opposed the secession, but in effect he said he was helpless either to prevent it or to do anything about it. This weak-kneed pronouncement merely strengthened the Southern view that they were acting according to their constitutional rights. They believed they were strong enough, diplomatically or militarily, to handle the situation.

Abraham Lincoln had made his views crystal clear on both the issues of slavery and secession. He strongly opposed the extension of slavery into any new territories, but he was willing to “let it alone” in these states where it had already taken root. He hoped, however, it could eventually be eradicated from America, but he thought this would take much time and patience. Lincoln was no abolitionist, and he stressed this fact repeatedly.

His convictions on the secession issue were even deeper, and had been stated with great clarity. To him it was unthinkable that the Union should let itself be dismembered by secessionists – regardless of their reasons for withdrawing from the Union.

President Lincoln believed the collapse of the Union would be a great catastrophe for the American nation. He clearly stated his view: “Physically speaking, we cannot separate.”

In August 1862, Lincoln wrote: “I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them.

“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving other alone, I would also do that. What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forebear, I forebear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union.”

Any apparent hesitancy or supposed wavering which Lincoln might be thought to have indulged in during the early months of his presidency was deliberate – not an act of timidity. For Lincoln had good reason not to act precipitously when he was inaugurated President on March 4th, 1861. A number of states hadn’t yet decided which side they would join, and Lincoln didn’t want to do anything which might cause them to join the rebel states.

Secondly, the whole U.S. army only numbered about 17,000 men at the time when the South fired on the stars and stripes at Fort Sumpter in Charleston Harbor on April 12th, 1861. Also, as previously stated, Lincoln had the wisdom to order the Union forces to hold their fire – and thereby make the Confederates fire the first shots. This would solidify the entire North behind the President and the Union.

So, when the Confederates decided on a show -down by firing on and taking Fort Sumpter, on April 12th, Lincoln issued a called for 75,000 troops to beef up the Northern army, and, then on April 19th, he proclaimed a blockade of the entire South. This blockade was one of the crucial aspects of the North-South struggle. The Union navy was able, right from the beginning of the war, to seize the initiative, and was finally able to effect a complete blockade of the South. For they had little industry, and had to depend on Europe for their main supply of weapons, machinery and other war materials.

Both the North and the South had expected an easy, quick victory in the struggle. Southern men, more used to outdoor life than their Yankee kinsmen, believed one of them could lick four or five Yanks. Northerners boasted that the war would be over by Christmas. Both were woefully wrong. The war would turn out to be a long, drawn-out, bloody struggle which would witness brother fighting against brother, father against son.

In President Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address on March 4, 1861 he said: “In our present differences is either party without faith of being in the right?” If the Almighty Ruler of Nations, with his eternal truth and justice, be on your side of the North, or on yours of the South, that truth and that justice will surely prevail.”

President Lincoln even confessed in his Second Inaugural Address on March 4, 1965: “Neither party (North or South) expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding.”

Lincoln continued: “Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes his aid against the other. The prayers of both could not be answered, that of neither had been answered fully. The Almighty has his own purposes. Fondly do we hope – fervently do we pray – that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away.”

The first major engagement of the Civil War occurred on July 21, 1861 when a Union army of 35,000 attacked a Confederate force of 20,000 at Bull Run, 30 miles south of Washington, D.C.

General Thomas Jackson’s stubborn refusal to retreat won him the nickname of “Stonewall” Jackson. His unwillingness to retreat was partly responsible for the ultimate routing of the Union army and a confederate victory.

Stonewall Jackson and his troops stood their ground, thwarting several Union assaults, after which the Union forces broke and fled to Washington in wild retreat. This humiliating defeat for the North underlined the unpleasant fact that the war would not be short.

The North won minor successes on August 28-29 when the Federal navy captured the Confederate strongholds – Fort Hatteras and Fort Clark. These minor triumphs were followed on November 7 by an amphibious assault of the Union forces on the Southern deep-water base at Port Royal, near Charleston, South Carolina.

In February 1862, a determined effort was made by the Union forces in the western theater of the war to capture the Southern fortifications controlling the vital water traffic on the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers in the Mississippi Valley. Fort Henry surrendered on February 6, and Fort Donelson fell six says later.

During those attacks, the staunch Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant commanded the Federal army. The Confederate commander at Fort Donelson asked for the best terms of capitulation. Grant’s reply: “No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted.” This tough attitude won Grant the nickname “Unconditional Surrender Grant.”

Union forces still hoped to capture Richmond, and bring the Civil War to a quick end. General George B. McClellan prepared to move his army from the Washington area down the Potomac to Fort Monroe; then he planned to march overland via the peninsula between the York and James Rivers.

But, for this plan to succeed, the Union forces had to continue to maintain naval superiority. This was seriously challenged in the famous battle at Hampton Roads on March 9, 1862 – between the ironclad gunboat Monitor, and the Confederate armored ship Merrimac. Neither side achieved a decisive victory, but the Merrimac continued to threaten Federal ships using the James River. This prevented McClellan’s attempted strike at the Confederate capital at Richmond.

In the west, the second great battle of the war was taking shape. A Federal force of 38,000 under General Grant was attacked by a Confederate force of 40,000, under the command of General Johnston at Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee on April 6th.

At the famous Battle of Shiloh (named after a nearby church) the Southern forces finally retreated, but in good order.

General Johnston’s surprise attack spoiled Grant’s plans for a quick, easy victory. Casualties were high on both sides – about 13,000 Union and 10,500 Confederates.

The next area to see action was farther south. Captain David C. Farragut, commanding a Union fleet of 23 ships, boldly sailed past Fort St. Philip and Fort Jackson in the mouth of the Mississippi River, and captured New Orleans on April 25, 1862,

Next, back on the eastern front, General McClellan, the commander of the Union Army of the Potomac, again moved over 100,000 troops from Alexandria, Virginia (near Washington, D.C.), and sailed down to Fort Monroe and began advancing up the peninsula toward Richmond. But the Confederate General “Stonewall” Jackson with more than 16,000 Confederate troops executed a diversionary attack along the Shenandoah Valley.  From May 15 to June 9, General Jackson carried out a number of well-executed advances and feints west of Washington – for the purpose of distracting the Union armies.

General Jackson defeated the numerically superior Federal armies in a series of engagements of Front Royal, Cross Keys and Fort Republic.

But while the Confederate Jackson’s brilliant maneuvering was in progress, the Union Army of the Potomac besieged and occupied Yorktown, then continued menacingly on toward the Confederate capital of Richmond.

General McClellan’s advance toward Richmond was momentarily halted at Williamsburg on May 5, 1862 by a Confederate rearguard action. But the Union forces resumed the offensive, crossed the Chickahominy River and clashed with Southern forces near Fair Oaks, where they defeated the Confederates.

During that engagement, General Johnston of the South was wounded, and was replaced by General Robert L. Lee – who was probably the Civil War’s most brilliant commander.

After the confederate defeat, the Southerners retreated to Richmond. But the South now had a valiant, wise General in charge. General Robert E. Lee, reinforced by General Jackson’s troops, decided to launch an immediate offensive against the North. Seven days of savage battles followed: Mechanicsville (June 26th), Gaines’ Mill (June 27th), Savages’ Station (June 29th), Glendale (June 30th), and Malvery Hill (July 7th). After the seven days of bloody battles, Union troops retreated, and the threat to Richmond was removed – at least for the time being.

Now General Lee decided to strike directly toward Washington. But General McClellan dispatched a large Union force to counter Lee’s move. The two armies collided on August 29-30 at Manassas Junction, not far from where the first bloody battle of Bull Run had been fought a year earlier.

Even though the Union army (with 63,000) outnumbered the Confederates (54,000) under Lee, the northerners were completely routed. Lee continued his advance. The following month one of the bloodiest struggles of the war was fought at Sharpsburg on the Antietam, a small stream in Western Maryland. At Antietam, Lee’s army of 50,000 faced McClellan’s forces of 85,000 on September 17th, 1862.

Both sides suffered heavy casualties – about 12,500 (Union), and 10,750 (Confederate) casualties. Even though the outcome was indecisive, Lee’s heavy losses forced him to retreat into Virginia, thereby lifting the danger of a direct frontal assault on Washington or other northern cities.

The North looked upon the battle at Antietam as a kind of victory – which was just what they had been hoping and praying for. Lincoln was especially eager to obtain a victory so he could announce his Emancipation Proclamation. Also, he had been severely criticized by the press and by many Congressmen for the way the war was being conducted. Even the London Times had mockingly referred to the awkward looking President as “the Baboon.”

A few days later, on September 17th, Lincoln issued his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. He gave the South 100 days to lay down their arms and cease their rebellion. Otherwise, he assured them, he would issue (and make legally binding on all rebel states) the Emancipation Proclamation which would free all of their slaves.

Most Southerners merely sneered and scoffed. They knew Lincoln didn’t have the power to enforce the proclamation in their states. The final decision would be made on the battlefield – not in the White House. At least, that is what they believed.

During 1862, the North made another major effort to capture the Confederate capital of Richmond. General Ambrose E. Burnside (who had replaced McClellan) marched his 115,000 troops from Antietam toward Richmond.

As the Union army attempted (on December 13) to cross the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg, Virginia, they were confronted by General Lee’s army of about 80,000, entrenched on the other side. The Union army was repulsed with heavy causalities of over 12,000, while the Confederate sustained only about 5,500. The Union defeat was such a stunning blow to the North that President Lincoln at General Burnside’s own request, relieved him of his command, and appointed General Joseph (“Fighting Joe”) Hooker commander of the Army of the Potomac.

Meanwhile, in the western theater of the war, following the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee on April 6, 1862, the Confederates advanced into Kentucky. On October 8, 1862, after sustaining a costly defeat in a fierce battle at Perryville, Kentucky, they were forced back into Tennessee.

The Confederate forces of about 35,000 then moved south and encountered a Federal army of about 45,000. The battle began on the very last day of 1862 and continued until the 2nd of January, 1863. A draw resulted. The Confederates then withdrew and the Union forces took possession of Murfreesboro. Once again, casualties were very high. Union losses were about 13,000. The Confederates lost about 10,000.

The Union forces in Mississippi had tried repeatedly to take the Confederate stronghold of Vicksburg. All attempts had failed. Then on March 29, General Grant launched another offensive. By the 19th of May, Union forces had surrounded Vicksburg’s 30,000 Confederate defenders. The Southern commander, Pemberton, finally surrendered Vicksburg on July 4th after a long 47-day siege.

Port Hudson, Louisiana was captured by Union forces on July 8th. The Union army had now split the Confederacy into two parts. The North now firmly controlled the Mississippi. Shortly afterward, Lincoln commented: “The Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea.”

Back in the east, a series of battles had been fought from May 2 to May 4, 1863 between the Army of the Potomac and General Lee’s army at the small Spotsylvania County village of Chancellorsville. General Lee’s army of only 60,000 opposed General Hooker’s Union army of about 134,000. Although the South won, casualties were very high – especially on the Northern side. Union forces suffered about 18,000 casualties while the Confederate had about 13,000.

But Lee’s brilliant victory over the Union army was overshadowed by an ominous event for the South. General “Stonewall” Jackson, Lee’s ablest general, was accidently shot and killed by his won troops during the fighting.

After the victory, Lee became convinced that he could successfully invade the North again. During the early part of June, the Confederate army marched up the Shenandoah Valley into Pennsylvania. But they were soon opposed by a large Union army under the command of Major General George G. Meade, who had recently been appointed commander of the Union Army of the Potomac.

Unbeknown to Lee, one of the Confederate officers had carelessly lost a copy of his battle orders, and it fell into Union hands.

General Meade followed Lee’s army northward. Both armies now moved toward the little town of Gettysburg. Neither planned to give battle there. But shooting began when a Confederate brigade, searching for badly needed shoes, ran into Union cavalry at Gettysburg on July 1st.

Here, for the first three days in July, the greatest battle ever fought in the Western Hemisphere was waged between General Meade’s Northern army of about 90,000 and Lee’s Southern army of 75,000.

On July 3rd, Lee ordered 14,000 Confederate troops under General George E. Pickett, to charge directly into the heart of the Union lines. But Pickett moved too slowly. His men were met with a murderous fire. Only a few of his troops reached the crest of the ridge, and eventually they were driven back (after holding the ridge for only 20 minutes).

Casualties were extremely high on both sides. The North had suffered about 17,500 casualties, but Lee’s army had lost about 22,500. This was one of the few times during the war when Confederate losses ran higher than those of the Union.

Following this disastrous battle, Lee withdrew his battered army back into Virginia in order to regroup. But General Meade failed to follow up – failed to pursue Lee’s bleeding army. President Lincoln was angered and disgusted because General Meade had let Lee’s army escape.

Gettysburg is considered the real turning point of the Civil War. From that time forth, the South knew they were in a difficult position. Their army was being mauled, and the Northern blockade was preventing them from replenishing their weapons and needed supplies. They were gradually being squeezed to death.

The Union army in the west now concentrated its efforts on capturing the vital communications center of Chattanooga in Tennessee. As a Union army of about 65,000 advanced toward the city, the defending Confederate troops withdrew south of the city to Chickamauga Creek. The Union army was repulsed during fierce battles fought on September 19-20.

The Confederates then took up position on Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge, just south of Chattanooga. Now, they were in a position to prevent supplies from reaching the Northern army.

The Union command dispatched a large Federal force under General Grant who had been made commander of the Division of the Mississippi. Under Grant’s decisive generalship, a fierce battle was joined on November 23-25. Union troops stormed and captured Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge fell to Northern soldiers after a wild bayonet charge. During these battles, the Union suffered 11,500 casualties and the South sustained about 17,000.

It was a costly defeat. The Union victory at Chattanooga, one of the South’s most strategic centers, was a staggering blow to Southern hopes. They knew that the way now lay open for Union forces to sweep into the very heart of the Confederate states. The North could march into Georgia, Alabama and the other Southern states with little resistance.

Now that the Union Army controlled Chattanooga, it could move into Georgia, Alabama and the Carolinas and split the eastern Confederacy in two. This is what the Confederates feared they would do – and this is what Grant and his generals ordered.

In early 1864, all signs already pointed to a Union victory. Southern resources were fast being used up, but Northern resources seemed endless. Southern armies were fast dwindling because of battle losses, war weariness and desertion. And the North now occupied large sections of the South. Added to this, neither Britain nor France had come to the aid of the South (as expected), and the South couldn’t manufacture many machines or munitions.

Even the South’s railroads had almost stopped running. Supplies were desperately short. Many were going without some of the necessities of life.

The South was approaching bankruptcy. Confederate paper-money was becoming practically worthless. The transport system was in chaos. Clothes, furniture, railroad rolling stock, railroad engines, machinery, paper, ink, matches, and even shoes had previously been bought from the North. Now many of these items were in short supply, or were impossible to get at any price.

Yet, while the South suffered, the North continued to prosper – partly as a result of war contracts!

Railroads continued to be flung across America, industry expanded, financiers prospered, the westward expansion of the population continued, pioneers broke new farmland, oil-wells were drilled in Pennsylvania, gold was discovered in Colorado and silver in Nevada – and 800,000 immigrants had enough faith in the Union to enter the country, while the Civil War raged.

Other than the battle deaths, the North hardly knew a war was going on. In short, while the Southern states were suffering desperate hardship in a struggle for the bare necessities for life, the North piled up profits, and reinvested them in the opening up of the continent.

The war had been going well for the North during 1863, Abraham Lincoln decided he didn’t want to lose the fruits of those victories. He therefore appointed General Grant Commander-in-Chief of the Union armies on March 9, 1864. Many had criticized Grant after the Union sustained heavy losses at the Battle of Shiloh, and urged the President to replace him. Lincoln refused, saying “I can’t spare this man – he fights!”

Lincoln had appointed several generals, but always found some serious flaw in the way they conducted the war. One after the other (McClellan, Hooker, Burnside, Meade), they were relieved of their command as Lincoln sought a good general.

Now, Lincoln believed he had a general who would fight – and win victories for the North. So, he appointed Grant to coordinate all the Union armies.

Grant may not have been a brilliant General, but he had dogged perservance. He knew how to hit hard, and then hit again and again. This made him a formidable enemy by anyone’s standard.

General Grant quickly drew upon a clear, strategic plan for victory. He would pursue Lee relentlessly – keeping up the pressure until his army was exhausted. On May 4, a strong Union force of about 100,000 under Grant’s direct command crossed the Rapidan in a very desolate part of northern Virginia. This area was overgrown with almost impenetrable thickets.

On May 5, General Lee launched his counter attack against Grant in what has since been called the Battle of the Wilderness. The subsequent engagement caused must confusion on both sides. Fires sweeping through the underbrush only added to the confusion and disorder. Lee stopped the Union advance. Grant’s first attempt to surround Lee had failed.

The fighting shifted from the wilderness to the small village of Spotsylvania, Virginia. For five long, weary days, Lee’s valiant troops withstood the Union’s concentrated onslaughts. Staggering losses were sustained by both sides – Union losses amounted to about 10,000 and Confederate losses about 9,000.

By now General Lee was being subjected to relentless pressure. He withdrew to Cold Harbor (about 10 miles from Richmond), where the Confederate had strong earthwork defenses.

But Grant would not let up. On June 3, his Union troops released a massive frontal assault to crush Lee’s battered army. Again, the Northerners were driven back, this time with a loss of about 6,000 troops.

General Grant then changed tactics and made a sudden advance against Petersburg (a rail and road center, south of Richmond) on June 14th. He followed up with another attack on the city on June 18, but was beaten back by the Confederates. Further attempts were also repulsed, as the South’s stronghold held firm. To break the stalemate, the Union forces decided to try something new. They tunneled under Petersburg’s defenses and exploded a powerful mine, causing many Confederate deaths. Still, the tunnel didn’t enable them to take the city. Grant called the “tunnel” plan a “stupendous failure.” Grant finally put the city under siege from June 30, 1864 through April 1, 1865.

During the entire Wilderness campaign, the South sustained 39,000 casualties, while the North suffered the staggering loss of 55,000 men.

It was during Petersburg’s siege that General Lee dispatched a raiding expedition through the Shenandoah Valley in June, 1864, following General Stonewall Jackson’s earlier example. Lee hoped this would force Grant to send some of his besieging troops to defend Washington, D.C.

The Confederate foray (led by General Jubal A. Early) attacked one of the forts on the very outskirts of Washington. During this attack, President Lincoln stood on a parapet watching the battle while bullets spattered around him. He is the only U.S. President ever to be under enemy fire while in office.

Eventually the infantry force commanded by General Early was defeated at Winchester, Cedar Creek and Fisher’s Hill, and ceased to be a nettlesome threat in the North. In the meantime, the siege of Petersburg continued.

While General Grant continued hammering away at Lee in the east, Admiral David G. Farragut sailed into the harbor of Mobile, Alabama, and continued to completely blockade the city. By January, 1865, the port of Wilmington, North Carolina had fallen into Northern hands. Charleston, South Carolina still held out.

Grant had ordered General Sherman’s army to advance on Atlanta, Georgia in May, 1864. Leaving Chattanooga with his army of about 100,000, he headed straight for Atlanta. A number of running fights occurred – as General Joseph E. Johnston, opposed him with a force of about 60,000.

Many in the North were becoming war-weary. The South tried to hold out, hoping that the fall election in the north would oust President Lincoln and his government. Then they thought they could negotiate an honorable settlement.

Though the Union and Southern forces had many encounters, General Johnston and his Confederates always managed to escape. Their largest battle took place at Kennesaw Mountain on June 27. It resulted in a Union setback. About 2,000 Union men were lost, while the Confederates suffered only 270 causalities. But the setback was only temporary.

General Sherman, seized Atlanta’s only railroad in order to cut the Confederate supply line. On September 2, General Hood (who had replaced General Johnston) evacuated the city, and Sherman took it the next day. His capture of Atlanta, thus opening up the heartland of the South, came just in time to help Lincoln win the autumn election.

General Sherman began his famous (or infamous, as viewed by Southerners) “march to the sea” in November. His troops had left Atlanta in flames. Now General Sherman and his troops began their devastating march toward Savannah. Sherman’s deliberate, calculated plan was to destroy as much property as possible – thereby weakening the will of the South to resist further.

As he and his army of about 60,000 marched toward the sea, they destroyed just about everything in their path – including strictly civilian property. They swept forward on a 60-mile front, carrying destruction and utter devastation along with them. The Union army stripped houses, barns, fields, and burned and looted as they went. They tore up railroad tracks and made fire with the ties. They heated the rails until they were red-hot and bent then around trees to make “Sherman hairpins” or “Sherman neckties.” The total amount of destruction done by Sherman’s army as it marched through Georgia has never been accurately calculated.

General Sherman reached Savannah and occupied it on December 21. He sent President Lincoln a Christmas message: “General Sherman makes the American people a Christmas present of the city of Savannah with 150 heavy guns and 25,000 bales of cotton.”

General Hood, after retreating from Atlanta, led his Confederate army northwest into Tennessee in a vain attempt to cut Sherman’s line of supply and communication. But Sherman had foreseen this possibility, and forestalled any successful attempt by dispatching 30,000 Union troops to reinforce the Northern army at Nashville, Tennessee.

These Union and Confederate armies met in battle on December 15-16 near Nashville. During this two-day battle, the Union army cut General’s Hood’s Confederate troop into shreds. Confederate losses were nearly 4,500 men. The North lost slightly under 3,000. This defeat destroyed Hood’s army as a lighting force, and ended any serious military threat by the Confederate in the West.

But in the east, the mopping up process continued. After occupying Savannah, Georgia for a while, General Sherman decided to march northward. By doing so he could accomplish two important goals: Firstly, he wanted to punish the South Carolinians for their part in leading the rebels in the secession. Secondly, he wanted to join up with Grant’s army and help the final coup de grace to Lee and any other Confederate forces who might come to his defense.

From Savannah, Sherman marched through South Carolina, burning and plundering. Apparently, the devastation following his march through South Carolina was even worse than his march through Georgia. Soon both North and South Carolina were in the hands of Federal troops.

In the meantime, things were worsening by the hour for General Lee in Northern Virginia. Though the Confederates had been able to maintain their positions at Petersburg and Richmond, their effective resistance was weakening.

Desertions continued and it was difficult for Lee to get new supplies for his army.

Grant’s Union army now totaled about 125,000, while Lee’s dwindling Confederate army had been reduced to 57,000. Lee knew he was in a desperate situation. General Grant began encircling Lee’s army on March 29th. After a number of inconclusive engagements, at Five Forks, the Confederate line was finally breached, forcing Lee to withdraw his troops from Petersburg and Richmond. General Lee then planned to rendezvous with General Johnston in the South.

Lee’s hastily retreating army followed the Appomattox River. Grant and his men followed in hot pursuit. For four days the two opposing armies fought a running battle.

A peace conference held in Hampton Roads on February 3, 1865 failed. President Davis of the Confederacy still insisted that the North recognize the independence of the South. So, the war went on.

Grant pursued Lee relentlessly and finally managed to block his retreat. By this time, with his army being reduced by desertions, and his supply lines all cut, General Lee realized that to continue fighting would mean useless sacrifice of lives. He sent a message to Grant asking for an interview so terms of surrender could be considered.

The Civil War was just about over. The two great generals Lee and Grant met in a farmhouse at a little country settlement of Appomattox Court House on Sunday, April 9, 1865.

This meeting between Grant and Lee was one of the most dramatic scenes of America’s history. Lee, a true Southern gentleman, was attired in an immaculate uniform, complete with swords. Cigar-chewing General Grant wore a dirty, mud-splattered private’s coat. Only his shoulder straps revealed his rank.

Grant offered Lee generous terms of surrender, and Lee accepted them with deep appreciation. The victorious general granted the Confederate soldiers a full day’s rations and released them on parole. Furthermore, Grant allowed them to keep their horses. Southern officers were also permitted to retain their side arms.

The terrible, bloody Civil War was just about over. When General Johnston got word of Lee’s surrender, he surrendered to General Sherman on April 26, near Durham, North Carolina.

President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, fled south, but was captured by Union troops.

On May 4, General Richard Taylor surrendered the Confederate forces in Alabama and Mississippi. And then, finally, General Edmund Kirby-Smith and his army laid down their arms on May 26th.

The war, which had been fought to preserve the Union, was over at last. Families could be reunited, and the states could be reunited. Reconstruction could begin.

But the Civil War left a deep-seated legacy of fear, mistrust, suspicion, hatred and galling bitterness in its wake. It would take several generations for the wounds of the Civil War to completely heal.

One hate-filled Southern sympathizer, John Wilkes Booth, son of Brutus Booth, crept into the President’s box at Ford’s Theater on April 14, 1865 – just five days after Lee’s surrender – and shot Lincoln at point bland range. The President died the following day.

After fatally shooting Lincoln, the assassin leaped down upon the stage brandishing a huge knife as he shouted “Sic semper tyrannis! (Thus always to tyrants!) The South is avenged.” Booth broke his leg in the leap, but he escaped through a back door, mounted a waiting horse and fled to Virginia where he was found hiding, and was shot, twelve days later.

Why did the North win the war? The North was comprised of 23 states with a population of about twenty-two million.

The eleven slave states which seceded from the Union and formed the Confederacy, had a population of only nine million. About three and one half million of these were slaves, leaving approximately five and one half million whites. The North had a numerical white population about four times that of the whites living in the South.

As has already been mentioned, nearly all industry was located in the North. The South had counted on Cotton Diplomacy (King Cotton ruled their economy) to give them enough leverage in Europe to pressure Britain and/or France to supply them with needed munitions and other industrial goods. But, though many in Britain sympathized with the South, neither France nor Britain dared intervene on the part of the Confederacy.

When the war broke out, England had enough bales of cotton on hand to last her until well into the Civil War period. By the time her cotton supplies were running low, the Union had declared the slaves free, and this caused many in Europe to look with favor on the North. At least popular sentiment in Britain was with the North, and against the Southern slave holders.

Another plus for the Union was the fact that the North had the only creditable navy. Though the South did damage Northern shipping at the beginning of the war, the North early seized the initiative on the seas, and maintained it throughout the war. All of the South was soon blockaded, and this prevented her from exporting her cotton and other products; and at the same time, it also kept her from importing needed machines, munitions and other articles necessary to keep the Southern war machine and economy humming.

Before long the South was in economic shambles – about bankrupt! Southern paper currency soon became almost worthless. Inflation reached astronomic proportions. Needed articles of food, clothes, furniture – and most importantly, war materials – were not getting through. The South, came to realize they were being slowly strangled to death. But they were helpless to prevent this, for they had no navy with which to break the blockade.

The North had a much stronger leader in its President, that had the South. Lincoln proved to be a strong, wise, patient far-sighted leader, who was not afraid to assume whatever powers he felt he needed to preserve the Union.

But President Jefferson Davis, though an able man, didn’t have the power and authority to knock the heads of the Southern governors together so they would support him with enough taxation, army recruits and whatever else he needed. They had broken away from the Union because they had a jealous concern for their “states rights.” And they were not going to give up those rights even to the President of the Confederacy.

Thus, the North were more united politically, and toward the end of the war, militarily, than was the South. On March 9, 1864, Lincoln had appointed Grant the supreme commander over all the Union armies. Jefferson Davis only appointed General Lee supreme commander of all Confederate armies on Feb. 6, 1865 – just shortly before the war ended – far too late to do any good.

The South had only two or three distinct advantages at the beginning of the war. The South had very able generals right from the beginning. Robert E. Lee was considered America’s best general. President Lincoln, recognizing this fact, had offered him the command of the Union army – if he had wanted it. General “Stonewall” Jackson was also rated an excellent general.

The North had some good generals, but Lincoln hired, then fired several mediocre generals (McClellan, Burnside, Hooker, Meade) before he finally found Grant – a man who would really fight.

From the very beginning, the South also had a much larger reservoir of toughened soldiers – especially cavalrymen – than did the North. Since the South was almost wholly agricultural nearly all her soldiers were from the farm, and were more used to the outdoor life. Consequently, they made tougher, better soldiers than did many of the North’s city boys.

Most of the North’s soldiers came from the big industrial cities, where they had been weakened by city living. Furthermore, Southerners grew up being used to riding and shooting. Their familiarity with the gun and the saddle gave them a clear-cut advantage over city-bred soldiers.

Confederate cavalry charges were much more successful than those of the Union – on the eastern front. But in the western theater of the war, where many of the Union soldiers also came from the farms, Northern cavalrymen did just as well as the Confederates.

Northerners who sympathized with the South were called “copperheads” and were very unpopular in the Union. During the war years President Lincoln suspended the Constitutional right of habeas corpus in those areas where there were known to be active sympathizers with the South. This caused much grumbling, but Lincoln defended his action as necessary to the preservation of the Constitution and the Union.

What was accomplished by the Civil War? The war left a legacy of hatred and bitterness. But, were there any positive results of that bloody war?

There were many honest people in both North and South, before the Civil War, who agreed that the Constitution did not prevent a dissatisfied state from withdrawing (or seceding) from the Union.

In actual fact, the Constitution does not explicitly say that a state can or cannot secede from the Union. There is nothing in the present Constitution that specially says the Union was to be perpetual.

America’s first constitution, The Articles of Confederation, did repeatedly state “the union shall be perpetual.” But the Founding Fathers, who, in 1787, framed the present Constitution, overlooked including the vital words, “perpetual,” in the important document. Had they clearly, explicitly said that the “Union shall be perpetual,” the Civil War might never had been fought, and the slavery issue might have been settled peacefully.

The Civil War settled once and for all whether the Union was intended to be perpetual, or whether any dissenting state could secede at will. The answer? No!

But the secession issue was not settled in Congress or by the Supreme Court. Rather it was settled by the Executive branch of government. It was settled on the battlefield. President Lincoln believed the intent, even if not clearly stated, of the Constitution was that the Union would be perpetual. He believed it was unconstitutional, and was, therefore, illegal for any state to withdraw from the Union.

No one now argues that the Union is not to be perpetual. And no one now argues that any state has the right to secede from the Union. All now know, as a result of the Civil War, that any state which tries to withdraw from the Union will quickly be brought back into the Union with whatever force necessary to preserve the Union.

Another positive good which resulted from the Civil War – slavery was abolished. Lincoln realized that he could take this step, because fraternal blood had already been shed. So, in December, 1865, Congress passed Amendment XIII, thereby abolishing slavery in the U.S. and in all of her territories.

But any beneficial results of the Civil War had been obtained at a colossal price – over 600,000 dead, and many hundreds of thousands wounded. And a legacy of grief, bitterness and resentment lingered in the South, and also in the North, for many decades after the Civil War.

Many fine old Southern homes and mansions were destroyed, and the Southern economy lay in smoldering ruins in 1865 – due largely to General Sherman’s deliberate policy of trying to destroy the South’s economy. This meant Southerners would remain comparatively poor and backward for a long time to come.

General Sherman’s deliberate, systematic destruction is said to have haunted him throughout the remainder of his life. Speaking before the graduating class of the Michigan Military Academy – 15 years later – Sherman lamented: “I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is hell.

Let us hope that we Americans have learned our lesson – and will never again be tempted – under any pretext – to engage in another bloody Civil War. Union gives domestic strength, peace, growth, prosperity, and power and prestige abroad. Division and disunity bring confusion, chaos, hatred and bloodshed. Hopefully, we all now firmly believe that our Union is a perpetual union!

More to come in this intriguing series…

 
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