emancipation the act of freeing people from slavery
draft a system for requiring citizens to join their country’s armed forces
ordered an all-out attack on the center of the Union line. Cannons filled the air with smoke and thunder. George Pickett led 15,000 Confederate soldiers in a charge across the low ground separating the two forces.
Pickett’s charge marked the northernmost point reached by southern troops during the war. But as the rebels pressed forward, Union gunners opened great holes in their advancing lines. Those brave men who managed to make their way to Cemetery Ridge were struck down by Union troops in hand-to-hand combat.
The losses at Gettysburg were staggering. More than 17,500 Union soldiers and 23,000 Confederate troops were killed or wounded in three days of battle. Lee, who lost about a third of his army, withdrew to Virginia. From this point on, he would only wage a defensive war on southern soil.
Opposition on the Union Home Front Despite the victory at Gettysburg, Lincoln faced a number of problems on the home front. One was opposition to the war itself. A group of northern Democrats were far more interested in restoring peace than in saving the Union or ending slavery. Republicans called these Democrats “Copperheads” after a poisonous snake with that name.
Other northerners opposed the war because they were sympathetic to the Confederate cause. When a pro-slavery mob attacked Union soldiers marching through Maryland, Lincoln sent in troops to keep order. He also used his constitutional power to suspend, or temporarily discontinue, the right of habeas corpus. During the national emergency, citizens no longer had the right to a trial before being jailed. People who were suspected of disloyalty were jailed without trial.
Draft Riots The Union draft law was passed just two months after Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. It also created opposition to the war. Some northerners resented being forced to fight to end slavery. Others protested that the new law “converts the Republic into one grand military dictatorship.”
When the federal government began calling up men in July 1863, a riot broke out in New York City. For four days, crowds of angry white New
On July 3, 1863, General George Pickett led 15,000 Confederate troops in a charge against the Union lines. Row after row of Confederate soldiers fell under a rain of bullets until they finally retreated.
habeas corpus a written order from a court that gives a person the right to a trial before being jailed
Yorkers burned draft offices and battled police. But their special targets were African Americans. Almost 100 black New Yorkers died as mobs attacked black boardinghouses, a black church, and a black orphanage. The rioting finally stopped when troops fresh from Gettysburg restored order.
Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address Four months after the draft riots, President Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg. Thousands of the men who died there had been buried in a new cemetery overlooking the battlefield. Lincoln was among those invited to speak at the dedication of this new burial ground.
After an hour-long talk by another speaker, Lincoln rose and spoke a few words. Many of the 15,000 people gathered on Cemetery Ridge could not hear what he had to say. But the nation would never forget Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
The president deliberately spoke of the war in words that echoed the Declaration of Independence. The “great civil war,” he said, was testing whether a nation “conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal…can long endure.” He spoke of the brave men, “living and dead,” who had fought to defend that ideal. “The world…can never forget what they did here.” Finally, he called on Americans to remain
dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain— that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
During the draft riots, white workers attacked free blacks. The whites feared African Americans would take their jobs and resented being forced to
fight a war to end slavery. Almost 100 African Americans died during the four days of riots.
22.6 Vicksburg: A Besieged City
The Civil War was a war of many technological firsts. It was the first American war to use railroads to move troops and to keep them supplied. It was the first war in which telegraphs were used to communicate with distant armies. It was the first conflict to be recorded in photographs. It was also the first to see combat between armor-plated steamships.
The Merrimac and the Monitor Early in the war, Union forces withdrew from the navy yard in Norfolk, Virginia. They left behind a warship named the Merrimac. The Confederacy began the war with no navy. They covered the wooden Merrimac with iron plates and added a powerful ram to its prow.
In response, the U.S. Navy built its own ironclad ship. Completed in less than 100 days, the Monitor had a flat deck and two heavy guns in a revolving turret. It was said to resemble a “cheese box on a raft.”
In March 1862, the Merrimac, which the Confederates had renamed the Virginia, steamed into Chesapeake Bay. With cannonballs harmlessly bouncing off its sides, the iron monster destroyed three wooden ships and threatened the entire blockade fleet.
The next morning, the Virginia was met by the Monitor. The two ironclads exchanged shots for four hours before withdrawing. Neither could claim victory, and neither was harmed.
The battle of the Merrimac and the Monitor proved that “wooden vessels cannot contend with iron-clad ones.” After that, both sides added ironclads to their navies. But the South was never able to build enough ships to threaten the Union blockade of southern harbors.
Control of the Mississippi Ironclads were also part of the Union’s campaign to divide the South by taking control of the Mississippi River. After seizing New Orleans in 1862, Admiral Farragut moved up the Mississippi to capture Baton Rouge and Natchez. At the same time, other Union ships gained control of Memphis, Tennessee.
The Union now controlled both ends of the Mississippi. The South could no longer move men or material up and down the river. But neither could the North as long as the Confederates continued to control one key location—Vicksburg, Mississippi.
In 1862, the Monitor and the Merrimac, two ironclad ships, fought to a standstill. Nevertheless, the battle between the two signaled the end of wooden warships.
Vicksburg The town of Vicksburg was located on a bluff above a hairpin turn in the Mississippi River. The city was easy to defend and difficult to capture. Whoever held Vicksburg could, with a few well-placed cannons, control movement on the Mississippi. But even Farragut had to admit that ships “cannot crawl up hills 300 feet high.” An army would be needed to take Vicksburg.
In May 1863, General Grant battled his way to Vicksburg with the needed army. For six weeks, Union gunboats shelled the city from the river while Grant’s army bombarded it from land. Slowly but surely, the Union troops burrowed toward the city in trenches and tunnels.
As shells pounded the city, people in Vicksburg dug caves into the hillsides for protection. To survive, they ate horses, mules, and bread made of corn and dried peas. “It had the properties of India rubber,” said one Confederate soldier, “and was worse than leather to digest.”
Low on food and supplies, Vicksburg surrendered on July 4, 1863. The Mississippi was a Union waterway, and the Confederacy was divided.
Problems on the Confederate Home Front As the war raged on, life in the South became grim. Because of the blockade, imported goods disappeared from stores. What few items were available were extremely expensive.
Unable to sell their tobacco and cotton, farmers planted food crops instead. Still, the South was often hungry. Invading Union armies destroyed crops. They also cut rail lines, making it difficult to move food and supplies to southern cities and army camps.
As clothing wore out, southerners made do with patches and rough, homespun cloth. At the beginning of the war, Mary Boykin Chesnut had written in her journal of well-dressed Confederate troops. By 1863, she was writing of soldiers dressed in “rags and tags.”
By 1864, southern troops were receiving letters like this one: “We haven’t got nothing in the house to eat but a little bit o’ meal. I don’t want to you to stop fighting them Yankees…but try and get off and come home and fix us all up some.” Many soldiers found it hard to resist such pleas, even if going home meant deserting their units.
For more than a month, Union forces bombarded Vicksburg with an average of 2,800 shells a day. Forced to eat horses, mules, dogs, and rats, the defenders finally surrendered.
22.7 Fort Wagner: African Americans Join the War
Early in the war, abolitionists had urged Congress to recruit African Americans for the army. But at first, most northerners regarded the conflict as “a white man’s war.” Congress finally opened the door to black recruits in 1862. About 186,000 African Americans, many of them former slaves, enlisted in the Union army. Another 30,000 African Americans joined the Union navy.
The Massachusetts 54th Regiment Massachusetts was one of the first states to organize black regiments. The most famous was the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, commanded by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw. Two of the 54th Infantry’s 1,000 soldiers were sons of Frederick Douglass.
The men of the Massachusetts 54th were paid less than white soldiers. When the black soldiers learned this, they protested the unequal treatment by refusing to accept any pay at all. In a letter to Lincoln, Corporal James Henry Gooding asked, “Are we soldiers or are we laborers?…We have done a soldier’s duty. Why can’t we have a soldier’s pay?” At Lincoln’s urging, Congress finally granted black soldiers equal pay.
After three months of training, the Massachusetts 54th was sent to South Carolina to take part in an attack on Fort Wagner. As they prepared for battle, the men of the 54th faced the usual worries of untested troops. But they also faced the added fear that if captured, they might be sold into slavery.
African Americans at War The assault on Fort Wagner was an impossible mission. To reach the fort, troops had to cross 200 yards of open, sandy beach. Rifle and cannon fire poured down on them. After losing nearly half of their men, the survivors of the 54th regiment pulled back. But their bravery won them widespread respect.
During the war, 166 African American regiments fought nearly 500 battles. Black soldiers often received little training, poor equipment, and less pay than white soldiers. They also risked death or enslavement if captured. Still, African Americans fought with great courage to save the Union and to end slavery forever.
African American soldiers demonstrated their courage during their attack on Fort Wagner. The 54th Massachusetts Infantry charged across 200 yards of open beach in their effort to reach the fort. The regiment withdrew after almost half of their men were lost.
22.8 Appomattox: Total War Brings an End
During the first years of the war, Lincoln had searched for a commander who was willing to fight the Confederates. The president finally found the leader he needed in General Grant. Grant’s views on war were quite straightforward: “The art of war is simple enough. Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard and as often as you can, and keep moving on.”
Using this strategy, Grant mapped out a plan for ending the war. He would lead a large force against Lee to capture Richmond. At the same time, General William Tecumseh Sherman would lead a second army into Georgia to take Atlanta.
On to Richmond In May 1864, Grant invaded Virginia with a force of more than 100,000 men. They met Lee’s army of 60,000 in a dense forest known as “The Wilderness.” In two days of fierce fighting, Grant lost 18,000 men. Despite these heavy losses, Grant would not retreat. “I propose to fight it out along this line,” he said, “if it takes all summer.” He followed Lee’s army to Cold Harbor, where he lost 7,000 men in 15 minutes of fighting.
By the time the two forces reached Petersburg, a railroad center 20 miles south of Richmond, Grant’s losses almost equaled Lee’s entire army. But he was able to reinforce his army with fresh troops. Lee, who had also suffered heavy losses, could not.
Total War Grant believed in total war—war on the enemy’s will to fight and its ability to support an army. With his army tied down in northern Virginia, Grant ordered General Philip Sheridan to wage total war in Virginia’s grain-rich Shenandoah Valley. “Let that valley be so left that crows flying over it will have to carry their rations long with them,” ordered Grant.
In May 1864, General Sherman left Tennessee for Georgia with orders to inflict “all the damage you can against their war resources.” In September, he reached Atlanta, the South’s most important rail and manufacturing center. His army set the city ablaze.
The Reelection of Lincoln Any hope of victory for the South lay in the defeat of President Lincoln in the election of 1864. The northern Democrats nominated General George McClellan to run against Lincoln. Knowing that the North was weary of war, McClellan urged an immediate end to the conflict.
Lincoln doubted he would be reelected. Grant seemed stuck in northern Virginia, and there was no end in sight to the appalling bloodletting. Luckily for the president, Sheridan’s destruction of the Shenandoah Valley and Sherman’s capture of Atlanta came just in time to rescue his campaign. These victories changed northern views of Lincoln and his prospects for ending the war. In November, Lincoln was reelected.
In 1864, Lincoln gave command of all Union forces to Ulysses S. Grant. Grant believed in using his larger army to wear down the enemy regardless of the casualties that his own forces suffered.
Sherman’s March Through Georgia After burning Atlanta, Sherman marched his army toward Savannah, promising to “make Georgia howl.” His purpose was to destroy the last untouched supply base for the Confederacy.
As they marched through Georgia, Sherman’s troops destroyed everything they found of value. Fields were trampled or burned. Houses were ransacked (robbed). Hay and food supplies were burned. Roads were lined with dead horses, hogs, and cattle that his troops could not eat or carry away. Everything useful in a 60-mile-wide path was destroyed.
In December 1864, Sherman captured Savannah, Georgia. From there, he turned north and destroyed all opposition in the Carolinas. Marching 425 miles in 50 days, he reached Raleigh, North Carolina, by March 1865. There he waited for Grant’s final attack on Richmond.
The End at Appomattox For nine months, Grant’s forces battered Lee’s army at Petersburg, the gateway to Richmond. On April 1, 1865, the Union forces finally broke through Confederate lines to capture the city. Two days later, Union troops marched into Richmond.
Grant’s soldiers moved quickly to surround Lee’s army. Lee told his officers, “There is nothing left for me to do but go and see General Grant, and I would rather die a thousand deaths.”
On April 9, 1865, General Lee, in full dress uniform, arrived at Wilmer McLean’s house in the village of Appomattox Courthouse. He was there to surrender his army to General Grant. The Union general met him in a mud-splattered and crumpled uniform.
Grant’s terms of surrender were generous. Confederate soldiers could go home if they promised to fight no longer. They could take with them their own horses and mules, which they would need for spring plowing. Officers could keep their swords and weapons. Grant also ordered that food be sent to Lee’s half-starved men. Lee accepted the terms.
As Lee returned to his headquarters, Union troops began to shoot their guns and cheer wildly. Grant told them to stop celebrating. “The war is over,” he said, “the rebels are our countrymen again.”
General Sherman, a believer in total war, cut a path of destruction through Georgia. The photograph below shows the burned ruins of Atlanta.
“Touched by Fire” No one who fought in the Civil War would ever forget the intensity of the experience. “In our youths,” wrote Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., “our hearts were touched by fire.”
The nation, too, had been touched by fire. Many compared the Civil War to a great furnace that burned away one country and forged a new one in its place. In this new country, neither slavery nor the right to secession had any place. Just as Lincoln had said, the Union was a single whole, not a collection of sovereign states. Before the war, Americans tended to say “the United States are.” After the war, they said “the United States is.”
These momentous changes came at a horrifying cost. Billions of dollars had been spent on the conflict. Almost every family had lost a member or a friend. More than 620,000 Union and Confederate soldiers lay dead. Thousands more came home missing an arm or a leg. It would take generations for the South to recover from the environmental destruction wrought by the war. Croplands lay in ruins. Two fifths of the South’s livestock had been destroyed.
Many historians have called the Civil War the first truly modern war. It was the first war to reflect the technology of the Industrial Revolution: railroads, the telegraph, armored ships, more accurate and destructive weaponry. It also introduced “total war”—war between whole societies, not just uniformed armies.
As devastating as it was, the Civil War left many issues unsettled. The old society of the South had been destroyed, but the memory of it lingered. Thousands of white southerners clung to a romantic picture of the pre-war South. Decaying plantation houses became shrines. In the years to come, many in the South would try to re-create their vanished way of life. Secession and slavery were gone, but conflicts over states’ rights and the status of African Americans would continue long into the future.
General Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia. Grant was generous to Lee’s soldiers, sending food to the troops and allowing them to keep their horses and mules.
22.9 Chapter Summary
In this chapter, you read about the Civil War between the Union and the Confederacy. You used an annotated illustration of a soldier’s haversack to help you understand the events and effects of the Civil War.
Both sides had advantages and disadvantages going into the war. The North had a larger population and more factories and railroads than the South, but it lacked strong military leadership. The South had serious economic problems, but it had capable generals and the advantage of fighting a defensive war.
New weapons and military tactics allowed soldiers to kill from greater distances. They also caused horrifying numbers of deaths and casualties. Unfortunately, medical knowledge was not as advanced as the weapons of war. Many more soldiers died of disease than from wounds.
After the Battle of Antietam, President Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all slaves in the Confederacy. The proclamation helped to make the war a crusade for freedom.
The battle of Gettysburg ended the South’s last attempt to invade the North. It proved to be a turning point. Lincoln’s speech dedicating the cemetery at Gettysburg gave the war a larger meaning by relating it to the ideals of the American Revolution.
The Union finally won the war under the leadership of General Grant. Grant began waging total war on the Confederacy. Union soldiers marched through the South, burning fields and houses and terrifying all those in their path. When the Union army surrounded General Lee’s Confederate troops, Lee was forced to surrender. Grant was generous to the southern troops. He fed them and sent them home to rebuild their lives.
The Civil War has been compared to a furnace that forged a new country, one in which secession and slavery had no place. But the costs were enormous, and many issues remained. In the next chapter, you will read about how the nation tried to become whole again.
This painting, End of the Rebellion in the United States, 1865, celebrates the conclusion of the Civil War and the preservation of the Union.
The Reconstruction Era
What is this man doing?
How are the lives of these former slaves different now?
By the end of the Civil War, Americans longed for peace. But what kind of peace? One that punished the South for its rebellion? A peace that helped rebuild the devastated region? A peace that helped the four million African Americans freed from slavery become full and equal citizens? In his second inaugural address, delivered in 1865, President Abraham Lincoln spoke of a healing peace.
With malice [hatred] toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish [hold dear] a just and lasting peace.
The nation would never know how Lincoln planned to achieve such a peace. On April 14, 1865, just five days after the war ended, the president was assassinated (murdered) while attending a play at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. His murderer was an actor named John Wilkes Booth. Booth thought that killing Lincoln would somehow save the Confederacy.
With Lincoln dead, the task of healing the nation’s wounds fell to Vice President Andrew Johnson. Reconstruction, or rebuilding the South and bringing the southern states back into the Union, would not be easy. For while the nation was united again, Americans remained deeply divided.
As you read about how Reconstruction was carried out, think about Lincoln’s dream of “a just and lasting peace.” Did the end of the war and of slavery lead to a peace based on liberty and justice for all? Or was Reconstruction just the first stage in a long and difficult struggle for equal rights for all Americans?
Graphic Organizer: Visual Metaphor
You will use this visual metaphor of a road to understand African Americans’ struggle to gain full rights as citizens during Reconstruction.
23.2 Presidential Reconstruction
As the Civil War ended, people in the United States had sharply different views about how to treat the defeated Confederacy. For President Andrew Johnson, a southerner from Tennessee, Reconstruction had two main aims. First, southern states had to create new governments that were loyal to the Union and that respected federal authority. Second, slavery had to be abolished once and for all.
These goals left many issues to be resolved. For example, who would control the new state governments in the South—former rebels? Would the freed slaves have the same rights as other citizens? And what would the relations be between freed slaves and their former masters?
Many Republicans in Congress believed that strong measures would be needed to settle these issues. To them, Reconstruction meant nothing less than a complete remaking of the South based on equal rights and a free-labor economy. The stage was set for a battle over the control—and even the meaning—of Reconstruction.
President Johnson’s Reconstruction Plan In May 1865, President Johnson announced his Reconstruction plan. A former Confederate state could rejoin the Union once it had written a new state constitution, elected a new state government, repealed its act of secession, canceled its war debts, and ratified the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery.
By the fall of 1865, every southern state had met the president’s requirements, and the Thirteenth Amendment became part of the Constitution. Presidential Reconstruction had begun.
The Freedmen’s Bureau For former slaves, called freedmen, the freedom guaranteed by the Thirteenth Amendment brought problems as well as opportunities. As Frederick Douglass wrote, the freedman
was free from the individual master but a slave of society. He had neither money, property, nor friends. He was free from the old plantation, but he had nothing but the dusty road under his feet.... He was turned loose, naked, hungry, and destitute [penniless] to the open sky.
To assist former slaves, Congress established the Freedmen’s Bureau in March 1865. Over the next four years, the bureau
During Reconstruction, former slaves were granted the right to marry and live with family members from whom they had been separated. Forms, such as this one, allowed freedmen to keep a record of their marriage and family.