American HistoryENGLISH


A scene in one of the Civil War battles, the Battle of Gettysburg. Source : A Public Domain

The American Civil was a war between the United States Government and its eleven Southern States who seceded from the union and declared themselves the Confederates States of America.

The American Civil War began as a result of the election of Abraham Lincoln as the United States President in 1860. The reason was that, Lincoln publicly opposed slavery and promised to stopped it if elected as the United States President. Therefore, immediately after he was elected, 11 Southern States who maintained slavery as an integral part of their economy seceded from the United States of America and called themselves the Confederates States of America.

The American Civil War lasted for 4 years, from March 1861 to May 1865.


The origin of the American Civil War can be traced back to as far back as the mid-18th Century, that was around 1850s when the United States as a nation began to stand on its feet. Around the period, the American society was advancing very rapidly and was reshaping into a unique one different from the European model. Due to these changes, the needs for economical as well as the social reforms was needed to enabled the modernization to flourished everywhere in the country. Thus, agitations or calls for reforms began to increase especially in the northern parts of the United States. But, it should be noted that, by the time when these calls for reforms arose, the United States was socially and economically divided into two.


The northern states of the country was more opened and therefore accepted changes. Industrialization was developing rapidly in most of the northern cities, which in turn attracted skillful immigrants mostly from the Western Europe to these cities. In short, the north started to be industrialized and started walking in the trend of modern development. In turn, the northerners began to experienced betterment of life as social amenities and literacy rates were going high.


In the southern States, the society was not much opened to changes, but, rather a conservative. The economy in the states was largely based on slavery and agriculture. Agricultural activities were carried out in large farms were black slaves worked as laborers under obligation. The main products were cultivated included crops such as sugar cane, rice, wheat, and others. Therefore, the facts that the southern economy was an agrarian, it became apparent that there was less industrial development. The cities in the south remained market centers were farm products cultivated in the rural areas were brought and sold especially for export.

Socially, the southern States was a conservative society in which modern changes were not welcomed very easily. The society was divided into four social classes. The first class who constituted small portion of the population have comprised the wealthy planters who owned slaves. The second group were those who owned average farms and slaves, and also produced enough to feed their families and in some instances to sold in the market if there was a surplus. The third group which was the lowest comprised the poor whites who possessed small farms or not at all. The fourth group was the class of slaves who have no freedom at all, but, rather they were possessed and treated as a source of labor.


By 1850, the United States was already on the train of global development whereby the country was becoming an industrialized. Therefore, in order to accelerated the development, there was a need for social as well as the economic reforms. But, unfortunately, the socio-economic differences between the northern and the southern parts of the country caused problems towards required reforms.

The most controversial of these reforms was the agitation from the north on the issue of stopping the spread of the slavery into the new territories specifically in the west, or abolishing it at all. In the northern States, the slavery was already abolished and the abolitionists were mostly northerners. However, the idea was resisted and rejected by all the southern States. The southern States further argued that the slavery was an important part of their economy, and stopping it was a violation of their rights.

As the United States continued in this situation, the 1860 Presidential election was approaching. One of the top contenders, the Republican Party candidate Abraham Lincoln who was also a northerner, have promised to stop the spread of the slavery if elected. But, the southern States conceived Lincoln’s agenda as a planning to stop slavery throughout the United States. Therefore, they rejected the idea and promised to leave the Union as long as Abraham Lincoln was elected. Unfortunately, Abraham Lincoln won the United States Presidential election which was held on 6 November, 1860.

Immediately after the Lincoln’s election, the southern States showed their disapproval and therefore planned to leave the United States. South Carolina State became the first to seceded in December 1860. Later, ten other States that included Florida, Georgia, Virginia, Alabama, North Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Tennessee, and Arkansas followed the lead and declared themselves a new nation called the Confederates States of America. Also, the States chose Jefferson Davis as their own President.

In his Inaugural speech during the Inauguration Ceremony held on 4 March, 1861, Lincoln assured the southern States that he would not stopped slavery were it already existed, but, would stopped it from spreading. He further added that he would do everything to preserved the Union.

A map showing the Confederates territory by Nicholas F. Source : A Public Domain

The American Civil War Started

The American Civil War began when the Confederate States started seizing Federal property within their territory. The most important incident that opened the Civil War was the Confederates attack on the Union army base at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor in order to driven the Union forces out of the base. The attack occurred on 12 April, 1861. Therefore, in his response, President Abraham Lincoln asked the Union States to provide at least 75,000 volunteer soldiers for the War. And within a short time his appeal was accepted and all the Union States sent their volunteered men.

In July 1861, the Union forces met with the Confederates forces in Virginia where they fought the first major battle called the ‘Battle of Bull Run’. During the Battle, the Confederates led by P.G.T. Beauregard overcame and defeated the Union soldiers led by General Irvin McDowell. The Battle in its effect, increased the morale of the Confederates and therefore prepared for more encounter. While the Union army learned a lesson from defeat and come up with new War plan.

The Union forces planned a new idea in which they set to encircled the Confederates and blockaded them. Under the plan, the Union troops were divided into the west and east. The western troops were ordered to take control of the Mississippi River and the surrounding areas. While the eastern troops were asked to blocked the Confederates from having access to the Atlantic Ocean and also to capture Confederates capital of Richmond. The idea behind the blocking of the Atlantic was to cutt off the Confederates from any significant foreign aids, specifically from Europe.

In order to blocked the foreign supply of arms for the Confederates, different Union war ships were assigned and spread to capture any supplies and also to blockaded the Confederates ports. Even though the Union ships tightened their work, the Confederates managed to get some foreign supplies of weapons to some extent through the use of their special counter ships called the ‘Blockade Runners

In the early 1862, in an effort to get full control of Mississippi, the Union forces led by General Ulysses S. Grant started their mission by capturing Forts Henry Donelson in the Tennessee. With the success, the Union troops advanced to capture Corinth in the Mississippi. On their way, the Union troops was suprisingly attacked by the Confederates forces at Shiloh under the command General Albert S. Johnstone and General Beauregard. But, after a while another Union troops came to the aid of their brothers and at the end the Confederates were defeated. The Union face heavy losses at the Battle of Shiloh, but continued their western campaign in order to get full control of the Mississippi River.

The Emancipation Proclamation

As the American Civil War was going on and seems to continue for a little longer, President Abraham Lincoln looked for a way to officially ends the slavery. Immediately on 1 January, 1863, he issued a proclamation called the ‘Emancipation Proclamation or Declaration‘. Under the Proclamation, it was stated that all slaves in Confederates States were henceforth freed and were needed to joined the Union in the American Civil War. Instantly, after the Proclamation, many blacks from the Confederates States were able to escaped and joined the Union army.

The Civil War Continued

On his part, the Confederates Army Commander General Robert E. Lee decided to look for a way to win the War by pushing his attacks northward. He arranged and led his men into Pennsylvania and eventually encountered with the Union troops led by General George Meade on their way at Gettysburg. The two armies fought a decisive Battle of Gettysburg for almost 3 days from 1 to 3 July, 1863. At last, the Confederates forces were overpowered and therefore retreated southward.

In the west, General Ulysses S. Grant successfully accomplished his task of getting control of Mississippi River after he led his Union forces in which they captured the last Confederates stronghold town of Vicksburg on 4 July, 1863. After the Battle of Vicksburg, General Grant continued his western mission. He led his army southward, and on their way they encountered with the Confederates forces where they fought the Battle of Chattanooga. In the Battle, they defeated and chased the Confederates southward of Tennessee.

On the other hand, General Grant’s victory of accomplishing the Mississippi mission also earned him a special recognition that made President Lincoln to appoint him Commander General of the entire Union army. He was also asked to returned to the eastern theatre in order to capture Richmond, the capital city of the Confederates.

After General Ulysses S. Grant left western theater to assumed his new responsibility, General William T. Sherman continued to command the western war effort. After encountering with different Confederates troops along the way, General Sherman led his army and pushed further southward to the Sea. In September 1864, he successfully captured Atalanta, the capital of Confederates State of Georgia. The victory increased the morale of the Union army in the ongoing American Civil War and also decreased the Confederates morale.


As the American Civil War continued to be fought through the year 1864, the American Presidential Election on the other hand was also to be held in the year. The Union possibility of winning the War gave President Lincoln more chance of winning the upcoming election. On 8 September, 1864, the Election was contested between the two major contenders including President Abraham Lincoln of the National Union Party and the George B. McClellan of the Democrat Party. The Election ended with Abraham Lincoln as the winner scoring 2,218,388 popular votes against McClellan’s 1,812,807.

End of the War

After Abraham Lincoln won the election and began his second term, he set as his top priority to end the American Civil War. Therefore, he ordered all the Union commanders to do their best in bringing an end to the War in a short time.

As part of the effort, the Union army in the south led by General Sherman continued their mission from Atalanta towards the sea, until in December 1864 they captured the Confederates important sea town of Savannah. From the Savannah, Sherman and his Union army marched northward towards General Lee and his Confederates forces.

In the Eastern theater, General Ulysses S. Grant sieged the town of Petersburg, and maintained his position strongly. Later, after good planning, on 2 April, 1865, General Grant pushed into the Confederates defense line and forced their retreat from Petersburg. On the other hand, after realizing how few and weak his soldiers were, the Commander General of the Confederates Army General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House in Virginia on 9 April, 1865. The surrender automatically marked the end of the American Civil War which was fought for 4 years.

Ahmad Abdullahi, BA History

My name is Ahmad Abdullahi, I was born on 10th March, 1994 in Garun-Danga Town, Gabasawa L.G., Kano State. I attended FCE Demonstration Primary School from 2002 to 2007, FCE Staff Secondary School from 2007 to 2013, and Northwest University, Kano from 2013 to 2017, where I obtained bachelor degree in History.

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