The following deals with events, conflicts, and people during the years 1861-1865.
DISCLAIMER: This does NOT serve as a replacement for reading Chapter 20.
Abe Lincoln did not become the President of the United States. He became the President of the dis-United States. In the four years to come, he would suffer in ways few Presidents have had to endure. His beloved country was at war with itself.
By the time Lincoln was inaugurated, seven states had already left. In his address, Abe made it clear that there wouldn’t be a conflict unless the South provoked it. Questions were now raised concerning the national debt and federal territories. With the country divided and somewhat weak, Europe was extremely delighted. They could finally defy the Monroe Doctrine and start colonizing in the Americas again.
As each state seceded, they captured federal forts and public property. One of the last Union forts in the South was Fort Sumner. The Fort endured without supplies until April 1861. Lincoln had no choice but to provision the garrison by sending a naval fleet down the coast. Cannons fired from Charleston, though no lives were taken. The Fort surrendered soon after. In response, Lincoln called an army of 75,000 militiamen from the states and instituted a blockade on the South. The North and the South could at least agree on one thing: the Civil War had started.
The border slave states of Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware, and, after an illegal split from Virginia, West Virginia were crucial. If they joined the South, it would more than double their manufacturing capability and could turn the war in their favor. The Ohio River, which carried supplies deep into the South, was also a prize to be won. Lincoln couldn’t declare he was going to free the slaves– they would’ve driven the border states to secede. Devastatingly, many men from the border states fought against their neighbors; some sided with the North and others, with the South.
Many in the Five Civilized Tribes [see Chapter 13] owned slaves and sided with the South. In return, they got delegates in the Confederate Congress and federal payments, while those who sided with the Union got herded into reservations after the war was over.
From the start, it seemed like the South had the advantage. Unlike the North, the South didn’t want to invade anything, at first anyway, They could’ve won independence if they just stood their ground. Talented officers, such as Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, led the charge followed by rebel-yelling volunteers, who were bred to fight from the crib onwards. The South, however, was one big farm without any factories. In order to score some firepower, they systemically blockaded the Union and seized thousands of firearms. Nevertheless, the infantile railroad system in the South was failing due to the Yanks. Shortages of food and clothing were commonplace.
The economy also played a major role. The North held onto 3/4ths of the nation’s wealth, boasting a huge navy and great supply lines from Europe. The North also had more than double the population of the South, which only kept growing from immigration. But, unlike the South, most Northerners weren’t prepared for war and performed horribly at first. There was also a lack of military leadership.
The Confederacy’s only hope was Europe. Many leaders across the pond abhorred the Union’s democratic experiment and wanted them to bite the dust. The common folk, many of whom read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, were pulling for the North and were hostile towards any official that supported the South. Even so, British textile mills relied heavily on the South for cotton. From 1857-1860, there was overproduction in the textile mills, which led to huge surpluses and many lost jobs. This would’ve led them to support the South, had Lincoln not declared his Emancipation Proclamation. Egypt and India also stepped up their production of cotton at the same time and when Britain faced a horrible harvest, King Wheat and King Corn from the Union came to save the day.
A huge turn in the war came in late 1861 when the British ship Trent was seized by the Union and two Confederate diplomats bound for Europe were taken. Lincoln eventually released them scot-free. Not long afterwards, England was found to have been building many of the South’s naval ships, the most famous of which was the Alabama. For a few years, it led the US Navy on wild goose chases and captured some sixty vessels. Even more surprisingly, it was manned by Brits. In response, the US threatened to grab Canada after the war was over.
In 1863, the Brit John Laird began to build even more ships for the Confederacy. These ships would be far worse than the Alabama. The American minister Charles Adams warned that if the ‘rams’ were released, it would cause a full-blown war. The Royal Navy later bought Laird’s ships. Meanwhile, there were several small armies, led by Irish-Americans, which streamed into Canada to wreak havoc. After the Civil War was done, Canada was established as a dominion, which united Canadians against the possible vengeance of the US.
Below the border, Napoleon III had invaded Mexico and set up Austrian Archduke Maximilian as emperor. This, of course, was in direction violation of the Monroe Doctrine, though Napoleon had bet that the North wouldn’t do anything about it. Once the war was over, Secretary of State Seward threatened to march south, which led Napoleon to flee and Maximilian to die via firing squad.
The President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, ran into a ton of problems. He believed that his country would run best under a central government, though virtually all of his constituents wanted states’ rights. In fact, many soldiers refused to fight beyond their state’s borders. No one really liked Davis and even though he devoted his life to the Confederacy, no one cared. Lincoln, meanwhile, also had many troubles, though he learned to grow from them. He was never quick to reprimand anyone and seldom spoke a bad word.
As is usual in times of crisis, the US Constitution was completely disregarded and was shat on. The Civil War broke out when Congress wasn’t in session, so Lincoln had no choice but to enforce a blockade and increase the size of the US Army. The privilege of habeas corpus, unlawful detention without evidence, was also denied. Everything Lincoln did, though, was for the good of the country ;).
By 1863, volunteering for the US Army had dropped off considerably so naturally, Congress enacted conscription for the first time ever. The rich, like always, had an advantage. They could simply pay $300 for a substitute to fight for them. The draft was not taken well because, for some reason, many young men didn’t like that they had to go off to fight a war and lose their lives. Down in the South, nearly every young man wanted to go off and fight, though nearly every slave-owner was exempt.
To raise some fast cash, the US Congress passed huge excise taxes on alcohol and tobacco and increased the tariff big time with the Moriff Tariff Act in 1861. Since then, the Republican party has been associated with protective tariffs and big business. For the first time, green paper money was printed by Washington and was determined by the value of gold. In order to regulate paper currency as well as stimulate the purchase of war bonds, the National Banking System was set up in 1863. This was biggest step taken in regulation since the Bank of the US faltered during Jackson’s time in office. It survived until it was overtaken by the Federal Reserve System in 1913 with Wilson.
The South also came under some financial setbacks. Davis tried increasing taxes, though many people simply wouldn’t pay them. In order to kick-start their economy, they also began printing paper money like nobody’s business, which only led to major inflation.
While the South was facing economic catastrophe, the North was enjoying boom times. Factories were buzzing and a whole new millionaire class emerged. Many of the millionaires had put profit above patriotism and had sold the US Army poorly-made goods. The sewing machine was behind the mass marketing of clothing and led to the introduction of sizes on clothes. Farm production probably helped the most and raised serious capital for Washington. With the discovery of petroleum in Pennsylvania in 1859 and the influx of pioneers moving west, there was a bright horizon for the North.
Women also played a huge part in the war, taking over government jobs and organizing hospitals. The organization during the war played a huge part towards the women’s movement once the war was over.
After the war had run its course, the South was devastated. Wages were lower than ever and transportation had completely collapsed. During the war, the South had made many sacrifices– women refused to wear stylish clothing and instead nursed their husbands back to health. With the South’s slavocracy crumbling and the North’s plutocracy rising, it was clear what was going to happen as the 19th century dragged on.