Why was the civil war so long and so bloody? Essay
Why was the civil war so long and so bloody?
In 1860 the average American believed that they were living the happiest and luckiest a person could be. They were generally living better than their fathers, and looked forward to their children prospering more than themselves. However, at the time America had developed into two very different societies between the North and the South. These changing societies were beginning to adjust to the start of the industrial revolution in separate ways.
In the North slavery had died out as it did not pay. However, in the South in had begun to prosper greatly. This was due to the invention of the cotton gin in 1793 which allowed large amounts of cotton to be raised using slave labour. The North was in favour of the abolition of slavery, this was partly to help ease their conscience. Also they knew that financial loss would not really be felt in the North if the abolition went through. The issue of slave abolition was one important during the civil war and in one of Lincoln’s speeches he summed up the feeling of the nation “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free”
On March 4th 1861 Abraham Lincoln was made President of the United States. However, on December 20th South Carolina seceded from the Union. By February 8th Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana and Texas had set up a new nation called the Confederate States of America with Jefferson Davis as their President.
When the war began it was a slight shock to both sides, this was due to neither one truly wanting, or believing, that they’d fight. In the North, it was viewed that the talks of fighting was just a counter in politics, and threats were used to get what you want, calling their bluff. The South on the other hand didn’t realise that the Federal Union meant so much to the North, and presumed that the North would be happy to be rid of slave owners and any obligations to the slaves. The South also believed that the North would not have the strength or people to form a worthy army. However, on April 23rd 1961 the war began, and it turned out to be the bloodiest in America’s history. More that 620,000 American soldiers died during the war, more that World War One, World War Two and Korea combined.
One of the first battles which took place was at Bull Run in Virginia, this battle was significant in demonstrating that victory was not going to be quick or easy for either side. Most of the Navy was in the hands of the Union and the Secretary of the Navy began to strengthen it which allowed Lincoln to set up a barrier to the Southern states. This helped to stop many shipments of cotton to Europe as well as the importation of clothing and medical supplies which the South needed.
The South had thought that if the Union cut of their cotton shipments to Britain then they would give support to the Confederacy. This did not transpire though, as Britain began to get their cotton from Egypt. Also, Britain was opposed to slavery and so gave any support to the North.
In 1962 a Union fleet was able to penetrate the mouth of the Mississippi river allowing them to get close enough to New Orleans, Louisiana to get surrender. This was an important win as New Orleans was the largest city in the South and it meant that the Union was able to advance 320 km further into the middle of the confederate.
General Robert Lee’s first invasion of the North took place September 16th to 18th 1862. The battle was known as the Shaftsbury battle by the South and the battle of Antietam by the North. This was due to the battle taking place in the fields bordering Antietam Creek near the town of Shaftsbury, Maryland. The 17th September saw one of America’s bloodiest days in history. By the evening of the 18th Lee ordered his Army back and the North did as well due to so many men injured or dead. The battle finished with more than 23,000 casualties, more than any other battle.
On January 1st 1963 Lincoln made an important announcement, it was declared that all slaves of the states rebelling against the Union were to be freed. At this time it was also declared that Blacks were allowed to join the Union army. These announcements were crucial to the Union as they gained support from the Negro communities and politically helped preserve the Union.
The battle of Gettysburg took place between July 1st – 3rd 1963. In the May of 1963 Lee had been given the go ahead for a north invasion. Lee hoped that a victory in the north would help increase the peace movement which was gathering some support there. This, along with the weakening of the Union army, may initiate talks of surrender by the Federal Army. On June 30th come of the Confederate army marched into the town of Gettysburg but wee driven back by a Union cavalry which was already there. So, the next day the Confederates attacked with more force, with troops from the wast, north and east. This drove the Union army back and up onto Cemetery Hill. This however, resulted in giving the Union a good position for defence. On July 2nd Lee ordered more attacks and an attempt to storm Cemetery Hill.
This was unsuccessful, but resulted in 9,000 casualties. At 1.00pm on July 3rd Confederates opened fire on the Federal line and major duel continued for two hours. Then the infantry moved forward which is known as “Pickett’s Charge” . The Confederate army was driven back and the battle was considered a Union victory. The battle left the Confederates with around 28,000 casualties and the Union with about 23,000 and was the last time that the south tried to invade northern territory. Also in July 1863, although the war would continue for another year and a half, the battle in Vicksburg which took place was crucial to the outcome of the war.
Another event which was important to the ending of the war was Major General William Tecumseh Sherman’s “March to the Sea”. Sherman and his 62,000 men began their journey on 16th December 1964. They travelled at quiet a leisurely pace through Milledgeville towards Savannah. They were virtually unopposed and during the march tore up railroad tracks, released slaves, burned plantation houses and searched for supplies. Sherman reached Savannah on 20th December and presented the city to President Lincoln as a Christmas present. The troops then continued north to South Carolina and along the way destroyed more houses. They captured Charleston on 18th February and then Columbia, the state capital, on the 19th February. Joe Johnston’s Confederate army was highly outnumbered and withdrew from attacking. Then at Durham Station in North Carolina Sherman concluded an armistice with Johnston on 18th April 1965.
Robert E. Lee, of the Confederate, was too late in his retreat south from Petersburg and Richmond (the Confederate capital) in March 1865. General Ulysses S. Grant led huge Union armies to surround Lee and his men. At Appomattox Courthouse is the official site where this took place on April 9th 1865. This was the end of the Civil War, although some sparse fighting continued for a few months longer.
The civil war led to a vast number of American lives being lost. To begin with people hoped, and thought, that the war would only last a few months, not four years. There are a number of reasons that resulted in the war carrying on for so long. Both sides had different advantages over each other. The north had a much larger population, factories to produce war materials, a good transportation system, and a strong presence a sea. The South had fewer advantages but still some important ones. The South were fighting on home ground. This meant they knew the land and it gave them more immediate reason to defend their land and families. The South also had the leadership of great commanders and a military tradition. The battle of Bull Run showed the first of many bloody wins, in the east, for the Confederate.
However, these wins did not translate into any military advancement. The Confederate would win many battles, especially in the first year, but they would be no nearer to winning the war. The Union however, were better prepared at winning and advancing in the sea and in the west. As it was the north that were trying to conquer the south and force them back to the Union, it meant that it took more for them to be victorious. The Confederates did not attempt as many invasions as the south. This left them to mainly be defending their territory. Whereas the Union had to win the battle and keep control of their win. So, although the Union had the power in the sea as an advantage and were fairly efficient at advancing forward, it did take time for them to achieve its goals.
With so many battles taking place which did not make much difference to the outcome of the war, and so many lives being lost as well it lead to the civil war being one of the longest and bloodiest in America’s history.