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Civil War Overview

The Civil War was the deadliest and costliest war ever fought on American soil with losses of lives reaching well over 600,000, out of some 2.4 million soldiers. Millions more soldiers and non-soldiers were injured. The south was devastated, when it was all said and done. The people, their property, the territories, would never be the same again.

For decades before the Civil War began, tensions had been high between the Southern states and the Federal government over the individual rights of the states against the federal authority, slavery, westward expansion. The final blow was when Abraham Lincoln, a man who vowed to end slavery in the south, was elected president in 1860. Immediately, seven states had seceded from the Union and they soon formed the Confederate States of America.

The mid nineteenth century saw the United States had remarkable growth. The northern states were growing in industry and had little farming while the south grew in farming and little industry. However, the southern states needed slave labor to grow certain crops like cotton and tobacco. As the westward expansion continued in the United States, sentiments against slavery grew into the new western territories and the southern states felt that slavery was going to be abolished and this would destroy the mainstay of their economic progression.

In 1857, in the famous Dred Scott case, the Supreme Court ruled that slavery was indeed legal in the United States, but in 1859, famed slavery abolitionist, John Brown and his followers attacked Harpers Ferry, Virginia and attempted to seize an arsenal there. After this attack, the southern states began to think that the northern states were getting more and more opposed to slavery and the final blow was when Abraham Lincoln won the presidency of the federal government.

After the first seven states seceded, within months of Lincolnís presidential victory, the federal government tried what they could to get the states back into the Union. However, these attempts were for naught, as neither side could arrive at an agreeable conclusion.

Fort Sumter was a federally held fort that guarded the entrance to the Charleston Harbor. South Carolina, one of the first seven states to secede, ordered the federal government out of the fort, but the federal government attempted to send supplies to the fort and the rebel forces fired on the fort. These were the first shots fired and essentially started the Civil War. There were only two casualties during this 34-hour battle and that was because a gun exploded during the surrender ceremonies and two Union soldiers were killed.

Confederate Army General Robert E. Lee finally surrendered to Union Army General Ulysses S. Grant in Appomattox, Virginia in 1865, thus ending the Civil War.

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