White Southerners chose to interpret Lincoln's election and the response to secession in equally strong terms.
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Further, slaveholders feared the undermining of their authority, which armed federal intervention represented. The slave grapevine rattled with the threat of war.
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In the Deep South, conspiracies and plots spontaneously combusted in the war's first few weeks. On May 14, , a planter in Jefferson County, Mississippi, wrote to the governor concerning his fears: "A plot has been discovered and [alrea]dy three Negroes have gone the way of all flesh or rather paid the penalty by the forfeiture of their lives.
The plotters' "diabolical" plans included killing white males, capturing white females, and marching "up the river to meet 'Mr. Linkin' bearing off booty such things as they could carry.
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By the end of the long hot summer of , a plot was uncovered in Adams County, where a Mississippi woman reported "that a miserable, sneaking abolitionist has been at the bottom of this whole affair. I hope that he will be caught and burned alive. Local investigators determined that this home grown conspiracy was the work of slaves, planning to rise up against masters in the event of federal invasion.
Reportedly twenty-seven black men were hung. A woman writing from her plantation confided, "It is kept very still, not to be in the papers. With the outbreak of war, the Confederacy required the utmost cooperation of all her citizens, especially from the sons and daughters of the planter class. The newly formed government did not want hysteria in the countryside and slave owners arming themselves against their own slaves. As a result, evidence of insurrectionary activity was repressed.
Despite the protracted efforts of Confederate loyalists to portray only harmony among owner and owned, despite best efforts to rally blacks to the Stars and Bars, we know not all African Americans were devoted servants to Confederate masters, as painted by wartime rhetoric or postwar ideologues. Equally interesting evidence remains, however, on this question of black loyalty.
In New Orleans, Confederate leaders confronted an affluent, articulate, and assimilated free black community.
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The mixed-race "mulatto" community emphasized community ties and volunteered to "take arms at a moment's notice and fight shoulder to shoulder with other citizens. African American men who formed companies and offered themselves for military service, however, were greeted with considerable discomfort by the new southern government, ignored and spurned. The Confederacy dared not allow blacks to serve as soldiers. Free blacks who did volunteer were assigned to projects as teamsters on earthworks projects, building fortifications, and other menial support roles.
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The loyalties of these free blacks volunteers were considerably divided. Most, like the New Orleans Native Guards, feared that if Confederate independence was achieved without their help, they might be returned to slavery. From the very earliest days of the war, slaves were caught in a vicious thrall.
Many hoped to escape bondage and fled behind enemy lines. The flooding of Union camps with fugitive slaves was an alarming and unanticipated development for federal officers. Confederates who claimed that slaves were loyal to owners because the system of paternalism fostered mutual dependency were repudiated by a steady stream of black desertions. Unfortunately, federal soldiers expressed less than sympathetic attitudes toward blacks in bondage, such as the Union man who balked at the suggestion that he was fighting for blacks' freedom and retorted: "I ain't fighting for the damned niggers, I'm fighting for fifteen dollars a month.
When Union forces threatened to overrun the Crescent City in the spring of , black troops volunteered to remain behind. They ended up greeting soldiers in blue with jubilation and switching sides effortlessly. From the earliest days of the war, federal military units employing blacks were organized in South Carolina and Louisiana to capture the runaways and harness their loyalty.
Thousands of African Americans were willing to take up arms against the Confederacy. The flood of black volunteers northward from the Confederate states increased dramatically with the Emancipation Proclamation in January It was a time of tremendous rejoicing for slaves trapped behind Confederate lines.
Most thought of New Year's Day with sadness, as it was the time when sales were organized and families separated, nicknamed "Heartbreak Day. The Union at first resisted the use of blacks as soldiers, although these runaways, who were called contrabands were welcomed and employed as teamsters and ditchdiggers to man the engineering and quartermasters' corps. But free blacks persisted and commanders relented, so well over , black men from Confederate states ran away to join the Union army.
Since , Northerners and Southerners attempted to politically compromise on these questions. Each side entered into various agreements, including the Missouri Compromise, the Compromise of , and the Kansas-Nebraska Act. While each of these compromises sought to ease tensions, none of them fully solved the problems, namely the slavery issue, that existed between the two regions.
Throughout the s, tensions between the North and the South escalated with violent confrontations. This was especially evident in "Bleeding Kansas. Sandford , which held that slaves were property and not citizens. John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry in raised tensions further, as Brown hoped to seize the federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry in what is now West Virginia to arm the slaves in the South. The raid failed, and Brown was executed. Finally, the election of Abraham Lincoln, a member of the Republican Party, in November as president convinced many Southerners that slavery soon would end within the United States.
During the war's first year, events went poorly for the Union. The Union lost the Battle of First Bull Run in June , convincing many people that this conflict might be a long one.
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In , the Union again faced numerous setbacks in the East. General Robert E. The Union military experienced more success in the West. Under General Ulysses S. Grant, Union soldiers captured Forts Henry and Donelson. They effectively drove Confederate forces from Kentucky and much of Tennessee, especially after the Battle of Shiloh in April In late , President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. This document declared that all slaves in areas still in rebellion as of January 1, , would receive their freedom. The president had now made the ending of slavery one of the Union's war aims.
Events continued to improve for the Union during This victory gave the Union control of the Mississippi River, effectively dividing the Confederacy in two. Grant followed up this victory with another at the Battle of Chattanooga, freeing much of Tennessee from Confederate control. During , Grant assumed command of all Union forces. During the first three years of the war in the East, Union armies had repeatedly tried to capture the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia.
Grant determined that Richmond was unimportant. Although the Union had the south surrounded, it was still necessary to destroy the Confederate army in order to force the South to surrender. This strategy is what prompted Lincoln to promote like-minded Ulysses S. Grant to the position of Lieutenant-General in March of , naming him General-in-chief of the Armies of the United States in the process. With Grant in charge, the Union Army began to fight the Confederates more aggressively. In , General William Tecumseh Sherman led his troops on his famous March to the Sea, capturing and destroying anything they came across, which further deprived the Confederates of the food and supplies they so desperately needed.
Lee and his army in Northern Virginia. The Civil War finally came to an end after Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia became trapped by invading Union forces in Appomattox county, Va and were forced to surrender. This prompted similar surrenders by remaining Confederate troops across the South, which finally brought the Civil War to a close. Lee Surrenders — April 9, Department of the Interioir, www. What Happened During the Civil War?