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American Civil War

Abraham Lincoln, US president 1861–65Abraham Lincoln, US president 1861–65The American Civil War was fought between 1861 and 1865. In November 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected as president. He was known for his opposition to slavery. Almost immediately, seven southern states whose economies depended on slavery declared their secession (withdrawal) from the United States, followed shortly by four others. They formed the Confederate States of America, or the Confederacy. The other 24 states, known as the Union, supported the US government. After four years of war, the Confederacy surrendered. On 6th December 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment to the US constitution was adopted: it abolished slavery throughout the nation. 


War breaks out

Confederates (left) battle Union forces (right). Confederates (left) battle Union forces (right). The war began on 12th April 1861, when Confederate forces attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina. The Union responded by seizing control of the northernmost Confederate states and setting up a naval blockade, preventing any goods entering or leaving the Confederacy. The Confederacy repelled Union efforts to capture its capital, Richmond, Virginia.

Battle of the Ironclads, 9th March 1862Battle of the Ironclads, 9th March 1862

Victory for the Union

After gaining a number of victories in the east early in the war, the Confederates were forced to withdraw at the Battle of Antietam in September 1862. Confederate General Robert E. Lee's advance was halted at the Battle of Gettysburg the following year. Following his success against Confederate forces in the west, Ulysses S. Grant was given command of the entire Union army in 1864. He launched several attacks on the Confederacy, taking Richmond, Atlanta and Petersburg. Lee surrendered to Grant at the Battle of Appomattox Court House on 9th April 1865.

The assassination of President Lincoln, April 1865The assassination of President Lincoln, April 1865

After the Civil War

The Civil War resulted in the deaths of at least 365,000 soldiers on the Union side and 260,000 soldiers on the Confederate side, plus 50,000 civilians. This was a higher number of American deaths than in World War I, World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam War combined.

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