Monday, January 11, 2010

Why did the American Civil War Start?

The American Civil War (1861-1865) arose chiefly over the question of Negro slavery. In the 15th Century the Portuguese found a ready market for Negro slaves, which they captured during their expeditions along the African coasts.

As the American continent developed, these slaves were eagerly sought to labor on the cotton and tobacco plantations, in mines, or in general farm work. Between 1680 and 1786 more than 2,000,000 slaves were transported and it was not until 1833 that the United Kingdom Parliament passed an Act that set free all slaves in its territories.

In the United States the struggle between the slave-owning southern states and those of the North, where there was no slavery, was long and bitter. As the frontier moved westward, new states were seeking admission to the Union. Some had slaves and some did not.

In the north a growing party demanded immediate abolition of slavery, while in the south were some who threatened to leave the Union rather than give up their slaves. In 1860, Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) who favored the gradual abolition of slavery, was elected President of the United States. Next year, seven southern states left the Union and formed the Confederate States, with Jefferson Davis as President. On April 12, the officer in charge of Port Sumter, at Charleston, West Virginia, refused to surrender it to Confederate soldiers, who opened fire and thus began the Civil War.

Although the North had greater numbers, the South had better generals and the war dragged on for four years, with no fewer than 2,260 battles and skirmishes. In 1863, there were great victories for the North at Gettysburg and Vicksburg. It was at Gettysburg that Lincoln delivered his famous address promising freedom for all.

General Lee, commander of the Confederate armies, surrendered on April 9 at Appomatox Court House, Virginia.

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