Military


War of Northern Agression
War Between The States
Civil War

Whether you prefer to call it the Civil War, the War Between The States, the War For States Rights, the War of Northern Agression, or whatever name you deem appropriate, the result is the same -- hundreds of thousands of Americans, dressed in both gray and blue, paid the ultimate sacrifice fighting for a cause that they believed in. Merton E. Coulter's "A Name for the American War of 1861-1865." (Georgia Historical Quarterly 36 [June 1952]: 109-131) is an interesting overview of how people referred to the conflict—from contemporary soldiers and officers, through the post-war period and into the twentieth century.

The Civil War The War for Southern Rights
The Civil War in America Mr. Lincoln's War
The American Civil War The War for Southern Planters
The American War The War of the North against the South
War of the Sections The War to Suppress Yankee Arrogance
War for Separation The War for Nationality
War for Independence The War for Southern Nationality
War for Southern Independence The War Against Slavery
Confederate War for Independence The War of the Sixties
The Second War for Independence The War Against Northern Aggression
The Second American Revolution The Yankee Invasion
The War for Southern Freedom The War for Separation
The Insurrection The War for Abolition
The Rebellion The Abolitionist's War
The Southern Rebellion The War for the Union
The War of the Rebellion The War of the Southerns
The Great Rebellion The Late Unpleasantness
War for Secession The Old Confederate War
War of the Confederates The Lost Cause
The Confederate War THE WAR
The War Between the States
The Civil War Between the States
The Brother's War
The War Between the Union and Confederacy
War of the Abolition Party Against the Principles of the Constitution of the United States
The War for Constitutional Liberty
The War for States Rights

When Abraham Lincoln, a known opponent of slavery, was elected president, the South Carolina legislature perceived a threat. Calling a state convention, the delegates voted to remove the state of South Carolina from the union known as the United States of America. The secession of South Carolina was followed by the secession of six more states -- Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas -- and the threat of secession by four more -- Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina. These eleven states eventually formed the Confederate States of America.

The North faced a demanding and complex political problem, namely to reassert its authority over a vast territorial empire, far too extensive to be completely occupied or thoroughly controlled. Furthermore, President Lincoln recognized that Northern popular resolve might be limited and established rapid victory as a condition as well. Lincoln's original policy of conciliation having failed, the President opted for the unconditional surrender of the South as the only acceptable aim. Lincoln's search for a general who would devise a strategy to attain his aim ended with Grant in March 1864.

By comparison, the South's policy aim was to preserve its newly declared independence. The South's strategic aim was simply to prevent the North from succeeding, to make the endeavor more costly than the North was willing to bear. The South's policy objectives would seem to dictate a military strategy of erosion aimed at prolonging the war as a means to breaking Northern resolve. In fact, this was the strategy preferred by Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Such a strategy would require close coordination of the Southern armies and a careful husbanding of the Confederacy's inferior resources. In practice, however, no Southern general in chief was appointed until Lee's appointment in early 1865. No doubt it was in part because of the Confederacy's basic political philosophy of states' rights that the military resources of the various Southern states were poorly distributed. Campaigns in the various theaters of war were conducted almost independently.

On January 27, 1862 President Lincoln issued a war order authorizing the Union to launch a unified aggressive action against the Confederacy. Modern historians call the Civil War the "first modern war" in American history. During this time, factories in the North produced guns and supplies for the war effort; railroads crisscrossed the country moving supplies and armies; generals used the telegraph to communicate over large distances; and a new ironclad navy driven by steam power blockaded the south. The scope of the struggle increased the power of industry and government in the North and led to the destruction of large areas of the South as the armies marched back and forth.

Some 10,500 armed conflicts occurred during the Civil War ranging frombattles to minor skirmishes; 384 conflicts were the principal battles. Some 45 battles had a decisive influence on a campaign and a direct impact on the course of the war; 104 had a direct and decisive influenceon their campaign; 128 had observable influence on the outcome of a campaign); and 107 sites had a limited influence on the outcome of their campaign or operation but achieved or affected important local objectives. However, the combatants could in some notable cases not even agree upon the names of the battles.

     Union                    Confederate
      Bull Run, VA              Manassas       21 July 1861
      Wilsons Creek, MO         Oak Hills      10 Aug 1861
      Logan's Cross Roads, VA   Mill Springs   19 Jan 1862
      Pea Ridge, AR             Elkhorn Tavern 6-8 Mar 1862
      Pittsburg Landing, TN     Shiloh         6-7 Apr 1862
      Bull Run, VA (2nd)        Manassas       29-30 Aug 1862
      Antietam, MD              Sharpsburg     17 Sept 1862
      Chapell Hills, KY         Perryville     8 Oct 1862
      Stones River, TN          Murfreesboro   30 Dec 1862-2 Jan 1863
      Elk Creek, Ind. Terr.     Honey Springs  17 July 1863
      Sabine Cross Roads, LA    Mansfield       8 Apr 1864
      Opequon Creek, VA         Winchester     19 Sept 1864

In an effort to placate the slave-holding border states, Lincoln resisted the demands of radical Republicans for complete abolition. In 1861, Congress had passed an act stating that all slaves employed against the Union were to be considered free. In 1862, another act stated that all slaves of men who supported the Confederacy were to be considered free. Lincoln, aware of the public's growing support of abolition, issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, declaring that all slaves in areas still in rebellion were, in the eyes of the federal government, free.

Lee's decision to concentrate his army in northern Virginia reflected a perspective much narrower than Grant's and the fact that he was politically constrained to defend Richmond. However, this decision was due also to Lee's insistence on an offensive strategy-not merely an offensive defense as in the early stages of the war but eventually an ambitious offensive strategy in 1862 and '63 aimed at invading the North as a means to breaking Northern will. Given the South's relative weakness, Lee's strategy was questionable at best-both as a viable means of attaining the South's policy aims and also in regard to operational practicability, particularly the South's logistical ability to sustain offensive campaigns.

In June 1863, Confederate leader Robert E. Lee led his army into Pennsylvania. General Meade and a large force of Union soldiers were sent to stop Lee's advancing troops. On July 1, the two armies met at the small town of Gettysburg. The Battle of Gettysburg is the most written about and studied battle in American history. Many historians consider the battle to be the turning point of the war and the last opportunity the South had to win the war. Lee sought to achieve the following objectives: (1) to relieve pressure on Vicksburg (2) to defeat the Federal Army on Union soil in order to effect European recognition of the Confederacy and (3) to destroy the confidence of the people of the North in their ability to defeat the South. As a lesser objective, Lee's army would be able to forage and refit itself in an undamaged countryside and allow the farmers of Virginia to raise a crop unmolested by the war.

From the perspective of generalship and the operational level of war, Gettysburg showed Lee and his generals at perhaps their worst; in sharp contrast to the brilliant success they achieved just 60 days before at Chancellorsville. There, using bold moves, clear commander's intent mission type orders, and acting on limited information about Union intentions, Lee and his subordinates had successfully imposed their will on the Union Army and its leaders in devastating fashion. Now, at Gettysburg, the roles were reversed, and the Union Army and its leaders execute one of their best performances of the war.

At the Battle of Gettysburg, Robert E. Lee made a mistake that doomed the hopes of the Confederate States of America to compel the United States to sue for peace. Why one of the great generals of his time made such a blunder continues to be a topic of research and intense debate. Lee said little at the time or afterward to justify his decision to launch what has become known as Pickett's Charge, so analysis must be inferential and inconclusive. The inelegant massed artillery and massed infantry frontal assault by the Confederates on the final day of the Battle of Gettysburg was a disaster. Fifteen thousand men emerged from the woods and, as if on parade, began the march toward Cemetery Ridge. The assault force -- 47 regiments -- moved at a walk until it neared the Union lines and then broke into a run. Federal artillery opened fire, enfilading the Gray ranks. Despite heavy casualties, the Confederates kept their formation until they were intermingled with the northerners. Such bravery as that exhibited by Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg, although inspiring, was exactly the kind of attrition the South could stand the least. Thousands of men were killed and, at the end, Lee's troops were forced to retreat to Virginia.

Lincoln was elated over General Meade's victory. He thought the war could be ended in 1863 if Meade would launch a resolute pursuit and destroy Lee's army before it could cross the Potomac and get back into Virginia. However, Meade's army was too mangled for aggressive pursuit and Lee slipped away. On November 19, 1863, President Lincoln dedicated part of the battlefield that was made into a national cemetery. President Abraham Lincoln pledged "a new birth of freedom" in his now-famous Gettysburg Address.

Grant's strategy of 1864 was directly supportive of the established policy objectives. He recognized immediately that his military strategic aim must be the destruction of Lee's army, and he devised a strategy of annihilation focused resolutely on that aim. Consistent with the policy objective of ending the war as rapidly as possible, Grant initiated offensive action simultaneously on all fronts to close the ring quickly around his opponent.

In May 1864 Grant advanced deep into Virginia and met Lee's Confederate Army in the three-day Battle of the Wilderness. Losses on both sides were heavy, but unlike other Union commanders, Grant refused to retreat. Instead, he attempted to outflank Lee, stretching the Confederate lines and pounding away with artillery and infantry attacks. "I propose to fight it out along this line if it takes all summer," the Union commander said at Spotsylvania, during five days of bloody trench warfare that characterized fighting on the eastern front for almost a year.

In August 1864 Union General William T. Sherman departed Chattanooga, and was soon met by Confederate General Joseph Johnston. Johnston's tactics caused his superiors to replace him with General John Bell Hood, who was soon defeated. Hood surrendered Atlanta, Georgia, on September 1; Sherman occupied the city the next day. General Sherman continued his march through Georgia to the sea. In the course of the march, he cut himself off from his source of supplies, planning for his troops to live off the land. His men cut a path 300 miles in length and 60 miles wide as they passed through Georgia, destroying factories, bridges, railroads, and public buildings.

By January 1865 transportation problems and successful blockades caused severe shortages of food and supplies in the South. Starving soldiers began to desert Lee's forces, and although President Jefferson Davis approved the arming of slaves as a means of augmenting the shrinking army, the measure was never put into effect.

Lee had stated that having the weaker force, his desire was to avoid a general engagement. In practice, however, he seemed unable to resist the temptation of a climactic Napoleonic battle whenever the enemy was within reach. Despite a number of tactical successes, Lee was eventually pinned to the fortifications at Petersburg, where he was besieged by Grant from mid-June 1864. On 25 March 1865 General Lee attacked General Grant's forces near Petersburg, but was defeated -- attacking and losing again on April 1. Lee's attempt to escape from Petersburg led to his army's capture at Appomattox. On April 2, Lee evacuated Richmond, the Confederate capital, and headed west to join with other forces. General Lee's troops were soon surrounded, and on April 9, the two commanders met at Appomattox Courthouse, and agreed on the terms of surrender. On April 14, as President Lincoln was watching a performance of "Our American Cousin" at Ford's Theater in Washington, DC, he was shot by John Wilkes Booth, an actor from Maryland obsessed with avenging the Confederate defeat. Remaining Confederate troops were defeated between the end of April and the end of May. Jefferson Davis was captured in Georgia on May 10, 1865.

The Civil War would foster a change for employment of artillery. Because a number of artillery positions were over-run by infantry using the new rifled musket, the impetus toward indirect fire rather than direct fire began. It was this technological improvement that forced the artillery off the main battle line.

For African Americans the conclusion of the Civil War meant freedom from slavery. With the passage of the 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution, African Americans were guaranteed their civil rights on an equal basis with white Americans. Thomas Jefferson's words stated in the Declaration of Independence in 1776 "that all men are created equal" now had meaning for millions of Americans that had been excluded from the social compact.

In the post war years the popularization by Confederate veterans organizations of the Battle Flag as a symbol of the South, was intended to represent the valour of the Southern soldier, rather than the Confederacy's political aims, which would have been represented by one of the old national flags. In recent years, some organizations such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans have adopted the "Stars and Bars", in an attempt to counter the racist message associated with the Battle Flag.

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