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Unit 5

5.8 Military Conflict in the Civil War

3 min readmay 30, 2020


Introduction

Appomattox (1865) The Confederate government tried to negotiate for peace, but Lincoln would accept nothing short of restoration of the Union, and Jefferson Davis still demanded nothing less than independence. Lee retreated from Richmond with less than 30,000 men and tried to escape to the mountains, only to be cut off and forced to surrender to Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.
🎥Watch: AP US History - The Road to the Civil War
For the United States, the Civil War saw the unprecedented mobilization of manpower and materials alongside unprecedented carnage on the battlefield. The Civil War was a total war because it involved every aspect of society.
The South wanted a short war and needed European support. They were sure that Great Britain would support them because of their need for southern cotton. Unfortunately for them, the British just got their cotton from Egypt and India instead.
The North had more resources and thus could afford a longer war, especially since their Anaconda Plan could strangle the South’s ability to trade or receive resources through its naval blockade of Southern ports and coastline. The idea was to blockade all the ocean ports on the Atlantic and Gulf as well as the ports on the Mississippi, literally constricting the South (like an Anaconda).

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Advantages

 
North
South
Military
The Union hoped that its population of 22 million against the Confederate population of only 5.5 million free white would work to its favor in a war of attrition.
Strong military leadership under Robert E. Lee, something that the North did not have at the beginning of the war.
Economic
The Union dominated the nation’s economy, controlling most of the banking and capital of the country, more than 85% of the factories, more than 70% of the railroads, and even 65% of the farmlands.
The Southern economy was less adaptable because of the weakness of the industrial base. The South depended on the outside world for most of its manufactured goods.

Civil War Turning Points

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9e/Bodies_on_the_battlefield_at_antietam.jpg

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia

The South won many early battles under General Robert E. Lee, but as the war dragged on, improving leadership (such as the generalship of Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman) and superior resources helped the North win key turning points that changed the tide of the war and the United States as a whole:
  • Antietam (1862) was/is the bloodiest day in US history and led Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, keeping Europe out of the war and changing the Union Army into an army of liberation: it now freed slaves as contraband or property taken from those breaking the law. This also added African American manpower to the US Army (example: 54th Massachusetts).
  • Gettysburg (1863) again kept Europe out of the war and was the Confederate high water mark. The Confederacy was on the defensive after this, especially since Lee lost ⅓ of his army. This also led to the Gettysburg Address and Lincoln’s statement that the US would have a “new birth of freedom” as the war would end slavery. This and Vicksburg were the turning points of the war.
  • Vicksburg (1863) occurring at the exact same time as Gettysburg, it allowed the Union to gain control of the Mississippi River and split the Confederacy. General Grant was promoted after this too, giving the Union better leadership in higher positions.
  • Atlanta (1864) was a well-timed victory that led to Lincoln’s re-election in 1864 and thus allowed the US to finish the war with the eradication of slavery.
  • Sherman’s March (1864) Leading a force of 100,000 men, Sherman set out from Chattanooga, Tennessee on a campaign of deliberate destruction that went clear across the state of Georgia and then swept north into South Carolina. Marching relentlessly though Georgia, his troops destroyed everything in their path, burning cotton fields, barns, and houses; everything the enemy might use to survive. It was total warfare. This was called a scorched-earth policy.
🎥Watch: AP US History - The Civil War

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