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1. Why did the North and the South choose the path of military conflict in 1861?

Tensions had been building between the North and South over the issue of
slavery in America for years, as shown by Bleeding Kansas and the assault of Charles
Sumner in the Senate. Considering the importance of slavery in American society it is
unsurprising that war was the result, and attempts to reconcile the two sides such as the
Compromise of 1850 failed to do much of anything because it created anger on both
sides toward the federal government. In 1860, South Carolina, the home of
Nullification and John C. Calhoun, forced the federal hand by seceding. In many other
Southern states riots over secession erupted in large numbers. This led to the American
government declaring secession illegal, but without federal authority to use force, South
Carolina was able to demand the surrender of Fort Sumter through military means.
Later, when the newly elected President Abraham Lincoln sent a supply ship to
Sumter, the Confederates made their move, attacking the fort. Lincoln had no choice
but to fight fire with fire; he sent 75,000 militiamen to put down the insurrection. This lead
to a fervor for war in the North, leading to a flood of volunteer soldiers. In July 1861, the
tension steadily mounted, until Lincoln declared that the only solution was one of an
aggressive military campaign, rejecting Gen. Winfield Scott’s proposal of a blockade
and economic sanctions. Lincoln saw secession as an attack on popular government,
and saw war as the only solution to bring the nation back together. The profound
significance of the war was made clear at the battle of Bull Run, wherein Union and
Confederate troops both suffered unprecedented losses.

2. What were the stated war aims and military strategies of each side as the war progressed?

The initial goal of the Union was to bring America back together, but with the
Emancipation Proclamation the war became a fight for the freedom of Southern
slaves. The goal of the Confederacy was, as stated by president Jefferson Davis was
not try and conquer the North, but to be left alone to practice slavery, as corroborated by
Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens. The Union’s strategy was to quickly
put down the insurrection through a direct, targeted strike to the Confederate capital,
Richmond VA. But following the routing of Union forces at the battle of Bull Run, it was
made obvious that this would not be effective. An alternative strategy, Lieutenant
General Winfield Scott’s plan of choking the South through economic sanctions and
blockades, was also shut down by Lincoln. Lincoln wanted a more aggressive general
for a quicker victory with less bloodshed, so he dropped previous general George
McLellan for other, more daring generals. Lincoln started with Ambrose E. Burnside,
and then Joseph Hooker, but eventually settling on Ulysses S. Grant. The Confederate
strategy was a purely defensive one: they only wanted to take back Southern land that
was still claimed by the North, and prevent the Union from taking more land from them.
Thus South initially played a war of attrition, spreading out their forces across the
borders of their territory. After calls from within the Confederacy, General Robert E. Lee
changed tactics and went on the offensive, which would eventually lead to an
overextension of Confederate forces, contributing to the end of the Civil war.

3. How and why did the Civil War become a “total war”?

Starting in 1862, the North quickly began to mobilize all of their resources. In
contrast, the Southern states were afraid of a centralized government, and thus
Jefferson Davis had a harder time mobilizing resources. One of the most important
resources was manpower, and the North and South tapped this resource through a
Draft, which began in 1862 and originated in the South, though the North eventually
adopted it 1863 with the Enrollment Act. Both forms of the draft were discriminatory to
lower classes: in the South there were two loopholes by which wealthy individuals could
pay their way out of the draft, and in the North Irish and German immigrants were
disproportionately targeted as they made up much of the lower class. Moreover, these
immigrants refused to serve as it was not their war, which often resulted in riots. This
draft even affected women, who took over now empty jobs in their societies, and even
joined the war effort as nurses and spies. Another way that this was made to be a total
war was through utilization of industry. The Union held a distinct advantage in this
respect, as they were the center for 90% of American industrial output. Additionally, the
North instituted a much more radical version of Henry Clay’s American System
involving large tariffs and a massively integrated national bank, eventually resulting in
the creation of Greenbacks, a paper currency system. Even the South reduced its anti-
central ideas and allowed Davis to take control of some production and foreign trade.

4. What made the battles of Antietam, Gettysburg, and Vicksburg significant?

Antietam was significant primarily for the reason that it remains the single most
bloody day in American history, where 23,000 Americans lost their lives. But it also led to
Lincoln dropping General George B McClellan in search of a more aggressive military
leader, and also the passing of the Emancipation Proclamation as Lincoln saw the
Union victory as a sign of divine will. The Battle of Vicksburg was significant because it
split the South into two parts as the Union was able to take the Mississippi river. This led
to a Confederate debate over the correct military strategy: General Robert E. Lee
fought for an invasion of the North, but Jefferson Davis fought for sending an army to
Tennessee in a defensive maneuver. Eventually Lee won out, which would contribute to
the Union victory because it led to the fatal overextension at Gettysburg. The battle of
Gettysburg was significant as it was a massive victory for the Union and a military
disaster for the Confederates. It was the final time the South would ever attempt to
invade the south. It led to southern allies like Britain breaking off supply lines due to
losing faith in the south, and the Republican Party sweeping elections in the north due
to support for the party derived from its success in the war.

5. How and why did the North win the war in 1865?
The Union victory was primarily due to a change to extremely competent
generals in the late stages of the war. The Union’s army at this time was led by Ulysses
S. Grant, one of the best generals that America had to offer because of his aggression
and willingness to risk lives in battle. Another important military leader was William
Tecumseh Sherman, who instituted a policy of Hard War that declared that all enemy
inhabitants were to be considered combatants, which resulted in many massacres of
Confederate civilians. These two generals led the Union to many victories such as
Sherman’s March, which was a massive blow to Confederates in that it destroyed a
significant amount of property, especially Railroads and Telegraph Lines. Another
reason for the Union victory was the internal collapse of Confederate society. Due to
lower class whites discontent at the exceptions afforded to upper class whites in the
draft and the brutality of the fighting, many Confederate citizens lost faith in the war. And
finally, in 1865, General Grant expanded the front line, and in doing so thinned out Lee’s
forces. Grant then ordered a general assault on Lee, which forced him to abandon
Richmond and later to surrender at the Appomattox Court house in Virginia.