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The Leaders:
The Politicians

Jefferson Davis

Above: Jefferson Davis of the Confederacy.
Below: Abraham Lincoln of the Union.

Abraham Lincoln

Charles Terry Saxton
The American Civil War


The Road to Conflict

The Civil War: Hostilities

The Civil War: the Peace

The Road to Conflict

            The issue of slavery had been a major cause of dispute in the USA ever since the global anti-slavery movement had taken hold from the end of the eighteenth century to the abolition of slavery in South America and throughout the empires of the European powers by about 1830.

            The issue was made all the more passionate in the USA, because the dispute had a geographical dimension. The north of the USA was mainly against slavery, the south was mainly in favour of it.

            As can be learnt by its name, the United States of America is made of lots of individual states, all having their own governemnts. who have agreed to join one another for reasons of national security, trade, and common principles; but to keep their independence in some ways.

            The anti-slavery issue took the form of: how much is one state in the Union independent from the others and from the common government situated in Washington. A lot of the debate, at least among politicians, centred around legal arguments, trying to interpret the constitution of the USA, and what were the intentions of those who constructed and agreed to it originally.

            The capital of the United States of America, Washington, being in the abolitionist north, perhaps added to the feeling in the south that they were being told what to do by the northern states. The debate increasingly took the form of threats; if slavery is not abolished voluntarily, force will be used. The southern states threathened to break away from the Union. The northern states argued that this was not allowed: the agreement to join the Union is binding. And so the debate continued.

           There were those that felt that the moral force of the arguments did not need legal backing and resorted to violent anti- and pro-slavery campaigns. Nat Turner, a slave from Virginia, had led an attack in 1831 which resulted in the murder of 55 plantation owners. In 1837, the editor of an anti-slavery newspaper, Elijah Lovejoy, was murdered in St Louis by pro-slavery activists.

           Perhaps the most notable figure in the violent anti-slavery campaign was John Brown. He and his sons had been waging a campaign against slavery for many years; often raiding plantations and freeing slaves. His campaign came to a head in 1859 when he led a raid on an armoury called Harper's Ferry. This resulted in a siege and a storming of the fort by the authorities. John Brown was tried and executed in Charles Town, Virginia. His death became a focus for the anti-slavery cause and he became a martyr. The song 'John Brown's Body' became a war cry: its tune is more famous now as 'Glory, Glory Hallelujah'.

           In 1860 a fervent abolitionist, Abraham Lincoln, was elected president. This caused the southern states to declare their independence from the Union, setting up the Confederate States of America with Jefferson Davis as their president. In his inauguration speech in March 1861, Abraham Lincoln declared this action illegal.

           In April, in Charleston, North Carolina in the south, Federal troops trying to resupply a fort, Fort Sumter, met armed resistence. Lincoln called for volunteers to fight for the struggle against slavery. Four more southern states joined the Confederacy. This is generally regarded as when the American Civil War began.

The Civil War: Hostilities

The Civil War: the Peace

Top of Page

Civil War History

The Western territories

      After a war with Mexico, the USA was ready to expand into the desolate areas to the west. This was the beginning of the period depicted later in countless cowboy movies.

      The original issue regarding slavery was not abolishing it in the southern states, but preventing its expansion into these new territories, and this was Lincoln's sole intention when he became president.

click for Lincoln's inauguration address, 1861
click for Jefferson Davis' inauguration address, 1861
click for Lincoln's Gettysburg address.

Key West, Florida, 1861:

      Located where the gulf of Mexico meets the Atlantic ocean, Key West was of enormous strategic importance in upholding the blockade against the southern states. It was also used to train new recruits.
click for Library of Congress site.

the blockade of the South

Mrs AH Wilcox of
Barrington Street.
Rochester, N.Y.

originally typed up the diary of
her father, Charles Terry Saxton,
and preserved it for posterity.

Trees of London        A James Wilkinson Publication ©