The American Civil War

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In general it was a military conflict (1861-1865) between the United States of America (the Union) and 11 secessionist Southern states, organized as the Confederate States of America (the Confederacy). In the South, the conflict is also known as the War Between the States. The Civil War was the culmination of four decades of intense sectional conflict and reflected deep-seated economic, social, and political differences between the North and the South. The South, overwhelmingly agricultural, produced cash crops cotton, tobacco, and sugarcane for export to the North or to Europe, but it depended on the North for manufactured goods and for the financial and commercial services essential to trade. Underscoring sectional differences, the labour force in the South included nearly 4 million enslaved blacks. Although the slaveholding planter class formed a small minority of the population, it dominated Southern politics and society. Slaves were the largest single investment in the South, and the fear of slave unrest ensured the loyalty of nonslaveholding whites to the economic and social system. It was to defend the right to maintain slavery that the Southern states eventually went to war. The Sectional Controversy To maintain harmony between the Southern and Northern supporters in the Democratic and Whig parties, political leaders tried to avoid the slavery question. But with growing opposition in the North to the extension of slavery into the new territories, evasion of the ...

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