The American Civil War created the nation of the United States as we know it today. The bloodiest war in the history of the nation, the victory was a combination of many factors and many battles that finally resulted in a Union victory. But why would a nation engage in combat so fiercely that more Americans were lost in the one war than in the American Revolution, WW1, WW2 and the Vietnam War combined?
The main cause of the American Civil War was slavery. According to historian David Goldfield, “Both Northerners and Southerners recognized slavery as the immediate cause of the Civil War” and even Abraham Lincoln acknowledged this fact in his second inaugural address by saying, “An eighth of the whole population were coloured slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the Southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest – all knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war.” The Civil War was fought between 1861 and 1865 between two sides – the anti-slavery, northern Union and the pro-slavery, southern Confederate States of America. The southern states’ economies and social structures were built entirely on the concept of slavery – slavery was fundamental to the entire economic and social existence. The upper class’s riches were all earned from the cotton plantations that provided two-thirds of the world’s cotton crop, all worked by slave labour. When the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 eventually freed the slaves, the southern states’ economies and social structures were literally turned upside down – the South lost half its capital wealth in an instant.
Aside from slavery, there were several minor causes of the Civil War, including the concept of agriculture versus industry and the states’ rights to freedom from the tyranny of an overarching federal government, but these cannot be argued as the main cause of the war. If so, the war would have erupted in the 1830s with the Nullification...
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