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April 12, 1861: The Civil War Begins

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On April 12, 1861, Confederate troops fired the opening shots of the Civil War at Fort Sumter in South Carolina. This month marks the 160th anniversary of the beginning of the war, the deadliest conflict ever fought on American soil. The Civil War lasted four years and resulted in an estimated 620,000 deaths and 1.5 million casualties. Approximately one in four soldiers that went to war never came back home. This impacted families, communities, and the entire country for generations to come.

Historical photograph of Fort Sumter

The years leading up to the beginning of the Civil War were filled with increasing tensions between northern and southern states. In 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected president by a strictly northern vote. The election was the impetus for southern states, who were already wrangling with the North on issues like slavery, states’ rights, and westward expansion, to begin the process of secession. Four days after the election, South Carolina Senator James Chesnut resigned his Senate seat and began drafting secession documents. Before long, six more states joined South Carolina to form the Confederate States of America on February 8, 1861. That number increased to 11 states after the fall of Fort Sumter. Four border states (Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri) held enslaved persons but remained loyal to the Union.

Exterior view of Fort Sumter

Fort Sumter, originally built as a coastal garrison, was located at the entrance to Charleston Harbor. Confederate General P. G. T. Beauregard, from the newly formed Confederate States Army, demanded federal officials turn over the fort. He claimed the fort was located in Confederate territory and thus belonged to the South. The North refused and made attempts to send a ship to resupply the fort. The ship was turned away by Confederate guns.

Tensions grew, and Beauregard finally sent US officials an ultimatum – abandon the fort or face destruction. At 4:30 a.m. on April 12th, some 500 soldiers from the South Carolina Militia opened fire on 80 Federal soldiers inside the fort. The bombardment continued for 34 hours until the afternoon of April 13th, when the garrison commander, Major Robert Anderson, surrendered the fort. Though there were no fatalities on either side during the Battle of Fort Sumter, the conflict marked the beginning of more than 10,000 military engagements that occurred between 1861-1865.

Interior View of Fort Sumter

Fold3® has an extensive collection of Civil War records including:

  • Brady Civil War Photos: The Civil War is considered the first major conflict to be photographed extensively. Mathew Brady led a photography team that captured images of the war using a mobile studio and darkroom. 
  • Civil War Maps: This collection of 2,000 detailed battle maps provides insight into Civil War engagements. Some maps show the placement of regiments and the movement of troops.
  • Civil War “Widows Pensions” Files: Only 20% of Civil War pension files are digitized, but if you are lucky enough to find the pension file for your ancestor, you’ll uncover a treasure trove of information.
  • Civil War Service Records: We have service records for both Union and Confederate troops. These records are organized by state.
  • Service Records for US Colored Troops: Approximately 179,000 Black men served in the US Army and another 19,000 in the US Navy. Despite facing racism and discrimination, the US Colored Troops served with valor and honor. These records are organized by regiment.
  • Southern Claims Approved: After the war, the US government established the Southern Claims Commission. This office accepted petitions for compensation for items taken by Union troops during the war.

In addition to these collections, Fold3 has more than 150 additional collections that contain 43 million Civil War records. Start searching our Civil War collection today on Fold3®.

83 Comments

  1. Don says:

    The first shots fired by the South against the North at Charleston Harbor were actually on the morning of January 9, 1861, when the Union-flagged Star of the West attempted to resupply and reinforce the federal troops at Fort Sumter, in what was intended to be a secret mission. Several artillery shells, fired by cadets of The Citadel, struck the ship as she entered the harbor within sight of the fort, but did no serious damage. The ship’s captain, John McGowan, after consultation with the Army officer onboard, aborted the attempt and returned to New York harbor, rather than risk serious harm. Had then-Major Anderson, in command of Sumter, not hesitated to return the South’s artillery fire, and allowed then-Captain Abner Doubleday to answer it, the Civil War would have probably started during President Buchanan’s administration, rather Lincoln’s. As it is, some historians consider the first shots of the Civil War to have been fired that morning. And the event is still commemorated at The Citadel.

    • enforce the forts on board, not to enter the harbor of Charleston, and special orders have been given to the commanders of all forts and batteries not to fire at such vessels until a shot fired across their bows would warn them of the prohibition or the State. Under these circumstances, the Star of the West, it is understood this morning attempted to enter this harbor, with troops on board, and having been notified that she could not enter, was fired into. The act is perfectly justified by me. In regard to your threat in regard to vessels in the harbor, it is only necessary to say that you must judge of your own responsibilities. Your position in this harbor has been tolerated by the authorities of the State, and while the act of which you complain is in perfect consistency with the rights and duties of the State, it is not perceived how far the conduct which you propose to adopt can find a parallel in the history of any country, or be reconciled with any other purpose of your Government than that of imposing upon this State the condition of a conquered province.

    • Paul Marquis says:

      I often though that when they fired on that ship, it should of been considered the first shot. I know those onboard the ship though so.

    • Yes, Don… you are correct… and saved me the time to write on it! That the American Civil War started way before the arbitrary 12 Apr 1861 date is solid truth. And too, the Civil War fighting continued far beyond the arbitrary war’s end date picked by politicians in those times.

    • Daniel Monahan says:

      Why is this event commemorated? Unless it is with a felling of shame that these military students would support insurrection against our country. It is this misplaced allegiance to traitors that has continued to express itself by events like Charlottesville and January 6 at the Capitol.

      It is time for every American to renounce its “commemoration” of those acts of traitors 160 year ago and today.

    • Paul, which incident are you referring to?

    • Dene says:

      The second Civil War is underway as of Nov 6, 2020. Instead of Bullets , Ballots were used by the “ confederate Nazi Socialist party” ( really the Communist Party) in religious evolutionary clothes. The conquest of America a result of the 501C church( the government church) acknowledged its allegiance to the benevolent USA Government concocted Medical fraud.
      The country is now divided between those of FAITH and those of FEAR… now for the “ rest if the story”…

  2. Don says:

    I just noticed that Ms. Ashcraft apparently confused (at the end of her third paragraph) the timing of the mission by the Star of the West to resupply Fort Sumter. The steamer was sent by President Buchanan in early January 1861, not by President Lincoln, who didn’t take office until about two months later.

  3. Don says:

    And thanks for correcting the post, Jenny. You are not the first to confuse the timing. I have seen the same error made in books published by award-winning historians. I spent some years studying the ship’s captain, John McGowan, as well as the events surrounding the voyage of the Star of the West in January 1861. Captain McGowan lived and was buried only a few miles from where I once lived.

    Thanks also for “correcting” the masthead for your blog last year. 😉 You are on the right side of history.

    I enjoy your work. And Fold3 is an indispensable tool for serious Civil War research. I am currently working on a detailed regimental history of one of the early regiments of the US Colored Troops. Short of living at NARA in Washington, I don’t know how it could be done without Fold3.

    Stay safe and well!

    • Jenny Ashcraft says:

      Thank you Don! So glad you are finding success in your research. I would love to read your history when it is complete.

  4. C. E. Douglas says:

    CORRECTION, There were three (3) Ships sent to resupply the fort and over 6,000. Union Troops….all were sent back north after brief fighting.

    • Don says:

      Not a correction at all. Jenny was specifically referring to the January 1861 mission of the Star of the West; click on the hot link she provides in the last sentence of her third paragraph: “The ship was turned away by Confederate guns.”

      In any event, since you provide no details, I assume you are referring to the ill-fated and untimely plan of Gustavus Fox, set in motion only days before Fort Sumter was fired upon on April 12, but arriving too late. It was the Star of the West that was actually repulsed by Confederate guns there prior to P.G.T. Beauregard’s firing on the fort.

    • Which expedition are you referring to–1st or 2nd?

      State your source please.

  5. Mike says:

    Ms. Ashcraft also has, in the second paragraph, Lincoln being elected president in 1860 instead of 1861.
    I enjoy reading your posts.

  6. Shawn Murphy says:

    First off Jenny, I’m very pleased that you made mentioned of the four enslaved States because so often they are left out of discussions. I would only add West Virginia seceded from Virginia entering the Union as a Slave State. They did abolish Slavery but that too is often overlooked.

    I really appreciate your writings and Don also brought a lot to this discussion!

    I grew up in Washington State specifically in Seattle and the 50’s & 60’s and so much of our History including pre-Civil War, War years, Post War, etc. are far too often lacking clarity to the facts.

    Have you ever read the book, “Complicity,” How the North Prolonged, Promoted & Profited From Slavery?” If not it was written by 3 writers who worked for the Hartford Courant from Hartford, Ct. I believe it was published in 2005. I highly recommend it with it having no Southern leaning but extremely accurate to the issues facing the U.S. building up to the War.

  7. Tom Helmantoler says:

    More recent research on the number killed in the Civil War puts the number possibly as high as 750,000, with about 35% of the Confederate Army and 15% of the Union Army killed. Over half of those buried were never identified. I refer all to “This Republic of Suffering” by Drew Gilpin Faust.
    As a direct descendant of two members of the Union Army, I am very proud and thankful for their service. One enlisted on April 17, 1861, making him one of the original 75,000 volunteers when Lincoln asked for them on April 15, 1861.
    I am also a member of Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (suvcw.org), and ask that the readers give us a look. Many people have Union ancestors and don’t know it!

    • You are proud of your ancestors, I am proud of my Confederate ancestors.

    • Brian D. Daly says:

      Agree with your revised figures, the 620 thousand number is sadly outdated. Also feel that Faust’s book is required reading, taking us beyond the battlefield and into the ‘soul’ of America, both and South, at that time.

  8. Mark Caprio says:

    A very interesting discussion. I study another civil war that in the history books broke out suddenly in June 1950, but research shows that belligerent action was taking place years before that date. The comments above support the idea that these wars evolve over time rather than break out on a specific date.

  9. Some little known facts–

    1.Sumter did belong to the South

    2. The whole idea of both Star of the West expeditions was to put troops on land and in Sumter.

    3. The starving man argument is a lie, Charleston was supplying the fort.

    4. In the 2nd expedition to Sumter Union ships fired at a Confederate ship leaving Charleston well before the Confederate opened fire.

    5. I have a complete breakdown of the (2nd) fleet should anyone want to review it

    6. Part of the fleet was sent to Pensacola. They fired on the Confederates first again.

    7. There is no law against secession.

    8. The start of the war had nothing to do with slavery. Fold3 needs to learn some accurate history.

    9. While Lincoln’s fleet was headed to Charleston and Pensacola, a Sothern peace delegation waited to see Lincoln. Lincoln however was determined to start hostilities.

    • James G. Monroe says:

      You are correct on all counts.

    • Adam Rushing says:

      We would love a copy of your breakdown of your #5!

    • Adam Rushing– Kin to the Mississippi Rushings?

      I wasn’t the one who made the list , however I support the person who did as a very thorough and competent researcher—

      The following list embraces the names, with armaments and troops, of Lincoln’s supply fleet dispatched from New York and Washington to Charleston harbor, for the relief of Fort Sumter:-

      Vessels of War
      Steam sloop-of-war Pawnee, Captain S. C. Rowan, 10 guns and 200 men. The Pawnee sailed from Washington, with sealed orders, on the morning of Saturday, April 6.
      Steam sloop-of-war Powhatan, Captain E. D. Porter, 11 guns and 275 men. The Powhatan sailed from the Brookyln Navy Yard on Saturday afternoon April 6.
      Revenue cutter Harriet Lane, Captain J. Faunce, 5 guns and 96 men. On Saturday, April 6, the Harriet Lane exchanged her revenue flag for the United States navy flag, denoting her transfer to the Government naval service, and sailed suddenly on last Monday morning, with sealed orders.

      The Steam Transports
      Atlantic, 358 troops, composed of Companies A and M of the Second artillery, Companies C and H of the Second infantry, and Company A of sappers and miners from West Point. The Atlantic sailed from the steam at 5 o’clock on Sunday morning last, April 7.
      Baltic, 160 troops, composed of Companies C and D, recruits, from Governor’s and Bedloe’s islands. The Baltic sailed from Quarantine at 7o’clock on Tuesday morning last, April 9.
      Illinois, 300 troops, composed of Companies B, E, F, G and H, and a detachment from Company D, all recruits from Governor’s and Bedloe’s Islands, together with two companies of the Second infantry, from Fort Hamilton. The Illinois sailed from Quarantine on Tuesday morning at 6 o’clock.

      The Steamtugs
      Two steamtugs, with a Government official on each, bearing sealed dispatches, were also sent. The Yankee left New York on Monday evening, 8th, and the Uncle Ben on Tuesday night.

      The Launches
      Nearly thirty of these boats-whose services are most useful in effecting a landing of troops over shoal water, and for attacking a discharging battery when covered with sand and gunny bags- have been taken out by the Powhatan and by the steam transports Atlantic, Baltic and Illinois.

      Recapitulation
      Vessels Guns Men
      Sloop-of-war Pawnee 10 200
      Sloop-of-war Powhatan 11 275
      Cutter Harriet Lane 5 96
      Steam Transport Atlantic 353
      Steam Transport Baltic 160
      Steam Transport Illinois 300
      Steamtug Yankee Ordinary Crew
      Steamtug Uncle Ben Ordinary Crew
      Total number of vessels 8
      Total number of guns (for marine service) 26
      Total number of men and troops 1,380

      It is understood that several transports are soon to be chartered, and dispatched to Charleston with troops and supplies.
      ________________________
      Those ships that were assigned specifically to Charleston.
      The ships assigned were the steam sloop-of-war USS Pawnee, steam sloop-of-war USS Powhatan, transporting motorized launches and about 300 sailors (secretly removed from the Charleston fleet to join in the forced reenforcement of Fort Pickens, Pensacola, Fla.), armed screw steamer USS Pochaontas, Revenue Cutter USS Harriet Lane, steamer Baltic transporting about 200 troops, composed of companies C and D of the 2nd U.S. Artillery, and three hired tug boats. The rest of the ships listed in the New York paper went to Pensacola.

  10. Bill Wetherall says:

    What war did not have a long period of buildup — years, even decades — full of hostile gestures, feints, and provocations? Then something releases the dogs.

    Come to think of it, though, the “Civil War” — officially styled the “War of Rebellion” for nearly half a century after the surrender at Appomattox — also shares with most other wars the fact that it began in part as a result of a failure to recognize and resolve the causes of earlier conflicts and wars. And it continues today, in academia and the press, and in town halls and on the streets, because its causes have yet to be fully digested and addressed.

    • There is only one cause of the war–MONEY. Buchanan said it, Lincoln said it.

    • N says:

      Excuse me. I was taught in Dallas, Texas that “The War Between the States” was what our history test would concern. Now that I live in California my son studied “The Civil War”.

  11. Mark says:

    Missouri came in as a slave state in what was known as the Missouri Compromise in 1820. (The compromise was Maine coming into the Union as a free state at the same time.) The governor and state militia of Missouri were Confederates while many Missourians were Union supporters and thus began one of the bloodiest chapters of the Civil War.

  12. Leon Lowe says:

    After reading the comments posted following Jenny Ashcroft’s, April 12, 1861: The Civil War Begins, I’ve again questioned the cause of the American Civil War. I’ve long believed history has been distorted. Preservation of the Union was the cause of the War – not slavery. Slavery was the catalyst, of course. Slavery was an abomination! But it wasn’t the primary reason for the American Civil War. I’ve wondered if there has been an exhaustive study of the probility that the slavery issue might have been resolved without the War. I suspect it was a useless war (like all wars, actually) and that human rights issues would have been resolved within a relatively shorter period of time than has been the case with the restored Union. The Union needed the agricultural produce of the South, but the Confederacy needed the industrial production of the North. Accommodations would have been found and it’s unlikely that any Nation would have supported the Confederacy for long if it continued to hold humans in bondage. For a lot less than the cost of the War, the Union could have bought all slaves and freed them. Which leads to another question – were slaves still being imported into the United States at the start of the Civil War? And another – were the British Colonies still engaging in Slave trade. I’ll seek the answers to these questions for my own satisfaction, but feel I should point out the possibility that the United States had not adequately addressed the slavary issue before the decision was taken to engage in War after succession. I think no one can deny that the cause of the War was economic rather than human rights! The United States has failed, abysmally, and every quarter of our society bears equal responsibility.

    • You are correct the war was about money–Slavery actually had nothing to do with the war. If slavery was a issue for the US, the problem was solved by secession.

    • Lawrence G. Miljkovic says:

      First, the British outlawed slavery, in 1756, as well as all of Europe. The issue was property rights. By 1860, Europe was going to boycott America, if it did not end slavery… it was unfair to their market. This is what was hanging around Lincoln’s neck. A European boycott, would be a death blow to America. This issue was human rights and fair trade.
      Lincoln, tried to negotiate with the south. He offered $5 for every slave freed, for 50 years. And he would send the slaves back to Africa. The Southern Aristocracy, was arrogant, pompous, and rich! They viewed this as an infringement on their state rights, on any matter on slavery and their livelihood. Thus, they ignorantly feared Lincoln and the proclamation of emancipation… and chose succession.
      But, war did not have to brake-out, if the North would have evacuated Fort Sumter, which was now on sovereign land and militarily occupying, the south would have eventually learned, economically, that they made a poor decision… without war.
      But, because the North did not leave Fort Sumter, and tried to fortify it… they commited an act of war… and responsible for the Civil War!

    • Lawrence– Again slavery was not an issue to war. The sole issue was money, the collection of “revenue” Buchanan said it Lincoln said it.

    • Mark says:

      Great Job.

  13. George, I already noted West Virginia entered the Union as a Slave State. I believe without looking back they were in the Union 18 months before abolishing Slavery.
    Did you note the book I mentioned in my first reply on here? Even though it was written by Northerners without a Southern version it sure lays waste to a lot of Northern arguments we continually read. Like you I’m also proud as a member of the Son’s of Confederate Veteran’s of my Southern Ancestry and Confederate Soldiers who fought with gallantry. What amazes me is the continuation of the diatribe of the rotten Confederate’s when most estimates have only 3-5% of the Southern Soldier/Sailor owning Slaves. A simple question to me is why would the 95-97% of non Slave owning soldiers/sailors risk their lives, limbs and their families if the War as taught was really about Slavery?

    • Shawn,
      My apologies, I failed to see that you mentioned that WV entered the Union as a slave state.

      I am not sure when they abolished slavery, I do know that under he paln in which they were allowed to enter the Union, it would have been near 1900 before the last slave was freed.

      Shawn, something I have often wondered about, how many slave owners fought for the Union? If you have a number please post with sources. You know the (2nd) EP only feed the slaves in Confederate controlled areas, so how many loyal slaveowners were allowed to keep their slaves under the EP? These are figures one never sees.

      I salute your ancestors, which units did they serve in? The bulk of mine were 7th, 3rd and 33rd Mississippi Infantry. I did have a grandfather serve at age 14 in Writ Adams brigade.

    • Robert Frank says:

      A simple question indeed. I’ve often wondered why Blacks are so anxious to fight for our country.

  14. Shawn Murphy says:

    George,
    Of the ones I’ve verified they were 7th Reg., S.C. Co. D; 47th Alabama; 48th Al.; 15th Al.; West Arkansas Battery with a few other unverified. Other possibles Co. B Ark 12th Cav. Reg.; Wright’s Reg. Ark. Cav.
    I’m unsure how many Union Slave owners fought for the Union. They were probably wealthy enough to avoid the fray. For me one of the saddest parts of our History is the ignoring of Black Slave owners and the facts of who initially sold the Africans into Slavery. This doesn’t make Slavery right but certainly a discussion too often ignored out of convenience.
    You’re absolutely correct loyal slave owners got to keep there’s. The Proclamation of Emancipation said as such plus it was a War Powers Act. Check the book out of the library I mentioned above.

    • Lawrence G. Miljkovic says:

      Slavery was an African-Mediterranean way off life. Black tribes sold their tribesmen and women, to the Northern Muslims , (which were also pirates), and to the Jews, known as Portuguese.

      The first slave owners, in America, were Black Africans. But, at the height, of slavery… The Jews owned 75% of the slaves. Which sailed across, from the gold coast.

      The first religious institution in the America’s, was a Synagogue, in South America, in early 1600’s.

  15. Lawrence G. Miljkovic says:

    The South didn’t start the war… It was the North! Which refused to leave, at the request of a sovereign nation, whose territory it was occupying. And, continued a military occupation, with orders too fortify. That, in itself, is an act of war!

    The North, should have made arraignments, with the South, to divide all equipment and supplies, and be allowed safe passage, to the North, as negotiations would have been appropriate to settle the disputes.

    • Harold Evans says:

      Interesting thought and dependent on whether or not the succession was legal in the first place, a subject which there is still much study.
      Focusing on the legality, there is the issue of why Confederate President Jefferson Davis was never tried for treason that gives insight to this matter.
      In the perspective of those tenuous times there were many legal reasons why he should have been and many reasons why he was not. Not least of which was the question of what was best to heal the United States going forward.

    • David Rosenberg says:

      You have no right posting anything on this or any blog. To say that the Holocaust never occurred.
      You probably think that President Obama wan not born in the US as well
      Shame on you

    • Sir it was actually an act of war when Anderson left Moultrie and went to Sumter.

    • Harold,

      There has never been a law against secession.

  16. Marty says:

    Do we know who was the person who was ordered to fire the first cannon ball. Just curious.,…

  17. James Horn says:

    One sad thing happened ten years ago. In addition to the 150th anniversary of Civil War events, the period included the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. After one or two small mentions in 2012, it disappeared from the mind. Even the 200th anniersary of the shelling of Ft McHenry barely got mentione (also due to the proximit to 9/11) how about trying a little harder this time.I will add that there were two newspapers in Gettysburg PA, and the one refused to print any news of the war at all, even when the fighting at North Point and Fort McHenry was practically on their doorstep.
    Also, their is a booklet about the Battle of North Point at which PA militia companies from York and Hanover PA participated which includes rosters of both units. However, a 400 man battalion from Gettysburg arrived too late for that battle, but was in line for some skirmishing the next day. I found that if a did a search in ancestry, I came up with about 400 names of men who apparently fought in that unit, which is apparently not available as a single list.
    My great great great grandfather, Jacob Eyster, was Brigadier General in command of all of those units, but had been assigned to move guns an ammo from an arsenal to Philadelphia. The individual units assembled under a gubernatorial warning order, but moved south into Maryland on their own initiative/

  18. Bob Richardson says:

    On Dec 25 1832, Joseph smith prophesied concerning the war that would shortly come to pass beginning at the rebellion of South Carolina which will eventuate in the death and misery of many souls (D&C 87:1) and that it will be poured out on all nations. The southern states will be divided against the Northern states. The south will call upon Great Britain who would call on other nations. Joseph was murdered by the south long before his prophecy was fulfilled.
    I am an Australian with no direct ties to the USA but I find it interesting that even today the USA is still not United, nor really recognize the prophets on their land, They are as United as the United Nations or even the United Kingdom, all to my mind misnomers. But still that’s history.

    • Ron Oliver says:

      Bob, I am very familiar with Joseph Smith’s supposed prophecy. It occurred at the time of South Carolina’s efforts of nullifying US laws and was opposed by slave owner Andrew Jackson. The newspapers were full of the vitriol and the possibility of armed conflict. Not much of a prophecy.

  19. andrew wood says:

    Bob Richardson:
    Whilst history is littered with details of conquest and war, it usually pays scant notice to the compromises that follow. To ensure ‘permanent’ conquest without compromise is futile and expensive.

  20. Buchanan Bound to Collect Revenue

    Edited for length
    War of the Rebellion: Serial 001 Page 0117 Chapter I. CORRESPONDENCE, ETC. – UNION.

    These were the last instructions transmitted to Major Anderson before his removal to Fort Sumter, with a single exception, in regard to a particular which does not in any degree affect the present question. Under these circumstances it is clear that Major Anderson acted upon his own responsibility, and without authority, unless, indeed, he had “tangible

    Page 118

    evidence of a design to proceed to a hostile act” on the part of the authorities of South Carolina, which as not yet been alleged. Still, he is a brave and honorable officer, and justice requires that he should not be condemned without a fair hearing.

    ————–On the very day, the 27th instant, that possession of these two forts was taken the palmetto flag was raised over the Federal custom-house and post-office in Charleston; and on the same day every officer of the customs, collector, naval officer, surveyor, and appraisers, resigned their offices. And this, although it was well known from the language of my message that, as an executive officer, ****I felt myself bound to collect the revenue at the port of Charleston under the existing laws.******

    With great personal regard, I remain, yours, very respectfully,

    JAMES BUCHANAN.

  21. Shawn Murphy says:

    George,
    As you well know the “Proclamation of Emancipation” was a ‘War Powers Act’ and nothing more. The North was trying to keep England and France from officially recognizing the CSA. By making the War about Slavery they knew it would be hard for the CSA to get official recognition.

    Both countries wanted Southern cotton they’d gotten for years and the blockades had made it difficult. If the CSA had gotten recognition the two countries could’ve demanded access for trade and seen blockades as an Act of War by the Union.

    For those disbelieving this need only look at quotes after the war & during that called the Proclamation a War Powers Act. This follows your point of the War being about money. Folks need to look at Tariffs on cotton the North placed on Southern Cotton. Had the War been about Slavery the citizens of the North by a large percentage wouldn’t have supported it. As it was we know about the N.Y.C riots.

    Lastly, it was hoped by Lincoln & his Administration the Proclamation would entice Southern Blacks to rise up knowing that would be the impetus to shorten the War. These statements about the the reasons & hoped outcomes from the Proclamation can be found in writings by Stanton & Seward. Another piece of proof substantiating what you claim as the reason for the War. Saving the Union was controlling “King Cotton” and other crops. As part of my lastly statement is the effect the loss of the “SS Central America” on the US economy is rarely discussed.

    George you like others on here are fully accurate about money being the root cause. The North wouldn’t allow the loss of control of revenue.

  22. Canadian here. The war is over but the emotions remain high. Your country is still split in half sad to say.

    • If you follow the news, it is not hard to understand the division. If you are a descendant of Confederates or a lover of true history you will constantly see attacks on your heritage and history.

    • Kevin Stallings says:

      It is and the government likes it that way. A lot of what I read disgust me. Especially one comment that read, ” I always wondered why “Blacks” want to fight for “our” country?”

      When in reality the Natives of this country were brown and traded with the Europeans and Italians before they devised a plan to conquer the land and began to kill and enslave people to build, what is now America.

    • Kevin,

      The fact is, it is their country too. At the present time I have documented over 10,000 Negroes who supported the Confederacy in some capacity.

    • N. says:

      So is yours, with regard to the study and use of the French language. First Peoples rights are a problem, too.

  23. Let’s look at why the war was not about slavery– In no particular order and only what I can remember.

    1. The Crittenden Resolution.

    2. The Corwin Amendment

    3. Proclamations by both Buchanan and Lincoln

    4. Lincoln letter to Horace Greely

    5. The Crittenden-Johnson Resolutions on the Objects of the War, 1861

    6. Lincoln overturns the Freemont Emancipation

    7. The Emancipation Proclamation (1st) Would have allowed the states to come back into the Union and keep their slaves. The 2nd EP only freed slaves in the area controlled by the CSA.

    8. “Abraham Lincoln to John L. Scripps, June 23, 1858,”​—- “in my opinion, neither the General Government, nor any other power outside of the slave states, can constitutionally or rightfully interfere with slaves or slavery where it already exists.”

    Support for your war measure statement— “Abraham Lincoln to Salmon Portland Chase, September 2, 1863,”
    “The original proclamation has no constitutional or legal justification, except as a military measure.”

  24. More to come—
    **************************************

    War of the Rebellion: Serial 122 Page 0122 CORRESPONDENCE, ETC.

    BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:

    A PROCLAMATION.

    Whereas, for the reasons assigned in my proclamation if the 19th instant, a blockade of the ports of the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas was ordered to be established;

    And whereas since that date public property of the United States has been seized, the collection of the revenue obstructed, and duly commissioned officers of the United States while engaged in executing the orders of their superiors have been arrested and held in custody as prisoners, or have been impeded in the discharge of their official duties without due legal process by persons claiming to act under authorities of the States of Virginia and North Carolina:

    An efficient blockade of the ports of those States will also be established.

    It witness whereof I have hereupon set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

    Done at the city of Washington this twenty-seventh day of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-fifth.

    ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

  25. More on the collection of “revenue”

    War of the Rebellion: Serial 123 Page 0185 UNION AUTHORITIES.

    BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:

    Whereas, in and by the second section of an act of Congress passed on the seventh day of June, in the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and sixty-two, entitled “An act for the collection of direct taxes in insurrectionary districts within the United States, and for other purposes,” it is made the duty of the President to declare, on or before the first day of July then next following, by his proclamation in what States and parts of States insurrection exists:

    Now, therefore, be it known that I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America, do hereby declare and proclaim that the States of South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, and the State of Virginia – except the following counties: Hancock, Brooke, Ohio, Marshall, Wetzel, Marion, Monongalia, Preston, Taylor, Pleasants, Tyler, Ritchie, Doddridge, Harrison, Wood, Jackson, Wirt, Roane, Calhoun, Gilmer, Barbour, Tucker, Lewis, Braxton, Upshur, Randolph, Mason, Putnam, Kanawha, Clay, Nicholas, Cabell, Wayne, Boone, Logan, Wyoming, Webster, Fayette, and Raleigh – are now in insurrection and rebellion, and by reason thereof the civil authority of the United States is obstructed, so that the provisions of the ******”Act to provide increased revenue from imports to pay the interest on the public debt, and for other purposes,”******* approved August five, eighteen hundred and sixty-one, cannot be peaceably executed, and that the taxes legally chargeable upon real estate under the act last aforesaid lying within the States and parts of States as aforesaid, together with a penalty of fifty per centrum of said taxes, shall be a lien upon the tracts or lots of the same, severally charged, till paid.

    In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

    Done at the city of Washington this first day of July, in the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and sixty-two, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighty-sixth.

    ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

  26. D Bickel says:

    This podcast is an extremely and balanced view of all US History especially around the Civil War.
    Encourage all to give it a listen.
    https://historythatdoesntsuck.com/

  27. This is a speech by A. Lincoln. I have edited it for length. Source is posted so that you may read the entire speech if you desire.

    *************************
    War of the Rebellion: Serial 122 Page 0311 UNION AUTHORITIES.

    FELLOW-CITIZENS OF THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
    ———
    At the beginning of the present Presidential term, four months ago, the functions of the Federal Government were found to be generally suspended within the several States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida, excepting only those of the Post-Office Department.

    Page 312
    In accordance with this purpose an ordinance had been adopted in each of these States declaring the States, respectively, to be separated from the National Union. A formula for instituting a combined government of these States had been promulgated, and this illegal organization, in the character of Confederate States, was already invoking recognition, aid, and intervention from foreign powers. ————-

    ****It sought only to hold the public places and property not already wrested from the Government and to collect the revenue, relying for the rest on time,******

    Page 319
    Again, if one State may secede, so may another; and when all shall have seceded none is left to pay the debts. Is this quite just to creditors? Did we notify them of this sage view of ours when we borrowed their money? If we now recognize this doctrine by allowing the seceders to go in peace, it is difficult to see what we can do if others choose to go, or to extort terms upon which they will promise to remain.

    Page 321

    It was with the deepest regret that the Executive found the duty of employing the war power, in defense of the Government, forced upon him.

    Page 322
    ABRAHAM LINCOLN.
    JULY 4, 1861.

  28. Bob Carroll says:

    Fascinating discussion. I can almost see Fort Sumter from my house. Here are some additional factoids, which may be fake news — I don’t know:
    1. Major Anderson of the Union Forces had previously been the West Point artillery instructor of Cadet Beauregard, who as a Confederate General commanded the artillery which shelled fort Sumter.
    2. When the officers mess at Fort Sumter was engulfed in fire, Anderson decided to surrender. The importance of the officer’s mess to the morale and fighting ability of any Army unit can never be understated.
    3. Beauregard allowed Anderson to bring down the stars and stripes with honor. The flag was lowered after a proper salute. It was to be a 21 gun salute, but the 19th shot exploded in the cannon killing a soldier, arguably the first casualty of the war, unless you discount such an accident as not a casualty. The last two shots were abandoned.
    4. When Charleston was seized by the union forces, Anderson returned to Sumter and raised the same tattered flag.

  29. Ron Oliver says:

    I have read these comments with interest, noting the many “proofs” that the cause of the war was economic. Indeed it was. However, since slavery, with which the South was not willing to part with for economic reasons, had constitutional protection Lincoln’s official statements had to focus on economics. If slavery had not been the underlying issue, the South would have been wise to vote for Stephen Douglas for president instead of a host of others, because his principal message was economics. The fact is one can cite states rights, economics and slavery as reasons and always be correct because all were issues for both the North and South.
    In regard to Europe, they had their own interest. Likely England would have taken a more moderate stance had Prince Albert not died when he did because he was strongly anti-slavery and pro US. Also, Ambassador Charles Francis Adams was pointedly vehement in his confrontation with the British on the issue.
    For the record, my grandfathers fought on both sides (Olivers, Randolphs, Jordans et al). Also, to answer someone’s questions about people brought here as slaves just before the war, I had a neighbor whose grandmother came from Africa as a little girl just before 1860, even though African slave trade was out lawed here about 1825.

    • Ron, If you think slavery was an issue , please post documents supporting your statement

      By the wat I am kin the the Oliver’s of Kentucky- Mississippi.

  30. Ron Oliver says:

    Bob, I am very familiar with Joseph Smith’s supposed prophecy. It occurred at the time of South Carolina’s efforts of nullifying US laws and was opposed by slave owner Andrew Jackson. The newspapers were full of the vitriol and the possibility of armed conflict. Not much of a prophecy.

  31. Ron Oliver says:

    George, I am not aware of any documents as such, although there are probably speeches about the slavery issue showing the strong feelings on both sides. It was an underlying issue and permeated the whole economy of the South, which is why it could not be so easily dismissed. There were those in the North who did not want to fight to free Blacks (the Irish was one group because they were discriminated against and relegated to the lowly jobs free Blacks would get), but others found emancipation a compelling issue on religious and moral grounds. Three of my majors are Economics, History, and the Bible so I have been tuned into these issues for nearly 60 yrs. I should mention, that share cropping was a form of servitude that continued the economic issue after the war.
    My family was from North Carolina, moving to Missouri and Kansas after the war. I did meet a Black professor whose Oliver husband’s family was likely from a cotton plantation in either LA or Mississippi (I’ve gotten which one had the stereo typical manor I saw in National Geo decades ago). I would have gladly claimed them as relatives, although not for the reasons they would have been.

    • So then you cannot prove that slavery was an issue to war. That is where I take issue, there are those who proclaim slavery was an issue to war but fail to provide supporting documents. I on the other hand have posted documents and reference to documents that clearly state ” revenue” , or that saving the Union was the cause.

      I am aware of the racism that existed in the North, that includes leaders such as Grant and Lincoln.

      I study history, specifically the beginning of the war. I have info that is usually ignored or passed over that details the outbreak.

      My Olivers( John Wesley) came from Kentucky to Tennessee to Mississippi. To the best of my knowledge they were the first Olivers in Mississippi. My line goes back to William Oliver ( 1993-1750) in Maryland.

  32. Becka Cross says:

    I have both Union and Confederate ancestry. I am not ashamed of either. We cannot judge those of another era by the standards and beliefs of the current era. I would like to know if anyone is aware of any book written about the Unionists of Middle Tennessee. My great-great-great grandfather was a Union soldier from Wayne County, Tennessee. He spent some time in a jail in Alabama after being captured by Confederates. Supposedly, he and the other men captured with him were going to be taken to Georgia for execution. He was able to escape, thank God! I do not like to hear Southerners called “traitors.” I believe that we do not have a clear and honest picture of what those times were like. Before anyone calls me out for supporting slavery, let me say that I am completely against it. Today, there many forms of slavery in the world, and all races are subject to any one of them. For those who may not know, there were many families in the North who had wealth for several years, that was made on cotton picked by slaves. Lizzie Bordon’s family for one. The South was eventually admitted back into the Union, and I for one am very thankful. Robert E. Lee was a great American, and deserves to be respected. We are all Americans now, and should love all regions of this great nation.

  33. I believe I have posted enough sources and proclamations by Buchanan and Lincoln to prove the war was fought for the purpose of collecting “revenue.” The South was devasted by the war and forced back into the Union at the point of a bayonet, but the collection of “revenue” was still a priority.

    *********************************************************
    War of the Rebellion: Serial 126 Page 0013 UNION AUTHORITIES.

    EXECUTIVE CHAMBER,

    Washington City, May 9, 1865.

    Ordered:

    1. That all acts and proceedings of the political, military, and civil organizations which have been in a state of insurrection and rebellion

    Page 14

    3. That the Secretary of the Treasury proceed without delay to nominate for appointment assessors of taxes and collectors of customs and internal revenue, and such other officers of the Treasury Department as are authorized by law, and shall put in execution the revenue laws of the United States within the geographical limits aforesaid.

    Page 15

    In testimony whereof I have hereunto set any hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

    [L. S.] ANDREW JOHNSON.

    By the President:

    W. HUNTER,

    Acting Secretary of State.

    ***********************************************

    War of the Rebellion: Serial 126 Page 0037 UNION AUTHORITIES.

    BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:

    A PROCLAMATION.

    Whereas, the fourth section of the fourth article of the Constitution of the United States declares that the United States shall guarantee

    Page 38

    And I do hereby direct–

    Page 39

    Third. That the Secretary of the Treasury proceed to nominate for appointment assessors of taxes, and collectors of customs and internal revenue, and such other officers of the Treasury Department as are authorized by law, and put in execution the revenue laws of the United States within the geographical limits aforesaid.

    L. S.] ANDREW JOHNSON.

    By the President:

    WILLIAM H. SEWARD,

    Secretary of State.

    (Same, mutatis mutandis, issued for the State of Mississippi, June 13, 1865; for the States of Georgia and Texas (separate proclamations) June 17, 1865; for the State of Alabama, June 21, 1865; for the State of South Carolina, June 30, 1865, and for the State of Florida, July 13, 1865.

    William L. Sharkey was appointed Provisional Governor of Mississippi, James Johnson for Georgia, Andrew J. Hamilton for Texas, Lewis E. Parsons for Alabama, Benjamin F. Perry for South Carolina, and William Marvin for Florida.)

  34. Ron Oliver says:

    George, it occurs to me that we are not actually talking about the same thing. The North officially entered into war because it could not accept succession and the lost of revenue. My point it that the South succeeded because it feared (not correctly) the Lincoln would rob them of their slaves which for them was both an economic and state rights issue. This had long been the sore spot between the North and South, affecting the Constitutional Convention, the Compromises of 1820 and 1850, the Kansas and Nebraska Act, the extension of the Mason Dixon line and the Fugitive Slave Act. Even though there were those in the North who did not want to fight to end slavery, it was generally disdained (though the North had it’s own form of racism). No matter how it’s couched, the ultimate issue was that the South wanted to maintain as a right its economic structure. It even attempted to continue it with an abused form of share-cropping after the war.
    In the movie Gettysburg, a rebel officer remarked to a British observer that it wasn’t about slavery, that the South should have freed the slaves and then left the union. That was a lie to self: it was economically impossible for them to do that. That type of argument is akin to denying we have systemic racism in this country now (it’s actually world wide).
    We can correctly point to economic and states rights as causes, but in 1860 all reasons were underpinned by the slavery issue. And yes, my ancestors, who were heroes of the Revolution, were wrong on this one, however brave and loyal they were to the Cause.

  35. Lincoln war Declaration. No mention of going to war for slavery.

    ***********************************************************

    HARPER’S WEEKLY.

    SATURDAY, APRIL 27, 1861.

    By the President of the United States:

    A PROCLAMATION.

    Whereas, The laws of the United States have been for some time past and now are opposed, and the execution thereof obstructed, in the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the powers vested in the Marshals by law :

    Now, therefore, I, ABRAHAM LINCOLN, President of the United States, in virtue of the power in me vested by the Constitution and the laws, have thought fit to call forth, and hereby do call forth, the Militia of the several States of the Union, to the aggregate number of 75,000, in order to suppress said combinations, and to cause the laws to be duly executed. The details for this object will be immediately communicated to the State authorities through the War Department.

    I appeal to all loyal citizens to favor, facilitate, and aid this effort to maintain the honor, the integrity, and the existence of our National Union and the perpetuity of popular government, and to redress wrongs already long enough endured.

    I deem it proper to say that the first service assigned to the force hereby called forth will probably be to repossess the forts, places, and property which have been seized from the Union, and, in every event, the utmost care will be observed, consistently with the objects aforesaid, to avoid any devastation, any destruction of, or interference with property, or any disturbance of peaceful citizens in any part of the country; and I hereby command the persons composing the combinations aforesaid to disperse and retire peaceably to their respective abodes within twenty days from this date.

    Deeming that the present condition of public affairs presents an extraordinary occasion, I do, hereby, in virtue of the power in me vested by the Constitution, convene both Houses of Congress. The Senators and Representatives are therefore summoned to assemble at their respective chambers at twelve o’clock, noon, on Thursday, the fourth day of July next, then and there to consider and determine such measures as, in their wisdom, the public safety and interest may seem to demand.

    In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

    Done at the City of Washington, this fifteenth day of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-fifth

  36. Lincoln’s Blockade Proclamation— Still no mention of going to war to free the slaves.

    *********************************************************

    War of the Rebellion: Serial 122 Page 0089 UNION AUTHORITIES

    BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:

    A PROCLAMATION.

    Whereas an insurrection against the Government of the United States has broken out in the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, and the laws of the United States for the collection of the revue cannot be effectually executed there conformably to that provision of the Constitution which requires duties to be uniform throughout the United States:

    And whereas a combination of present, engaged in such insurrection, have threatened to grant pretended letters of marque to authorize the

    War of the Rebellion: Serial 122 Page 0090 CORRESPONDENCE, ETC.

    bearers thereof to commit assaults on the lives, vessels, and property of good citizens of the country lawfully engaged in commerce on the high seas ad in waters of the United States;

    And whereas an Executive proclamation has been already issued requiring the persons engaged in these disorderly proceedings to desist therefrom, calling out a militia force for the purpose of repressing the same, and convening Congress in extraordinary session to deliberate and determine thereon:

    Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, with a view to the same purposes before mentioned, ad to the protection of the public peace ad the lives ad property of quiet ad orderly citizens pursuing their lawful occupations, u until Congress shall have assembled ad deliberated on the said unlawful proceedings, or until the same shall have ceased, have further deemed it advisable to set on foot a blockade of the ports within the States aforesaid, i pursutates and of the law of nations in such case provided. For this purpose a competent force will be posted so as to prevent entrance ad exit of vessels from the ports aforesaid. If, therefore, with a view to violate such blockade, a vessel shall approach, or shall attempt to leave either of the said ports, she will be duty warned by the commander of one of the blockading vessels, who will indorse on her register the fact and date of such warning, and if the same vessel shall again attempt to enter or leave the blockaded port she will be captured and sent to the nearest convenient port for such proceedings against her and her cargo as prize as may be deemed advisable.

    And I hereby proclaim and declare that if any person under the pretended authority of the said States, or under any order pretense, shall molest a vessel of the United States, or the persons or cargo on board of her, such persons will be held amenable to the laws of the United States for the prevention and punishment of piracy.

    In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

    Done at the city of Washington this nineteenth day of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-fifth.

    ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

    By the President:

    WILLIAM H. SEWARD,

    Secretary of State.

  37. I am almost certain not one person looked at he references I gave, so that being the case I will present this by the US government. No mention of going to war to free the slaves.

    **********************************************************************

    The Crittenden-Johnson Resolutions on the Objects of the War, 1861

    (from Richardson (ed.), Messages and Addresses of Congress, Vol. 6:430)

    The Crittenden Resolutions

    [Passed by the House of Representatives]

    Resolved by the House of Representatives of the Congress of the United States, That the present deplorable civil war has been forced upon the country by the disunionists of the Southern States now in revolt against the constitutional Government and in arms around the capital; that in this national emergency Congress, banishing all feelings of mere passion or resentment, will recollect only its duty to the whole country; that this war is not waged on our part in any spirit of oppression, nor for any purpose of conquest or subjugation, nor purpose of overthrowing or interfering with the rights or established institutions of those States, but to defend and maintain the supremacy of the Constitution and to preserve the Union, with all the dignity, equality, and rights of the several States unimpaired; and that as soon as these objects are accomplished the war ought to cease.

    The Johnson Resolutions

    [Passed by the Senate]

    Resolved, That the present deplorable civil war has been forced upon the country by the disunionists of the Southern States now in revolt against the constitutional Government and in arms around the capital; that in this national emergency Congress, banishing all feeling of mere passion or resentment, will recollect only its duty to the whole country; that this war is not prosecuted upon our part in any spirit of oppression, nor for any purpose of conquest or subjugation, nor purpose of overthrowing or interfering with rights or established institutions of those States, but to defend and maintain the supremacy of the Constitution and all laws made in pursuance thereof, and to preserve the Union, with all the dignity, equality, and righs of the several States unimpaired; that as soon as these objects are accomplished the war ought to cease.

    http://plaza.ufl.edu/edale/The%20Crittenden.htm

  38. My 4x Great grandfather was born in the year of 1820. He along with one of my great uncle’s are marked as having fought in the Civil war. I’m certain that they both fought with valor as stated in the article and I want to do everything I can to recover their records for the war. Pensions etc.

  39. My Great grand father’s name was Morris Rigsby.

  40. Benjamin,

    Using Fold 3 and The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors system, I could not find that man. If you have a state and birthday it would help narrow down the number of “Rigsby hits considerably.

    You can also go to this website and ask for George Martin, he is generally able to locate hard to find soldiers.
    http://www.history-sites.com/cgi-bin/bbs62x/nvcwmb/webbbs_config.pl

    Thanks.

  41. We see the Union authorities say the war is all about “saving the Union and the collection of revenue.” It has nothing to do with slavery. So what does Davis say about this war?

    “No, I cannot. I desire peace as much as you do. I deplore bloodshed as much as you do; but I feel that not one drop of the blood shed in this war is on my hands,—I can look up to my God and say this. I tried all in my power to avert this war. I saw it coming, and for twelve years I worked night and day to prevent it, but I could not. The North was mad and blind; it would not let us gov

    1864.] 0ur Visit to Richmond. 379

    ern ourselves; and so the war came, and now it must go on till the last man of this generation falls in his tracks, and his children seize his musket and fight his battle, unless you acknowledge our right to self – government. ****We are not fighting for slavery.**** We are fighting for Independence,–and that, or extermination, we will have.”

    You may read the entire article at —http://southernheritageadvancementpreservationeducation.com/e107_plugins/forum/forum_viewtopic.php?2011226.post

    So there you have it, the Union was not fighting to free the slaves and The Confederates was fighting for freedom, so someone please explain how does a person arrive at the conclusion that the war was about slavery?

    Fold 3 you can now change your intro on the Confederate pages–“By June 8, 1861 eleven Southern states had seceded to form the Confederate States of America and fought to protect the institution of slavery and retain states’ rights against the federal government.”

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