Chapter 16: Section 1 (Causes of the Civil War)

  • Learning Goal:

    The student will…

    …understand the key events at the beginning of the Civil War.


    Fort Sumter

    Section 1: War Erupts

    THE MAIN IDEA: The Secession of Southern States quickly led to armed conflict between the North and the South.

    Fort Sumter: Southern states began seceding from the Union. State officials took over most of the forts inside their borders. Major Robert Anderson attempted to hold on to Fort Sumter at Charleston, South Carolina. However, his troops soon ran low on supplies. President Abraham Lincoln decided to send supplies. Confederate leaders decided to respond by attacking the fort on April 12, 1861. Major Anderson soon surrendered. The Civil War had begun.

    Lincoln Calls Out The Militia:
    President Lincoln called on northerners to put down the Southern rebellion. As a result, many Southern men joined the Army. States such as Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas did not want to fight against their neighbors. These states seceded from the Union and fought for the Confederacy. The Confederacy moved its capitol to Richmond, Virginia.

    Choosing Sides
    Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri were slave states that bordered the North. These border states were important for their location and resources. Keeping Maryland in the Union was especially important. Without Maryland, Washington DC would be cut off from the Union. Pro-Union leaders kept Maryland in the Union by gaining control of the State’s legislature. Kentucky, Missouri and Delaware also stayed in the Union. In the end, 24 states made up the Union. 11 joined the Confederacy.

    Strengths and Weaknesses
    By The Union appeared to have significant advantages including more than twice as many citizens, and more than 80 percent of the nation’s factories. The North also had President Lincoln, a very able leader. The Confederacy’s advantages included Robert E. Lee, a talented and respected military leader. In addition, Southern soldiers were ready to fight hard to defend their homes and families. The South did not want to conquer the North, but instead fought for its independence.   

    Confederate Strategy
    Southerners looked to King Cotton for foreign support. When war broke out, Southern planters withheld cotton from the world market. They hoped that this would force France and Britain to aid the Confederate cause. However these nations had a surplus of cotton and did not get involved.

    Union Strategy
    The North wanted to bring the South back into the Union. To do this, the North developed the Anaconda Plan. This strategy called for the Union’s Navy to blockade the South’s coastline. In a blockade, armed forces prevent the transportation of goods or people into or out of an area. The plan also included gaining control of the Mississippi river, which would split the Confederacy in two.

    Battle of Bull Run
    In the summer of 1861, Lincoln ordered an invasion of Virginia, in order to conquer Richmond. Northern troops clashed with Southern soldiers near a river called Bull Run. In the North, this because known as the first battle of Bull Run. When the Confederates won the battle, the North realized it had underestimated its opponent. As a result, Lincoln began preparing for a long war.

    Click below to see an online illustration of the early stages of the war:

    The War Begins