[Audio] The American Civil War: Abolitionists and Secessionists

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In the second episode of our Civil War miniseries, John Peterson takes a closer look at the Constitutional foundations of the crisis, the economics of slavery, the abolitionists, the political scene at the time, and provides a brief timeline of events leading up to secession and the War itself.

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[Civil War song “Battle Cry of Freedom” and battle sounds]

Very few people anticipated the cataclysm that was on the horizon, the scale of what was to come, or the profound social and economic changes that would result from the war. People in the North thought that they were faced with a fairly minor regional rebellion; many in the South sincerely believed they could simply walk away from the United States. But eventually a tipping point was reached and the time came when only muskets, cannons, horses, ironclads, and railroads could determine who was going to come out on top.

[Theme music]

Hi, everyone! Welcome to this episode of the Socialist Revolution podcast. My name is John Peterson, I’m the editor in chief of Socialist Revolution magazine, the official publication of the US section of the IMT. You can visit our website at www.socialistrevolution.org. Every episode we feature contributions and discussions on current events, history, and theory from a Marxist, class-struggle perspective, featuring revolutionary socialists from around the country and around the world.


If you haven’t listened to part one of this series on the American Civil War, I strongly suggest you check it out before moving on to this second installment. I should also add that while we originally thought we could pull this series off in three parts, we’ve decided to expand it to four so we can better flesh out the course of both the war and Reconstruction.

Now in our first episode, we laid the basic theoretical foundations for understanding the Civil War, which Marxists understand as the Second American Revolution. As we saw, the need for a second revolution was all but guaranteed by the US Constitution itself, which could no longer hold together the divergent economic forces and class interests that had been unleashed in the decades since the Declaration of Independence.

“A failure to compromise”

Among other compromises in that constitution, which were intended to cobble a coherent nation out of 13 very different colonies, was the mind-boggling three-fifths compromise. For those unfamiliar, with it, the three-fifths compromise denied the humanity of slaves, yet counted them as three-fifths of a person when it came to calculating a state’s population for the purpose of allocating seats in the house of representatives and the electoral college.

The historian Shelby Foote, a not too thinly veiled Confederate sympathizer, blamed the Civil War on a failure of Americans to “do the thing we really have a genius for, which is compromise.” But from a Marxist perspective, there can be no indefinite compromise on fundamental class questions.

Ultimately, one class or another must hold and exercise power. One class or another must dominate political, economic, and cultural life. In the final analysis, all great questions are ultimately decided through the class struggle, at the workplace, in the streets, and when push comes to shove, on the battlefield—not just at the ballot box, in Congress, or in the judiciary.

And as Abraham Lincoln put it, “in a choice of evils war may not always be the worst.” Remember, all war is the continuation of politics by other means, and as Lenin explained, politics is concentrated economics. A civil war is not only a military confrontation. Above all, it’s a political and social struggle between and within different classes.

After the war, the apologists for the Confederacy, the so-called “lost cause writers,” sought to romanticize and mythologize the antebellum South. They referred to the conflict as the “War of Northern aggression” and claimed it was all merely about defending states’ rights and the US Constitution. I would agree with them that it was about state rights, insofar as the Southern States fought for the right to exploit slave labor. I’d also agree that it was the defense of the Constitution, insofar as the Constitution, as originally adopted, did in fact allow and protect slavery.

Here’s what the founders wrote in Article 4, Section 2 of our governing document: “No person held to service or labor in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.”

Now that’s old-style language, but basically “held to service or labor” is code for slavery and indentured servitude, which was another form of exploitative bondage that was pretty prevalent in the early days of this country. So even before the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, the states were constitutionally bound to return escaped human property to their owners.

A war for slavery

So it’s an inconvenient fact for those who tried to muddy the waters after the war that before the war started, they openly admitted that it was in fact all about slavery. They repeatedly and explicitly recognized and denounced the threat posed to slavery by the rising power of the North. As an example, in South Carolina’s ordinance of secession, they complained that the federal government was not upholding laws passed to guarantee the sanctity of slave property, and they decried “an increasing hostility on the part of the non slave-owning states to the institution of slavery.”

And then, in his cornerstone speech given in Savannah, Georgia in March of 1861, the Vice-President of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, clearly enunciated the real reason for succession. As he put it: “Our new government is founded upon the idea, its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man, that’s slavery, subordination to the superior race is his natural and his normal condition. This our new government is the first in the history of the world based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”

Now, as Marx commented at the time: “The question of the principle of the American Civil War is answered by the battle slogan with which the South broke the peace. Stephens declared in the secession Congress that what essentially distinguished the Constitution hatched at Montgomery from the Constitution of the Washingtons and Jefferson’s was that now, for the first time, slavery was recognized as an institution for good in itself and as the foundation of the whole state edifice, whereas the revolutionary fathers, men steeped in the prejudices of the 18th century, had treated slavery as an evil imported from England and to be eliminated in the course of time.

And really, if you look at the main differences between the US Constitution and the Confederate Constitution, it’s that explicit language was added in several articles and sections making it clear that “no law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed.” So yes, it was all about slavery from the beginning. Far from being all about states’ rights, before secession the slave states actually wanted the federal government to protect slavery on their behalf. And for decades it did. And when this was no longer 100% guaranteed for all eternity, they wanted out of the union.

As is evident from the speeches of Alexander Stephens and others, a very different morality had grown up in the South to justify their society and convictions. The big plantation owners presented slavery as a benign institution, as a blessing bestowed upon inferior subhumans by their racial superiors. They attacked the hypocrisy of the Northern speculators and investors who made vast sums of money on the slave trade, though they owned no slaves themselves. They even attacked Northern capitalists for not being able to feed, clothe, and guarantee employment to their workers, things that they, the “benevolent slave owners,” graciously provided for their slaves.

But let’s be real: as is always the case under capitalism, no matter how it’s dressed up, it was always about private property and private wealth, and as it just so happens in 1860 slaves were the number one asset in the US, accounting for roughly 16% of all household wealth, including both the North and the South. These human chattels were worth an estimated $3.5 billion. That’s more than all the railroads, factories, and banks in the entire country put together. By some estimates, that’s the equivalent of around $10 trillion in today’s money.

Cotton was King, and the textile mills in England and in the North had a voracious appetite for it. On the eve of the war, 80% of the world’s cotton and 77% of the 800 million pounds of cotton consumed in the factories in great Britain was produced by slaves in the American South. So the Confederates thought they had a pretty strong card in their hand when they decided to strike out on their own. In fact, they purposely withheld exports, and even burnt 2.5 million bales of cotton at the start of the war in a successful attempt to create shortages, but a miserably unsuccessful attempt to compel Britain and other great powers to enter the war on their side—or to at least recognize them and to try to trade with them directly.

But here’s the main point of all of this: the 4 million humans who generated the vast majority of Southern wealth, and a good proportion of Northern wealth, were not slaves for the sake of it or due to racism in the abstract. Ultimately, they were slaves to make profits for capital, which will happily rake in value from any and all forms of exploitation, even if wage labor producing surplus value is its unique and indispensable counterpart. Slavery was big money, and the racist poison that accompanied it was above all a justification and a reflection of that economic exploitation.

The coming storm

I think it’s fair to say that in the antebellum period, very few people anticipated the cataclysm that was on the horizon—with the possible exception of fire-eating secessionists like William Yancy; militant abolitionists, like John Brown; and the top general in the US army at that time, Winfield Scott. But none of them could have possibly imagined the scale of what was to come, or imagine the profound social and economic changes that would result from the war.

As we’ve seen, even after secession most people in the North, including the main political leaders, weren’t even sure if it was for real. Even after the first few states announced that they were leaving the union, many people assumed that it was merely a case of political brinkmanship taken a bit too far—a kind of hard-line negotiating tactic to extract concessions from the North. At most, people in the North thought that they were faced with a fairly minor regional rebellion, and that without expanding too much blood or treasure, they could re-establish the union on more or less the old lines.

Many in the South sincerely believed they could simply walk away from the United States and continue their system in more or less the same form—minus Yankee interference. It’s also worth remembering that not everyone in the South was for secession, and not everyone in the North favored the forcible repression of the South. Some wanted Lincoln to just let the Southern states go. But eventually, a tipping point was reached, and the time came when only deeds, not words, could settle the issue. Only muskets, cannons, horses, ironclads, and railroads could determine who was going to come out on top.

A timeline to conflagration

So now that we’ve gone over some of the big picture and theoretical background, let’s go over a super compacted timeline of events that led to the actual outbreak of hostilities. Slaves first arrived in the 13 colonies in Virginia, in 1619, and by 1790, shortly after the Constitution was adopted, there were almost 700,000 slaves in the US. That’s around 18% of the total population, roughly one in every six people.

So, slavery was deeply embedded in the country’s foundations from the very beginning. By 1860, although 90% of slaves were in rural areas and most were concentrated on the plantations, there were many slaves living in urban areas or working in rural industry, with slaves accounting for roughly 20% of the population in most Southern cities. And in Charleston, South Carolina, slaves and free blacks actually outnumbered whites.

As far back as 1787, even before the Constitution was formally enforced, the question of slavery and its extension westward came up in the form of the Northwest Ordinance, which prohibited slavery in the new Northwest territory—which included the moder- day states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, and a part of Minnesota. The Northwest ordinance was signed by George Washington, who of course was himself a slave owner.

Now, the invention of the cotton gin in 1793 revolutionized cotton production and fueled the need for growing numbers of slaves to expand cultivation of labor-intensive cotton. A decade passed as the young country worked through its first few presidents and crises, and started to make its way in the world, and in 1803 you have the Louisiana purchase, a major territorial expansion, which again posed the question, would these new territories be free or slave?

In 1820, the Missouri compromise allowed for the admission of Missouri to the union as a slave state, in exchange for the admission of Maine as a free state, to ensure that the delicate balance of power between free and slave states was maintained. Tensions had been relieved for the moment, but it set a precedent for the further expansion of slavery.

The years continued to pass, the economy and population kept growing, and the interest of the two sections continued to diverge. And very concrete questions about the role of government flowed from these differences. For example, should the federal government raise money to invest in major infrastructure projects like railroads, canals, and ports, or should it seek to lower government expenditures and let the states handle that kind of thing? Since the South thought it could get along just fine with a few ports, railroads, and waterways, politicians from that section tended to oppose the major infrastructure programs desired by the North.

As another example, the North wanted the federal government to establish tariffs to protect and nurture its young industries, while the South preferred free trade to allow for cheap imports of luxury goods. Due to the federal system, policies set by the central government affected all states equally. So tensions flared again with the tariff of 1828, which was a tax on imported goods to defend the Northern industrialists, who were finding it hard to compete with the cheap commodities coming in from Britain. This led to the Nullification Crisis of 1832–33, with South Carolina already raising the specter of succession.

Now, fear and anxiety in the South were sky high at that time after Nat Turner’s rebellion in Virginia in 1831, in which over 60 white people were killed. In the aftermath of Turner’s uprising, the slavers had responded in the traditional manner of petty property owners, with malicious brutality and cold-hearted terrorism. Turner himself was hanged, drawn, and quartered, beheaded, and buried in an unmarked grave; and as many as 200 other slaves, most of whom had nothing to do with the uprising, were massacred to set an example.

Then in 1845 came the annexation of Texas into the union, and then that was quickly followed by the predatory war with Mexico from 1846 to 1848. Now as you’ll know, the US won that “wicked war,” as Ulysses S Grant later called it—and he was a veteran of that war—and it ended up expropriating roughly half of Mexico, including modern-day California, Nevada, Utah, and chunks of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming. So once again, the question was posed, would these territories be free or slave?

This was now a life or death question because by now the two sections interests were irreconcilably opposed. Not only did the Northern industrialists rely on the exploitation of wage labor; they depended on the expansion of agricultural petty commodity production as their main market. In other words, they needed small independent farmers with the means to buy the goods that they manufactured.

But slave owners had a very different set of priorities. Their challenge was to keep their slaves usefully occupied throughout the agricultural cycle, as well as when agricultural prices fluctuated. Their solution was to try to make their plantations as self-sufficient as possible, not only in food production, but also in toolmaking, blacksmithing, and so on. So this discouraged petty and industrial commodity production in the lands that they controlled. With growing international competition threatening the dominance of the cotton trade by the South, geographic expansion was essential to their survival as a class, because they needed more land to grow cotton or other useful ways to put their slaves to work, for example, in ranching and mining operations in the West.

So in 1850 came yet another big compromise in the form of the Fugitive Slave Act, which was largely a response to the underground railroad, a growing network of activists and financial backers who helped slaves escape, mainly to the North—but it’s worth noting that there was also a network that helped several thousand slaves escape South into Mexico. The Fugitive Slave Act was intended to reinforce the clause in the Constitution I referred to a little earlier in this episode, it decreed that all slaves were to be returned to their owners regardless of what state they were caught in, and that the federal government would enforce this throughout the country.

This was also to compensate for the admission of California as a free state—the incorporation of which was urgent due to the discovery of gold in 1849. Laws, order, an infrastructure had to be established in the Wild West in order to get all of that wealth back East. But just as there had been resentment in the South over the passage of protective tariffs, there was tremendous resentment in the North over the fugitive slave act, which legitimized and, in effect, deputized slave catchers in every part of the country.

On top of all this, in 1852 came the publication of the book “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” it detailed the horrors of slavery, further galvanizing abolitionist sentiment in the North and infuriating the South. Then came the Kansas-Nebraska act of 1854, which carved two new territories out of the West as a prelude to establishing two new states, a necessary step towards building the transcontinental railroad. This led to bleeding Kansas, as pro- and anti-slavery forces fought a small-scale civil war over whether the new states would be free or a slave.

Adding to the volatile mix, the Republican party was founded in 1854 as a free-soil and-free labor party, opposed to the expansion of slavery. It ran the famous explorer John C Fremont, who was seen as a radical abolitionist by the South, as its first presidential candidate in 1856. Also in 1856, Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner was brutally beaten with a cane in the Senate chamber by representative Preston Brooks of South Carolina for insulting the honor of the South. Then in 1857, the infamous Dred Scott Case came before the Supreme Court, which ruled that since black people were not US citizens, they could not enjoy any of the rights of citizenship. Therefore, slaves brought by their owners to free states remain slaves. Even if slavery did not exist in that state, this effectively made slavery legal nationwide.

As you can see, one crisis was layered upon another, and the impetus toward a general conflagration was accelerating. This was all compounded by the so-called panic of 1857, a major classical crisis of overproduction. But what probably tipped the balance once and for all was the “Meteor of the War,” as he was called by Herman Melville, one of my all time personal revolutionary heroes, John Brown. Before I touch on him though, let’s take a brief look at the abolitionist movement more generally.

The abolitionists

The abolitionists were generally a minority political movement prior to the Civil War, the first ones being the Mennonites and Quakers. Abolitionist sentiment was particularly fervent in New England and in places like New York, but it was also gaining traction in parts of the West, and there were even some abolitionists in the South. They were an extremely dedicated and passionate group of people, and included religious leaders like Henry Ward Beecher, newspaper editors like William Lloyd Garrison, and some who were both like Elijah P Lovejoy, an early martyr of the abolitionists cause..

Most abolitionists simply wanted to reform slavery out of existence, not actually abolish it overnight through revolutionary means. And despite opposing slavery, many of them didn’t believe there could be genuine equality between blacks and whites, and they supported resettling freed slaves in Africa. Despite the relative weakness at the moment, however, it struck fear into the hearts of Southern slave owners, almost as much as they feared actual slave uprisings. They feared losing control of the federal government to those with even mild abolitionist sentiments, as this would mean the beginning of the end of slavery, and that of course would mean the end of their wealth and power.

Some abolitionists were activists on the Underground Railroad, like Harriet Tubman, who escorted an estimated 300 slaves to freedom over the course of her 19 forays into the South. And there were consistent revolutionary democrats, like the incomparable orator and escaped slave Frederick Douglas.

John Brown

But then there was John Brown, a revolutionary abolitionist and religious fanatic who believed that what is needed is “action, action!” He fervently believed in the equality of blacks and whites, and understood that the slave-owning aristocracy wasn’t going to give up its property without a fight. He’d played a prominent role in bleeding Kansas, including the Pottawatomie Creek Massacre in which five pro-slavery activists were hacked to death with swords.

In 1858, he organized the meeting in Chatham, Ontario as part of his plan to prepare a series of raids into Appalachia, to free and arm thousands of slaves. His aim was to establish a republic of liberated bondsmen that would terrorize the South and make the continuation of slavery economically unviable. These plans culminated in his ill-fated raid on the US Federal Arsenal at Harpers Ferry in 1859. In one of those twists of history the Civil War is so rich in, it was Robert E. Lee—at that time a Lieutenant Colonel who led a detachment of Marines—that captured Brown and his comrades.

Despite having failed, John Brown understood that he could be more powerful in death than in life. As he put it: “I have been whipped, as the saying is, but I’m sure I can recover all the loss capital occasioned by that disaster by hanging only a few moments by the neck.” And as he wrote in a note slipped to his jailer on his way to the gallows, “I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land can never be purged away but with blood. I had, as I now think, vainly flattered myself, that without very much bloodshed, it might be done.”

As Frederick Douglas said about John Brown, “his zeal and the cause of freedom was infinitely superior to mine. Mine was as the taper light; his was as the burning sun. Mine was bounded by time; his stretched away to the silent shores of eternity. I could speak for the slave; John Brown could fight for the slave. I could live for the slave; John Brown could die for the slave.” And when Malcolm X was asked if white people could join his organization of African unity, he replied, “if John Brown was still alive, we might accept him.”

The South had already been openly contemplating secession for years. Some even thought that if they left the union, they could build a massive slave empire by conquering Mexico, the Caribbean, and perhaps even South America. As an example, Cuba already had 400,000 slaves, plenty of undeveloped land, and the plantation owners there looked to the US for support in their struggle against Spain. But John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry was a qualitative tipping point, and it pretty much overflowed the cup. Here was proof positive that white northerners wanted to incite servile revolt, expropriate the South’s wealth, and destroy their very civilization. Across the slave states, plans were made, arms were purchased, and militias were drilled in preparation for a decisive showdown with the North.

The politics

So, how did all of this express itself politically? Prior to the rise of the Republicans, the Democrats and the Whigs were the two dominant political parties in the country. The Democrats were traditionally for expansion territorially to encompass the whole of North America, while the Whigs were largely for internal improvements within the existing boundaries, with federal investment in infrastructure, education, industry, and so on. By the 1850s, though, both the Whigs and Democrats had started to divide along sectional lines.

All parties express class interests, and new parties emerge and old ones fall apart or reinvent themselves when the existing political setup can no longer adequately express the economic and social forces that have been transformed, often imperceptibly, over the previous period. Such periods are marked by increased instability, and a flailing around for ideas, leaders and political expression that can break the impasse and point the way forward. And it’s in this context that a wild and wonderful series of parties and movements emerged in the 1850s; from the nativist, Know Nothing Party, to the Free Soil Party, and of course the Republican party.

The Republicans were an almost purely sectional party and mainly represented the Northern industrialists, small shopkeepers, farmers, and abolitionists. Their platform built on the old Whig Party program, favoring federal investment in infrastructure, tariffs to encourage the development of the industrial interest of the whole country, and liberal wages for the working man. Most Republican politicians were motivated, of course, not by love for black people or for workers, but because they understood, whether consciously or unconsciously, that slave labor and the expansion of slavery were an impediment to the consolidation and expansion of capitalism.

Just six years after the party was founded in 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected on the Republican ballot line. And if John Brown’s actions overflowed the cup of secession and war, Lincoln’s election smashed the cup to bits. Upon his election, the Massachusetts abolitionist Charles Francis Adams proclaimed: “The great revolution has actually taken place. The country has once and for all thrown off the domination of the slave holders.”

But it would be several months before Lincoln took the oath of office, and the sitting president, James Buchanan, a Democrat, was a doughface—that is, he was a Northerner who sympathized with the South, and he was completely paralyzed by the crisis. In his view, it was illegal for the South to secede, but it was equally illegal for the federal government to stop secession by force. So what could be done?

Lincoln was elected in a four-way race with just under 40% of the vote, and he wasn’t even on the ballot in 10 Southern states. He was a moderate who, though he despised slavery personally, sought only to limit the expansion of this institution into the territories—not to end it where it already existed and was protected by the constitution. But everyone knew that the end of expansion spelled the eventual death of slavery altogether.

As Marx wrote at the time, “a strict confinement of slavery within its old terrain, therefore, was bound according to economic law to lead to its gradual extinction; in the political sphere to annihilate the hegemony that the slave states exercise through the Senate; and finally to expose the slave-holding oligarchy within its own states to threatening perils from the poor whites. In accordance with the principle that any further extension of slave territories was to be prohibited by law, the Republicans therefore attacked the rule of the slave holders at its root. The Republican election victory was accordingly bound to lead to open struggle between North and South.”


Now, many so-called fire-eaters in the South actually celebrated Lincoln’s election, because they knew it would accelerate the tendency towards secession. Many of these people really believed that they were the revolutionaries, following in the footsteps of the country’s founding generation, defending themselves and the Constitution against tyrannical attempts to despoil citizens of their rightful property. Some even thought that the North had de-facto seceded from the agreed-upon union, which clearly sanctioned slavery, and that the government at Washington had been usurped by a bunch of Republican radicals. Others believed the US Constitution was a failed experiment, and they wanted an even more explicitly pro-slavery Constitution in its place, as we’ve seen. So both sides appealed to the Constitution, because both sides wanted that piece of paper to justify and reflect their class interests.

But by that time, the Constitution reflected an outdated balance of forces. Only a bloody clash of arms, and ultimately significant changes to the Constitution, could establish a legal framework for the continuation of the United States on a new basis. Nonetheless, until the very last moment, people on both sides held out hope that some kind of agreement could be reached—either that further protections for slavery could be guaranteed within the union, or that an amicable separation could be negotiated, including a gentleman’s agreement over what to do with federal property within the seceding states.

But many in the South wanted to present the incoming Lincoln administration with a fait accomplit, which would limit his room for maneuver and pressure other slave states to join their cause. So on December 20, 1860, South Carolina declared it was seceding from the Union, several months before Lincoln’s inauguration—which didn’t take place until March at that time in US history. It was followed in relatively quick succession by the main cotton belt states of Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas, and eventually by four others, for a total of 11 states that eventually declared they were forming a new nation. This out of a total of 33 states that were in the union at that time.

In response, Lincoln took a pragmatic, measured, and diplomatic approach even before he took office, in large part for fear of provoking key border states like Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, and Maryland, who hadn’t seceded yet. His hope was that pro-union sentiment in the South would eventually assert itself and force a quick reunion—no harm, no foul. When a wellwisher told Lincoln he was sure that God was on his side in this conflict, the president quipped, “I hope to have God on my side, but I must have Kentucky.” This pretty well sums up the political, economic, and strategic importance of the border states, including Maryland, because Maryland and Virginia basically surround the capital at Washington.

In his first inaugural speech, Lincoln did his best to be all things to all people, offering an olive branch to the South, while refusing to accept that any states had actually left the Union, no matter what they declared. Secession, in his view, represented the veto and tyranny of the minority over the majority. The union had been entered into by collective agreement, and the individual states could not unilaterally dissolve it. And although he put the onus for secession and violence on the Southern States themselves, he was firm in declaring that he would hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the government.

This was a clear reference to Fort Sumter, a federal Fort occupied by US troops, which happened to sit at the entrance of the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina. Though not of decisive strategic importance, Sumter had come to symbolize all federal property in the South, all federal laws, and the Union in its entirety.

But even the most carefully chosen words of the most eloquent of all American presidents could not hold shut the Pandora’s box that had been opened. Several weeks earlier, on February 18, Jefferson Davis had been inaugurated as president of the Confederate States of America, and the two entities were on a collision course. As the historian Bruce Catton put it, “Jefferson and Lincoln were the rival leaders of two nations in a land that could hold only one.” After several months of tension, Fort Sumter was finally bombarded on April 12, 1861 and shortly thereafter, Lincoln called for troops to suppress the rebellion. The Rubicon had been crossed, the die had been cast, and only open war could decide the question now.

So, although Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland, and Delaware remained tenuously in the Union, the call for troops was seen as coercion by the rest of the Southern States, and it pushed Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee right into the Confederacy. The secession of Virginia was particularly decisive, and all but guaranteed a long and bloody war, as it had the largest economy and population of all the slave states, not to mention all the prestige of the old dominion. Interestingly, as most of you will know, the Western part of Virginia proceeded to secede from Virginia itself, which was also illegal, there was no formal basis for that, but then ended up rejoining the Union in 1863 as the state of West Virginia.


[Theme music plays]

And with that, the stage is set for the third episode in this series, which will provide a brief overview of the many events, twists, and turns of the war.

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