Civil War and Reconstruction (Unit 4)

Civil War and Post-War Reconstruction

The American Civil War started in April 1861. The South claimed the right to leave the United States, also called the Union, and form its own Confederacy. President Lincoln led the Northern states. He was determined to stop the rebellion and keep the country united.

The North had more people, more raw materials for producing war supplies, and a better railway system. The South had more experienced military leaders and better knowledge of the battlefields because most of the war was fought in the South.

The war lasted four years. Tens of thousands of soldiers fought on land and sea.

September 17, 1862, was the bloodiest day of the war. The two armies met at Antietam Creek in Maryland. Gen. Robert E. Lee and his Confederate Army failed to force back the Union troops led by Gen. George McClellan. Lee escaped with his army. The battle was not decisive, but it was politically important. Britain and France had planned to recognize the Confederacy, but they delayed. The South never received the help it desperately needed.

Later in 1862, President Lincoln issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation that freed all slaves in the Confederate states. It also allowed African Americans into the Union Army. The North fought to keep the Union together and to end slavery.

The North began winning important battles. Gen. William T. Sherman left a path of destruction (known as the scorched-earth policy) as his army marched across Georgia and South Carolina in 1864. In Virginia in April 1865, Gen. Lee surrendered to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. The Civil War was over. More Americans died in the Civil War than in any other U.S. conflict.

Less than a week after the South surrendered, a Confederate sympathizer killed President Lincoln. Vice President Andrew Johnson became president with the job of uniting the country. Johnson was a Southerner. He gave pardons to many Southerners, giving them back their political rights.

By the end of 1865, most of the former Confederate states canceled the acts of secession but refused toabolish slavery. All the Confederate states except Tennessee refused to give full citizenship to African American men.

In response, the Republicans in Congress would not let rebel leaders hold office. The Union generals who governed the South blocked anyone who would not take an oath of loyalty to the Union from voting. Congress strongly supported the rights of African Americans.

President Johnson tried to stop many of these policies. The House of Representatives impeachedJohnson, but the Senate was one vote short of the two-thirds majority required to remove Johnson from office. He remained president but began to give in more often to the Republican Congress. The Southern states were not allowed to send rep- resentatives to Congress until they passed constitutional amendments barring slavery, grantingall citizens “equal protection of the laws,” and allowing all male citizens the right to vote regardless of race.

For a time, these reforms led to real advances for African Americans in the South. When the North withdrew its army from the Southern states, especially during the late 1870s, white Southerners regained political power and began to deprive Southern blacks of their new rights. Southern blacks were free, but the local laws denied them their rights. They had the right to vote, but the threat of violence made them afraid to use it. Southern states introduced “segregation,” a system that required blacks and whites to use separate public facilities, from schools to drinking fountains. Not surprisingly, the “black” facilities were not as good as the “white” facilities. The races lived separately in the South for the next 100 years. In the 20th century, this would become a national issue.


1. When did the American Civil War start?

A. April 1860
B. April 1861
C. April 1862

2. Who led the Confederate Army?

A. George McClellan
B. William T. Sherman
C. Robert E. Lee

3. What did not happen after the Civil War?

A. President Lincoln was assassinated
B. Southern blacks had the right to vote
C. All states except Tennessee granted full citizenship to African American men

U.S.A. History in Brief, U.S. Department of State, 2010