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The American Civil War Essay

2154 words - 9 pages

The American Civil War, and the issues that followed it, were some of the single most important factors in producing the America we know today. For better, or for worse, America changed. Such is the path to maturity and adulthood, both for people, and for nations. The Civil War has shaped America into what we know today. If it was not for the Civil War, slavery would still be a part of the American culture in the south. The war was a significant event in shaping American history.On November 6, 1860 Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States -- an event that outraged southern states. The Republican party had run on an anti-slavery platform, and many southerners felt that there ...view middle of the document...

For this reason, the government turned away African American volunteers who rushed to enlist. Lincoln upheld the laws barring blacks from the army, proving to northern whites that their race privilege would not be threatened.There was an exception, however. African Americans had been working aboard naval vessels for years, and there was no reason that they should continue. Black sailors were therefore accepted into the U.S. Navy from the beginning of the war. Still, many African Americans wanted to join the fighting and continued to put pressure on federal authorities. Even if Lincoln was not ready to admit it, blacks knew that this was a war against slavery. Some rejected the idea of fighting to preserve a Union that had rejected them and which did not give them the rights of citizens.The federal government had a harder time deciding what to do about escaping slaves. Because there was no consistent federal policy regarding fugitives, individual commanders made their own decisions. Some put them to work for the Union forces, and others wanted to return them to their owners. Finally, on August 6, 1861, fugitive slaves were declared to be contraband of war if their labor had been used to aid the Confederacy in any way. If found to be contraband, they were declared free.As the northern army pushed southward, thousands of fugitives fled across Union lines. Neither the federal authorities nor the army were prepared for the flood of people, and many of the refugees suffered as a result. Though the government attempted to provide them with confiscated land, there was not enough to go around. Many fugitives were put into crowded camps, where starvation and disease led to a high death rate. Northern citizens, black and white alike, stepped in to fill the gap. They organized relief societies and provided aid. They also organized schools to teach the freedmen, women, and children to read and write, thus giving an education to thousands of African Americans throughout the war.Though contraband slaves had been declared free, Lincoln continued to insist that this was a war to save the Union, not to free slaves. But by 1862, Lincoln was considering emancipation as a necessary step toward winning the war. The South was using enslaved people to aid the war effort. Black men and women were forced to build fortifications, work as blacksmiths, nurses, boatmen, and laundresses, and to work in factories, hospitals, and armories. In the meantime, the North was refusing to accept the services of black volunteers and freed slaves, the very people who most wanted to defeat the slaveholders. In addition, several governments in Europe were considering recognizing the Confederacy and intervening against the Union. If Lincoln declared this a war to free the slaves, European public opinion would overwhelmingly back the North.On July 22, 1862, Lincoln showed a draft of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation to his cabinet. It proposed to emancipate the slaves in all rebel...

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