The Civil War was the greatest war in American history. 3 Million fought, 600,00 died. It was the only war fought on soil by Americans, and for that reason we have always been fascinated with the Civil War.
November 6, 1860 - Abraham Lincoln, who had declared "Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free..." is elected president, the first Republican, receiving 180 of 303 possible electoral votes and 40 percent of the popular vote.
December 20, 1860 - South Carolina secedes from the Union. Followed within two months by Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas.
During the Civil War, in 1863 AD, President Lincoln decided to end slavery and make all of the black people free. When the North won the war, in 1865, all the people who owned slaves in the South had to let them go.
Some people chose to leave the plantations, now that they were free. Some of them moved to the North to work on the railroads, house-cleaners, nannies or cooks. Some people went out West to be settlers or cowboys. A few people went back to Africa.
But most people just stayed about where they were before. That was all they knew how to do, and they were afraid to start over in a new place. Or mabye they had kids who couldn't walk far, or didn't want to leave their old parents. A lot of people kept on planting and picking cotton, but now they were sharecroppers instead of slaves.
For a lot of people, it didn't make much difference, only there were not so many beatings and you didn't have your kids or your husband taken away from you anymore. But white people still terrified black people by killing them for nothing, or for absolutely nothing, and no white judge or jury in the south would send any white man to jail for killing a black man.
About fifty years later, though, in 1910, the cotton was ruined by a kind of insect called a Boll Weevil. A lot of sharecroppers were starving from not having enough cotton to sell for food. Besides, it was getting cheaper to raise cotton using machines instead of people. So a lot more people decided to leave the South and go North to work. They still worked mostly as servants or in hard, dirty jobs like cleaning streets or building railroads.
Then during world war I, many white men were away being soldiers, because of the war no new people came from Europe to take their places. So some black people were able to find work in factories, which paid better than any work they had been in before. In World War II, in the 1940's, the same thing happened, and more black people began to work in factories, making weapons and building boats for the war. By the 1950's, new government farm policies pretty much ended sharecropping in the United States.In the 1950's, these people, who were richer and better educated than their parents or grandparents had been, began to protest and try to get rights equal to white people. Some black people, like the boxer Muhammad Ali and the preacher Malcolm X, decided to stop being Christians, the religion of the old slave-owners, and convert to Islam. Other black people stayed Christians and used their religion to organize protests. The Christians' most important leader was Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King helped to get Congress to pass a Civil Rights Bill in 1964 that made it illegal to keep black people out of any public place, like a swimming pool or a restaurant, and also illegal to refuse to hire black people for a job just because they were black. But Malcolm X was shot dead in 1965, and a white man who was angry about Dr. King's work shot him dead in 1968.
Because of the Civil Rights Act and their own work, black people managed to get better jobs, better houses, and better schools than they had had before. But even now, while some black people are rich, most black people are still not as well off as white people, and they still suffer from racism that keeps them from getting good jobs or sending their kids to good schools. And most black people are still pretty much where they were before, working as unskilled labor for low wages for white people in the South.
Altough other people, both white and Native American, have been held as slaves in North America, the experience of the African people who forced to come to North America as slaves was more unusual, because more than half of the people living in slave states were slaves.
Most of the people who became slaves in North America were from West Africa. You would be living in a village when outsiders attacked and captured you, and then they would sell you to somebody else who sold you to somebody else, and in the end, somebody would sell you to a white man who would keep you in a slave fort on the coast of Africa. Half of the people captured with you died of hunger or sickness, while you were walking to the coast.
Soon men with guns would force you to get on a ship, and they would take you to North America. The ship was terrible, dirty, stinky, you were crowded like on a crowded bus, and you had to stay there for 2 or 3 months. You wore chains that fastened you to people on either side of you the whole time. You had to lie down because there wasn't room to sit up, the ceiling was very low. Almost 1 out of 10 of the people got sick and died. Sometimes people gave up and tried to starve themselves to death, but the sailors beat them or tortured them until they ate something. Sometimes people call this trip the Middle Passage.
When you got to North America, you got a few weeks to get healthier, and you get a European-style dress or pants to wear, and then the slave trader sold you to whoever would pay the most for you. Maybe you went to Mississippi to pick cotton, most of the people on your ship would work in the fields, planting and picking tobacco or cotton.
Since 1500 AD there have been huge changes in North American people's relationships to one another. In the 1500's, most kids lived in small villages with their families. Many kids grew up in longhouses or pueblos, with their cousins, aunts and uncles sharing their house. Nobody worked went to school, because there weren't any schools. But as these people died of Smallpox and people from Europe, Asia and Africa moved to North America, I became more usual for kids to just live with their mother and father.
And by the late 1800's most kids began to go to school, at least for a few years - both boys and girls. While this was a good thing for the European kids, many Cree and Inuit kids were taken away from their families and forced to go to boarding schools run by Europeans, to keep them from learning their traditional ways of living.
A girl working in a mill factoryIn the 1500's, families were the most important people that you had around you. A lot of people, especially among nomads like the Ute, lived alone with just their family. But as the European, African, and Asian settlers moved to North America, many people came alone, without any family, and they had to depend on friends for help. Slave-owners often forced African people away from their families. Even people who came with their fathers and mothers didn't have their cousins anymore, and they had to make new friends. So friendship became very important in North America. In the 1900's, as more and more people moved to the cities, they met lots of new people at work, or in parks or at social clubs, and so friendships continued to be very important as a way to find jobs, or find someone to marry, or anything else where people could help you out.
In the 1500's, people usually got married when they were about 17 or 18 years old. Women usually did not move when they got married, but stayed in their mother's longhouse with their sisters. Men moved into their wives' houses and lived with their wives' families.
Among the early settlers, in the 1700's, people did usually move into their own small house (often just one room) when they got married. African people who were forced to come to North America as slaves were not usually allowed to marry at all, but they did marry anyway, even though they were always afraid of being sold away from each other. The usual age when people get married has changed back and forth many times over time - sometimes people marry when they are older, as in the 1700's, when people had to wait until their indentured servitude was over, and sometimes people marry very young, as in the early 1900's, when many young people moved to the cities and met other young people and got married.
Slavery was an important part of many people's lives between 1500 and 2000 in North America. Some people were enslaved in North America even before the Europeans arrived, often people of different tribes who had been taken prisoner during an attack on their village. When the Europeans first came to North America, they tried to enslave the people who were already living there, but this failed because most of the people they enslaved died of sickness. The British government forced thousands of people to come to North America to work as indentured servants (a kind of temporary slavery). After 1718, many of these were people who had been convicted of crimes in England, usually stealing, and this was a way to get rid of them and make them useful. Others volunteered to be indentured servants in order to get enough money to get from England to North America.
Then the Europeans forced millions of African people to come to North America to work as slaves, especially along the East Coast and in the South. After the American Revolutionary War in 1776, no more indentured servants came from England, and by the early 1800's no more new Africans came as slaves either. But there were still many African slaves in North America until the Civil War, when Abraham Lincoln announced that all the slaves would be free.
The enormous diversity that North America developed with all these new people moving in from all over means that there were also many different attitudes towards racism, friendships, kids, marriage, and families. In 1500, nearly everybody living in North America was Native American, with reddish-brown skin like modern Native Americans or Hispanics. By 1700, most of those people had died, and new people were moving in from Europe, Asia, and Africa. Many of these people were white, but the African people who were forced to come as slaves were black, and some African black people came as free people too. People came from all over Asia as well, so that there were people of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese origins as well. In the 2000's, more and more Hispanic people live in North America, and soon North America will again have more people with reddish-brown skin than white people.
Most kids in North America lived with their mothers, fathers, brothers or sisters, generally in one room of a Pueblo, tipi, hogan or wickiup. Because a lot of kids died of sicknesses, you usually had a lot of brothers and sisters, to make sure that some would grow up. Iroquois and Chinook kids lived in longhouses with their grandparents (if they were still alive), and with their aunts and uncles and cousins. As in medieval Europe, most people kept their babies swaddled, and carried them around using a wooden cradleboard, at least until they were old enough to crawl.
There weren't any schools in early North America. Older kids followed their mothers or fathers around, so that girls learned to do what their mothers did and boys learned to do what their fathers did. Mostly girls gathered wild plants and planted corn and hoed beans and harvested the crops and made clothes. Boys learned to hunt, fish and make weapons. And boys learned to fight so they would fight wars when they grew up, while girls learned how to take care of babies and cook.
When a girl got to be a teenager, she usually got married. When people got married, they gave each other gifts of food instead of gold rings. A bride gave her husband corn or corn bread, and he gave her venison (deer meat) or some other kind of meat. If she lived in a small house like a tipi or a hogan, the young married people would set up their own house. If she lived in a longhouse, she didn't move out of her mother's house, - she stayed home, and her husband moved in with her family. Sometimes a man had more than one wife, but usually women only had one husband.
If married people got divorced later, the dad would move back to his mother's house or his sister's house, and the children would stay with their mother in her house.
Women in North America had more power and freedom than women in Europe or Asia at the same time. Women owned their own houses and their own stuff. They could get divorced whenever they wanted to, and they could keep their kids with them if they did get divorced.
You might think that because everyone in North America was a Native American there would be no racism at this time. It's true that Native Americans didn't treat people differently based on the color of their skin. But they often did treat people from other cultures badly. Navajo people thought they were better than Ute people, and Ute people thought they were better than Navajo people. Pueblo people didn't get along with Navajo people, and the Iroquois were always fighting with the Algonquins. All of these people used to capture people from their enemies and force them to work for them as slaves.
Because people didn't always get enough food, and they didn't have much medical knowledge, most people in North America at this time died of old age in their forties or fifties (just like in Europe, Africa, or Asia at this time). So most kids never knew their grandparents, and by the time they grew up they often had lost one or both of their parents too. Teenagers often had to take care of themselves.
Here are some Civil War facts:
- More than three million men fought in the war.
- Two percent of the population, more than 620,000 people died in it.
- In two days at Shiloh on the banks of the Tennessee River, more Americans fell than in all previous American wars combined.
- During the Battle of Antietam, 12,401 Union men were killed, missing or wounded; double the casualties of D-Day, 82 years later. With a total of 23,000 casualties on both sides, it was the bloodiest single day of the Civil War.
- At Cold Harbor, 7,000 Americans fell in 20 minutes.
- Senator John Crittendon of Kentucky had two sons who became major generals during the Civil War: one for the North and one for the South.
- Ulysses S. Grant was not fond of ceremonies or military music. He said he could only recognize two tunes. "One was Yankee Doodle," he grumbled. "The other one wasn't."
- Missouri sent 39 regiments to fight in the siege of Vicksburg: 17 to the Confederacy and 22 to the Union.
- During the Battle of Antietam, Clara Barton tended the wounded so close to the fighting that a bullet went through her sleeve and killed a man she was treating.
At the start of the war, the value of all manufactured goods produced in all the Confederate states added up to less than one-fourth of those produced in New York State alone.
• In March 1862, European powers watched in worried fascination as the Monitor and Merrimack battled off Hampton Roads, Va. From then on, after these ironclads opened fire, every other navy on earth was obsolete.
• In 1862, the U.S. Congress authorized the first paper currency, called "greenbacks."
• Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., future chief Justice, was wounded three times during the Civil War: in the chest at Ball’s Bluff, in the back at Antietam and in the heel at Chancellorsville.Confederate Private Henry Stanley fought for the Sixth Arkansas, and was captured at Shiloh, but survived to go to Africa to find Dr. Livingston.
• George Pickett’s doomed infantry charge at Gettysburg was the first time he took his division into combat.
• On July 4, 1863, after 48 days of siege, Confederate General John C. Pemberton surrendered the city of Vicksburg to the Union’s General, Ulysses S. Grant. The Fourth of July was not be celebrated in Vicksburg for another 81 years.
• Disease was the chief killer during the war, taking two men for every one who died of battle wounds.
• North and South, potential recruits were offered awards, or "bounties," for enlisting, as much as $677 in New York. Bounty jumping soon became a profession, as men signed up, then deserted, to enlist again elsewhere. One man repeated the process 32 times before being caught.
• African Americans constituted less than one percent of the northern population, yet by the war’s end made up ten percent of the Union Army. A total of 180,000 black men, more than 85% of those eligible, enlisted.
• In November 1863, President Lincoln was invited to offer a "few appropriate remarks" at the opening of a new Union cemetery at Gettysburg. The main speaker, a celebrated orator from Massachusetts, spoke for nearly two hours. Lincoln offered just 269 words in his Gettysburg Address.
• Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest had 30 horses shot from under him and personally killed 31 men in hand-to-hand combat. "I was a horse ahead at the end," he said.
• The words "In God We Trust" first appeared on a U.S. coin in 1864.
• In 1864, Ulysses S. Grant was promoted to Lieutenant General, a rank previously held by General George Washington, and led the 533,000 men of the Union Army, the largest in the world. Three years later, he was made President of the United States.
• Andersonville Prison in southwest Georgia held 33,000 prisoners in 1864. It was the fifth largest city in the Confederacy.
•By the end of the war, Unionists from every state except South Carolina had sent regiments to fight for the North.
• On November 9, 1863, President Lincoln attended a theater in Washington, D.C., to see "The Marble Heart." An accomplished actor, John Wilkes Booth, was in the cast.
• On March 4, 1865, Lincoln was inaugurated for a second term. Yards away in the crowd was John Wilkes Booth with a pistol in his pocket. His vantage point on the balcony, he said later, offered him "an excellent chance to kill the President, if I had wished."
• On May 13, 1865, a month after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Private John J. Williams of the 34th Indiana became the last man killed in the Civil War, in a battle at Palmito Ranch, Texas. The final skirmish was a Confederate victory.
• Hiram Revels of Mississippi became the first black man ever elected to the U.S. Senate. He filled the seat last held by Jefferson Davis.