Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Sectional Controversy, Civil War and Reconstruction

Sectional Controversy

For a few years following the Compromise of 1850 it appeared that the issue of the expansion of slavery had been effectively addressed. Slowly, however, the question began to creep back into the national consciousness.

Slavery was effectively ignored by the major parties in theElection of 1852, but the jointissues of California, the railroads, and the Gadsden Purchaseended the short-lived serenity. The Kansas-Nebraska Act ignited tensions resulting in “Bleeding Kansas.”

The Election of 1856 brought James Buchanan to the presidency. He wrongly interpreted the Dred Scott case as a solution to the expansion of the slavery issue. Sectionalissues were also aired in theLincoln-Douglas debates in Illinois. The degree to which the nation had fractured was evident in the reactions to the events at Harper’s Ferry in 1859; the slavery issue was interpreted vastly differently in the North and South.

The Election of 1860 ushered in the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, but also touched off a secession crisis and theformation of the Confederacy.Efforts to compromise failed. The first shots of the Civil War were exchanged at Fort Sumter in April 1861.

At the outbreak of war the opposing sides possessed starkly differing aims, strategies and prospects.

The Civil War

The Union plan for victoryincluded three components:

1. A blockade of the South – an effort to deny supplies from and trade with outside sources; it appeared for a while that Britain was receptive to Confederate aims in the construction of the Alabama, which preyed upon Union shipping; France toyed with recognition of the South, but contented itself with an invasion of Mexico.

2. A move to split the Confederacy in two – beginning with U.S. Grant’s victories at Forts Henry and Donelson in February 1862. The war in the West continued with New Orleans, guardian of the mouth of the Mississippi, falling to Union forces in April. Both sides suffered heavy casualties at Shiloh. An indecisive encounter at Perryville was followed by a Union victory at Murfreesboro, ending a Confederate push into Kentucky. The West was sealed off from the remainder of the Confederacy following the Union victory at Vicksburg in July 1863. Northern forces began a thrust into enemy territory in the Chattanooga campaign and later in the Atlanta campaign.William T. Sherman’s “March to the Sea” ended with the occupation of Savannah in late 1864.

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