Robert Kennedy's United States History Class
1. Grant and Sherman used the strategy of total war. Do you think the end justifies the means? That is, did defeating the Confederacy justify harming civilians? Explain.
• their reasons for targeting the civilian population
• Sherman’s remark about Georgia
• Sherman’s march through Georgia
2. How did Lincoln abolish slavery in all states?
3. Why did the Union’s victory strengthen the power of the national government?
Gettysburg •Gettysburg Address •Vicksburg •William Tecumseh Sherman •Appomattox Court House •Thirteenth Amendment •John Wilkes Booth
The Union Wins!
The Tide Turns
The year 1863 actually had begun well for the South. In December 1862, Lee’s
army had defeated the Union Army of the Potomac at Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Then, in May, the South defeated the North again at Chancellorsville, Virginia.
The North’s only consolation after Chancellorsville came as the result of an accident.
As General Stonewall Jackson returned from a patrol on May 2, Confederate
guards accidentally shot him in the left arm. A surgeon amputated his arm the
following day. When Lee heard the news, he exclaimed, “He has lost his left arm
but I have lost my right.” The true loss was still to come; Jackson caught pneumonia
and died on May 10.
Despite Jackson’s death, Lee decided to press his military advantage and
invade the North. He needed supplies and he thought that a major Confederate
victory on Northern soil might tip the balance of public opinion in the Union to
the pro-slavery politicians. Accordingly, he crossed the Potomac into Maryland
and then pushed on into Pennsylvania.
THE BATTLE OF GETTYSBURG
Near the sleepy town of Gettysburg, in
southern Pennsylvania, the most decisive battle of the war was fought. The Battle
of Gettysburg began on July 1 when Confederate soldiers led by A. P. Hill encountered
several brigades of Union cavalry under the command of John Buford, an
experienced officer from Illinois.
Buford ordered his men to take defensive positions on the hills and ridges
surrounding the town. When Hill’s troops marched toward the town from the
west, Buford’s men were waiting. The shooting attracted more troops and both
sides called for reinforcements. By the end of the first day of fighting, 90,000
Union troops under the command of General George Meade had taken the field
against 75,000 Confederates, led by General Lee.
By the second day of battle, the Confederates had driven the Union troops
from Gettysburg and had taken control of the town. However, the North still held
positions on Cemetery Ridge, the high ground south of Gettysburg. On July 2, Lee
ordered General James Longstreet to attack Cemetery Ridge. At about 4:00 P.M.,
Longstreet’s troops advanced from Seminary Ridge, where they were positioned
in a peach orchard and wheat field that stood between them and most of the
Union army on Cemetery Ridge. The Confederates repeatedly attacked the Union
lines. Although the Union troops were forced to concede some territory, their
lines withheld the withering Confederate onslaught.
On July 3, Lee ordered an artillery barrage on the center of the Union lines
on Cemetery Ridge. For two hours, the two armies fired at one another in a
vicious exchange that could be heard in Pittsburgh. Believing they had silenced
the Union guns, the Confederates then charged the lines. Confederate forces
marched across the farmland between their position and the Union high ground.
Suddenly, Northern artillery renewed its barrage, and the infantry fired on the
rebels as well. Devastated, the Confederates staggered back to their lines. After the
battle, Lee gave up any hopes of invading the North and led his army back to
The three-day battle produced staggering losses: 23,000 Union men and 28,000
Confederates were killed or wounded. Total casualties were more than 30 percent.
Despite the devastation, Northerners were enthusiastic about breaking “the
charm of Robert Lee’s invincibility.”
THE GETTYSBURG ADDRESS
In November 1863, a ceremony was held to dedicate
a cemetery in Gettysburg. There, President Lincoln spoke for a little more
than two minutes. According to some contemporary historians, Lincoln’s
Gettysburg Address “remade America.” Before Lincoln’s speech, people said,
“The United States are . . .” Afterward, they said, “The United States is . . .” In
other words, the speech helped the country to realize that it was not just a collection
of individual states; it was one unified nation.
THE GETTYSBURG ADDRESS ABRAHAM LINCOLN
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new
nation, conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any
nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great
battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final
resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is
altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can
not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have
consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note,
nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It
is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they
who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated
to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take
increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that
we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that
this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of
the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
GRANT WINS AT VICKSBURG
While Meade’s Army of the Potomac was destroying Confederate hopes in Gettysburg, Union general Ulysses S. Grant fought to take Vicksburg, one of the two remaining Confederate strongholds on
the Mississippi River. Vicksburg itself was particularly important because it rested
on bluffs above the river from which guns could control all water traffic. In the
winter of 1862–1863, Grant tried several schemes to reach Vicksburg and take it
from the Confederates. Nothing seemed to work—until the spring of 1863.
Grant began by weakening the Confederate defenses that protected
He sent Benjamin Grierson to lead his cavalry brigade through the
heart of Mississippi. Grierson succeeded in destroying rail lines and distracting
Confederate forces from Union infantry working its way toward Vicksburg. Grant
was able to land his troops south of Vicksburg on April 30 and immediately sent
his men in search of Confederate troops in Mississippi. In 18 days, Union forces
had sacked Jackson, the capital of the state.
Their confidence growing with every victory, Grant and his troops rushed to
Vicksburg, hoping to take the city while the rebels were reeling from their losses.
Grant ordered two frontal attacks on Vicksburg, neither of which succeeded. So,
in the last week of May 1863, Grant settled in for a siege. He set up a steady barrage
of artillery, shelling the city from both the river and the land for several
hours a day, forcing the city’s residents into caves that they dug out of the yellow
After food supplies ran so low that people were reduced to eating dogs and
mules, the Confederate command of Vicksburg asked Grant for terms of surrender.
The city fell on July 4. Five days later Port Hudson, Louisiana, the last
Confederate holdout on the Mississippi, also fell. The Union had achieved another
of its major military objectives, and the Confederacy was cut in two.
The Confederacy Wears Down
The twin defeats at Gettysburg and Vicksburg cost the South much of its limited
manpower. The Confederacy was already low on food, shoes, uniforms, guns, and
ammunition. No longer able to attack, it could hope only to hang on long
enough to destroy Northern morale and work toward an armistice. That plan proved increasingly unrealistic, however, in part because Southern morale was weakening. Many Confederate soliders had deserted, while newspapers, state legislatures, and individuals throughout the South began to call openly for peace. Worse yet for the Confederacy, Lincoln finally found not just one but two generals who would fight.
In March 1864, President Lincoln appointed Ulysses S. Grant commander of all Union armies. Grant in turn appointed William Tecumseh Sherman as commander of the military division of the Mississippi. These two appointments would change the course of the war. Old friends and comrades in arms, both men believed in waging total war. They reasoned that it was the strength of the people’s will that was keeping the war going. If the Union could destroy the Southern population’s will to fight, the Confederacy would collapse. Grant’s overall strategy was
to decimate Lee’s army in Virginia while Sherman raided Georgia. Even if his casualties ran
twice as high as those of Lee— and they did—the North could afford it; the South could not.
In the spring of 1864, Sherman began his march southeast through Georgia to the sea, creating a
wide path of destruction. His army burned almost every house
in its path and destroyed livestock and railroads. Sherman was determined to make Southerners
“so sick of war that generations would pass away before they would again appeal to
it.” By mid-November he had burned most of Atlanta. After reaching the ocean,
Sherman’s forces—followed by 25,000 former slaves—turned north to help Grant
“wipe out Lee.”
THE ELECTION OF 1864
Despite the war, politics in the Union went on as
usual. As the 1864 presidential election approached, Lincoln faced heavy opposition
from the Democrats and from a faction within his own party. A number of
Northerners were dismayed at the war’s length and its high casualty rates.
Lincoln was pessimistic about his chances. “I am going to be beaten,” he said
in August, “and unless some great change takes place, badly beaten.” However,
some great change did take place. News of General Sherman’s victories inspired
the North and helped Lincoln win reelection.
THE SURRENDER AT APPOMATTOX
On April 3, 1865, Union troops conquered Richmond, the Confederate capital. Southerners had abandoned the city the day before, setting it afire to keep the Northerners from taking it. On April 9, 1865, in a Virginia town called Appomattox (BpQE-mBtPEks) Court House, Lee and
Grant met at a private home to arrange a Confederate surrender. At Lincoln’s
request, the terms were generous. Grant paroled Lee’s soldiers and sent them
home with their possessions and three days’ worth of rations. Officers were
permitted to keep their side arms. Within a month all remaining Confederate
resistance collapsed. After four long years, the Civil War was over.
The War Changes the Nation
The Civil War caused tremendous political, economic, technological, and social
change in the United States. It also exacted a high price in terms of human life.
Approximately 360,000 Union soldiers and 260,000 Confederates died, nearly as
many American combat deaths as in all other American wars combined.
POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC CHANGES
The Civil War greatly increased the
federal government’s power and authority. During the war, the federal government
passed laws, including income tax and conscription laws, that gave it much
more control over individual citizens. And after the war, no state ever threatened
Economically, the Civil War dramatically widened the gap between North
and South. During the war, the economy of the Northern states boomed. The
Southern economy, on the other hand, was devastated. The war not only marked
the end of slavery as a labor system but also wrecked most of the region’s industry
and farmland. The economic gulf between the regions would not diminish
until the 20th century.
A REVOLUTION IN WARFARE
Because of developments in technology, the Civil
War has been called the last old-fashioned war, or the first modern war. The two
deadliest technological improvements were the rifle and the minié ball, a soft lead
bullet that was more destructive than earlier bullets. Two other weapons that
became more lethal were hand grenades and land mines.
Another technological improvement was the ironclad ship, which could splinter
wooden ships by ramming them, withstand cannon fire, and resist burning.
On March 9, 1862, every wooden warship in the world became obsolete after the
North’s ironclad Monitor exchanged fire with the South’s ironclad Merrimack.
The War Changes Lives
The war not only revolutionized weaponry but also changed people’s lives.
Perhaps the biggest change came for African Americans.
THE THIRTEENTH AMENDMENT The Emancipation Proclamation freed only
those slaves who lived in states that were behind Confederate lines, and not yet
under Union control. The government had to decide what to do about the border
states, where slavery still existed. The president believed that the only solution
was a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery.
LINCOLN IS ASSASSINATED
Whatever further plans Lincoln had to reunify the nation after the war, he never got to implement
them. On April 14, 1865, five days after Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox, Lincoln and his wife went to Ford’s Theatre in Washington to see a British comedy, Our
American Cousin. During its third act, a man crept up behind Lincoln and shot the president
in the back of his head.
Lincoln, who never regained consciousness, died on April 15. It was the first time a
president of the United States had been assassinated. After the shooting, the
assassin, John Wilkes Booth—a 26-year-old actor and Southern sympathizer—
then leaped down from the presidential box to the stage and escaped. Twelve days
later, Union cavalry trapped him in a Virginia tobacco shed and shot him dead.
The funeral train that carried Lincoln’s body from Washington to his hometown
of Springfield, Illinois, took 14 days for its journey. Approximately 7 million
Americans, or almost one-third of the entire Union population, turned out to
mourn publicly their martyred leader.
The Civil War had ended. Slavery and secession were no more. Now the country
faced two new problems: how to restore the Southern states to the Union and
how to integrate approximately 4 million newly freed African Americans into