After the election campaign in Illinois, Abraham Lincoln was presented as a Republican candidate in the presidential election of the r860. Few still knew in him those superior qualities that he revealed during the war and which in the reverent memory of the Americans bring him closer to the moral portrait of Washington: firmness of character, sense of proportion, serene constancy in the most serious situations. The victory of the Republicans, made easier by disagreements that arose between the Democrats of the North and those of the South, did not, strictly speaking, mean an immediate threat to slavery. The southern states could still have fought for legal action. But consistently with the aggressive tactics of recent years, they wanted to anticipate events. Still in office Buchanan, South Carolina declared itself dissolved from Union (December 20, 1860); Six other states followed in January 1861: Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas. In doing so, the southern states were adamant that they were exercising nothing more than their basic right. Wasn’t the Union born from the spontaneous association of free states, almost like a commercial company, for the purpose of a common advantage? In the absence of this common goal, by opposing the Union to a vital interest of theirs, did the slave states not have the right to be part of themselves? On February 4, 1861, the seven dissident states gathered in Montgomery (Alabama) gave themselves a new government: “Confederate States of America”, President Jefferson Davis. This was not meant to break all bridges, but rather to exert a serious enough threat for the federal government, necessarily solicitous first of all to save the Union, to give secure reliance on the South in terms of slavery. Calculation correct in the premises, but erroneous in the deductions, especially with a man of Lincoln’s temperament. He assumed power on March 4, 1861. Not threats to the south in his presidential message, but the irrevocable will to defend the Union and enforce its laws; without bloodshed, if possible, unless dissidents forced you to. The foreseen and feared case occurs. Fort Sumter, guarding Charleston Harbor, had been blocked by the secessionists. Lincoln stated that the federal government would respond with war on the first cannon shot. After three months of nerve-wracking waiting, on April 12, 1861, the secessionists took the fort under fire from their guns. Lincoln responds by calling up the militias. Faced with the precipitate of events, the other southern states take a stand: Virginia (except the western part which remained loyal to the Union and which in 1863 was erected as a state in itself), Arkansas, Tennessee and, lastly, North Carolina (May 20, 1861) entered the Confederacy. The other four slave states (the so-called frontier states) remained in the Union either because they were averse to the idea of secession (Maryland, Delaware) or because they were too divided between unionists and secessionists (Kentucky and Missouri). The predictions on the fate of the war could not be doubtful, if only the numerical ratio of forces was taken into consideration: the 19 northern states had a white population of almost 19 million, while the 11 southern states did not exceed 5½ million Whites. During the war the south fielded about 800,000 soldiers against about 2 million in the north. The north was rich in resources, industry, commerce, a merchant fleet and a war fleet, which almost without exception remained loyal to the federal government. And having the fleet meant being able, if not completely blocking, at least greatly reducing the export trade in cotton on which the South mainly lived. But the South was relying on this very subject, calculating that the English cotton industrialists, without the raw material, would have forced the British government to demand the lifting of the blockade and to intervene in favor of the South; and also the French intervention was calculated. Incorrect calculations. On 13 May 1861 the England declared neutrality, and no longer moved from that attitude; Napoleon III intervened, but in Mexico where he hoped to give life to an imperial dream of his. But in fact, the south had some real advantage over the north. He was militarily better prepared for the challenge, while the Union, at the beginning of hostilities, could count on little more than the 16,000 men of the permanent federal army. The north was well supplied with human material, but it was a material devoid of any military preparation. In the south, traditions and military experience were more alive; the career of arms had always attracted the children of aristocratic families more than in the north. No wonder the officer corps, placed to choose between north and south, gave an incomparably better and more numerous contingent in the south. But the greatest advantage for the south came from the fact that, unlike the north, it did not intend to recompose a union that also included the states of the north; the south had won the game if it managed to defend the Confederation and obtain its recognition; the north only if it could force the southern states to dissolve the Confederation and re-enter the Union. The south could limit itself to the defense of its own territory; the north had to defend its own and conquer the adversary.
The operations took place in three distinct theaters of war: one, eastern, between the mountains of the Blue Ridge, the Potomac and the Chesapeake Bay, was considered the main, as the one that included the main state of the Confederacy, Virginia, with the stronghold of Richmond, and threatened from near Washington; the second, the western one, extended from the Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi; the third, west of the Mississippi, saw no major military action. After more than two months of preparation, the Northerners’ first offensive move on the Bull Run southwest of Washington (2 iJuly 1861) was a setback and proved only the inexperience of the troops and officers. Lincoln called GB Mc Clellan, an excellent organizer, who at least had a clear vision that a long preparation was needed, to the general command of the army. He set up the troops in defense on the Potomac against the southern ones of General JE Johnston and spent every care in training the numerous volunteers. It was said in the south and north that the war would be resolved in 90 days; now it was beginning to be understood that the struggle was going to be long. The unionist fleet was more active in this first year; but it, with its 70 ships, including the most antiquated, and only a dozen steam-powered, could not implement the blockade or completely prevent trade with southern ports or smuggling, especially with the British Bahama Islands.. Only towards the end of 1861, with the occupation of strong points that commanded access to some ports (eg, Hilton Head in South Carolina), did the blockade become more efficient; with some unfortunate incident, however, such as the one that occurred when the unionist fleet arrested secessionist delegates on a British ship, the Trent, from which a serious diplomatic controversy arose with difficulty. Only in 1862 did the war activity become more intense: in the west a commander then in sub-order, US Grant, began to appear, who took possession of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson, on the border between Kentucky and Tennessee, and ascended the Tennessee River, he won a hard victory in Shiloh (April 6-7, 1862). With this a good part of Tennessee was regained to the Union, while for the combined movement of flotillas from the north and south (the latter commanded by the Unionist DG Farragut, who had occupied New Orleans on April 26) it was made almost entirely the important Mississippi waterway, the heart of the United States, is freed for the Union. Also on Atlantic (at Hampton Roads in front of Norfolk) the Unionists had had success, using against a Southern armored ship, the Merimac, that new type of low-board armored ships, powerfully armed with large-caliber artillery placed in turrets, which from the name of the first built they called themselves monitors. But the strategic superiority of the secessionist general Robert E. Lee imposed itself on the main theater. Unionist public opinion was impatient; demanded the march on Richmond. McClellan, by nature a hesitant, did not yet consider the preparation of the army complete; but he had to give in to the demands of the politicians. In May 1862 he went to a wooded region as far as a few miles east of Richmond, on the York Peninsula traveled by the Chickahominy; but the southerner “Stonewall” Jackson threatened to cut off communications with Washington. For seven days (June 26-July 2), amid constant clashes, Lee and McClellan employed the most refined resources of the art of war; finally the Unionist, although superior in strength, makes a fallback on the Potomac, cutting off without visible results what was called the “peninsular campaign”. The Confederacy considered itself close to victory: the Lee took the offensive, defeated the Unionists on the hard-fought terrain of the Bull Run (or Manassas: 29-30 August) and threatened to invade Maryland. A serious moment for the Union. But in the fierce battle of the Antietam (or Sharpburg: September 17, 1862) the victory remained uncertain; for the invaders it meant the need to retreat. Five days later the Lincoln proclaimed the freedom of all slaves, starting from next January 1st. Proclamation in Platonic appearance, as long as the South escaped the authority of the federal government, but a proclamation that gave the war a crusading character, which cut off any possibility of compromise that the Democrats of the North could promote, and of an Anglo- French that Napoleon III solicited in London. In November, General AE Burnside, McClellan’s successor, took up the idea of an offensive on Richmond, but was beaten in Fredericksburg (13 December 1862) one of the Union’s most sensational and bloody defeats in this bloody war. As had been the Confederation for some months (April 1802), so now the Union had to resort to compulsory conscription, approved by Congress on March 3, 1863; a system so contrary to the Anglo-Saxon spirit that it provoked furious riots, especially in New York, in the first months of application. The financial situation also worsened in both camps and, as is natural, more in the south than in the north. While the north provided, at least in part, with internal loans, with increases in taxes and fees, as well as with inflation, the south had recourse almost exclusively to this disastrous system. The Confederation dollar was worth only 33 cents of a gold dollar in 1803; in 1865 only 1.6 cents. The unionists in the west could boast some success (Murfreesboro or Stone River: December 31-January 2, 1863); but here the operations necessarily took time, because concentrated in the siege of Vicksburg, very equipped point on the lower Mississippi dominating the railway communications with Louisiana and Texas. In the east, the ever-renewed attempts against Richmond yielded no other result than to jeopardize the reputation of the best generals in the Union. It was a constant experimenting with new commanders. Here is now, after Burnside, Joe Hooker: he too plays his good name in the battle of Chancellorsville (1-4 May 1863); a real disaster that encouraged Lee to take the offensive and invade Pennsylvania. But here the fate of the war finally turned in favor of the Union: the battle of Gettysburg (1-3 July 1863), if it was not a landslide Unionist victory, also forced Lee to retire. The next day, in the west, the Grant took over Vicksburg (July 4th). Master of the Mississippi line, the Grant aimed, moving towards the Atlantic, to split the territory of the Confederacy in two. Crucial point was Chattanooga, which commanded rail communications. There, on the Chickamauga, the secessionists still had an advantage in September; but in the great battle of Chattanooga (24-25 November 1863) the Grant put them in full rout. Georgia was open to the Union invasion; the capital Atlanta fell into the hands of General WT Sherman. Grant, elevated to the rank of Washington state (lieutenant general) assumed command of operations in Virginia (March 1864). He embarked on a daring campaign in May-June (the Wilderness Campaign) in the region, broken by streams, scrub and marshes west of Richmond, trying to envelop Lee on the left, through bitter, almost daily fighting, in which the new tactic of trench warfare was often applied. The Grant did not even let himself be moved by a dangerous secessionist raid up to a few miles from Washington (July 1864). The Sherman with an audacious march through Georgia headed for the ocean and reached it by occupying Savannah (10 December). On the 27th of the same month, GH Thomas, a unionist although Virginian by birth, won Southern forces back in Tennessee in Nashville. By now the Confederacy was reduced to the two Carolines and to Virginia. The moral resistance of the south was also in extremes. The Sherman from the south mounted towards Richmond, joined the Thomas. On April 3 the Grant entered Richmond; on the 9th the Lee, almost surrounded by overwhelming forces, surrendered to him in the small village of Appomattox Court House, west of Richmond. It was the end of the war. On 10 May, the fugitive president of the Confederation was captured in Georgia; on the 26th the last Southern army beyond the Mississippi surrendered. But already on April 14, in the aftermath of the victory which for so much was the victory of his indomitable steadfastness, President Lincoln fell victim, at the hands of JW Booth, to a conspiracy which he hoped in vain, by suppressing the first author, to crush it too. the work: national unification.