|The bloodiest war ever fought on American
soil, which left deep and lasting scars in the national psyche, ran
from 1861 to 1865. The nation was divided between the northern
“Yankee” states and the southern “Rebel” states. The Union (i.e.,
the United States of America) was led by the Republican President,
Abraham Lincoln, who was originally from Kentucky, and the
Confederacy (i.e., the Confederate States of America) by Virginian
The Northern states included New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. The North was mainly an urban society with a large population. Most people lived in cities and had jobs. These states believed in a strong central government, banned slavery, and earned most of their money through business and industry.
The Southern states consisted of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. The South had a much smaller population, and the people lived in small villages. The Southern states had developed an agricultural society based on the selling of crops from plantations and slave labor. The South also believed in the rights of the states over a national government. When most of the South seceded from the Union, the border states of Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware decided to stay with the Union.
The causes of war included Lincoln’s attempt to abolish slavery, but it was by no means the only issue. The industrialised north favoured tariffs on imports to allow their manufactured products to sell well; the agrarian south bought a lot of imported goods. The north feared that if the cheap labour of the southern plantations were extended to more western slave states, northern farming would not be able to compete. The south claimed the right to secede from the union when they disagreed with national legislation, and the north insisted that this was not legal.
Slavery had been a controversial issue since the nation’s founding. The Constitution, written in 1787, called for the end to the slave trade in 1808, but left slave ownership legal. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 provided that when territories were granted statehood, those above 36 degrees 30 minutes north latitude would be free states and those below would be slave states, in order to maintain the balance of power between northern and southern interests. During the war itself, Missouri, which had strong pro- and anti-slavery factions, saw vicious fighting and afterwards, continual raiding by outlaw bands. Out in the western territories, battles were not fought, but tempers still ran high.
The loyalties and hatreds called into being during the war still retain their hold, less than twenty years after the violence ceased. The harsh treatment of the south by the victorious north and the assassination of President Lincoln by a disgruntled southerner did little to soothe antagonism. Those who moved to other states and territories have not forgotten their allegiances, whether or not they actually fought.