Civil War – who, what, why, when, where

Intro – Civil War who what why when where

The American Civil War was one of the most important, if not the most important, events in American history. The Civil War was fought from 1861-1865 and saw nearly 750,000 Americans died. It still stands as the bloodiest conflict in American history.

Many know of the Civil War but may not know the details of it. In this article, we will examine the who, what, why, when, and where of the Civil War to give you a better grasp of the Civil War.

These are questions that are important to historians as they help us to better know a topic, as well as the impact that the event has had on history.

Civil war Battle


The Civil War was fought in America between the Northern and Southern states. Several Southern states seceded following the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 and created the Confederate States of America. Tensions then rose over Fort Sumter, a federal fort in South Carolina.

In April of 1861, Fort Sumter was fired on and the Civil War began.

In response to this, Lincoln issued a call for volunteers to put down the rebellion and restore the Confederate States of America to the Union. This resulted in more states leaving the Union.

The total states that seceded were as follows:

1. South Carolina

2. Mississippi

3. Florida

4. Alabama

5. Georgia

6. Louisiana

7. Texas

8. Virginia

9. Arkansas

10. Tennessee

11. North Carolina

Abraham Lincoln

The primary combatants were men. In fact, both the North and the South instituted drafts to ensure that enough soldiers were in the ranks. The ages of these men greatly varied, however, the average age was 25 years old.

The draft was not accepted by everyone, however. Notably, in New York, there were the famous New York Draft riots. The riots in New York led to racial attacks on African Americans and saw violence spread across New York for several days.

While primarily men served, some women did disguise themselves as men and slip into the ranks. These women served bravely and it is estimated that 1,000 women served in the military.

Notable women who served were Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, Loreta Janeta Velazquez, and Sarah Edmonds. These women played a major role in the conflict.


The American Civil War was fought between the Northern states in America and the Southern states. As previously discussed, the Southern states seceded and created their own nation. This led to hostilities and eventually resulted in a full-scale conflict. When all was said and done, 750,000 Americans died.

As with all civil wars, the American Civil War was between America’s own people. Brother versus brother. This is a reason why the Civil War was so tragic. Many friends and family members had to go into battle against one another.

Civil War Cannon


There has been much debate as to the “why” of the American Civil War. The main cause of the Civil War was slavery.

Slavery had been an issue in American politics since the founding of the nation. The founding fathers did not answer the question once and for all, especially regarding the expansion of slavery, thus leaving open the door for future conflict.

This conflict would become an issue again when President Thomas Jefferson purchased the Louisiana Territory from France.

Thomas Jefferson

In 1820, Henry Clay managed to prevent conflict with the Missouri Compromise. This allowed Maine to join the Union as a free state and Missouri as a slave state. It also banned slavery north of the 36 30 parallel.

This kept the peace for some time until the Nullification Crisis in which Carolina threatened to secede over a federal tariff.

President Andrew Jackson was prepared to send in soldiers to put down this threat. However, at the last minute, cooler heads prevailed. So, secession was not a new threat.

Andrew Jackson

Then, in the 1840s, America went to war with Mexico in what became known as the Mexican-American War. This resulted in a victory for America and a great territorial acquisition.

With this new land came the question of whether or not slavery should be allowed to expand. Great debates erupted over this issue until the Compromise of 1850 was passed. However, like its predecessor, this did little to create lasting peace.

This act was eventually replaced in 1854 with the Kansas-Nebraska Act. This legislation championed by Stephen Douglas, the great political opponent of Lincoln, sought to allow states to choose for themselves whether or not to be free. However, this resulted in violence erupting in Kansas and a mini-Civil War ensuing.

Eventually, John Brown, an abolitionist, took matters into his own hands and led a raid on the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry. He was attempting to lead enslaved peoples in a revolt. However, he was captured and hanged.

The division over the spread of slavery finally came to a boil when Abraham Lincoln was elected president. This resulted in several Southern states seceding, claiming that Lincoln would abolish slavery and create equality for African American people.

Lincoln Memorial

The American Civil War began on April 12, 1861. This was when Fort Sumter was fired upon. Surrounded and lacking supplies, Union commander Robert Anderson had to surrender the fort. This began the Civil War and saw the Confederate States of America fighting the Union.

The war began in earnest with the Battle of Bull Run. This battle saw the deadliest fighting in American history to that point and was a massive victory for the Confederate force and a disaster for the Union. The fighting would increase with the battles such as Shiloh, Seven Pines, Antietam, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, and the Overland Campaign.

Shiloh outdid the destruction of Bull Run and really showed everyone what the war was going to be. It would not be a quick conflict as many had hoped.

At Antietam, the bloodiest day in American history occurred. 23,000 men were killed, wounded, or missing. The battle did lead, however, to the issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Lincoln as it was a slight Union victory as they held the field.

Civil War Cannon

At Gettysburg, the infamous Pickett’s Charge occurred, a massacre of Confederate soldiers. At the same time, Ulysses S. Grant and his Union army was finally able to capture Vicksburg which controlled the Mississippi River. This fighting was brutal and devastating, the likes of which America has not seen since. However, more was in-store.

In 1864, Grant began his Overland Campaign. Refusing to turn back after suffering heavy casualties in the Wilderness, Grant and his men pushed forward to Spotsylvania Courthouse, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg, wearing down the Confederate troops.

This fighting was a nightmare for the men who lived through it. Finally, after Grant and his Union army wore down Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, Robert E. Lee and his Confederate army surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865, effectively ending the Civil War.


The Civil War occurred in America between North and South. The most famous fighting took place in Virginia. However, a great amount of fighting took place in the western states of the United States. States such as Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi saw much action. Fighting even occurred in the far western states such as California and Texas.

The fighting of the Civil War did not reach every state. However, all states felt the impact of the destruction and loss of life that the Civil War created.

Civil War Cannon

Summary – Civil War who what why when where

The American Civil War resulted from the Northern and Southern states going to war. This was a war between Americans that took place from 1861-1865 throughout the United States.

The Civil War was, and still is, the bloodiest war in American history. With nearly 750,000 lives lost, the Civil War changed America forever and its effects can still be felt today.

Civil War Cannon

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Powered by

Up ↑