The war between the two sections was mainly fought on two fronts- east and west. In the east the fighting mainly concentrated round Virginia where the confederate capital Richmond was located. In the west the fighting took place in Tennessee and along the line of Mississippi. In addition the Union resorted to blockade of every major southern port to check the imports and exports from South.
(a) War in the East.
The main objective of war in the East was to capture Richmond the capital of the Confederacy. The first attempt to invade Virginia was made in July 1861 under McDowell. The northern forces were defeated by the Confederate forces under Beauregard and Johnston at Bull Run, and the forces of the Union were compelled to return back to Washington.
In 1862 the Union forces once against made an effort to take Richmond under the command of B. McClellan. After initial successes of the Union which brought her armies within five miles of the city of Richmond, McClellans was driven back towards the sea coast. An outstanding feature of this war (Seven Days Battle) which lasted from June 26 to July 1 was that General Robert E. Lee took the command of the Confederate forces from Johnston, who had been wounded.
The Southern victories in the East were largely due to the genius of General Robert E. Lee and Jackson who were able to inspire their troops to feats of endurance and heroism and thereby inflict defeats on Union forces sometimes twice as numerous as their own.
(b) War in the West.
The first year of war in the West was devoted to gain control over the border states. Soon Kentucky and Missouri were cleared of the Southern troops. Similarly the western countries of Virginia were detached from the Confederacy and admitted to the Union as independent state. Thus the South was deprived of a strong line of defence along the Ohio river.
Another success of the Union in the West was the capture of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson which gave them control over large part of western Tennessee. Now the Union forces advanced southward towards Corinth, Mississippi and Miemphis, Tennessee.
In April, 1862 Grant was attacked by Confederate forces at Shiloh, who succeeded in holding his ground with great difficulty. The battle of Shiloh proved to be a very costly battle for the Union. Meanwhile the Union naval forces took new Orleans, thereby opening the way for an advance on Vicksburg, which enabled the Confederacy to maintain its communication with the West. One of the greatest gains of these operations to the Union was that they discovered General Grant, who ultimately inflicted defeat on Lee.
In the East now the offensive was taken by the Confederate forces under Lee. The Confederate forces marched northwards, defeated the Union General Pope at the battle of Manassas (also known as second battle of Bull Run) and proceeded towards Maryland. Lee’s main intention was to invade Pennsylvania and cut the railroad connection between the Atlantic Coast and the West.
Thus North was facing the danger of defeat. At this juncture Lincoln once again brought McClellan who met Lee at Antietam. Although neither of the two sides could win a decisive victory. Lee was forced to fall back into Virginia. McClellan failed to pursue him, which was not liked by Lincoln and consequently he was dismissed.
(c) Naval Battles.
As the Union government had imposed blockade on every major port of the South, it greatly effected the imports and exports of the South. No doubt a little bit of imports and exports continued through the blockade runners, but it could not be a replacement for the regular commerce. Consequently, it became one of the major objectives of the Confederate navy to break the blockade.
(i) Battle of the Ironclads.
In March 1862, the naval station of Norfolk, Virginia turned out the former federal steam frigate Merrimac under the new name Virginia, by building an iron superstructure and fixing a ram over it.
This ship sank two wooden ships of the federal navy. The Southerners claimed that Virginia would sweep the entire Federal fleet from the seas. However, after some time the federal navy put its ironclad monitor on sea, which was easier to handle and was mounted with revolving turret. The two ships clashed with in each other, though either of them failed to inflict damage on the other. This was the first battle between the ironclads and virtually ended in the victory of the North because Virginia never appeared again.
(ii) Acquisition of ships from abroad.
With limited facilities for ship-building available in the South, the Confederacy tried to get the war ships from foreign lands. It made efforts to purchase powerful rains from England, but failed in its mission.
Confederacy, however, succeeded in secretly securing from England the famous Alabama, which captured or destroyed 63 of the union vessels. However, the Union ultimately succeeded in prevailing upon Foreign powers (particularly England) not to supply further vessels to the Confederacy.
(d) Proclamation of Emancipation.
Right from the start of Civil War pressure had been exerted on Lincoln to delcare the war as a crusade for the abolition of slavery, but he had resisted it on the ground that it might alienate the four slave states that had not seceded, and antagonize the conservatives of the North. After the Antietam victory it was clear that North’s victory would lead to the end of slavery.
To win the support of the liberal opinion in Europe, Lincoln issued his Proclamation of Emancipation on September 22, 1862, in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief of the Army. It was declared that “on the first day of January 1863, all persons held as slaves within any state or designated part of a state the people where of shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thence forward, and forever free.”
(e)Wars in 1863.
The beginning of year 1863 marked a new turn in the east as well as the west. The Union forces suffered defeats at Fredericksburg (December 1862) and Chancellorsville (May 1863). This encouraged the Confederates under Lee to carry the war into the North by invading Pennsylvania.
However, after a fierce battle lasting three years Lee was forced to retire to Virginia. At the same time in the West General Grant after a prolonged siege captured Vicksburg, the western stronghold of the Confederacy. Soon after Grant won another victory in the west at the bloody battle of Chickamauga. Thus by the end of 1863, way was open for an advance into Georgia.
(a) Sherman’s March of 1864.
In March 1864 Grant was appointed as the General-in-Chief of all the union forces and the command of the west was entrusted to William T. Sherman. He started his march towards Atlanta and took the city in September, 1864. Soon after started his notorious march through Georgia. No opposition was offered by the Confederate army and the union army resorted to a deliberate systematic destruction.
Sherman openly declared: propose to demonstrate the vulnerability of the South and make its inhabitants feel that war and individual ruin are synonymous terms.” In February 1865, the Union troops started their march northward, treating South Carolina, the state which had led the secession movement, as harshly as Georgia.
(b) Victory of Appomattox.
The final victory of Union which ended the Civil War was won by Grant. Grant assumed the command in the East in May, 1864, and in spite of his superior man-power was able to reach the areas east of Richmond after a series of hard-fought battles.
Ultimately Grant laid a siege to Richmond from the South. A trench war ensued between the Union armies and the armies of the Confederacy which lasted for more than nine months. Although the Union armies suffered heavy losses, the constant supply of men and supplies kept the war going.
The Union armies also succeeded in cutting off supplies to Richmond. As a result the Confederate troops started starving and Lee was forced to evacuate the Confederate capital. Grant sent a message to Lee urging him to surrender in order to prevent ‘further effusion of blood’. The two Commanders met at the village of Appomattox Court House in April 1865, where Grant received Lee courteously and offered generous terms.
Within a month after Appomattox the other Confederate armies under Johnston and Jefferson Davis also surrendered and the civil war came to an end.