F. The Civil War
Fort Sumter, located in the Charleston harbor, South Carolina, was one of just four Federal fortifications left in Confederate territory in 1861. Shelby Foote, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville 44 (Vintage Books 1986) (1958). The government of South Carolina had made protests to Washington regarding the presence of a Federal fortification within its borders, but those protests were ignored. Id. Instead, Washington decided to reinforce Fort Sumter with men and supplies. Id. However, when local gunmen opened fire on a Union steamer attempting to bring these reinforcements to Fort Sumter, the steamer was forced to turn away. Id. By March of 1861, Fort Sumter was surrounded by Confederate forces, and was cut off from fresh supplies. Id. By April of that year, the Federal forces inside Fort Sumter were in danger of starving to death. Id. at 48. The time had come for Washington to make a decision—abandon Fort Sumter, or again attempt to resupply it. Washington was aware that another attempt to bring supplies to Fort Sumter might well provoke an attack on the fort itself. Id. at 47. This time, however, the attack would not come from local gunmen, but from Confederate forces. Id. Washington decided not to cave in to Confederate pressures, and attempted to bring fresh provisions and reinforcements to the fort. Id. at 47. On the morning of April 12, 1861, with Union supply ships within sight of Fort Sumter, the Confederacy fired the first shot of the Civil War. Id. at 49.
The four-year Civil War was fought by means of a series of pitched battles, each one seemingly more horrific than the last. The first true battle of the war, the battle of Bull Run, resulted in the deaths of roughly 2,700 Union soldiers and 2,000 Confederate soldiers. The Price in Blood, Casualties in the Civil War, at http://www.civilwarhome.com/casualties.htm. Other battles, at places like Gettysburg, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Wilson's Creek, Spotslyvania, Cold Harbor, and Franklin took the lives of tens of thousands of Union and Confederate soldiers. Id. The final campaign of the war, fought in the vicinity of Appomattox, Virginia, resulted in a combined 17,500 battle deaths. Id.
Following the Appomattox campaign, on April 9, 1865, Union General Ulysses S. Grant received Confederate General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Courthouse, where the two generals agreed upon the terms of Lee's surrender. Shelby Foote, The Civil War, A Narrative: Red River to Appomattox 945–51 (Vintage Books 1986) (1974). Shortly thereafter, Grant rode out towards his headquarters, where Union batteries were firing in celebration. Id. at 950–51. Grant insisted the batteries stop firing, worried that the noise might spark a skirmish between his troops and the nearby, and still armed, Confederate soldiers. Id. at 951. There was, however, another more important reason Grant considered it “unfitting” for his troops to be firing their weapons at that point: “ ‘The war is over,’ he told his staff. ‘The rebels are our countrymen again.’ ” Id.
All in all, approximately 620,000 Americans died in the Civil War; Union forces fighting to end slavery suffered 360,000 of these deaths. James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era 854 (Oxford University Press 1988). There were 178,975 African–American Union troops that fought in the Civil War, and 36,000 of those troops died during the war. The Price in Blood, Casualties in the Civil War, at http:// www.civilwarhome.com/casualties.htm. An analysis as brief as this cannot do justice to the tremendous sacrifices made by both Union and Confederate soldiers in this war. Since the Civil War, America has been involved in a number of armed conflicts, but, by some estimates, the fatalities America suffered in the Civil War exceeds the total number of fatalities America has suffered in all its other wars. Id. The Civil War, the war that ended the institution of chattel slavery in the United States, was truly America's bloodiest war.