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Page Contents: Timeline of the Road to War; Origins of the Civil War; Causes of the Civil War

Timeline of the Road to War

1800- The Northern and Southern United states developed into different kinds of societies. The North became primarily industrial and the South's economy was based on agriculture.

1808- Congress makes slave importation illegal.

1820- Missouri is admitted into the Union as a slave state and Maine is admitted as a free state. This was known as "The Missouri Compromise." The Missouri Compromise stated that in the future, there would no slavery in territories north of MIssouri's southern border. This kept the balance between the slave states and the free states.

1832 - The concept of "state's rights",where individual states rather than the federal government can decide important issues within the state, is exercised when South Carolina tried to nullify a tariff placed on their imports by Northern politicians. Vice-President John Calhoun called the tariff unconstitutional.He created the "South Carolina Exposition and Protest", a document that declares that states can declare a federal law null and void if they think it is unconstitutional. President Andrew Jackson threatened to send federal troops to South Carolina to enforce the tariff. A compromise tariff avoided warfare.

1850- Congress passed several laws that were part of The Compromise of 1850. California was admitted to the Union as a free state, with no restrictions on slavery in New Mexico, Utah and Texas. New territories could decide for themselves if they would be free or slave. The slave trade, but not slavery, was abolished and slavery was abolished in Washigton, DC. The Fugitive Slave Act said that citizens and police officers must return runaway slaves to their owners. It was a federal crime to aid escaping slaves.

1854- In July an antislavery group formed the Republican Party. The Republican Party was opposed to the expansion of slavery into the Western territories. They favored a strong, central government and high tariffs to protect American manufacturers.

The Kansas-Nebraska Act overturned the Missouri Compromise and opened territory north of Missouri to slavery. The issue of slavery would be decided by the citizens of the territory. This is called "Popular Sovereignity." Abolitionists and slave states sent settlers into the territories to influence the future decision of the states to form as free or slave states. Border ruffians crossed from Missouri into Kansas, using violence to intimidate citizens and the government. This time of Kansas history is known as "Bloody Kansas" or "Bleeding Kansas" because more than 200 people die as a result of guerilla warfare. An online exhibit gives more information on this prelude to the Civil War.

1855- The Dred Scott Decision. A slave, Dred Scott, sued his master for his freedom. The Supreme Court turned down his suit and voted 7-2 that black men were not United States citizens. They also said that Congress did not have the right to ban slavery in the territories. This helped the Republican Party gain strength and made the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional. Today, the Dred Scott decision is considered one of the worst decisions ever made by the Supreme Court.

1856 - In the election of 1856, the Republican Party won all the Northern states but won less than 1% of the Southern vote.

1860 - Abraham Lincoln was the candidate of the Republican Party. The Democratic party split into two factions and each nominated a presidential candidate. The moderate Democrats elected Stephen Douglas and the Southern Democrats nominated John C. Breckenridge. They let it be known they would secede if Lincoln was elected. Lincoln was elected, and South Carolina voted to seceed on December 20.

1861- On an cold April day, Fort Sumter was bombarded.

Origins of the Civil War

The Civil War began in April 1861 when South Carolina bombarded Fort Sumter, a federal fort in Charleston's harbor with long range cannons. The causes of the war had been simmering for a long time, and when President Lincoln was inaugurated, seven states seceded from the Union. The people in South Carolina cheered the news of the firing on Fort Sumter. The Civil War had begun.

Causes of the Civil War

  • Most southern states did not like the Republican president Abraham Lincoln.
  • The North and the South had disagreements about slavery
  • The North and the South had disagreements about states rights
  • Sectionalism

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Army Life

Blacks and the Civil War

Important People

The Homefront


Women and the Civil War


The Battle of Gettysburg

Town of Gettysburg