The Causes Of The 1861-65 Civil War

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The 1861-65 Civil War is widely considered a defining moment in American history. The outbreak of the war was the culmination of slow-burning sectional tensions, which came to a head with the secession of 11 Southern slaveholding states from the Union and the subsequent formation of the Confederacy. However, what initially began as a political disagreement quickly escalated into a conflict in April 1861 when the Confederacy insisted on their right to leave, which was met with vehement opposition by the loyal states. In the four years that fighting lasted, between 627,000 and 761,000 soldiers lost their lives alongside an indeterminate number of civilian casualties thus cementing the war as America’s deadliest ever conflict (Hacker 307). Whereas many scholars cite slavery as the primary cause of the War, perhaps the more critical issue was state rights and precisely the extent to which federal power could be exercised in the Union with slavery merely serving as a manifestation of this conflict. The historic vilification and the widespread perception of the South as being the antagonist in the Civil War relates to its having pursued a “terrible cause” in the name of its vehement defense of slavery. Slavery was undoubtedly a fundamental reason underlying the existence of disunion that eventually led to the conflict. However, contradictory views on the issue existed even among the Unionists themselves (McPherson 39). Nevertheless, most Union soldiers were indifferent to the
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