What was the American Civil War about? This is a question that has been asked since the war ended in 1865. The American Civil War was a conflict between the United States of America (the Union) and the Confederate States of America (the Confederacy). This war resulted in over 600,000 deaths and has left a lasting legacy on the United States. It was a war fought for many reasons, some of which are still being debated to this day. In this blog post, we will explore the six key causes of the American Civil War, so you can gain a better understanding of this tumultuous period in American history.
1) The Missouri Compromise
The Missouri Compromise of 1820 was a pivotal event in the lead-up to the American Civil War. It was a legislative agreement between the pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions in the United States Congress, that allowed Missouri to enter the Union as a slave state while simultaneously admitting Maine as a free state.
The Compromise established a line of latitude above which slavery would be illegal in all future states and territories. This compromise temporarily halted the struggle between pro-slavery and anti-slavery forces in the United States and provided a temporary solution to what was the American Civil War about – the issue of slavery.
2) The Kansas-Nebraska Act
The Kansas-Nebraska Act was a major factor in what was the American Civil War about. This legislation was introduced by Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois and passed in 1854. It allowed the residents of Kansas and Nebraska to decide for themselves whether or not to allow slavery within their borders.
This represented a major shift in policy, as it reversed the terms of the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which had previously banned slavery in the region. The result was an increase in tension between pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions, leading to increased violence between the two sides. This conflict eventually culminated in the Civil War, as both sides sought to secure their respective interests.
3) The Dred Scott Decision
One of the key causes of the American Civil War was the Dred Scott Decision of 1857. This Supreme Court ruling declared that African Americans, whether enslaved or free, could not be citizens of the United States and did not have the right to sue in federal court.
This decision had a profound effect on the national debate over slavery, as it effectively made it impossible for African Americans to gain any rights or protection under the law.
As a result, the southern states were emboldened to pursue further measures in favor of slavery, which only widened the divide between the North and South and further fueled the tensions that would eventually lead to war. The Dred Scott Decision, then, is an important part of the story of what was the American Civil War about.
4) John Brown’s Raid on Harper’s Ferry
One of the events that helped to spark the American Civil War was John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry in October 1859. Brown, a staunch abolitionist, wanted to lead a slave insurrection and he believed the raid would inspire slaves across the South to rise up against their masters.
However, Brown and his followers were quickly overwhelmed by local militia and federal troops under the command of Robert E. Lee. Brown was captured and subsequently hanged, further intensifying the conflict between North and South. In this way, John Brown’s Raid on Harper’s Ferry was a crucial moment that precipitated the Civil War and led to further divisions between the two sides as each debated what was the American Civil War about.
5) The Election of 1860
The election of 1860 was a major catalyst for what would become the American Civil War. This election saw a rise in tensions between the northern and southern states, as the Republican Party nominated its first presidential candidate, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln’s position on slavery was what primarily caused divisions between the North and South.
The Republican Party opposed the spread of slavery into new territories, while the Democratic Party wanted to extend it. With the election of Lincoln, it became clear that the federal government would not allow slavery to expand any further, which led to increased anxiety among Southerners. This anxiety quickly became one of the major causes of the Civil War, as Southerners saw the election of Lincoln as a direct attack on their way of life.
6) The Fort Sumter Crisis
The Fort Sumter Crisis was the last straw that officially began the American Civil War. Located in Charleston, South Carolina, Fort Sumter was a Union-controlled fort in a state that had already seceded from the United States. In April 1861, Confederate forces surrounded the fort and demanded its surrender.
When Union forces refused, Confederate forces bombarded the fort and forced its surrender after 34 hours of bombardment. This event was the spark that set off the Civil War and it answered the question of what the American Civil War was about – it was about states’ rights and the dissolution of the Union.
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