Notes on the American Civil War Essay

Discuss the relationship between the Mexican-American War and the Coming of the American Civil War by identifying and explaining the historical significance of the Wilmot Proviso, the Free Soil Party, and the Compromise of 1850.

According to the Foner (1969, p. 262), the Wilmot Proviso is the 8 August 1846 proposal of Pennsylvania’s Democratic Congressman David Wilmot that “slavery be excluded from any territory the nation acquired from Mexico” as a result of the Mexican-American War. The Mexican-American War took place during the period 1846-1848.The debate resulting from the Wilmot Proviso placed the issue of slavery into the center of the political arena or fundamental issues for at least twenty years from 1846 (Foner, 1969, p. 262). It must be pointed out though that about a month after the presentation of the Wilmot proposal, Jacob Brinkerhoff of Ohio claimed that he and not Wilmot was the author of the Proviso but that he presented the issue through Wilmot because Brinkerhoff has been known to have strong anti-slavery convictions and “the speaker of the House would not give him the floor” (Foner, 1969, p. 262). Regardless of whether Wilmot or Brinkerhoff was the real author of the Wilmot Proviso, it remains true that the Wilmot Proviso was instrumental in bringing the issue of slavery to national attention and was therefore significant towards creating the conditions for civil war in America in the 1800s.

Foner (1965, p. 239) reported that the Free Soil Party was established in 1848 by New York Barnburner Democrats, radical anti-slavery Whigs, and the bulk of the Liberal Party and “marked a distinct turning point in the development of the American anti-slavery movement”. The Free Soil Party marked the first time that an anti-slavery candidate and platform won the support of “thousands of Northerners” and further brought the issue of slavery into the limelight of national discourse. At the same time, Foner (1965, p. 239) said that the Free Soilers were “the first major anti-slavery group to avoid the question of Negro rights in their national platform”. According to Foner (1965, p. 239), abolitionists of slavery had “always included a demand for equal right for free negroes as an essential aspect of their program”. However, the Free Soilers correctly recognized that Northerners were alienated by calls for equal rights for colored peoples although they were opposed to slavery (Foner, 1965, p. 239). In short, while the Free Soilers Party had a limited vision for negro rights, the Free Soilers Party broadened support for the anti-slavery movement and was instrumental in the birth of the American Civil War.

The conclusion of the Mexico-American war increased the size of the United States since the Louisiana Purchase (Caires, 2005, p. 3). However, the enlargement of United States’ territory “threatened the delicate balance between slave and slave-prohibiting states in the Union (Caires, 2005, p. 3). The senators and representatives from the South threatened to secede and northerners opposed the westward expansion of slavery with the increase in the size of territory (Caires, 2005, p. 3). Newspapers across the south and north denounced each other and sometimes called for violence (Caires, 2005, p. 3). One of the key content of the 1850 compromise was the admission of California as a free state simultaneous with the creation of a new fugitive slave to protect pro-slavery interests (Caires, 2005, p. 3). The issue of slavery divided Congress when the Wilmot Proviso was considered in 1848 after its proposal in 1846. Double-talk on the issue of the admission of California constituted a key compromise: California would be admitted as a free state but interests to preserve slavery would be protected (Caires, 2005, p. 3). According to Caires (2005, p. 3), however, the compromise only led to the spread of slavery (Caires, 2005, p. 3).

The 1850 compromise was initiated by Senator Henry Clay in 1850 but soon a series of bills and not only one bill or law made up the compromise (AmericanCivilWar documentation, 2011a). For example, the compromise decreed that New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah would be organized without mention of slavery but that the continuity or abolition of slavery would have to be decided later by the territory (AmericanCivilWar documentation, 2011a). Part of the compromise included the adoption of the Fugitive Slave Act requiring citizens to assist in the recovery of fugitive slaves (AmericanCivilWar.com documentation, 2011a). The passage of the slave fugitive act which was considered to be part of the 1850 compromise signaled the beginning of a “reign of terror” among blacks and its passage “made abolitionists all the more resolved to put an end to slavery” (AmericanCivilWar.com documentation, 2011a). Given that both sides increased their resolve to assert their perspectives as a result of the Compromise of 1850, the compromise actually facilitated the emergence of the American Civil War.

Discuss the relationship between the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the coming of the American Civil War.

According to Fehrenbacher (1985, p. 133), the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 was a focal point in the in the materialization of the American Civil War. Russel (1963, p. 187) pointed out that the struggle over the Kansas-Nebraska Act when it was still a bill involved matters like slavery, territorial government in general, public lands policy, Indian policy, and the choice of a route or routes for railroads to the Pacific Coast. The issue of slavery, however, is paramount in the Kansas-Nebraska bill (Russel, 1963, p. 187).

In the Kansas-Nebraska bill, all of the territory that will be organized north of the parallel of 36º 30’ except within the limits of the future Missouri. According to Russel (1963, p. 187). Nearly all of the territory lay within the limits of the Lousiana purchase and by section 8 of the Missouri Act of 1820 or the Missouri Compromise. Slavery was forever banned in all the Louisiana Purchase north of the parallel of 36º 30, slavery had been barred forever except within the limits of the of the future Missouri. Thus, the issue was: should the Missouri compromise settlement be disturbed and, if so, “what other provision with regard to slavery should be substituted?”

According to the U-SHistory.com documentation (2011), however, the Kansas-Nebraska Act provided that the Nebraska territory was to be divided into Kansas and Nebraska and that slavery was to be decided by popular sovereignty. The effect of the Kansas-Nebraska Act was to repeal the Missouri compromise that provided territories free from slavery except for Missouri (U-SHistory.com documentation, 2011). The Kansas-Nebraska Act enraged antislavery forces and northerners. It led to a mini civil war in Kansas in 1856 (U-SHistory.com documentation, 2011). In effect, the Kansas-Nebraska Act sharpened the conflict between abolitionists of slavery and those in favor of the retention of slavery. In effect, the act provided muscle-flexing between northerners and southerners and heralded the coming of the American Civil War.

Discuss the relationship between the Dred Scott decision, the Lincoln Douglas Debates, the Freeport Doctrine, and the coming of the American Civil War.

The Lincoln-Douglas 1858 debates is a series of debates between Illinois Republican Senatorial candidate Abraham Lincoln and Illinois Democratic Senator Stephen Douglas (Smelser and Gundersen, 1975, p. 111). The debate covered several issues but focused on the issue of slavery. In his debates, Lincoln expressed that American cannot be half-slave and half-free but can be only fully slave or fully free from slavery (Smelser and Gundersen, 1975, p. 111).

On the other hand, Senator Stephen Douglas advocated the right of the sovereign of the people to decide whether to adopt or reject slavery (Smelser and Gundersen, 1975, p. 111). According to Smelser and Gundersen (1975, p. 111), Douglas had calculated that following court rulings on the Dred Scott case, a territory will be unable to prohibit slavery. Smelser and Gundersen (1975, p. 112) reported that Lincoln lost the senatorial bid but won the debates.

According to Barton (1930), in Freeport where one of the Lincoln-Douglas debates was held, Lincoln has articulated a doctrine that has become known as the Freeport Doctrine (other writers emphasized however that it was Douglas who articulated a Freeport doctrine based on maneuvers from Lincoln). In the Dred Scott case, the US Supreme Court has ruled that slavery can enter new territories without restrictions (Barton, 1930, p. 606). However, according to Barton (1930, p. 606), Lincoln succeeded in forcing Douglas “to renounce the theory and declare that slavery could be excluded in any territory through ‘unfriendly legislation’”.

In describing the debate at Freeport, Fehrenbacher (1983, p. 600) reported that Lincoln raised the question: Can the people of the United States exclude slavery? To which Douglas replied that people have the lawful means necessary to introduce or exclude slavery as they please and for that reason, slavery cannot exist in a day or two unless supported by local police regulations. Fehrenbacker also reported that Douglas said that if the people are opposed to slavery they will elect officials “who ill by unfriendly legislation effectually prevent the introduction of it into their midst” (1930, p. 600). The Douglas pronouncement “is said to have secured his election to the Senate while destroying much of his support in the South and to have divided the Democratic party, thus contributing decisively to Lincoln’s victory in 1860”. According to Fehrenbacher (1983, p. 600), “in the mainstream of American history-as-record, the Freeport question has become one of those pivots which great events turn”. Lincoln’s achievement in the Freeport debate is that the through the debate, he has “outgeneraled Douglas and split the democrats”.

The background of the Dred Scott case itself can leave a bad taste in the mouth. Dred Scott was negro slave going around with Dr. John Emerson, a St. Louis physician (Erlich 1974, p. 132). Dr. John Emerson purchased Dred Scott from one Peter Blow (Erlich, 1974, p. 132). When Emerson went to the Seminole War in Florida, Emerson left Dred Scott behind to the care of his wife. However, Emerson died shortly thereby leaving Dred Scott to his widow. This set the stage for litigation proceedings and a suit for false imprisonment (Erlich, 1974, p. 132).

In my opinion, the role of the Lincoln-Douglas debate in facilitating the civil war is that the debate heightened the American people’s awareness of the issues involved that will eventually become the issues of the civil war. Further, through the debates, people are made to choose sides or, in other words, the debates had served to polarize the American people into schools of public opinion they below.

Write a comprehensive and detailed essay analyzing the military campaign in the Western theater of the war from January through June of 1862.

According to the documentation of http://americancivilwar.com (accessed 26 February 2011b), the key battle events of the western war theater of the American Civil War in 1862 are as follows: 8 January, Silver Creek; 6 February, Fort Henry; 6-8 March, Pea Ridge; 6-7 April, Shiloh; 10 May, Fort Pillow; 6 June, Memphis; 7-8 June, Chattanooga; 13 July, Murfreesboro; 29 August, Richmond; 24 September, Sabine Pass; 3 October, Corinth; 4 October, Galveston; 28 November, Cane Hill; and 31 December, Murfreesboro. Thus, based on the documentation of the AmericanCivilWar.com, the military campaign in the western theater of the civil war from January to June 1962 covered the following key battles:

8 January, Silver Creek, Randolf County – According to the documentation of the AmericanCivilWar.com, rumors of an impending attack by a Confederate Force had circulated for more than week prior to the 8 January battle at Silver Creek. Further, there were also sightings of a Confederate force in Howard County as per the documentation of the AmericanCivilWar.com. Acting on the rumors, the AmericanCivilWar.com documentation reported that the Union Force tried to locate the rumored Confederate force for more than a week but failed to find the Confederate Force. However, on 8 January, after receiving information on January 7 that a Confederate Force under Colonel J.A. Poindexter was camped on Silver Creek, the Union force attacked the Confederate Force, “routing the enemy and sending those that were not killed, wounded, or captured fleeing for safety” (AmericanCivilWar.com documentation, 2011b). The force of the Union also destroyed the camp so the Confederate could not use the Randolph County for recruitment and raid (AmericanCivilWar.com documentation, 2011b). Estimated casualties in the battle were estimated at 91 as per the documentation of the AmericanCivilWar.com.

6 February, Fort Henry – According to the AmericanCivilWar.com documentation, the Union Force led by General Ulysses S. Grant positioned themselves in two locations to assault Fort Henry held by the Confederate Force: one on the east bank of Tennessee River to prevent escape among those targeted for attack and the other on a high ground on the Kentucky side. At the same time, as per the documentation of the AmericanCivilWar.com, the Confederate force was in a precarious position because their guns are outdated and the camp itself was partially inundated such that there was even a risk of flooding. When seven Union gunboats began bombarding the fort, Confederate Brigadier General Lloyd Tilghman had perceived that defeat was inevitable and led his force out of the area to proceed to Fort Donelson which was 10 miles from Fort Henry (AmericanCivilWar.com documentation, 2011b). After seeing many of his troops to safety, Tilgham returned to Fort Henry and surrendered to the Union that was already engaging the Confederates left behind (AmericanCivilWar.com documentation, 2011b). In the AmericanCivilWar.com assessment, the fall of Fort Henry to the Union opened the Tennessee River to Union gunboats and shipping up to Alabama. In the documentation of the AmericanCivilWar.com, there were around 119 casualties in the battle for Fort Henry.

6-8 March, Pea Ridge – At nighttime on 6 March, Confederate Major Earl Van Dorn sought to advance into the Union force by outflanking the Union position near Pea Ridge and dividing the Confederate Force into two columns (AmericanCivilWar.com documentation, 2011b). The Union or Federals met the Confederate advance on March 7 leading to the death of two generals and a ranking colonel in the Confederate Army (AmericanCivilWar.com documentation, 2011b). The losses halted the advance of the Confederate Forces but Confederate Major Earl Van Dorn led a second column to meet the Union or Federals in the Elkhorn Tavern and Tarnyard area and Confederates acquired control of the Elkhorn Tavern and Telegraph Road (AmericanCivilWar.com documentation, 2011b). However, on the Confederate counterattack on March 8 led by Major General Samuel Curtis with the use of artillery, Van Dorn, short on ammunition, abandoned battle as per the documentation of the AmericanCivilWar.com. Through this battle, the Union controlled Missouri for the next two years (AmericanCivilWar.com documentation, 2011b). This Pea Ridge battle is a large battle with 5,949 casualties, around 1,349 casualties were suffered by the Union Force while 4,600 casualties were suffered by the Confederate Force (AmericanCivilWar documentation, 2011b).

6-7 April, Shiloh – According to the AmericanCivilWar.com 2011b documentation, Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston, the Confederate General in the Forts Henry and Donelson area, was forced to retreat to Corinth, Mississippi, because of several battle defeats. Gen. Johnston intended to use Corinth as the staging area for an offensive. The Union Force took sometime to organize a force of 40,000 for an offensive along the Tennessee River against the Confederate Force led by Johnston. However, in the midst of organizing an offensive, the Confederate Force launched a surprise attack on the Union Force, the battle ensured and resulted in the victory of the Union Force but at great cost (AmericanCivilWar.com documentation, 2011b). Casualties reached 23,746 with 13,047 suffered by the Union Force and 10,699 casualties suffered by the Confederate Force (AmericanCivilWar.com).

10 May, Fort Pillow – According to the documentation of the AmericanCivilWar.com, the battle for Fort Pillow was a naval war between the Confederate Defense Fleet and Federal ironclads or naval ships with armor.

6 June, Memphis – According to the documentation of the AmericanCivilWar.com (2011b), this date marks the total annihilation of the Confederate rebel fleet by the Federal Fleet. According to the AmericanCivilWar.com, result of the battle led to the opening of Memphis which was an important commercial economic center on the Mississippi River. Total casualties reached 181 with 1 casualty coming from the Union and 180 casualties from the Confederates (AmericanCivilWar.com documentation, 2011b).

7-8 June, Chattanooga – According to the documentation of the AmericanCivilWar.com, the Confederates adopted the strategy of breaking into several small commands to provide difficulties for the Union Force. Brigadier General James Negley was order to capture Chattanooga (AmericanCivilWar.com documentation, 2011b). Reconnaissance pinpointed the Confederates entrenched on one side of the river bank atop Cameron Hill and Negley used artillery batteries to open fire plus an infantry sharpshooters. The Union won although the AmericanCivilWar.com indicated that casualty counts have been unknown (AmericanCivilWar.com documentation, 2011b).

In conclusion, the January to June battles on the western front achieved a three-point victory for the Union. First, the January to June battles resulted to the first significant northern penetration into Confederate territory (AmericanCivilWar.com documentation, 2011b). Second, it dramatized that the capability of the Union Force to dominate the initiative in battles or the capability to hunt down Confederate troops rather than being hunted down by Confederate troops. Third, the western theater campaign gave to the Union a strong degree of control over the rivers of the western theater front.

Using information from your readings, write a comprehensive and detailed essay that analyzes and assesses the Generalship of Robert E. Lee and George B. McClellan during the period of the war from August 1862 through November of 1862.

During the second half of 1862, the Confederates won important tactical victories. In occasions where the Confederates have won over the Union, the generalship of General George McClelland was questioned and the generalship of both General George McClelland and General Robert Lee were compared.

McPherson and Hogue reported (2009, p. 303) that General Robert Lee had at one point proposed to earn diplomatic recognition from Britain and France and force the Union to sue for peace. This indicates General Lee’s awareness of the role of political maneuvers in supporting a war effort. On military tactics, Generally had Lee tended to divide his forces into small units to the effect of making each unit weak and vulnerable to defeat (McPherson and Hogue, 2009, p. 304), acts that were “contrary to the maxims of military textbooks” although the said tactics “had worked” earlier for General Lee (McPherson and Hogue, 2009, p. 304). Lee’s military units also tend to be scattered apart from being small and vulnerable (McPherson and Hogue, 2009, p. 306). Thus, in the battle of Sharpsburg or Antietam, General Lee had only 40,000 men to face his opponent’s 75,000 men after a series of losses (McPherson and Hogue, 2009, p. 306). On 15 September 1862, General Lee had only 16,000 troops at Sharpsburg (McPherson and Hogue, 2009, p. 306).

On the positive side, Derderer (1985, p. 117) described the generalship of Robert Lee to be aggressive and anticipatory. He was also known to have a strong appreciation of the value of fortification, earthworks, spading, and ditching while on the hunt or on a defensive position against enemies (Derderer, 1985, p. 117). Overall, Derderer (1985, p. 117) described his generalship as “bold”.

Overall, the battle tactics of General George McClellan displayed discipline and patience. For instance despite having more than 60,000 men to General Lee’s 30,000 men, McClellan chose not to attack in a battle (McPherson and Hogue, 2009, p. 306). Yet, at the same time General George McClellan’s military leadership is faulted for “timidity” and lack of decisiveness (McPherson and Hogue, 2009, p. 311). Viewed in terms of “timidity” and lack of decisiveness, it also viable to argue that General George McClellan’s generalship had been characterized by lost opportunities or failure of the Union Force to take advantage of opportunities when opportunities have expressed itself. The “timidity” that is attributed to the generalship of Gen. George McClellan may even be deliberate “timidity” because “a staff officer admitted having said that Lee’s army had not been destroyed at Sharpsburg because “that is not the game” (McPherson and McLellan, 2009, p. 322). Further, when reminded that it is the army’s role to obey the orders of duly constituted civilian authority, McClelland even reportedly replied that “the remedy for political errors, if they are committed, is to be found only in the action of the people at the polls” (McPherson and Hogue, 2009, p. 322). Based on this, it is also possible that the “lack of decisiveness” and timidity that had been observed in the generalship of Gen. George McClelland may have been deliberate decisions to reduce casualties. Yet, at the same time, this is probably not true all the time. This is because General McClelland has been known to “hesitate” from launching an attack even while the enemy is still groggy for reasons. The reasons include reasons like “the enemy outnumbered him, he must drill new recruits, and most amazing of all in view of the condition of Lee’s army, he could not march until his men were provided with new clothing and shoes” (McPherson and Hogue, 2009, p. 323).

According to McPherson and Hogue (2009, p. 324), by November 1862, “the fast-marching Rebels had taken the initiative away from the ponderous Yankees” and “Lincoln’s patience snapped” and Lincoln relieved McClelland from his command of the army. In explaining his decision to relieve General George McClelland of command over the army, Lincoln explained, “I peremptorily ordered him to advance …. [He kept] delaying on little pretexts of wanting this and that. I began to fear he was playing false—that he did not want to hurt the enemy. I saw how he could intercept the enemy on the way to Richmond. I determined to make that the test. If he let them get away I would remove him. He did so & I removed him” (McPherson and Hogue, 2009, p. 324).

References

AmericanCivilWar.com Documentation (2011a). The compromise of 1850. Retrieved 1 March 2011 from http://americancivilwar.com/pictures/compromise_1850.html

AmericanCivilWar.com Documentation (2011b). The western war theater. Retrieved 1 March 2011 from http://americancivilwar.com/statepic/cwusa.html

Barton, A. (1930). Lincoln-Douglas debates: Seventy-five Anniversary—August 29, 1929: Freeport unveils a Lincoln statue. Journal of Illinois State Historical Society, 22 (4), 601-606.

Caires, M. (2005). Friend to slavery: Legal protection of slavery by the California Supreme Court. Ex Post Facto, XIV (Spring), 1-14.

Derderer, J. (1985). The origins of Robert E. Lee’s bold generalship: A reinterpretation. Military Affairs, 49 (3), 117-123.

Erlich, W. (1974). The origins of the Dred Scott case. The Journal of Negro History, 59 (2), 132-142.

Fehrenbacher, D. (1961). Lincoln, Douglas, and the “Freeport question”. The American Historical Review, 66 (3), 599-617.

Fehrenbacher, D. (1983). The new political history and the coming of the civil war. Pacific Historical Review, 54 (2), 117-142.

Foner, E. (1965). Politics and prejudice: The Free Soil Party and the Negro. The Journal of Negro History, 50 (4), 239-256.

Foner, E. (1969). The Wilmot proviso revisited. The Journal of American History, 56 (2), 269-279.

McPherson, J. and Hogue, J. (2009). Ordeal by fire: The civil war and reconstruction. 4th Edition. New York and Boston: McGraw Hill.

Russel, R. (1956). What was the compromise of 1850. The Journal of Southern History, 22 (3), 292-309.

Russel, R. (1963). The issues in the congressional struggle over the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, 1854. The Journal of Southern History, 29 (2), 187-210.

Smelser, M. and Gundersen, J. (1975). American history at a glance. New York: Harper-Collins.

U-S history.com Documentation (2011). Kansas-Nebraska Act. Retrieved 1 March 2011 from http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h83.html

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