This was a crucial year in the history of this Republic. Slavery had weakened America's position as a country established on principles of freedom. Although presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln had built a reputation as an opponent of slavery. he had always made it clear his main concern was preserving the Union.
But, the south made it known it was going to split the United States if Lincoln were elected.
Lincoln became the 16th President of the United States mainly from the votes coming from the north.
On December 20, 1860, secession took place with South Carolina taking the lead, followed in January 1861, by the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi. They formed a separate Union within the United States called the Confederate States of America. Before the end of February, five other states joined the Confederacy. They were Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. Jefferson Davis was chosen as the Confederate President.
The South moved fast and decided to seize U.S. Federal forts within their jurisdiction. Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor was considered a Union stronghold. Lincoln provided stronger protection for Fort Sumter, therefore it had to be taken by force by the Confederates. The firing on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861 was the start of the American Civil War. Abraham Lincoln had been in office only one month.
In the years of civil war that followed, Lincoln proved to be one of the most extraordinary leaders, both political and moral, the USA has ever seen. First defining the war as being fought over secession rather than slavery, he oversaw the creation of the Union army. He took a direct interest in the conduct of the war, hiring and firing generals, getting daily reports from the battlefields, and visiting the troops in the front lines. All this time he had also to mediate between the pressures of radical and conservative elements of the North, using an astute combination of suppression and conciliation, and barely surviving the election in 1864.
Jefferson Davis 1808-1889
Born in Kentucky not far from Abraham Lincoln in time or distance, the only President of the Confederacy was a decorated war veteran and politician. He graduated West Point in 1828 and married the daughter of Zachary Taylor in 1835. She died shortly thereafter.
Davis was described by a contemporary as "a gentleman," having a "slight, light figure, little exceeding middle height, and holds himself erect and straight." He had high, prominent cheek-bones, thin lips, and deep-set eyes, one of which was nearly blind from an illness. To all but a few intimates, Davis was reserved and severe in manner. Both indecisive and stubborn, his inflexibility, moral rectitude, and lack of humor did not help him in dealing with opponents.
He was expecting to be given command of the Confederate armies, he was instead chosen President of the Confederate government.
By the time the Civil War began, cotton made up about 60 percent of American exports, about $200 million a year. The Confederates tried to use Europe's reliance on American cotton by refusing to export cotton to Europe in an effort to force them to intervene and end the war. As a result Europe turned to India and Egypt to meet their cotton demands. Bad move by the South. Already in a war that threatened their main crop, labor force and very way of life, they now lose their major revenue source.