The American Civil War remains to this day the bloodiest conflict in America’s history.
In this ‘In An Hour’ title, we look at the aims of the political and military leaders, life of the common soldier, the role of women and the role of the African Americans in the conflict as well as the innovations and inventions brought about by the necessity of war.
It was early on a Friday morning in the spring of 1861 that the American Civil War began. At 4:30am that morning of April 12, Confederate forces in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, were ordered to open fire on Fort Sumter where Union forces were entrenched. The next day, a Saturday, the Union commander, Major Robert Anderson, knew that he was outnumbered, out of food and out of options. The first engagement of the American Civil War had been fought, and the Confederate States of America was the victor. More than forty-thousand shells had been dropped on the fort that sat on a spit of land in the harbor. And yet, there were few wounded and no casualties.
The bombardment of Fort Sumter is considered the official beginning of the American Civil War. However, the storm clouds of war had been gathering for some time before those first shots were fired. When the First Continental Congress presented their Declaration of Independence to the country, it included the promise of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” They neglected to mention that the promise was limited to white males. But it didn’t go unnoticed. It was a consciousness that would grow and spread until it began to meet with resistance.
But US president, Abraham Lincoln, went to war, not for the benefit of slaves and the cause of abolitionism, but for the preservation of the Union.
Four years later the war was won, the Confederate States of America had ceased to exist and, through Lincoln’s Proclamation of Emancipation, slaves were free. But the war had come at a high cost and remains the bloodiest conflict in America’s history. With the end of the war came the difficult years of Reconstruction. Lincoln was dead, felled by an assassin’s bullet, the South lay in ruins and the legacy of war would affect the US for decades to come.
This, in an hour, is the American Civil War.
- June 17, 2014 Initial release