The Civil War was arguably the darkest moment in the history of America. For the first time brother fought brother and The Union had to fight to stay whole. Southern states believed in their right to own slaves and though Lincoln formally addressed that he would not interfere with that right, the southern population believed that Lincoln’s election would be, “the greatest evil that has ever befallen this country.” This wedge driven squarely at the Mason-Dixon line tore the United States in two, one half believing in slavery while the other half strongly opposing it. The social tensions between the north and the south began with the election of 1860. The south favored J. C. Breckenridge, while the north favored Abraham Lincoln. Anyone who knows anything about history knows that Lincoln won the 1860 election and became our 16th president. This enraged the south due to Lincoln’s view that slavery should not spread to the un-unionised territories, and so South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas seceded from the union shortly after the election. This created a huge communal deviation, as former kinsmen, now turned foe, were locked in combat - The Union of the north and the Confederacy of the south. At the start of the war, no African Americans were allowed to fight for either side. A law passed in 1862, however, allowed them to fight for northern states, though after the war a larger scale enlistment process was implemented for African Americans. Also in 1862, the first draft laws were put into affect for the Confederate army. A similar law was passed for the Union in 1863. These laws forced certain members of the population to enlist in their respective armies. Such laws caused great objection, as the rich were exempt from the draft. The vexation of the population was the fuel for several riots in the north, the worst of which left some one hundred people dead in New York. Finally, on April 9, 1865, Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant surrendered to the Union. After four years and countless deaths, the seemingly perpetual blood-bath was over. Also marking the end of the war was the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery. More people died in the Civil War (almost 625 thousand) than in any other US War in history. Though the south had been defeated, there was no real winner. The United States had been dealt a blow that would take years to undo. A reconstruction of the union was greatly needed. Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, and the rest of congress all had different ideas of how the Union should be reconstructed. Where Lincoln and Johnson favored a less strict approach to the re-unionization, congress believed that the punishments to the south should be just that, punishments. Obviously, the south favored Lincoln and Johnson’s ideas more so than that of congress. Unfortunately, Lincoln was assassinated before he could implement his plan. His death was mourned by northerners and southerners alike. He was killed by a man named John Wilkes Booth, who felt that the South had
been unfairly treated under his presidency. In the end, Johnson’s plan of reconstruction was used, which infuriated congress. To counteract Johnson’s leniency, congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866. It eventually was vetoed, but was overridden, thus making it a law. That same year, Congress drafted the Fourteenth Amendment, which prevented any state from denying human rights to any US citizen. This amendment was not ratified until 1868 due to the south’s rejection of it. When it was finally ratified, the South was not pleased.
The most important social event of the 1860’s was the abolishment of slavery, but with the ratification of the thirteenth amendment, little actually changed. Of course the African American people were called free, but their freedom was, for the most part, metaphorical in those early years. Most former slaves would have to put up with similar hardships and misfortunes as