- from Lincoln
Lincoln’s victory in the November 1860 presidential election further split the nation. The South was furious.
Less than two months after the election, South Carolina announced that the union between it and the rest of the country was “hereby dissolved.” Within weeks, another six Southern states seceded, which means they’d formally left the United States.
At his inauguration on March 4, 1861, Lincoln tried to heal the wounds: “We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break, our bonds of affection.” But there was no affection left between North and South. At 4:30 a.m. on April 12, 1861, the first shots of the war were fired at Fort Sumter, in Charleston, South Carolina. The nation was at war.
The Civil War (also called the War Between the States) killed more Americans than any other war in U.S. history. Over 600,000 people lost their lives. It was a bitter and bloody conflict, with men fighting face to face and hand to hand. Sometimes brother fought against brother.
In the beginning of the war, Lincoln had one goal: to keep the Union together. “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it,” he said, “and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that.” As the war went on, his goals changed. He convinced himself that he wanted to win the war for justice. He also wanted to bring the United States to “a new birth of freedom.”
Few leaders have been so noble.