The US Civil War was one of the bloodiest military conflicts in American history. It claimed about as many American lives as the rest of the wars combined.
Many historians believe that the principal cause of the American Civil War was the Southern states' willingness to expand slavery Westwards and the desire of the Union to abolish it entirely.
As industrialization and migration picked up the pace along the eastern coast, Northern states started to shift from enslaved labor; for them, the concept of slavery had become a moral issue.
As a result, slavery was abolished in the North. However, it still lingered in the South as their economy mostly depended on slave labor.
Along with an argument regarding state power, this disagreement eventually led to the Civil War that went on for four years between 1861 and 1865.
During the war, individuals such as Abraham Lincoln and John Brown played prominent roles off and on the battlefield.
To know about the most influential politicians, activists, commanders, and civilians during the war, read on!
Prominent Personalities Of The American Civil War
Here is a list of the most polarizing personalities of the American Civil War:
Although many vital figures had their role to play in the US Civil War, none is as important and decisive as Abraham Lincoln!
Lincoln was a shopkeeper and a lawyer before entering politics and becoming the 16th US President in the 1860 US elections.
As he was the first Republican President and a firm supporter of the anti-slavery movement, his victory prompted a mass exit of Southern states from the Union, starting with South Carolina.
Lincoln believed the Southern states never actually left the United States legally, and as a result, he vouched to fight the South until they surrendered unconditionally.
Furthermore, during the United States Civil War, Lincoln issued an executive order in 1863 known as the "Emancipation Proclamation," which freed all the slaves of the South.
Although he fulfilled his promise of uniting the Union and abolishing slavery, he was assassinated by John Wilkes just when the war was about to end.
Jefferson Davis was a former senator. During the American Civil War, he was selected as the President of the eleven Confederate states who wanted to retain the institution of slavery in the South and parted ways from the Union.
Underappreciated and overworked by the war, Jefferson struggled to unite the South against the North under the Confederate government.
He was often considered an inefficient leader, lacking the southern appeal and leadership experience. Under his leadership, despite the odd victory in one-off battles, the Confederacy lost ground politically as well as economically.
When the Civil War ended, he got caught for treason but was never tried in court.
The zealot John Brown crusaded against slavery in the 1850s. He relocated to Kansas in the middle of the 1850s to stop it from becoming another slave state.
Brown and a group of vigilantes sparked what is known in American history as Bleeding Kansas or the Bloody Kansas crisis.
They slaughtered a group of five pro-slavery settlers in Kansas, famously known as Border Ruffians, along Pottawatomie creek banks.
This attack started an enraged guerilla war in the Kansas state between anti-slavery and pro-slavery forces.
At the height of his fight, John Brown led another band of people to raid on Harpers Ferry to incite rebellion against slavery in the Southern states. However, the raid was a failure as he was caught and hanged right before the 1860 US election.
His death was mourned in the North and celebrated in the South!
Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses Grant was the top general of the United States forces against the Confederate states' troops in the last years of the US Civil War.
He was an astute and able commander under whom the union forces garnered numerous victories.
In 1863, under Grant's leadership, the Union army captured the Mississippi River and the Vicksburg, splitting the Confederate states in two.
Also, in 1864, he surrounded the Confederate forces in Richmond, leaving them no option to escape. In 1865, it was also Ulysses Grant who recognized the capitulation of Confederate armies.
A few years after the American Civil War ended, Grant became the US president in 1869.
Arguably one of the brightest generals in the United States forces in 1860, Robert Lee refused Lincoln's proposal to command United States forces and accepted to command the Confederate States Army of Northern Virginia.
Although he wanted to see the Union intact, he chose the Confederates to side with his home state.
Throughout the US Civil War, Robert Lee had achieved a few notable victories; however, his fearless attacks on the Northerners cost many fatalities. That was also when the South had dwindling resources, compared to the Union.
Nevertheless, by 1865, Robert Lee was commanding all forces of the Confederacy. He lost the Battle of Gettysburg to the North, a defeat that turned out to be a turning point for the war.
As defeat was inevitable, Lee made an unconditional surrender on behalf of the Confederate to the Union armies in 1865.
William Sherman was a close associate of Ulysses Grant, and during the war, he rose to the rank of a general in the United States army.
Sherman was a competent general and a military leader. He understood very well that war would be won only when the US armies had shattered the will of the South.
In 1864, Sherman led a band of Union forces to a decisive win in Atlanta. The victory had delivered a significant blow to opposing parties and helped Abraham Lincoln secure a safe win in the 1864 US elections.
He also implemented one of the first instances of "scorched earth" to minimize the Confederate states' economic potential. This method is used to burn enemy crops to deprive them of food.
Overall, Sherman was widely popular due to his military understanding and use of strategy.
Harriet Tubman was a runaway slave, a political activist, and staunch abolitionist. Even though she wasn't owned, Tubman returned on several risky missions to rescue and help other enslaved people.
During the American Civil War, she also worked as an agent for Union forces, helping them recruit African-Americans to further the North's cause.
Due to her daring efforts, she remained one of the most influential figures in the US Civil War.
Clara Barton was one of the pioneer nurses in the United States Civil War. Besides that, she was the founder of the American Red Cross.
Although she faced stiff opposition, she faced adversity head-on and successfully led her medical units next to the battle lines.
She was always present to provide speedy medical support and supplies — a massive reason why she was given the name "Angel on the battlefield."
When the American Civil War ended in 1865, she established an agency solely for missing persons.
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