Secession in the Civil War Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Mark Boster
Sometimes in the history of countries, there are people not happy with what is happening. Sometimes states try to leave the country. This is called secession. The idea of secession is what started the Civil War.

Leaving Home

Have you ever felt treated unfairly at home and told your parents you were going to run away? Well, that is what part of the United States threatened to do, and then they actually did it!


An abolitionist was someone who wanted to abolish, or get rid of, slavery. The story of secession, when the states broke away from the country, started back when the Constitution was written and some of the states allowed slavery. Other states didn't allow slavery but couldn't find a way to add rules against slavery into the Constitution. If these rules were added, some states would have voted against it and the Constitution wouldn't have become law.


The people in the North of the United States became more and more upset about the slavery in the South. Many of the Southern states talked about leaving the United States because of this.

There was disagreement over things other than slavery also. There was a problem about 'states rights' and taxes. Since all new American territories were not allowed to have slaves, the businesses in Northern states could open more factories in new areas of the country. If slave owners wanted to move to new territories, their slaves would become free.

The taxes were higher in the Southern states when it came time to buy the things the Northern states made. This angered many in the South because they supplied the cotton and other supplies the Northern factories needed.

Does this seem fair?


In 1860, many Democrats in the Southern states passed laws to protect slavery. Before Abraham Lincoln became the president, he spoke about how slavery was wrong and how the writers of the Constitution did not approve of slavery.

Later in 1860, Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, was elected President of the United States. None of the states that allowed slavery voted for him. His election upset many people in the Southern states, so much in fact that South Carolina delegates voted to leave the United States before he became the president.

South Carolina and six other states left the United States, also called the Union. The Southern states called themselves the Confederate States of America. They elected Jefferson Davis as their president and wrote a constitution that protected slavery.

Map of the Confederate States of America in Gray

Fort Sumter

Fort Sumter was located in South Carolina, the first Southern state to secede the United States. The fort still belonged to the United States. The Confederate government asked the Union twice to give up the fort, but the North refused.

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