The Civil War Lesson for Kids: Summary & Facts

Instructor: Shelly Merrell

Shelly has a Master's of Education. Most recent professional experience is an educational diagnostician. Prior, she taught for 8 years.

In this lesson, we will learn about the arguments between Americans that caused the American Civil War as well as some of the reasons for its outcome. The lesson will also discuss the Emancipation Proclamation.

Brother against Brother

Have you gotten into an argument with a brother or sister? Well, a civil war is a war between two groups of people living in the same country, much like two people from the same family getting into an argument. The American Civil War was between the northern and southern states regarding the power and role of the federal government.

States' Rights

The main cause of the American Civil War was the issue of states' rights. Southerners wanted the states to hold most of the political power so they could continue to own slaves without interference from the federal government. Most northerners wanted a more active federal government that could possibly outlaw slavery. Throughout the 1850s, the debate over slavery grew increasingly bitter, like two brothers who both feel as though the other brother is being mean.

Civil War Map

Abraham Lincoln

That spark was the election of Abraham Lincoln as president in 1860. Lincoln was a member of the Republican Party, which was the first major political party in American history that opposed slavery. Nevertheless, Abraham Lincoln was a moderate who did not plan to immediately abolish slavery. To southerners, however, the election of Lincoln was viewed as a threat to their way of life. Beginning with South Carolina in December 1860, seven southern states voted to withdraw from the United States and form their own country called the Confederate States of America.

Abraham Lincolm

The Battle of Fort Sumter

Abraham Lincoln warned the South that their actions were not legal and that he had a responsibility to uphold the Constitution. Throughout the South were forts that were controlled by the U.S. military, and the Confederacy expected U.S. soldiers to abandon the forts and turn them over to southerners. One of these forts, located in the harbor of Charleston, SC, was Fort Sumter. When the commander of the fort refused to evacuate, Confederate soldiers opened fire on April 12, 1861, officially beginning the Civil War.

Battle of Fort Sumter


Coming into the conflict the North (sometimes called the Union) seemed to have all the advantages.

• The North had roughly four times the population of the South.

• Nearly all industrial manufacturing was located in the North, giving the U.S. army better weapons and equipment.

• The North had an experienced naval force, which they used to great effect during the war.

However, the South (sometimes called the Confederacy) had some significant advantages as well.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account