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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
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
Lincoln

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
Fort

Advantages

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.

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