The Union & the Confederacy: Map & Major Events

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

The Civil War was fought between the Union and Confederacy, but who actually fought on each side? In this lesson, we'll talk about how the map of America changed across the Civil War.

The Civil War

We call it the United States of America. Why? Because we're a bunch of states who areā€¦united. It's actually pretty straightforward. However, there were times in American history where this unity wasn't as secured. Most notable was the time period from 1861 to 1865, when 11 states seceded, or left the nation, and formed their own country, called the Confederate States of America. For four years, America was divided between Confederacy and Union, and a battle was fought to either keep them separate or put them back together.

The Civil War changed the map of America
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Founding the Confederacy

So, where did the Confederate States of America come from? Well, in 1860, the American people elected Abraham Lincoln as president of the United States. Lincoln was opposed to spreading slavery into the territories, and in protest of his election, seven states each declared their secession independently, starting with South Carolina. Besides South Carolina, the slave states to secede were Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. In February of 1861, before Lincoln could be formally sworn into office, those seven states formally came together and organized themselves into the Confederate States of America. These states are traditionally known in American society as the Deep South.

The flag of the first seven states to secede
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Growth of the Confederacy

The actual start of the Civil War is considered to be April 12, 1861. On this date, the Confederates in South Carolina attacked Fort Sumter, a military base controlled by the American federal government. The Confederates managed to capture the fort, and the war was on. With the official outbreak of war, four states of the Upper South also seceded and joined the Confederacy. Those states were Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia. This brought the grand total of seceding states up to 11, and gave the Confederacy access to some important supply routes.

The Union

So, if the Southern states made up the Confederacy, what exactly was the Union? Well, there are actually three different groups that made up the Union. First, and most obviously, were the Northern states. Northerners generally opposed spreading slavery into the western territories, although at the start of the Civil War most didn't formally oppose slavery in the South. That would change by the end of the war.

The next group to compose part of the Union were the Border States. These were states that historically considered themselves to be part of the Upper South, but which had not seceded because they didn't want to see the nation torn apart. They were big supporters of slavery, but they supported national unity, as well. These Border States were Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware. West Virginia was also a border state, which broke from Virginia in 1863 to support the Union. Southerners wanted the Border States on their side, based on cultural unity and the fact that they all relied on slavery as well. However, the Union was determined to keep these states from leaving, so much so that President Lincoln even promised not to abolish slavery in these states. In fact, the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, which freed slaves, actually only applied to states in rebellion. Border States were exempt.

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