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The American Civil War (1861–65) began because leaders of Southern states were unhappy with the outcome of the 1860 presidential election, which was won by Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865). Fearful of losing their economic system, which was based on agriculture and dependent on slave labor, the Southern states began to act on their promise to secede (withdraw) from the United States (called the Union) and form their own nation. South Carolina was the first to secede, in December 1860. Five more states—Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana—followed in January 1861. When representatives from the six states met the next month in Montgomery, Alabama, they established the Confederate States of America (commonly called the Confederacy) and elected Jefferson Davis (1808–1889) as president. Two days before Lincoln's inauguration (official induction ceremony), Texas joined the Confederacy. Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee joined in April, shortly after the Civil War had already begun.
The Civil War, also called the War of Secession and the War between the States, officially began on April 12, 1861, when Confederate troops fired on Fort Sumter, a U.S. military post in Charleston harbor, off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina. Brutal fighting continued for four years. After keeping the Union troops at bay for much of the war, the Confederacy suffered major defeats at Vicksburg in Mississippi and Chattanooga in Tennessee. These defeats were the beginning of the end for the Confederacy. On April 9, 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee (1807–1870) surrendered his troops to Union General Ulysses S. Grant (1822–1885) at old Appomattox Court House, Virginia. More than 600,000 soldiers died during the Civil War, which caused more American deaths than any other armed conflict in U. S. history.
Further Information: Abraham Lincoln. [Online] Available http://www.whitehouse.gov/WH/glimpse/presidents/html/al16.html, October 25, 2000; The American Civil War: A Multicultural Encyclopedia. Danbury, Conn.: Grolier Educational Corp., 1994; Clinton, Catherine, Scholastic Encyclopedia of the Civil War. New York: Scholastic Reference, 1999; Frankel, Noralee. Break Those Chains at Last—African Americans. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995; Hummel, Jeffrey Rogers. Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men: A History of the American Civil War. Chicago: Open Court, 1996; Levine, Bruce C. Half Save and Half Free: The Roots of Civil War. New York: Hill and Wang, Noonday Press, 1992; Ray, Delia. A Nation Torn: The Story of How the Civil War Began. New York: Lodestar Books, 1990.
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