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What caused the beginning of the Civil War?

I. The Beginning of the Civil War?

A. The Dred Scott decision divides America

1. The Dred Scott decision threw America into chaos. Compromise was no longaer possible and the only way to solve the nations problems seemed like war. As a result America was further divided, more Northerners became abolitionists and America was further than ever from being unified.

B. Abraham Lincoln becomes famous

1. Lincoln ran for Senator from Illinois in 1858 opposing Stephan Douglas. The debate pitted a popular and well-spoken Democrat in Douglas against the kindly and awkward Lincoln. The nation was already looking at Douglas as a potential Presidential candidate so the election and debate were closely followed.

2. In the so called "Lincoln - Douglas Debates" Lincoln emerged as a well-spoken, straight forward and honest man. He developed a national reputation and became prominent in the Republican Party.

3. Lincoln lost to Douglas but they would meet again in the Presidential election of 1860.

D. What happened in the election of 1860?

1. Lincoln won as the Democrats split their vote.



Electoral Vote

Popular Vote







Northern Democrat





Southern Democrat





Constitutional Union





E. What was the result of Lincoln's Election?

1. The South realized that they would never have the electoral votes to elect a Southern candidate. This crystallized years of thinking that there entire way of life was in danger, and they were right. They knew Lincoln opposed slavery, even though he never formally said so.

2. This realization left the south with no choice (from their perspective). They felt that the democractic system could not work for them, they felt that they did not have adequate represenation. In a sense Southerners felt immensly patriotic. They didn't feel as if they were destroying the country, instead they took the position that they were doing what our founding fathers and John Locke had intended. The government had ceased protecting them and instead was taking away their natural rights (again as they perceived it). It was their right, even theri responsibility to to secede.

3. Soutyh Carolina was the first to secede, more soon followed. Lincoln could do nothing, he was not yet the President.

F. What did President Buchanan do to stop the Southern states from seceding?

1. Nothing. Buchanan felt that it was illegal for them to secede and that it was also illegal for him to do anything to stop them.

G. How did the Civil War begin?

1. In February of 1861 represenatives from South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Texas and Louisiana formed the Confederate States of America. They elected Jefferson Davis President and began occupying federal builidings, postoffices, forts and other federal government property.

2. When Lincoln took office in March he knew he had to take action. By May another four states had seceded and another four after that were ready to secede.

3. In April Lincoln received word from the commander of Fort Sumter in Charlestown South Carolina that he could not hold the fort for more than six weeks without supplies and fresh troops. Not wanting to shed first blood he only sent the supplies. Soon thereafter Confederate forces opened fire on the fort while the Union fleet stood and watched. Fort Sumter would be sacrificed so that the Confederacy would be the aggresor and not the Union. The Civil War had begun.

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