The Civil War: Lincoln Presidency Leads to Rebellion

A flag often used by the Confederacy. The Confederacy was the eleven southern states intent on breaking away from the rest of the United States.
The eleven states shown in red declared their intent to break away from the rest of the United States, which is shown in blue. (Grey areas on the map were not officially part of the U.S. during the Civil War.)
Abraham Lincoln’s face appearing on the U.S. five-dollar bill. Lincoln was elected president of the United States in 1860.
Family of enslaved cotton pickers.

By the mid-1800s, the northern American states had abolished slavery, while the southern states had not. As a result, millions of African Americans were still lawfully owned by slave masters, and forced to work as servants or in the fields.

Those slaves who worked in the fields in the mid-19th century typically helped sow and harvest cotton, which was a lucrative cash crop. Sales of this slave-produced cotton to the rest of the world, moreover, made the slave-owning plantation owners of the south rich, and for fear of losing this income, slave owners wished to have slavery remain legal. However, a considerable amount of free Americans, particularly northerners, were stalwartly against keeping people in bondage.

Lincoln elected president

With people in the United States having strong opinions on both sides of the issue of slavery, the American citizens with the right to vote went to the ballot boxes to elect the country’s next president in 1860. This, subsequently, led to Abraham Lincoln being voted into the nation’s highest political office. Lincoln, to describe his position on slavery, reluctantly accepted the Supreme Court’s position that individual states could allow slavery, but he expressed intent to allow a disproportionately large number of new free states into the union as part of the westward expansion.

Eleven southern states rebel

Believing that the new free states that Lincoln would allow into the union would upset the existing power balance between free states and slave states, much of the white south, when hearing about the election result, became uneasy. Eventually, many southerners feared, the free states would become so many that they could vote to end slavery in the entire country and start dictating to the south. As a precaution, therefore, just after Lincoln had been elected president, a confederacy of eleven southern slave states declared secession from the United States, intent on creating their own country and deciding their own fate.

The Confederacy’s move to declare secession was not received well by Lincoln and the northern states. Therefore, as explained in the next chapter, it led to war between northern states and southern states.