The American Civil War (1861–1865) was a sectional rebellion against the United States of America by the Confederate States, formed of eleven southern slave states' governments which moved to secede from the Union after the 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States. The Union's victory was eventually achieved by leveraging advantages in population, manufacturing and logistics and through a strategic naval blockade denying the Confederacy access to the world's markets.
In many ways, the conflict's central issues – the enslavement of African Americans, the role of constitutional federal government, and the rights of states – are still not completely resolved. Not surprisingly, the Confederate army's surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865 did little to change many Americans' attitudes toward the potential powers of central government. The passage of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments to the Constitution in the years immediately following the war did not change the racial prejudice prevalent among Americans of the day; and the process of Reconstruction did not heal the deeply personal wounds inflicted by four brutal years of war and more than 970,000 casualties – 3 percent of the population, including approximately 560,000 deaths. As a result, controversies affected by the war's unresolved social, political, economic and racial tensions continue to shape contemporary American thought. The causes of the war, the reasons for the outcome, and even the name of the war itself are subjects of much discussion even today.
The Medal of Honor
is the highest military decoration
awarded by the United States government
. It is bestowed on a member of the United States armed forces who distinguishes himself "conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States". Because of the nature of its criteria, the medal is often awarded posthumously.
Early in the Civil War, Public Resolution 82, containing a provision for a Navy Medal of Valor, was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on December 21, 1861. The medal was "to be bestowed upon such petty officers, seamen, landsmen, and Marines as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry and other seamanlike qualities during the present war." Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles directed the Philadelphia Mint to design the new decoration. Shortly afterward, a resolution of similar wording was introduced on behalf of the Army and was signed into law on July 12, 1862. This measure provided for awarding a Medal of Honor, as the Navy version also came to be called: "to such noncommissioned officers and privates as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action, and other soldier-like qualities, during the present insurrection."
Six Union soldiers who hijacked the General, a Confederate locomotive were the first recipients. Raid leader James J. Andrews, a civilian hanged as a Union spy, did not receive the medal. Many Medals of Honor awarded in the 19th century were associated with saving the flag, not just for patriotic reasons, but because the flag was a primary means of battlefield communication. During the time of the Civil War, no other military award was authorized, and to many this explains why some seemingly less notable actions were recognized by the Medal of Honor during that war.
The U.S. state of Maine
was a source of military manpower, supplies, ships, arms, and political support for the Union Army
. Maine was the first state in the northeast to be aligned with the new Republican Party
, partly due to the influence of evangelical Protestantism, and partly to the fact that Maine was a frontier
state, and thus receptive to the party's "free soil" platform. Abraham Lincoln
chose Maine's Hannibal Hamlin
as his first Vice President, and said on meeting Brunswick
novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe
(the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin
), "so this is the little lady who made this big war".
Maine was so enthusiastic for the cause that it ended up contributing a larger number of combatants, in proportion to its population, than any other Union state. It was second only to Massachusetts in the number of its sailors who served in the Union Navy. Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain (later a major general) and the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment played a key role at the Battle of Gettysburg, and the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery Regiment lost more men in a single charge (during the Siege of Petersburg) than any Union regiment in the war.
(May 10, 1813 – July 27, 1883), the son of Francis Preston Blair
, elder brother of Francis Preston Blair, Jr.
and cousin of B. Gratz Brown
, was a politician and lawyer from Maryland
. He was a loyal member of the Cabinet
of Abraham Lincoln
during the American Civil War
. Blair graduated from the United States Military Academy
in 1835, but after a year's service in the Second Seminole War
, he left the Army, studied law, and began practice at St Louis, Missouri
. After serving as United States district attorney
(1839–43) and as judge of the court of common pleas (1834–1849), he moved to Maryland in 1852 and devoted himself to law practice principally in the United States Supreme Court
. He was United States Solicitor in the Court of Claims
(1855–58) and was associated with George T. Curtis
as counsel for the plaintiff in the Dred Scott v. Sandford
case of 1857.
The Blairs, like many other nationalist Democrats, but unusually for politicians from the border states, had abandoned the Democratic Party in the wake of the Kansas–Nebraska Act and had been among the founding leaders of the new Republican Party. In 1860 Montgomery Blair took an active part in the presidential campaign in behalf of Abraham Lincoln, in whose cabinet he was Postmaster-General from 1861 until September 1864, when he resigned as a result of the hostility of the Radical Republican faction. Under his administration, such reforms and improvements as the establishment of free city delivery, the adoption of a money order system, and the use of railway mail cars were instituted — the last having been suggested by George B. Armstrong (d. 1871), of Chicago, who from 1869 until his death was general superintendent of the United States railway mail service.