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The Great Battles Of The American Civil War

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The Great Battles of the American Civil War

The Civil War, often called the War for Southern Independence began on April 12, 1861. The main cause of the war was of course slavery. The southern states depended on slaves to help grow crops which were the main source of income for the south. Slavery was illegal in all of the northern states but most people actually were neutral about it. The main conflict was if slavery should be permitted in the newly developing western territories.

The first battle of the Civil War occurred on April 10, 1861 when Brigadier General Beauregard demanded the surrender of Fort Sumter. The commander of the fort, Major Anderson, refused. Two days later Confederate artillery came crashing down on the fort. On the following day Major Anderson surrendered the fort. This was the opening engagement of the Civil War.

The first Battle of Bull Run was the first battle during the Civil War where troops would meet face to face. The battle took place on July 16, 1861. The Union army was led Brigadier General Irvin McDowell. McDowell was marching down from Washington and on the 21st attacked the left flank of the Confederate army on Matthews Hill. Later on in the afternoon reinforcements arrived for the confederates. These new troops advanced and broke through the Union right flank. This sent the Union army into a retreat although the Confederate army was too disorganized to pursue. The first Battle of Bull Run convinced Lincoln the war going to be long and costly. Soon after General McDowell was relived of command and was replaced with Major General George B. McClellan.

The battle Shiloh took place over two days. It started as a result of the fall of Forts Henry and Donelson, Confederate Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston, the commander in the area, was forced to fall back, giving up Kentucky and much of West and Middle Tennessee. He chose Corinth, Mississippi, a major transportation center, as the staging area for an offensive against Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and his Army of the Tennessee before the Army of the Ohio, under Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell, could join it. The Confederate retrenchment was a surprise, although a pleasant one, to the Union forces, and it took Grant, with about 40,000 men, some time to mount a southern offensive, along the Tennessee River, toward Pittsburgh Landing. Grant received orders to await Buell's Army of the Ohio at Pittsburgh Landing. Grant did not choose to fortify his position; rather, he set about drilling his men many of which were raw recruits. Johnston originally planned to attack Grant on April 4, but delays postponed it until the 6th. Attacking the Union troops on the morning of the 6th, the Confederates surprised them, routing many. Some Federals made determined stands and by afternoon, they had established a battle line at the sunken road, known as the "Hornets Nest." Repeated Rebel attacks failed to carry the Hornets Nest, but massed artillery helped to turn the tide as Confederates surrounded the Union troops and captured, killed, or wounded most. Johnston had been mortally wounded earlier and his second in command, Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, took over. The Union troops established another line covering Pittsburgh Landing, anchored with artillery and augmented by Buell's men who began to arrive and take up positions. Fighting continued until after dark, but the Federals held. By the next morning, the combined Federal forces numbered about 40,000, outnumbering Beauregard's army of less than 30,000. Beauregard was unaware of the arrival of Buell's army and launched a counterattack in response to a two-mile advance by William Nelson's division of Buell's army at 6:00 am, which was, at first, successful. Union troops stiffened and began forcing the Confederates back. Beauregard ordered a counterattack, which stopped the Union advance but did not break its battle line. At this point, Beauregard realized that he could not win and, having suffered too many casualties, he retired from the field and headed back to Corinth.

The second battle of Bull Run was to take place 28th-30th in 1862. The two armies met Warrenton Turnpike. The fighting at Brawner Farm lasted several hours and resulted in a stalemate. Pope became convinced that he had trapped Jackson and concentrated the bulk of his army against him. On August 29, Pope launched a series of assaults against Jackson's position along an unfinished railroad grade. The attacks were repulsed with heavy casualties on both sides. At noon, Longstreet arrived on the field from Thoroughfare Gap and took position on Jackson's right flank. On August 30, Pope renewed his attacks, seemingly unaware that Longstreet was on the field. When massed Confederate artillery devastated a Union assault by Fitz John Porter's command, Longstreet's wing of 28,000 men counterattacked in the largest, simultaneous mass assault of the war. The Union left flank was crushed and the army driven back to Bull Run. Only an effective Union rearguard action prevented a replay of the First Manassas disaster. Pope's retreat to Centreville was precipitous, nonetheless. The next day, Lee ordered his army in pursuit. This was the decisive battle of the Northern Virginia Campaign.

The battle of Antietam took place on September 16, 1862. Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan confronted Lee's Army of Northern Virginia at Sharpsburg, Maryland. At dawn September 17, Hooker's corps mounted a powerful assault on Lee's left flank that

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