The Gathering Storm

The Coming of the American Civil War

The roots of the American Civil War predate the creation of the United States, with sectional rifts only deepening in the years following the Revolution.  Although there were a variety of regional differences, ranging from the economic to the moral, the most visible and virulent was the debate over slavery.  Between 1780 and 1804, each northern state outlawed the practice, while it continued to flourish to the south.  Abolitionists, who sought to ban 'the peculiar institution' throughout the country, sharpened the debate in the 1830s, while a series of events kept the slavery question at the forefront of the national consciousness.  Tensions heightened in 1831 in the wake of Nat Turner's violent slave rebellion, then again in 1854 when passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which allowed those territories to decide the issue, sparked bloody conflict.  In 1857, in the case Dred Scott v. Sanford, the Supreme Court ruled, among other things, that Congress had no authority to ban slavery in federal territories, prompting an economic panic.  The United States was experiencing unprecedented growth, progress and prosperity, but the political landscape was a minefield of trouble and turmoil.

Bleeding Kansas

Between roughly 1855 and 1859, Kansans engaged in a violent guerrilla war between pro-slavery and anti-slavery forces in an event known as Bleeding...