The Civil War And Reconstruction

The Civil War and Reconstruction, 1860-1877

What will you learn?


Summarize the critical developments leading to the Civil War.

  • the Missouri Compromise (1820)
  • the South Carolina Nullification Crisis (1832-1833)
  • the Compromise of 1850
  • the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854)
  • the Dred Scott Supreme Court case (1857)
  • John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry (1859)
  • the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860



  • In the 1860's the northern and southern parts of the United States fought the American Civil War. The war started after 11 Southern states separated themselves from the United States and formed their own government. Their army fought the forces of the U.S. government. The Civil War threatened to break up the United States. It is also called the War Between the States.
Freed Slaves

Missouri Compromise

  • In 1819 the U.S. Congress had to decide whether to allow Missouri to become a state. Missouri wanted to join as a state that would allow slavery. Some Northerners in Congress were not happy with this. Congress therefore could not agree about what to do. Finally, Maine asked to join the country as a free state, or a state that would not allow slavery. Congress then agreed to let Missouri join as a slave state and Maine join as a free state. This became known as the Missouri Compromise of 1820. The Compromise also banned slavery north of Missouri’s southern border.

What was the Compromise of 1850?

  • The Compromise of 1850 consisted of five bills or laws passed in the United States in September 1850 under the following general headings:
  • An Act proposing the Northern and Western Boundaries of Texas
  • An act for the admission of the state of California into the union (into the country)
  • An act to establish a territorial government for Utah
  • An act to amend the 1793 Fugitive Slave Act (Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 made it a forced law for Northerners to hand over escaped slaves).
  • An act to suppress the slave trade in the District of Columbia

What was the reason for the Compromise of 1850?

  • The Compromise of 1850 was created in an attempt to resolve arguments over slavery between the north and the south. The issue on slavery had intensified with the swift growth of land.

Kansas-Nebraska Act

  • A law called the Missouri Compromise of 1820 ruled out slavery in the United States north of Missouri’s southern border. The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 made it possible again. This angered abolitionists, or people who wanted to end slavery. It led to violence in Kansas, where people fought and killed each other over the issue of slavery. The fighting brought the United States closer to the American Civil War.
  • The Kansas-Nebraska Act created Kansas and Nebraska as territories. The act allowed the people of each territory to decide whether or not to allow slavery.
  • Nebraska stayed fairly calm, but Kansas did not. People who supported slavery poured into Kansas from Missouri. They voted to allow slavery in 1855. Abolitionists came to Kansas from the Northern states. They did not think the vote in favor of slavery was legal. They held their own vote and set up another government.
  • The town of Lawrence was an abolitionist center. On May 21, 1856, a proslavery mob attacked the town. Three days later abolitionists led by John Brown struck back and killed five men. Over the next few years both sides made many violent attacks. The territory became known as Bleeding Kansas.
  • The people of Kansas voted against a proslavery constitution in 1858. By this time most of the people were against slavery. Kansas was admitted to the United States as a free state on January 29, 1861. The American Civil War began later that year.
  • The Kansas-Nebraska Act led people who were opposed to slavery to form the Republican Party.

Dredd Scott Case

  • In 1857 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Congress had no power to ban slavery in the territories, or areas that were not yet states. The ruling, called the Dred Scott decision, increased tensions between the proslavery South and the antislavery North.
  • Dred Scott was a black slave in Missouri. In 1834 he was taken to Illinois. Illinois was a free state, meaning that slavery was illegal there. Scott later lived in the territory of Wisconsin, where slavery was also illegal. When Scott was taken back to Missouri, he sued for his freedom. He argued that the time he had spent in a free state and a free territory had made him free.
  • Scott’s court case began in Missouri and made its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court ruled against him. In fact, the court said that he did not even have the right to file a lawsuit. The court also changed an earlier law that had banned slavery in territories north of Missouri. This angered people who were against slavery.
  • The issue of slavery grew to be so much of a problem that it led to war between the states in 1861. The defeat of the South in the American Civil War finally ended slavery.

Lincoln and Civil War

  • Lincoln ran for president in 1860 and won. The Southern states feared that a Republican president would abolish slavery. They decided to secede from, or leave, the Union. South Carolina seceded in December 1860.
  • In his inaugural address, delivered on March 4, 1861, Lincoln assured the South that he would respect its rights, that there was no need for war.
  • He said: “I have no purpose . . . to interfere with the institution of slavery in states where it exists. . . . In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. . . . We must not be enemies.”
  • By the time Lincoln took office in March 1861 six more Southern states had seceded. The Southern states organized a separate government, the Confederate States of America.
Map of the Civil War 1861-1865


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