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America - The bloodiest war

When the war started, volunteers rushed forward in their thousands both on the side of the Union and on that of the Confederacy. It was not always easy to choose which side to support. In certain cases families were dramatically divided by different decisions of brothers, or fathers and sons.

The only way the North could win was to invade and occupy the South. Union warships immediately blockaded the ports of the South to prevent foreign supplies reaching the Confederacy. But in Virginia the Union armies suffered one defeat after another; by 1863 many northerners were tired of the war, and general Lee tried to win a decisive victory on northern soil. In June 1863 he marched his army north into Pennsylvania, but a strong Union army blocked his way at Gettysburg. Here, in a three-day battle, the Confederates were defeated. It was the biggest and bloodiest battle ever fought in the United States, and it was the turning point of the war. More that 50.000 men were killed or wounded.

By 1864 the Confederacy was broken; a Union army led by general William T. Sherman marched through the South burning and destroying everything. In march 1865 a Union army led by general Ulysses S. Grant threatened the Confederate capital Richmond. In April general Lee surrendered his army.

The Civil War put an end to slave-trade and decided that the United States was one nation and could not be separated. But it is also left bitter wounds and gave Americans – at least those in the South – the only experience in their history of invasion and military occupation.

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