was the cause of the Civil War. A vital component of the economy of the South, it was opposed by the Abolitionist Movement
largely in the North. Prompted by the election of Abraham Lincoln
as President of the United States
in 1860 and fearing a loss of political power, Southern states, beginning with South Carolina, seceded to form the Confederate States of America
. Overt hostilities began with the Confederate Attack on Fort Sumter
on April 12, 1862. The first major battle was at Bull Run
, at which Confederate forces drove Union soldiers back to Washington D.C.
in July 1862. The Confederates, under the leadership of General Robert E. Lee
, earned victories in the east in the early years, but the Battle of Gettysburg
marked the high water mark of the Confederacy. In the West, Union forces gradually took control of the Mississippi River
In the later years, the Union fielded better generals such as Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman. Sherman's capture of Atlanta and his March to the Sea broke the economy of the South. Lee surrendered to Grant at Appamatox Courthouse on April 9, 1865, effectively ending the struggle.