Longstreet continued to serve in the U.S. Army in the 1850s. But his years of military service under the American flag came to an end on June 1, 1861, when he joined the newly formed army of the Confederate States of America. The Confederate States of America was composed of eleven Southern states which seceded from (left) the United States in late 1860 and early 1861. The root causes of this wave of secession were bitter disagreements between the nation's Southern and Northern regions over the issues of slavery, states' rights, and Federal authority.
Many Northerners believed that slavery was wrong and wanted to abolish (eliminate) it. In addition, they argued that the Federal government had the authority to pass laws that applied to all citizens of the United States. But much of the South's economy and culture had been built on the slave system, and Southerners resented Northern efforts to halt or contain the practice. In addition, they argued that the Federal government did not have the constitutional power to institute national laws on slavery or other issues. White Southerners argued that each state should decide for itself whether to allow slavery. In early 1861, these differences broke out into open war, as the South declared its independence, and the North vowed to use force to keep the country together.
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