The American Civil War begins

In November 1860, widespread support from Northern voters enabled Lincoln to defeat Democratic candidates Stephen Douglas (1813-1861) and Vice President John C. Breckinridge (1821-1875) to become the sixteenth president of the United States. Lincoln's victory infuriated America's Southern states, though. Republicans had hoped that their decision to nominate Lincoln instead of a "radical abolitionist" like Seward would reassure white Southerners that the party wanted to settle North-South differences over slavery through negotiation and compromise. But most white Southerners believed that all Republicans were alike. They worried that Lincoln would take immediate steps to abolish (eliminate) slavery, which they viewed as the cornerstone of their economic and social lives.

As a result, a number of Southern states seceded from (left) the United States following Lincoln's election. With their enemies in control of the U.S. government, they felt that the only way they could protect their rights as independent states was to leave the Union. But it soon became clear that the North was willing to fight to keep the Southern states in the Union. Within a matter of months, the two sides were at war.

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