Rumblings of war

Over the next several years, Barton divided her time between the national capital of Washington, where she worked as a government clerk, and her old hometown of Oxford, Massachusetts. Then, as the 1850s drew to a close, Bar ton found herself increasingly drawn into the political turmoil (confusion) that was sweeping across the nation.

For years, America's Northern and Southern states had been arguing over several issues. One of these issues was slavery. Many Northerners believed that slavery was wrong and wanted to abolish it. But the economy of the South had been built on slavery, and Southerners resented Northern efforts to halt or contain the practice.

By early 1861, hostilities between the North and South had become so fierce that a number of Southern states voted to secede from (leave) the United States and form a new country that allowed slavery, called the Confederate States of America (a total of eleven states seceded by the end of the year). The U.S. government declared that those states had no right to secede and that it was willing to use force to make them return to the Union. In the spring of 1861, the two sides finally went to war over their differences.

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