Role of Abraham Lincoln during American Civil War


Abraham Lincoln was the Commander in Chief during the time of the American Civil War, successfully prosecuted the Civil War, which initially aims to preserve the Union turned as a fight to liberate the oppressed.

Learn about the roles Abraham played as a self-taught strategist as he forged America to Unite and prevail during this dark era in his administration and personal life.

Actions taken before the American Civil War broke

The American Civil War began when friction between the Northern and Southern States over slavery sparked. To alleviate the impending tension, the U.S. Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which allowed concerned states to vote whether they are pro or anti-slavery. After the election of Abraham Lincoln, seven southern states seceded and formed the Confederate States of America.

The Northern States began manufacturing and industrialization, which means there is a lesser need for slaves; meanwhile, Southern States relied on agriculture and plantation of crops, cotton, and tobacco, which depended on laborers such as black slaves.

Northern States’ sentiment to abolish slavery grew. 

The American Civil War under Abraham Lincoln

The Confederate Army ensured the American Civil War by firing the Fort Sumter, the harbor of Charleston in South Carolina, on April 12, 1861.

President Abraham Lincoln declared the American Civil War on April 15, 1861, and later suspended the Writ of Habeas Corpus due to insurgents’ existence and to prevent sympathizers from aiding and hindering the government’s efforts to defend. He also ordered the Union Navy to blockade southern ports to limit the supply in the south.

On July 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln addressed Congress to validate his actions and elaborate on the purpose of the Civil War; to prevent the destruction of the Federal Union.

The Battle of Manassas, known as the First Battle of Bull Run occurred on July 21, 1861. The Union Army led by General Irvin McDowell was defeated 25 miles south of Washington; meanwhile, General Thomas Jackson earned his nickname “Stonewall” after his brigade was able to resist the Union’s attack.

The President appointed George McClellan as the replacement of McDowell on July 27, 1861, as the Commander of the Department of Potomac.

In September of 1861, President Abraham Lincoln relieved General John Frémont and was replaced by General David Hunter after he conducted an unauthorized military proclamation of emancipation in Missouri.

After the resignation of Winfield Scott on November 1, 1861, George McClellan served as the General-in-Chief of the Union.

Abraham Lincoln faced an international diplomatic crisis on November 8, 1861, after the U.S. Navy seized two Confederate officials on its way to England. Consequently, England demanded to release the two officials and even threatened a war. Lincoln did not resist and submit to the demand.

On January 31, 1862, the President issued General War Order No. 1, which calls U.S. Naval and Land forces to charge. General Ulysses Grant captured Fort Henry then Fort Donelson in Tennessee, which earned him the nickname “Unconditional Surrender” Grant.

Personal tragedy struck when Willie died at the age of eleven, due to typhoid fever on February 20, 1862. Abraham Lincoln was affected by this loss, and his wife, Mary, was inconsolable. What made him a great leader during dark times in his personal life as he remained composed and strived to move forward. He understands his role to hold himself and his family together while also hold the nation together.

In March of 1862, the President temporarily relieves General George McClellan and takes direct command to the Union Army after Confederates began to advance toward Richmond, Virginia.

Abraham Lincoln resists the pressure to replace Grant because of his unyielding actions.

On July 11, 1862, the President turned over the General-in-Chief duties to General Henry Halleck.

General John Pope, with his men, was defeated by General Stonewall Jackson and General James Longstreet at the second battle of Bull Run in Northern Virginia. Union Army retreats to Washington. In August of 1862, President Lincoln relieved General Pope from his position.

The President issued the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862. President Abraham Lincoln grew impatient with General McClellan’s action on the battlefield. He then replaced him with General Ambrose Burnside on November 7, 1862.

Abraham Lincoln issued the final Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1963. It freed all slaves in territories under the Confederate States. Realizing that the fight is not only to keep America united, but it also became a battle against the slaves. It encouraged black Americans to enlist in the Union Army.

Abraham Lincoln appointed General Joseph Hooker on January 25, 1863, to replace Burnside.

Stonewall Jackson died on May 10, 1963, due to his injuries.

The President replaced Hooker on June 28, 1863, and appointed General George Meade to lead the Army of Potomac.

The battle of Gettysburg was the largest casualty during the entire war. Union Army and Confederate Army collided in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and engaged in action from July 1 to 3, 1863. Confederates are defeated.

The “Negro Troops” of the 54th Massachusetts infantry regiment assault invigorated Rebels at Fort Wagner, South Carolina. More than 600 men were killed together with their Colonel, Robert Shaw.

Abolitionist Frederick Douglass met the President to assert full equality for the “Negro Troops” on August 10, 1863.

President Abraham Lincoln delivered the historic Gettysburg Address in two minutes. He reiterated what the nation’s purpose is and the need to continue the fight.

Due to losing war, citizens wanted to halt the fighting, and the Democrats nominated George McClellan as their presidential candidate. He campaigned to stop the bloodshed and the potential agreement with Confederates; however, Abraham Lincoln won after getting a landslide victory against him.

On September 2, 1864, William Sherman captured Atlanta, which contributed to the President’s re-election.

On Abraham Lincoln’s second term, he actively tried to abolish slavery. Through the Thirteenth Constitutional Amendment, he passed the formal end of slavery on January 31, 1865, banning slavery in America.

In his inauguration ceremonies on March 4, 1865, emphasizes unity despite the war nearly tore the nation apart. He calls for forgiveness, compassion, and unity across the United States.

Abraham Lincoln did not live to see the success he had brought upon the nation because of his untimely death on April 15, 1865, after John Wilkes Booth, a Confederate sympathizer, assassinated him


Despite the defeats, loss, and fear, Abraham Lincoln remained true to his vision of ending slavery in his lifetime. He fought to keep America united and never gave up. He stands as a symbol of honesty, courage, humility, and perseverance. Thus, it serves as a remembrance of how America fought to become an independent nation and what it should strive to be.