The first large battle of the war, at Bull Run, Virginia (also known as First Manassas) near Washington,

stripped away any illusions that vic- tory would be quick or easy . It also established a pattern, at least in the Eastern United States, of bloody Southern victories that never trans- lated into a decisive military advan- tage for the Confederacy .

In contrast to its military failures in the East, the Union was able to se- cure battlefield victories in the West and slow strategic success at sea . Most of the Navy, at the war’s begin- ning, was in Union hands, but it was scattered and weak . Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles took prompt measures to strengthen it . Lincoln then proclaimed a blockade of the Southern coasts . Although the ef- fect of the blockade was negligible at first, by 1863 it almost completely prevented shipments of cotton to Europe and blocked the importa- tion of sorely needed munitions, clothing, and medical supplies to the South .

A brilliant Union naval com- mander, David Farragut, conducted two remarkable operations . In April 1862, he took a fleet into the mouth of the Mississippi River and forced the surrender of the largest city in the South, New Orleans, Louisiana . In August 1864, with the cry, “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead,” he led a force past the fortified entrance of Mobile Bay, Alabama, captured a Confederate ironclad vessel, and sealed off the port .

In the Mississippi Valley, the Union forces won an almost unin- terrupted series of victories . They began by breaking a long Confeder-


ate line in Tennessee, thus making it possible to occupy almost all the western part of the state . When the important Mississippi River port of Memphis was taken, Union troops advanced some 320 kilometers into the heart of the Confederacy . With the tenacious General Ulysses S . Grant in command, they withstood a sudden Confederate counterattack at Shiloh, on the bluffs overlooking the Tennessee River . Those killed and wounded at Shiloh numbered more than 10,000 on each side, a ca- sualty rate that Americans had never before experienced . But it was only the beginning of the carnage .

In Virginia, by contrast, Union troops continued to meet one de- feat after another in a succession of bloody attempts to capture Rich- mond, the Confederate capital . The Confederates enjoyed strong defense positions afforded by numerous streams cutting the road between Washington and Richmond . Their two best generals, Robert E . Lee and Thomas J . (“Stonewall”) Jackson, both far surpassed in ability their early Union counterparts . In 1862 Union commander George McClel- lan made a slow, excessively cautious attempt to seize Richmond . But in the Seven Days’ Battles between June 25 and July 1, the Union troops were driven steadily backward, both sides suffering terrible losses .

After another Confederate vic- tory at the Second Battle of Bull Run (or Second Manassas), Lee crossed the Potomac River and in- vaded Maryland . McClellan again

responded tentatively, despite learn- ing that Lee had split his army and was heavily outnumbered . The Union and Confederate Armies met at Antietam Creek, near Sharpsburg, Maryland, on September 17, 1862, in the bloodiest single day of the war: More than 4,000 died on both sides and 18,000 were wounded . Despite his numerical advantage, however, McClellan failed to break Lee’s lines or press the attack, and Lee was able to retreat across the Potomac with his army intact . As a result, Lincoln fired McClellan .

Although Antietam was in- conclusive in military terms, its consequences were nonetheless momentous . Great Britain and France, both on the verge of rec- ognizing the Confederacy, delayed their decision, and the South never received the diplomatic recognition and the economic aid from Europe that it desperately sought .

Antietam also gave Lincoln the opening he needed to issue the preliminary Emancipation Procla- mation, which declared that as of January 1, 1863, all slaves in states re- belling against the Union were free . In practical terms, the proclamation had little immediate impact; it freed slaves only in the Confederate states, while leaving slavery intact in the border states . Politically, however, it meant that in addition to preserving the Union, the abolition of slavery was now a declared objective of the Union war effort .

The final Emancipation Proc- lamation, issued January 1, 1863,

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