A month after Abraham Lincoln was elected president South Carolina voted to secede from the Union. They believed Lincoln to be an abolitionist. Shortly afterward, seven more pro-slavery states joined South Carolina to form the Confederate States of America. Then on April 12, 1861, the chances for a peaceful settlement ended when the Confederate forces bombarded Fort Sumter, South Carolina. Initially, the Confederate forces dominated in the fierce fighting that occurred on land. In order to slow down their progress President Lincoln implemented the Anaconda Plan. The plan blockaded American shores preventing the South from exporting their primary cash crop, cotton. At the same time it prevented the South from importing guns, ammunition, and other important supplies.
The first battle to be fought was Bull Run, Virginia on July 21,1861. At the First Bull Run both sides came to the realization that the war was going to last a long time. The following year General Robert E. Lee took command of the Army of Northern Virginia. Just four months later, Lee led his troops to victory at the Second Bull Run, outside Manassas, Virginia. This victory gave Lee and Confederate President Jefferson Davis the confidence they needed to invade the North. On September 6, 1862, Lee's troops crossed the border of Maryland on their way to southern Pennsylvania. They were quickly met by Union General George McClellan and 76,000 men who were moving parallel to their forces. At the time, McClellan and his men were all that kept the Confederate forces from invading the capital of Washington D.C.
A few days later, by accident a Union soldier stumbled upon a copy of Lee's orders that had been dropped during the march. However, McClellan did not take advantage of the discovery because he believed that the information was erroneous. He especially did not believe the information disclosed that Lee's army had only 40,000 men. Before long, McCellan's caution became long delays. As a result, the South took advantage of the time to develop defensive positions along Antietam Creek. At dawn, the Union infantry under the command of General Joseph Hooker attacked the Confederate left flank. For the next two hours they exchanged artillery barrages and gunfire without any clear victor. A short time later, the Union attacked General James Longstreet and his Confederate troops that were defending a sunken road. By the end of the battle the road would be forever known as “Bloody Lane.” Once more the Union forces were repulsed. Finally, a huge battle erupted over the control of a small bridge that stood in the way of Lee's advance. Miraculously, the Union Army held the bridge. Now unable to advance northward, on September 18, Lee turned his troops around and headed back to Virginia.
The Battle of Antietam was the bloodiest day in American military history. During one single day of battle more than 23,000 Americans were either wounded or killed. There were more casualties on that day than the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Mexican American War, and the Spanish American War combined. The Confederate loss could not have come at a better time for the Union forces because it discouraged European countries from offering their support to the Confederacy. The victory provided President Lincoln the opportunity to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln made it clear that the primary goal of the war now was to free the slaves. After the issuing of the Proclamation an additional 180,000 African Americans enlisted on the Union side.