Top 10 Events that Led to the U.S. Civil War

The US Civil War was one of the bloodiest wars in US history. There are so many things that led to this point going from the 1820s all the way to the War itself. America was growing and so was the ongoing debate over slavery. An interesting time in history for sure.
The Top Ten
1 Bleeding Kansas

This was by far the bloodiest and most violent moment before the actual Civil War. Passions were so strong that people resorted to violence, and chaos ensued. In 1855, abolitionist John Brown came to Kansas to fight the forces of slavery in response to the sacking of Lawrence by border ruffians from Missouri. Brown and his supporters killed five pro-slavery settlers in the Pottawatomie Creek Massacre in May 1856.

Violence existed in the territory as early as 1855, but the destruction of Lawrence and the Pottawatomie Creek Massacre launched a guerrilla war between pro-slavery and abolitionist forces. The violence was mostly sporadic and unorganized, yet mass feelings of terror existed in the area.

President James Buchanan tried to calm the storm by supporting the Lecompton Constitution, but it was rejected and only further divided people living in the area. In 1859, the two sides reached peace, but not before 50 people were killed. There were two applications submitted for statehood, but in the end, it was admitted as a free state.

2 Publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin

In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe published Uncle Tom's Cabin, a fictional exploration of slave life. People either loved or hated this book. Northerners felt as if their eyes had been opened to the horrors of slavery, while Southerners protested that Stowe's work was slanderous and inaccurate. They even banned the book in most of the South.

No matter what people thought of it, this book brought the issue of slavery to light and really grabbed people's attention. It moved many people who were still on the fence about slavery. This was one of, if not the most, divisive and controversial books in America's history. Uncle Tom's Cabin was actually the second-best-selling book in America in the 19th century, second only to the Bible. Its popularity added more fuel to the fire between North and South.

3 Dred Scott v. Sandford

This was arguably the worst court decision in American history. For those unfamiliar, Dred Scott was a Virginia slave who tried to sue for his freedom, arguing that since he lived in Wisconsin and Illinois for a period of time, he was automatically free and wrongly enslaved.

He lost the first case but was given a retrial and actually won his freedom. All is well, right? Not so fast. His owner appealed to the Missouri State Supreme Court, which reversed the decision and made him enslaved again. The case eventually rose to the Supreme Court and gained attention from abolitionists and politicians who wanted Dred Scott to be ruled a free man. However, the justices found that, as a slave, Dred Scott was a piece of property with no legal rights or recognition afforded to a human being.

This decision angered many people and further divided the nation. The decision was made by Roger B. Taney, who ironically enough freed the slaves he inherited. He believed the federal government had no right to end slavery altogether and thought the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional. He often challenged Lincoln's power to enforce emergency measures during the war.

4 The Compromise of 1850

By this point, the nation was already tense on the subject of slavery. Two politicians, Henry Clay and Stephen Douglas, created a compromise to try and resolve the issue entirely. Unfortunately, by trying to please everyone, you don't please anybody at all.

The compromise admitted California as a free state. To make up for the South, the rest of the territory won in the Mexican-American War was left alone, each territory deciding on its own whether to be slave or free. It also strongly reinforced the Fugitive Slave Act, a law which required Northerners to capture and return escaped slaves to the South.

While it did hold off tensions between the two sides, it did little to address the division in the United States. The new Fugitive Slave Act, by forcing non-slaveholders to participate in the institution, also led to increased polarization among centrist citizens.

5 Abraham Lincoln Elected President Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) was an American lawyer and statesman who served as the 16th president of the United States from 1861 until his assassination in 1865. Lincoln led the nation through the American Civil War and succeeded in preserving the Union, abolishing slavery,... read more

Surprisingly enough, Abraham Lincoln was elected by a considerable margin in 1860, especially considering the fact that his name was not included on many Southern ballots since they were extremely opposed to him.

It wasn't long after his election that the war began. Even still, Lincoln fought to keep the Union together, and without him, the U.S. might never have been the same. There's a reason why many consider Lincoln an all-time great President.

Lincoln wasn't even President yet, and they revolted. The hate for him was real, but he really didn't do anything wrong. It was James Buchanan. He was the real problem.

6 Kansas-Nebraska Act

The Kansas-Nebraska Act was partly why Bleeding Kansas happened to begin with. This act allowed settlers to decide via popular sovereignty whether to be a slave or free state, which overruled the Missouri Compromise.

Both states were admitted to the Union as free, but that's not to say there wasn't controversy. Kansas, in particular, became a mini war zone with people advocating for and against slavery.

Oh yes, the event which caused Bleeding Kansas. Absolute mess.

7 South Carolina Declaration of Secession South Carolina is a state in the southeastern region of the United States. The state is bordered to the north by North Carolina, to the south and west by Georgia across the Savannah River, and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean.

South Carolina had already threatened to leave the Union if Lincoln won. They became the first state to officially leave the Union on December 20, 1860. Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas all left the Union by February 1.

On February 4, delegates from all these states except Texas met in Montgomery, Alabama, to create and staff a government called the Confederate States of America. It wasn't long after that when the Confederacy attacked Fort Sumter, located off the coast of South Carolina.

8 John Brown's Raid on Harpers Ferry

John Brown was an abolitionist who supported violence against the South to end slavery and played a major role in starting the Civil War. After the Pottawatomie Massacre during Bleeding Kansas, he returned to the North and planned a bigger and more threatening attack.

In October 1859, he and 19 supporters, armed with "Beecher's Bibles," led a raid on the federal armory and arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. He attempted to capture and confiscate the arms located there and then distribute them among local slaves to begin an armed insurrection.

The rebellion was handled by a small force of U.S. Marines, led by Col. Robert E. Lee. There were casualties on both sides. Seven people in total were killed, and at least 10 more were injured. John Brown and seven of his remaining men were captured. Eventually, Brown was tried for treason against the state of Virginia, convicted, and hanged in Charles Town on December 2.

9 Missouri Compromise

After the Louisiana Purchase, Congress was forced to establish a policy to guide the expansion of slavery into the new western territory. Missouri's application for statehood as a slave state sparked a bitter national debate. In addition to the deeper moral issue posed by the growth of slavery, the addition of pro-slavery Missouri legislators would give the pro-slavery faction a Congressional majority.

Under this compromise, Missouri was admitted as a slave state, but Maine was admitted as a free state. It also established the boundary between North and South, so any territory was slave or free based on its location relative to the line.

10 Nat Turner’s Rebellion

In August 1831, a slave named Nat Turner incited an uprising that spread through several plantations in southern Virginia. Turner and approximately seventy others killed around sixty white people. The deployment of militia infantry and artillery suppressed the rebellion after just two days of terror.

In the end, fifty-five slaves, including Turner, were tried and executed for their role in the insurrection. Two hundred more were lynched by frenzied mobs. Slave uprisings weren't uncommon in the American South, but Nat Turner's rebellion was the bloodiest and arguably most significant. Virginia lawmakers reacted to the insurrection by overturning the few civil rights slaves and free Black people had at the time. Education was prohibited, and the right to assemble was severely limited.

This rebellion didn't accomplish much on its own, but it did open some eyes and got people thinking at least.

The Contenders
11 Charles Sumner Attacked by Preston Brooks on the U.S. Senate Floor
12 The Mexican-American War Ends
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