Lincoln fought, not on the moral question of slavery, but on what he may have thought was the surer legal ground, that a state or states had no right to secede from the Union. It was a time when the discovery and unification of new nationalities was, as we have seen, the chief interest of statesmen, though Lincoln's view may seem to outsiders to be baseless in law. As the eleven states persisted in their secession, they were, as rebels, disfranchised, and the liberation of all slaves in the United States was enacted by the Federal government in 1865 by the necessary majorities.
The war lasted four years (1861-65) and was in many respects a foretaste of the World War-in the size of its armies, their lack of training, the frequent badness of the generalship, and the heaviness of casualties. And it bore some resemblance to the World War, and to the old Civil War in England, in the position of the combatants. The South, full of natural soldiers and well led, had all the opening successes, but it was outnumbered by two to one, blockaded, outlasted in money, and finally worn down as the North discovered capable leaders. The war cost a million lives;
there were two thousand battles and skirmishes, the cost in money and loss of trade was gigantic. The South emerged ruined. The negro slaves on the plantations remained quiet even when their masters were all away.
When his cause seemed quite hopeless and his followers completely unwilling to go on-mutinying against conscription-Lincoln never yielded in his calm will to win, and he completed this attitude by the generous policy he was prepared to adopt when the war was won. Foreign aristocracies sympathised with the South, but the English working people saw only the issue of slavery, and gave the North their moral support, just as they had supported Garibaldi. The Northern blockade cut off supplies of cotton and there was severe unemployment in Lancashire.
The Confederate States, as the seceding states called themselves, were well served by Lee-as great a soldier as Wellington or Marlborough and as great a gentleman as Haig-and by " Stonewall " Jackson, whose nickname, suggestive of the unenterprising cricketer, is a very misleading epithet for a daring and skilful soldier. The North was remarkably slow, even allowing for its Anglo-Saxon origin, in finding Grant and Sherman, who played their winning cards well.
The principal battles were fought over a comparatively small area between the rival capitals, Washington and Richmond. Lee's last drive at the North was held up in the terrible battle of Gettysburg in 1863, but more important was the capture at the same time of Vicksburg, far away on the Mississippi, by the Federal forces, who had invaded the South from New Orleans. They now had the South between two claws. Next year Sherman marched across Georgia, destroying everything deliberately. The Southern resistance was collapsing during 1864. Lee surrended in 1865. He could have carried on guerilla war for years, but was too wise. Unfortunately, Lincoln was assassinated by a fanatic, and his moderating influence was conspicuously absent during the next years. However, his great fame may perhaps be partly due to his escaping the ordeal of the reconstruction period.