The Story: Emancipation

The North and the South continued to clash over slavery and other political issues throughout the 1850s, and the conflict soon boiled over into civil war. In 1860, eleven Southern states officially seceded from the Union to form the Confederate States of America, and the first shots of the Civil War were fired in April 1861.

"Early Friday morning, April 12, 1861, I took my master to Wilmington. On the way we stopped and took in another man. As we neared Wilmington we could hear the booming of cannons, for the rebels had fired upon Ft. Sumter, and we could hear the echo of the guns as it came down the Cape Fear river and was borne out on the broad bosom of the Atlantic. My master, in great excitement, slapped his hands together, and with an oath, said, "its come." "


William H. Robinson, Wilmington, N.C.

Despite the unequal distribution of population and industrial power between the North and South, Southern slave owners felt they would quickly defeat the Union. The Union states had about 21 million people, while the Confederate states had approximately 9 million. Over three and a half million of those Southerners were slaves, leaving a much smaller recruiting pool for the Confederate Army. The North also held the advantage in railroads and number of factories, and had command of an already-established army and navy. However, the Confederacy was optimistic about a quick defeat and return to life with its "peculiar institution" of slavery.