Synopsis by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.
The Cause -- 1861 opens Ken Burns' epic series on the Civil War, detailing the multiple factors that led the North and South to war in 1861. In 1860, four million African-Americans were held in bondage in the South, serving as forced labor to harvest cotton on vast plantations. The institution of slavery, with its harsh treatment of African-Americans by their owners, led to an abolitionist movement in the North. Harriet Beecher Stowe and William Lloyd Garrison called for an end to slavery in the United States. The Dred Scott case, "Bleeding Kansas," and Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin increased North/South tensions over the slavery issue, but it was radical John Brown who added the final spark. Although Brown's attack on Harper's Ferry in 1859 failed to start a slave revolt, he became an idealized symbol to the abolitionists. The incident, however, led to more distrust in the South. When Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860, Southern states began to secede from the Union. On April 12, 1861, Confederate troops fired on Fort Sumter, beginning the Civil War. When Union forces retreated following the Battle of First Bull Run on July 21, hopes for a brief war evaporated.
Civil-War [US], Confederate, political-tension, slavery, Union-Army