During the American Civil War (1861-1865), the existing states divided between the Union and the Confederacy. The Union, also known as the North, referred to the states that were part of the United States under President Lincoln’s government. The Union was also referred to as the “Federals” and the “Yankees.” The Union was made up of the 20 free states at the time and five Border states that supported the Union. Free states were states in which the slave trade was illegal.
The Civil War would answer two questions about the United States: if the U.S. would be a collection of divided sovereign states or of unified states with a sovereign national government and if the country would continue to be the largest slaveholding country in the world.
The war started because of the free states and slave states were uncompromising in their differences on whether the government should prohibit slavery in new territories. When Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860, he pledged to keep slavery out of the territories, which lead seven slave states to secede. These seven states formed the Confederate States of America: South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas.
The war began on April 12, 1861 when the Confederate army opened fire at Fort Sumter. Following this, four more slave states seceded and joined the Confederacy: Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina.
The Union Army was a new formation comprised mostly of state units. The Border states were essential for winning the war, acting as supply bases for when the Union Army would invade the Confederacy. The Midwest states provided soldiers, horses, funds, and training camps. The Northwest and upper Midwest states provided industrial resources, such as large quantities of munitions and supplies, as well as funds for the war.
By 1865, all of the principal Confederate armies surrendered after the Union Army captured Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Following this, the war ended and the United States began rebuilding as a unified nation free of slavery.
The term “Union” is used in the Constitution, ratified in the name of “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a perfect Union...” Using the term “Union” carried a sense of legitimacy for the non-secessionist states in contrast to the Confederate states. The Union never saw the Confederate states’ secession as legitimate and always considered them to be a part of the United States throughout their secession and the war.
The Union states had more size and strength than the South. The Union states included the Northeast, which was industrialized and urbanized, providing more vital resources and manpower than the Confederacy.
There were 20 Union states and five border states.
Union states in the West/Northwest: California, Nevada, and Oregon. Union states in the Midwest: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Union states in the Northeast: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. The border states: Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, and West Virginia.