Beginnings of the Civil War: 1858–1861


Abraham Lincoln

Republican presidential candidate who was elected the 16th president of the United States on November 7, 1860

Bleeding Kansas

name used to describe the violent conflict in the Kansas Territory between proslavery and antislavery forces

border states

five slave states (Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, and West Virginia) that remained part of the Union

Confederate States of America

nation formed in 1861 by 11 Southern states that were pro-slavery

Constitutional Union Party

breakaway party made up of former Whigs from the Republican party who sought to resolve sectional differences by upholding the Constitution

Democratic Party

long-standing proslavery party based in the South

Dred Scott decision

controversial 1857 Supreme Court ruling that determined slaves could not be citizens and that prior residence in a free state did not entitle an enslaved individual to freedom

electoral college

system by which the president of the United States is selected by electors from each state and the District of Columbia. Each state has the same number of electoral votes as it has representatives and senators in Congress; the District of Columbia has three.

Fort Sumter

Union fort on a man-made island located at the entrance to the harbor in Charleston, South Carolina

Jefferson Davis

U.S. senator who was elected president of the Confederate States of America in 1861

John Brown

militant abolitionist who, in 1859, organized a violent and bloody raid against a federal arsenal in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Kansas-Nebraska Act

passed in 1854, an act that established the borders of the Kansas and Nebraska territories, gave the territories popular sovereignty to decide the issue of slavery, and repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820


statement of principles and policies adopted by a political party

popular sovereignty

political doctrine that the power of government lies in the hands of the people governed and that a government is legitimate only if it has the consent of the governed

Republican Party

mostly antislavery political party partly evolved from the Whig Party in the 1850s

Richmond, Virginia

capital of the Confederate States of America


withdrawal of Confederate states from the Union

sectional divide

division between North and South over the question of slavery and whether to extend it to the territories

Southern Democratic Party

offshoot of the long-standing Democratic Party and made up of pro-slavery leaders

Stephen A. Douglas

senator from Illinois who publicly debated the issue of slavery and its extension to the territories

two-party system

political system consisting of two major parties usually equal in strength. One of the two parties wins a majority in an election.

Whig Party

evolution of the National Republican Party and conservative political opponents of the Democratic-Republicans, formed for the 1834 election