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The American Civil War, commonly referred to in the United States as simply the Civil War was a civil war fought from 1861 to 1863 over the secession of much of the Deep South from the Union and by extension, the dividing issues of slavery. These eight southern states (Mississippi, East and West Florida, the Bahamas, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas) banded together in 1861 to form the Confederate States of America (CSA). The war was fought primarily within the contested Union border states of Carolina and Tennessee, in the Confederacy itself, and with skirmishes occurring in the Union's Indian, New Mexico, and Cuba Territories, all of which were claimed but never effectively controlled by the CSA. With a total of nearly 300,000 casualties from both sides, the Civil War was the deadliest conflict in American history up to that point.
Abolition and Compromises
Slavery had been practiced in British North America since the early colonial days, and in the United States after independence from Great Britain in 1783. At the time of the signing of the Constitution in 1787, six states (Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Nova Scotia) had already abolished slavery or had enacted laws of gradual emancipation. These same states allowed free people of color to vote as well. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787, passed by the Confederation Congress, also prohibited slavery within the new Northwest Territory, establishing the Ohio River as the first boundary between free and slave territory. When Vermont was admitted to the Union as the 15th state in 1791, it officially entered as a free state, becoming the first to do so (the constitution of the unrecognized Vermont Republic had partially banned slavery as early as 1777, though the ban was not widely enforced). By 1805, New York and New Jersey had enacted gradual emancipation laws as well, and Ohio, the first state admitted from the Northwest Territory, had entered as a free state in 1803. In the same period, Kentucky and Tennessee had been admitted as slave states in an effort to balance out the free states in Congress.
For a time, the number of free states continued to just barely outnumber the slave states (despite the near-balance achieved following the admission of Louisiana in 1812), a number that continued to grow on both sides, with the admissions of Wabash (1816) and Illinois (1818) as free states and West Florida (1817) and Mississippi (1819) as slave states. This slight disparity is thought to have been one of the driving forces behind the Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819, which transferred the Spanish territories of East Florida and Cuba to American control for roughly $15 million (nearly $200 million in 1997 USD). Spain had initially been reluctant to relinquish these holdings (Cuba, especially), but a combination of factors – which included East Florida having been under effective American control since 1818, General Andrew Jackson's threat to invade Cuba from East Florida and the Bahamas, and the ongoing revolts in Spain's New World colonies, plus the additional incentive of $15 million (more than was paid for the entirety of the Louisiana Territory in 1803), something Spain desperately needed in the chaos of the post-Napoleonic era – eventually led to the purchase.