The Gathering Storm Exhibit for the Classroom

Industrial North, Agrarian South 

Beyond the moral dilemma caused by slavery, the country's two regions also faced a deep economic divide.  In the agrarian South, slaves accounted for more than one fourth of the population.  While the North had a strong agrarian backbone marked by improved farmland and mechanized techniques, the region also had a booming manufacture-based industrial economy.  In 1860, of the 128,300 industrial establishments nationwide, only 18,026 were in the South.

 shoe factory 

The Frederick Jones Shoe Factory of Plymouth, Massachusetts, shown in this 1850s engraving, was, by 1860, one of 1,354 shoe manufactories in Massachusetts.  Across New England, the shoe industry employed more than 62,000 people that year.


new orleans

New Orleans, Louisiana, was the largest city in the South before the Civil War.  This 1851 lithograph by John Bachmann provides a birds-eye view of the Crescent City and the Mississippi River.  Cotton was king, accounting for 60 percent of the value of all exports.

shoe makers

Four American shoe makers, holding the tools of their trade and their product, pose for a daguerreotype portrait in the 1850s.



This 1866 image of field hands on a plantation on St. Helena Island, South Carolina, depicts a scene common on plantations throughout the South during more than two centuries of slavery.

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The Peculiar Institution   

Slavery arrived in North America along side the Spanish and English colonists of the 17th and 18th centuries, with an estimated 645,000 Africans imported during the more than 250 years the institution was legal.  But slavery never existed without controversy. The British colony of Georgia actually banned slavery from 1735 to 1750, although it remained legal in the other 12 colonies. After the American Revolution, northern states one by one passed emancipation laws, and the sectional divide began to open. The  number of slaves compared to number of free blacks varied greatly from state to state in the southern states. In 1860, for example, both Virginia and Mississippi had in excess of 400,000 slaves, but the Virginia population also included more than 58,000 free blacks, as opposed to only 773 in Mississippi. 

slave boat 

These Africans were illegally smuggled into the United States at Key West, Florida, on the slave ship Wildfire on April 30, 1860, less than a year before the start of the Civil War.  This Harper's Weekly engraving was made from a daguerreotype photograph that has been lost.



Edward James Roye was born into a prominent African-American family in Ohio in 1815, two years before the American Colonization Society was organized to resettle African-Americans in Liberia.  Roye, pictured here in an 1850s daguerreotype, immigrated to Liberia in 1846 and became president in 1870, only to be deposed and brutally murdered in 1871.


Massachusetts native William Lloyd Garrison became one of the North's most prominent abolitionists after starting the newspaper The Liberator in 1831 and helping found the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833.


slave cabins  

African-American slaves sit next to their cabins on a plantation near Rockville, South Carolina, in this image taken in 1859 or 1860 by Charleston photographers Osborn & Durbec.

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Bleeding Kansas   

The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 established Kansas and Nebraska as territories, and set the stage for “Bleeding Kansas” when it decreed that residents would decide whether or not slavery would be allowed within their borders through public referendum. Settlers from North and South poured into Kansas, hoping to swell the numbers on their side of the debate.  Passions were enflamed and violence raged.  In the fall of 1855, abolitionist John Brown came to Kansas to fight the forces of slavery He and his supporters killed five pro-slavery settlers in the so-called Pottawatomie Massacre in Kansas in May, 1856. That August, Brown led a group of men into battle with about 400 pro-slavery men in the Battle of Osawatomie. The violence subsided in late 1856, after Brown departed, and the warring parties forged a fragile peace, but not before more than 50 settlers had been killed.

Filmore Cartoon 

Former U.S. President Millard Fillmore ran for a non-consecutive second term in 1856 as a level-headed third party candidate who could mediate between the abolitionists and pro-slavery forces.  In this cartoon, Fillmore stands between the armed and hostile Republican candidate John C. Fremont (left) and the club-wielding Democrat James Buchanan.



Henry Ward Beecher was a Congregationalist preacher and abolitionist from Brooklyn who raised money to buy rifles for northerners willing to settle in Kansas and Nebraska and fight against slavery.  The rifles his funds purchased became known as "Beecher's Bibles." 


Sen. Charles Sumner, an anti-slavery legislator from Massachusetts, was attacked on the Senate floor in May 1856 by Rep. Preston Brooks, a cane-wielding South Carolinian.  Sumner had vilified Brooks's uncle, Sen. Andrew Butler of South Carolina, who, along with Illinois Sen. Stephen A. Douglas, co-authored the Kansas-Nebraska Act.


sumner cartoon 

This drawing depicts Brooks just before the attack on Sumner.  In a Senate address, Sumner had poked fun at Butler's stroke-impaired speech and physical mannerisms, prompting his nephew to beat the northerner until his cane broke.  Sumner was so badly injured he wasn't able to return to the Senate for three years.

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Insurrection at Harpers Ferry 

Abolitionist John Brown supported violent action against the South to end slavery and played a major role in starting the Civil War. After  the Pottawatomie Massacre, Brown returned to the North and plotted a far more threatening act. In October 1859, he and 19 supporters, armed with “Beecher’s Bibles,” led a raid on the federal armory and arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, in an effort to capture and confiscate the arms located there, distribute them among local slaves and begin armed insurrection. A small force of U.S. Marines, led by Col. Robert E. Lee, put down the uprising. There were casualties on both sides; seven people were killed and at least 10 more were injured before Brown and seven of his remaining men were captured.  On October 27, Brown was tried for treason against the state of Virginia, convicted and hanged in Charles Town on December 2. In the five weeks before his execution, Brown entertained the press in his jail cell, turned the episode into a media circus, gained maximum publicity for his cause and further heightening regional tensions. 

 harpers ferry 

In 1801, the United States Armory and Arsenal opened at Harper's Ferry, Virginia, located at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers.  The facility, situated in the center of this 1865 image, produced more than 600,000 muskets, rifles and pistols during the next 60 years, and became the target of John Brown's Raid in 1859.


engine house

Learning of the raid, local citizens and militia soon pinned Brown and his men inside the engine house, seen in the center of this wartime photograph.  The structure has subsequently come to be known as John Brown's Fort.

 marines engraving

A special artist for Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper made this on-the-spot illustration of U.S. Marines under the command of Col. Robert E. Lee storming the engine house on October 18, 1859.  Inside they captured a wounded Brown and freed his hostages.


 john brown

This engraving of Brown was published on the cover of the November 19, 1859 issue of Leslie's.  It was made from a photograph taken a year earlier by New York photographer Martin Lawrence.

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The Election of 1860  

In 1860, Abraham Lincoln completed his rise from relative obscurity by capturing the Republican Party's nomination for president.  His skill as an orator had captivated the North, while his views on slavery had infuriated the South.  Lincoln's path to the White House was cleared by the discordant Democratic Party, whose northern and southern factions could not agree on a candidate.  Stephen A. Douglas ran as the candidate of the Northern Democrats and John C. Breckenridge ran as the candidate of the Southern Democrats, while a third party candidate, John Bell, further complicated matters.  Fewer than four in 10 Americans voted for Abraham Lincoln in November 1860 -- he wasn't even on the ballot in nine Southern states -- but it was enough to win.  Lincoln carried eighteen of thirty-three states, sweeping Northern population centers, and won 180 of the 303 electoral votes.  His election outraged the South and triggered the Secession Winter.

lincoln c.u.

Lincoln was photographed at Brady's New York studio on the same day of his famous Cooper Union speech, during his first visit to New York City in February 1860.  Both the speech and the photo would help propel him to the presidency.


 lincoln hamlin 

Campaign buttons and banners, such as this one for Lincoln, often included imagery, either a photograph or an engraving.


John C. Breckenridge, the candidate for the Southern Democrats, carried the South and was second in electoral votes, but finished third in the popular vote with 18.1 percent.


capitol inaug

When Lincoln took the oath of office as 16th president of the United States, below the unfinished dome of the Capitol building, on March 4, 1861, the seven states of the Deep South had already seceded.

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On December 20, 1860, six weeks after Lincoln's election as president, South Carolina's leaders met in the banquet and concert hall of the St. Andrew's Society and voted to secede from the United States.  Thereafter, the hall became known as Secession Hall.  President James Buchanan declared the act illegal, as did President-elect Lincoln, but it did not quell the tide.  Mississippi was next to secede, on January 9, 1861, followed the next day by Florida and by Alabama the day after that.  By February 1, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas had also seceded.  But the states of the upper south remained in the Union, with Virginians voting two-to-one against secession just eight days before the bombardment of Fort Sumter.

secesh hall

This circa 1860 photograph shows Charleston's Secession Hall and the Circular Church.  Both buildings were destroyed in a December 1861 fire.


interior secesh hall

Another circa 1860 photograph, possibly by Charleston photographer George S. Cook, shows the interior of Secession Hall.


Alexander Hamilton Stephens, shown here in a striking post-war photograph with an African-American man holding his crutches, was vice president of the Confederate States of America.


davis inauguration

In this engraving from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, Jefferson Davis, president-elect of the new southern confederacy, addresses the crowd outside the Exchange Hotel in Montgomery, Alabama on the night of February 16, 1861, two days before his inauguration.

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A Problem in Charleston Harbor    

Six days after South Carolina seceded, and under cover of darkness, Maj. Robert Anderson transferred his small garrison from the coastal Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter, located on an island in Charleston Harbor, to secure that important bastion for the Union.  In 1861, the newly established Confederate government focused its attention on the fort, demanding Anderson's withdrawal.  Despite dwindling supplies, Anderson refused to leave.  A northern steamship, the Star of the West, attempted to deliver reinforcements and supplies, but was shelled and repulsed by cadets from The Citadel.  Tensions continued to heighten as winter became spring.  After his inauguration, Lincoln decided to resupply the fort, despite Southern insistence on withdrawal, including a looming deadline.  When the Confederate demands went unmet, shore batteries opened fire and the shelling of Fort Sumter began on the morning of April 12, 1861.  Outgunned and outmanned, Anderson surrendered after 34 hours of bombardment that left the fort a burning hulk.  The Civil War had begun.

anderson and staff

In the midst of the crisis in February, 1861, Charleston photographer George S. Cook photographed Anderson and his officers inside Fort Sumter.  His images sold by the thousands, and one was converted to an engraving used on the cover of Harper's Weekly.



Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard, commander of Confederate forces in Charleston, gave the order to bombard the fort.

moultrie before

This remarkable matched pair of 'before-and-after' photographs by Osborn & Durbec of Charleston show Confederate Fort Moultrie and a distant Fort Sumter in August 1860, before the bombardment, and, at right, in April 1861, just after.


moultrie after

In this view, taken the following year from almost the exact same spot, sand bags and a more desolate interior show a fort being prepared for war.  At right, note the cannon turned toward distant Fort Sumter.

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