Border states (American Civil War)

In the context of the American Civil War, the border states were slave states that had not declared a secession from the Union (the ones that did so later joined the Confederacy). Four slave states had never declared a secession: Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri. Four others did not declare secession until after the Battle of Fort Sumter: Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia—after which, they were less frequently called "border states". Also included as a border state during the war is West Virginia, which broke away from Virginia and became a new state in the Union in 1863.

In all the border states there was a wide consensus against military coercion of the Confederacy. When Abraham Lincoln called for troops to march south to recapture Fort Sumter and other national possessions, southern Unionists were dismayed, and secessionists in Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia were successful in getting those states to also declare independence from the U.S. and to join the Confederate States of America.

In Kentucky and Missouri, there were both pro-Confederate and pro-Union governments. West Virginia was formed in 1862-63 from those northwestern counties of Virginia which had remained loyal to the Union and set up a loyalist ("restored") state government of Virginia. Though every slave state except South Carolina contributed some white troops to the Union as well as the Confederate side, the split was most severe in these border states, with men from the same family often fighting on opposite sides. About 170,000 Border state men fought in the Union army and 86,000 in the Confederate army

Besides formal combat between regular armies, the border region witnessed large-scale guerrilla warfare and violent raids, feuds and assassinations. Violence was especially severe in eastern Kentucky and western Missouri. The single bloodiest episode was the Lawrence Massacre in Kansas in 1863.

With geographic, social, political, and economic connection to both the North and the South, the border states were critical to the outcome of the war, and still delineate the cultural border that separates the North from the South. Reconstruction, as directed by Congress, did not apply to the border states because they never seceded from the Union. They did undergo their own process of readjustment and political realignment, which somewhat resembled the reconstruction of the ex-Confederate states. After 1880 most adopted the Jim Crow system of segregation and second-class citizenship for blacks, although they were still legally allowed to vote.

Lincoln's 1863 Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to the border states. Of the states that were exempted from the Proclamation, Maryland (1864), Missouri (1865), Tennessee (1865), and West Virginia (1865) prohibited slavery before the war ended. However, in Delaware and Kentucky, slavery continued to be legal (affecting about 40,000 slaves) until December 1865, when the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified.

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