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The American Civil War of 1861–1865 was primarily fought in the eastern states, but it was in part a fight over the West and had an impact on the western territories. (The Pacific Coast states of California and Oregon had already been admitted to the Union.) Touched off by the election of the nation's first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, the war is generally considered to have begun on July 21, 1861, when the ad hoc army of the seceding Confederacy fired on U.S. Army troops at Fort Sumter, in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina.

The Republican Party platform of 1860 said nothing about federal interference with slavery in any state. Jefferson Davis, the Confederate president, identified Republican promises to prohibit slavery in federal territories ...

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