A Decade of Turbulence

A Time of Warfare

Until the mid-nineteenth century, there was peace among the great nations of Europe. However, the Crimean War, in 1854-55, was a harbinger of confrontations to come. It would be followed in 1859 by a brief conflict between France and Piedmont and the Austrian Empire, which the French-Piedmontese won. The Italian peninsula, which was divided into several kingdoms surrounding the Papal territories, was the subject of a powerful unification movement led by Giuseppe Garibaldi and Camillo Benso Cavour, the first Prime Minister of Piedmont. Then in 1861 the Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed, but the Pope opposed the creation of this new state, leading to a crisis that would last almost 10 years.

In North America, while Mexico was torn by a civil war followed by a French invasion, tensions worsened in the United States between the northern states, which were becoming increasingly industrialized, and the southern states, which were intensively developing the cotton industry, based to a great extent on the use of Black slaves. The election of abolitionist Abraham Lincoln to the presidency led the southern states to withdraw from the Union in 1861 to establish the Confederate States of America, or the Confederacy. At that point civil war became inevitable. It began with the shelling of Fort Sumter in the port of Charleston, South Carolina, and spread like wildfire. Battles on a scale unheard of in America involved hundreds of thousands of men and caused enormous losses: more than 24,000 killed and wounded at Shiloh and 38,000 at Antietam in 1862, and almost 55,000 at Gettysburg the following year.