The war which pitted North against South also pitted Union and Confederacy citizens against their neighbors. Not all southerners supported the seccession, and not all northerners were gung-ho about preserving the Union by force. Today Lincoln is regarded as possibly our greatest president: in 1863 he expected to lose the upcoming election, on account of the increasingly unpopular war. There were numerous antiwar and peace movements active throughout the Civil War, driven by motives noble and otherwise. Little known today, they played a major role in the conflict.
Numerous Christian sects in both the north and south sought conscientous objector status. In the North, the Shakers and Quakers sought blanket deferrments for their draft-age men, but most cases were resolved individually, usually by allowing the objector to furnish needed supplies or to perform non-combatant duty like hospital service. While some pacificists objected to both these alternatives, seeing them as indirect support for the bloodshed, most were willing to compromise. Southern pacificists did not fare so well. Manpower shortages and attacks by what was seen as an invading army meant there was little sympathy for those who didn't want to join in the conflict. The South's first Conscription Act, passed in April 1862, made no provision for religious objectors; the October 1862 revision allowed objectors to furnish a substitute or to pay $500. As the war progressed, both money and substitutes became increasingly scarce, the government was forced to abandon the attempt. In war-torn areas like the Shenandoah Valley, conscientious objectors were forced to flee, or went into hiding with their families to avoid attacks by neighbors who saw them as cowards or traitors.
Recently memorialized in The Gangs of New York, "draft riots" broke out not only in New York but throughout the Union. The Civil War was the first in which soldiers were drafted; a draftee whose number came up in the lottery could get out of service by paying a commutation fee, or by hiring someone else to fight in his stead. Unsurprisingly, this meant that a disproportionate number of draftees came from among the poor. The anti-draft riots which ensued frequently took on nasty racist overtones, as free Blacks were attacked and lynched for "getting us into this mess." (We should keep in mind that Abraham Lincoln's vision of "Free Blacks" was by no means "Free and Equal." The Great Emancipator loved minstrel shows and "Darky Jokes," stated publicly on several occasions that Negroes were morally and mentally inferior to Whites, and entertained ideas of "returning" America's post-slavery Blacks to Africa).
Despite this, Confederate "Peace Societies" grew increasingly popular. Initially dominated by Unionists who had opposed seccession, their ranks swelled as conditions worsened and Confederate morale declined. These societies encouraged desertion, aided spies and escaped prisoners, and supplied Union authorities with information about Confederate strength and troop movements. Some did so out of moral convictions, others because Union troops promised them exemption from being drafted into the Federal Army and a share of Confederate estates confiscated after the war. These societies were particularly strong in areas where few slaves were held: many of the poor farmers there saw no reason why they should fight and die to preserve the plantation lifestyle.
Northern Democrats were generally more amenable to peaceful solutions than their Republican brethren. Some denounced them as treacherous "copperheads" who sought to poison the war effort; in response, they took to wearing copper pennies as identifying badges. While most Democrats supported the war to preserve the Union, a strong and vocal minority accused the Republicans of forcing the South into seccession by misguided efforts to promote "racial equality." This movement was strongest in the Midwest, an area which had traditionally distrusted the Republican-dominated Northeast and which feared a massive influx of free Blacks after slavery's end. They sought a peaceful, negotiated compromise with the South, even if this involved recognizing the Confederacy as a separate country. With Sherman's successful, albeit brutal "march to the sea" and the Confederate surrender, they were finally discredited as "defeatists;" indeed, many accused them of prolonging the war by their "disloyalty."
In the Civil War's aftermath, particularly after Lincoln's assassination, calls for mercy were drowned out by demands for vengeance. The freed slaves soon found themselves at the mercy of "Black Codes" and "Jim Crow laws" … while the "Reconstruction" further exacerbated the divide between North and South. Still, the lessons of war's horror were not lost. Julia Ward Howe became famous as an abolitionist and as author of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic." After seeing the devastation wrought by the Civil War, she became a noted pacifist and worked to reconcile Union and Confederate veterans. Her proposal for a "Mother's Peace Day" inspired Woodrow Wilson to memorialize "Mother's Day" as a holiday.