Abraham Lincoln was elected President in November, 1860. By the time of his inaugural address on March 4, 1861, a number of Southern states had seceded from the Union to become the Confederate States of America. President Lincoln told people that day that he would do anything to get those states back. With the Confederacy wanting no more to do with the Union, they would bomb the Union fort at Fort Sumter, SC on April 12, 1861, starting the War Between the States.
In the next four years, US coins would go through some changes.
Loss of US Mints
When the Confederacy was formed, three US mints were no longer used for US Coins: Charlotte, NC, Dahlonega, GA and New Orleans. This would only leave Philadelphia and San Francisco run by the Union. This hurt the Union as Charlotte and Dahlonega produced gold coins and New Orleans produced both silver and gold coins. With no intercontinental railroad yet, it would be tough to get silver and gold from San Francisco.
When the Indian Cent began being produced in 1859, it was composed of 88% copper and 12% nickel. With nickel being need for the war effort, the cent was made thinner and would contain 95% copper beginning in 1864 and would be for all cents up to 1982.
At the same time the Indian Cent was made thinner, a Two Cent Piece was introduced bigger than the cent, but also made of 95% copper. The Two Cent introduced a new motto that would appear on most future coins, In God We Trust. After the Civil War, the two cent would become less popular and in less than 10 years, it would disappear.
Three Cent Nickel
With silver and gold being scarce during the Civil War, people would hoard coins, hurting the economy even more. Congress tried to overcome this by producing paper money. The smallest of these notes was 3 cents because all denominations above two cents were either silver or gold coins. In an effort to stop making 3 cent notes, Congress issued a new Three Cent Nickel in 1865. It was approved one month before the end of the Civil War. As a result, the US mint produce a lot less Three Cent Silver pieces and would stop making them in 1873. When the Shield Nickel was released in 1866, 3 cent coins were being used less and less and after 1881, mintages of the Three Cent Nickel would only be in the thousands and tens of thousands. The last year of the Three Cent Nickel would be 1889.
After the Civil War
The country went through a tough period with the assassination of President Lincoln and the South’s Reconstruction Period. Charlotte and Dahlonega mints would never reopen and New Orleans wouldn’t be able to reopen until 1879.
With nickel no longer needed for the war, a 5 cent nickel was introduced in 1866. As stated previously, the two and three cent pieces would eventually go away, but served their purposes when the country needed them most.