The Civil War was unquestionably the most disastrous catastrophe in American history. There were more casualties in this conflict, ranging hundreds of thousands, than in all previous American wars. The conflict between free and enslaved person states erupted over whether or not the federal government possessed the authority to outlaw slavery in regions that were yet to attain statehood. Following the War’s end, the United States came to represent a true embodiment of the concept of national unity. The Civil War was a watershed moment in American history as a country that had been split between slavery and freedom was reconciled, ultimately proving that democracy works.
Although numerous factors, including political and cultural divisions, had a role in sparking the American Civil War, slave ownership was the primary reason for the conflict. The issue of slavery drove a wedge between the United states’ Northern and Southern regions. Slaves were used to tending the farms in the South. The practice was seen as morally repugnant and condemned by most individuals in the North, often called abolitionists (Kate, 2014). They advocated for outlawing slavery over the whole of the United States. A growing number of individuals have pushed the view that slavery was immoral as a result of the efforts of abolitionists like Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman (Kate, 2014). The affluent plantation owners of the South began to worry that their comfortable lifestyle was in jeopardy with the growing calls against slavery.
Similarly, States’ rights were a major factor contributing to the Civil War. Since the Constitution was drafted, the balance of power between the federal government and the states was a source of contention. It was thought in the South that federal authorities were encroaching on state sovereignty (Civil War, 2019). The Southern states sought to reassert their sovereignty over the Union to nullify federal regulations they deemed unjust, most notably those that restricted the South’s ability to own and transport enslaved people.
Every time a new state joined the Union, there was a change in the power dynamic between the South and the North. According to Kate (2014), this occurred as the country progressed westward. The southern states started to worry that they could jeopardize all of their liberties if they lost their dominance. Every new state became a site of power struggles between the two factions. The South desired to expand servitude into the western areas, while the North desired to maintain them exclusively available to white workers. During this time, the recently established Republican Party, whose adherents were vehemently resistant to the westward spread of slave ownership into new states, rose to popularity (Kate, 2014). The pact was finalized in 1860 when Republican Abraham Lincoln was elected president. Given that not one electoral vote came from a Southern state, his triumph was a resounding message of the South’s complete and utter lack of relevance.
However, the South saw the newly elected president as opposed to slavery and in support of Northern concerns. They felt they had no voice in politics; thus, they decided to secede, a political action that eventually led to the Civil War. Seven states seceded from the United States between the day of the election and the coronation of President Lincoln (Library of Congress, 2015). As a result, the South seized federal facilities, such as forts throughout the area, providing a basis for conflict. Under General Twigg’s leadership, the country’s army fell in Texas, which was a startling incident (Kate, 2014). No shots were fired in that confrontation, but it prepared the scene for the deadliest War in the history of the United States.
The Impact of the Civil War on U.S, History and Modern Society
The North’s triumph in the Civil War was a crucial moment in global history since it demonstrated the viability of democracy. Several kings in Europe had naively thought that America was about to implode when the fighting started in 1861. They contended that democracy was unstable, chaotic, and delicate to hold any value. Even before it ended, President Lincoln understood the historical importance of the conflict. In his speech delivered at Gettysburg, he stated that the American Civil Conflict was a trial for democratic values and that the battle would decide the future of participatory democracy not just in the United States but also across the rest of the globe. Thus, not only did the Civil War unite Americans, it showed the rest of the world that true democracy is achievable.
The Civil War set up the U.S. as a unified political entity and prompted the emancipation of millions of slaves across the country. It built a stronger and increasingly centralized national government and paved the way for America’s development as an international superpower (Library of Congress, 2015). Although liberation did not result in inclusivity for formerly enslaved people, the War precipitated massive constitutional reforms that reshaped the fabric of American society and served as a springboard for the fight for fair human and civil rights (Uh.edu., 2003). However, history has been reluctant to recognize how the Civil War changed how Americans thought about and used natural resources around the country.
As soldiers moved throughout the country, artillery strikes, defensive structures, and camps destroyed agricultural land and wood resources. Armed scavenging teams destroyed rural communities and introduced illnesses that later killed animals in the 19th and 20th centuries (Thomas III et al., 2007). The U.S. army’s control of the old Confederacy was accompanied by industrial growth under a northern paradigm. The massive transfer of the Southern woodlands and Midwestern lands to railroad and lumber firms was made possible by legislation enacted both throughout and soon after the War (Thomas III et al., 2007). The environment was skinned for its economic worth and nothing more, thanks to the freeing of additional regions for farming and logging, giving, Native Americans, ranchers, farmers, and hunters fewer alternatives for sustenance. The subsequent eviction of less wealthy Americans from rural areas hastened urbanization and created a cheap labour force for expanding industrial businesses.
Importantly, racial tensions in the U. S. remain the strongest persistent legacy of the American Civil War. Whereas the country was already racially split prior to 1861, the War deepened this division. Notwithstanding reconstruction, there are still racial disparities, and discussions concerning Confederate memorials and flags continue to center on the War’s history (Kate, 2014). Scholars of American history recognize the importance of enslavement to the Confederacy’s establishment. In the early wake of the War, revolutionary progressives attempted to eradicate racism in the South via schooling, democratization, and even military action. According to Kate (2014), White southerners protested violently and prevailed. After slavery was abolished, they instituted a new discriminatory system known as segregation and protected it from federal intrusion under the guise of states’ rights. Segregation was officially ended in the 1960s due to a coalition of Civil Rights campaigners and liberal legislators, although it left lasting wounds.
Black people and other minorities today seem to view the federal government favourably since they helped to fight slavery and preserve their rights and freedoms. Contrarily, most white people believe that the country’s expansion following the Civil War has been un-American, an unnecessary step on the wrong path, and a detriment to personal freedom. They contend that although the War did solve the American Revolution’s core mistake of tolerating slavery, given that individuals were liberated, they should be allowed to determine their destiny.
To most Americans, the Civil War is the defining moment in their country’s history. The United States was founded on the revolution’s principles of freedom and equality, but its character was forged in the catastrophes of the Civil War. Two major issues the revolution had not been able to settle were settled throughout the conflict. The primary issue was whether the U.S. was to be an undivided country with an independent federal system or a dissolvable confederation of independent states. The second question was whether or not America, which was founded on the principle of equality and freedom for all, would continue with its existence as the country that held the most enslaved persons on the planet. Ultimately, the success of the North in the War resolved these two problems by unifying Americans and ending the system of slavery, explaining why the War was a key turning point in U.S. history.
Civil War. (2019). History of the American Civil War! Civilwar.com.
Kate. (2014). Civil War – Best of History Web Sites. Best of History Web Sites.
Library of Congress. (2015). Civil War and Reconstruction, 1861-1877 | U.S. History Primary Source Timeline | Classroom Materials at the Library of Congress | The Library of Congress.
Thomas III, W. G., Barnes, B. M., Szuba, T. (2007). The Countryside Transformed: The Eastern Shore of Virginia, the Pennsylvania Railroad, and the Creation of a Modern Landscape. Southern Spaces.
Uh.edu. (2003). America’s Reconstruction: People and Politics After the Civil War. Uh.edu.