The United States Civil War: A Time of Change and Equality for All
The United States Civil War, which lasted from 1861 to 1865, represented a time of major change around the world. This civil war that absorbed our nation during the mid 1860s not only fought for the rights of African Americans in the United States but for the rights and respects of African Americans around the globe. These times of fighting altered the lives of women living in a strongly patriarchal society by giving females a chance to live independently and successfully while their husbands were at war. American males came back from battle to find a stronger, liberated nation that was now influenced by voices in society that were muted just a few years before. No matter a person’s color, gender, background, race, or ethnicity, the United States Civil War affected every person around the globe.
If given a short background on the United States Civil War, one would learn this series of battles was based on a nation going to war over maintaining or abolishing the slavery of African Americans on U.S. soil. In the end, the Union armies of the North dramatically defeat the Confederate armies of the South, ending slavery once and for all with Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. All these things might be true but very often the roles of women, blacks, and the white men fighting are forgotten. Every person in every country
can relate to the battles Americans faced in the mid 1860s. The U. S. Civil War showed slavery would no longer be tolerated, setting a precedent around the globe of human equality. When the United States Civil War is spoken of, the real stories behind the action are often forgotten and misinterpreted.
Summarizing Drew Gilpin Faust, author of “Mothers of Invention,” when Confederate men marched off to battle, white women across the South confronted responsibilities that they were very unaccustomed to doing. Faust offers in her writings, a picture of more than a half-million women who belonged to the slaveholding families of the Confederacy during this period of crisis. Women of the plantations began to direct their husband’s farms, providing for their families, and looking over ever increasing restless slaves (Faust 6). It is argued that the biggest change in America after the Civil War was for the African Americans of our country, but at this time our nation’s women themselves got their first and legitimate taste of freedom. It can be said that the roots of the feminist movement began in 1861 with the start of this brutal war.
Quoting Dr. William Carrigan, Professor of History at Rowan University, “When men were away fighting in the Civil War, women managed the farms and took on the duties that their husbands once had. Women became individuals during the war” (Carrigan, personal interview). Women did change their lives dramatically from 1861 to 1865, assuming many chores and responsibilities that many thought females could not handle (Carrigan, personal interview). The wives of the plantation owners assumed many responsibilities and single-
handedly ran the South for four long years. Douglas Grunn, member of the 33rd New Jersey Volunteer Infantry Reenactment Group, said in a recent interview that women in the North also played a key role in the results of the Civil War.
Many women would sew flags, make bullets, act as field nurses, and administer bandages to aid their husbands and soldiers (Grunn, personal interview). Everyday field nurses would impact the war by saving the lives of soldiers who needed serious and quick medical care. The U.S. Civil War would have resulted differently if it weren’t for the many females who decided to put their efforts into the war.
Even though it was considered wrong and illegal, over 400 women fought during the Civil War (Carrigan, personal interview). Many women in the United States had strong feelings toward this revolution and fought alongside their husbands in this four-year war. However, because the Civil War fell into a time period of great prejudice and stereotype against women, any female caught fighting was ordered by law to leave the scene of battle (King). All across America women played important roles in the outcome of the war, not to mention maintaining the economy of our country while our nation’s men were away fighting.
A group of people greatly misinterpreted during the United States Civil War was the black population of America. When looking back at the Civil War, there are two sides to every battle and war story. There are the stereotyped stories that are portrayed in many movies and textbooks and then there are the
factual accounts. Anyone who digs through the facts to find the truths behind the Civil War will find African Americans were misrepresented and stereotyped in their efforts toward the war. Many people who are ignorant to the factual information see the Civil War as white man fighting white man in a glorified battle to end slavery. This couldn’t be further from the truth. There were many important colored regiments that consisted of free and educated black men fighting for the equality of their own race (Corcoran). In the four years the Civil War lasted, 230,000 black men fought on the historic battlefields of the United States. Some 37,000 of these men were killed (King). An educated black soldier heading South wrote his wife, “Though great is the present national difficulties, I look forward to a brighter day when I shall have the opportunity of seeing you in the full enjoyment of freedom” (Corcoran).
African Americans played a very important part in the outcome of the U.S. Civil War. Many times the Union was struggling to locate soldiers, so African Americans played a big role in completing the Union armies. Disease and illness depleted the Union armies so greatly if it weren’t for the addition of the colored infantries, the outcome of the civil war very well might have changed (Horwitz 14). The most famous infantry of color was the 54th infantry of Massachusetts, who rushed to the “Battle of Wagner” never seeing any action but showing they were there to back up their fellow Union soldiers (Grunn, personal interview).
Many other ethnic groups also fought in the United States Civil War even though they are very seldom talked about. Many Irish, English, Italian, and French Americans who were born in their native lands but came to America for one reason or another, ended up fighting in this war against slavery. Most of these people who immigrated from across the Atlantic Ocean found themselves fighting on the side of the Union in a meaningful war for their new nation. The most influential of these ethnic groups was the Irish Americans because they came in such great numbers. The “Potato Blight” in Ireland during the mid 1800s sent thousands of Irish fleeing Ireland seeking refuge in the Americas. With so many Irish fighting for the industrialized Union, the North had a great advantage over the South when it came to military power.
The group of Americans who had the most to lose and the least to gain from this war was the common white males of the United States. These men left their families and jobs, giving up their lives for a war that had no direct benefits for themselves. Over 500,000 white American men died on the battlefields of the Civil War because they knew that their objective was the correct one (Waston 63). The white landowners of the South were fighting to keep slavery and continue their livelihood the only way they knew how to survive. The common white men from the North were fighting for the freedoms of a group of people in a land were everyone had the right to be free.
As the Civil War concluded, white American men returned to their homes and families to find a different nation than the one they had left four long years
before. New voices began to spring up around the United States (McCay). No longer were African Americans silenced and the women who ran the country during the war were not readily willing to give up their newfound responsibility. White American males returned to find the U.S. stronger and liberated. (Horwitz 57). African Americans now challenged the jobs of the white men in the North, while the plantation owners of the South were forced to pay for the labor they once received for free. The United States was changed during the Civil War and the average white American male felt the aftermath.
One out of every four Southern white men was killed during the Civil War. No other war in American history comes close to amounting to the total number of casualties that the Civil War accumulated (McCay). In 1865, Mississippi spent 20 percent of its state budget on artificial limbs for white males (Carrigan, personal interview). These statistics indicate horrible numbers of causalities of white American males that were fighting for the rights of another race (McPherson 12). The affects on the families of both the North and South were incredible. Movies very often glorify the United States Civil War portraying the battles as the end of slavery in America but these movies don’t often show the price at which this freedom came. The stereotypical view of the Civil War is often remembered.
Many people in our country and around the world have little knowledge of what the United States was like from 1861 until 1865 (McPherson 103). Hollywood movies and conventional textbooks have warped the minds of an
innumerable amount of Americans leaving the U.S. Civil War greatly stereotyped. The fact of the matter remains the Civil War was not fought and won by white men, but by the combined efforts of a severed nation trying to regain stability. Women, African Americans, and European born Americans all played key roles during this time period. A joint struggle of all men and women no matter color or ethnicity led to the birth of our freedom-based nation. Without the efforts of the United States people as a whole, our country would be much different today.
When looking back at the straight facts of the Civil War one might begin to wonder why this brutal war that killed over 620,000 people ever took place. Families were torn apart, roles were changed all over America, and the bloodiest war in American history took place. However, when looking at the after-effects of this freedom-based war, the positives greatly outweigh the negatives (Moe 30). Many Americans were killed in the United States Civil War, but not before America became the land of the free. Freedom was granted to everyone in the United States, thus strengthening the backbone of our nation. The United States dramatically united just as all the movies and textbooks say, making this horrific war worthwhile and creating the nation we live in today.
The U.S. Civil War that began in 1861 and ended in 1865 affected the United States in many other ways aside from socially. During the Civil War the United States’ economy was extremely erratic. Prior to 1861, the South and its plantations were economically soaring. Cotton and tobacco were constantly being harvested below the Mason-Dixon Line bringing tons of money from all
over the world (Moe 167). At the same time, the northern economy was struggling to find itself. A new industrial age was beginning in the North, but this futuristic wave was not grossing nearly as much money as the plantations of the South. The whole world felt the affects of the South’s booming economy. During the war both the North and the South placed all their time and money into aiding the war effort, therefore changing the focus of our nation’s economy as a whole. When the war ended with the abolition of slavery, the Southern economy was devastated (Waston 49). It would take 100 years for the South to rebuild their economy. Plantation owners went bankrupt, leaving much of the South poor and feeble. The whole world suffered due to the South’s defeat. Because the Southern United States supplied the world with cotton and tobacco, great demands were placed on the items the South once produced an abundance of. England, France, and most of all the Southern United States, were devastated by outcome of this war.
The United States Civil War set a precedent around the world displaying that slavery would no longer be tolerated. Every person in every country of the world was affected by the outcome of this slavery-fought war. This brutal series of battles in the Americas showed the importance of freedom to the world. No matter a person’s age, race, gender, ethnicity, or location on earth, everyone can relate to the causes and effects of the civil war that plagued the U.S. for four long years. All men, women, blacks, and whites weather from the United States,
China, or Brazil from 1861 to the end of time were indirectly affected in the mid 1860s.
The United States Civil War, which began in 1861 and ended in 1865, marked a time of change around the world. History often shows this war as a glorified series of battles where white men fought for the abolition of slavery. The United States as whole fought this war and many important efforts are often forgotten. Without the strong and independent women who confronted the many responsibilities that their husbands once assumed, the war might have ended very differently. The roles of African Americans in this war are often stereotyped and overlooked. Blacks are viewed in this war as uneducated and weak; when, in fact, African Americans played a key role in winning the war for the North.
Perhaps the common white man had the most to lose during the Civil War. Men all around the country and world left their families and jobs to fight for a cause that did not directly affect them. Our nation was plagued by the deaths of over 500,000 white men who were fighting for another race. When looking at the efforts of the white man from 1861 to 1865 all the glorified movies and textbooks can be justified. Fighting during the Civil War made our country what it is today, the land of the free.
The United States Civil War was a time of great change not only for the United States but the world. Men, women, blacks and whites all played important roles in the turnout of this slavery based war. Many of these people’s efforts are often forgotten and others are greatly stereotyped and exaggerated. Every
person from 1861 to present day, no matter what age, race, ethnicity, gender, or location has been affected and has roots dating back to the U. S. Civil War. This consequential war changed the color blindness of the United States while setting a precedent of freedom around the world.