What impact did the United States Civil War have on the lives of southerners?
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The Civil War, fought between the United States and the newly formed Confederate States of America from 1861-1865 eradicated what Southerners often referred to as "our way of life". Wealthy plantation families, who comprised a relatively small percentage of the overall Southern population, lost the most as their plantations and fields were often burned by enemy troops, their slaves were no longer bound to them through "ownership" and because of the successful Northern blockade enacted by Abraham Lincoln at the war's outset, consumer essentials were few and far between. Even less affluent Southerners felt the enormous lifestyle change as the years progressed because of the sudden increase in competition for jobs from the newly independent black population. Many former plantation owners, and even small farmers turned to sharecropping as a way to keep their farms running in the absence of slave labor
The South began the war at a tremendous disadvantage in terms of transportation and manufacturing capacity, having just a fraction of the railroad mileage and factories that the North enjoyed. The South relied on trade to survive--mostly Southern cotton to England and other trading partners in exchange for everyhing else. The blockade had made it nearly impossible for Southerners to acquire the things they needed. Going to cities after the war in search of employment proved futile as well; many of them, such as Richmond, Virginia, had been destroyed by the North, and aside from that, there were fewer jobs and more competition than there had ever been before.
Free blacks found themselves in the unusual position of being treated almost as immigrants might be; they were outsiders of sorts, not considered quite equal to the whites, and they engendered resentment among people struggling for resources. It wasn't long, of course, before Southerners began putting in place laws, rules and norms designed to keep blacks out of mainstream society. By 1900, the South was well on its way to a legacy of violence against innocent blacks, particularly black men, that would not be confronted until the middle of the century. One writer summed it up fairly succinctly when observing that "The Civil War destroyed secessionism, slavery, and the ideal of the Old South. . . ."
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