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The major impact of the war on the South (other than the end of slavery) was that it left white Southerners feeling bitter toward the North and the United States. This feeling continued during, and was made worse by, the period of Reconstruction that followed the war.
As far as the land goes, the land itself was not significantly affected. What was affected was the economy. This was because the war had not only freed the slaves but had also destroyed much of the South's economy by destroying railroad tracks, barns, fences, ports and homes.
In my mind, the critical legacy of the Civil War was to bring about the recognition of different narratives in America. The Southern experience for Americans, particularly African- Americans, was different from their Northern counterparts. The post Civil War reality for African- Americans was one steeped in discrimination through black codes and a racially stratified existence. White Southerners felt frustrated and resentment at the outcome of the war, particularly at the economic exploitation of the South at the hands of the North. On another level, industrialists of the North did make deals with former plantation owners, so that some level of power was felt by the former wealthy of the South. The effect of the Civil War was then to create different experiences about what it means to be an "American," for both people of color and White Americans.
The affects of the Civil War on the south were devastating. As the Northern armies drove south crops were burned, mills were destroyed, and houses were burned. Without the excess labor that the slaves provided, the south was unable to rebuild in a timely manner. In addition, the political unrest and fear of the changes as well as the displacement of the slaves led to starvation, increased crime, and the victimization of former property owners by carpetbaggers.
The people in the south were afraid and angry. They had lost a cause they believed in. Their land and way of life had been destroyed. Rebel sons and fathers had died in the war leaving behind mostly women and children. The south was forced to secede to the Union and was kept under military rule.
African Americans continued to suffer. Lynch mobs and militia organized and hung and shot former slaves. There was a fear that coveted Whites who now saw the freed slaves as the enemy ready to pounce.
The economy of the south was in a bad state. The southern money system had little to no value. Jobs were scare and blacks and whites flocked towards the north in hopes of finding work. Those who did not go south headed west in hope of a better life.
The South was affected in many ways including politically, geographically, economically, and socially. Most of the battles were fought in the South which caused a devasting loss of land, homes, and businesses. Many towns and communities were totally destroyed. Economically, the South was also in ruins. Prosperous landowners lost everything, and industry was non existant. Restructuring took many years but was never on par with the North in terms of manufacturing and economic growth. Drastic social changes also took place. Slavery was abolished forever, and the antebellum social class with it. Of course, these changes were not viewed positively by many southerners who tried to reinforce the old social structure with intimidation and fear through the Ku Klux Klan. These changes impact the South even in the present time. Race relations have improved but strife is still evident in many areas. Although there is manufacturing and industry in the South today, it has never caught up with the rest of the country.
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