How did the Civil War change the U.S. socially and technologically?
From 1861–1865, the United States engaged in a brutal Civil War that would determine the future of the nation. When the war came to an end, the changes to the country would be significant. The United States had discovered the value of many new technologies as tools of war and began to see their value in times of peace as well. Socially, it was determined that the country would remain united, but there would be great challenges as the social landscape of the country, particularly in the South, changed.
Technologically, the Civil War further proved the significance of the railroad. One of the major reasons for the success of the Union was the fact that the North had thousands more miles of railroad track than the South. The ability of the Union to move troops and supplies quickly proved the value of railroads and led to greater development of railroads following the Civil War.
Another factor that gave the North an advantage during the Civil War was the fact that the North had greater industrialization. The North could produce necessary war materials quicker than the South, which meant that Union soldiers were well-supplied on the battlefield. Industries that were significant during the Civil War, like weapons manufacturing, textile production, and iron production, grew and saw improvement in production ability during the Civil War. The growth of industrialization would continue in the years after the Civil War.
The telegraph is another example of a technological change that had its value realized during the Civil War. Although the telegraph was invented before the Civil War, it became more common in the United States during and after the Civil War. President Lincoln was very concerned with being aware of what was happening on the battlefield. Lincoln's desire to understand situations as they happened led to the training of over 1,000 new telegraph operators and the construction of over 4,000 miles of telegraph lines. This expansion was utilized to increase communication in the United States in the years after the Civil War.
Socially speaking, there were also a great number of changes that occurred with the end of the Civil War. The most notable social change came with the abolishing of slavery through the Thirteenth Amendment. The South had been largely reliant upon slavery and slave labor since the colonial period. With the end of slavery, a new struggle to determine social status in the South began.
In the Reconstruction Era after the Civil War, African Americans had gained their freedom. This however, did not mean immediate equality. Many African Americans who had formerly been enslaved did not have skills or an education to improve their status economically. In many cases, former slaves often ended up doing the same work in almost the same conditions as they had under slavery. Systems like sharecropping and tenant farming developed to ensure that free African Americans would be stuck in an unescapable cycle of debt in which they would be forced to continue working for wealthy, white plantation owners.
African American men earned the right to vote with the Fifteenth Amendment but faced further opposition created through poll taxes, literacy tests, and physical intimidation from groups like the KKK. These laws specifically targeted African Americans to keep them from voting.
The Civil War brought many changes to the United States. Technological advancements made in the years before the Civil War had their value demonstrated. Industries in high demand during the war continued to advance. Socially, the American South underwent stated changes, but for years looked very similar to the Antebellum period. Many of the changes brought about by the Civil War had an impact that was felt for years to come.
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