Aftermath and Impacts of the Civil War

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How did the Civil War affect social and economic life in the North and South?

Socially, the war created fraternal groups of veterans for both sides of the war. The war also created a series of military cemeteries. The aftermath of the war saw African Americans elevated to American citizenship. Economically, the war benefited the North through mass production and infrastructure spending, and it destroyed the South as many prominent Southern cities were destroyed by rampaging armies.

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Socially, the war was quite dynamic for both sides. African Americans in the South were freed after the war, and by the end of Reconstruction, they had gained citizenship. Many African Americans in the South faced relentless persecution due to state and local statutes that restricted suffrage and unfair laws...

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Socially, the war was quite dynamic for both sides. African Americans in the South were freed after the war, and by the end of Reconstruction, they had gained citizenship. Many African Americans in the South faced relentless persecution due to state and local statutes that restricted suffrage and unfair laws targeting African American movement. Many turned to sharecropping to prevent starvation; however, this only led to generational debt and poverty.

The war also created fraternal orders of veterans from both sides who shared memories of the war. Union veterans lobbied Congress for veterans' pensions. Both sides moved to commemorate the war with statues and public cemeteries. The South moved to write a revisionist history of the antebellum period and the war itself by creating the "Lost Cause" myth. Recently, many historians have reexamined histories of the war written in the immediate aftermath and have been more objective in reporting the war's causes.

The war also changed the North and South economically. The North became even more powerful economically since the same methods of mass producing goods for soldiers could also be applied to the civilian sector after the war. Railroad and telegraph use skyrocketed after the war. The groundwork for Gilded Age capitalism was laid during the Civil War. Conversely, the South's economy was destroyed by the war. All of the wealth that slaveholders had tied up in chattel property was wiped away by the thirteenth amendment. Many Southern cities such as Charleston and Atlanta were destroyed by the war. The Confederate dollar was worthless, wiping out many investments. Many poor whites and blacks alike turned to sharecropping to supply labor in a land with arable acres but a lack of means to work them. The states provided for many disabled veterans—a large portion of Georgia's state budget went to supply artificial limbs for veterans in the immediate aftermath of the war. Investors from the North came down and tried to set up textile mills and iron production plants in what Henry Grady called the "New South;" these attempts were not as successful as Northern industries, which were more established and had access to an increasing pool of unskilled labor from Europe.

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The American Civil War and its social impact

With the passage of the 13th Amendment, slavery was abolished, and 4 million slaves gained freedom. They now shared equal status with their previous owners and could determine their destiny. Racial prejudice, however, increased rather than decreased. Extreme right wing organizations, such as the Ku Klux Klan, came to the fore to maintain white supremacist control. Racial segregation replaced slavery in the South, and Jim Crow laws were enacted to enforce such segregation. This, in turn, led to the creation and organization of civil rights groups to fight white racism and oppression. 

The Freedmen's Bureau was established by Congress in 1865 to help former black slaves and poor whites in the South. The organization was, however, shut down in 1872 due to pressure from white Southerners. Many former slaves received educational opportunities, and schools were established for them to advance and better their prospects. Because so many men went off to fight, women had more responsibilities, and they gained greater respect than they previously enjoyed. Their hard work and commitment ensured that they were trusted to perform more tasks. After the war, women could fill positions which had been reserved for men.

The economic effects of the War 

The economic consequences of the American Civil War (1861–1865) are mostly the result of Northern control of the federal government both during the war and for several decades after. The North could not move forward with its national economic policy objectives because of Southern opposition and the strong position the Southern states held in the Senate. Once the Southern states seceded and the legislators resigned their seats in Congress, the lawmakers from the North began enacting their delayed agenda for economic reconstruction. The North’s victory in the war ensured their control of the federal government and the implementation of their economic policies.

Four pieces of legislation were passed during the Civil War that was essential to the economic development after the conflagration. The Morrill Tariff of 1861 raised tariffs, ending more than thirty years of declining rates. Funding for three transcontinental railroads was enacted in the Transcontinental Railroad Act. The Morrill Land Grant Act (1862) established agricultural and mechanical colleges. Each state that remained in the Union was allotted 30,000 acres of land for each member of Congress. The National Bank Act of 1863 created a set of standards for the banking system. Finally, the Homestead Act (1862) provided 160 Acres (a quarter section) in western territories free to anyone who settled on it for five years and declared their intention to become citizens. Each of these policies profoundly shaped the development of the American economy for the rest of the century.

Another Civil War development with significant implications for the nation's economy was the wartime devastation of the South. The war had been mostly fought there, and much of its wealth was destroyed. Confederate bonds and currency were now worthless, depriving the region of a great proportion of its wealth. Emancipation of the slaves also destroyed a large part of the South's capital, as well as creating the need for a new labor system. The war had destroyed virtually all the banks in the South. There was little capital available for financial reconstruction.

The South remained largely agricultural, producing staple crops for northern factories or export. Economic recovery in the South was slow. Cotton production decreased dramatically. Once production increased, however, the price fell. Tobacco, the other major cash crop in the South, followed a similar pattern. The sharecropping system that replaced slavery had few incentives for soil conservation, innovation, or the cultivation of new crops. The region remained poor and grew slowly in population.

The South failed to attract many immigrants after the war because of limited economic opportunities. Its reliance on staple crop agriculture and its slowly growing population did not create demand for expanded infrastructure, the former the factor driving the rapid expansion of the national economy outside the former Confederate states. For at least two generations after the Civil War, the South remained predominantly agricultural and largely outside the industrial expansion of the national economy. 

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