What was the impact of the Civil War on the home front and battlefront, and how did total war influence the war's outcome?

Quick answer:

The Civil War affected the home front by creating the need for the draft which conscripted able-bodied men for the war effort. Many areas of the South were affected acutely by the war as the region was occupied by the armies of both sides. The war also increased the need for taxation in both the Union and the Confederacy.

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The greatest legacy of the Civil War for the home front of both sides was the creation of the draft. For many on both sides, the draft was controversial. In the South, the rich could pay a substitute to serve in their place while plantation owners who owned many slaves were exempt from the draft. New York experienced massive draft riots in 1863 as people protested being drafted to fight.

Another legacy of the war was the need for increased taxation. The Lincoln administration enacted the nation's first income tax. Both sides issued paper money to pay the massive armies—in the Confederacy, this money was worthless by war's end, thus leading to the financial ruin of the region's most prominent families. Food shortages caused by the destruction of infrastructure as well as the Union blockade plagued the Southern home front by the end of the war.

One legacy of the war that affected Southerners more than Northerners was the toll that armies took on the Confederacy. Armies of both sides took whatever they needed from the civilian population. Slaves escaped to the Northern armies—it soon became official Union policy to treat these escaped slaves as contraband and put them to work in the Union camps. There was also the direct destruction of property in campaigns, such as those waged by William T. Sherman in Georgia and the Carolinas as well as David Hunter's campaign in the Shenandoah Valley in 1864. The Army of Northern Virginia invaded the North in 1862 and 1863, but the damage was not as widespread as the total war waged by Sherman and Hunter. Another legacy of the war was that deserters from both sides often turned to looting to stay alive. This lawlessness in the aftermath of campaigns would lead to hardship for the civilian populations who considered themselves far away from the actual fighting.

The North's willingness to use total war brought the war home to many Southerners. Those who stayed behind became convinced that the war was lost, and they wrote letters to the front lines encouraging the fighting men to leave the army. The end of the war saw so much destruction that no one was willing to resume the concept of secession. Many prosperous Southern families were embittered by the destruction of the war. These divisions would take generations to heal.

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