Some people say that the Civil War is the most significant event in American history. What is your opinion?Some people say that the Civil War is the most significant event in American history. What...

Some people say that the Civil War is the most significant event in American history. What is your opinion?

Some people say that the Civil War is the most significant event in American history. What is your opinion?

Expert Answers
brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think historians can get into trouble when they start prioritizing the most important events in our history.  Everything is debatable in history, as is the importance of any single event.  That being said, the Civil War is a fine candidate for such a description, if ever there was one in our history.

I call it a "watershed event" in my classes (said that very thing today, actually).  That is to say, after the Civil War, the country had been permanently changed and headed in a brand new direction.  It was a defining moment.  It was when slavery of one kind ended (actual slavery), and slavery of a different kind began (sharecropping, tenant farming).  It rapidly advanced our technology and concentrated wealth among industrialists.  It expanded railroads, physically destroyed major swaths of the South.

Lastly, I would say it also began the point at which we moved away from loyalty towards our individual states and became more loyal towards our overall nation, whether that was the United States or the Confederacy, we no longer considered outselves merely "Virginians" or "New Yorkers".  In my oinion, if it wasn't for the war itself, much of this wouldn't have happened, or wouldn't have happened until much later.

dbello eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This topic is debated and argued by prominent historians year after year. As an avid reader of history I can say with confidence that for every solid argument supporting the Civil War as the most significant event in American history, there are just as many that identify another event as the most significant. However, there is ONE piece of evidence with regard to the Civil War that holds a significant truth about the United States...without which the United States could not be the United States. According to the Civil War historian/ author Shelby Foote, anything he read about the United States before 1865 always read...'the United States are'...after the Civil War any printed material read...'the United States is'. As a historian I needed to see Shelby Foote's hypothesis for myself...well after literally hundreds of documents I am here to say the simplicity of Foote's observation speaks volumes with regard to the significance that the Civil War had upon this the simple statements between the 'United States are' and the 'United States is' was an attempt to  clarify a that aspired to the concept of 'We The People' but would prove far more difficult to attain, even if in the best of  intentions.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In my opinion, the Civil War was not as important as some other events in our history.

I do understand that the Civil War was really important because it ended slavery.  But A) I think slavery would have ended anyway and B) ending slavery didn't end the oppression of black people in the US.

I think that the most important event in our history was our Industrial Revolution.  This changed life in America in so many ways that its importance is hard to overstate.  This revolution changed our economy (made for less farming, more manufacturing, bigger companies, more people working for other people) and our society (more people living in cities, more social stratification).

The Civil War did not change the whole nation's economy and society.  The Industrial Revolution did.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Personally, I don't like ranking historical events. I do think this was one of the first significant events in our history. It was a real test of our nation's strength. We barely made it out as one nation. If things had gone a little farther in the other direction, we might not have.
lrwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think you will get lots of different answers to this one. You could argue that the Revolutionary War has to be considered the most important event in American history. If it had not occurred there would have been no other events.