Secession and Civil War

Start Free Trial

What did the Civil War accomplish?

The Civil War accomplished the abolition of slavery. It also led to a strengthening of the Union. For good measure, it put the United States on the road to becoming an economic superpower by expanding the country's industrial base.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The fraught issue of slavery had plagued the United States for many years. All kinds of political compromises had been tried, but none of them had done anything more than kick the can down the road instead of dealing with the problem head-on. As a result, there was a kind of inevitability that the so-called peculiar institution would only be dealt with by some kind of conflict.

Though Abraham Lincoln initially saw the Civil War as being concerned with saving the Union, he came to realize that it presented an opportunity to lay the specter of slavery to rest once and for all.

With the victory of the North, slavery's days were numbered. Less than a few months after the War, the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified, and slavery in the United States was finally abolished. As the North had emerged victorious from the conflict, its politicians were in a position to dictate terms to the weakened South. They didn't have to worry about any backlash against slavery's abolition. This would never have happened had it not been for the Civil War.

The eminent historian Shelby Foote once said that the Civil War turned the United States from an "are" into an "is". What he meant by this was that prior to the War, people the United States was always referred to as a collection of individual states. So people would say "The United States are this", or "The United States are that", and so on. But after the War, the nation was much more of a Union than it had been before, and so from now on, people would say that "The United States is..."

One of the factors behind the North's victory in the Civil War was its rapidly industrializing economy. In the wake of the Civil War, the process of industrialization advanced even further, creating the foundations for the American economy to be the world's biggest and most powerful. Industrialization had helped the North win the War; now it would help America expand the peace.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The American Civil War, which raged from 1861 to 1865, pitted the United States against several secessionist states united under the name "Confederate States of America." Despite the significant bloodshed and loss of life, several things were directly accomplished by the conflict. Two of the most important were the eradication of slavery and the legal settlement of the future status of the United States.

President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863 freed slaves in southern states through executive fiat. This was legally possible only under Lincoln's inherent war powers. The advancing Union armies put the proclamation into effect and this, in turn, inspired the adoption of the 13th Amendment three years later.

The question of the permanence of the American Union was also decided. In the post-war case of Texas vs. White, which arose out of monetary claims linked to the Civil War, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the United States could not be dissolved and individual states had no right to secession.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Civil War settled the question of whether unhappy states could leave the union with a resounding no. The North's win bound the country together as one indissoluble union, and this helped pave the way for it to acquire superpower status in the twentieth century.

The war also ended slavery in this country. The 13th Amendment was not ratified until December 6, 1865, a few months after the end of the war, but it was passed during the war, and it became clear in 1863 that the North's victory would free the slaves. 

As a result of the demand for guns, uniforms, cannons, and other war supplies on a massive scale, the North accelerated its industrialization. After the war, these factories turned to peacetime production, helping to make the U.S. a very wealthy nation.

On the downside, the war helped accomplish both socially sanctioned and institutionalized racism. Some southerners resisted Reconstruction, and this gave rise to organizations like the Ku Klux Klan, lynchings, and rigid legal segregation. Black people did not fully win legal equal rights until the 1960s. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Civil War accomplished a few things. There was a great deal of discussion about slavery in our country prior to the Civil War. Some people wanted to keep slavery in existence. Other people want to prevent slavery from spreading but to allow it to remain where it already existed. Other people wanted to ban slavery completely. This Civil War resolved the slavery question. Slavery was abolished after the Civil War ended.

Another question resolved by the Civil War was the issue of states’ rights. The South believed the states should have the power to nullify federal laws if those laws hurt a state. The North believed that federal laws should take priority over state laws. The Civil War made it clear that federal laws take priority over state laws.

The Civil War also helped Americans to realize there was a better way to resolve their differences. With over 600,000 dead and over one million casualties, Americans realized that fighting each other was not a good way to resolve the differences that existed in our country.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team