What impact did the American Civil War have on the economic, political, and social structures of the United States, and what were the major changes it caused?

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saintfester's profile pic

saintfester | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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The American Civil War changed the face of our country in innumerable ways.

Socially, the entire social structure of the South was completely redone following the end of the war in 1865. With the passage of the 13th Amendment, slavery was dead and millions of African-Americans became free. Almost overnight, slaves and their masters were now legally equal, a thought that scared and enraged many whites in the south. For the first 10 years after the Civil War, political power in the southern states was totally up for grabs as blacks began exercising their rights.

Economically the Civil War was disastrous for the U.S. The cost in terms of damage sustained to the southern infrastructure was larger than anything in American history. It also proved the superiority of the northern economic model. From that point on, the U.S. would develop into an industrial and banking superpower as both northern and southern states sought to expand their industrial base.

Politically it began a two-decade period of Radical Republican dominance in national politics. It also helped redefine the Democratic Party as the party of the angry southern white and the party of the anti-Reconstruction voter. African Americans would vote Republican up until the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

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mkoren's profile pic

mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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The Civil War had a major impact on the United States politically, socially, and economically. As a result of the Civil War, American politics changed. After the Civil War, the Republicans controlled politics in our country through Reconstruction. It was the Radical Republican plan for Reconstruction that was implemented in the South. For a period of time, some white southerners weren’t involved in the political process. Either they were prevented from voting because they were former leaders of the Confederacy or their state had not yet been readmitted to the Union. As a result of the harsh Radical Republican Reconstruction plan, many white southerners supported the Democratic Party for many years after these people were able to rejoin the political process. Many African-Americans supported the Republican Party for many years because they saw how the Republican Party helped them by ending slaving and attempting to give them some rights.

The South was also changed culturally by the Civil War. The Civil War led to the slaves being freed. The former slaves received rights that they were previously denied. For example, more African-Americans were being educated. After Reconstruction ended, when the white southerners began to gain more control in the southern states, laws were passed that legalized segregation and restricted some of the freedoms that the former slaves had received. For example, through the use of poll taxes and literacy tests, many formers slaves were not allowed to vote because they couldn’t afford the tax or they couldn’t pass the literacy test. The fight to end segregation last for nearly another 100 years.

The South was also changed economically. Before the Civil War, the South was primarily an agricultural region. With fertile soil and a mild climate, much farming was done. Cotton was a major southern export and an important cash crop. After the Civil War, there was much devastation in the South. Many farms were damaged because much of the Civil War was fought in the South. The North also destroyed everything in the path of its armies toward the end of the Civil War. As a result of Reconstruction, the South began to diversify its economy. More industries were built in the South. While farming remained important, more people had an opportunity to work in industries that were built after the Civil War ended.

The Civil War had a tremendous impact on our country. The United States was changed politically, socially, and economically as a result of the Civil War.

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