Aftermath and Impacts of the Civil War

Start Free Trial

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?

The American Civil War impacted the economic structures of the United States by revealing the importance of the railroad. It impacted the political structures by solidifying the role of the Republican party in American politics, lobbying Congress for veteran's pensions, and making constitutional amendments. It impacted the social structures by ending slavery and launching the South into the Jim Crow era.

Expert Answers

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

The Civil War was perhaps the greatest change agent in US history. Economically, the war opened the eyes of everyone to the importance of the railroad. Railroads helped the North win the war by allowing it to move men and supplies more efficiently than the South. After the war, railroad...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

The Civil War was perhaps the greatest change agent in US history. Economically, the war opened the eyes of everyone to the importance of the railroad. Railroads helped the North win the war by allowing it to move men and supplies more efficiently than the South. After the war, railroad production in the United States skyrocketed. The war also saw the end of the cotton kingdom in the South as the slaves who worked the fields gained their independence.

While the South would still continue to grow cotton, the region's economy diversified with industry after the war. The war also popularized mass production techniques. The same technologies that allowed the North to field over one million men in uniform were used to mass produce clothing and preserved food after the war for the public at large.

Politically, the war established the Republican party as a permanent fixture in American politics. The freed slaves associated Republicans with emancipation and the veterans of the Civil War equated Republicans with the Union. The Union veterans also successfully lobbied Congress for veterans' pensions—this was quite a big step for a government that largely stayed out of the private sector and did not give money directly to citizens. The end of the war saw new constitutional amendments giving African Americans their freedom, citizenship, and suffrage.

The end of the war also saw the beginning and end of military Reconstruction for the South as Washington tried to prevent a new civil war. The end of the war also saw the first impeachment as Congress and President Johnson disagreed on how the future of the United States should look. The Democratic Party would be the party of Southerners who resented the Union and any attempt at creating civil rights.

Socially, the end of the war saw the rise of the Jim Crow era in the South where African Americans were persecuted by local statutes as well as customs. The South would be hit with crippling poverty as poor white citizens and African Americans alike turned to sharecropping. This would lead to generational poverty that would not end until WWII.

The end of the war also saw a rise in the creation of national cemeteries as people struggled to make sense of the war. Some Southerners tried to remember the antebellum days as predominantly good; this would lead to the Civil War being remembered as "The Lost Cause" in histories written by Southerners immediately after the war.

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

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.

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

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.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team