What physical destruction resulted from the Civil War?

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mrkirschner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The physical damage of the Civil War is estimated to total over $1.4 billion. That estimate is based on the value of money in 1865. The destruction caused by the conflict between the states is hard to fathom. Cities that were bombarded with artillery fire during siege campaigns were reduced to rubble. These cities were primarily in the south with Charleston, Atlanta, Richmond, and Columbia being prime examples.

The war also had a dramatic environmental impact that would take decades to heal. Farmlands were converted to battlefields and were physically damaged by the onslaught. Some of the farmlands were deemed important as memorials or cemeteries and were never again used for agriculture. Antietam, Gettysburg, and Arlington are great cases for this point. Deforestation was another environmental concern as artillery fire would commonly destroy forested areas. Forest fires were common during the Civil War as cannon fire would inadvertently set the woods ablaze.

The Civil War also destroyed much of the infrastructure of the South. Railroad lines, water systems, and roads were often deliberate targets for destruction. The demolition of infrastructure added to the costs of rebuilding the South.


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mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Civil War was very destructive. Since most of the fighting occurred in the Confederacy, the South was hit very hard. While there was some destruction in the North, it was far greater in the South. Toward the end of the Civil War, the Union used a method called total war. With this technique, the Union soldiers destroyed everything in their path as they marched throughout the South, moving from Atlanta to Savannah, and then heading northeast through South Carolina and North Carolina.

As a result of the fighting, much land was destroyed. The South experienced food shortages because so much farmland was destroyed. Livestock was destroyed, as were homes and other buildings. Even fences were ripped out of the ground. The Union soldiers also destroyed miles and miles of train track, impacting local transportation. The physical destruction of the South would lead to the rebuilding of the South, which was known as Reconstruction.