Aftermath and Impacts of the Civil War

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What where the consequences of the Civil War for the South physically, socially, politically, and economically?

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Physically, many of the cities of the South were destroyed, as were many plantations. This was sometimes as a result of battles and sometimes, as in the case of General Sherman's march through Georgia, the result of deliberate policy meant to break the will of the rebels. A city such as Savannah, Georgia, which was not destroyed, still gives a flavor of the Old South with its houses and churches built around squares.

Economically, much of the South had a difficult time recovering from the war. States such as Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama remain near the bottom of the United States economy. Even before the war, however, the South was lagging economically; the South possessed very few factories and was based on an agricultural economy dependent on slave labor. As a result, it was not able to produce the wealth of the industrial North. Southern leaders banked on either a very short war or backing by the British, as they knew they lacked the capacity to wage a long conflict independently. When the end came, the effects of losing the war, such as physical destruction and shattered psyches, exacerbated the problems posed by economic recuperation. 

Socially, the freeing of the slaves and the attempts during Reconstruction to offer blacks political and economic benefits threatened to upend the South's racist culture. However, the rise of the Ku Klux Klan and a changing political climate in Washington allowed the white population to quickly regain dominance and oppress blacks freely. Blacks stayed at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder and were sharply segregated from whites. Supreme Court decisions, such as Plessy v. Ferguson, legally enshrined the doctrine of "separate but equal," although, in reality, life was racially separate and unequal. The South also developed a nostalgic culture that romanticized the antebellum world, including slavery, the Confederacy, and Southern courage during the Civil War.

Politically, the South became determined to uphold white supremacy and voted Democrat for 100 years, that is, until President Johnson supported voting rights for blacks. Democratic presidents such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt were hesitant to directly endorse black rights for fear of alienating white Southern voters.

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There were many consequences for the South as a result of the Civil War.  One consequence was economic.  The South was devastated economically by the Civil War.  Most of the fighting was done in the South.  The land was ruined in many places.  Thus, the South had to be rebuilt.  While the war was devastating to the South economically, there was a silver lining. As a result of the rebuilding of the South, the South had more industries develop.  Instead of being almost completely agricultural, after the Civil War, there was more diversification economically in the region.

Another consequence of the Civil War was the physical damage done to the region.  Since most of the fighting was in South, many buildings were destroyed.  Lots of farmland was also damaged.  As a result of this, when the South was rebuilt, there were more changes to the region. Railroads and roads expanded in the South, and new buildings were constructed.  Just as with the economic consequences, these gave a silver lining physically for the South. 

Socially, there were many changes.  Slaves were freed and given rights.  There was an attempt to change the white controlled social order in the South.  For a while, these changes had positive results for the former slaves.  However, after Reconstruction ended, many of the gains they made were reversed, and conditions worsened.

The South was affected politically also. For a period of time, many white southerners were not allowed to vote or hold political office. Once Reconstruction ended, this changed. As a result many white southerners voted Democrat because they were furious with the changes imposed on the region by the Radical Republicans.  The South was greatly impacted by the Civil War in many ways.

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