✎✎✎ Civil War Changes

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Civil War Changes



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What system of labor should replace slavery? What would be the status of the former slaves? Central to Reconstruction was the effort of former slaves to breathe full meaning into their newly acquired freedom, and to claim their rights as citizens. Rather than passive victims of the actions of others, African Americans were active agents in shaping Reconstruction. After rejecting the Reconstruction plan of President Andrew Johnson, the Republican Congress enacted laws and Constitutional amendments that empowered the federal government to enforce the principle of equal rights, and gave black Southerners the right to vote and hold office. The new Southern governments confronted violent opposition from the Ku Klux Klan and similar groups. In time, the North abandoned its commitment to protect the rights of the former slaves, Reconstruction came to an end, and white supremacy was restored throughout the South.

For much of this century, Reconstruction was widely viewed as an era of corruption and misgovernment, supposedly caused by allowing blacks to take part in politics. This interpretation helped to justify the South's system of racial segregation and denying the vote to blacks, which survived into the s. Today, as a result of extensive new research and profound changes in American race relations, historians view Reconstruction far more favorably, as a time of genuine progress for former slaves and the South as a whole.

Only about a tenth of the southern population lived in urban areas. Free states attracted the vast majority of the waves of European immigration through the midth century. Fully seven-eighths of foreign immigrants settled in free states. As a consequence, the population of the states that stayed in the Union was approximately 23 million as compared to a population of 9 million in the states of the Confederacy. This translated directly into the Union having 3. About 75 percent of Southern males fought the war, as compared to about half of Northern men. The Southern lag in industrial development did not result from any inherent economic disadvantages.

There was great wealth in the South, but it was primarily tied up in the slave economy. In , the economic value of slaves in the United States exceeded the invested value of all of the nation's railroads, factories, and banks combined. On the eve of the Civil War, cotton prices were at an all-time high. The Confederate leaders were confident that the importance of cotton on the world market, particularly in England and France, would provide the South with the diplomatic and military assistance they needed for victory. As both the North and the South mobilized for war, the relative strengths and weaknesses of the "free market" and the "slave labor" economic systems became increasingly clear - particularly in their ability to support and sustain a war economy.

The Union's industrial and economic capacity soared during the war as the North continued its rapid industrialization to suppress the rebellion. In the South, a smaller industrial base, fewer rail lines, and an agricultural economy based upon slave labor made mobilization of resources more difficult. Nearly every sector of the Union economy witnessed increased production. Mechanization of farming allowed a single farmer growing crops such as corn or wheat to plant, harvest, and process much more than was possible when hand and animal power were the only available tools. By , a threshing machine could thresh 12 times as much grain per hour as could six men. This mechanization became even more important as many farmers left home to enlist in the Union military.

Those remaining behind could continue to manage the farm through the use of labor-saving devices like reapers and horse-drawn planters. Northern transportation industries boomed during the conflict as well--particularly railroads. The North's larger number of tracks and better ability to construct and move parts gave it a distinct advantage over the South. Union forces moving south or west to fight often rode to battle on trains traveling on freshly lain tracks. In fact, as Northern forces traveled further south to fight and occupy the Confederacy, the War Department created the United States Military Railroads, designed to build rails to carry troops and supplies as well as operating captured Southern rail lines and equipment.

By war's end, it was the world's largest railroad system. Other Northern industries--weapons manufacturing, leather goods, iron production, textiles--grew and improved as the war progressed. The same was not true in the South. The twin disadvantages of a smaller industrial economy and having so much of the war fought in the South hampered Confederate growth and development. Southern farmers including cotton growers were hampered in their ability to sell their goods overseas due to Union naval blockades.

Union invasions into the South resulted in the capture of Southern transportation and manufacturing facilities. The Southern economy, while shaky throughout the war, grew markedly worse in its later years. The Emancipation Proclamation both enraged the South with its promise of freedom for their slaves, and threatened the very existence of its primary labor source. The economy continued to suffer during as Union armies battered Confederate troops in the eastern and western theaters. In the East, General Ulysses S. Grant threw men and materiel at Robert E. Lee's depleted and increasingly desperate army. Grant took advantage of railroad lines and new, improved steamships to move his soldiers and had a seemingly endless supply of troops, supplies, weapons, and materials to dedicate to crushing Lee's often ill-fed, ill-clad, and undermanned army.

Though the campaign eventually fell into a stalemate at Petersburg, Virginia, Grant could afford to, as he stated, "fight it out along this line if it takes all summer," while Lee could not. In the western theater of the war, William T. Sherman's Union troops laid waste to much of the Georgia countryside during the Atlanta Campaign and the subsequent "March to the Sea. His soldiers destroyed rail lines and captured the major economic and transportation hub of Atlanta and the critical seaport of Savannah.

When Sherman famously telegraphed Lincoln in December , "I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the city of Savannah," his gift included "about twenty-five thousand bales of cotton. An already troubled Confederate economy simply could not absorb such massive losses and survive. As the war progressed, substantial and far-reaching changes were taking place far from the battle lines.

When Lincoln became president in March , he faced a divided nation, but also a Congress dominated by Republicans after many Southern Democratic members left to join the Confederacy. Lincoln and congressional Republicans seized this opportunity to enact several pieces of legislation that had languished in Congress for years due to strong Southern opposition. Many of these bills set the course for the United States to emerge by war's end as a nation with enormous economic potential and poised for a massive and rapid westward expansion. When Southerners left Congress, the war actually provided the North with an opportunity southerners from Congress, the war actually provided the North with an opportunity to establish and dominate America's industrial and economic future.

Foremost among these bills was the Homestead Act, a popular measure regularly debated in Congress since the s. This law provided free title to up to acres of undeveloped federal land outside the 13 original colonies to anyone willing to live on and cultivate it. Southerners had for years opposed the idea because it would severely hamper any opportunity to expand slavery into the areas where settlement would be likely. In the North, "free soilers" had clamored for the bill for decades, while abolitionists viewed it as a means to populate the West with small farmers vehemently opposed to slavery's expansion.

They never had equal rights and they were never free. National Geographic Magazine Civil War Changes, p. Pro-slavery Civil War Changes had little prospect of Civil War Changes any future national Civil War Changes.