Was The Civil War Worth It

.. gest civil disturbance of the nineteenth century. A three-day riot erupted as an out of control mob, mainly Irishmen, burned draft records and the armory, plundered the houses of the rich and looted. Blacks, hated as economic competitors and the cause of the war, became special targets, eventually more than 100 people died.(399) What had been thought to be a quick and decisive war over unionization slowly began to take the shape of a long drawn out war over slavery where thousands would die. In the fall of 1862 Lincoln began a slow shift in the wars purpose linking emancipation with military necessity.

In reply to his non-action on slavery Lincoln stated: If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I would do it by freeing some and leaving other alone, I would also do that. What I do about Slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps save this Union.(400) Finally on January 1, 1863 Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, it was an act of justice warranted by the Constitution upon military necessity. What had started, as a war to save the Union now also became a struggle that if victorious would free the slaves. (401) The unorganized battles turned in to organized battles then turned into campaigns of annihilation. The idea of cutting the enemy off from needed supplies was implicit in the naval blockade.

Economic or total warfare was a relatively new and shocking idea. Sherman refined this idea by consuming everything that could be used to support or supply armies leaving desolation in their wake.(404) On April 9, 1865 Grant accepted Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, the war was finally over after four long years. Nearly 360,000 Union soldiers and 258,000 Confederate soldiers died during this battle that many had thought would be short and having little or no death.(412) Many wartime changes proved more permanent than Lincoln had imagined. Wartime financial necessities helped revolutionize the countrys banking system. In 1863 and 1864, Congress passed banking acts that established a national currency issued by federally chartered banks and backed by government bonds.

The country once again had a federal banking system. Northern farming became more mechanized, while many people were beginning to read newspapers and magazines with a new eagerness, and used mail often. (408) Now that the war was over many had to ask themselves, what had the war accomplished. We certainly know death and destruction, and that the war had devastated the South, many great cities lay in ruins. But on the other hand the war had resolved the question of union and ended the debate over the relationship of the states to the federal government.

The war had also resolved the issue of slavery that so long had plagued American life. (413) We will have to look at two different sides of the conclusion of war to really decide whether it was worth all that had resulted. These two sides are the issues of physically rebuilding the North and South, and the status of Africans-Americans. President Johnson, in his second of two reconstruction proclamations, accepted the reconstructed government of North Carolina and laid down the steps by which other southern states to reestablish governments, which included ratifying the Thirteenth amendment. (420) Within eight months all the southern states were already admitted into the Union and reconstruction seemed to be over but was it and should it be over so soon.

Unhappy with this Congressman Stevens of Pennsylvania and Senator Sumner of Massachusetts rejecting Johnson’s position that the South was already reconstructed, Congress exercised their power and refused the representatives from the South and set up a committee to investigate conditions in the South. Resulting from these investigations and rejection of Johnson’s positions, Congress sent the Fourteenth Amendment which gave African-Americans citizenship and equal protection of the law and the right to vote for males, for ratification, which they rejected. (421) In 1870 the Fifteenth Amendment became part of the Constitution, finally giving the right to vote to the African-Americans. (424) The Republican governments created the South’s first public school systems. As in the North, these schools were largely segregated, but for the first time rich and poor, white and black alike had access to education. One thing that the freedmen had was a strong desire for education.

In October 1865, Ester Douglass found 120 dirty, half-naked, perfectly wild black children in her schoolroom in Georgia. Eight months later, she reported that they could read, sing hymns, and repeat Bible verses and had learned about right conduct which they tried to practice.(428) (431) While the South’s reconstruction dealt more with laws dealing with blacks the northern reconstruction dealt on economic revolution. The Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads were meeting in Utah linking the Atlantic and the Pacific for the first time. The iron and steel manufacturing and western settlement of the mining, cattle and agricultural frontiers were surging. (433) The status of blacks in America was a very heated debate after the Civil War.

Slavery was ended, blacks received the right to vote, and were considered American citizens, but did their status change dramatically. Maybe not at first but eventually it did. While many white southerners braced to resist reconstruction and aimed to restore their old world, nearly four million former slaves were on their own and facing the challenges of freedom. Everything-and nothing-had changed. Legal marriages, legitimacy of children, access to land titles, and choosing of surnames were important moral things the blacks received. (418) With the white man trying to hold on to his old world, many black codes were passed limiting many of the activities blacks could do, putting restrictions on the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments.

The Freedmen’s Bureau was a small government agency whose main task was to promote African-Americans’ economic well being. The bureau had a Herculean task on its hands, many blacks broke contracts, ran away, engaged in work slowdowns, burned barns and otherwise resisted. The freedmen refused to work at any price and refused to sign contracts, basically they were still being treated as slaves and couldn’t get out of the vicious cycle.(426) To go along with the unfair treatment of the Freedmen and slavery like lives, President Hayes would not enforce the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, initiating a pattern of executive inaction not broken until the 1960’s. Many troops had not been trained in any type of battle techniques and during battles would generally attack in a mob type fashion, unorganized. Most of the bloodshed resulted from changing military technology.

The range of rifles had increased from 100 yards to 500 yards. While some troops had these newer rifles some did not and attacking infantry soldiers regularly faced a 500-yard dash into deadly fire.(392).

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