Civil War 150: Every corner of nation was touched

Figures show how changes still felt today

Source: Scripps Howard News Service, 3-26-11

SH11A060CIVILWAR150 Jan. 12, 2011 -- Burned rail cars and gutted buildings in the center of Richmond, Va. in April 1865. At the Civil Warís end, 90 percent of the Southís rail lines had been destroyed along with most of its mills and warehouses. But 1870 census data show much of the physical damage of the war had been repaired, although the expansion of rail and industry in the North and West was much greater than in the former Confederacy. (SHNS photo courtesy Library of Congress) (civil war)SH11A060CIVILWAR150 Jan. 12, 2011 — Burned rail cars and gutted buildings in the center of Richmond, Va. in April 1865. At the Civil Warís end, 90 percent of the Southís rail lines had been destroyed along with most of its mills and warehouses. But 1870 census data show much of the physical damage of the war had been repaired, although the expansion of rail and industry in the North and West was much greater than in the former Confederacy. (SHNS photo courtesy Library of Congress) (civil war)

SH11A062CIVILWAR150 Jan. 12, 2011 -- An overview of the U.S. Capitol, its dome still under construction, during the 1861 inauguration of Abraham Lincoln as president. The political climate created by Southern secession and the Civil War put Republicans in unchallenged control of the federal government and allowed the Congress to enact many laws that impacted how the nation developed and grew over the next 150 years. (SHNS photo courtesy Library of Congress) Editors: This photo is small. (civil war)SH11A062CIVILWAR150 Jan. 12, 2011 — An overview of the U.S. Capitol, its dome still under construction, during the 1861 inauguration of Abraham Lincoln as president. The political climate created by Southern secession and the Civil War put Republicans in unchallenged control of the federal government and allowed the Congress to enact many laws that impacted how the nation developed and grew over the next 150 years. (SHNS photo courtesy Library of Congress) Editors: This photo is small. (civil war)

Contributed photo/Library of Congress Wounded soldiers on stretchers and crutches sitting outside a makeshift Union hospital are attended by a volunteer nurse in May 1964 in  Fredericksburg, Va. The Civil War was the bloodiest conflict in American history. Of some 4 million men who enlisted, at least 620,000 died — two-thirds from illness rather than combat — and several hundred thousand more were wounded, many with lost limbs.Contributed photo/Library of Congress Wounded soldiers on stretchers and crutches sitting outside a makeshift Union hospital are attended by a volunteer nurse in May 1964 in Fredericksburg, Va. The Civil War was the bloodiest conflict in American history. Of some 4 million men who enlisted, at least 620,000 died — two-thirds from illness rather than combat — and several hundred thousand more were wounded, many with lost limbs.

SH11A059CIVILWAR150 Jan. 12, 2011 -- A Virginia family fleeing fighting in 1864 sits outside their home with a wagon packed with all the belongings they could carry. Four years of Civil War displaced hundreds of thousands of people, white and black, North and South, and many had not completely resettled by the time the 1870 census was taken. (SHNS photo courtesy Library of Congress) (civil war)SH11A059CIVILWAR150 Jan. 12, 2011 — A Virginia family fleeing fighting in 1864 sits outside their home with a wagon packed with all the belongings they could carry. Four years of Civil War displaced hundreds of thousands of people, white and black, North and South, and many had not completely resettled by the time the 1870 census was taken. (SHNS photo courtesy Library of Congress) (civil war)

Although the Civil War was 150 years ago, echoes from the first shots on Fort Sumter continue to reverberate across America.

While largely considered a fight between North and South, the impact of the Civil War extended far beyond the Mason-Dixon Line.

A Scripps Howard News Service analysis of census data from 1860 and 1870 illustrates just how deeply the conflict and its aftermath touched virtually every corner of the nation, often in surprising ways.

The census figures show how the bloodiest war in America’s 235-year history not only freed 4 million people held as slaves and ended the Confederate insurrection, but in many ways defined the nation that exists today.

In the war years (1861-1865) and after, Congress established national policies affecting education, financial institutions, trade and transportation as well as civil rights that shaped national development and identity.

“The government expanded the economy very fast with the war, but the government itself also grew and became more activist in many areas,” said Heather Cox Richardson, a Civil War historian at the University of Massachusetts, Andover. “In many respects, there was this release of energy across the country that had been held back by the slavery question.”

The 1860 census statistics underscore what schoolrooms have long taught: 23 Union states with two-thirds of the population and most of the manufacturing capacity held a distinct advantage over the 11 Confederate states that were largely rural and agricultural.

The South in 1860 had about 18,000 manufacturing establishments employing roughly 100,000 people; the Union had 110,000 factories with more than 1.2 million workers.

The South’s agricultural wealth was substantial, but still less than the North’s. Southern farmland was worth more than $2 billion out of $6 billion for the whole nation. The value of people held as property was estimated at $2 billion to $3 billion.

After four years of fighting mostly in the South, two-thirds of the Confederacy’s ships and riverboats were destroyed, along with 90 percent of the region’s rail lines and thousands of bridges, mills and shops.

Out of some 4 million who enlisted, at least 620,000 Union and Confederate soldiers and sailors died more than twice as many due to sickness than in battle. About one in five white men in the South died during the war, changing social dynamics from marriage prospects for women to management practices on farms.

Yet the 1870 census also shows that, in some respects, the devastation of the war was quickly being reversed. In every Southern state but Virginia, there were more manufacturing establishments employing more people and producing material of greater cash value than before the war, although the growth was far behind that seen in the North and West.

“You know how Scarlett O’Hara goes into the sawmill or lumber business after the war in Gone with the Wind? There’s a good bit of truth in that fiction,” said William Blair, a professor and director of the George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center at Pennsylvania State University. “A lot of whites did try to diversify beyond the plantation into manufacturing, mining and timber.”

There were thousands more farms across the South after the war, mainly homesteads claimed by former slaves from abandoned or government-seized plantations. In the next decades, the number of farms would decline again as white owners reclaimed land and tenant farming or sharecropping became an agricultural norm that would last into the 20th century. Because of the changed status of the slaves and because the prices of the region’s major cash crop of cotton were in long-term decline, the cash value of farms in Southern states was half or even a quarter of what it had been in 1860…READ MORE

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