In what ways does the Civil War continue to influence us?



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In what ways does the Civil War continue to influence us?

 The Civil War continues to cast a long shadow, which affects our lives in diverse and occasionally surprising ways. The War transformed the political, constitutional, social and economic landscape, and led to advances in technology and health-care that remain in evidence today. There is still heated debate about the underlying causes of this epic conflict, as well as its outcomes. It can be said that a lot depends on your background – birthplace, race, political beliefs – in how you view this legacy.

Five most important ways that he considered the Civil War has affected our lives:

1) Illegalized slavery in the U.S.

2) Led to the 14th Amendment's federal constitutional guarantee of equal citizenship (even though it often went unenforced in the ensuing decades).

3) Strengthened the national government's power in the realms of economic development and rights protection.

4) Impoverished the South by freeing the enslaved human beings who counted as the region's major source of investment wealth and a sixth of all American wealth before the Civil War (slaves were worth more than railroad investment, banks and factories nationwide combined in 1860).

5) Established a pattern of regionally divided two-party politics (what we might now call "red states" and "blue states," though for nearly a century it was the South that was solidly Democratic, while Republicans typically controlled New England and the Midwest).  

Five areas where the war had a noteworthy impact:

First, with the ratification of the 13th Amendment, it ended the curse of slavery.

Second, it propelled the U.S. into the industrial era, and allowed the ascendency of free-labor capitalism.

Third, it paved the way for the passage of the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, setting the stage for the eventual equality of the races.

Fourth, it settled the dispute over the primacy of the federal government over the states."

And finally he stated the War "preserved the new republic, which by 1865 was only 89 years old."

Not only did it free a race of people, the Civil War also influenced generations of Americans by the popular culture it spawned. It led to the opening of the West when in 1862 the Homestead Act was passed, and it had a huge impact on higher education with the passage of the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862, which gave public lands to state governments to build state colleges and universities."

A more common question is how that Americans, and especially public political figures, today let present concerns shape how they understand the Civil War. Small-government conservatives like to describe the War as a noble southern stand against the dangers of a growing federal government. African-Americans and social liberals prefer to see the War as a glorious fight for freedom and equality. Those with an interest or personal history in the U.S. military celebrate the martial valor of those who fought and died for both sides.



All of these interpretations represent (at least partially) flawed history, and reflect as much what we each as individuals want to believe today as they do what the documents tell us were the real motives of the leaders on each side of the War (protecting slavery and white supremacy for Confederate policymakers and preserving the Union and Constitution, with or without slavery, for most Union policymakers, including Lincoln).

In what ways does the Civil War continue to influence us?

  • The first use of absentee ballots in American politics happened during the Civil War. Knowing that soldiers in the field were more likely to vote Republican, nearly every Republican-controlled state passed laws allowing for absentee voting.

  • The first national income tax and the first paper money printed by the federal government were both created to help finance the cost of the War (before that time paper money was printed mainly by individual banks with state charters, and federal taxation was largely limited to duties or tariffs on imported goods).

  • Following the War, it was estimated that one third of currency in circulation was counterfeit. The Secret Service Division was created on July 5, 1865, in Washington, D.C., to suppress counterfeit currency (www.secretservice.gov)

  • Jonathon Letterman, Medical Director of the Army of the Potomac, implemented a system to evacuate and care for the wounded, becoming the model for the ambulance-to-ER system we know today. At the Battle of Antietam, he established caravans of 50 ambulances, each with a driver and two stretcher-bearers, to ferry the injured to field hospitals. (www.neatorama.com)

  • Some of the battlefield lessons learned by Civil War surgeons have had a lasting impact. Amputation techniques, including cutting as far from the heart as possible, and never slicing through joints, became the standard. (www.neatorama.com)

  • Dr. Julian John Chisholm solved the dilemma of anesthesia shortages by inventing an inhaler, which replaced soaking a handkerchief with chloroform and saved liquid. (www.neatoroma.com)

The War Brought Military Advances and Care for Veterans

  • First version of machine guns

  • Submarines

  • ID tags

  • Land mines

  • Ironclad ships

  • Trench warfare

  • Soldiers' Homes that later became the Veterans Administration

The War Brought Technological and Everyday Advances


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