Demographic Group Explanation of Impact

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Impact of the Civil War on Civilian Populations

Demographic Group

Explanation of Impact



The Union’s Anaconda Plan and its increasing occupation of Confederate territory produced shortages of food and supplies among the people. The lack of man power (soldiers left farms to fight) also contributed to diminished food supplies. The confederate money experienced significant inflation which meant the cost of all things rose sharply.



Northern factory owners saw considerable improvements during this time as orders for war goods from the federal government increased dramatically. As the government spent more money for these goods, the factories in the North grew and so did the profits. The wages paid to workers did not rise as fast as the orders – However, since more work was available – unemployment rates dropped.


Immigrants were used in disproportionate levels as soldiers, many in ethnically segregated units. One critic called the German-speaking regiment known as the “flying Dutchman” as “cannon fodder” used to “draw Confederate undue attention.” After the Irish Brigade sustained heavy causalties at the Battle of Gettysburg, Irish immigrants in NYC started the draft riots to oppose the continued conscription of Irish immigrants.


(North and South)

With the removal of men from the workforce in both the North and the South (enlistment/conscription into army), economic opportunities began to open up for women. Although there were isolated examples of women taking up arms during the Civil War, the biggest impact of women was felt in the areas of healthcare and hospitalization. Clara Barton worked as a Civil War nurse where she convinced Army officials to allow her and other nurses to work close or very near the front lines. She gained the nickname “the Angel of the Battlefield” and organized the American Red Cross immediately following the war.

Free and Enslaved


The war also opened up opportunities for Free and Enslaved Africans. In 1862, Congress enacts a law that allowed free African-Americans in the North to enlist and fight in the Army. Although mostly relegated to segregated units and support roles, approximately 175,000 African-Americans served in the Union Army. Captured Black soldiers were usually executed by Confederate armies.

Escaping enslaved Africans from the South could find freedom when they met Union armies. The official position of the Union (before the Emancipation Proclamation) was that enslaved people were CONTRABAND that would help the Confederate war effort. This designation continued the classification of enslaved people as “property” instead of people.

Union and Confederate Soldiers

Expectations of glory and honor of the battlefield quickly faded when both Union and Confederate soldiers encountered the cruel reality of the Civil War. Technological advancements of the mid-19th century made the 18th century tactics used during the war very deadly. Also, the climate and conditions in the American South made disease a bigger threat than bullets. Although advances in battlefield medicine were able to save many more lives than in past wars, the medical instrument of choice was the bone saw. This left many soldiers alive, but as amputees – missing arms and/or legs. Civil War prisons, like the one at Andersonville, became nothing more than death camps for the unfortunate souls who entered.



(pg. 349)

Both Lincoln (Union) and Davis (Confederate) increased the powers of their respective presidencies during the war.

Lincoln suppressed opposition to his war effort by: suspending Habeas Corpus (right that ensures the right to a trial if jailed), sending troops into Baltimore and Annapolis to ensure Maryland’s continued loyalty and jailing and exile of Congressman Vallandigham (Copperhead from Ohio) for treason.

Jefferson Davis initially criticized Lincoln for these tactics, but soon found himself doing the same thing when faced with opposition.

Since war was never officially declared, this war represents an expansion of Presidential “war powers” where the executive branch can used armed force with Congressional approval.

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