The American Civil War was one of the fiercest, significant and powerful social battles in America. Even though it is widely though that slavery was the reason, there are deeper issues that have caused the war. It was a battle of interests, way of life between the North and the South where each fought to protect their values, different cultural and social aspects. There was much heroism, determination, brutality and drama in the war, which led to many remembering it as the most emotional and conflicting war. The outcome of the war did not separate the country as was originally planned. The Southern states were defeated, in the end, which have started a new era of human rights and freedoms.
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The roots for the causes were very deep, going all the way back to the constitution and the justice and support of the government that the American people had. The system of government was somewhat weak and so, there was no strict government that could take control of all the states (Draper 30). The industrialized North was well established and the South had to rely on slavery and small time farms, with the production of cotton and tobacco. The whole infrastructure of the South was heavily based on the work of slaves. There was a lot of trading with Europe, which was the base economic support. The society in the South was very harsh and unequal. The slaves were treated as lower beings compared to the white man and this was the general view of the society. It is clear that any place that sells people to other people is unfair and unjust. All of this became a separation between American people. This was not only a geographical division; it was also a moral, psychological, ethical, social, economical and cultural. Each had their rights and freedoms and each “nation” had their own way of life that was well established for some time. The North had the possibilities and power to spread its lands and rule because of the greater resources, whereas the South’s only possible solution was to increase the number of plantations and farms and for that slaves were crucial. The South was interested in resuming the international slave trade and was a sheer supporter of such future (Draper 210).
The first major turning point in the conflict was the law that forbade the transfer and trade of slaves over the border, from North to South. This had a great economical impact on the South because they would have to be selling and trading slaves that were already in the South. This greatly increased the prices and resulted in further economical instability. And the North continued to press the South through higher prices on the industrial machines, products and other important and much needed resources that the South needed (Rhodes 20). Sometime before the open violent conflict broke out, the Southern states started thinking about separating from the Northern states and this created heat and tensions between two sides. The president before Abraham Lincoln was unable to unite the two sides and do anything practical that would resolve the tensions. When Abraham Lincoln became the president, in 1961, he created a Union that would lead the fight against the South. It was in his plans to avoid an open violent conflict. He has hoped that if the possibilities and opportunities for slavery to spread were cut and prevented, it would eventually die out by itself. Historically, there are some controversies about the government and the Confederate Party and to the true reasons why the Union wanted to abolish slavery. Some say that it was immoral and that was the real reason, based on humanity and justice. But there are suppositions that slavery was simply not an option in the industrial world and it created an unneeded stress and hardships on society. This explanation seems more neutral and many people are outraged that it was made out of mere calculation, in which way of life was better and more useful for people (Rhodes 151).
The demographics or the population make-up was very different when comparing North and South. Even though North was considered more liberal and free, the population was cut out from the Native Peoples. They were either slaughtered or they were forced to move to Canada. The way of life was very fast paced where everything was centered on making more money, increasing the needs and wants of the population and distributing the American way of life. The South was much different. The population consisted of French, Spanish, Mexicans, English and of course, African-Americans. The Native Peoples were also present, adding to the culture difference. They were placed into reservations but an interesting fact is that some of them had slaves and many Natives fought on the side of the South during the Civil War (Walker 5). Also, the Southern States were very much experienced in war. As their way of life was slower and there were not many things to focus on, they had enough time to practice their battle skills. History has shown that even though their numbers were less significant, they had much determination and ability to fight the war. Often, it was proven in battles and the taking of forts. Another reason the South was eager to separate and get involved in an open battle was because they thought they would have the support of some European countries. Cotton was an international product at the time and when its production decreased in the South, many factories in Europe did close down. But Europe was not going to get involved in the conflict and the South decided to make a quick separation of the United Stated of America into two, the North and South (Draper 487).
The first open conflict began on April 12, 1861, at Fort Sumter, when it was taken by force (Walker 27). President Lincoln has responded to this act by calling the Southern states in the process of rebellion and ordered the naval blockade, calling in volunteers to join the army. This was a very dramatic hit on the economy of the South. The cotton crops that had to be exported were stopped and as it was the main source of income in the support of war, the devastation was very significant (Rhodes118). But the South has proven to have the advantage on its side. Even before Abraham Lincoln was chosen to be president, there were many weapons and supplies delivered to the Southern states. Another strategic advantage was that most battle able and ready stations were in the South and there was an organized overtaking of federal arsenals and storages. The interesting fact was that both sides wanted a quick resolution of the conflict. The major goal of the North was to keep the Union together and strong but also make sure that the country stays together, unified. The South wanted to become independent and receive the sovereignty of the Confederacy. The end results of North and South would be to get to the capitals of the enemy’s territory and divide their territory. After the attack on Fort Summer, four more slave states joined the Confederacy. This was when Richmond was proclaimed to be the capitol of the Confederacy. On January 27, 1862, Abraham Lincoln realized that the war cannot be avoided and all his efforts to keep the conflict to the minimum failed. This made him issue an order to proclaim a war, which in turn gave the Union the authority to take action against the Confederacy. The order also confirmed that the North would use all its alliances and unified forces in the war against the South. But this order was ignored by General McClellan. This created somewhat of a delay and on March 8th of the same year, Abraham Lincoln reorganized the Army of Virginia. He had to relieve General McClellan of the command. McClellan was assigned to command the Army of Potomac and also was given an order to carry out an attack on Richmond. This event went down in history as the Peninsular Campaign, causing change to previous order (Rhodes 163). On January 1st, 1863, Abraham Lincoln decided to make some major changes. He realized that something had to be done politically and also, it must have qualities that would be widely noticed. This was the day when Emancipation Proclamation came into being. This turned out to be a very smart and effective decision. The strategy of the war, as well as the views of the people that were observing would change. Emancipation Proclamation would guarantee that any slaves who would be opposing the Southern states were to be freed. This has greatly changed the importance and reasons for the war. For Americans and Europe as well, it seemed that the war was to abolish and destroy slavery. In the beginning of the conflict, during the naval blockade of the Southern States, which greatly decreased cotton exports to Europe, some countries were very displeased with the way things were turning out. But after the Emancipation, Abraham Lincoln and the Union have gained much sympathy from many Europeans, in particular England and France (Abbott 615). By 1863 the Confederacy was in great problem. Economically, it was in very bad shape, the blockade has cut it off any resources and the defeat was near. The war strategy has somewhat changed with more partisan tactics appearing and battles being scattered all over the place. The war ended on April 9th, 1865, after General Robert Lee surrendered. After the South heard about this, they laid down their arms. Unfortunately, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth on April 14th, 1865. The next president was Andrew Johnson who announced the official end of the conflict on May 9th, 1865 (Rhodes 440).
The end results of the Civil War were devastating to both sides. The number of Americans killed was much greater than in World War I and II put together. The developing and successful South was destroyed and was in ruins. The North was also in very poor condition. The warfare at the time was very destructive and there were many people who were maimed for life by amputations. Not to mention that morphine was used to help them relieve the pain and many people became dependant on the drug, which led to a very shaky times for the next 15-20 years. The war, its reasons and the historical period in general is very important to the Americans and Western civilization. It shows how a clash of interests and economic and social position can create a conflict within a country. Even the fact that American people were unified did not stop the war. It seems that people had common interests—to unite and reach prosperity in every way of life but there was still separation. This means that societies and different geographical locations were very important. Also the traditions, cultures and types of people that make up the population were very important. It can even be compared to the modern times, where the North is still very much industrialized and leads a fast-paced life. The major developments are taking place and people are very free and liberal. The justice for a person is considered to be the most important form of fairness and human individuality is valued above everything else. The South is somewhat different from before but still, the way of life is unique. People lead lives that are very leisure-like and even today; there are places that have conservative views. The Civil War can be considered a revolution in the human rights movement. For so long African-American population was oppressed and used as slaves. It is greatly unacceptable by today’s standards, even though there are places in the world that still have it in existence. The Civil War in America led to African-American population gaining the same rights as the rest of the population. After the war ended, there was still oppression but the movement has begun. This can be seen in the changes that Martin Luther King Jr. has imposed on society. The unique fact is that The Civil War was an open violent conflict and people have reached the acceptance of their rights and existence, while Dr. King was a supporter of non-violent conflict and opposition is important. Such valuable historical event is an example for the present and future generations. It shows that people should not be oppressed and judged by the way they look or where they come from. Even today, there are cases of discrimination and unfair treatment in America. In relation to the Civil War, the opinions of present states differ. But nonetheless, it is considered the most important fight in American history. The large number of books, articles and movies prove this point and reminds of the mark that the War has left on American society. Unfortunately, it is impossible to go back to the past and relive the events or see how they truly happened and so, there are many versions of the true events and reasons. But in any way, it is a constant illustration that the fight for the human rights was long but is far from over and it is up to the modern world to change things for the better.
Abbott, John. The history of the Civil War in America, Springfield, United States: Gurdon Bill, 1866. Print.
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Draper, John. History Of The American Civil War. New York, United States: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1867. Print.
Rhodes, James. History of the Civil War 1861-1865. New York: Cosimo, Inc, 2009. Google Book Seach. Web. 2013.
Walker, Gary. General History of the Civil War: The Southern Point of View. Gretna, United States: Pelican Publishing, 2008. Print.