Societies at war

The sectional conflict was an extraordinary military undertaking and the composition and conduct of Ci\-il War armies revealed much about the communities from which they came. The 3 million men who participated in the war came to appreciate the struggles of their local communities to sustain the war effort and their daily lives. While fierce battles ravaged the landscape, Americans North and South fought a war behind the lines that produced its own heroes, who distinguished themselves by-performing the labor necessary to maintain the war effort. Shortly after the Battle of Stone's River, New Yorker George Templeton Strong summed up perhaps the Union's most distinguishing advantage in the war. 'It may have been indecisive,' he remarked in referring to the battle, 'but our resources will stand the wear and tear of indecisive conflict longer than those of slavedom, and can sooner be repaired.'

Economic and military resources

For a nation that was not prepared to wage war, in a short time Northerners and Southerners made effective use of the economic and technological advances afforded them by the industrial revolution. They forged these economic weapons with a fighting determination that produced what has often been considered the first modern war. Economic and technological influences directly shaped the conduct of the war, and political leaders came to appreciate the role that the government could play in harnessing these influences. As the industrial revolution generated massive quantities of goods. American manufacturers benefited from the purchase of arms and the wide array of other supplies needed to wage war on an enormous scale.

Such changes also left an indelible mark on the home front. 'On every street and avenue,' commented a Chicago Tribune reporter, 'one sees new buildings going up, immense stone, brick, and iron business blocks, marble palaces and new residences everywhere manifest... where the enterprise of man can gain a foothold.' Shoes fitted for each foot, canned foods, and sewing machines all reflected the arrival of new technologies. Pennsylvania's iron industry increased its output of rails by 50 percent during the war, and Pittsburgh became the nation's leading iron producer. This increased production made possible the raising, supplying, and resupplying of the large number of troops in the field. In a war that was fought mainly by farmers on both sides, agricultural production actually increased between 1861 and 1865. This increase was due in part to an increase in agricultural machinery, which assisted Northern farmers in producing bumper crops throughout the war.

Throughout the course of the war, the quartermaster struggled to supply 2.3 million Union soldiers and 1 million Confederates who daily desired armaments and basic necessities such as bread, meat, shoes, and clothes. Factory production, North and South, expanded to meet these military demands. Although railroads could be used to transport goods to supply bases, in many cases armies relied on riverboats and animal-

drawn wagons to transport supplies. This presented numerous logistical problems because the further the army marched away from its supply base, the more vulnerable it became to enemy sabotage. In the summer of 1862, Don Carlos Buell required nearly 15 miles (24km) of supply wagons to keep his Army of the Ohio equipped and fed.

What armies lacked in transporting efficiency, they more than compensated for by effectively utilizing the telegraph during the Civil War to assist in coordinating such transport burdens. This communicative device was another new technological feature of the industrial revolution. From

Thanks to the telegraph, armies were able to set up communications an/where in the field. The poles they used varied in height, but were placed 5ft f I 5m i into the ground to resist high winds. (Ann Ronan Picture Library)

Thanks to the telegraph, armies were able to set up communications an/where in the field. The poles they used varied in height, but were placed 5ft f I 5m i into the ground to resist high winds. (Ann Ronan Picture Library)

1861 to 1865 the United States Military Telegraph constructed some 15,000 miles (24,000km) of military lines. Due to a lack of operators and wire, Confederates managed to construct only about 500 miles 1800km i in lines. In some cases, telegraph officers in the South were employed by companies in the North. Telegraphic communications were particularly vital to the scattered armies in the Western Theater. From St Louis, Missouri, Henry Halleck was able to communicate with Buell in Kentucky and Grant in Tennessee, and ordered them to concentrate their armies during the spring of 1862.

More than any other advance in early modern warfare, the rifled firearms of the Civil War proved the most destructive. The devastation inflicted by this new firepower reduced artillery to the defense, rendered the open frontal assault suicidal, and made entrenching a battlefield a necessity. Although both sides embraced this tactical consideration, some generals still ordered frontal assaults throughout the war. Braxton Bragg ordered a dozen such assaults at the Battle of Shiloh against the Hornet's Nest. The result was mass slaughter. By the war's end. it could be said that the rifled musket had caused some 60 Union regiments, and a higher number of Confederate ones, the loss of more than 50 percent of their men in a single engagement.

The role of women

Another noticeable sign that the war had wrought social change was evidenced by the new roles for women. Not only did Northern and Southern women enter factories, sewing rooms, and arsenals, but also they tended farms and plantations, and became saloon keepers, steamboat captains, bankers, teamsters, teachers, and morticians. Women also entered the war zone as nurses, clerks, and copyists, and some even disguised themselves as men and mustered into the ranks as soldiers. By 1864, Union women held down one-third of all the jobs in the manufacturing workplace. Still, they received lower wages than the men who had previously held those jobs. Although most of their employment gains did not endure after the war, as demobilized troops returned to the workforce, the wartime experience of women broke them forever out of the traditional domestic sphere.

Women were also employed as spies. A shrewd actress, Pauline Cushman, used her art well to play the part of a spy. Although a native of New Orleans, she had spent considerable time in the North and was devoted to the Union cause. Because of her knowledge of the terrain and roads of Tennessee. Mississippi, and Alabama, the Federal government gave her employment. In the summer and fall of 1861, she hunted for Southern sympathizers and spies in Louisville, and she would perform the same service in Nashville. In May 1863, as William Rosecrans was preparing to drive Braxton Bragg out of Tennessee, Cushman was captured and sentenced to hang, but managed to escape. For her services during the war. the soldiers called her 'major,' and granted her the accoutrements of the rank.


Both Union and Confederate governments pursued the same avenues to raise money to support the war, including loans, war bonds, taxes, and paper money. In the fall and winter of 1861-62, the Union coordinated its economic and financial efforts to sustain the more than 600,000 soldiers in the field. They mobilized their resources and gave an organizational structure to financing the war effort. The Republicans in power met the demand for increased production by-increasing the nation's purchasing power. The Federal Congress passed the Legal Tender Act in February 1862, which authorized the issuance of SI50 million in government notes ('greenbacks', as they were commonly known) that were to be used in nearly all transactions. It also increased income tax. imposed a series of excise taxes, and raised tariffs. President Lincoln relied on

A native of New Orleans, Pauline Cushmans knowledge of the roads in Tennessee. Alabama. Mississippi, and Georgia and her prewar acting experience made her an asset to the Union cause as a spy. For her contributions, the soldiers referred to her as 'majo^ (Review of Reviews Company)

prominent Philadelphia!! Jay Cooke to market war bonds. In 1863, the government passed the National Banking Act, attempting to create a uniform national currency, and additional legislation followed in 1864 that eliminated state banknotes from circulation. The Union continued to prov ide for its citizens on the home front by making western lands available to free white settlers in the Homestead Act, and in the Pacific Railroad Act provided governmental support for the construction of the transcontinental railroad that had brought about bleeding Kansas in the mid-1850s.

As the size and substance of the Federal government increased, however, so the gap between the poor, the middle class, and the rich widened. Clever and innovative captains of industry, corporations, and business accumulated enormous fortunes from the war effort. Mthough the truly spectacular profits went to relatively few entrepreneurs, the flourishing businesses, high dividends, and massive employment spread extraordinary prosperity throughout much of the Northern population. The Xew York Times remarked that, even while a war of herculean proportions was being waged, 'the people of the North had never enjoyed a better life.'

Such economic prosperity, however, did not always equate with honest intentions The Union government, with its newfound prosperity, was more than ever vulnerable to corruption. Colonel Andrew Jackson Butler (brother of General Benjamin F. Butler, commander of occupied New Orleans in 1862i was believed to be one ot the most shameless cotton agents in the North and South. Social critics noticed the war's ability to tear at the moral fabric ol society. Gambling, drinking, and prostitution were among the most prominent acts ol a relaxed atmosphere. A correspondent to /Vie limes of London commented that the war has brought the levity of the American character out in bold relief... Ihe indulgence in every variety ot pleasure, luxury, and extravagance is simply shocking.'

The nature ot the Southern economy and political alignments were not conducive to such nationalistic efforts, and the fact that the war was being waged in the South suppressed the visual displays of gratification that characterized Northern cities. Within the lirst year of the war. devastated factories, railroads, towns, and occupied cities such as Nashville and New Orleans, together with a naval blockade, made Southern residents feel the severity ot war. Not only did the Confederacy lack the financial resources and institutions to generate a financial plan, but also the states resisted giving the central government an increased power of the purse. Confederate leaders turned to war bonds and printing paper money to compensate for their financial deficiencies.

In 1861 and 1862, the Confederate Congress approved the printing of over hall a billion dollars, which accounted for more than 60 percent of the income of the Confederate war effort, but also brought dramatic inflation. Additionally, the Congress taxed consumer goods, personal income, and wholesale profits. Farmers could pay their taxes in agricultural products, known as a 'tax in kind.' As the war progressed and the financial resources waned, citizens held auctions, raffles, and drawings to raise money lor the war effort. However, getting the supplies to the troops proved as unwieldy as collecting them from the civilian populace, and often tons ol food rotted because ol the obstacles in transporting it

Southern farmers were increasingly forced to shift from cotton production to foodstuffs and livestock, which contributed to the war effort, but nonetheless impoverished many whites. In March 186.1. the Confederate C ongress passed the Impressment \ct. which legalized the militar\ seizure ot private supplies of food crops. In response to the shortages ol goods and exorbitant prices, a bread riot broke out in Richmond in April 186.1. In the early phase ol the war, the Southern populace participated in picnics, barbecues, and quilting parties as expressions of support for the war, but as the conflict endured, it smothered Southern life and social occasions became, as one historian argues, 'starvation parties."


Although the Conlederate nation lacked the two-party system of its Northern counterpart, tlu Southern populace, nonetheless, remained divided politically over issues relating to the central government's efforts to wage war. No issue polarized the Southern populace more than the Conscription Vet of 18(>2. Georgia Governor Joseph I. Brown spoke lor many-citizens in condemning the Act. 'The late act ot Congress, it executed in this State,' he

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ine ot the most famous and most widely read pictorial newspapers of the war fumed to President Davis, 'does gross injustice to a large class of her citizens, utterly destroys all State military organizations, and encroaches upon the reserved rights of the State.'

The press never let Americans forget that the war was simply politics by other means. The correspondents who followed the armies in the west, collectively known in the Union as the 'Bohemian Brigade,' a characterization of their freewheeling lifestyles, kept Americans abreast of daily happenings in the army. At every turn, newspapers informed the nation not only of the military implications of winning or losing the war, but also of how far societies were willing to go in sacrificing personal liberties for the cause. Although overwhelmingly pro-Confederate, the Southern press was divided in its attitudes to how the war was being waged. Many editors vehemently disagreed with President Davis's handling of the war and bitterly criticized him. In the case of the Union, newspapers portrayed political leaders as people who wanted to use the armies as a political tool.

From the very onset of the crisis, however, like much of the Northern populace, Lincoln was forced to remain focused on the nature of the conflict and the conduct of his armies. The President's own party was divided about what kind of war the Union should wage. Moderates hoped to preserve the Union and keep the war limited, believing that this would bring about a more harmonious reunion once the conflict ended. Radicals, whose ranks constituted many prominent abolitionists such as the Pennsylvania!! I haddeus Stevens, considered the war an opportunity to refashion society as a whole by emancipating slaves. Lincoln sought to placate residents of the Upper South, particularly Democrats of the region, by keeping the war limited to a conflict of armies. Democrats maintained their support for the Union as long as it remained the same Union throughout the war and neither expanded the war nor abridged the rights of the citizens, whether in the Confederacy or the Union.


By July 1862, however, the experience of the war and the reaction of Southerners to campaigning armies attempting to occupy vast Southern regions, particularly in the west, brought about a change in Union war aims. No longer content to respect the civil guarantees of the Southern rebels, the Federal Congress passed the Confiscation Act. It was a bold step against slavery, as it provided freedom for slaves of rebel masters, and it marked the turning point in the Union's attitude to emancipation as a precondition for ending the war and moving toward reunion. After the Battle of Antietam in September 1862, Lincoln issued his formal Emancipation Proclamation, giving the South until 1 January 1863 to return to the Union or confront emancipation. In the end, however, the President confided that 'if I could save the Union without freeing any slaves. I would do it; and if I could do it by-freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save this Union.'

Like the pressure for emancipation, opposition to emancipation manifested itself in many ways throughout the remainder of the war. The situation in the west gave the Republicans most concern, particularly in Illinois and Indiana, where Democratic-controlled legislatures threatened to pull their troops out of the war unless Lincoln backed down on emancipation. Democrats opposed to emancipation bemoaned Lincoln's handling of the war and called for a negotiated peace to end the conflict. These 'Peace Democrats,' dubbed Copperheads by their opponents, used the Emancipation Proclamation, conscription, Lincoln's suspension of the writ of Habeas Corpus, and the string of Union defeats in the east to build formidable opposition against him. The most celebrated Copperhead was Ohio Congressman Clement L. Vallandigham, who Was arrested for making anti-war comments during his campaign for the governorship of Ohio.

President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation broke the shackles of the Southern slaves And upon this act' read the proclamation.'sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution upon military necessity. I invoke the considerable judgement of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God' (Hulton Getty)

President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation broke the shackles of the Southern slaves And upon this act' read the proclamation.'sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution upon military necessity. I invoke the considerable judgement of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God' (Hulton Getty)

Evidence that the war had brought significant social change could also be found in the fact that blacks were mustered into the Union ranks. Still, the lives of free blacks outside of the military remained relatively unchanged by the war. Coupled with the war's devastation of Southern infrastructure, however, within a few short months Southerners felt the markedly significant impact of emancipation. Although freedom had arrived with the Union army, in many cases it proved as much a curse as a blessing. A Union commander at Vicksburg witnessed a group of emancipated slaves. 'The scenes were appalling: the refugees were crowded together, sickly, disheartened, dying on the street, not a family of them all either well sheltered, clad or fed; no physicians, no medicines, no hospitals; many of the persons who had been charged with feeding them either sick or dead.' Like slavery, freedom had a price and according to the commander, 'the great multitude were unprepared to work beyond supplying their immediate necessities ... Their minds were not adjusted to the new situation.'

The longer the war lasted, the more striking was the evidence of loss. Southerners experienced directly the severity of the Union's aims, precisely because it was their slaves whom Lincoln emancipated. As the situation on the battlefront and the home front became more desperate, more desperate measures were enacted. Both governments enacted conscription during the war. The Confederacy- was first to authorize such a draft in 1862, followed the next year by the Union. Still, the absence of white males from the Southern economy took its toll early on. In an attempt to secure his son's release from the army, an elderly Southern father wrote to the War Department that 'If you dount send him home I am bound to louse my crop and cum to suffer.' At home, residents held Congregational prayer meetings, pleading for success in the war effort.

In many cases, the Confederate soldiers appeared to many residents as the invading horde they were supposed to repel. In

Clement Vallandigham was the unofficial leaoer of the Copperheads, a name given to the Northern peace movement during the Civil War. He opposed Lincoln s election in 1860 and protested Republican war measures so vehemently that he was finally arrested in 1863. Lincoln commuted his sentence and sent him South, but he made his way to Canada, where ne unsuccessfully ran for the governorship of Ohio. i.Ann Ronan Picture Library)

January 1863. a Louisiana planter reacted with scorn when a Confederate brigade made his home their campsite. 'Our troops have stripped me. by robbery, of nearly every resource for living from day to day, & what is in reserve for me from the common enemy, is yet to be ascertained,' he remarked. 'From a condition of ease, comfort and abundance. I am suddenly reduced to one of hardship, want k privation.'

By the summer of 1863. southerners in the West had succumbed to a world the war made. Slaves experienced the dawning of a new day, while whites tried in vain to escape the endless nightmare. As the Union armies traversed the

Clement Vallandigham was the unofficial leaoer of the Copperheads, a name given to the Northern peace movement during the Civil War. He opposed Lincoln s election in 1860 and protested Republican war measures so vehemently that he was finally arrested in 1863. Lincoln commuted his sentence and sent him South, but he made his way to Canada, where ne unsuccessfully ran for the governorship of Ohio. i.Ann Ronan Picture Library)

countryside in the west, they engaged in two fights - combat and occupation - winning both. Southerners experienced monumental losses of property, slaves, and homes, hut they endured. It had become clear by this time that the revolutionaries had become victims of the revolution.

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