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America's History in the Making

A Nation Divided

Theme 3

The prolonged conflict transformed civilian life, causing immense personal and financial losses to many Americans, expanding the role of government, and allowing white women and African Americans to take on new roles in both the North and the South.

While warfare dramatically increased the power of the Union and Confederate governments, they also worked more closely with the businessmen who provided the materials needed to fight the war—food, uniforms, weaponry, and other equipment. At the same time, they sought to unify public sentiment and participation behind the war. The result left a few people rich and many embittered, though employment and wages rose substantially in the North.

The war also provided unanticipated opportunities for people who had been politically and socially marginalized: slaves who escaped bondage, of course, but also free African Americans and white women. Union leaders resisted letting African American soldiers enlist for much of the war. Once they were allowed in, those enlistees faced substantial prejudice. But, the war offered many a chance to prove their courage and patriotism. In addition, white women experienced both more vulnerability and more autonomy, as the absence of men opened up and thrust them into new roles.

Although old prejudices remained strong, the nature of the war changed attitudes and, particularly, circumstances.

Primary Sources

Texts

Text Artifact

Many Thousand Go, song lyrics

Unknown, MANY THOUSAND GO, SONG LYRICS (1867). Atlantic Monthly, June 1867.

Text Artifact

The War-Time Journal of a Georgia Girl 1864-1865

Eliza Frances Andrews, The War-Time Journal of a Georgia Girl 1864-1865 (New York, D. Appleton Co., 1908), 248-49.


Artifacts

Charleston, S. C. View of Ruined Buildings Through Porch of the Circular Church (150 Meeting Street)

Unknown. CHARLESTON, S. C. VIEW OF RUINED BUILDINGS THROUGH PORCH OF THE CIRCULAR CHURCH (150 MEETING STREET) (1865). Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Cumberland Landing. VA. Group of "Contrabands" at Foller's House.

James F. Gibson, CUMBERLAND LANDING, VA. GROUP OF "CONTRABANDS" AT FOLLER'S HOUSE (1862). Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Refugees of the Old Homestead

Unknown. REFUGEES LEAVING THE OLD HOMESTEAD (n.d). Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Sic Semper Tyrannis—22th Regt. Colored Troops

David Bustill Bowser, SIC SEMPER TYRANNIS—22TH REGT. COLORED TROOPS (1860-70). Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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