Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The American Civil War :The Road To War

The American Civil War marked a turning point in the history of conflict. Between 1861 and 1865 the world would witness devastating new weapons and tactics that finally brought an end to Napoleonic warfare and ushered in a brutal and bloody new era which would culminate in the horrendous casualties of the Western Front. The war that divided a nation would have implications that affected the entire world – introducing new concepts from mass production and ironclads to machineguns – it would usher in the age of modern warfare and would leave a nation mourning hundreds of thousands of its Background The war was essentially a battle between two sides that were, on the face of it, almost totally alike. Comrades who had fought side-by-side defending a young nation now found themselves at loggerheads, families were divided and bitterness and destruction littered the land of the free. However, the roots of the conflict are not as simple as is often believed. Far from being the great crusade to free the slaves the conflict had its roots in the very independence won from Britain a century before. The revolutionary state that had established its autonomy in 1783 was not as unified as is often believed; indeed the seeds that would eventually lead to civil war were sown almost 100 years before the first shot was fired. childrenIt was in the days of the adoption of the Constitution that fundamental differences between north and south were created. At the time these divides were dwarfed by their common interest in establishing a new nation but, once established, the political divide that split the country gradually asserted itself. . North-South divide During the 19th century the south remained almost completely agricultural, with an economy and social order largely founded on slavery and the plantation system. These mutually dependent institutions produced the staples, especially cotton, from which the south derived its wealth. The North had its own great agricultural resources, was more advanced commercially, and was also gaining status as the leading power of the nation. As it began to expand, northern industrialists hoped that emancipated slaves would leave the south and provide the labour that they so desperately needed. However, the key chasm which existed between the two sides was their attitude to slavery. While the north contained so called ‘free-states’ where slavery had been abolished, the south remained as ‘slave states’ and bitterly resisted any moves to enforce emancipation.


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