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How did civilians impact the Civil War?

While they might not always be on the frontlines, women and civilians played a major role. They also faced major consequences from the fighting even when they were directly in the line of fire.

How women played a part in the battle

Women’s roles in the Civil War included:

  • Nurses

  • Cooks

  • Spies

  • Messengers

Civilians, too, were impacted by the Civil War, facing shortages of food, clothing, and other necessities. Some even had their homes and property destroyed by the fighting. This led to many negative views of the opposing side’s soldiers, who frequently stole from and brutalized enemy civilians while marching through their lands.

The supplies that the armies depended on all ultimately came from non-combatants who were tasked with carrying on the increasingly complex and industrial American economy throughout the fighting. This could often be extremely challenging, but the work had to get done.

African Americans and the Civil War

War solider in forest

We often talk about the Civil War through the frame of slavery without actually talking about the experience of African Americans at the time. It is important to understand their experiences of the war if we are to fully appreciate what it meant (and still means) for the country.

While they were initially excluded from the Union Army, African Americans played a crucial role in the conflict. At first, they served as laborers, spies, and scouts.

African American Soldiers in the Civil War

But on January 1, 1863, the Union Army officially allowed black soldiers in the Civil War. Their contributions helped to turn the tide of the war, and their service paved the way for the eventual abolition of slavery in the United States.

Despite their sacrifices, African Americans faced significant discrimination and hardship during and after the war. They were often paid less than their white counterparts and were subject to brutal treatment at the hands of Confederate soldiers. And while the Emancipation Proclamation made the Union side explicitly anti-slavery, black people still faced extreme prejudice in the North.

By the end of the war, African Americans were freed from slavery, though the struggle for equality was far from over.

Final Thoughts

To understand the Civil War, we must understand the people and personalities who fought in it and lived through it.

The motivations and experiences of all of these people are complex. There is no single, simple story we can tell about the American Civil War. But if we take the time to listen to their words and acknowledge their individual sacrifices, we get much closer to understanding our country.

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