How Did the Civil War Change the United States?


The civil war began in 1861 and ended in 1865. It was a conflict between the United States and the Confederate States of America, formed by 11 Southern states that seceded from the Union. It was a traumatic experience that saw at least “2 percent of the American population in 1861” (McPherson, 2010). The civil war resolved two significant issues that the constitution and revolution had not previously settled; slavery and whether the new republic could survive. Apart from the massive death toll, the war had other negative and positive consequences. Some of the consequences are felt and seen today. The civil war triggered a ripple effect of constitutional amendments that redefined American Society, formed the foundation for America’s emergence as a world power in the 20th century, and kickstarted the annual celebration of fallen soldiers.

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The Ways It Affected the Country and Its Citizens

The First Effect

One of the ways the civil war changed America was by ratifying three significant constitutional amendments that ensured we held certain rights to be sacred. They include the 13th Amendment (1865), 14th Amendment (1868), and the 15th Amendment (1870)Perhaps the most significant victory of the Civil War was the freedom of the four million enslaved persons. Although equality for formerly enslaved people was unachieved, the 13th Amendment paved the way for constitutional changes and civil rights movements that ended slavery (Vorenberg, 2001). Similarly, the 14th and 15th Amendments were the first steps to allowing minority groups citizenship and the right to vote despite race (Karlan, 2002). Eventually, in 1920, women too gained their right to vote, and since the foundation had already been laid post-civil war, suffrage for all adults became a reality.

The Second Effect

Another effect of the Civil War was the emergency of the United States of America as a world power. Post-Civil war, America became the land of opportunities. According to Goldfield and Berlin (2013), “the scale and efficiency of Union military operations transferred to the new industries of oil, steel, and railroads, creating new workforces, disorienting for some, but exhilarating and remunerative for many others.” This was because several events triggered the nation’s rapid economic growth. Prior to the war, the Southern lawmakers had blocked the passage of land-grant legislation. In 1862, Congress took advantage of their absence during the secession and passed a series of land-grant measures that changed the country’s political, economic, and physical landscape. Then between 1863 and 186, The First Transcontinental Railroad, also known as the “Pacific Railroad,” was built (Engerman, 1966). Again, the Homestead Act, enacted in 1862, provided that any adult citizen who had never rebelled (borne war) against the government. As Rose (2017) explains, the Morrill Land Grant Act paved the way for the establishment of institutions of higher learning like Michigan State and Texas A&M. More so, since the war drained the treasury, the solution of National paper currency opened up trade all over the country.

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The Third and Final Effect

Finally, the civil war kickstarted the celebration of fallen soldiers. Immediately after the war, both the South and the North organized group events as memorials for the soldiers who lost their lives during the war (Goldfield & Berlin, 2013). Eventually, it evolved into annual celebrations where people retold war stories, especially of the heroes who fought it. After World War 1, the holiday was expanded to accommodate all fallen heroes during wartime. It has become a part of American society, and despite race and gender, everyone in America recognizes the special day. Such social occasions bring healing as the aftermath of the war is usually heartbreaking, especially since people lose their beloved. Therefore, recognizing their contributions is an excellent way of honoring their sacrifice and the sacrifice of their family and friends. It is a way of reminding people and keeping their memories alive.


The civil war had its downside; however, it also contributed greatly to what America is today. The nation’s development was anchored in it as it caused the establishment of major infrastructures like the road and paper money. After the war and the devastating aftermath on the people and the nation, the only way the nation’s economy would go was up. Economic growth saw the nation catapulted to world power in the 20th century. The celebration of those who died during the war brings society together. The heroes’ stories remind us of who we are and where we have been as a nation. More so, the greatest division in the country was because of slavery. So, after the civil war, the 13th Amendment began the process of reuniting the people through the abolishment of slavery. It laid the foundation for the civil rights movements of the mid-1900s. Again, voting rights and citizenship led to the healing and the bringing together of the people under one government.

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  1. Goldfield, D., & Berlin, I. (2013). How the Civil War created a nation. Google Scholar.
  2. Karlan, P.S. (2002). Ballots and bullets: The exceptional history of the right to vote. University of Cincinnati Law Review, 71.
  3. Engerman, S. L. (1966). The economic impact of the Civil War. Explorations in Economic History3(3), 176. 6ee7ba47c7/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=1819326
  4. McPherson. M.J (2010). Out of war, a new nation. National Archives.
  5. Rose, D. (2017). The Morill land grant acts and the roots of higher educational opportunity for African Americans [Unpublished Master Thesis]. Duke University.
  6. Vorenberg, M. (2001). Final freedom: The Civil War, the abolition of slavery, and the Thirteenth Amendment. Cambridge University Press.
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