The Home Front: 1861 to 1865

A British Traveler

Can we say anything about the difference between the Americans of 1865 and those of 1861?

On an individual level, they had gone through all sorts of trials and torments. Very few Americans remained unaffected by the war. On a collective level, the people and the nation had become much more firmly entwined. Not until 1917, with the entrance to the First World War, would Americans experience such a searing set of events, and not until 1941, with the entrance to the Second World War, would there be such an emphasis on heroism and sacrifice. Along with these noble sentiments came an uglier side, however. Although some prejudices broke down under the pressure of the Civil War, others hardened and became more entrenched. The Irish would long be identified as the troublemakers in the Northern cities, and the African Americans would often be blamed, as if they had started all the trouble in the first place. On a familial level, the Civil War was instrumental in doing harm to the husband and father as the center of the family. The Industrial Revolution was under way when the war began in 1861, and by 1865 the trend toward iron, steel, and even the petroleum industry were well marked. But with each progressive improvement in the quality of the lives of the children back home, there was less exposure to the vital presence of their fathers in their lives.


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