Lincoln’s Death, New Nation: April 1865 to 1877

Modern-Day Reenactments

What difference was made by the First World War?

As late as 1910, there were still some Grand Army of the Republic units, and there were the occasional plays or set-pieces. But as the veterans kept dying off, and as America entered the twentieth century, the Civil War past began to seem remote. The appearance of the automobile, for example, persuaded many Americans—young ones, especially—to look forward to the future, not back to the past. Civil War reenactments therefore fell off dramatically, and when the First World War began in 1914, Americans looked at military events from very different eyes.

The Civil War had, of course, represented a vast leap forward in the development of military technology. Many units and not a few individual soldiers moved from muskets to rifles and from single-shot brass cannon to multiple-shot steel ones in the course of a year or two. But even the transition to Civil War technology was dwarfed by the changes that appeared in World War One. The machine gun, the massive use of the railroad, the appearance of the tank and the first airplanes, all made World War One seem even more overpowering a change than the Civil War. For years after 1918, American boys played with First World War memorabilia rather than Civil War artifacts.


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