The American Civil War, also known as the War Between the States or simply the Civil War, was a civil war fought from 1861 to 1865 in the United States after several Southern slave states declared their secession and formed the Confederate States of America (the “Confederacy” or the “South“). The states that remained were known as the “Union” or the “North“.

It was the most appalling and tragic chapter of America’s history – brother against brother – with such a terrible lost of life and many towns, cities and countryside utterly destroyed.

During four years of bitter and bloody fighting between the North and the South, more than 600,000 soldiers lost their lives while thousands more returned to civilian life crippled both physically and mentally.

There was hardly a family in the land that was not touched by the horror of war and for those who survived, life was never the same again.

From the first shots at Fort Sumter in 1861 to the emotional Confederate surrender at Appomattox Court House in 1865, the conflict scarred the soul of a nation.

Aspects of the American Civil War that ended just fifty years before our story takes place had a direct impact on the attitudes of Southerners towards Northerners that in some, has not changed even today.

To understand the American Civil War is to take a journey into bigotry, jealousy and greed. The North and the South had become irreconcilably divided even though they shared the same language, the same religions, the same Constitution and a common history. The one thing that separated them was the existence of slavery in the South. Unlike the industrial North, the South relied completely on slave labour to make its money.

The Southerners thought of themselves as superior to Northerners as they were ethnically pure British stock as opposed to the Northerners who they thought of as being polluted by mass immigration from Europe, mainly Germans, Irish and Jews. By 1861, 27 million new Americans had settled in the North in cities like New York, Chicago and Boston. In contrast, the South had one major city – New Orleans – with a population of just 150,000 people.

A stereotypical Southerner is a generous, respectable, honourable slave owner who is afraid of hard work and only interested in his aristocratic lineage and the purity of the lady on his arm, to whom he is incredibly chivalrous. A stereotypical Northerner is a loose-moralled, pasty-faced shop worker or grimy factory wage slave chasing after the almighty dollar and corrupted by the decadence of the Northern cities while rubbing shoulders with the great unwashed festering in their crowded tenements.

The famous saying goes “If the Northerner likes to make money, the Southerner likes to spend it”!

When war broke out, there were 20 million Northerners and only 9 million Southerners of which, more than 4 million were black slaves. The total value of these slaves as a financial asset was approximately 3.5 billion dollars! The single largest financial asset in the entire American economy. Slaves as property were worth more than all manufacturing, all rail roads, all banking assets – all the rest of the economy put together!

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UNESCO International Slavery Day

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A slave entered the world in a one-room, dirt-floored shack. Drafty in winter, reeking in summer, slave cabins bred pneumonia, typhus, cholera, lockjaw, and tuberculosis. A child who survived to be sent to the fields at 12 was likely to have worms, rotten teeth, dysentery and malaria. Fewer than four in a hundred lived to be 60. “No day ever dawns for the slave,” a freed black man wrote, “nor is it looked for. For the slave it is all night – all night forever. One white Mississippian was more blunt: “I’d rather be dead,” he said, “than be a nigger on one of these big plantations.”

Afrcan American-slavery-pictures-south-plantation

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The pre-war way of life in the South is beautifully and lushly illustratred by the multi-award winning epic Gone With The Wind but the reality of the harsh treatment of slaves is better protrayed in the Steve McQueen film 12 Years A Slave and the Quentin Tarantino film Django Unchained. All three should be on your viewing list.

Due to the high demand for cotton in both the North and in Britain, the institution of slavery began to pay rich dividends for the South. Indeed, by 1861 the South’s output of cotton was a staggering 5 million bales per year! So, obviously, whatever laws the North brought out, the South certainly weren’t going to relinquish their only real source of income. Furthermore, the South was largely ignorant and uneducated and had a repution for violence and bigotry.

This was the breaking point – the North wanted to abolish slavery, the South had to keep it or die. War was inevitable.

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Here is a selection of short clips explaining all this from the Southerners side – fascinating!

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Cultural reasons for the war:

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Economic reasons for the war:

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Political differences between the North and the South:

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Religious differences between the North and South

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The “truth” of slavery in America:

 

 

Civil War Events That Impact On Our Show

The Battle of Gettysburg

The Fall of Atlanta

General Sherman’s March to the Sea

The End of the War

Veterans of Gettysburg in 1913

 

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The Number of American Deaths in World War I was 116, 516

The Number of American Deaths in World War II was 405, 399

The Number of American Deaths in Korea was 43, 891

The Number of American Deaths in Vietnam was 58, 167

The Number of American Deaths in the Civil War was 624, 511
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