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The American Civil War

Homefront of the Civil War

draft-riots.jpg
New York Draft Riots


During the great American Civil War there was a great deal that was going on in the nation aside from the bloodshed. The government itself was obviously forced to make changes and wartime laws, such as Lincoln's suspension of the writ of Habeas Corpus, as well as his issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Of the laws passed during the War the Enrollment Act caused the most violent response, as seen by the draft riots in New York City. Industry in the Union also went through some dramatic changes, ultimately setting the stage for the development of big business in the latter later portion of the nineteenth century.



As the war raged on and as many cities were destroyed in the South, the Northern cites continued to grow. Prior to the war there were approximately 128,300 industrial establishments in the nation, and of these 110,274 were located in the North. Over the course of the war much of the small Southern industry was destroyed, allowing room for Northern industry to grow further. As one source notes it is "that the war widened this sectional disparity by destroying the South's minute industrial base and expanding that of the North to prodigious dimensions." (http://www.civilwarhome.com/civilwarindustry.htm, pg. 1). Also, as a result of military contracts industries such as gunpowder, firearms, shoes, and wagon manufacturing grew extremely quickly. In fact the war caused Northern industry to grow so fast that "by 1864 the Union's manufacturing index had risen to a level 13% greater than that of the country as a whole in 1860." (http://www.civilwarhome.com/civilwarindustry.htm, pg. 1). The growth of industry in the North during the Civil War gave birth to innovation and helped to revolutionize industry during the Gilded Age.



The South saw nothing but destruction and devastation during the War. Almost all major battles took place on their doorsteps, and everyone in the South was forced to live in increasingly decrepit condition as it progressed. Since the population of the South was only a third of the entire nation, it required nearly every man to serve. With the men off fighting it became the responsibility of women to tend the field and look after property. As the war raged on it soaked the South of all its resources, leaving little food, clothing, and other essentials for those at home. For those in the North news of the war was read on the headlines of every newspaper, but in the South the news was read on their blood soaked lawns.



The Enrollment Act of Conscription was issued by Lincoln on March 3, 1863, and not long after there was widespread resentment for the draft. There was, however, a way that one could be exempt from the draft, and that was by paying a $300 fee. This made it easy for the rich to evade fighting, but was an impossible fee for poor immigrants to pay. It is indicated that "no group was more resentful of these inequities than the Irish immigrants populating the slums of northeastern cities. Poor and more than a little prejudiced against blacks, with whom they were both unfamiliar and forced to compete for the lowest paying jobs, the Irish in New York objected to fighting on their behalf." (http://www.civilwarhome.com/draftriots.htm, pg. 1). When the names of the draftees were posted in the newspaper a mob of about 50,000 Irish immigrants rioted. The riot initially targeted governmental building, but then moved to the lynching of black individuals. (http://www.civilwarhome.com/draftriots.htm) The riots themselves are clear indicators of how tired northerners were becoming with the war they had thought would only take a month.



After Lee's first Northern offensive had been halted in Maryland upon the battlefield of Antietam, President Lincoln finally had the leverage that he needed to give the Emancipation Proclamation. This proclamation was actually the second part of an early proclamation known as the Preliminary Proclamation. The Emancipation Proclamation freed all slaves in Confederate territory not already under the control of Union forces. When Lincoln read his draft to his cabinet he left them in shock, as many of them feared it would cause anarchy in the South as well as hindering their chances of winning the upcoming election. The proclamation was "a military measure designed both to deprive the Confederacy of slave labor and bring additional men into the Union Army." (http://euphrates.wpunj.edu/courses/hist102-10/On-Line%20Documents/ABRAHAM%20LINCOLN.html, pg 1). Although Congress never approved appropriations for this decision, the Emancipation proclamation was never questioned in legality as it was seen to be well within the president's wartime powers. (http://euphrates.wpunj.edu/courses/hist102-10/On-Line%20Documents/ABRAHAM%20LINCOLN.html) This declaration would make for one of the greatest social changes in the nation and ushered in freedom for hundreds of thousands of people.



Unlike the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln's suspension of the writ of Habeas Corpus was of great controversy. The writ's purpose was to ensure that anyone who was imprisoned would have the ability to appeal to the courts in order to evaluate whether or not that imprisonment was legal. At the outbreak of war there was fear that Maryland, as many of its residents were Confederate sympathizers, would secede, leaving the nationals capitol surrounded by rebel territory. Lincoln then suspended habeas corpus as a preemptive strike against any schemes being developed by sympathizers in Maryland's state legislature. (Kwok, pg 1) By taking such action the president had also ensured that Northern Democrats, who often spoke out for peace and were often called Copperheads by the Republicans, would be hushed. The legality of the Lincoln's measure is often questioned as many people, such Chief Justice Taney, who believe that this action was not within the President's wartime power.



In the North the economy continued to grow as a result of war, and many industries were able to make large profits off bloodshed due to military contracts. Yet while much of the North prospered economically, many were growing tired of a war that seemed to be endless. The South continued to suffer, and with much of her farmland and cities were scorched, Southerners themselves began to realize that they were fighting for a lost cause. Executive action during the war also served to make some dramatic changes in the nation. While the Emancipation Proclamation gave a moral purpose for fighting, the Enrollment Act and the suspension of Habeas Corpus caused rioting and dissent. The Civil War tore apart families, destroyed towns, lead to the building of thousands of cemeteries, and was the most trying time for our nation.







Works Cited





"Abraham Lincoln, 'Emancipation Proclamation'." 4 Pages. Online. Internet. 4 June, 2006. Available http://euphrates.wpunj.edu/courses/hist102-10/On-Line%20Documents/ABRAHAM%20LINCOLN.html .



Kwok, Gordon. "The Suspension of Habeas Corpus." 2 Pages. Online. Internet. 4 June, 2006. Available http://hometown.aol.com/gordonkwok/habeas_corpus.html .



"New York City Draft Riots." 2 Pages. Online. Internet. 4 June, 2006. Available http://www.civilwarhome.com/draftriots.htm .



"Northern Industry in the Civil War." 2 Pages. Online. Internet. 4 June, 2006. Available http://www.civilwarhome.com/civilwarindustry.htm .



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Emancipation Proclamation

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