Civil War as the First Modern War and How the War to Preserve the Union Became a War to End Slavery

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  4
Wordcount:  1078 Words
Date:  2024-01-29

The Civil War, a war in the United States that began in 1861 and ended in 1865, is considered the first modern war. This is because the war occurred when industrialization had advanced the nature of and weaponry used in warfare. It was the first war that involved the use of modern weapons, which led to a great death toll in the country. The revolution in the manufacturing of arms resulted in the production of more modern rifles that could be easily loaded and had grooved barrels that made them deadly at more than 600 yards (Foner & Mahoney, 1990). The modern rifle substituted the traditional musket that was only accurate at a shorter distance. The modernity of the Civil War can also be attributed to the fact that it was the first war that utilized the railroad as the means of transport for troops and supplies. Key railroad junctions such as Atlanta, Petersburg, and Chattanooga became the major military points (Foner & Mahoney, 1990). Additionally, the Civil War introduced hand grenades, armored trains, primitive submarines, surveillance balloons, and ironclad ships that replaced wooden ships. Further, this war was the first major war to be photographed and utilize telegraphs for communication between generals to facilitate cooperation among troops.

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Before the Civil, slavery was a major issue of concern in North and South America. The concept of liberty differed between the politicians in the North who supported the ideals of the constitution that every man was equal and the South who advocated for freedom as established by the forefathers, thus sparking conflicts between the different states (Public Broadcasting Service, 2020). Although the Civil War started as warfare to protect and uphold the Union, it became a war to end slavery. Initially, Lincoln did not want to drag slavery into the Civil War because he knew the Border States, which were also slave states, would leave the Union and join the Confederacy (Public Broadcasting Service, 2020). However, during the war, Lincoln realized that the only way he could defeat the South was by tackling the central cause of conflict, slavery, and he knew that freeing slaves in the South would encourage them to join the Union. At this point, the war shifted from preserving the Union to freeing slaves. Over 3 million slaves were set free. In 1863, Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which changed the status of the enslaved in the Confederate South to free (Public Broadcasting Service, 2020). After the war, Lincoln pursued the Emancipation Proclamation further by supporting the passage of the 13th Amendment that banned slavery in the United States.

How the Civil War Transformed the National Economy, and in the process, Create A Stronger Nation in Peace

The Civil War made the economy more industrialized. The victory of the North meant the intensification of industrialization and technological advancement. The North imposed tariffs to protect its industries from British competition and foster industrial development in the nation (Hormats, 2003). In 1862, Lincoln signed the Pacific Railway Act, which allowed the national government to support the construction of the transcontinental railroad that was completed in 1869 (Hormats, 2003). Technological advancements further heightened industrialization in the North. For instance, the mechanization of agriculture resulted in large-scale production of the harvest that facilitated the development of factories. Therefore, the frenetic railroad construction and the mass factory-based production relentlessly expanded the national economy.

Furthermore, the conquering of the South brought them back to the Union, resulting in a stronger nation-state. The failure of the Confederacy resulted in a strong, united, and peaceful nation governed by the Union (Godfielder, 2011). The civil war further fostered a stronger nation-state through various Acts. For instance, Lincoln signed the Land Grant College Act that facilitated the creation of mechanics and agricultural colleges, while the Homestead Act offered 160 acres of land to Western settlers for free to allow them to reside on and cultivate it (Godfielder, 2011). These acts and other legislations passed by the federal government during and after the Civil War helped bring America together and build a stronger nation-state.

The Major Military and Political Turning Points of the Civil War. The major political turning point of the Civil War was the election of Lincoln as the president of the United States. In 1864, Lincoln was running against McClellan, a former military general (American Battlefield Trust, 2020). The victory of McClellan could have resulted in negotiations for peace between the North and South. However, Lincoln wanted the South conquered and returned to the Union; thus, his win propagated the war.

The major military points of the Civil War were the Battle at Gettysburg and the Fall of Vicksburg (Hatfield, 2013). General Robert Lee’s defeat by the Potomac army weakened his army; hence his plan to invade the North and bring the war to an end failed (The Library of Congress, 2003). If Lee succeeded, his army could have surrounded Northern Virginia or conquered the nation’s capital and disabled the federal government, bringing the war to an immediate end. However, the South’s defeat in the Battle of Gettysburg acted as a turning point for the Civil War. Further, during the battle at Vicksburg, Grant consistently bombed the city until the Confederate army ran out of food (Hatfield, 2013). Most of the Confederate soldiers fell sick due to malnutrition, which forced General Pemberton of the Southern army to surrender to Grant. The siege of the city enabled the Union to take charge of the Mississippi River, resulting in a major turning point in the civil war (Hatfield, 2013). A combination of these turning points resulted in an unrestricted battle from 1861 to 1865, marking the Civil War as a “total war” (Hatfield, 2013).


American Battlefield Trust. (2020). The election of 1864. American Battlefield Trust.

Foner, E., & Mahoney, O. (1990). A House Divided: America in the Age of Lincoln. WW Norton & Company.

Godfielder, D. (2011). How the Civil War Created a Nation. Essential Civil War Curriculum.

Hatfield, E. (2013). July 4, 1863: Turning point of the Civil War. US Army., R.D. (2003). Abraham Lincoln and the global economy. Harvard Business Review.

Public Broadcasting Service. (2020). The Civil War and emancipation. Public Broadcasting Service.

The Library of Congress. (2003). Turning point of the Civil War: Gettysburg. Wise Guide.,point%20of%20the%20Civil%20War.

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Civil War as the First Modern War and How the War to Preserve the Union Became a War to End Slavery. (2024, Jan 29). Retrieved from

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