The Civil War produced far-reaching
changes in American life. Most dramatic was the destruction
of slavery, begun by the actions of African-Americans who
abandoned the plantations in 1861 and 1862, and adopted as
a Union war aim in 1863 when Lincoln issued the Emancipation
In the North, mobilizing the
Union's resources greatly enhanced the power of the federal
government, increased factory production, and accelerated
the mechanization of agriculture. War contracts channeled
profits into the hands of manufacturers and financiers, even
as workers saw their wages devastated by inflation.
At the same time, the war opened
opportunities for those long excluded from public life. Hundreds
of thousands of women gathered money and medical supplies
for soldiers and sent books and clothing to the freedmen.
Northern African-Americans won partial recognition of their
rights as several states, including Illinois, repealed discriminatory
Along with mounting casualties,
all these changes produced deep hostility among many Northerners.
Lincoln nevertheless won a sweeping reelection victory in
1864 aided by the capture of Atlanta, which suggested that
an end to the war be in sight.
Social turmoil also engulfed
much of the South. After an initial burst of patriotism many
non-slaveholders became convinced that they were bearing an
unfair share of the war's burdens. Inflation, shortages, and
Confederate tax policies intensified the effects of wartime
destruction, plunging small farmers into poverty and producing
growing disaffection. The decline of home front morale did
much to hasten the Confederacy's collapse.