Learning Lincoln On-line


Topic Eighty-six:  Civil War Civilian Life Reading Articles and Essay Starters



       19th Century America was actually a divided country.  There was a northern area, southern area, and the new territories out west.  Living in these areas would have a big variety of means and characteristics.  The northern states was largely industrial and agricultural, while the south was mostly agricultural and relied on slaves for its' primary means to make money.
       The western territories were still being developed with the question of slavery still not decided. Regardless, life for everyone changed dramatically when in 1861, the Civil War broke out, and the southern Confederate states became their own country.  The whole of the United States would suffer greatly, and lifestyles changed.


The National Park Service (NPS):  The Civilian Experience in the Civil War

Civil War Trust:  Washington's Civil War Defenses and the Battle of Fort Stevens

 Kidsport Library:

  Armaments and Forts


  Camp Life


  Family life


  Life as a Soldier


1.  Those at home during the war could keep updated on the events of the war by using the modern means of communication.  List the three types available in the 1860's.  How did the ones using these communication tools travel around. 

2.  Personal Losses on both sides, with the Southern states and the border states get the brunt of losses.  When General Sherman approached Atlanta in 1864, he informed the

mayor that civilians must vacate the city. The mayor protested that this "helpless" people had done nothing to be driven from their homes. Responding with his well-known

 "war is cruelty" phrase, Sherman went on to connect the hardships of war to the civilian population who "brought war into our country."

3.  Objectors to the war, and related political issues that were raised in the North and the South.  Copperhead (southern sympathizers in the north) would get very radical. In Charleston, Illinois.  Various organizations in the south would cause great fears on African Americans, free and slave. 

4. Families had many deaths from the battles to deal with, as well as conscription (the draft).  The rich could pay a person to serve for them.

5.  President Lincoln restricted the press, and enforced anti-American newspaper reports, and ended the right of "habeas corpus," in which a person could be jailed and held for long

periods with hearings and normal judicial procedures.  For some, this caused stress and anger.

6.  As the war wound down, and throughout the four years there was great uncertainty about how things would end. What would happen to the slaves if freed?

7.  The massive loss of life on both sides was probably the most serious life changer for civilians.  Husbands, fathers, brothers, and friends in every town would be lost because of

disease, malnutrition, exposure, prison camps (both sides), and the lesser cause:  being killed in action.

8.  In every battle, thousands of teenage soldiers would walk away, or try to abandon the battleground.  Many were not trained to use their weapons.  The massive recruitments and

speed of such, created armies with a majority of men and boys, not prepared for the "European style" battle-lines.

How to understand the Conditions during the Civil War Today:

1.  Imagine that your city had sent off all the young men to war. None return alive or whole.  There are none left in the town.

2.  Imagine a war battle occurring now that reports back on television that 30,000 men were killed.

3.  Imagine that you were living in the south, and battles were coming to every town and area, and your farm or home will be destroyed, and you know that's going to happen.

4.  Imagine that all the young men in your family:  brothers, fathers, and cousins are in the war, and none return.

5.  Imagine that you are a newspaper editor in the North, and you write an article critical of President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, and Union soldiers come in, take you to a jail, and close your shop down.  How would you feel?

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