American Civil War Essay: Life on the Homefront
May 3, 2018
The American Civil War didn’t just affect soldiers on the battlefield; life on the homefront was affected too. Families throughout the North and South faced shortages of supplies and famine. The roles of women significantly changed, and families were torn apart as loved ones were sent off to fight. Many struggled even after the war had ended.
The start of the war meant that items that had come from the South were cut off. For people in the North, tobacco, sugar, and cotton became very expensive and nearly impossible to purchase. They stopped using these crops, making substitutions as they could. For example, they raised more sheep for wool to replace the cotton made unavailable from southern plantations.
For southern families, supplies became even scarcer than they were in the North and many struggled to feed themselves. Desperate planters and farmers were so focused on crops that made more money (ie. cotton ; tobacco), which made even less food was available. Many people in the South had to grow food as they could. Inflation in the South was much worse than in the North, rising up to 9,000%. Confederate currency was refused by merchants, and clothing and shoes became impossible to buy. People tried to make their own out of animal skins and old clothes. These struggles were difficult to mend. The South still faced deprivation and struggles for years after the war had ended.
For the first time ever, many women took control of farms, plantations and homesteads, acted as nurses on and off the battlefield, and even fought in combat. Women had to feed and care for their families while taking over the duties that their husbands had before they left to fight in the war. Those who did not have to run businesses or work banded together in sewing circles and groups to make bandages and clothing for the troops fighting in the war. Women that were not part of a family worked as nurses for wounded soldiers. More than 400 disguised themselves as men and fought in the Union and Confederate armies during the American Civil War. In the Northern states, women organized ladies’ aid societies to supply the Union troops with everything they needed, from food, to clothing, to money.
Families were significantly affected by the Civil War. After the war, 620,000 fathers and sons did not return. Some Confederate men had left the war to help their struggling families, but many that did return were wounded and maimed. Soldiers suffered severe PTSD and psychological wounds and mental illnesses. This caused families to become divided, and many fought and broke up.