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The Civil War was the bloodiest war in American History. Even though the war was a
tragedy because of the life lost, it helped to better the United States to this day. One might
wonder how the Civil War has affected different aspects of the United States over the years. If
one were to examine events that took place after 1865, they would be able to find similarities
between these events and occurrences that happened during the Civil War.
Why did men (and women) choose to fight?
There were many reasons why men (and sometimes women) decided to fight in the Civil
War. Some chose to fight because they believed they were defending themselves. Others fought
because they felt it was their duty to fight for their respective side. Most who fought, however,
wanted to fight for what they believed in. In fact, the reasons why Confederate and Union
soldiers took up arms were almost identical; the only difference being their views on slavery.1
Soldiers today still fight for their country. Recruits joined the United States Army to fight
in the War on Terror after September 11, 2001. Most of those soldiers continued to fight in the
War in Iraq. This could be for a variety of reasons that only they know. Some may have joined
out of a sense of duty or retribution. Others may have enlisted to defend themselves and their
country. Some might have just joined out of anger. But even with these different reasons for
fighting, they still stand united under the American Flag.
Why was the draft controversial?
The draft in the Union and Confederate States was controversial for a few reasons.
People could buy their way out of service. Those who were rich enough could hire substitutes to
fight on their behalf. Those in the Confederacy, who were fighting to save slavery, that had more
than a certain number of slaves would be exempt from military duty. Some just decided not to
show up if they happened to be drafted. Those who couldn't bribe draft officers, but refused to
serve, were arrested. The draft would lead to protests and riots due to its faults.2
There was still controversy with draft after the Civil War.
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particular, had a huge controversy concerning the draft. Many United States citizens protested
the draft because they did not believe that the Vietnam War concerned them. Some who were
drafted tried to avoid military service and were known as "draft dodgers." There has not been a
draft since the Vietnam War. The War in Iraq, however has some believing that there will be
another draft. If it occurs, it is believed that there will be fierce protests for this draft, as well.
How does Lincoln's assassination resemble other assassinations?
Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, attended the play "Our
American Cousin," with his wife on April 14, at Ford's Theatre in Washington D.C. At one
point in the evening, Lincoln's bodyguard had left his post. At 10:15 P.M., John Wilkes Booth
opened the door to the State Box and shot Lincoln in the back of the head. He then leapt from
the box and fractured his left fibula. As he attempted to escape, he shouted "Sic Semper
Tyrannis" (Latin for "As always to tyrants"). Lincoln was taken to the Petersen House across the
street where he died the next morning.3
Sadly, there have been other assassinations of American presidents. John F. Kennedy,
one of America's most beloved presidents, was assassinated on November 22, 1963 in Dallas,
Texas. There are many conspiracy theories about both of these murders. Some historians, in
fact, are still studying every intricate detail about them today. The main connection, though, is
that they were both killed around times of war. Lincoln was killed at the end of the Civil War,
and Kennedy was killed during the Vietnam war.
What was the greatest gain from the Civil War?
The greatest acquisition from the Civil War was, probably, the 14th amendment to the
United States Constitution. It was proposed in 1866 and ratified in 1868. This amendment
guaranteed citizenship to any persons born or naturalized in the United States. It also granted
equal protection under the law.4
This amendment is a great one because it would lead to many new rights and freedoms
for women and minorities. They would eventually gain the right to vote and work. Even though
the amendment was not meant to recognize women, they would eventually use it to earn that
freedom. This amendment did lead to segregation, but it also, ironically, ended it. Without the
14th amendment, I could not imagine what life would be like today.
Even though the Civil War was a tragedy because of all the deaths of American citizens,
it helped to grant great freedoms which people still have today. Events that took place outside
the fighting, in particular, had the greatest impact of all.
2.) Handout: New York Draft Riots
3.) Class Notes: Lincoln Assassination
4.) Class Notes: Reconstruction Amendments