The Changing War

The Civil War began as a purely military effort with limited political objectives. The North was fighting for reunification, and the South for independence. But as the war progressed, the Civil War gradually turned into a social, economic and political revolution with unforeseen consequences.

The Union war effort expanded to include not only reunification, but also the abolition of slavery. To achieve emancipation, the Union had to invade the South, defeat the Confederate armies, and occupy the Southern territory.

Photo of Soldier looking at destroyed railroad car.

The Civil War began as a purely military effort with limited political objectives. The North was fighting for reunification, and the South for independence. But as the war progressed, the Civil War gradually turned into a social, economic and political revolution with unforeseen consequences.

The Union war effort expanded to include not only reunification, but also the abolition of slavery. To achieve emancipation, the Union had to invade the South, defeat the Confederate armies, and occupy the Southern territory.

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  • Engraving of soldier warming himself by a fire  Photo of U.S. Sanitary Commission office.

    The course of the war was the cumulative result of political, economic, and social policies that affected (and were affected by) military operations and battles waged across a front spanning 2,000 miles. The battles and campaigns of 1861-65 ultimately demonstrated that the simple application of massive military force, even with innovations in technologies and tactics, was insufficient to resolve a conflict between two sections mobilized against one another politically, socially, philosophically, economically, and emotionally. Read more

  • Photo of Union troops at Arlington House

    The Civil War ushered in a new era of warfare in which the effects of war were felt beyond the battlefield, including confiscation of civilians' personal property, holding prisoners for strategic purposes, and scorched earth military policy. Read more

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