Over 600,000 Americans lost their lives in the Civil War, with the Northern troops suffering higher losses. The North believed the sacrifice was worth it; the slaves were freed, and the Union was preserved. The South, on the other hand, began almost immediately to glorify the lost cause. They turned their generals into mythic heroes and looked wistfully back at the antebellum period. They almost regretted surrendering.
Historian Shelby Foote said,
Any understanding of this nation has to be based…on an understanding of the Civil War . . . The Civil War defined us as what we are, and it opened us to being what we became, good and bad things. It is very necessary if you’re going to understand the American character in the 20th century to learn about this enormous catastrophe of the mid-19th century. It was the crossroads of our being.
Burns, K. & Burns, R. (Writers). (1990). Episode 1: The cause (1861). In K. Burns (Producer), The Civil War. Arlington, VA: Public Broadcasting Service.
Write a 1,400-word paper in which you answer the following questions:
- What do you think Foote meant in the quoted passage? How does the Civil War define Americans?
- If the Southern generals like Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were so brilliant, and if the South lost fewer men than the North, why did the North win the war?