Modern history

Conclusion: An Uncertain Future

Jubilation in the North did not last long. On April 14, less than a week after Lee’s surrender, Abraham Lincoln was shot at Ford’s Theatre by a Confederate fanatic named John Wilkes Booth. The president died the next day, leading to an outpouring of grief across the North and leaving the entire nation in shock.

Lincoln left behind an incredible legacy. He had led the Union to victory in a devastating civil war, promulgated the Emancipation Proclamation, and resolved the conflict between competing systems based on slavery and free labor. More than 600,000 Americans died in the war, but nearly 4 million Americans who had been born enslaved were now free. At the same time, northern and southern women had entered the labor force and the public arena in numbers never before imagined. Soldiers returned to their families, jobs, and communities with experiences and knowledge, but also with physical and emotional wounds that transformed their lives. And the federal government had extended its reach into more and more areas of daily life. The war had dramatically accelerated the pace of economic, political, and social change, transforming American society both during the war and afterward.

Still, the legacies of the war were far from certain in 1865. Defeated Southerners looked for heroes, and most considered Confederate generals the greatest representatives of the “Lost Cause.” They honored Lee and his officers with statues, portraits, poems, and parades. Confederate women worked endlessly to preserve the memory of both military leaders and ordinary soldiers. They formed memorial associations to decorate cemeteries and promoted a southern perspective on the war in schools and history books. They also joined in paying tribute to heroines like Rose O’Neal Greenhow. Greenhow had traveled to England and France in 1863, promoting Confederate bond issues and publishing a book about her imprisonment under “abolition rule.” On her return in August 1864, the British vessel she was on was pursued by federal ships blockading the harbor. Fearing capture, Greenhow insisted that she be rowed ashore carrying a bag of gold coins, the profits from her book. But the boat overturned in high seas, and Greenhow drowned. She was buried with full military honors in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Victorious Northerners had far more reason to celebrate, but they knew that much still needed to be done. Frederick Douglass was thrilled that slavery had been abolished, but he argued vehemently that “the work of Abolitionists is not done.” He was deeply committed to the enfranchisement of African American men as the means to secure the rights of former slaves, for he had no illusions about the lengths to which many whites would go to protect their traditional privileges. Although Douglass considered the Republican Party the best hope for reconstructing the nation, not everyone shared his agenda. Some white abolitionists argued that their work was done; some women’s rights advocates thought they were as entitled to voting rights as were black men; some militant blacks viewed the Republican Party as too moderate. Moreover, many northern whites were exhausted by four years of war and hoped to leave the problems of slavery and secession behind. Others wanted to rebuild the South quickly in order to ensure the nation’s economic recovery. These competing visions—between Northerners and Southerners and within each group—would shape the promises of peace in ways few could imagine at the end of the war.

Chapter Review


Identify and explain the significance of each term below.

Fort Sumter (p. 326) contraband (p. 329)

Battle of Shiloh (p. 331)

Emancipation Proclamation (p. 332)

U.S. Sanitary Commission (p. 334) greenbacks (p. 335)

Women's National Loyal League (p. 337)

Enrollment Act (p. 338)

Copperheads (p. 339)

Gettysburg (p. 340)

total war (p. 343)

Field Order Number 15 (p. 344)

Thirteenth Amendment (p. 345)


Answer the focus questions from each section of the chapter.

1. What steps did Lincoln take to prevent war? Why were they ineffective?

2. What advantages and disadvantages did each side have at the onset of the war?

3. What arguments did each side make in the debate over African American enlistment in the Union army?

4. How and why did the Civil War become a war to end slavery?

5. What were the short- and long-term economic effects of the war on the North?

6. How did the war change the southern economy? What social tensions did the war create in the south?

7. What role did African Americans play in the defeat of the south?

8. How did the Union win the war? How did attitudes toward African Americans change in the final year of the war?



• Frederick Douglass publishes Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

April 14, 1861

• Fort Sumter surrenders to Confederate forces

May 23, 1861

• General Benjamin Butler declares escaped slaves "contraband"

June 1861

• U.S. Sanitary Commission established

July 21, 1861

• First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas)

August 6, 1861

• Confiscation Act passed

April 1862

• Slavery abolished in the District of Columbia

• Battle of Shiloh

• Jefferson Davis signs conscription act

June 1862

• Rose O'Neal Greenhow exiled to the South



• Battle of Antietam

• Lincoln issues preliminary Emancipation Proclamation

January 1, 1863

• Lincoln signs Emancipation Proclamation

March 1863

• Enrollment Act passed in North

July 1863

• Draft riots in New York City

• Battle of Gettysburg

• Battle of Vicksburg

September 2, 1864

• Atlanta falls; Sherman begins "March to the Sea"


• 200,000 African Americans serving in the Union army and navy

January 1865

• Sherman issues Field Order Number 15

January 31, 1865

• Congress passes Thirteenth Amendment

April 9, 1865

• General Lee surrenders to General Grant at Appomattox Court House

April 14, 1865

• Assassination of President Abraham Lincoln

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