Daily Life During The Civil War
19th century United States was nothing like it is today. Majority of people in North worked in factories and in plantations as farmers in the South. Life was comfortable for rich land and factory owners but a common man had to work hard to win bread for his family. Civil war brought more misery for poor people.
In the early years of war people joined military on both sides in search of steady and regular income and a promise of an exciting life but the reality was far from the perception. Living conditions were poor and chances of survival bleak. With the introduction of draft later on, most of the poor people had to serve in military mandatorily on both sides. Life in South was especially very hard.
Poor Man’s War:
Civil war brought economic troubles for poor populace of both North and South. Many people had to leave their jobs and join the war effort. Many soldiers were volunteers who were farmers, factory workers, cobblers, clerks and teachers. Rich people on both sides could avoid the draft. In North a person could pay 300 dollars to avoid draft and in South any man with at least 20 slaves was exempted from the draft.
Women in War:
Union forces drafted 2.5 million men in army and navy and Confederate forces drafted almost half as many. The drafted men were a big part of the total male population. This left many families with only women left to fend for themselves and their families. In absence of their men these women worked in farms, factories and markets. They also took up jobs as nurses and served in military hospitals, tending to the wounded soldiers.
Some families were left with no male members and their women had to take up every responsibility. Most of the school teachers during war years were also women. Women also raised funds to support war effort and send clothing and supplies to their men at war. Economic hardships resulting from the war meant that women who wore expensive and fine silk, chiffon and satin clothes had to wear cheap clothes made of cotton and wool.
Children in War:
Although school remained open and working during the war years, the syllabus was primarily propaganda material introduced to instill patriotic zeal on both sides of the divide. Children took part in fares and exhibitions and sold handmade socks and mittens to raise money for the troops. Children in North had a much safer life as Northern territory was safe from most of the fighting. Union army had set minimum age for recruitment at 18 years. However, boys even younger also joined military after lying about their age. The youngest reported soldier during this period was a 9 years old Confederate soldier from Mississippi.
Perils of South:
Life in south was much more difficult and dangerous in the south. As most of the bloody battles were fought on the Confederate territory, the life of common people in south was affected more adversely by the war. Union naval blockade ruined the Confederate economy. Shortage of food and supplies resulted in many bread riots and inflation soared tremendously. War violence affected many families and invading army more often than not destroyed properties in the invaded territory.