The American Civil War has been called the first modern war. Railroads, the telegraph, steamships, and mass-produced weapons were extensively employed. The practice of total war, developed by Sherman in Georgia, and of trench warfare around Petersburg foreshadowed World War I in Europe. The chronology of the war is a well-told tale. Less well known are the strikingly varied changes in America resulting from the war, including expanded roles for women as factory workers, teachers, nurses, and as some of the war’s most successful spies.
Also often overlooked are the medical advances such as the use of chloroform, artificial limbs, and the creation of ambulance groups that evolved on the battlefield. The war also lead to improved communications, including widespread use of telegraphy, photography and illustrations. Ironclad ships with rotating canon revolutionized naval warfare, while the first observation balloons and submarines hinted at the new theaters of aerial and undersea conflicts in the 20th century. On a peaceful note, the war also gave us Thanksgiving, proclaimed by Lincoln in 1863, and Santa Claus, whose modern form, garbed originally in an American flag, was created by Thomas Nast for an 1863 edition of Harper’s Weekly.
Through photography, timelines, maps, and articles, this special edition explores the history and legacy of this pivotal era.