What effect did the sacrifice of 600,000 men make on American history?

The Civil War
lasted from 1861 to 1865 with 384 battles. The Civil War started over the sectionalism tensions
over slavery and states’ rights. These issues were slingshot into a war in the Election of 1860
when Republican Abraham Lincoln was elected president. The South saw this as a threat to lose
their way of life and within 4 months states started to secede from the Union. On April 9th, 1865
the war came to an end with General Robert E. Lee of the Confederacy surrendering to General
Ulysses S. Grant of the Union at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia. So why was the Civil War
a defining moment in American History? The Civil War was a defining moment in American
History because it changed America’s view as a nation of freedom and sacrifice.
The Civil War was a defining moment in American history due to the sacrifices men
made to support their cause and sometimes by force. Poor Irish immigrants that didn't have the
money to bypass the draft and in turn, this rallied them together to protest with lines such as
“Poor man’s blood for the rich man’s money”, lines such as this were used by poor Irish
immigrants that did not have enough money to pay the $300 fee so that their son would not have
to go and fight in the war. While on the other hand the rich white men that could afford the $300
fee and go with their lives as happy men without any change (Hayes, pg. 71). On the contrary the
soldiers who had joined the army made sacrifices and some men “had paid his debt” in a
different way (Fitzgerald, pg. 66). Every man in the army at the time believed that they had a
debt to pay for their country and being in the army was the most logical way to them. Sometimes
this had meant fighting and then losing your life for your cause and country. In the book a
soldier was covering a sentry post for General Robert E. Lee and had fallen asleep. He was
sentenced to death by firing squad, but by the pure will of General Lee he spared his life. To
repay the debt of honor he volunteered to lead a charge on a local Union camp. In turn, he died,
but he had repaid his debt. But when the soldiers did survive till the end of the war some of their
sacrifices went to waste with the surrender of the Confederate at Appomattox courthouse “With
an increasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your country, and a grateful
remembrance of your kind and generous consideration of myself, I bid you an affectionate
farewell” General Robert E. Lee dedicated the address to the Confederate Army after the
surrender to thank them for their sacrifice and service to their country Robert E. Lee personally
felt that he had been let the army down by surrendering and felt it was the soldiers right to
surrender due to their sacrifices to the country (Lee pg. 105). As a final point, the Civil War was
at least a defining moment by itself just for the sacrifices men made during the war.
The Civil War was also a defining moment in American history because it tested the
nation’s ability to endure and maintain freedom as one nation. America had gained their freedom
“four scores and seven years ago” from Great Britain and again it had found itself in a war
(Lincoln, pg. 77). America had lasted 87 years on its own as a nation and just a couple of years
before its hundred year anniversary. During these 87 years America had been through many tests
such as establishing a form of government, writing a Constitution, surviving the Whiskey
rebellion and the War of 1812.The Civil War was “testing whether that [the] nation” can pass the
test of maintain its’ freedom as a nation. (Lincoln, pg. 77). Just like learning a chapter in math
and then taking a test to make sure we understand the information and the priorities, the United
States of America had to take the same test, but a larger scale with the Civil War to see if it can

stand together as a powerful nation. “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say
here…” (Lincoln, pg. 77). President Lincoln is saying that this war is a war only for the United
States to fight and will mean nothing to the rest of the world unless they are involved. All in all,
the Civil War tested the nation with its ability to stand together, unite and maintain freedom
without the influence of any other nation.
In conclusion, the Civil War with the 600,000 deaths; the Civil War was a defining
moment in American History because it changed America’s view as a nation on freedom and
sacrifice. The Civil War caused a great deal of American lives and their sacrifices didn’t go to
waste, as it showed the world how the United States of America can stand together even when
split by a great Civil War.