Decades of growing political tension around the issue of slavery between North and South culminated in the form of Civil War on April 12, 1861 when Confederate artillery opened fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina which belonged to the Federal government. The war was fought from 1861 to 1865. It was a conflict which divided the United States into two parts: Union (North) which was led by President Abraham Lincoln and the Confederacy (South) which was commanded by Jefferson Davis. All the states involved in the war supported their sides valiantly. Both groups were eager to win and establish their way of law and order in the country. However, people in all states specially those residing in the Southern states such as Texas etc had to face enormous difficulties in this political based ruthless war which not only led to the bloodshed of thousands of men, women and children but also caused intense damage to the infrastructure and economy of US. In the US Civil War life in the Confederate states (South) was disastrous and the state of Alabama provided significant economic and military support for the Confederacy which it joined in 1861 after seceding from the Union.
Life in the South during the Civil War was a time of almost universal suffering and sacrifice. For almost one million Southern men fought for the Confederacy, their lives were mixture of adventures and hardships. About one third of them aged between eighteen and twenty five. Just a few days into the war, these young men faced homesickness combined with reality of war: cold, hunger, bloodshed and boredom often interrupted with a great risk of death. However, not all men had to endure the tough sufferings of fighting. The ‘Exemption clause in Confederacys Conscription act allowed thousands of urban men such as blacksmiths, shoe makers and tanners to stay back home due to keep the daily business and activity alive in Southern cities such as New Orleans and Montgomery.
Before the Civil War, women were seldom seen as head of families. They lived under protection of their husbands or fathers and were expected to marry, have children and take care of the home. However, with the men on the battlefields, the women in the South assumed new responsibilities which were strenuous for them. They worked the fields on farms, supervised plantations, at ordinance factories , became teachers in schools and plenty of them served as nurses in the army to help wounded soldiers recover. They also got involved in activities such as making care packages for the soldiers in the war which consisted of food, clothing, blankets, boots and other essentials. During the war, many slaves armed themselves and started terrorizing white women and children since there were very few white men to stop them. A Louisiana native Kate Stone described in her journal that once three black Negroes armed with weapons broke into their house only to terrorize, loot and vandalize. (Yancey 40). This created a sense of isolation and terror among women. The South also suffered immense food shortages. The Union had imposed a complete blockade on Southern ports which stopped the flow of goods. It also faced heavy inflation levels due to extreme printing of money. Faced with the fear of not being able to afford what they needed, people started hoarding which made goods more valuable and added to the inflation. For example, flour which costed $6 a barrel in 1861 sold for $500 a barrel in 1865 (Yancey 22).
The state of Alabama provided vital economic support for the Confederacy during the Civil War. Just like today, the economy of the state was mostly based on agriculture. Alabama was known as ?The Cotton King as cotton was grown in large amounts which helped in earning huge sums of money due to its high value as it is a cash crop. Although Union imposed a blockade in the South, cotton grown in Alabama was exported to Europe as raw material which helped to earn funds. Alabama also had fourteen mills by 1860, with the largest ones being in Tallassee and Prattville. During the war, the Tallassee mills supplied cloth for uniforms for the Confederate Army, and in 1863 a carbine rifle manufacturing facility also was constructed there. Alabamas antebellum metal manufacturing industries also played an important role. These factories not only provided jobs but manufactured iron sheets, tin and copper products agricultural and domestic consumption (Encyclopedia of Alabama). During the civil war, these factories provided pig iron to the ordinance factories in Selma to make weapons. Therefore, Alabama utilized all of its resources to increase Confederacys earnings.
Alabamas military services for the confederacy are perhaps the most important of all. The Selma Ordnance and Naval Foundry, also known as the Selma Naval Foundry and Ironworks and the Selma Arsenal and Gun Works, was a leading manufacturing center for the South during the Civil War. It was a manufacturing depot for ammunition, shot, shell, canon, powder, canteens, and clothing. The ordinance factories also produced canons meant for coastal defense such as 6.4 and 11 of the 11 inch Brooke canons (Sledge 122). The gunboats Gains, Selma and Morgan and the famous CSS Tennessee were built and outfitted in Selma. These Confederate ships took part in the Battle of Mobile Bay.
The worlds first submarine to sink a warship CSS Hunley was also built and tested in Mobile, Alabama. H.L Hunley with the help of an engineer McClintock who was from New Orleans designed two submarines. H.L Hunley imported sorely needed guns and ammunition from Cuba for the submarine (Walker 10). Manpower was Alabamas most significant military contribution to the Confederacy. Alabama sent more than 120,000 soldiers to fight and 29% of the men never returned home (Gillon 98). Thus it outlines, Alabamas big sacrifice for the South. Alabama produced one of the finest Confederate officers in both the army and navy. Alabama born Lt. Colonel John Pelham was given the title ?Gallant Pelham after the Battle of Fredericksburg due to his superb commanding techniques (Encyclopedia of Alabama). The famous war hero, General James Longstreet was one of most prominent generals in the Confederate army. Although he was not a native Alabamian, he moved to Morgan County in Northern Alabama with his mother after his fathers death (Wert 25). Alabama provided the Confederacy with four major generals: John H. Forney, Henry D Calyton, Robert Rodes, Jones M Withers and commissioned 36 Brigadier Generals such as John Pegram and Alexander Peter Stewart (Alabama Department of Archives and History).
The Civil War was devastating for the South. It left all states including Alabama in state of ruin. Approximately 620,000 people died in the war including the non combatants. People suffered all sorts of pain on both sides either by struggling to survive or by loosing loved ones. The State of Alabama performed a vital role and its sacrifices and services for the Confederate cause are priceless. The Civil War left the whole nation in shock and we should all vow to never let history repeat itself.
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