2015 Essay Contest First Place, Senior Division

Cindy, 8th grade

Teacher: Mr. Willard
School: White Station Middle School | Memphis, TN

1864-65: Bringing the War to a Close

The end of the Civil War meant a fresh start for the nation. Families who were still mourning for their lost ones had to move on and start a new life. The soldiers who survived staggered home and tried to pick up where they left off before the war. However, life would never be the same again.

Approximately 620,000 soldiers died in the Civil War. What did they die for? They died to preserve the nation and to fight for the freedom of slaves. These newly freed African Americans rejoiced at the thought of freedom, but many problems and hardships arose when they tried to build a new life.

White citizens were not used to living among African Americans as equals; most white citizens were racist and resentful toward the newly freed slaves, and they were unwilling to adjust to life with people that they deemed “inferior.” African Americans were often attacked and manipulated by bitter white settlers.

The country also suffered economical problems after the war.  In the South, 40% of the livestock was killed during the war, slaveholders did not have anyone to work the fields, and most of the South’s railroad systems had been destroyed. There were also not enough jobs available for the 4 million African Americans that had just been freed. It took 12 years of difficult labor to rebuild the South. We must remember the lessons that we learned from the Civil War so that the nation will not be split in half again. If we forget about everything that was fought for in the Civil War, then all the progress that has been made for equality for all will be lost.

How did all this happen? What caused four years of cruel, bloody war? The nation was founded on the principle that “all men are created equal.” However, Americans were just beginning to enforce this principle at the end of the Civil War. This is why learning history is so important. When we learn about the events of the past, we are also learning about the principles that shape our lives today. We are reminded of the mistakes of the past so that we will not make the same mistakes again. Instead, we can focus on creating a better future. Learning about the past also gives us a deeper understanding of why things are the way they are today and inspires us to make the world a better place.

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