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The Civil War

Freedom and 49 other ways it changed American life

Two civil war soldiers and the innovative items and technology the war produced

Lt. Col. Alex B. Elder, left, and unknown Civil War soldier. — Corbis; Library of Congress

Political and social impact

No other conflict has so profoundly changed our society:

1. 13th Amendment: slavery banned

2. 14th: citizenship for all born in the U.S.

3. 15th: voting rights for all male citizens regardless of race

4. Women's rights gain momentum

5. 1862 Homestead Act passed

6. Censorship of battlefield photos

7. Reconstruction laws passed

8. Ku Klux Klan organized

9. Jim Crow laws passed

10. Federal law trumps states' rights

Medical advances

In many ways the Civil War set the stage for modern medicine, providing thousands of poorly schooled physicians with a vast training ground:

11. Modern hospital organization

12. Embalming techniques

13. Safer surgical techniques

14. Improved anesthesia

15. Organized ambulance and nurses' corps

Cultural legacy

The war influenced our holidays and play:

16. Juneteenth holiday, also known as Emancipation Day

17. Memorial Day

18. Thomas Nast popularizes image of Santa Claus

19. Some 65,000 books on the conflict

20. Films such as Gone With the Wind, Glory and Cold Mountain

21. More than 70 National Park Service Civil War sites

22. Centennial toys: Civil War trading cards and blue & gray toy soldiers

A high-tech nation

The war years brought technological advances:

23. 15,000 miles of new telegraph lines, which reached the West Coast

24. Mass production of canned food

25. Battlefield photography

26. Transcontinental Railroad

Everyday things

Wartime helped devise or popularize parts of our daily lives:

27. Can openers

28. Home-delivered mail

29. Left and right shoes shaped differently

30. Standard premade clothing in sizes small, medium and large

31. National paper currency

Military advances

In what's considered the first modern war, both sides developed equipment and tactics that would be refined in later conflicts:

32. Minié ball bullets, cartridge ammunition

33. Repeating rifles

34. First machine guns

35. Submarines

36. Hot-air balloons

37. Soldier ID tags

38. Land mines

39. Ironclad ships

40. Trench warfare

Veterans legacy

In its wake, the war left a system to care for and honor those who fought:

41. First national cemeteries

42. Network of soldiers' homes later becomes the Veterans Administration

43. Social care for veterans' widows and orphans


Last but not least, Civil War slang is still with us today:

44. Carpetbagger

45. Deadline

46. Horse sense

47. Shebang

48. Skedaddle

49. Smart like a fox

50. Greenback

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