Civil War Homes

comparing & contrasting home life during the Civil War


The Civil War was a time when everyone was preoccupied. Whether it was fighting battles, discussing military plans, or helping out, one and all seem to be busy. But what about life at home? Life at home during the 1800's was already a struggle, but with the increased need for supplies, soldiers, and everything else, this simplicity grew increasingly difficult. The North & The South both had difficulties, but in some ways they were very different.

Life in the North

Home life in the north changed dramatically during the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln called the war "a peoples contest; one that has to be taken up by all : men, women and children." After men were drafted into the army, women had many more rolls to play. Before the war, women were already busy with textile industries, shoe making and cooking, but with no men, they had to learn to plow a field and do government work. Some northern women helped by being nurses, or supply managers for the Union Army. Others formed sewing bees that sewed new uniforms for the army. One group of children raised 16, 000 dollars by going around and selling drawn pictures of Lincoln. Home life was also very chaotic in the North. Politics, and latest news was always going around, which led to riots. 74 men were killed after the draft, or conscription law was passed, which led to much anger and fear. Income tax was established, which sent an unwelcoming message that the Union was running out of money. But bad news didn't stop everyone from helping out. The northerners played vital wars of their own. More than 1 million soldiers left their homes to fight for a cause worth wanting, but it wasn't just the battles that helped win the war.

Life in the South

Across the country, the South was fighting a different war: a defensive war. This meant that they were guarding their land and homes for what they believed in. Southern home life was relative to Northern home life, but also very different. In the South, slaves were extremely important during the war. They helped to produced king cotton, which could be sold for money to help with the war. But, even with this, shortages plagued the South. It started with clothing, but then moved onto shoes, money, and others. The average family could no longer afford meat, flour, iron and copper. This caused profiteers to buy these items and sell them at a higher price. Just like the North, women's roles changed also. In the South, women became clerks for the confederacy and schoolteachers. Unlike the North, confederate women were not allowed to work in hospitals until they realized that casualties were rising. The South also passed a draft law, but loopholes allowed others to surpass the law. Plantation owners with 20 + slaves were not needed to be drafted, and others could pay for a substitute. Families were outraged with this law, but still, all men were required to fight. "We felt like clinging to Walter and holding him back," wrote one Virginia woman in reaction to a family member's enlistment. "I was sick of war, sick of the butchery, the anguish." The South was not only fighting for victory, but for family as well.


Both sides of the split union struggled throughout the war. By helping out their sides, they were in return rewarded with their own victories. Whether it was winning just one battle, or winning the whole war, life on the home front assisted to these conquers.