The Influence Of Civil War, Reconstruction And Westward Expansion On America

Throughout history, events, whether big or small, have changed the fate of humanity in some way, shape or form. This applies to anything, including our country, The United States of America. Throughout its 243 year long run, it has adapted and changed to the world around it. Many of these sudden changes occurred because of events on home soil. Citizens of the U.S and their always changing view of the world around them will always affect the way that the country that they live in behaves and is controlled. Often, these changes have lasting effects for years or even decades after. Without events like the Civil War, Reconstruction or Westward Expansion, many conflicts that would occur at later dates, such as the assimilation of Native Americans or the modern racial and economic conflicts of today, would likely not have occurred.

The Civil War was fought from April 12, 1961 to April 9, 1965. This war had an enormous effect on the United States, both at the time, and the world today. Abraham Lincoln was the president during the entirety of the Civil War and is most known, during the war, for the Gettysburg Address. Some changes that are still relevant today are the women rights gaining momentum, the thirteenth through fifteenth amendments being passed, and an increase in safety. According to AARP, some cultural legacies are, “Memorial Day, some 65,000 books on the conflict, and more than 70 National Park Service Civil War sites.” The Civil War did not only permanently change political aspects of the country, but also economics. After the war, the Northern economy was much more self-sufficient than the Southern economy, and that very quickly become apparent when the Southern economy went into a tailspin. This morphed the country’s economics into what it is today, because it caused a massive boom in the economy, because the South eventually recovered and become as self-sufficient as the North. “Simply put, the United States of America would be a very different nation today than had the war never been fought. If we are truly the world's last remaining superpower, then it is, at least partially, the massive industrial and economic expansion enabled by the Civil War that allowed us to ascend to that role in the first place.” This supports the fact that the Civil War eventually led to the United States becoming the economic “powerhouse” that it is today, and also one of the reasons why the United States is likely the best country in the world.

Reconstruction began soon after the conclusion of the civil war. While reconstruction was one idea, there were three proposed and failed ideas to reconstruct the country. The main plan that went into motion was Johnson’s plan, which basically said that: slaves would be free, succession would be nullified, and war debts would be paid off. These may seem like simple rules and conditions, but they had a massive impact on the country as a whole. For example, the conditions to get back into the union weren’t hard, but the idea of enforcing these did not go over well at first. Additionally, Johnson was anti-civil rights despite freeing slaves; thus his leniency with racism led to the black codes being created. The black codes were state laws that basically made African-Americans into free slaves. The anti-civil rights of Johnson was so extreme and disliked that the civil rights act of 1866 became the first act to be put into law that was vetoed by the president. With the new mindset of integrating blacks into society, radical reconstruction began. This led to the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, which gave blacks even more freedom, such as the right to vote. This however led to massive outcry from whites, who resorted to violence or still denying blacks their rights. Additionally, women outcried and protested as black men received rights before women. As a result of these outcrys, blacks would not receive the rights they deserve politically or economically. They wouldn't receive these rights in full until the civil rights movement of the 1960s. These reconstruction plans would not only have a massive effect on the nation in the past, but also after the time they were being enacted. For example, groups that formed out of reconstruction, like the KKK still exist today, spreading hate and racism to the same degree as the past, although the group is much smaller. In addition, many people in the south still have confederate sets of mind as proven by the amount of confederate flags in the south, and by many still holding on to the racist beliefs of their reconstruction-era ancestors. This proves how the reconstruction era helped shaped the course of American history, and that's not even all the ways it did this.

The Westward Expansion started in 1803 after Thomas Jefferson negotiated a treaty with France. The US paid France 15 million dollars for the “Louisiana” Territory. This had a large effect on the United States of America. Everyone started moving West for land, wealth, and a new life. The economy was a boost. It made the country have more military power. The one downside was the devastation of Native Americans. Railroad helped with transportation and moving people. The West gave supplies, materials, and especially bisons. Gold rush was started just because of the expansion. Social impacted women's rights in the US. They were allowed to vote in some parts of the territories. Wyoming was one of the first territories to give women the right to vote. Jobs increased because of the expansion, such as cutting trees and building train tracks. When land was given out there was a dispute over land ownership between whites and Native Americans. This resulted in Native American population decreasing and the tribes moving west where they slowly die. Most of the European immigrants that moved west changed the Plains into a breadbasket of the nation. Political impact was huge. It led to the annexation of Texas, which lead to the Mexican War. This promoted the idea of Manifest Density. Most of it was to vote on which territory was free or a slave state. South and North was fighting with each other whether this nation should end slavery. This started the Civil War. There were major impacts both positive and negative on Westward Expansion.

In conclusion, The United States is a country that is always changing. At no two points in history is it the same. Each and every event that occurs within its borders having lasting effects on itself, taking place over numerous years and generations. Whether it’s the Civil War morphing the country’s economy to what it is today, Reconstruction creating our modern day racial conflicts or Westward Expansion forcing natives to assimilate, the results of these incidents have been drawn out over many decades. Events like these should be used as lessons as to how America should be led and governed in the future. It is crucial that the leaders of the U.S make sure that any legislation that they enact helps balance out any weaknesses in the economy and any groups in the country that are underrepresented. Without it, the country’s future could lead to a downward slope of worse and worse events, potentially causing the nation’s death.

Works Cited

  • Editors. “Reconstruction.”, A&E Television Networks, 29 Oct. 2009,
  • Editors. “Reconstruction.”, A&E Television Networks, 29 Oct. 2009,
  • Arrington, Benjamin T. “Industry and Economy during the Civil War (U.S. National Park Service).” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 23 Aug. 2017,
  • Towner, Betsy. “How Did the Civil War Change the United States?” AARP,
  • “Westward Expansion.”, A&E Television Networks, 21 Aug. 2018,
  • Peterson, John. “The Effects of Western Expansion on American Politics.” Synonym, 25 June 2018,  
16 August 2021
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