Over 600,000 Americans lost their lives in the Civil War, with the Northern troops suffering
higher losses. The North believed the sacrifice was worth it: The slaves were freed and the Union
was preserved. The people of the South, on the other hand, began almost immediately to glorify
the “lost cause.” Their generals became mythic heroes and they looked wistfully back at the
antebellum period. They almost regretted surrendering.
Historian Shelby Foote said,
Any understanding of this nation has to be based . . . on an understanding of the Civil War. . . .
The Civil War defined us as what we are, and it opened us to being what we became, good and
bad things. It is very necessary if you’re going to understand the American character in the 20th
century to learn about this enormous catastrophe of the mid-19th century. It was the crossroads
of our being.
Burns, K. & Burns, R. (Writers). (1990). Episode 1: The cause (1861). In K. Burns (Producer),
The Civil War. Arlington, VA: Public Broadcasting Service.
Write a 700- to 1,050-word paper in which you answer the following questions:
• What do you think Foote meant in the passage quoted above? How does the Civil War define
the United States?
• If the Southern generals like Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were so brilliant, and if the
South lost fewer men than the North, why did the North win?
Format your paper consistent with APA guidelines.
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