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Life in Civil War America
2/22/2011
Step back into the 1860s and discover what daily life was like for your Civil War ancestors.
The Civil War has captured the interest of people in the United States and beyond more than any other episode in American history. One reason for this fervent interest is, perhaps, the proximity of the war's events to the everyday lives of so many modern Americans. People in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Washington, DC, drive on many of the same routes that massive armies marched along some 150 years ago.

For generations, American families also carried the memory of how the war affected their lives, through shortages, destroyed property, loss of a limb in battle, or loss of a brother, son or father in the war. Some 625,000 Americans were killed in the Civil War -- more than all the US personnel killed in World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War combined.

Histories, novels, documentaries and movies about the war typically focus on military events. But what was day-to-day life like for your ancestors in 1860s America? In 1861, the US population was about 31 million. Two million men fought for the Union and about 1 million fought for the Confederacy. Soldiers spent only about a quarter of their time occupied with battle. How was the rest of their time spent? And how did the other 28 million Americans live?

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