Environmental View on The Civil War

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5fish

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Here is another aspect of the Civil War that does not get it's due... Environmental factors during the civil war...

https://www.essentialcivilwarcurriculum.com/environment-and-the-civil-war.html
Some thoughts:

From a historiographical perspective, the environment’s role in the Civil War has heretofore been relegated to the margins. Civil War scholars have long recognized in the periphery the functions played by terrain, weather, disease, and food in shaping war and society, but they have only recently begun to view the conflict with an environmental perspective. The first real call to arms urging scholars to view the Civil War through an environmental lens came from Jack Temple Kirby who argued in 2001 that “the Civil War was a ‘total’ one—that is, unrelenting violence against not only enemy soldiers, but upon . . . civilians, cities, farms, animals, the landscape itself.”

Factors:

Disease was the most influential environmental force to shape the Civil War. It accounted for at least 400,000 deaths during the conflict. Diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid fever, malaria, rheumatic fever, and a variety of other ailments plagued Civil War armies and the civilians with whom the armies came in contact. Diet related diseases—most notably scurvy—reflected the generally poor nutrition among the armies. Sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea and syphilis further impaired soldier health.

Like disease, weather influenced the course of the conflict at every level. A severe drought struck much of the country in the first years of the war, and extremes in heat and cold affected soldiers and civilians alike in the war-torn South. To be sure, the course of the Civil War was in large part dictated by the vagaries of weather.

As any military historian or tactician understands, victory and defeat in battle and war are often tied to geography and, more specifically, terrain. Terrain was a deciding factor for Confederate victory at Fredericksburg and Union victory at Vicksburg. It helped stop Union Major General George Brinton McClellan’s Army of the Potomac at the gates of Richmond in 1862, and it exacerbated the intensity, confusion, and carnage at the Wilderness in 1864. Terrain in the Civil War, historian Mark Fiege has argued, represented a “weapon, shield, and prize.”

The course of the Civil War also hinged on food. Historian Ted Steinberg has called the conflict “The Great Food Fight,” and his description is not far off the mark. Armies relied on enormous amounts of food each day simply to survive, not to mention wage war. Supply-laden wagon trains often stretched for miles behind marching armies the largest of which depended on over 600 tons of supplies per day and over 30,000 draft animals. These mobile cities of animals and men needed sustenance. Food, in essence, fueled the armies and the war.

The link above into more details like the following:

According to one Confederate chaplain, the Yankees “did not seem to exult much over our fall, for they knew that we surrendered to famine, not to them.”

Union and Confederate soldiers alike, Meier shows, adapted to the harsh environment through self-care and a perceived notion of “seasoning.” However, no amount of seasoning could overcome the same swampy lowlands that had plagued the first Jamestown settlers. An oversized and overly-cautious Union army stumbled time and again as they approached Richmond’s back door, giving the defending Confederates ample time to organize a defense. McClellan’s failure to effectively and quickly negotiate the terrain—and to recognize his clear numerical superiority—extended the war’s length and devastation

Indeed, in the winter of 1863, the Union garrison at Fayetteville burned much of the surrounding landscape in an effort to dispossess the local Confederate guerrillas of their hiding place. Union guerrilla chasers knew well the role vegetation played in helping guerrillas ply their trade. This version of deforestation reflected not only Yankee frustration but also the central role played by the natural environment. [13]

Disease, weather, terrain, food, and other environmental factors shaped the Civil War more than any battle or campaign.


The link above goes in more detail...
 
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5fish

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Here a more detail environmental impact site about the civil war and after the war... The link has photos from back in the day showing the environmental impact of the war...

http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/tserve/nattrans/ntuseland/essays/amcwar.htm

Snippet...

On the other side, more than three decades of accumulated literature in environmental history barely touch the Civil War. This is because the bulk of environmental history is western history, set usually beyond the pale of Civil War fighting. The “New Western History” that has provoked so much controversy recently is to a considerable extent environmental, a tragic narrative of human depredations upon semi-arid and arid landscapes. Most historians of environment happen to be westerners, too, and the best graduate programs in the field are in Wisconsin, Kansas, and California. Ergo the parallelism. Easterners (it would seem) must wrench environmental-historical criticism backwards, across the Mississippi.


3. Animals. Animals, especially horses and mules, were essential participants in nineteenth-century warfare, and they, too, suffered and died in appalling numbers. Marshalled (like humans) in cities, camps, and fortifications, they also exchanged pathogens and died by the thousands before a single cavalry charge, artillery caisson-pull, or wagon haul could take place. Disease deaths necessitated re-supplies from farther and farther afield, so the war’s equine impact was continental in scope. Many of the horses and mules that survived epidemic disease were maimed and killed by the thousands in battle. Since their carcasses were so much larger than dead men, horses and mules presented daunting sanitary challenges on battlefields.

6. Trees and forests. Soldiers were forester-engineers nearly everywhere—felling trees, stripping limbs, chaining trunks to horses and mules for snaking to campsites and fortifications, where winter quarters and breastworks were almost always made of logs. Artillery fire, especially during sieges and set battles between large forces, also destroyed trees.

The link above has much more plus photos...
 
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5fish

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OMG.. found a book... https://www.amazon.com/dp/1108413188/?tag=civilwartalkc-20

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In this path-breaking work on the American Civil War, Joan E. Cashin explores the struggle between armies and civilians over the human and material resources necessary to wage war. This war 'stuff' included the skills of white Southern civilians, as well as such material resources as food, timber, and housing. At first, civilians were willing to help Confederate or Union forces, but the war took such a toll that all civilians, regardless of politics, began focusing on their own survival. Both armies took whatever they needed from human beings and the material world, which eventually destroyed the region's ability to wage war. In this fierce contest between civilians and armies, the civilian population lost. Cashin draws on a wide range of documents, as well as the perspectives of environmental history and material culture studies. This book provides an entirely new perspective on the war era.
 

lelliott19

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5fish

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I found this great site about the environmental impact of the Civil War... break it down by Battle and other topics like Shenandoah Vally... and so on... Home page linK: http://fighting-the-earth.leadr.msu.edu/

Snippet... Franklin!

The destruction of forests was commonplace throughout the war, not only at the Battle of Franklin. Trees were consistently caught in the cross fire of battles and cut down at a startling rate for their timber, which was very valuable to military operations. The historian Megan Kate Nelson estimates that 2 million trees were taken nationwide during the war (about 400,000 acres of forest destroyed annually) to support the troops in building encampments and supplying firewood (48). Captain Theodore Dodge described the immense logging operations taking place throughout the country, “The whole country round here is literally stripped of its timber. Woods which when we came here were so thick that we could not get through them anyway are now entirely cleared.” Charles Wills, an infantry soldier gives an intense description of the effect an army could have on the surrounding forests, “One gentleman living between our camp and town has 10,000 pines, hollies, cedars, etc., in the grounds surrounding his house. . . I mean he had 10,000 trees, but the Yankees burned the fences around his paradise, and have in various ways managed to destroy a few thousand evergreens. A kind of parody, you understand, on that Bible story of the devil in Eden” (5

Snippet... Mass Graves...

The digging of mass graves after battles also changed the structure and composition of the soil. One soldier recalls the creation of a mass grave, “in one corner I saw a large pile of arms and legs; many already dead were lying on the grass, with blankets thrown over them, while not far distant, in the woods, a party were engaged in digging long trenches for sepulture” (2). With over 620,000 deaths during the war these mass soldiers’ graves were common after battles (6). Mass graves can cause ground water contamination, and drastically change the soil’s structural and microbial characteristics (22). With that said, one positive aspects of large post-battle graves is that the absence of coffins and toxic fluids typically used for embalming actually allows the human remains to decompose in a way that makes the land more fertile, perhaps allowing the post-war battlegrounds to promote the growth of native plants that support wildlife (28).

Snippet... The last snippet you will have to read the site and lear about Sherman's march, Gettysburg, and other environmental effects of the civil war...

Many of the Union soldiers who came from well-developed areas had no immunity to mosquito-borne illnesses common throughout the swamps of the south, and the lack of knowledge about the diseases’ vector resulted in hysteria among the Union ranks. A Kentucky physician and avid Confederate supporter, Luke Pryor Blackburn, earned an international reputation as an expert on yellow fever (despite his complete ignorance to the actual cause of the disease). Blackburn hatched a scheme to ship trunks full of clothing previously worn by yellow fever victims to the north as a form of biological warfare in an attempt to contaminate prominent Union politicians and military officers (5). Although Blackburn’s scheme was ineffective at causing an outbreak because the disease can only be spread through a direct bite from an infected mosquito, Union knowledge of the plan and a series of independent outbreaks in northern areas caused Union officials to enact a strict quarantine in which they burned many pine trees in an attempt to purify the diseased air (5). One northern newspaper discussed Blackburn’s plan, “This hideous…plan to deliberately murder innocent men, women, and children, who had never wronged him [Blackburn] in any manner, is regarded here as an act of cruelty without parallel”(45). The attempted attack by Blackburn represents the willingness of the Confederates to wage biological warfare at the risk of their own citizens. Yellow fever and malaria epidemics caused huge psychological distress throughout the northern army and large numbers of soldiers died from these diseases, representing how the environment both affected the war, and was affected by it.
 
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