American Civil War and World War II

18.06.2020 in Comparative Essays
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A Comparison between the American Civil War and World War II


Wars are in more ways than one a sordid affair, with more losses than victories. In almost all cases, the number of fatalities and casualties outweighs the resulting benefits. However, politicians have in so many centuries relied upon wars to enforce policies and mark territories. In most instances, wars are just excuses for various state and non state actors to stamp their feet and show their strength to the rest of the world. By definition, a war is a premeditated conflict that runs for a long time and is often orchestrated by organized groups like states or non state actors like rebel groups. Wars often happen between political divisions, often divided by their ideologies on a specific subject. The United States has been involved in a number of wars including the American Civil War and World War II. In defining a war, there are a number of thresholds that must be met, and it is these thresholds that are used in current paper to define the differences and similarities between these two wars. They include causes, duration, leadership, recorded fatalities, involved sides, weaponry used and their impacts on the United States of America.

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The American Civil War is attributed to a lot of things. First, the North or the Union states were not in favor of the spread of slavery into the western territories. They did not need slavery, and yet their southern counterparts heavily relied on the presence of these slaves to run their farms. Their economy was purely agricultural and any opposition to slavery threatened their survival and agriculturalists. Thus, when Abraham Lincoln won the elections, with his support for anti slavery sentiments, the South felt threatened and sought to secede from the Union. This is the main conflict that caused the American Civil War. The South was fighting for their economic independence as they needed slavery in order to run their farms. They did not want to have to pay for farm laborers, and slavery was their only choice. The North, on the other hand, was fighting to keep the nation together. They were against slavery from the beginning of the conflict, but soon afterwards, their interests grew to include keeping the southern states in the Union.  

 The Second World War, on the other hand, has been attributed to the expansionist policies of the German administration and the bitterness of the German people in general after the reparation charges from the First World War. When the Germans attacked Poland claiming that they were interfering in their government business, the rest of the world paid attention. Two days later, France and the United Kingdom retaliated against German, thus starting this world war. German, however, was simply playing to the anger of its people after the unfair reparation charges that stemmed from the First World War. In more ways than one, the Second World War can be attributed to Germany and its grievances against the rest of the world including Poland, the UK, France and Russia. The rest of the participating countries were mere allies and overseas territories of the main instigators. 

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The American Civil War started in 1861, on April 12, with the attack on Fort Sumter by the Confederate states. Fort Sumter was a Union location, and the siege was a clear battle cry from the South. As a result of this obvious statement, the Union by the orders of President Lincoln assembled troops from all their allied states and headed for the Fort Sumter. It is thus confirmed that the first attack occurred on April 12, 1861.

The war then went on until 1865, when the Confederate Army failed and the generals surrendered. The last shots of the American Civil War are recorded to have been fired in the summer of 1865. This means that the war lasted for a total of four years and about two months as it started in April 1861 and ended in June 1865. 

The Second World War started on the first day of September in 1939 with the German invasion of Poland. The war then went on until the formal surrender of Japan in 1945. There are various debates on when the war really ended with others claiming that the Allies were victorious as early as on the VJ day on August 14, 1945. Using the surrender of Japan as the last stroke in the victory of the Allied forces, the Second World War lasted for six years and one day.  

The Leadership

The American Civil War had brilliant leaders on both sides of the battle field. The North had its fair share of inspirational leaders from Abraham Lincoln to Ulysses Grant among others. The South also had experienced and well seasoned leaders including Robert Lee and Jefferson Davis among others. 

During the Second World War, the Allies had Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, and Charles de Gaulle as well as Stalin while the Axis had Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito. This means that the leadership was strong and in some ways balanced out.    

Recorded Fatalities

The American Civil War is considered as the deadliest of all wars on American soil. The fatalities were up to a total of about 600,000 people with over 400,000 severely wounded. With regards to the warring sides, the North lost 110,000 soldiers while the South recorded a loss of 75,000 on the battle fields. In the prisons, the North had 25,000 of their men perishing in Confederate prisons while they themselves had 31,000 of the Confederate soldiers perishing in theirs. Generally, the lives lost during the American Civil War were far too many. 

The Second World War, on the other hand, involved far many states around the world than the internal American Civil War. The fatalities thus stood at a total of 73 million deaths. Counting each side’s losses, the Allies were the most hit probably due to their high numbers as they recorded a loss of 16 million military personnel and 45 million civilians. The Axis lost eight million military personnel and four million civilians. For a span of six years, this is quite a tragic number of deaths under any circumstances.    

The Involved Sides

The American Civil War pitted the North against the South. The south, by then allied as a confederate state seeking secession from the Union, comprised of seven states namely Texas, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Florida. The rest of the states remained in the Union and thus formed the North. The battle line in this army was cut across opinions on slavery among other issues. 

The Second World War had the Allies against the Axis, and the battle line was drawn based on the political affiliation of the participant nations. German was the major offender and Japan was her main support. All the axis countries were thus affiliated to either Germany or Japan, and they included Hungary, Italy, Romania and Bulgaria. Also, some of these nations simply had grudges with other members of the Allied forces thus forging partnerships against a common enemy. The Allies included the United Kingdom and France, who launched the attack on Germany to protect Poland, and their friends including China, the United States, Canada, Australia, Yugoslavia, Greece, Netherlands, Belgium, South Africa, New Zealand, Norway, Ethiopia, Brazil, Luxembourg, Denmark, Cuba, Mexico and the Soviet Union.   

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The Weaponry and Tactics Used

The most significant aspect of the American Civil War is the kind of weaponry that was used. This war witnessed a technological advancement in war fare with the use of revamped weapons that had replaceable parts and could thus last longer and achieve more damage. The war also saw the introduction of semi-automatic firearms that in the end made the armies more lethal in their attacks. With regards to the war tactics, the Civil War saw the change in war tactics from standing in a straight line to more complex formations. The advancement in weaponry ensured that the camps could not sustain their previous methods for long. This, however, was slow in coming as many lives were lost unnecessarily in the straight line formation before it could be changed.

The Second World War also witnessed new weaponry and tactics. First, there were the .50 caliber bullets, the semi-automatic pistols, the modern tanks, and a not-so-modern version of the modern assault rifle. The airplanes were also further modified for use as bombers, especially in the Pacific campaign. On tactics, the Allies almost exclusively used bombing raids as opposed to the trench war fare. They also used highly mobile soldiers with a lot of artillery on themselves including sub machine guns and semi automatic rifles.      

Their Impacts on the United States of America

The American Civil War resulted in so many things, among them: the abolition of slavery and the end of the secession. The country was once reunited, the slaves were emancipated and the Reconstruction era began. It is also important to mention that President Lincoln was assassinated only a few days after the surrender of a Southern general by the name Robert Lee. Generally, this war may have resulted in the re-unification of the states, but is strained the relationship between the North’s and the South’s populations.  

The Second World War, on the contrary, resulted in a more significant consequence, which was a total alteration of the world’s political and social structures. The political alignment was completely changed. Also, the UN was formed in order to avoid a repeat of the same collision with such consequences in terms of the death toll. Another thing that came as a result of the Second World War is the decolonization of the Asian and African countries.    


Looking at the two wars, it is clear that neither was better than the other. The wars were both started because someone was selfish enough to look out for their own interests at the expense of others. In the two cases, the Southern farmers and the Germans are the culprits. Also, both cases saw a staggering number of casualties and deaths among both civilians and military personnel. In other words, both wars resulted in serious losses not only with regards to infrastructure and economies but also people including women and children. The amount of suffering with regards to death, disease, insecurity and economic hardships were unbearable and weighed far much more than the benefits of the wars. On the issue of the outcome, it can be said that the wars were instrumental in handling the selfish interests of the instigators, but at the end of it all, the price that was paid was in more ways than one unnecessary. This means that regardless of the motivation and the expected outcomes, wars are unnecessarily sordid affairs whose cost outweighs benefits. 

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