After the Civil War

A Shattered Fairy Tale: The South after the Civil War

A Shattered Fairy Tale: The South after the Civil War
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 6 to 8
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   7.62

     challenging words:    antebellum, desolation, determined, dragon-sized, enchantment, guerilla-like, once-tranquil, oversight, partisan, pre-Civil, re-established, redemption, shell-studded, post-war, cease-fire, genteel
     content words:    War South, Civil War, Deep South, General William T., President Rutherford B., Southern Democrats

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A Shattered Fairy Tale: The South after the Civil War
By Toni Lee Robinson

1     What happens when a fairy tale has an unhappy ending? For some people, the antebellum or pre-Civil War South was an American fairy tale. There were handsome princes, ladies fair, and a noble code of honor. The pace of life was serene and genteel. But in this fairy tale, no one was destined to live happily ever after.
2     Even before the Civil War, the South was not quite the place of enchantment it might have seemed. The agricultural economy relied heavily on slave labor. Nearly four million black slaves were forced to work on the large plantations. They certainly did not lead storybook lives. Neither, for that matter, did poor whites. The fairy tale Southern culture may have been real only to a few members of the wealthy upper class.
3     In any case, nothing was the same for anyone after the war. By the time of Lee's surrender at Appomattox, the South lay in ruin. Cities, farms, and homes were burned and ravaged by cannon fire. Railroads and bridges were destroyed. Business and industry were nearly wiped out. Almost 300,000 Southern men were dead.
4     In the midst of this shattered fairy tale, daily life followed a rocky path. Everything from food to fuel was in short supply, if it could be found at all. Families dug in burned and shell-studded fields for root crops or any kind of edible vegetation. Tents or ruined houses were shelter for many. Disease added to the huge death toll.
5     The Deep South lay in desolation. The rubble was a monument to General William T. Sherman's determined destruction of anything that could be used by the Confederacy. Rebuilding was a much lower priority than survival.

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