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An ambulance crew demonstrates the removal of wounded soldiers from the field during the Civil War. Some ring strong: of course the end of slavery, perhaps the worst disgrace in the nation's history. And the , ancestors lost. Other vestiges have weakened with the passage of time but are no less legacies of the four horrific, heroic years that shaped us as one nation. The Civil War began during medieval medicine's last gasp and ended at the dawn of modern medicine. Each side entered the war with puny squads of physicians trained by textbook, if at all.

Four years later, legions of field-tested doctors, well-versed in anatomy, anesthesia and surgical practice, were poised to make great medical leaps. The nation's first ambulance corps, organized to rush wounded soldiers to battlefront hospitals and using wagons developed and deployed for that purpose, was created during the Civil War. The idea was to collect wounded soldiers from the field, take them to a dressing station and then transport them to the field hospital. Doctors laid out the hospitals as camps divided into well-defined wards for specific activities such as surgery and convalescence.

Women flocked to serve these hospitals as nurses. Before the war, most people received health care at home. After the war, hospitals adapted from the battlefront model cropped up all over the country. The ambulance and nurses' corps became fixtures, with the Civil War's most famous nurse, Clara Barton, going on to establish the American Red Cross. Today's modern hospital is a direct descendant of these first medical centers.

The Civil War paved the way for Americans to live, learn and move about in ways that had seemed all but inconceivable just a few years earlier. With these doors of opportunity open, the United States experienced rapid economic growth. Immigrants also began seeing the fast-growing nation as a land of opportunity and began coming here in record numbers. For many years Southern lawmakers had blocked the passage of land-grant legislation.

But they weren't around after secession, and in Congress passed a series of land-grant measures that would forever change America's political, economic and physical landscape:. The same year brought another innovation — a national paper currency — that would literally bankroll the rapidly expanding government and at the same time grease the wheels of commerce from coast to coast. In , with the Union's expenses mounting, the government had no way to continue paying for the war.

Chase told Congress. Edmund D. Taylor, who would later became known as "the father of the greenback. Ever wonder why we display flags and memorialize fallen solders just as summer gets under way? Flowers, that's why. The first memorial days were group events organized in in both the South and North, by black and white, just a month after the war ended.

Quickly evolving into an annual tradition, these "decoration days" were usually set for early summer, when the most flowers would be available to lay on headstones. Decoration days helped the torn nation heal from its wounds.

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People told — and retold — their war stories, honored the feats of local heroes, reconciled with former foes. No matter where you are on Memorial Day, a national moment of remembrance takes place at 3 p. Abraham Lincoln was a techie. A product of the Industrial Revolution, Lincoln is the only president to have held a patent for a device to buoy boats over shoals. He was fascinated with the idea of applying technology to war: In , for example, after being impressed by a demonstration of ideas for balloon reconnaissance, he established the Balloon Corps, which would soon begin floating hot-air balloons above Confederate camps in acts of aerial espionage.

Lincoln also encouraged the development of rapid-fire weapons to modernize combat. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian James McPherson, the author of Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief, notes that Lincoln personally tested the "coffee-mill gun," an early version of a hand-cranked machine gun. But above all, Lincoln loved the telegram. Invented just a few decades earlier, the telegraph system had gone national in As Tom Wheeler recounts in his book, Mr. Twice daily throughout his presidency, Lincoln walked to the telegraph office of the War Department on the site of today's Eisenhower Executive Office Building, just west of the White House to receive updates and to send orders to his generals on the front.

He sent this one to General Ulysses S.

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Grant on Aug. Before Lincoln's day, letters and speeches were often long-winded. With the telegraph came the need for concise communication. After all, every dot and dash of Morse Code carried a cost. Gone were the "wherefores," "herewith" and "hences.

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Lincoln's Gettysburg and Second Inaugural addresses both demonstrate this new economy of phrase. Not only did Lincoln's wartime dependence on the telegraph eventually lead to a wave of investment in new communication devices, from the telephone to the Internet the latter invented, not coincidentally, for military use , but it also signaled the evolution of a language that morphs as quickly as the devices that instantaneously tweet our words around the globe.

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A cover of Puck magazine employs the donkey and elephant as satirical stand-ins for the political parties that took permanent hold during the Civil War. Before , you might have been a Whig. Or a Free Soiler. But that year the Republican Party was founded by anti-slavery activists and refugees from other political parties to fight the iron grip of powerful southern Democrats. As the name of their party suggests, these activists believed that the republic's interests should take precedence over the states'. In the years before the war, many northern Democrats defected to join the new party — and, in , to elect Abraham Lincoln as the first Republican president — while southern Democrats led the march to secession.

The Democratic and Republican parties both survived the war and have held their spots as the dominant U. The "Solid South," as it was known, protected the interests of agrarian Southern whites and consistently elected Democrats to Congress from Reconstruction through the early s, when the national Democratic Party's support of the civil rights movement allowed the Republican Party to begin making new political inroads below the Mason-Dixon Line.

Within a few years, North and South swapped party hats. Conservative southerners grew disenchanted with the Democratic Party's increasingly progressive platforms. Republicans capitalized on this with their "Southern Strategy," an organized plan to make headway there on a socially conservative, states' rights platform. In reverse, historically Republican strongholds in the Northeast began voting Democrat, establishing the pattern of red and blue that we see on election-night maps today.

This photograph shows a dead Confederate sharpshooter after the Battle of Gettysburg. The Civil War was the first war in which people at home could absorb battle news before the smoke cleared. Eyewitness accounts by reporters and soldiers were relayed via telegraph to the country's 2, newspapers, printed almost immediately and then read voraciously by citizens desperate to know how their boys were faring. The Civil War created a tradition of intimate war reportage that is still with us today. Take this excerpt from a dispatch from George Townsend, who was just 20 when he began to cover the war for the New York Herald: "In many wounds the balls still remained, and the discolored flesh was swollen unnaturally. There were some who had been shot in the bowels, and now and then they were frightfully convulsed, breaking into shrieks and shouts. Some of them iterated a single word, as, 'doctor,' or 'help,' or 'God,' or 'oh!

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Features Original materials from a wide range of sources, including letters, diaries, newspaper editorials, journal articles, and book chapters Detailed background for each of the 48 featured documents, placing the experiences and opinions of the authors into historical context Highlights Allows midth century Americans to speak for themselves by quoting their words at length to bring history alive for readers Explores daily life for a wide range of Americans of varied social and economic status Provides the tools students need to effectively evaluate the meaning and importance of each document and incorporate it into school and research projects.

Author Info Lawrence A. How did soldiers relieve their boredom between battles? What was it like for women and children at home?

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And how were civilian slaves affected by the war? But what about the voices of the people of his own time? What do Shakespeare's fellow citizens of Elizabethan England have to tell us about life in that extraordinary era?