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Research Question 4:

How Did the Civil War Impact the Land Conservation Movement?

Battlefields, not just relating to the Civil War (1861-1865), but the Revolutionary and French-Indian Wars as well, were preserved through battlefield parks during the late 1800s [pg. 36, article 3; pg. 36-37]. The first National Battlefield Park, seen as an effort to heal the nation’s wounds and commemorate the dead, was established in 1890 at the Chickamauga and Chattanooga battlefields. It seems as if there was a need by the public to preserve history in order not to forget where the United States came from, and what connected the citizens of the United States to the land. Preserving Civil War sites alongside Revolutionary War ones was a way for the population of the United States to heal after a fracture; these sites were not only where brother fought against brother, but also places where America was born through the fighting of a common enemy.

The Civil War was also an opportunity to reflect on the environmental cost of war. The War destroyed many forests and farms. “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."1 This destruction could have led to more value being placed on forested areas, which can be seen in multiple articles in the scrapbook related to forestry [See Themes section for more on forestry.]

However, it appears that the lessons of human environmental destruction during the Civil War was not realized by the majority of the American people. The Postbellum saw the clearing of land for agricultural expansion, and the construction of new railroads, adding to the need for the preservation of land. The Homestead Act of 1862 spurred the colonization of the western U.S. territories, where Northern ambition was realized when the South created their Confederate congress.2 While the South wanted the Great Plains to be open to slavery, the North saw an opportunity to create small family farms. The lack of Southern influence in Congress resulted in a Union war with the Plains Indians, and an extermination of the Indians, as well as the Plains bison, began. Four years after the war ended, the first transcontinental railroad was completed. If anything, the Civil War saw the modification of nature by human destruction, which continued through the heightened industry of the East Coast. During the Civil War, people like John Muir and Frederick Law Olmsted journeyed to the western frontier, seen in the article by Frederick Law Olmsted about his time as commissioner of the Yosemite Valley [pg. 27], possibly to rid themselves of the new industrial progress of the East.

Through the scrapbook, it is clear that much of the groundwork for the conservation movement was done by women [pg. 128; pg. 136]. This could be seen as a by-product of the Civil War, since large amounts of young men died during the fighting. It was necessary for women, particularly in the South, to take up the mantle as home runner, farmer, and family provider. This caused more women to enter the workforce to fill in the gaps left by their male counterparts, as well as a growing awareness of the struggles of being a woman.3

Kirby, Jack Temple. "The American Civil War: An Environmental View, The Use of the Land, Nature Transformed, TeacherServe, National Humanities Center." The Use of the Land: Perspectives on Stewardship. 2001.
"Teaching with Documents: Using Primary Sources From the National Archives. Homestead Act (1862)." Our Documents. 1998.
Kirby, Jack Temple. "The American Civil War: An Environmental View, The Use of the Land, Nature Transformed, TeacherServe, National Humanities Center." The Use of the Land: Perspectives on Stewardship. 2001.