The American Civil War in Economic Perspective: Basic Questions and Some Answers

Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad Bridge, ca. 1861, courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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The American Civil War in Economic Perspective: Basic Questions and Some Answers

by Peter A. Coclanis
Southern Cultures, Vol. 2, No. 2: Winter 1996

"Estimating the Civil War's cost can be a difficult and unseemly business, according to the author. Yet economists and historians keep arguing over the figure."

No event has so captured the historical imagination of Americans as the Civil War. Ask Ken Burns, creator of the acclaimed PBS series, or better yet one of his accountants. What else—other than the occasional middlebrow blockbuster sent over by the BBC—could get a respectable number of normal, red-blooded Americans to suffer through public television for long stretches of prime time?