Guest Blog Post: Did the South Win the Civil War?

In attorney Josh Tepfer’s daughter’s AP U.S. History course, her teacher had the students conduct a trial to determine who really won the Civil War. Olive, representing the position that the South actually won, got tasked with making the closing argument. Here is her argument, re-purposed as a guest blog post.

Olive Tepfer, age 16 

What you have heard in this case is an extraordinary amount of evidence that the South won the Civil War. 

The South’s policies during Reconstruction prevailed and became increasingly present in U.S. history. While the South ultimately lost the fight for slavery, the institution prevailed through gang labor, one-year contracts, and sharecropping. This not only benefited the southern economy but reinforced the southern ideal that Black people should not be treated as equals. 

Corruption of organizations like the freedom bureau—and the establishment of black codes with minimal consequences from the federal government—allowed for these ideals to progress throughout our country’s history. We see it in Jim Crow laws, in cases of civil rights, and in police brutality in which institutions manipulate the law and use their bias to institutionalize the mistreatment of Black people. 

How could the North have won the war, when the South’s fight against Black people has been so successful?  

Sure, the North could establish laws like the 14th and 15th amendment. However, that wasn’t going to change the way people view and treat Black people in the South. Especially when the North stopped interfering. 

The first Black governor served from 1872 – 1873 during the height of Reconstruction. Not another Black Governor served until 1989, which further proves that the standard the South set regarding who should have political power took hold. 

The South was able to gain and maintain power by utilizing terrorist organizations like The KKK to commit violent acts that scared and harmed northern forces in the South, while also helping to increase democratic power. While at first the North responded with protection like the Enforcement acts, by 1876 they were no longer implemented. Violence took place in broad daylight with no interference from Republicans. By the compromise of 1877, the South had regained control and their policies were more influential than ever. 

In short, the South was successful in maintaining control and influence in the U.S. after the Civil War. After thorough and thoughtful analysis, it is clear the South ultimately won the war. 



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