$75 Billion (2008 dollars)
In historical terms, the American Civil War was undoubtedly the most significant single event in the formation of a young, divided, and struggling nation. And like all wars there was a cost both in economic losses and in human suffering. Unlike other wars, however, it was particularly devastating to the infant country as a whole since both adversaries were American citizens, and in many cases, brothers fighting brothers, sons fighting fathers.
By 1861 the country was irrefutably divided into two opposing political, cultural, and economic ideologies. On one hand, the North was a bustling metropolis and the leader in industrialization, educational facilities, financial institutions, rail transportation, and economic growth. In addition, European immigrants by the hundreds of thousands, many with valuable and needed skills, had inundated the northern section of the country thereby increasing the political, economic, and territorial growth of the North.
In stark contrast, the South was a relatively sparse and backward section of the country. Mostly agricultural, to drive its economy southern aristocracy was infected with an enormous cancer that had grown from over 200 years of perpetuating the exploitation of human bondage. To most northerners, slavery and its debilitating side effects influenced and skewed the cultural, political, and social values of southern society and to some extent prejudiced the entire country, a condition that was an extreme contradiction to northern religious and moral principles. Consequently, the South was continually forced to defend slavery and their way of life. A slave-based society was the economic means by which the wealthy southern aristocrats could continue to survive in the style they were accustomed to and, they insisted, it would be defended to the death.
While many people of the two regions did, in fact, enjoy numerous common interests and enjoyed their mutual contributions and friendships, the net impact of their interwoven differences resulted in political hostility, bitter jealousies, accusations, controversies, and resentment. Finally, after years of quasi-attempts to resolve their difference, in the end the Civil War was the only means to settle the long and bitter disputes that divided the two peoples.