The Civil War: A Nation Pokes Itself in the Eyeball

(from Dave Barry Slept Here - A Sort of History of the United States )

The seeds of the Civil War were sown in the late eighteenth century when Eli Whitney invented the "cotton gin," a machine capable of turning cotton into gin many times faster than it could be done by hand. This created a great demand for cotton-field workers, whom the South originally attempted to recruit by placing "help wanted" advertisements in the newspaper:


Are you that special "can-do" kind of guy or gal who's looking for a chance to work extremely hard under horrible conditions for your entire life without getting paid and being severely beaten whenever we feel like it, plus we get to keep your children? To find out more about this exciting career opportunity, contact: The South.

The Civil War

This was pretty depressing. Brother fought against brother, unless he had no male siblings, in which case he fought against his sister. Sometimes he would even take a shot at his cousin. Sooner or later, this resulted in a horrendous amount of devestation, particularly in the South, where things got so bad that Clark Gable, in what is probably the most famous scene from the entire Civil War, turned to Vivian Leigh, and said: "Frankly my dear, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore." This epitomized the feeling of despair that was widespread in the Confederacy as the war ended, and it left a vast reservoir of bitterness toward the North. But as the old saying goes, "Time heals all wounds," and in the more than 120 years that have passed since the Civil War ended, most of this bitterness gradually gave way to subdued loathing, which is where we stand today. ...Hold it! We have just received the following:


A review committee consisting of education professionals with doctorate degrees and initials after their names has determined that, so far, this history book is not making enough of an effort to include the contributions of women and minority groups. Unless some effort is undertaken to correct this situation, this book will not be approved for purchase by public school systems in absolutely vast quantities.

Another important fact we have just now remembered is that during the Civil War women and minority groups were making many contributions, which we are certain that they will continue to do at regularly spaced intervals througout the course of this book. But right now, let's get back to:


After the Civil War came Reconstruction, a period during which the South was transformed, through a series of congressional acts, from a totally segrated region where blacks had no rights into a totally segregrated region where blacks were supposed to have rights but did not. Much of this progress occurred during the administration of President Ulysses S. Grant, who in 1868 defeated a person named Horatio Seymour in a race where both candidates had the backing of the Let's Elect Presidents with Comical First Names party, whose members practically wet their pants with joy in 1876 over the election of Rutherford B. Hayes, who went on to die - you can look this up - in a place called Fremont, Ohio. Clearly the troubled nation had nowhere to go except up.

The end of the Civil War paved the way for what Mark Twain, with his remarkable knack for coining the perfect descriptive phrase, called "the post-Civil War era."