The U.S. Civil War was an ugly time in American history. The death toll of that war and the animosity which epitomized the war in many peoples’ minds have left a lasting impact on American culture and society. In fact, the Civil War was so ugly that, I think it is safe to say, no person who has studied the details of the war would want another one.
Still, many people seem to have this idea on their minds, whether we are talking about white supremacists or antifa protesters. I suspect that both of these groups have idealized ideas about what that kind of war would be like, so let’s think about what a 21st Century U.S. Civil War would be like.
Notably different this time around would be who is fighting who. In the Civil War, the fight was between large regions of the country (North versus South), but that’s less likely to be the case this time around. E.M. Cadwaladr has this to say (hat tip to here for the source):
The lines of demarcation now are only somewhat regional, and tend to correspond to differences between urban and rural populations, as well as differences of race and class. A second American Civil War would be much more similar to the Spanish Civil War, with the leftists dominating the cities and conservatives controlling the countryside. Conflicts of this nature, with enemies mixed geographically, are a formula for spontaneous mass bloodletting. India-Pakistan during the 1947 partition comes to mind as another modern example. Given an absence of legitimate government and the friction of proximity, ordinary people can be moved to settle grievances by killing one another without the need for governments to egg them on.
If you doubt that this type of urban/rural split is happening, simply look at a county-by-county voting map for the last several Presidential elections. Even in “blue” states (states in which the overall vote went for the Democratic candidate), the concentration of blue counties was nearly always in urban areas. In other words, rural counties of blue states still went red (Republican).
Cadwaladr also points out that our society is a much more economically interdependent society than during the time period of the U.S. Civil War. At the time of the Civil War, people often owned and operated small farms. Even if their primary occupation was not as a farmer, it was very common for people to grow their own food and raise their own livestock. That’s not the case now. Relatively speaking, very few people produce their own food, especially in urban areas, and people are, thus, dependent on transportation and supply chains which would be disrupted by a modern civil war. In other words, people would not be able to get food and other necessary items. What would this failure of the food system cause people to do? It’s likely to cause an increase in violence in many areas (almost certainly in urban areas).
Frankly, when it comes down to it, a modern civil war could end up being a war of attrition as to who can outlast the other (assuming that the urban areas can secure food supplies). If urban areas cannot secure food, then a siege on urban areas would, in effect, happen because the rural areas would be able to more easily transition back to a self-sufficient life.
So, our recommendation is, if you are the least bit concerned about the possibility of another civil war, that you make sure that your skills in growing food and raising livestock are sharp and already being used and that you consider moving moving to a rural area if you currently live in an urban area. Because, if a civil war happens again, it will be better to be prepared than sorry.