The Civil WarNorth Success Essay Research Paper

The Civil War,North Success Essay, Research Paper

Why Did the North Win the Civil War?

In 1861, following the secession of the Deep South on a platform of states rights, the right to property and the event of Fort Sumnter, the inevitable conflict Seward had predicted emerged as the Civil War. Four years later Lee surrendered and so returned the Confederate states to the Union – the victory of the North was never as forgone as the onslaught of secession, and certainly historians such as McPherson have judged it would be dangerous to generalise over causes of the Northern Victory, since events on the battlefield could have taken a different course into Southern favour, changing the War s final outcome. However, there are several factors that were certainly crucial for northern victory – such as economic growth and stability, the political prowess and generalship of Lincoln and Military manpower and technique. Many historians of the post-war era and in the 20th century noted the economic might and manpower of the North as one of the main reasons for success.

Economic factors were certainly crucial for the defeat of the South in 1865. By 1861, the North was, economically, in line with the Industrialised world of Northern Europe and Britain, and was way ahead of the backward South, still mostly reliant on the peculiar institution of slave labour in the cotton fields. It possessed 4 out of 5 factories, America s Banking system, 15 times more Iron and 38 times more Coal; it made it s own clothing and even during the war was never short of new migrants from Ireland and Germany. Northerners outnumbered Southerners 22 million to a measly five million whites (slaves, who made up the remaining 4 million, were constitutionally only 3/5s of a citizen each, and so were not legible for the draft). The North had to rely little on Europe; it was self-sufficient, it had a variegated economy compared to the Southern reliance on cash crops as a source of income and could make everything required to fight the war – obtaining clothing, drugs and weaponry was never a problem for Northern battalions. Life continued as normal, arts and politics flourished and thanks to the never ending draft queue a defeat for the Union could always be healed by a reinforcement of new recruits. The contemporary Confederate general Robert E. Lee said, after his defeat at Appomattox in 1865, the Virginian army had been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources. The 20th century historian Richard Current agreed, suggesting that God was on the side of the heaviest battalions. The impressive figures certainly show a North who seemed well equipped to crush the Southern dissent, but perhaps without Lincoln s leadership economic might may have left the North in a similar position to the British Empire during the War of Independence.

Lincoln s presidency was also a very important, crucial factor for Northern Victory. Lincoln was elected (in 1860) on a platform of anti-slavery through the back door, within a party who nominated him as a candidate to shy public opinion away from their abolitionist, free soiler roots. The Republicans themselves were, however, never likely to allow the South to simply secede quietly, as a recognition of the Confederacy would recognise Slavery as legitimate – free soilers belived that such labour practices threatened the spread of free labour (and jobs for whites) with respect to westward expansion. Through the war aims, set up by Lincoln, the South found itself described as law breaking Union rebels who had torn up the Constitution to keep their right to hold slaves. Lincoln managed to unite his people whilst preaching eloquently in public address – the site of the Ghettysburg battle, for example, was announced as a national cemetary, in a speech where he emphasised Democracy and Liberty as goals of the Civil War, reminding his compatriots of the values that had founded the nation in the 18th century, pleasing many constitutional unionists.

Of course in office he enacted his special war powers to practise the very opposite, repealing Habeas Corpus to effectively intern political opponents of Lincoln, managing to keep his reign free from a coup or serious, longitudinal opposition, although he was branded a dictator . Lincoln was also Commander in Chief of the federal military, he ordered Blockades which crippled the South, sacked poor generals such as McChellen (taking the well trained Potomac army for himself) whilst employing good tactics through the Emancipation Proclamation – reducing the Southern economy and taking many Afro-Americans into the Union forces. It also gave the Union a moral imperative for a northern victory. Lincoln was an asset to the North and some historians, such as David Potter, even claimed that if Lincoln was switched for Davis the Confederacy might have won. But the North did not win on economic and political strengths alone.

The manpower and strategy of the Union military was also crucial to the northern victory. In addition to the apparently infinite manpower of the North, the Union retained the Navy which became essential in taking splitting the Confederacy up the Mississippi and blockading Southern trade routes with Europe, an essential part of the Anaconda plan of Lincoln s General-in-Chief, Winfield Scott. Infact the best Union strategy kept to the theme of isolating the South until it was suffocated of resources and communication – the taking of the prime Mississippi port of New Orleans in 1863 severed communication, whilst the blockade on the east coast strangled the South of it s only dependence on Europe. Generalship in the Union was not always up to standard although the war careers of Grant and Sherman certainly showed more strategic planning than their Southern brethren; for example Sherman s storm through Georgia – destroying railroad and property whilst plundering stores – completely sucked out Southern morale and caused $100,000,000s worth of damage making the effect of blockades feel harder on the people of Georgia. Finally the Union never received a threat of aggression from Europe, instead it vowed to strike back if they recognised the Confederacy. Britain left the war alone and found it could grow cotton in it s other colonies, such as India, any problems such as those found in Lancashire were claimed to be more caused by Overproduction rather than cotton shortage. Whilst Military might had a lot to play in breaking down the South economically – by splitting it into two – and emotionally – the Georgian riots – auxiliary Northern strengths and Southern weakness played their role.

Social factors were also crucial to the Northern victory of 1865. Socially the North never stopped, theatres, politics, city growth, westward expansion etcetera were all continuing as in the anti-bellum period. For example, the population of Colorado in the West actually increased from 32,000 to 100,000 from 1862 to 1864 respectfully. Westward expansion, during this period, also united many to the war effort in respect to Free Labour and the Free Soiler movement. Northern blockades against the South meant the same was not true below the border states; it seems that the Southern public suffered more for their cause than their Northern brothers – with the plantations burned, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the blockade the South had no source of income or wealth left. Some historians also claimed that not all Southerners were dead against Slavery, some whites had moral qualms according to Stampp, subconsciously welcoming defeat. Donald and Owsly both commented that the Confederacy died from the platforms they were formed on – democracy and states rights respectfully. Conscription, taxes and martial law, which were generally accepted in the Union without political (if not social) unrest, all found opposition, or obstructionism, from the more fundamental Southern politicians. Even within Davis s cabinet, who many claim to be the weaker of the two Presidents, unity over such issues was no where to be found, even in the vice-presidency. From first glance, and paradoxically, the system set up to protest against federalist rule had failed to fight off a federalist invasion, because the Confederacy refused to exist as such.

Of course there were strengths in the Southern campaign, and weaknesses in the Northern campaign which, if McPherson was to be correct, may have swung the war into Confederate independence. Many find the idea that the South could not drum up nationalistic support as unconvincing – McPherson found, in his study of Confederate soldier s letters, that there was little class division and many believed they were fighting for the just cause of liberty and democracy, as the forefathers did of the original thirteen colonies. Newspapers provided all the jingoism, identity and pride a Confederate patriot would need, in the pro-secessionist style as in the anti-bellum period. The North also had a fair share of dissent – the copperheads or Peace Democrats fought Lincoln tooth and nail to the 1864 elections, on a platform of recognising the Confederacy and ending the blood shed, regardless of the internment of many political opponents. Irish migrants were also not happy with the Emancipation Proclamation, believing that their work would be taken by the liberated Afro-Americans. Guerrilla warfare, especially in the Border States, was evident more so in the North than behind Southern lines. The South also possessed some very worthy generals in Lee and storming Jackson, whilst the South genuinely believed – as did Europe – that with European supplies and Lee s excellent self-control and leadership the Confederacy may have pulled through. The Confederacy had all the moral obligation and patriotism it needed.

But, it seems that the nation who could hold out longest remained supreme. Lincoln used the Anaconda Plan well, by removing piece by piece what held the Confederacy together. Although the South was as nationalist as the north, no amount of morale could create soldiers, food or weaponry from thin air. McPherson would agree, as perhaps would Current and Lee himself, that even with Lincoln in power of Richmond instead of Davis the South would have always been handicapped by it s reliance on one-income source and no banking system. It was a combination of providing the South a handicapped economy whilst allowing the North s situation to rapidly ascend into a boom, which combined the anaconda, the politician and the industrial experience.



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