Why the North Won the US Civil War

Essay by Jared BagleyCollege, UndergraduateA+, January 1997

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'You Are Bound to Fail.'

Union officer William Tecumseh Sherman to a Southern friend:

In all history, no nation of mere agriculturists ever

made successful war against a nation of mechanics. . . .

You are bound to fail. (Catton, Glory Road 241)

The American antebellum South, though steeped in pride and raised in

military tradition, was to be no match for the burgeoning superiority of

the rapidly developing North in the coming Civil War. The lack of

emphasis on manufacturing and commercial interest, stemming from the

Southern desire to preserve their traditional agrarian society,

surrendered to the North their ability to function independently, much

less to wage war. It was neither Northern troops nor generals that won

the Civil War, rather Northern guns and industry.

From the onset of war, the Union had obvious advantages. Quite simply,

the North had large amounts of just about everything that the South did

not, boasting resources that the Confederacy had even no means of

attaining (See Appendices, Brinkley et al.

415). Sheer manpower ratios

were unbelievably one-sided, with only nine of the nation's 31 million

inhabitants residing in the seceding states (Angle 7). The Union also

had large amounts of land available for growing food crops which served

the dual purpose of providing food for its hungry soldiers and money for

its ever-growing industries. The South, on the other hand, devoted most

of what arable land it had exclusively to its main cash crop: cotton

(Catton, The Coming Fury 38). Raw materials were almost entirely

concentrated in Northern mines and refining industries. Railroads and

telegraph lines, the veritable lifelines of any army, traced paths all

across the Northern countryside but left the South isolated, outdated,

and starving (See Appendices). The final death knell for a modern South

developed in the form of...