May 1861. The Civil War has started and the country is taking sides. You are a white farmer in Kentucky....Although Kentucky is a slave state, you have never owned a slave. Would you go north to...
Although Kentucky is a slave state, you have never owned a slave. Would you go north to join the Union Army? Or south to join the Confederate Army? Be specific -- you must make a choice and discuss your reasons.
I would have gone north and joined the Union Army. This is because at the very beginning of the war, the advantages of the North were already apparent, while the main strength of the South was not yet clear.
The North had a larger population and a vastly superior manufacturing base compared to the South. There were more than three times as many white people in the North than the South (21 million vs. 5.5 million), and the South also contained three and a half million slaves, difficult to use as soldiers and a potential Fifth Column if the North turned decisively against slavery. There was five times as much manufacturing in the North as the South, and the North had a vastly superior rail network. The disparity in military production was thirty to one in favor of the North. The North also had an organized government and the allegiance of the existing Army and Navy.
The South, on the other hand, had few apparent advantages at the very beginning of the war. The superiority of its military leadership and the advantage it gained from fighting on interior lines would not have been obvious in May 1861, and its hopes of foreign support had not materialized (and to a great extent, never would). The South's overwhelming inferiority in resources and manpower would have justified any observer in predicting its quick defeat at the beginning of the war. Its survival for so long was largely dependent on factors such as military talent and the lack of it among its enemies, things that would have been impossible to foresee for our farmer at this time.
The advantage with this particular prompt is that you can choose how you would like to run with it. You will need to figure out upon which topic is easier for you to write- the reasons for going with the North or the reasons for staying with the South. Once you have made this decision, you can write this paper in a very direct and focused manner.
To do this, go through your own files, textbook, and handouts and assess which side has a more compelling story. Remember that you are this farmer in 1861. Try not to assert your own voice from the modern setting. Outline the reasons to go with the North as an 1861 farmer would see it (example: Preserving the Union, supporting Mr. Lincoln, who was born in Illinois, but might have some connection to your state/ region) versus the South (Preservation of Southern way of life, resenting Northern intervention in Southern affairs.) Once you have determined which course of action is best for you, I think you can compose your paper and the more compelling side represents the reasons you will be making your move to one side or the other. Keep in mind that I think you will be assessed not on your decision to go with the North or stay with the South, but rather the reasons that motivated your decision. This will be critical as you write this paper. Know your reasons, identify and explain them, and it will be evident ot the reader that you should be fine.
In a question like this there are no right or wrong answers. Anyone answering the question must make a choice and then justify the choice. Thus if give an answer it may not be the one you may choose. Therefore instead of making a choice I would list the issues involved in making a decision. These are as follows.
- Moral and ethical issues relating to slavery.
- The economic impact of abolition of slavery on the country as a whole. However this argument will be difficult to support unless you can show that it would have been also be in economic interest of the slaves.
- The importance of integrity of the USA as a unified country.
- Some people may associate themselves more with the individual state rather than USA. In this case they may value independence of the individual states.
- The emotional issues of fighting against your own people. At that time a person was likely to have more relatives within his or her state rather than outside it.
- The feeling of duty to support the decision of government and leaders of your own state.