At one point during the Civil War, most of the three million fighting in uniform were volunteers, not draftees. What reasons led them to voluntarily risk their life? Explore the question from both the Union and Confederate sides. Soldiers on the front lines were not the only ones affected by the war. The effects were far reaching. Explain how this conflict affected social and economic life in both the North and South. At the conclusion of the war, General Robert E. Lee noted that his army had “been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources.” Did the Confederacy have any realistic options that might have allowed it to overcome those disadvantages in numbers and resources and see a conclusion to the war that was more favorable to its objectives? Beyond its superior resources and numbers, what other factors contributed to the Union victory? Of these, which one would you identify as the most important?

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Volunteers in the Union Army were motivated to commit to military service due to a variety of reasons, including support for abolition on moral grounds, but also economic self-interest. For instance, many recent Scandinavian immigrants were small farmers and saw slavery as a threat to their economic well-being, allowing Southern plantations to outproduce their own operations, which relied on wage labor. As well, factory workers in the North felt their own livelihood was under threat in the event of a Confederate victory, due to the possibility of the future introduction of slaves in industrial production.

Reasons for Southern volunteerism were just as varied and included a patriotic attachment to home states and the perception that they were under threat from advancing Union forces. In the case of African American volunteers, specifically, they were inspired to serve in the CSA Army by a promise of emancipation offered by the Confederate government.

The conflict was not limited to the military realm but impacted civilian life as well. Sherman's "March to the Sea," for instance, laid waste to vast swaths of Southern territory.

Beyond its superior resources and numbers, the North had the benefit of an established government, which gave it greater efficiency in operation. It also had greater domestic support; while the South monopolized a portion of the nation's slave states, the North included all free states plus four slave states. Finally, Northern railroad networks offered the North increased infrastructure for the rapid movement of men and material.

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