What geographic advantages did the South have over the North?
The South had three main geographic advantages over the North at the outset of the Civil War.
- The South’s territory was quite large. This was relevant because the strategic situation dictated that the North had to invade the South. Because the South was so large, it could use a strategy of defense in depth. As the Union advanced, it could pull back, leaving the Union forces dispersed over a larger and larger area. This makes things hard on an invading army.
- The South was going to be fighting using internal lines of communication while the North’s lines of communication would lengthen as it tried to defeat the South. This meant that it would be easier for the South to move people and materiel around to its troops than it would be for the North.
- The South had a very long coastline that the North had to blockade. The North had to try to prevent the South from getting shipments of arms and other needed supplies from Europe. In order to do this, it had to try to blockade this coastline.
All of these were geographical facts that, when combined with the strategic reality of what the North had to do to win, gave the South an advantage in the war.
While the North had some significant advantages—including a sizable population to serve as soldiers, an industrial base with factories to produce necessary materials, and a navy which could be deployed to fight along the coast—the South did have some geographic advantages over the North.
First, the South was fighting a defensive rather than offensive war. In other words, they had the "home advantage" of fighting from an expansive territory which they were intimately familiar with, and had no need to "invade" anywhere. This resulted in the South having short internal supply lines (as opposed to the North's lines, which had to stretch down into enemy territory) and a strong base of local support from Southerners who were in support of the "cause." The South was able to sufficiently produce the food needed to feed civilians and soldiers. This access to necessary supplies was also aided by the long stretches of coastline in the South, which allowed for the receipt of shipments of materials from Europe and created yet another obstacle for the North—the necessity of blocking said shipments.