Southerners were quick to join the military ranks because they felt they were being invaded by foreigners. After all, they believed that they had the right to secede from the Union and form their own nation--the Confederate States of America. When President Abraham Lincoln sent United States troops into Virginia, the Confederates quickly responded to defend their new land. Needless to say, Lincoln believed that the Southern states had no right to secede, and his primary goal was to reunite the Union by any means possible. Northern troops probably fought for similar patriotic reasons, though they did not have the fear of being invaded on their own soil. Many soldiers, like Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, were fighting on the principle of freeing the slaves. Others fought for the adventure and glory they hoped to find.
The Confederate armies, despite constant numerical disadvantages, proved to be at least the equal of their Union foes, and the Confederate cavalry dominated Union horsemen until the last year of the war. The Union held a slightly upper hand with their artillery power, but their biggest advantage was their navy. The Confederate Navy was virtually nonexistent, and Union warships were able to blockade both rivers and coastlines from the early days of the conflict until the very end.
In the early stages of the war, the Confederate military leadership was vastly superior to that of the Union. A large number of the old U. S. army hierarchy came from the South--Robert E. Lee, Albert Sidney Johnston, P. G. T. Beauregard and Joseph Johnston, for example. Other superlative leaders, like Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, Nathan Bedford Forrest, J. E. B. Stuart and John Bell Hood, would soon emerge. Yankee leadership was believed to be in the trusty hands of George McClellan, but his failures outnumbered his successes, and Lincoln soon grew weary of him. Many Union high-ranking officers were political appointments with little military experience, and the Union enlisted men grew to hate many of them, recognizing that their foes were led by better men. Southern commanders were eventually reduced by attrition and death--Jackson, A. S. Johnston and Stuart were all killed--and Union leaders like U. S. Grant, William T. Sherman and Phil Sheridan eventually emerged, leading their armies to victory and gaining the respect of their troops.