Secession and Civil War

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What were the major reasons why the South was unable to fend off the North in the Civil War?

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There are many reasons why the South was not able to defeat the North in the American Civil War.  Let us look at three of the most important reasons.

First, the South simply had much less in the way of resources than the North did.  The Southern population was much smaller than the Northern population.  This was particularly true if we only count free people who would be able to fight for the South.  The South had much less in the way of manufacturing capability.  It relied heavily on things that it imported from Europe or from the North.  “Imports” from the North would obviously be cut off by the war and imports from Europe were severely curtailed by the Northern naval blockade of the South.  The North’s greater economic power gave it a major advantage.

Second, the South lacked allies.  If one or more important European countries had recognized the South’s independence, things might have been different.  The North would have come under great pressure to end the war if Britain or France had taken the South’s side, even if only diplomatically.  But no European power did recognize the South, thus taking pressure off the North. 

Finally, the South’s psychology hurt it.  The South could have fought a defensive war that would have frustrated the Union.  The South had the much easier strategic task in this war as it only had to prevent the North from defeating it.  It did not have to go out and destroy the North.  It could just defend until the North got tired of the war and gave up.  However, Southerners were not generally willing to adopt this strategy.  They felt they were a martial people who should be attacking.  This forced the government to adopt a more aggressive strategy, one which was not well-suited to the South’s relative lack of economic power.

These three reasons are the principal factors that caused the South to lose the war.

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