Secession and Civil War

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What struggles did the North face at the start of the Civil War?

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One of the struggles that the North had to contend with was that many people—mainly Northern Democrats—were dead set against the war. They felt that some kind of political compromise could've been achieved with the South on the fraught issue of slavery without the need for armed conflict. Though never more than a minority, Northern opponents of the war were nonetheless large enough and vocal enough to act as a constant thorn in the side of the Lincoln Administration.

As the Civil War dragged on, becoming ever more bloody in the process, anti-war sentiment in the North increased, leading to full-scale draft and race riots in Northern cities. Yet it's important to recognize that the attitudes which gave rise to these serious public disturbances were always there right from the start, bubbling away just beneath the surface.

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The North faced many problems at the beginning of the war. The first problem was how to keep the border states in the Union. Abraham Lincoln placed Maryland under martial law and even arrested the pro-secessionist mayor of Baltimore in order to keep the state from seceding. If Maryland had seceded, then Washington, DC, would have been surrounded by Confederate territory, thus virtually ending the war. The North, while having far more people than the South, had a shortage of ready-made soldiers. While the young men of the western states (Wisconsin, Illinois, and others) were adept at handling firearms, many men from the urban areas were not. There was also the matter of supplying such a large army. Lincoln's first Secretary of War, Simon Cameron, proved to be inept at his job by contracting with corrupt munitions providers. He was replaced and given an ambassadorship. Lincoln replaced him with Edwin Stanton, who would prove to be a much better administrator. Most of Lincoln's best generals left to fight for their home states in the South, leaving him with the likes of John Pope and Ambrose Burnside (among others) to lead the Army of the Potomac.

Another problem lay with the Northern people themselves. They expected a quick war, but the slaughter and unexpected rout at First Bull Run convinced many that this would be a long, grueling war. The Confederacy hoped that the Northern people would get sick of the war, and early on, it seemed as though the Northern people would give up on trying to unite the two regions.

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The North faced some struggles at the beginning of the Civil War. Two of these struggles were a lack of preparation for the war and overconfidence. Since most of the military schools were in the South, many of our better generals fought for the Confederacy. Our best general, Robert E. Lee, said he would fight for whatever side his home state of Virginia joined. When Virginia seceded, Lee fought for the South.

Most northerners believed this war would be a quick and easy victory for the Union. When the first battle was fought at Bull Run, many northerners went to watch the battle as if they were going on a picnic. They expected a decisive northern victory. When the South won the battle, these spectators had to scramble to get back to safe territory. The northerners completely underestimated the South. This wouldn’t be a quick and easy war.

The North also had to conquer the South to end the war. The South had to fight a defensive war and keep the North out of their land. The South didn’t have to invade the North. This presented more issues for the North to face from a military perspective.

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