Secession and Civil War

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Why did the North win the Civil War?

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There are many reasons why the North won the Civil War over the South. For one, the North had more heavy industry than the South, which had remained largely agricultural leading up to the war. However, the North's agriculture was more diversified than the South's. Secondly, the North had many more miles of railroad than the South, aiding in easy transportation of troops and supplies. Lastly, the North had more manpower, especially with slaves fleeing the Confederacy to fight for the Union Army at Lincoln's urging.

Starting in 1800, the North had industrialized rapidly, while the South had chosen to remain largely agricultural. In 1793, Eli Whitey's Cotton Gin was created. This machine allowed cotton to be cleaned and refined far more quickly than before. This raised the demand for cotton and thus slave labor. As a result, the South's cotton industry was booming and would become the biggest cash crop market in the world.

With such a lucrative slave- and plantation-based economy, the South was reluctant to make any major changes to their way of life. Meanwhile, the North was building factories and becoming an industrial and manufacturing power. However, the North did have agriculture, and it was more diversified than the South's. While the South had focused on a few cash crops, the North had a rich variety of agricultural products they could use to feed and clothe the troops.

When the Civil War began, the North's ability to manufacture textiles and weapons gave them a considerable leg up. As part of Henry Clay's American System, tariffs on imported manufactured goods would force Southerners to buy more expensive American made products (like textiles), stressing their economy. By the mid 1800s, the North produced more than 94 percent of the US's pig iron and 97 percent of firearms.

Moreover, the North controlled shipping and railroad lines, allowing them to easily send troops, foodstuffs, and weapons during the war. The North had twice the length of railroads per square mile as compared to the South. The Erie Canal (1825), also allowed the North a shipping shortcut from the breadbasket in the Midwest to European markets, facilitating a fruitful trading relationship across the Atlantic. All of the ingredients for manufacturing gunpowder were imported from Europe into the bountiful harbors of the Northeast.

France and England were consequently more friendly with the North and thus supported them in the Civil War (and not the South). Although the South had plentiful agriculture, transporting food to troops was a huge issue because of a lack of railroad lines. Southern troops often lacked food and basic manufactured goods like uniforms, boots, and weapons. It was also easy for the North to blockade Southern harbors.

Lastly, the North had a much larger population than the South and thus more people to fight. The Union had more states on board than the South. Four slave states had remained with the Union and many from the 11 Confederate states were not loyal. The North had a population of 22 million and the South had 9 million (half of whom were slaves). Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation (1863) declared that all slaves in the country were symbolically free and called for blacks to run away and fight for the North. Many heeded the call and crossed over, providing more Northern manpower.

Overall, the North had more advantages than the South and used their many resources to win the Civil War.

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The North won the Civil War for several reasons. The North had an industrialized economy that enabled the Union Army to produce ammunition and to equip its soldiers. The North also had far more railroad tracks. By 1861, the North had 122,000 miles of tracks, compared to only 9,500 miles in the South. The North therefore had a superior ability to transport troops and material, while the South was stymied in this way. In addition, the North had the capacity to repair its railroad tracks, while the South did not.

Perhaps most importantly, the North had a greater population. There were 22 million people in the Union, while the Confederacy had 9 million people. The North was therefore better able to provide troops and manpower. In addition, the North had a more organized governmental bureaucracy to fund the war, while the Confederate government was weak. The Confederate government was based on state power and states' rights, so their federal government had limited power and limited ability to direct the war.

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The North won the Civil War for three main reasons. 

The North had more resources.  The Civil War was a modern war in that it was won largely by economic forces.  It was a war that relied on industrial output as much as anything.  The North had by far the greater economic resources.  It had more people and, in particular, more free people who could fight or work in factories.  It had more factories to produce weapons and even things like shoes for the soldiers.  It had a better railroad system by which to move goods and soldiers about.  All of this gave the North a major advantage.

It had a much superior navy.  The war was mostly a land war, but the US Navy was still important.  The navy’s ability to blockade the South prevented the South from receiving as much help as it might have from European countries. 

The South lacked support from Europe.  If England or France had supported the South, things might have been different.  The US would have been under much greater pressure to make peace.  But the European countries did not side with the South or do much to help it. 

Thus, the North’s advantage in resources, along with the South’s inability to get more help from Europe, allowed the North to win the war.

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