The American Civil War
The American civil war took place between 1861 and 1865. It had been fought between the northern states (also known as the Union) and the Southern States (also known as the Confederacy). Northern and Southern states had always had many moral and political differences, often involving economy and culture. However, the main and most inevitable cause for this war to break out had been slavery. Although it had been foreseen that the Union was to obtain victory in this war, the South had some advantages which should be taken into account.
At the start of the Civil war, victory for the Union had not been as obvious as it had been later because the Southern states had some advantages which could have helped win the war. The South had been relying on their cotton exports for a long time, and it was for this reason that Britain had been expected to support the Confederacy during the war. However, Britain had decided to stay neutral because even though they had many links and contacts with the confederacy, they also exported grain from the Northern states, and they feared that by supporting the Confederacy, relations with the Union would worsen.
Another issue which should be taken into consideration is what each side’s duty was during this war. The Union had the aim of enforcing federal authority in southern states and defeating the belief of “right of secession”, which had been associated with “the right to rebel” by some northern politicians. The Confederacy’s aim, on the other hand, was simply to protect and defend their lands and territory. Confederates believed that if they could resist the Union for long enough, they would surrender, and the war would soon be over. The Union’s target was much more complex, especially because the South didn’t have any cities of major importance.
The main and most memorable advantage for the South however, was their morale and determination. Southerners were fighting to defend their way of life and their culture. The northern states seemed like they were relying on the feeling of federalism as an excuse to justify the breakout of the war. Part of the moral advantage of the South involved the fact that southern men were expected to be more capable of fighting a war than men in the Northern states. This was mainly because most Southern men were farmers and were therefore used to the exterior world and to the use of guns. The South had much more determination than most northerners in winning the war. This was proven by the amount of male population in military service for each side; 90% in the South, and 44% in the North. The Union’s foreseen victory had not been so evident at the beginning of the war, and if it had solely depended on each side’s determination to win the war regardless of their economic differences, the South could have easily won the war.
The northern victory had not come as a surprise to anyone. It had been long foreseen during the war that they were going to obtain victory due to their numerous advantages they held over the Confederacy. At the time, the North was portrayed as the industrial area of the country. Northern states were known to be more modern and economically developed than the South. One of the most important advantages they had over the Confederacy was their superiority in numbers. Most of the Southern states’ population relied on slavery and the amount of slaves which were owned by each citizen in the south. The South’s army had been much weaker than the Union’s for this reason. Slaves couldn’t participate in military services, and men were needed to take care of the land and the agricultural production of the states. This only left the too young and the too old to fight in the war. Although this fact can be taken differently depending on different points of views, this was commonly seen as a clear disadvantage for the Confederacy.
The Northern navy was clearly more effective and outstanding than the one the Confederacy had set up. The southern states needed to import food and wheat, due to their strong reliability on their exports. However, the North managed to build a blockade around the borders of the southern states and prevented them from relying on their trades any longer. The south had attempted to get Britain’s support to destroy this blockade. However, this plan didn’t work out because Britain, due to sectional opinions, decided to stay neutral.
Politics had obviously played an important part during this war. Abraham Lincoln’s political skills and strong ability with convincing speeches had certainly helped them on the path towards victory. Lincoln had managed to keep three significant states on the side of the Union – Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri. This had been because slavery had died in these three states, and they were closer to the Union’s policies than the Confederacy’s. The northern victory had been long foreseen due to the numerous advantages they had over the Confederacy, mostly involving economy and industrial growth.
Although most of the reasons for the Union’s victory had been economic, there are some political events which should also be taken into account which contributed to their victory and recognition. Lincoln issued the “Emancipation Proclamation” in September 1862. He had chosen this date to issue the emancipation proclamation because the Union had just won a significant battle and he believed it was the right time. Lincoln had written the first draft to the emancipation proclamation in July, but decided not to issue it straight away for several reasons. One of the most important reasons for which he did not do this was because the Union had just lost an important battle, and he feared that the people would see this as a weakness. The Emancipation proclamation stated that any slave in any conquered territory would be free. The reason why Lincoln had decided to issue this was because he had seen himself forced to make a decision concerning what to do with slaves once the war was over. This issue had provoked many different views and later, many debates on Lincoln’s reasons for issuing an emancipation proclamation. This however, contributed to Lincoln’s portray of the “war hero” of this war.
The American Civil war ended in 1865, with a predicted northern victory. The Union knew from the start of the war that they held many advantages over their enemy. This was the main reason why their determination was lower than Southerners’ determination. The North was certainly more economically and industrially developed than Southern states. However, today it is being questioned whether the South could have won the war or not. Had it not been for their strong reliability on exports, and the unpredicted northern blockade, they might have had a chance to win the war, despite the Northern economic advantage. Their morale and will to win the war was much higher than all the determination of all northerners put together. What mostly affected the Northern victory, however, was the difference in numbers they had. It came a point in the war, where the side who would start lacking of more soldiers, would lose the war, and this was clearly what the Confederacy had failed to foresee. The Union had a much higher male population than the South, and therefore, more soldiers. The North won this war for various reasons, each leading to the next. Most of these reasons is based on their economic growth and industrial difference with the Southern states. There is a widespread opinion which expresses the view that if the war had depended solely on determination, the South would have surely won the American Civil war, and the American civil rights today would be very different than what they are. The Union’s victory and the war’s aftermath shaped many laws of the U.S Constitution and Civil Rights, and led to the recognition of many commanders and war heroes such as Abraham Lincoln or Robert E. Lee.
Murphy, Derrick. United States 1776-1992. Flagship History. London: Collins, 2001.
“American Civil War.” Wikipedia. 16/11/2007. Wikimedia. 18 Nov 2007