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Why the North Won the Civil War

Why the North won the Civil War "You Are Bound to Fail."

Union officer William Tecumseh Sherman to a Southern friend: In all history, no nation of mere agriculturists ever made successful war against a nation of mechanics. . . . You are bound to fail. (Catton, Glory Road 241) The American antebellum South, though steeped in pride and raised in military tradition, was to be no match for the burgeoning superiority of the rapidly developing North in the coming Civil War. The lack of emphasis on manufacturing and commercial interest, stemming from the Southern desire to preserve their traditional agrarian society, surrendered to the North their ability to function independently, much less to wage war. It was neither Northern troops nor generals that won the Civil War, rather Northern guns and industry.

From the onset of war, the Union had obvious advantages. Quite simply, the North had large amounts of just about everything that the South did not, boasting resources that the Confederacy had even no means of attaining (See Appendices, Brinkley et al. 415). Sheer manpower ratios were unbelievably one-sided, with only nine of the nation's 31 million inhabitants residing in the seceding states (Angle 7). The Union also had large amounts of land available for growing food crops which served the dual purpose of providing food for its hungry soldiers and money for its ever-growing industries. The South, on the other hand, devoted most of what arable land it had exclusively to its main cash crop: cotton (Catton, The Coming Fury 38). Raw materials were almost entirely concentrated in Northern mines and refining industries. Railroads and telegraph lines, the veritable lifelines of any army, traced paths all across the Northern countryside but left the South isolated, outdated, and starving (See Appendices). The final death knell for a modern South developed in the form of economic colonialism. The Confederates were all too willing to sell what little raw materials they possessed to Northern Industry for any profit they could get. Little did they know, "King Cotton" could buy them time, but not the war. The South had bartered something that perhaps it had not intended: its independence (Catton, Reflections 143).

The North's ever-growing industry was an important supplement to its economical dominance of the South. Between the years of 1840 and 1860, American industry saw sharp and steady growth. In 1840 the total value of goods manufactured in the United States...

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