Strengths and Weaknesses: North vs. South

Within days of the fall of Fort Sumter, four more states joined the confederacy: Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas. The battle lines were drawn.

The Union outweighed the confederacy in almost every way; the number of states as well as the number of people. Despite the North’s larger population, the South had an army almost equal in size, during the first year of the war.

The North had a greater industrial advantage. The Confederacy had only one-ninth the industrial capacity of the Union. In 1860, the North manufactured 97% of the country firearms, 96% of its railroads, 94% of it cloth, 93% of its pig iron and over 90% of its boots and shoes. The North also controlled the Navy so the seas were in the hands of the Union. Still the South was not without resources and willpower.

The South could produce all the food it needed but transporting it to soldiers and civilians was a major problem. Seven of the eight military colleges in the country were in the South; providing the South with trained officers. The South also proved to be resourceful and by the end of the war, the south had established armoires and foundries in several states.

The military and political objectives of the Union were much more difficult to accomplish. The Union had to invade, conquer and occupy the South. It had to destroy the South’s capacity and will to resist.

Southerners enjoyed the initial advantage of morale: The South was fighting to maintain its way of life, whereas the North was fighting to maintain the Union. Slavery was not a moral cause of the Union effort until Lincoln announced the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.

The North looked much better on paper, but many factors undetermined at the outbreak of war could have tilted the balance sheet toward a different outcome.

Source: Strengths and Weaknesses: North vs. South
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