The Civil War


On paper the North was far stronger than the South. It had
two and a half times as many people, and it possessed far more
ships, miles of railroad, and manufacturing enterprises.
Southerners, however, had the advantage of fighting on home
ground with better military leadership. But Union superiority in
manpower was not so great as the gross figures suggest. Half a
million people scattered from Dakota to California, could make no
substantial contribution to Union strength. And every year Union
regiments were sent to the West to fight Indians. Hundreds of
thousands of Americans in loyal border states and in southern
Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois worked or fought for southern
independence. Though, every state furnished men for the other
side, there was little doubt that more Federals than Confederates
"crossed over."
The South had superior officer personnel. For twenty years
before Lincoln\'s inauguration, southern officers had dominated
the U.S. Army. Another source of southern confidence was cotton.
Secession leaders expected to exchange that staple for the
foreign manufactured goods they needed.
The South\'s most important advantage was that it had only to
defend relatively short interior lines against invaders who had
to deal with long lines of communication and to attack a broad
front. The Confederacy also had no need to divert fighting men to
tasks such as garrisoning captured cities and holding conquered
territory.
In a short war, numerical superiority would not have made
much of a difference. As the war continued, however, numerical
strength became a psychological as well as a physical weapon.
During the closing years of the conflict, Union armies, massed at
last against critical strongholds, suffered terrible casualties
but seemed to grow stronger with every defeat. Any staggering
Confederate losses sapped the southern will to fight. Every
material advantage of the North was magnified by the fact that
the Civil War lasted years instead of months. Money and credit,
food production, transport, factories, clothing (boots)--it took
time to redirect the economy to the requirements of war,
especially because these requirements, like the length of the
war, were underestimated.