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Chapter 20: Girding for War: The North and the South (1861-1865)

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Chapter Outline

I. The Menace of Secession

  1. On March 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated president, having
    slipped into Washington D.C. to thwart assassins, and in his inaugural
    address, he stated that there would be no conflict unless the South
    provoked it.
  2. He marked restoration of the union as his top goal, and offered doubts about it splitting.
    • He stated that geographically, the United States could not be split (which was true).
    • A split U.S. brought up questions about the sharing of the national debt and the allocation of federal territories.
    • A split U.S. also pleased the European countries, since the U.S.
      was the only major display of democracy in the Western Hemisphere, and
      with a split U.S., the Monroe Doctrine could be undermined as well if
      the new C.S.A. allowed Europe to gain a foothold with it.

II. South Carolina Assails Fort Sumter

  1. Most of the forts in the South had relinquished their power to the
    Confederacy, but Fort Sumter was among the two that didn’t. And
    since its supplies were running out against a besieging South
    Carolinian army, Lincoln had a problem of how to deal with the

    • Lincoln wisely chose to send supplies to the fort, and he told the
      South Carolinian governor that the ship to the fort only held
      provisions, not reinforcements.
    • However, to the South, provisions were reinforcements, and on April
      12, 1861, cannons were fired onto the fort; after 34 hours of
      non-lethal firing, the fort surrendered.
  2. Northerners were inflamed by the South’s actions, and Lincoln
    now called on 75,000 volunteers; so many came that they had to be
    turned away.
  3. On April 19 and 27, Lincoln also called a naval blockade on the South that was leaky at first but soon clamped down tight.
  4. The Deep South (which had already seceded), felt that Lincoln was
    now waging an aggressive war, and was joined by four more Southern
    states: Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina.

    • The capital of the Confederacy was moved from Montgomery, AL to Richmond, VA.

III. Brother’s Blood and Border Blood

  1. The remaining Border States (Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland) were
    crucial for both sides, as they would have almost doubled the
    manufacturing capacity of the South and increased its supply of horses
    and mules by half.

    • They’re called “border states” because…
      1. they are on the North-South border and…
      2. they are slave-states. They have not seceded, but at any moment, they just might.
  2. Thus, to retain them, Lincoln used moral persuasion…and methods of dubious legality:
    • In Maryland, he declared martial law in order to retain a state
      that would isolate Washington D.C. within Confederate territory if it
      went to the South
    • He also sent troops to western Virginia and Missouri to secure those areas.
  3. At the beginning, in order to hold the remaining Border States,
    Lincoln repeatedly said that the war was to save the Union, not free
    the slaves, since a war for the slaves’ freedom would have lost
    the Border States.
  4. Most of the Five Civilized Tribes (Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw,
    Chickasaw, Seminole) sided with the South, although parts of the
    Cherokee and most of the Plains Indians were pro-North.
  5. The war was one of brother vs. brother, with the mountain men of
    what’s now West Virginia sending some 50,000 men to the Union.
    The nation’s split was very visible here, as Virginia literally

IV. The Balance of Forces

  1. The South, at the beginning of the war, did have many advantages:
    • It only had to fight to a draw to win, since all it had to do was
      keep the North from invading and taking over all of its territory.
    • It had the most talented officers, including Robert E. Lee and
      Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, and most of the Southerners had
      been trained in a military-style upbringing and education since they
      were children, as opposed to the tame Northerners. Many top Southern
      young men attended military schools like West Point, The Citadel, or
  2. However, the South was handicapped by a shortage of factories and
    manufacturing plants, but during the war, those developed in the South.
  3. Still, as the war dragged on, the South found itself with a
    shortage of shoes, uniforms, blankets, clothing, and food, which
    didn’t reach soldiers due to supply problems.
  4. However, the North had a huge economy, many more men available to
    fight, and it controlled the sea, though its officers weren’t as
    well-trained as some in the South.
  5. As the war dragged on, Northern strengths beat Southern advantages.

V. Dethroning King Cotton

  1. The South was depending on foreign intervention to win the war, but didn’t get it.
  2. While the European countries wanted the Union to be split (which
    would strengthen their nation, relatively speaking), their people were
    pro-North and anti-slavery, and sensing that this was could eliminate
    slavery once and for all, they would not allow any intervention by
    their nations on behalf of the South. The reason for the pro-North,
    anti-slavery stance by the people, was the effect of Uncle Tom’s
    Cabin—being lowly wage earners, the common people felt Uncle
    Tom’s pain.
  3. Still, the Southern ideas was that the war would produce a shortage
    of cotton, which would draw England and others into the war, right?

    • In the pre-war years, cotton production had been immense, and thus, England and France had huge surpluses of cotton.
    • As the North won Southern territory, it sent cotton and food over to Europe.
    • India and Egypt upped their cotton production to offset the hike in the price of cotton.
  4. So, King Wheat and King Corn (of the North) beat King Cotton of the
    South, since Europe needed the food much more than it needed the cotton.

VI. The Decisiveness of Diplomacy

  1. The South still hoped for foreign intervention, and it almost got it on a few occasions.
  2. Late in 1861, a Union warship stopped the British mail steamer the
    Trent and forcibly removed two Confederate diplomats bound for Europe.

    • Britain was outraged at the upstart Americans and threatened war,
      but luckily, Lincoln released the prisoners and tensions cooled.
      “One war at a time,” he said.
    • British-built sea vessels that went to the Confederacy were also a problem.
      • In 1862, the C.S.S. Alabama escaped to the Portuguese Azores, took
        on weapons and crew from Britain, but never sailed into a Confederate
        base, thus using a loophole to help the South.
  3. Charles Francis Adams persuaded Britain not to build any more ships
    for the Confederacy, since they might someday be used against England.

VII. Foreign Flare-Ups

  1. Britain also had two Laird rams, Confederate warships that could
    destroy wooden Union ships and wreak havoc on the North, but after the
    threat of war by the U.S., Britain backed down and used those ships for
    its Royal Navy.
  2. Near Canada, Confederate agents plotted (and sometimes succeeded)
    to burn down American cities, and as a result, there were several
    mini-armies (raised mostly by British-hating Irish-Americans) sent to
  3. Napoleon III of France also installed a puppet government in Mexico
    City, putting in the Austrian Archduke Maximilian as emperor of Mexico,
    but after the war, the U.S. threatened violence, and Napoleon left
    Maximilian to doom at the hands of a Mexican firing squad.

VIII. President Davis Versus President Lincoln

  1. The problem with the South was that it gave states the ability to
    secede in the future, and getting Southern states to send troops to
    help other states was always difficult to do. By definition in a
    confederacy, national power was weak.
  2. Jefferson Davis was never really popular and he overworked himself.
  3. Lincoln, though with his problems, had the benefit of leading an
    established government and grew patient and relaxed as the war dragged

IX. Limitations on Wartime Liberties

  1. Abe Lincoln did make some tyrannical acts during his term as
    president, such as illegally proclaiming a blockade, proclaiming acts
    without Congressional consent, and sending in troops to the Border
    States, but he justified his actions by saying that such acts
    weren’t permanent, and that he had to do those things in order to
    preserve the Union.
  2. Such actions included the advancement of $2 million to three
    private citizens for war purposes, the suspension of habeas corpus so
    that anti-Unionists could be arrested without a formal charge, and the
    intimidation of voters in the Border States.
  3. The Confederate states’ refusal to sacrifice some
    states’ rights led to the handicapping of the South, and perhaps
    to its ultimate downfall.

X. Volunteers and Draftees: North and South

  1. At first, there were numerous volunteers, but after the initial
    enthusiasm slacked off, Congress passed its first conscription law ever
    (the draft), one that angered the poor because rich men could hire a
    substitute instead of entering the war just by paying $300 to Congress.

    • As a result, many riots broke out, such as one in New York City.
  2. Volunteers manned more than 90% of the Union army, and as
    volunteers became scarce, money was offered to them in return for
    service; still, there were many deserters.
  3. The South had to resort to a draft nearly a year before the North,
    and it also had its privileges for the rich—those who owned or
    oversaw 20 slaves or more were exempt from the draft.

XI. The Economic Stresses of War

  1. The North passed the Morrill Tariff Act, increasing tariff rates by about 5 to 10%, but war soon drove those rates even higher.
  2. The Washington Treasury also issued greenback paper money totaling
    nearly $450 million, but this money was very unstable and sank to as
    low as 39 cents per gold dollar.
  3. The federal Treasury also netted $2.6 billion in the sale of bonds.
  4. The National Banking System was a landmark of the war, created to
    establish a standard bank-note currency, and banks that joined the
    National Banking System could buy government bonds and issue sound
    paper money.

    • The National Banking Act was the first step toward a unified
      national banking network since 1836, when the Bank of the United States
      was killed by Andrew Jackson.
  5. In the South, runaway inflation plagued the Confederates, and
    overall, in the South inflation went up to 9000%, as opposed to
    “just” 80% in the North.

XII. The North’s Economic Boom

  1. The North actually emerged from the Civil War more prosperous than
    before, since new factories had been formed and a millionaire class was
    born for the first time in history.
  2. However, many Union suppliers used shoddy equipment in their supplies, such as using cardboard as the soles of shoes.
  3. Sizes for clothing were invented, and the reaper helped feed millions.
  4. In 1859, a discovery of petroleum oil sent people to Pennsylvania.
  5. Women gained new advances in the war, taking the jobs left behind
    by men going off to battle, and other women posed as men and became
    soldiers with their husbands.

    • Clara Barton and Dorothea Dix helped transform nursing from a lowly
      service to a respected profession, and in the South, Sally Tompkins ran
      a Richmond infirmary for wounded Confederate soldiers and was awarded
      the rank of Captain by Jefferson Davis.

XIII. A Crushed Cotton Kingdom

  1. The South was ruined by the war, as transportation collapsed and
    supplies of everything became scarce, and by the end of the war, the
    South claimed only 12% of the national wealth as opposed to 30% before
    the war, and it’s per capita income was now 2/5 that of
    Northerners, as opposed to 2/3 of Northerners before the war.
  2. Still, though many Southerners were resourceful and spirited, the South just couldn’t win.


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