Northern Victory in the Civil War

Categories: Civil War

This essay will analyze the varied factor that led to Northern victory in the Civil War between 1861-1864. The central reasons for this Union success can be categorized in economic, political, and military factors; some of these elements would include the southern focus on cotton monoculture, the union naval blockade, the confederate doctrine of State’s Rights, and the strength of union generals and their military tactics, between others. Overall, the north achieved dominance due to a combination of these reasons.

Economic factors led to Northern victory as although both sides had great military potential, neither side had few methods to actually realize that potential. According to the Millennial edition of The Historical Statistics of the united states, during the time of the civil war the Union owned 71% of all the rail roads of the USA while the CSA only had a 29%. Also the Union had 90% of the manufactured items and a 97% of the firearms produced, while the CSA only had a 70% of the exports.

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Regarding the rail roads, this were of main importance, as the Union transported weapons, soldiers, ammo, and raw materials through this, so the fact that the northern states owned 21. 788 miles of rail roads didn’t only mean that they could transport all the machinery across the country but also, that the south was terribly limited in their transport, therefore the CSA had the disadvantage that the Union controlled rail roads across the country meaning, that they weren’t able to use their full potential on industry (cotton etc.

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or militarily as most of railroads were used for the moving of troops, while the north kept their industry stable and was able to move troops across the territory. More over, coming back to the production, and exports facts, although the southern states had most of the exports before the war (selling enormous amounts of cotton), as soon the war started their relations with Britain (who bought cotton to the south) broke out, so they had no economic strength behind their forces, as all their economy was based on agriculture, and had no industries.

On the other side the Union had a totally industrialized economy where they were able to auto-sustain their states, therefore their economy before and during the war never changed, meaning that they were in perfect conditions as firearm production was extremely overwhelming over the one of the CSA and, they had money enough to go over a war and support their army with food, clothes, and weapons. In this way the North was highly superior to the south as they were financial base strong, so they could borrow internationally and purchase weapons and supplies abroad.

Finally the fact that the Union had a population of 22. 000. 000 and the CSA of 9. 000. 000, which 5. 500. 000 of them were slaves, was also important because the north had enough people, so that factories never stop working, and still they had lots of soldiers and a big army, on the other side the south with a little population did not had enough for both activities, therefore some people had to stop working for going to the war.

Between the southern statistics, we can find that the economic ones, are ridiculously overwhelmed by the ones of the Union, and this was mainly because their focus on monoculture, therefore if the cotton declined, then the confederate economy would be devastated, as they had a closed market, were almost most of their work was dedicated to one product.

Unfortunately for the confederate states cotton trade rapidly declined during the civil war as many southerner believed that without the south’s cotton exports, Britain’s textile industry would collapse, causing terrible problems for the British Empire, and as a result England would join the war to fight the Union, however it did not work, and Britain started to buy cotton to other nations. As a result, the confederacy suffered crucially from under–industrialization as its only manufacturing plant The Tredegar Ironworks at Richmond, while the North had innumerable factories of the kind.

This meant that the Confederates States weren’t able to maintain their railways, armies, and troops in the frontier, therefore the north had and advantage as southerners soldiers were unprepared for fighting and there railroads where in terrible conditions, so their little possession of railroads became even smaller, while the northern states were perfect due to their economic stability. In a civil war control of the oceans and rivers is often a critical point.

The union had grater naval end industrial facilities, and decided to blockade the south to strangle its trade and wealth. The idea came from a commanding general, called Winfield Scott who designed this plan to win the war with as little violence as possible. The plan consisted in closing the main confederate ports; so in May 1861 when the blockade started the south was cut from almost all international trade.

Therefore, the CSA’s economy was even worse than it was before, southern economy was now basically based in one factory, which was not even near to the production needed by the southerners to fight a war, and as a result the confederacy’s wealth didn’t resisted much war, so lines wouldn’t hold for much longer, and finally the northern forces would overthrow them one way or another, as southerners’’ railroads where getting each time worst, they had almost no weapons or fighting equipment as there trade was cut off, and they only had one factory so provide with ammo, weapons, clothes for all of the south.

Overall, we can see clearly that the war totally destroyed the Confederacy’s economy. Firstly, cotton production was dripping quickly as the south tried to force Britain to join the war, this was devastating to the south as they almost had no income, and they where in the middle of a war. As a result that cotton production was not needed any more, the slaves had now much less work to do, and this meant that there were also men who had to look after them, as they were “dangerous”, therefore, there where less soldiers to fight against the north.

At the same time, the war had a direct effect on the plantations as “It did not seem to matter whether a Union or confederate army crossed a plantation, either way the result was devastation, crops were trampled down, stock was stolen […]”[1], this clearly shows the state of desperation of the south army, and the situation they were in. also the fact that some planters escaped from war-zone with their slaves, brought disruption, as the bad news of defeat was spread by planters and slaves into new areas.

Therefore, planters had to run away because their property was being destroyed, this provoked even more decay in their production, agricultural farms, that could be used for feeding soldiers, weren’t worked any more by their owners, therefore the south had no way of getting food, as they couldn’t buy to any other country due to the blockade, and the local productions was getting destroy rapidly by the war, giving in this way a great advantage to the north, as southerners soldiers conditions were in some cases deplorable.

Concluding, the fact that the south bet to a future, which slavery was supposed to guarantee, after the breaking of relations with the exterior, slavery was a thing of the past after only a year of war. Therefore, the confederacy who had spent a lot of money in bringing them from Africa and buying them, making slaves the column of their economy, was just a waste of time and money as they were useless, as they couldent fight, because if they were given a weapon the would use it to kill their owners and free themselves, and they were also a waste of soldiers as it required many whites to control them.

Therefore, slaves who were the future of the CSA, ended up being a weight in the shoulders of southerners, as they created deficit, and this affected also, the confederacy’s economy. However, while economic reasons were clearly important in the northern victory, political factors, also played a mayor role. Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America, faced two challenges; one was to fight a war against the north and the second, to create a new nation.

Therefore the south itself saw themselfeves in a bad position for fighting a war, because they had to care about to important things at the same time, and also they weren’t prepared to fight a war with another country like USA. Therefore, the lack of political organization, from the south, regarding to powers, was also an important issue, as the north was enormously superior, and had a better, and more organized political structure. As a result, the north fought a corporate war, while the south still had problems internally.

Also confederate doctrine of state’s rights weakened the south as it created political disunity in the Confederacy. President Jefferson Davis, had to struggle with states governors, like Joe Brown, from Georgia or Zebulon Vance, from North Carolina, to get conscription approved, and even for basic military supplies. This disunity meant that the eastern and western fronts fought for resources, as most went to the east while the war was lost in the west.

Firstly, this shows that states from the south did no believe they were going to win the war, as they started to withheld supplies to defend their own area, and this lead to Union victory, as they were separated, therefore, this didn’t just meant that they where more vulnerable as they were disunity, but also that they were weaker as states did not work together, each other to fight the north. Therefore the Union, saw the isolation of the southern states, and took advantage of it by attacking from different points, specially the west, and finally penetrating in this way through the North/south frontier, into the confederacy’s heart.

Moreover, the role of foreign powers during the war was of main importance. Since the very beginning of the war, the Union made it clear that recognition of the Confederacy meant war to the Unites States. As a result, no nation appointed any diplomat officially to the confederacy; this meant that they received no diplomatic recognition. This was crucial, and one of the main aims of the North, because recognition to the south meant, a lot of income due to the cotton industry, and also weapons and machines to fight the war.

Although the Union relied on its blockade to ensure victory, if the confederacy achieved recognition from Britain and France, this would have been much more difficult. Therefore, the fact that the CSA was not a recognized country before war, made things much more easier to the Union, as this meat no international support, and they were now isolated, clearly showing that they had no chances of wining the war without external help.

Therefore this created conditions for the Union to win the war, as the fact that cotton trade was going down, and the only had one factory in the whole confederacy, made it clear that, they weren’t able to make it on their own, so the north clearly overwhelmed the south, as they had many factories to produce weapons, clothes etc. and also the support of European forces who sell weapons and machines to them; that’s why, it is so important that the CSA did not had a government, and a reason, of why they were so hurried up to become a nation.

From the start of the war that Lincoln had a problem, which was how to unite the North sufficiently to make them want to fight and keep fighting. He needed an initiative, something that would give the northerners a reason to fight for. One way of doing this was through attacking slavery , and if we go back, some years before the war we could see that these really moved people (Uncle’s Tom Cabin), and although the civil war began over the secession of the South, and not over slavery, it was a fact which grew tensions between the Union and CSA before the war.

Lincoln had to wait until Northern opinion was ready for the announcement of emancipation, where slaves would be set free. In 1862 the Atlantic slave trade was banned by the congress, but still people wanted more progress towards slavery destruction. Lincoln’s main reasons for this where: slavery had been already an important spark in the causes for the civil war, so to make sure war did not happen again.

Free black were trying to enlist the Union’s army, and internationally the North would gain much support from the rest of the world, especially Europe, if the promised to crush slavery, and finally, in the same way the Declaration of Independence said, he thought that “all men are equal”. However, Lincoln suffered a resistance from his own cabinet, as they said that were private property, and under the constitution, it was not correct to do that.

However, in July 1862, finally Lincoln’s cabinet agreed, and after the win of Antietam, the 17th of September, Lincoln decide that it was the right moment, son the 22nd of September of 1862 the preliminary proclamation was announced. It said that all slave owner who refused to make peace, all slaves in that territory would be freed on 1st of January 1863. Then, in January 1863 Lincoln put forward plans for gradual, compensated emancipation. After these, celebrations started all over the north. Rapidly runaway slaves joined the Union armies fighting the south, carrying wood, making roads and bridges between other things.

On the other hand the confederacy tried to suppress all knowledge of the proclamation, but word spread around the south. Therefore, the proclamation strengthened the north as, people were encourage to fight, and were more enthusiastic, taking more participation and a major role in the war. Also, the fact that the Union was against slavery made international relations much easier to them, as other countries started to sympathize with the northerner’s actions, giving as a result a positive effect on the Unions economy.

Also, the fact that slaves joined the army (178. 975, actually the 12. 5% of the whole army) was also of major help to the Northerners as they also started working at factories or scouting and searching for confederates or spying in the south. Therefore this led to Northern victory, as a huge amount of soldiers joined the army, internationals relations grew up, meaning more weapons and machines to fight the war, and finally, soldiers and people from the north had found the motivation to keep fighting.

On the other hand, the proclamation weakened the Confederacy, slaves stop working at their plantations, or farms, therefore the had no workers, and that place was to be replace by the white, meaning in this way less men to fight the war. Slaves started rescuing Union soldier in the south, so they even started working against the confederacy, and as a result weakening their forces. Also, south’s international picture was terribly affected, as although eople already new the Southern states of the USA, worked a lot with slaves, with the proclamations, the Union was rapidly portrayed as heroes while the south became the villains of the story, and in this affected directly to the south’s relations with exterior, especially Europe. Therefore we can say that the effects of this proclamation led to northern victory, as 178. 975 new soldiers entered to the United States army to fight against the Confederacy. After proclamation, the North’s international view grew up in a positive way, while the southern one didn’t.

This meant more exports and imports to the Union, which as a direct result made a huge significance in their trade and economy, and on the other side the Confederacy was left more isolated than it was before, meaning no weapons at all, and almost no income. The north had had found, an incentive to fight the war and give a quick finish to it, and the proclamation was the right push. Furthermore, workers were needed in the south to replace the place of the slaves, this meant less soldiers and less production for the confederacy.

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Northern Victory in the Civil War. (2016, Nov 05). Retrieved from

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