Strengths and Weaknesses of North and South and the Civil War

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By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Feb 4, 2012

Strengths and Weaknesses of North and South

The strengths of the Union were obvious from the beginning. In terms of population, the Union was more than twice the size of the Confederacy—and one- third of the Confederate population was enslaved. With a larger population, the North would have a larger fighting force, a greater pool from which to draw replacements for casualties, and more workers who could take over essential noncombat jobs in industry. The North also had greater resources, controlling well over 80 percent of the nation’s factories and industry. This meant that it could produce the necessary uniforms, supplies, and weapons itself, without relying on foreign allies or going into debt. The North had about four times as much cash on deposit in banks as the South did. It commanded the loyalty of the U.S. Navy, which was to prove a key weapon in the war; the South would literally have to build its own navy.

Perhaps most important, the South was fighting for a cause that was bound to lose. By outlawing slavery during the late 1700s and early 1800s, the North had moved with the times, while the South refused to recognize that slavery had become an anachronism. For example, the czar of Russia had long since begun the process of emancipating the serfs.

The South had a few advantages. One was the possibility of foreign alliances; Britain and France, two major buyers of southern cotton, might step in to aid the South. The South also had the skilled military leaders. Robert E. Lee was so highly regarded that Lincoln asked him to take command of the Union army. Torn between his loyalty to the United States and his opposition to secession on one side, and his love for his native Virginia on the other, Lee refused. He resigned from the U.S. Army and soon found himself in command of the Confederate Army.

Practice questions for these concepts can be found at:

The Civil War Practice Test

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