The Loss of The Northern Advantage In the Civil War

Essay add: 30-09-2015, 12:46   /   Views: 357
The Loss of The Northern Advantage In the Civil War

In the beginning of the American Civil War, all odds were stacked up against the Southern insurrectionists ever having any chance whatsoever at being victorious. Economic factors as well as a severe lack of manpower in comparison to the federal forces gave the impression to all that the Union would have a quick and instantaneous rout of the rebels. The Confederacy was the one that seceded so it had to either defend itself or risk being absorbed once again into the Union. This called for expertise in command as well as a skillful use and distribution of the few supplies the Confederacy did have, as well as an emphasis on the advantages it did have over the Union.

By a purely economical status, the Confederacy was far outmatched by the Union. At the war’s beginning, only 11 states seceded, leaving twenty-two to still oppose them. The union had twenty two million individuals whereas in comparison, the Confederacy had about nine million, one third of which were slaves. Also, the South was not as developed in an industrial standpoint as the North. Its economy was based upon the cotton industry, and trading to Europe to supply their textile mills. The north was a diverse mix of both agriculture and industry. It would be able to support itself agriculturally while at the same time have the ability to mass-produce more weapons of mass destruction and goods to be traded to foreign countries. The majority of necessary minerals, such as iron ore, copper, and coal were contained in the North as well, fueling the factories of the Union. The sheer number of resources and number of troops in comparison to the South should have been an indication that the North should win.

Mobility was also key element throughout the war. The Union had a clear advantage here over the Confederacy. It had the extensive use of canals and railroads allowing troop transportation to be quick and efficient. The South only had two main east-west railroads with a limited ability to produce locomotives and railroad tracks. Their supplies would always arrive late, if at all, as shown in the battle of Gettysburg where the lack of sufficient railroads prohibited the amount of artillery necessary to destroy vital amounts of troops leading to the fated Picket’s Charge. After the secession, the majority of the American navy remained loyal to the North. This allowed the Union blockade of the Confederacy, effectively shutting off trade and destroying the Southern economy, dependent upon the trade of cotton to Europe. However, the same blockade led to the Trent affair, which caused international outrage. In time, the Confederacy was able to construct its own navy, even creating an ironclad ship with which to counter the Union navy with its technological superiority. In the beginning of the war though, the Union navy virtually had no opposition.

Yet, no matter how staggering the odds were, the Union still found a way to start losing the war. Even from the start, at the Battle of Bull run, the Union troops outnumbered the Confederates by 8,000, though incompetence and hesitant movements lead to the demise of this army. The reason the Union lost a large portion of the war was because the officers that held rank were not skilled in the way of war nor were the men enlisted to fight for the Union. The South may not have had more men, but these men were raised on farms and proficient in the use of firearms, as well as being knowledgeable of the lay of the land. Because the Union was on the offense, the knowledge of the land came in handy as the South was able to repeatedly batter the federal forces back over the Potomac into the North over and over. Jefferson Davis was even able to order an offensive, though it failed. The officers in the corps were also better leaders, as Northern officers were more inclined towards planning and not actual battle tested generals.

It is clear after analyzing the Civil War that the Union indubitably wasted its clear advantage in the war. Even considering the lack of good generals is overridden with the comparison between resources as well as the number of forces. The large difference between the two is clearly evident and by all rights the Union should not have lost that many men nor should the South have. If the Union had made better use of its resources and taken a more offensive role in the war, the numerous deaths might not have had to happen and the war would have been over in at least a year. Yet the Union refused to take action, and even in the end refused to care for the value of human life when such procedures as Total War and the process of just throwing wave after wave of men at the Confederate forces just to weaken them. Even leaders elect can make bad judgments, but the loss of so many lives could have been avoided.

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