The American Civil War

Exploring the Historical Trends Leading to the Civil War

The American Civil War is one of the major historical events which define the current status of the country and its people. The war started in 1861 after eleven southern states called for secession from the Federal Union to form the Confederacy. Such actions were sparked by the presidential election of 1860, which won the leading Republican candidate, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln’s promise to end slavery in the country was a direct threat to the Southern states. The confederate was thus formed by the states because of the fear that ending slavery would destroy the core of their economy (Brady, 2005). In the year 1861, Southern states had thus formed the Confederate Army, which would defend their independence. On the other hand, Northern states had also consolidated the Union Army, which was to face the former with the aim of uniting all states. Thus, the two warring parties involved in the Civil War were the Confederacy and the Union.

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The tension between the two parties heightened in November 1860, when Abraham Lincoln was elected as the United States President. Southern states knew that he would fulfill his promise to end slavery, and thus they vowed to defend their constitutional rights. Seven states of the South with the largest slave population were the first to call for secession. Texas even went further and conducted a public referendum on secession. However, both the President-elect Lincoln, and the outgoing President James Buchanan had already declined the secession illegal. By 1861, after the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln, Southern states started attacking the North, which thus led to a civil war (Brady, 2005). For the next five years, the two sides fought each other in the bloodiest war on American soil till, in 1865, the Union won the victory. Since then, it has always been discussed why the Confederacy lost the war. Some scholars suggest that the Confederates lacked the will while others argue it was scarce resources that disadvantaged them. The current paper aims at explaining that the result of the American Civil War was significantly determined by the material cost of battle rather than the people’s will to fight.

Pre-civil war trends

The trends relevant to the American Civil War started in the 16th century when the first European settlers formed colonies in the Western hemisphere. The British colonizers had no laborers for their land and thus began importing black people from Africa, who were to work as slaves in the fields. This trend continued until the end of the 18th century when American colonies fought for their independence during the Revolutionary War (Brady, 2005). By that time, several states, mostly in the South, had legally incorporated slavery in their economic system as opposed to Northern states, which aimed to abolish it entirely. In the 19th century, the North showed committed to ending slavery and ultimately started a federal campaign to bring the cruel practice to an end.


Post-civil war trends

The Reconstruction period. The Reconstruction was the period that started in 1865 and created a trend aimed at bringing the American states together after years of internal conflict, which left the country in a fragile state. This period sought to ensure that states that relied on slaves found different ways of economic progress (Smith, 2011). The Reconstruction period also demonstrated the American Union’s commitment to ensure that former slaves were integrated into the system that had been treating them unfairly for years.

The Great War period. The Great War period, which began in the early 20th century, was also a significant trend to the American Civil War. Since the beginning of the Civil War, the Union hands not faced any significant threat (Smith, 2011). The Great War thus was thus testing the United States cohesiveness and unity. Only a union with strong national cohesion would survive great wars, and America proved to be such a country.

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Civil rights movement. The last trend relevant to the American Civil War was the mid-20th-century civil rights moment in the United States. The movement began 100 years after the Civil War but strongly resembled its activities (Smith, 2011). In this movement, the black people of the United States were agitating for more rights, such as the right to vote, which they had been denied. The former were descendants of slaves who wanted to be recognized equal in rights with the write people in the country.

The Significance of the Indicated Trends

The introduction of slavery in the United States during the European settlers’ period was a crucial time for the American nation. During this period, the institution of slavery as an economic factor was build and legalized in the colonies. It thus became a part of the settlers’ culture and persisted even in the newly formed American union. The trend is closely connected to the Civil War because it is this well-institutionalized and legalized culture that the war was all about.

The American Revolution in the late 18th century was another trend because this period signified the start of resistance to slavery. The newly formed states, especially those in the North were against slavery, and thus they vowed to fight it. The long process which started after independence culminated in the Civil War, when Northern and Southern states stood side by side, one aiming to eliminate slavery and the other trying to preserve it respectively.

The Reconstruction and the Great War period were another two great trends that showed the fruits of the Civil War. The Restoration occurred just after the Civil War, and thus its success was largely determined by the achievement of the North in the Civil War (Smith, 2011). On the other hand, the success of the United States in the Great War period demonstrated that Southern and Northern states had already integrated, forming a more cohesive union. Such integration thus proves that the Union won the war as its objective prevailed.

Lastly, the civil rights movements in the mid-20th century sealed the American civil war objectives. The campaign led to the complete recognition of the equality of black people and gave them the right to vote (Smith, 2011). Hence, the movement is highly related to the Civil War as the latter aimed at determining the fate of slaves in American society. The civil rights movement demonstrates that the Union won the war as its goals were achieved.

People in the North Outnumbered Those in the Southern States

Winning the war in the 19th century was not just about the wealth of the nation but also the number of army officers that each side. The war in those days was executed through a physical confrontation with the enemy, and only the party with a larger army had an advantage.

Evidence from both primary and secondary sources has already demonstrated that the Union had a larger population compared to the Southern states, which resulted in the former winning the Civil War (Farmer, 2005). The large population of the North acted as a material advantage to the Union while the small army of the South served as the main weakness.

Primary Evidence of Less army Population

One way in which to learn that the Confederacy was facing some problems with their military number is through the letters that were sent home by the soldiers. Eli Landers was one of the Confederacy volunteers who started his service at the age of 19 years in 1863 (Landers, 1863). He sent his mother letters on several occasions. One of his published letters, which was written on June 6, 1862, proves that the Confederacy was facing a number of problems.

The letter was written on Burnt Chimney, Virginia State. At the beginning of the letter, the soldier says that one of their teams had been ambushed due to their small number but they arrived promptly to rescue them. He continues to explain that on that night, his team was pursuing the Yankees (Northerners) in the woods so that they could revenge (Landers, 1863). However, by the morning, their General received the news that over thirty thousand Yankees were advancing toward them. They had to confront them in a gorilla war manner because they were outnumbered. Landers explains that such an occasion was common to the Confederate soldiers, but they had grown to be familiar with them.

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Such account of events from the soldier on the ground proves that the Confederate army was doomed to lose the battle due to a smaller number of its officers. Landers even states that their soldiers survived that battle just by God’s mercy (Landers, 1863). The fact that their General knew that the enemies had a much larger population and still allowed the Landers’ team to engage in the battle shows that the generals decided to risk a small army against many Yankees.

Secondary Evidence of Less Population

According to Farmer (2005), one of the factors that led to the defeat of the Confederate army by the Union army was the small population both in the army and in the region in general. According to the statistics, during that period, the North had a population of 22 million, only a tiny part of which was made up of black people. By contrast, the South had a small population of nine million people, 5.5 million of whom were white residences. Thus, the overall population ratio between the two warring sides gave the Union many advantages as compared to the South (Farmer, 2005). The small number of population limited the Confederacy’s possibility to have a large army and restrain their economic power as many young men left farms and went to fight.

Farmer’s (2005) account of the war also shows how the number game worked out for the Union and disadvantaged the Confederates in 1864. During this year 260,000 soldiers from the South were killed and 200,000 people were seriously injured. All in all, the combined number of both injured and killed the white population of the South in 1864 represented almost 45% of all men who went for the service (Farmer, 2005). This fact shows that the population of the South was much smaller to maintain war as opposed to their enemies in the North.

The abovementioned primary and secondary evidence thus demonstrates that the South lost the war because they could not match the population capability of the North, which was almost three times larger in the population ratio. Therefore, the population as material requirement disadvantaged the South, which lost the war despite their strong will and stubbornness.

The Union Was More Industrialized and Had Better Economy

The South also lost the war because the Union was more advantaged in the economic sphere and had more industries. Some primary and secondary evidence has shown the difference between the North fighters and their South opponents from the economic perspective.

Primary Sources Showing Industrial and Economic Advantages

C. Brown, a Confederate soldier fighting in Franklin County, Ohio wrote a letter to his mother and sister in the South. The letter explained how the economic condition in the North was different as compared to the South. First, the South was suffering from huge inflation, and thus things were much cheaper in the North region. Brown had bought several items for his family, which cost him only $163, and wrote that his family could pay $700 for them in the South (Brown, 1863). Such a difference in the value of money indicated that the Union army had more advantages as compared to their counterpart from the Confederacy.

Brown also wrote that in the North they were getting more items that they could get in the South. He stated that some towns of Yankees which they had conquered had many more foods and clothing material than his family would need. Thus, he promises them to send more items home if he got more money. He explained that the army did not allow them to use Yankees’ money, and thus it was hard for them to acquire those items, however, he was hopeful that he could get more in the future (Brown, 1863). Brown’s letter demonstrates that the Confederate army was suffering some economic problems as compared to the North. People who came back at home also had fewer resources. That is why Brown was sending some items home. Such evidence shows that despite the immense dedication of Confederates to their course, they were doomed to lose the war due to the weak economy.

Secondary Sources Showing Industrial and Economic Advantages

In his article on the American Civil War, Brady (2005) discusses why the economic factor played a critical role in the war outcome. He states that the strategy of the North towards the Confederacy focused on the major strategic economic factors of the South which lead to the collapse of the new union. The southern economy was based on cotton sales in the European region and in the state of Virginia. The Union leaders thus were aware that destroying these two sectors of their economy would make the Confederacy less powerful, thus making them lose the war.

They started by ensuring that the cotton sale becomes impossible for the Confederacy, thus cutting them from the rest of the world. The blockage of the cotton sale made the South lose a significant amount of resources which could be channeled towards success in the war. It also limited the possibility of countries such as France and Britain to access the South, and thus they could not legally recognize the Confederacy (Brady, 2005). The North also concentrated their military actions in Virginia and the Western region, which were the sources of economic power for the South, thus making it weaker. By the end of 1864, the Confederacy lost these areas and thus their course for the battle also appeared to have been lost.

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The above-mentioned primary and secondary resources demonstrate that economic resources were critical for the success of the war. However, it gave the North the upper hand because it had better agriculture and secure industries as compared to the Southern states (Brady, 2005). The South, by contrast, had fewer resources, and the Union targeted them, making the economic power of the South weaker. As a result, the Confederate army was destined to lose the war due to material costs that were pushed up by poor economic conditions.

Women in the South Were More Constrained with Duties

Women in the Union and the Confederacy also played a significant role in determining the outcome of the American Civil War. The women’s role was mostly supportive, but it was critical because a lack of support exposed men to frustration, which made them lose hope in winning the war. Women in the North are believed to have provided more support than women in the South, thus reducing the chances of the Confederate army to win the war.

Primary Sources Proving that Women in the South Influenced the Outcome of the War

The writing by Susie King Taylor describing how black women helped black men fight against the Union, is the evidence that shows the role of women in the Civil War. Taylor says that the Union women were more dedicate, helping their men in the battle by encouraging them and giving them confidence (Taylor, 1902). They were also acting as nurses and were giving medical service to the men who were injured. Taylor described several instances when she gave assistance to the Union army and how soldiers recovered after her actions.

Another primary source that indicated the role of women in the war was given by Colonel Spiegel as he was addressing his troops in a parade. He was raising some concern that some men were speaking of the disloyal and unbecoming status of a soldier. Spiegel states that if there were any man who was thinking of returning home, then he would encounter those who left back were doing nothing (Spiegel, 1863). They would deal with him as appropriate and also brand him a traitor or a coward. The colonel in this speech meant that those women at home would reject defaulters. Hence, women provided an active material benefit both by their physical presence and their services.

Secondary Sources Proving that Women in the South Influenced the Outcome of the War

According to Faust (1990), the women of the Confederacy played a significant role in the determination of the outcome of the war. In her article, the author narrates that women from the Confederate states were very passionate about sending their husbands and children to the war. They all supported their men when they said they wanted volunteers. The main kind of support that women provided to men in uniform included nursing duties in the hospitals, textile, cloth and munitions production for soldiers, and government office services. In the absence of men, women were also supposed to manage the salves in the field and engage in agriculture activities. The material cost of the war was thus very huge to women, and their ability to handle all these duties was critical to the war outcomes.


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However, according to Faust (1990), this was not an easy task for the women in the South because they were not used to managing agriculture or slaves. Although they had the will to support the war, they lacked the capacity to perform all the duties that were allocated to them. The number of women in the North was larger, and they had no duties such as managing slaves; therefore, they were able to help the soldiers better than those in the South. The material cost of women in the Confederacy was too high, and by the end of the war, they were already showing a sign of tiredness and incapability.

The primary and secondary sources mentioned above thus point that the Confederate women contributed a lot to the outcome of the war because its material cost was too high for them (Faust, 1990). They could not match the material demand that the war was putting on them and thus became frustrated. Their frustration also demoralized the soldiers and made them give up their course.


In conclusion, it can be inferred that the outcome of the American Civil War was significantly determined by the material cost of battle rather than people’s willingness to fight. It has been revealed that a large population of the Union, their strong economy, and women assistance helped the Union soldiers win the war. On the other hand, the material cost for the Confederate army was very high, and thus they had no other choice but to surrender to their northern counterparts. The paper thus concludes that the material cost of the battle was the key factor that determined the outcome of the war.


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