Girding for War: The North and the South
I. President of the Disunited States of America
- 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.
- 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
- 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 situation.
- Lincoln intelligently 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.
- 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.
- On April 19 and 27, Lincoln also called a blockade that was leaky at first but soon clamped down tight.
- 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
- 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 they are on the North-South border and because they have slaves but had not seceded, though at any time they may.
- 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, and he also sent troops to western Virginia and Missouri.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 split.
IV. The Balance of Forces
- 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 VMI.
- However, the South was handicapped by a shortage of factories and manufacturing plants, but during the war, those developed in the South.
- 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.
- 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.
- As the war dragged on, Northern strengths beat Southern advantages.
V. Dethroning King Cotton
- The South was depending on foreign intervention to win the war, but didn’t get it.
- 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.
- Still, the Southern ideas was that the war would produce a shortage of cotton, which would draw England and others into the war, right? Wrong.
- 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.
- So, King Wheat and King Corn (of the North) beat King Cotton, since Europe needed the food much more than it needed the cotton.
VI. The Decisiveness of Diplomacy
- The South still hoped for foreign intervention, and it almost got it on a few occasions.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
ii. 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 Canada.
- 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
- 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.
- Jefferson Davis was never really popular and he overworked himself.
- Lincoln, though with his problems, had the benefit of leading an established government and grew patient and relaxed as the war dragged on.
IX. Limitations on Wartime Liberties
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- The North passed the Morrill Tariff Act, increasing tariff rates by about 5 to 10%, but war soon drove those rates even higher.
- 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.
- The federal Treasury also netted $2.6 billion in the sale of bonds.
- 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 (B.U.S.) was killed by Andrew Jackson.
- 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
- 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.
- However, many Union suppliers used shoddy equipment in their supplies, such as using cardboard as the soles of shoes.
- Sizes for clothing were invented, and the reaper helped feed millions.
- In 1859, a discovery of petroleum oil sent people to Pennsylvania.
- 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 Burton 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
- 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.
- Still, though many Southerners were resourceful and spirited, the South just couldn’t win.