How And Why The North Won War by 1865

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29 February 2016

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My research topic for this essay is explain how and why the North won war by 1865. In this essay I will be explaining the various reasons as to why the South surrendered to the North and how it all happened. This war took place from 1861 to 1865 and is ranked as the most deadliest war in American history. The Union or Northern States won the war against the South or the Confederacy. Instead of looking at causes or consequences, in this essay I will go into the reasons as to why did the North win the Civil War.

The American South, though raised in military tradition, was to be no match North in the coming Civil War. The manpower on the Union side was much larger and outnumbered the Confederate army strength. The lack of emphasis on manufacturing and commercial interest, the South surrendered to the North their ability to to fight independently. It wasn’t the Northern troops nor generals that won the Civil War, but their guns and equipment. From the very first start of the war, the Union had various advantages. “The North had large amounts of just about everything that the South did not, boasting resources that the confedaracy had even no means of attaining.” (Brinkley, 1991).

The Union had large amounts of land available for growing food crops which served for providing food for its hungry soldiers and money for the growing industries. The South, on the other hand, devoted most of their land to its main cash crop: cotton. Raw materials were almost entirely concentrated in Northern mines and refining industries. Railroads and telegraph lines are what the North was surrounded by, but left the South isolated, outdated, and starving. The Confederates were willing to sell their cash crops to the North to make any sort of profit. Little did they know, “King Cotton” could buy them time, but not the war. “The South had bartered something that perhaps it had not intended: its independence.” (Catton, 1952).

The North’s growing industry had a powerful dominance over the South. Between the years of 1840 and 1860, American industry was steady growing. “In 1840 the Research Paper: “Explain how and why the North won war by 1865.” 4 total value of goods manufactured in the United States stood at $483 million, increasing over fourfold by 1860 to just under $2 billion, with the North taking the king’s ransom.”(Brinkley, 1991). The hidden reason behind this dramatic growth of money is because of the American Industrial Revolution.

Beginning in the early 1800s, some of the ideas of the industrial revolution began to get picked up from the American Society. One of the first industries to see quick development was the textile industry, but, thanks to the British government, this development almost never even passed. Years before this, England’s James Watt had developed the first successful steam engine. This invention completely revolutionized the British textile industry, and eventually made it the most profitable in the world (“Industrial Revolution”). The British government, were astonished with this new material but cautious, so they ended up trying to protect the nation by preventing the export of textile machinery and even the emigration of skilled mechanics. “Despite valiant attempts at deterrence, though, many immigrants managed to make their way into the United States with the advanced knowledge of English technology, and they were anxious to acquaint America with the new machines.”(Furnas, 1969). People like Samuel Slater can be credited with beginning the revolution of the textile industry in America. He was skilled mechanic in England, and spent long hours studying the schematics for the spinning jenny until finally he no longer needed them. “He emigrated to Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and there, together with a Quaker merchant by the name of Moses Brown, Research Paper: “Explain how and why the North won war by 1865.” 5 he built a spinning jenny from memory.” (Furnas, 1969). This would later become known as the first modern factory in America. It would also become known as when the North had the economic dominance over the South.

The South could not seem to accept this after the time passed so they thought they could breakthrough somehow. Another inventor by the name of Eli Whitney set out in 1793 to revolutionize the Southern cotton industry. “Whitney was working as a tutor for a plantation owner in Georgia (he was also, ironically, born and raised in New England) and therefore knew the problems of harvesting cotton.” (Brinkley, 1991). Until then, the risky task of separating the seeds from the cotton before sale had to be done by slave labor and was not very effiecient. With that being said, Whitney developed a machine which would separate the seed from the cotton swiftly and effectively, cutting the harvesting time by more than one half. This machine, which became known as the cotton gin, had amazing results on the South, producing the highest trend the industry ever had. “In that decade alone cotton production figures increased by more than 2,000 percent. “(Randall and Donald, 1969). Lots business opportunities opened up, including the expansion of the Southern plantations. “This was facilitated by the fact that a single worker could now do the same amount of work in a few hours that a group of workers had once needed a whole day to do.” (Brinkley, 1991). This allowed slaves to pick much more cotton per day and this led most plantation owners to expand their land.

Most of the gains from the cash crop took over the basic necessity of the food crop. “In 1791 cotton production amounted to only 4000 bales, but by 1860, production Research Paper: “Explain how and why the North won war by 1865.” 6 levels had skyrocketed to just under five million bales.” (Randall and Donald, 1969). Cotton was now bringing in about $200 million a year, which is a very big change for the south. “King Cotton” became a fundamental motive in Southern economy. However, during this short time of economic process, the South failed to realize that it would never be fully sustained by “King Cotton” alone. What it needed was the help of “Queen Industry.” Eli Whitney knew and realized that the South would not rapidely accept change, so he decided to take his smart mind and ideas back up to the North, where it could be put to good use. He found his niche in the small arms business. A while back, during two long years of quasi-war with France, Americans had been troubled by the lack of rapidity with which sufficient armaments and equipments could be produced. Whitney came out with the invention of interchangeable parts. His vision of the perfect factory included machines that would produce, from a mold, the various parts needed to build a standard infantry rifle, and workers on an assembly line who would construct it.

The North, eager to experiment and willing to try anything of economic progress, decided to test this new method of manufacture. It did not take long for the North to make Eli Whitney’s dream a reality. The small arms industry was successful. “By the onset of the Civil War, the confederate states were noting the fact that there were thirty-eight Union arms factories capable of producing a total of 5,000 infantry rifles per day, compared with their own paltry capacity of 100.” (Catton, 1952). During the mid-1800s, the Industrial Revolution dug deep into to the sides of the Northern states. “Luckily, immigration numbers were skyrocketing at this time, and the sudden profusion of factory Research Paper: “Explain how and why the North won war by 1865.” 7 positions that needed to be filled was not a big problem.” (Randall and Donald, 1969). “The immigrants, who were escaping anything from the Irish Potato Famine to British oppression, were willing to work for almost anything and withstand inhuman factory conditions.” (Jones, 1993). Although this exploitation was extremely cruel and very unfair to the immigrants, Northern businessmen profited alot from it. By the beginning of war in 1860, the North, from an economical standpoint, stood like a towering giant over the Southern society. Of the over 128,000 industrial firms in the nation at the time, the Confederacy held only 18,026. “New England alone topped the figure with over 19,000, and so did Pennsylvania 21,000 and with 23,000.”(Paludan, 1988). The total value of goods manufactured in the state of New York alone was over four times that of the entire Confederacy.

The Northern states produced 96 percent of the locomotives in the country, and, as for firearms, more of them were made in one Connecticut county than in all the Southern factories combined. The Confederacy had made one mistake and that was believing that its thriving cotton industry alone would be enough to sustain itself throughout the war. Southerners didn’t see a need to go into the uncharted industrial territories when good money could be made with cotton. What they failed to realize was that the cotton boom had done more for the North than it had done for the South. Southerners could grow huge amounts of cotton, but due to the lack of mills, they couldn’t do anything with it. The cotton was sold to the Northerners who would use it in their factories to produce woolens and linens, which were in turn sold back to the South. “This cycle stimulated industrial Research Paper: “Explain how and why the North won war by 1865.” 8 growth in the Union and stagnated it in the Confederate states.”(Catton, 1952). Southern plantation owners believed that the growing textile industries of England and France were highly dependent on their cotton, and that, in the event of war, those countries would come to their rescue.

The Civil War gave an even bigger boost to the already growing factories in the North. The troops needed arms and warm clothes on a constant basis, and Northern Industry was ready to provide them. By 1862, the Union could use almost all of its own war materials using its own resources. The South, on the other hand, was in desperate need and dependent on outside resources for its war needs.

“Dixie was not only lagging far behind in the factories. It had also chosen to disregard two other all-important areas in which the North had chosen to thrive: transportation and communication…the Railroad, the Locomotive, and the Telegraph- -iron, steam, and lightning-these three mighty genii of civilization…will know no lasting pause until the whole vast line of railway shall completed from the Atlantic to the Pacific.”(Furnas, 1969) During the ante-bellum years, the North had shown a great desire for an effective mode of transportation. For a long time, canals had been used to transport people and goods across large amounts of land which were accessible by water, but, with continuing growth and expansion, these canals were becoming obstacle to many Northerners. They simply needed a way to transport freight and passengers across terrains where waterways didn’t exist. “The first glimmer of hope came as America’s first primitive locomotive, powered by a vertical wood-fired boiler, puffed out of Charleston Research Paper: “Explain how and why the North won war by 1865.” 9 hauling a cannon and gun crew firing salutes”(Catton, 1952). The Railroading industry became a big thing in the North, where it provided a much needed alternative to canals, but could never quite help the South. Much of this could be because Northern engineers were experienced in the field of ironworking and had no problem constructing vast amounts of rail lines, while Southerners, weren’t very experienced in that area. The Union, with its some 22,000 miles of track, was able to transport weaponry, clothes, food, soldiers, and whatever supplies were needed to almost any location in the entire theater. Overall, this greatly helped the Northern war effort and increased the morale of the troops.

The South, however, was lacking on most of this. “With its meager production of only four percent of the nation’s locomotives and its scant 9,000 miles of track, the Confederacy stood in painful awareness of its inferiority.”(Randall and Donald, 1969). Another obstacle arose in the problem of track gauge. As the war kept on, the Confederate railroad system steadily deteriorated, and by the end of the struggle, it had all collapsed.

Communication, was also a big problem to Southern economical growth. The telegraph had came into American life in 1844. This fresh form of communication greatly facilitated the operation of the railroad lines in the North. Telegraph lines ran along the tracks, connecting one station to the next and aiding the scheduling of the trains. The telegraph provided instant communication between distant cities, helping the nation come together like never before. Yet, the South, unimpressed by this technology and not having Research Paper: “Explain how and why the North won war by 1865.”
10 the money to experiment, chose not to go into its development. By 1860, the North had laid over 90 percent of the nation’s some 50,000 miles of telegraph wire. “Morse’s telegraph had become an ideal answer to the problems of long-distance communication, with its latest triumph of land taking shape in the form of the Pacific telegraph, which ran from New York to San Francisco and used 3,595 miles of wire” (Brinkley, 1991). The North has assuredly won over the South. Northerners, prepared to enjoy the deprivation of war, realized that they were experiencing an enormous industrial boom even after the first year of war. “Indeed, the only Northern industry that suffered from the war was the carrying trade.” (Catton, 1952). To the South, however, the war was a drain and only made them suffer even more. The South decided not to use two crops which would prove the outcome of the Civil War. Those crops were industry and progress, and without them the South was defeated.

Angle (1967) Paul M. A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years. Garden City, New York: Doubleday Brinkley (1991) American History: A Survey. New York: McGraw Catton, Bruce (1952) The Army of the Potomac: Glory Road. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Furnas, J.C (1969) The Americans: A Social History of the United States 1587-1914. New York: Putnam Jones, Donald C. (1993) Telephone Interview

Paludan, Philip Shaw. (1988) A People’s Contest. New York: Harper Randall, J.G., and David Herbert Donald. (1969) The Civil War and Reconstruction. Lexington, Massachusetts: Heath

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StudyScroll. (2016). How And Why The North Won War by 1865 [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 27 September, 2023]

"How And Why The North Won War by 1865" StudyScroll, Feb 29, 2016. Accessed Sep 27, 2023.

"How And Why The North Won War by 1865" StudyScroll, Feb 29, 2016.

"How And Why The North Won War by 1865" StudyScroll, 29-Feb-2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 27-Sep-2023]

StudyScroll. (2016). How And Why The North Won War by 1865. [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 27-Sep-2023]

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