If spirit and zeal determined military victory, the Confederates might just have been deemed victorious. The South did have its fair share of cotton plantations and slaves, but those aren't enough to win a war, especially when facing off against the much more industrialized Union.
If you've read literature or even a piece of fiction – such as Gone With The Wind – based around the Civil War dates, you would know that the South lacked numerous strategic assets that the North had.
While the industrialized North could take advantage of its factories, coal mines, and shipyards, the agrarian Confederates had to make do without these.
Rhett Butler wasn't wrong in assuming that the North had the upper hand. These sentiments were also echoed by many influential Southerners, like Sam Houston, who predicted the Confederates' ultimate defeat at the hands of the Union.
The loss of the Confederates spelled the death of an outdated lifestyle that was incompatible with American values, and it finally laid to rest two parallel forms of governance that kept the nation divided.
Who Won the War?
The definite victor of the American Civil War was the Union or the United States. After four years of war, the Confederate armies finally surrendered in April 1865.
The Civil War took its toll on the South, leaving it bankrupt, with most major farms and factories in ruins.
More importantly, an entire generation of abled men was eradicated, and the total headcount of those who died in around 620,000. That figure is still unparalleled in American history as far as human losses are concerned.
After the war, the Southern Confederate states were occupied by the Union. Then they were rebuilt and integrated into the United States. This period was known as the Reconstruction era and lasted for nearly twenty years.
Why Did The Union Win?
War needs constant access to supplies and essentials, and while the North had industrialized and developed means of weapons production, the South lagged drastically.
The Southern economy was poorly planned and ill-suited for a long-drawn war, as theirs was mostly an agrarian-based society. Any disruption to crop-yield and agriculture was sure to cripple the Confederates.
Closely related to that seems to be the South's dependence on importing essentials from outside the Confederate states and a firm reliance on Northern buyers for their agricultural produce.
With much of the nation's wealth concentrated in the North, they could bank on their accumulated reserves when the time came for war.
The South, however, had to depend on levying taxes on its populace, which proved devastating for most residents who were not wealthy.
To add to their problems, the South had an ill-equipped naval fleet and a lack of ground transport infrastructure. Their inadequate preparations effectively lost them the war even before it began.
When the fighting started, the Union implemented a naval blockade on the Southern ports, cutting access from necessities and war supplies. Without a port to export their agricultural produce, the Southerners couldn't generate enough revenue to fund their war initiatives.
The North also had the advantage of a developed, spread-out railway network. They could depend on it to transport supplies when and where they were needed and keep their economy running.
The South depended on inter-riverine transport, which was time-consuming and inefficient. And to make matters worse, it was actively patrolled by the Union navy.
However, the South had the advantage of fighting on their home turf. It was the North that had to take an offensive stance and trek through unfamiliar territory.
The Confederates also had the advantage of holding large chunks of land in the South, which was difficult for the Union to capture and hold for long.
But perhaps the most convincing reason why the Union won over the Confederates has to be in the demographic.
The Union had a considerable population advantage over the Confederate, with the Union having 22 million people, 13 million more than the South. And out of those 9 million, around 4 million were slaves. This lack of human resources resulted in a small fighting force and a considerably smaller taxpayer base.
In the beginning, the South did inflict heavy casualties on the North while maintaining numbers. However, the North could handle losing people to the fight, while the South could not deal with heavy losses on the battlefield.
The Confederate lost a third of their battle-hardened men in the Gettysburg battle. These losses eventually spelled defeat for the South, despite their zeal.
In hindsight, the Civil War is a fascinating look into how the South eventually lost their resolve, partly due to political bickering.
The Confederacy was a decentralized republic, emphasizing the autonomy of the states over the central government. And the subsequent political unrest meant that the Confederates had to contend with the invading Union army to end the tussle between their states.
Aftermath Of The United States Civil War
The US Civil War left the Confederate states in a shell-shocked state. The crop fields and livestock were left reeling, and whatever supplies the South had stocked were left depleted.
To replenish these supplies during the end of the war, Confederate General Robert E. Lee led an invasion of the North in the summer of 1863.
This Confederate invasion led to a defeat at the hands of the Union General George G. Meade in the particularly bloody battle at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The three-day battle left 51,000 men dead, wounded, or missing.
The two Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg turned the tide in the North's favor, and despite being some of the bloodiest battles in the entirety of the Civil War, they're remembered as landmark events.
The Battle of Gettysburg is symbolized by Abraham Lincoln's iconic speech in November 1863 in the same town. This speech was meant to galvanize the country in the immediate aftermath as he expressed full commitment to preserving the United States.
It led to abolishing slavery and brought about a new America, where every American was an equal citizen, regardless of race or color.
Though women were to get the right to vote almost half a century later, the US Civil War's social after-effects laid the foundations for the suffragette movements.
Furthermore, the Confederate states were re-admitted to the United States, giving birth to a united America expanding to the West Coast, Alaska, and Hawaii.
Three amendments to the constitution still stand out as reminders of the Civil War: the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments.
These amendments proved to be necessary for an equal America and still play an ongoing role in our society as a part of the civil rights struggle.
What was the Civil War? It was the beginning of America as we know it!
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