Was Northern Victory in the Civil War Inevitable?
Several factors played in to the American Civil War that made it have the outcome that it did. Although the South had better trained officials due to their military school, the North was far more advanced than they. The North had the advantage over the South in several ways. However, the outcome of the Civil War was not inevitable: it was determined as much by human decisions and human willpower as by physical resources, although the North’s resources gave them an edge over the South.
The South seceded in part out of growing awareness of its minority in the nation. The Union held twenty-three states, including four border slave states, while the Confederacy had eleven. Ignoring conflicts of allegiance within various states, which might roughly cancel each other out, the population count was about twenty-two million in the Union to about nine million in the Confederacy, and about four million of the latter were slaves. The Union therefore had an edge of about four to one in potential human resources.
An even greater advantage of the North was its industrial development. The states that joined the Confederacy produced just seven percent of the nation’s manufactures on the eve of the war. What made the disparity even greater was that little of this was in heavy industry. The only iron foundry of any size in the Confederacy was the Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond, which had long supplied the United States Army. Tredegar’s existence strengthened the Confederacy’s will to defend its capital. Yet the Union states, in addition to making most of the country’s shoes, textiles, and iron products, turned out about ninety-seven percent of the firearms and ninety-six percent of the railroad equipment. They had most of the trained mechanics, most of the shipping and mercantile firms, and the bulk of the banking and financial...