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What were the advantages and disadvantages of each side as the War began?
The Northern Advantages
It seems that the Union (North) had most of the advantages.
The North had more than twice the population of the South, including more men
of military age.
The North had almost all the manufacturing plants to make guns, uniforms, and
other items needed by the army.
The Northern agriculture raised different foods, while the Southern agriculture
focused more on small farms and tobacco and cotton, which would not help
supply a large army.
Most major banks were in the North, with money to spend on guns and
Most of the railroads were in the north and could easily move a large army
quickly, while Southern transportation depended upon dirt roads and rivers.
Most naval ships were in the North and would be very little help to the South.
The North already had a government in place, so they could immediately enlarge
the army that was already in existence.
Oher countries already recognized the US as a legitimate government, so if the
Union needed loans or favors from other countries they would more likely be able
to negotiate them.
The Southern Advantages
There was a strong military tradition in the South, including military training
schools such as the Virginia Military Institute.
The Southerners knew the territory where the fighting would occur—the North
would have to invade the South, as the South would only have to defend itself.
Some felt that the presence of slaves could free more white males to fight, so even
if the North did have more population it might even out.
And the South had excellent military leaders, many with experience from the
Mexican War in 1846. Many regular Southern soldiers had served in the US army
before the Civil War and resigned when their states left the Union.
A major disadvantage for the North was, in the early years of the war, a lack of military
leadership. The first generals chosen by Lincoln to lead the army were not effective, and
it was not until U.S. Grant became commanding general late in the war that the Union
Army began to make significant progress.
A major disadvantage for the South was that it had to control its slave population, for a
slave rebellion at the same time the South was fighting the Union would lead to disaster.
The Union tried to encourage slave uprisings through the Emancipation Proclamation.
Effective in 1863, the Proclamation freed all slaves in the states under rebellion, but it did
not free all slaves—the slaves in the Border States were not affected. (Lincoln was afraid
if he tried to free those slaves, the Border States would leave the Union, with would leave
Washington D.C., in the Confederacy).