Between 1861 and 1865 the north and South America states engaged in battle against each other. According to many Americans, the American civil war remains the deadliest in history of America. Eleven southern slave states had distanced themselves from the federal government and formed the confederate of American states. The confederacy fought against the federal government that got support from the slave free states and Border States (five states bordering the slave states) to form the Union. After election of republican president, Lincoln who was against the expansion of slavery beyond boarders in which it already existed, the eleven states broke from the federal government. The war broke in 1861 when President Lincoln declared to end slavery in the southern states and ended in 1865 after the commander of the confederacy, “Robert Lee surrendered following the capture of some southern states by the union military” (Beringer et al).
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The reasons leading to the American Civil War
American had for long time being divided into two distinct regions. The north had a rapidly growing economy characterized by family farms, industry mining, trade and communication with urbanization and restricted slavery. The region had large population consisting of Native Americans and immigrants from Europe. The south was dominated by few wealthy plantation owners who used slave labor. The area had no cities and manufacturing sector was too little. The whites in the south who were more than any other tribe did not own slaves and engaged themselves in subsistence agriculture.
“Slavery was the main reason that triggered the American civil war, particularly the issue of expanding slavery beyond the states in which it existed before” (Foner). Apart from slavery the political tension and difference in economic strength between the two regions also triggered the conflict. There existed two opposing forces, whereby the north was anti-slavery while the south supported slavery resulting to conflict. The confederacy relied much on slavery to support their economic growth particularly in cotton production. Slavery was illegal on northern states although many of the northern states supported slave labor.
There was heated debate among politicians of both sides on whether to end slavery or not which culminated to compromises. Prior to the civil war error, there were numerous political battles that encouraged spread of slavery into non-slavery states. “On the eve of the war there was debate on whether to expand slavery to the new acquired territories after the Mexican war” (Longstreet). The northerners were against the expansion because they feared that slave labor will give them competition as their population grew.
There was political, social and economic divergence between the two regions since colonial times, which pushed the two sections away from each other. Each region was trying to impose supremacy on the federal government over the other. Compromise had for long time ensured a peaceful relationship between the two sides. It reached a point when the tension exploded leading to the civil war. The southerners did not welcome election of President Lincoln in best mood because they knew he was against slavery.
The northern side had strong economy compared to the south. In early 1850s cotton was the main export from the south accounting for the highest percentage in the US exports. “The southerners relied much on cotton and rejected industrialization hence they had to import almost everything in terms of manufactured goods” (James 412). They opposed any tariffs and taxes that were imposed on imports. On the other hand, the north economy was flourishing as result of increased industrialization resulting to more production. The northerners imposed high tariffs and taxes on imports in order to protect their domestic industries from collapsing. This economic difference hiked the regional hostilities in the eve of the war in 1860.
Political difference started long time ago as each state to the union believed that it was independent despite its membership to the union. This meant that neither the north nor the south minded much on the permanence of the union. The northerners supported central government to help them develop infrastructure and control their currency while the southerners depended less on the federal government and therefore cared less to strengthen it. Again the southerners feared that any strong federal government may one time oppose the use of slave labor. Their difference in political point of view is credited to the outbreak of civil war in 1861. The war broke on 1861 after election of President Lincoln as efforts to reach another compromise failed. The southerner leaders, who were opposed to election of Lincoln, feared that he would stop slavery expansion and hence end to slavery.
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Why the North was able to prevail over the South
The “primary reason to the victory of the union was its industrial supremacy” (Donald et al). The northern population outweighed the southern proving increased difficulty for the southerners to influence the federal government. The southerners’ political supremacy was declining as the north was experiencing an enormous expansion in population and industrial production. The high population in north made that they could field more men in the battle fields as opposed to the south. Large population in the north, ensured continues industrial production as more men left for battle fields: women and immigrants were left in the industries to produce food to feed men the war zones.
High production in north ensured continuous supply to the war force more than the south. Although the south relied on agriculture, much of grown crops were cash crops resulting to shortages of food supply. The north relied on industry and trade whiles the south over relied on agriculture. Over reliance on slave labor and agriculture proved difficulty for the southerners to industrialize. This allowed the north to produce anything required in the war while the south only relied on other countries to acquire the necessities. The northern industries could manufacture “large and more deadly ammunition while the south had to depend on importation of arms” (James).
The northern army controlled ports preventing ammunition and food imports from reaching the south. Its army was well trained and organized from beginning but the south had to train and organize a sizable army on the eve of the war. The move by the northerner to blockade the port split the south into two weakening its military power. The international community gave aid inform of loans and grants to the north because the world recognized the union as the legitimate authority. The south was heavily damaged in terms of not only military but also economy leading to its surrender.
- Beringer, Richard E., Archer Jones, and Herman Hattaway, “Why the South Lost the Civil War (1986) influential analysis of factors; The Elements of Confederate Defeat: Nationalism, War Aims, and Religion” (1988).
- Donald, David Herbert, Baker, Jean Harvey, and Holt, Michael F. The Civil War and Reconstruction. (2001)
- Foner, Eric. “The Causes of the American Civil War: Recent Interpretations and New Directions.” In Beyond the Civil War Synthesis: Political Essays of the Civil War Era, 1975.
- James McPherson, “Antebellum Southern Exceptionalism: A New Look at an Old Question Civil War History” 2004: 421
- Longstreet, James. “From Manassas to Appomattox: Memoirs of the Civil War in America”. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1960.