Civil War Essay Question #1

Compare the Political, economic and military strengths and weaknesses of the North and South United States at the beginning of the United States Civil War in 1861

Jordan and Christina


Topic Sentance: While Britiain remained neutral between the Confederacy and the Union, the North had an advantage once it proclaimed emancipation. However, the North was hurt through occuring draft riots.

  • Britian remains neutral-connected to both sides
  • North:Capitalize on this neutrality - could trade wheat and corn (Great Britian's crop had failed)
  • South:No Support - Britiain just cumulated large cotton inventory so there was no need to trade
  • Trent Affair (1861): British merchant ship - Confederates were going to Negotiate with Britian. Union stopped ship and arrested the 2 negotiators. In response, Britian dispatched 8,000 troops to Canada in preparation for war - Lincoln backs down
  • Proclaiming Emancipation: Lincoln issued Eman. Proc - Lot of abolition sentiment in Europe at time. Helped to discourage Britian from trading and siding with Confeds. Compromise was no longer and option with the South (Lincoln steps other point of no return)
  • Dissent: Mixed feeling on both sides (sympathizers on both sides)
  • Conscription: Both passes draft laws (1862-Con. 1863-Union). Caused draft riots. Poor white immigrants thought it was unfair to fight a war to free slaves who may take their jobs afterwards


Topic Sentance: Confederates were very unsucessful economically with little to no advantages, the Northern businesses boomed, however standard of living decreased with lowered wages.

  • South: Faced a food shortage early in the war, caused by:
    • Drain of manpower into army
    • Union occupation of food growing areas
    • loss of slaves to work in the fields
  • Food prices skyrocketed
    • food riots (ppl stormed bakeries and rioted for bread)
  • Union had a blockade on Southern parts, creating other shortages (salt, sugar, coffee, meds, nails)
  • North: Overall much more positive effects
    • Few industries declined (only cotton) but most boomed (woolen mills, steel foundaries, coal mines…)
    • Work force went down because of the draft but North industrialized with machinery
    • Wages did not keep up with prices - Standard of living went down
    • Companies found cheaper sources of labor (immigrants, children, women, free blacks)
    • Businesses made immense profits, especially gov't contractees because of poorly made products
    • 1863 - Congress authorized nation's first income tax which would finance Union army with money from citizens


Topic Sentance: The Confederates had more experience with their own land and solely needed to defend themselves, the North had better equipped army and better strategy. Basically the North had weaker but better supported army - South had better army with no support.


  • South: King cotton, Good leaders/generals, strong military tradition, their land - knowledge of territory, motivation
  • North: More fighting power, More factories, More food, More railroads


  • South: Survival as a nation - defensive, but would invade if given and opportunity
  • North: Anaconda Plan - 3 parts
    • blockade all ports
    • conquer Mississippi (split in 2)
    • capture Confederate capital (Richmond, VA)

Thesis Statement: At the beginning of the war the North had a greater advantage with the sentiment of Europe, booming industries, and military supplies. However the South had some advantages with knowledge of the land and a motivated army.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License