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Standard 5.0 History

Topic C. Conflict between Ideas and Institutions

Indicator 5. Analyze factors affecting the outcome of the Civil War

Objective d. Identify the goals, resources and strategies of the North and the South


By the time of the outbreak of the Civil War, the North and South were very different economically and socially, which affected their war goals, resources, and strategies.

The South fought to achieve recognition as a new independent nation. Its main goals were to defend its territory and preserve its social order, including the institution of slavery. To achieve these goals, the South adopted a defensive strategy. It planned to simply protect its land from invasion by the Union armies until the North tired of war and gave up. It also hoped that England and/or France, both of which depended on Southern cotton, would recognize its status as a sovereign nation and pressure the North to stop the war. But the South had far fewer material resources than the North. Its population – especially its free population – was much smaller than the North’s, and it had relatively little industry and few railroad lines. On the other hand, the South’s population supported the war enthusiastically, and the idea that Southerners were fighting to protect their homes provided ongoing inspiration. Also, many of the most talented military officers were Southern. Ironically, the South faced an added challenge from the very states’ rights theory that inspired the war. The individual Southern states refused to give the Confederate government the power and resources it needed to fight the war effectively.

The North’s primary goal was the restoration of the Union. By the middle of the war, however, the abolition of slavery was also articulated as a major goal. To achieve its goal of reuniting the nation, the North had to invade and conquer the South. Its strategy included blockading the Southern coastline to prevent the South from importing supplies and exporting cotton, seizing control of the Mississippi to disrupt Southern supply lines and split the Confederacy in two, and capturing the Confederate capital of Richmond. The North had economic advantages throughout the war with a larger population, more industry, more railroad miles, and a stronger currency. The major disadvantage for the North was invading and holding a large area of land occupied by people hostile to the United States.

Ultimately, the strong Southern will to fight was overwhelmed by superior Northern resources.

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