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Why The North Won The Civil Wa

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Why The North Won The Civil Wa

The American antebellum South, though steeped in pride and raised in

military tradition, was to be no match for the burgeoning superiority of

the rapidly developing North in the coming Civil War. The lack of

emphasis on manufacturing and commercial interest, stemming from the

Southern desire to preserve their traditional agrarian society,

surrendered to the North their ability to function independently, much

less to wage war. It was neither Northern troops nor generals that won

the Civil War, rather Northern guns and industry.

From the onset of war, the Union had obvious advantages. Quite simply,

the North had large amounts of just about everything that the South did

not, boasting resources that the Confederacy had even no means of

attaining (See Appendices, Brinkley et al. 415). Sheer manpower ratios

were unbelievably one-sided, with only nine of the nation's 31 million

inhabitants residing in the seceding states (Angle 7). The Union also

had large amounts of land available for growing food crops which served

the dual purpose of providing food for its hungry soldiers and money for

its ever-growing industries. The South, on the other hand, devoted most

of what arable land it had exclusively to its main cash crop: cotton

(Catton, The Coming Fury 38). Raw materials were almost entirely

concentrated in Northern mines and refining industries. Railroads and

telegraph lines, the veritable lifelines of any army, traced paths all

across the Northern countryside but left the South isolated, outdated,

and starving (See Appendices). The final death knell for a modern South

developed in the form of economic colonialism. The Confederates were

all too willing to sell what little raw materials they possessed to

Northern Industry for any profit they could get. Little did they know,

"King Cotton" could buy them time, but not the war. The South had

bartered something that perhaps it had not intended: its independence

(Catton, Reflections 143).

The North's ever-growing industry was an important supplement to its

economical dominance of the South. Between the years of 1840 and 1860,

American industry saw sharp and steady growth. In 1840 the total value

of goods manufactured in the United States stood at $483 million,

increasing over fourfold by 1860 to just under $2 billion, with the

North taking the king's ransom (Brinkley et al. 312). The underlying

reason behind this dramatic expansion can be traced directly to the

American Industrial Revolution.

Beginning in the early 1800s, traces of the industrial revolution in

England began to bleed into several aspects of the American society.

One of the first industries to see quick development was the textile

industry, but, thanks to the British government, this development almost

never came to pass. Years earlier, England's James Watt had developed

the first successful steam engine. This invention, coupled with the

birth of James Hargreaves' spinning jenny, completely revolutionized the

British textile industry, and eventually made it the most profitable in

the world ("Industrial Revolution"). The British government,

parsimonious with its newfound knowledge of machinery, attempted to

protect the nation's manufacturing preeminence by preventing the export

of textile machinery and even the emigration of skilled mechanics.

Despite valiant attempts at deterrence, though, many immigrants managed

to make their way into the United States with the advanced knowledge of

English technology, and they were anxious to acquaint America with the

new machines (Furnas 303).

And acquaint the Americans they did: more specifically, New England

Americans. It was people like Samuel Slater who can be credited with

beginning the revolution of the textile industry in America. A skilled

mechanic in England, Slater spent long hours studying the schematics for

the spinning jenny until finally he no longer needed them. He emigrated

to Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and there, together with a Quaker merchant

by the name of Moses Brown, he built a spinning jenny from memory

(Furnas 303). This meager mill would later become known as the first

modern factory in America. It would also become known as the point at

which the North began its economic domination of the Confederacy.

Although slow to accept change, The South was not entirely unaffected

by the onset of the Industrial Revolution. Another inventor by the name

of Eli Whitney set out in 1793 to revolutionize the Southern cotton

industry. Whitney was working as a tutor for a plantation owner in

Georgia (he was also, ironically, born and raised in New England) and

therefore knew the problems of harvesting cotton (Brinkley et al. 200).

Until then, the arduous task of separating the seeds from the cotton

before sale had been done chiefly by slave labor and was, consequently,

very inefficient. Whitney developed a machine which would separate the

seed from the cotton swiftly and effectively, cutting the harvesting

time by more than one half ("Industrial Revolution"). This machine,

which became known as the cotton gin, had profound results on the South,

producing the highest uptrend the industry had ever, and would ever,

see. In that decade alone cotton production figures increased by more

than 2000 percent (Randall and Donald 36). Enormous amounts of business

opportunities opened up, including, perhaps most importantly, the

expansion of the Southern plantations. This was facilitated by the fact

that a single worker could now do the same amount of work in a few hours

that a group of workers had once needed a whole day to do (Brinkley et

al. 201). This allowed slaves to pick much more cotton per day and

therefore led most plantation owners to expand their land base. The

monetary gains of the cash crop quickly took precedence over the basic

necessity of the food crop, which could be gotten elsewhere. In 1791

cotton production amounted to only 4000 bales, but by 1860, production

levels had skyrocketed to just under five million bales (Randall and

Donald 36). Cotton was now bringing in nearly $200 million a year,

which constituted almost two-thirds of the total export trade (Brinkley

et al. 329). "King Cotton" was born, and it soon became a fundamental

motive in Southern diplomacy. However, during this short burst of

economic prowess, the South failed to realize that it would never be

sustained by "King Cotton" alone. What it needed was the guiding hand

of "Queen Industry."

Eli Whitney soon came to realize that the South would not readily

accept change, and decided to take his inventive mind back up to the

North, where it could be put to good use. He found his niche in the

small arms business. Previously, during two long years of quasi-war

with France, Americans had been vexed by the lack of rapidity with which

sufficient armaments could be produced. Whitney came to the rescue with

the invention of interchangeable parts. His vision of the perfect

factory included machines which would produce, from a preshaped mold,

the various components needed to build a standard infantry rifle, and

workers on an assembly line who would construct it ("Industrial

Revolution"). The North, eager to experiment and willing to try

anything that smacked of economic progress, decided to test the waters

of this inviting new method of manufacture. It did not take the

resourceful Northerners very long to actualize Eli Whitney's dream and

make mass production a reality. The small arms industry boomed, and

kept on booming. By the onset of the Civil War, the confederate states

were dolefully noting the fact that there were thirty-eight Union arms

factories capable of producing a total of 5,000 infantry rifles per day,

compared with their own paltry capacity of 100 (Catton, Glory Road 241).

During the mid-1800s, the Industrial Revolution dug ...

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