“Don’t kneel to me. You must kneel to God only, and thank him for the liberty you will enjoy hereafter” (Brinkley 414).
President Abraham Lincoln spoke these words to a former slave that kneeled before him while walking the streets of the abandoned Confederate capitol of Richmond in 1865. Although there are several different questions of why the North won the Civil War, factors involving manpower, economy, military tactics and leadership, and presidential leadership, are all parts of a puzzle historians have tried to put together for years. I believe that these four factors should prove to be the most powerful reasons for the Union’s destruction of the Confederate States of America. The presidential leadership of Lincoln will be revealed as the major influence over the other three factors.
According to Robert Krick, an interviewee of Carl Zebrowski’s article “Why the South Lost the Civil War,” “the basic problem was numbers. Give Abraham Lincoln seven million men and give Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee twenty-one million, cognitive dissonance doesn’t matter, European recognition doesn’t matter, the Emancipation Proclamation and its ripple effect don’t matter. Twenty-one to seven is a very different thing then seven to twenty-one” (Zebrowski 223).
Despite the North’s enormous population advantage over the South during the Civil War, other wars proved that size doesn’t matter. For example, the Colonist’s success in the American Revolution proved to Great Britain that America was an insignificant, but a successful opponent. “While Northern superiority in numbers and resources was a necessary condition for Union Victory, it is not a sufficient explanation for that victory,” says James McPherson (Zebrowski 224). When looking at economic factors in the Civil War, we find that the war had a devastating effect on the South and a converse effect on the North. Because of the Northern blockade and the disconnection of Southern farmers from markets in the North, sales of cotton became nearly impossible.
In the North, the war produced the same suffering as in the South, but “it also produced prosperity and economic growth by giving a major stimulus to both industry and agriculture,” says Brinkley (Brinkley 384). Since all Southern products were out of reach for Northern Americans, the North enacted a completely nationalistic program to promote economic development. According to Richard N. Current author of “God and the Strongest Battalions,” “in cotton, the South had a cash crop of great value, and yet, in the midst of war, Southerners reduced their planting, burned the bales they had on hand, and discouraged shipments abroad” (Current 24-25). Furthermore, drafting of Southern slaves robbed cotton farms and industries of male work. In opposition to burning the cotton, the Vice- President of the Confederacy, Alexander H.
Stephens, proposed to gain profit by selling cotton in Europe, but by the time the idea had actually fallen into place the Northern blockade had already become too tight. Currrent explains that “Not until the third year of the war, however, did the government take complete control of cotton exports and push them with determination. If this program had been taken earlier, probably Confederate finances could have been made much stronger then they became” (Current 27). Fortunately for the North it was much too late for this experiment to show any signs of its success.
Between the North and the South, the North simply had the upper hand when it came to raising revenue for the war. “Of the Confederacy’s income, to October 1864, almost 60 per cent was derived from the issue of paper money, about 30 per cent from the sale of bonds, and less than 5 per cent from taxation (the remaining 5 per cent arising from miscellaneous sources). Of the Union’s income, by contrast, 13 per cent was raised by paper money, 62 per cent by bonds, and 21 per cent by taxes (and 4 per cent by other means)” (Current 27). Unlike the Union, which relied mostly on bonds and taxation for revenue, the Confederates relied mostly on its paper currency. The Confederate government literally flushed itself into the worst economic inflation America has seen since the American Revolution.
When dealing with the military issues of the Civil War, the army of the North