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Why did the North fight the Civil War?
It was the belief of president Lincoln that no state had the right to secede from the Union. While it would have been easy enough for the Union to grant the Confederacy's wish to become an independent nation, Lincoln saw the Civil War as the only remaining solution to preserve the Union.
The North's Strengths
The North had several advantges going into the Civil War, as did the South. The North had experienced an industrial revolution which left them with many factories to produce supplies necessary for outfitting an army. Also, with immigrants coming mostly to the North to settle (they were looking for jobs in the factories), little if any production was lost becasue of men leaving to fight in the war. Women and immigrants had been the main workers in the factories that now would be producing goods to be used by the Union soldiers.
The North also had a larger population than did the South which translated into the ability to field a larger army. However, while many men (and boys) eagerly went to enlist during the opening months of the Civil War, they lacked the experience needed to fight a war and time had to be taken to properly train the troops.
The North also possessed an in place, working government while the South was struggling to put their government together and fight a war at the same time.
The North grew most of the country's food, and a fighting army can get very hungry. Remember, the South had the plantations, but mostly cash crops were grown there.
And finally, the North, because of it's indurtial needs, possessed a large amount of the country's railroad and canal systems. These would be vital in the quick and easy transportation of troops and supplies.
The North's Plan for Victory
The North was looking for a quick an easy end to this war. They felt with the advantages they possessed (the strenghts listed above) they could have this war done and over with in a matter of weeks. To this extent, Lincoln, along with General Winfield Scott, put together a plan for their victory called "the Anaconda Plan". Just like this large South America snake kills it's prey by squeezing the life out of them, the North looked to crush the South in a similar manner in which they would squeeze the will to fight out of the South.
There were three steps to the Anaconda Plan:
1. Divide the South - The North looked to divide the South at the Mississippi River. This would serve the purpose of making it hard for Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas to contribute to the war effort. It would make it harder for these states to send or receive troops and supplies to the rest of the Confedarcy. Also, having control of the Mississippi River was like having control of an interstate highway. It would allow the North a moe easy way to transport supplies and troops in this area.
2. Blockade Southern ports - The idea here was simple; if you can't get supplies to run your army, you can't win. Remember the South was an agricultural community and most of there goods came from the trades they made with their cotton and other cash crops. With their ports blocked off by Union ships they would find it hard to sell their crops and get the supplies they needed to fight the war.
3. Capture Richmond - Richmond was the capital of the South and it lay only 100 miles South of Washington D.C. If the North would be able to capture the Confederate government's headquarters, it would make it very hard to fight a war.
This plan seems to be a good one, but it had it's short-comings, as is evident in the war not being over in several weeks, but in several years instead.
How the North Wins
Things didn't start out well at all for the North. The 1st Battle of Bull Run was a sobering start for them. It showed they had greatly underestimated the will or ability of the South to fight, and had overestimated their own ability to fight. Their tropps, although large in number, were not as well trained as the troops of the South.
As far as the Anaconda plan was going, it didn't start out as well as expected either. The Union possessed only sixty ships at the start of the Civil War, and while this outnumbered the South, it was not enough to patrol the Southern coastline for an effective blockade. As a result, the Confederates used blockade runners to slip past the Union blockade and send out the goods and receive supplies. It wouldn't be toward the end of the war when the North finally produced enough ships to stop the blockade runners. When this happened, stockpiles of cotton started to accumulate on Southern docks unable to be moved out. With the blockade finally in place, the North was able to limit the Souths supplies.
The war in the west focused on the capturing of some key forts along the Mississippi River. The last fort to fall was Vicksburg. With the fall of Vicksburg, the North had gained control of the Mississippi River and split the Confederacy in two.
The final phase of the Anaconda plan was to capture Richmond, VA. Toward the end of the war (after the Union victory at Gettysburg), the South seemed to lose some of it's will and ability to fight. Their country was now split, amnd supplies were running low. Seeing this, General Grant (now Lincoln's head man) decided to enact a new strategy, "total war". What Grant hoped to do was run through the South causing as much destruction as possible, not just to military targets, but also to civilian ones. While Richmond eventually does fall to the Union, General W.T. Sherman plowed through the South destroying a sixty mile wide path as he went. Nothing was left to stand that could aid the rebels. Railroad lines were torn up, crops burnt, and cities and yowns destroyed (including Atlanta). While Sherman sent out to "make the South howl", Grant sent out to capture Lee. Grant eventually catches up to Lee at the small town of Appomattox on April 9, 1865. Here Lee surrenders to Grant, bringing an end to the Civil War and a Union victory. However, there still would be a long road ahead to piece the war torn nation back together.
Graph and map were taken from America's Story, Houghton Mifflin Co.
Did You Know? The 8th Wisconsin regiment had a mascot, an eagle named "Old Abe". One soldier traded five bushels of corn to an Indian for the bird, which followed his master like a puppy.