We know the Union will win the Civil War and we know that the anti-slavery Union should win the Civil War, and because of both of these facts we often do not think about how apparent the NorthÆs advantage was at the beginning of this fraternal battle over the fate of slavery and the United States waged between 1861 and 1865. This paper takes up that topic, examining the balance of resources between the North and South at the beginning of the Civil War and the implication of this balance of preparedness for the initial strategy of the two sides.
Although by the end of the war the North would seem to hold an advantage over the South in terms of its infrastructure, in fact it was the case in 1861 that neither the North nor the South was prepared initially to wage a war (Garrison, 1998, p. 41).
The first important element in calculating the relative strength of the two sides is a simple assessment of the relative pool of labor û both civilian and military û that the two sides could draw on. With a population of 22 million, the North had a greater military potential. The South had a population of 9 million, but of that number, nearly 4 million were enslaved blacks whose loyalty to the Confederate cause was always in doubt. Although they initially relied on volunteers, necessity eventually forced both sides to resort to a military draft to raise an army. Before the war ended, the South had enlisted about 900,000 white males, and the Union had enrolled about 2 million men (including 186,000 blacks), nearly half of them toward the end of the war. Clearly, the numbers of soldiers available û regardless of their skill or training or the state of their weaponry û gave an advantage to the North and allowed Union military leaders to be more aggressive in battle (or more careless of human life, to take a different perspective) (Garrison, 1998, p. 27).
In addition to this simple mathematical advantage in terms of numbers of available bo...