This research paper analyzes why the Union won the Civil War (1861-1865). A combination of factors led to the North's victory, the most important of which were its superiority in men, resources and war materiel. Abraham Lincoln's inspiring war leadership and, despite many shortcomings during the early years of the war, superior Union management of the war effort and under officers such as Admiral David Farragut, Ulysses Grant and William Sherman effective military leadership. Contingency or the fickle hand of fortune played a critical role in certain key battles.
Material and Logistical Advantages of Each Side
According to Ayers et al., "Neither the Union nor the Confederacy was ready for conflict in the spring of 1861" (459).
The leadership on both sides anticipated a relatively short war.
In such a war the Confederacy had an important advantage, which showed up on the battlefield in 1861. The Confederate President Jefferson Davis, who had been a decorated officer during the Mexican War and later Secretary of War in the 1850s. Lincoln had virtually no combat experience or knowledge of military matters.
McPherson said Davis's experience "helped speed up mobilization in 1861" (317). In contrast he characterized the initial Union mobilization as being of the "headlong, helter-skelter, seat of the pants" variety (324).
Because none of the early battles won by the South proved to be decisive, the war dragged on for four years and consumed in its bloody wake many thousands of men, money and material.
Northern fatalities were 365,000, Confederate 260,000, or 20 percent of its free population. The North had marked advantages in this respect which told over time. It had a considerable edge in white or free manpower (22 million in 1861 v. 5.5 million) (Ayers et al. 463). The South had practically no navy. At the outset of the war it had a rich agricultural base, but progressively found itself less and less able to equip...