Was the Civil War More about Morality or Military?
That the Civil War leaves a lasting historical imprint on American history is indisputable. Whether a citizen of the Union or the Confederacy, Eric Foner goes so far as to say that the conflict over slavery "shaped the course of American development."[endnoteRef:1] And while President Lincoln summarized the debate rather succinctly—“one section of our country believes slavery is right…while the other believes it is wrong—the “peculiar institution” radically divided the nation from a moral, political, religious, and societal standpoint for decades.[endnoteRef:2] When South Carolina seceded in 1860—and most definitely by the first shot fired at Fort Sumter in 1861—the South became willing to defend its important economic interest in slavery as fiercely as the North sought to abolish the morally-deficient and abusive practice. However, once the fighting started, the Civil War ceased to be centered on the actual institution of slavery and refocused on which side would prevail on the battlefield. [1: Eric Foner, A Short History of Reconstruction (New York: Harper Collins, 1990), 1.] [2: Louis P. Masur, The Civil War: A Concise History (New York: Oxford, 2001), 23.]
Several important logistical factors unrelated to slavery were responsible not only for the outcome of the Civil War, but the nation's journey towards Reconstruction and recovery. Specifically, the dynamics of geography, political leadership, manpower, and industrial capacity played key roles in tipping the scales towards the North or South during the conflict. It is generally accepted that the Union held numerous advantages over the Confederacy; some of which will be outlined below.[endnoteRef:3] However, the South had the upper hand in the area of geographical tactics. The landscape of the South featured vast land areas full of rugged terrain. Additionally, the South had inadequate road systems, making travel extremely tedious to advancing Union troops. The long Southern coastline was also home to several important military installations, further solidifying the Confederate forces. [3: Masur, 24. ]
Furthermore, the South was very resourceful in its efforts to win the Civil War, and that sentiment of independence lived on past Appomattox. Boasting countless farms and lush agricultural potential, the South was self-sustaining when it came to food. Cut off from Northern factories and armories, these facilities were created in the South to sustain the war effort. Confederate officers were also highly trained and well respected nationwide, leading to victories at Fort Sumter and Bull Run.
A different perspective on this geographic advantage is gained by detailing the Union's tactical plan for winning the War. The North's focus on their "Grand Strategy"--heading South towards specific locations in hopes of crippling the Confederacy early on--gave the South somewhat of a home-field...