” ever made successfulwar against a nation of mechanics. . . .You are bound to fail”-Union officer William Tecumseh Sherman to a Southern friend.The American antebellum South, though steeped in pride andraised in military tradition, was to be no match for the burgeoningsuperiority of the rapidly developing North in the coming Civil War.The lack of emphasis on manufacturing and commercial interest,stemming from the Southern desire to preserve their traditionalagrarian society, surrendered to the North their ability to functionindependently, much less to wage war.
It was neither Northern troopsnor generals that won the Civil War, rather Northern guns andindustry.From the onset of war, the Union had obvious advantages. Quitesimply, the North had large amounts of just about everything that theSouth did not, boasting resources that the Confederacy had even nomeans of attaining (See Appendices, Brinkley et al.
415). Sheermanpower ratios were unbelievably one-sided, with only nine of thenation’s 31 million inhabitants residing in the seceding states (Angle7). The Union also had large amounts of land available for growingfood crops which served the dual purpose of providing food for itshungry soldiers and money for its ever-growing industries. The South,on the other hand, devoted most of what arable land it had exclusivelyto its main cash crop: cotton (Catton, The Coming Fury 38). Rawmaterials were almost entirely concentrated in Northern mines andrefining industries. Railroads and telegraph lines, the veritablelifelines of any army, traced paths all across the Northerncountryside but left the South isolated, outdated, developed in theform of economic colonialism. The Confederates were and starving (SeeAppendices).
The final death knell for a modern South all too willingto sell what little raw materials they possessed to Northern Industryfor any profit they could get. Little did they know, “King Cotton”could buy them time, but not the war. The South had bartered somethingthat perhaps it had not intended: its independence (Catton,Reflections 143).The North’s ever-growing industry was an important supplementto its economical dominance of the South. Between the years of 1840and 1860, American industry saw sharp and steady growth. In 1840 thetotal value of goods manufactured in the United States stood at $483million, increasing over fourfold by 1860 to just under $2 billion,with the North taking the king’s ransom (Brinkley et al. 312). Theunderlying reason behind this dramatic expansion can be traceddirectly to the American Industrial Revolution.
Beginning in the early 1800s, traces of the industrialrevolution in England began to bleed into several aspects of theAmerican society. One of the first industries to see quick developmentwas the textile industry, but, thanks to the British government, thisdevelopment almost never came to pass. Years earlier, England’s JamesWatt had developed the first successful steam engine.
This invention,coupled with the birth of James Hargreaves’ spinning jenny, completelyrevolutionized the British textile industry, and eventually made itthe most profitable in the world (“Industrial Revolution”). TheBritish government, parsimonious with its newfound knowledge ofmachinery, attempted to protect the nation’s manufacturing preeminenceby preventing the export of textile machinery and even the emigrationof skilled mechanics. Despite valiant attempts at deterrence, though,many immigrants managed to make their way into the United States withthe advanced knowledge of English technology, and they were anxiousto acquaint America with the new machines (Furnas 303).And acquaint the Americans they did: more specifically, NewEngland Americans. It was people like Samuel Slater who can becredited with beginning the revolution of the textile industry inAmerica.
A skilled mechanic in England, Slater spent long hoursstudying the schematics for the spinning jenny until finally he nolonger needed them. He emigrated to Pawtucket, Rhode Island, andthere, together with a Quaker merchant by the name of Moses Brown, hebuilt a spinning jenny from memory (Furnas 303). This meager millwould later become known as the first modern factory in America. Itwould also become known as the point at which the North began itseconomic domination of the Confederacy.Although slow to accept change, The South was not entirelyunaffected by the onset of the Industrial Revolution. Another inventorby the name of Eli Whitney set out in 1793 to revolutionize theSouthern cotton industry.
Whitney was working as a tutor for aplantation owner in Georgia (he was also, ironically, born and raisedin New England) and therefore knew the problems of harvesting cotton(Brinkley et al. 200). Until then, the arduous task of separating