Union (American Civil War)

This article is about the civil war period. For admission of states into the United States, see Admission to the Union.
Map of the division of the states during the American Civil War. Blue (the U.S. Army's uniform color) indicates the Union states; light blue represents Union states that permitted slavery (border states). Red represents states in rebellion, also known as the Confederate states. Uncolored areas were U.S. territories.
The flag of the United States of America from 1861 to 1863. The southern states were still represented in the number of stars in the flag because the Confederacy's declaration of secession from the Union was still considered illegal by the United States. In 1863, a star was added to represent the new state of West Virginia.

During the American Civil War (1861–1865), the Union referred to the United States of America and specifically to the national government of president Abraham Lincoln and the 23 free states and 5 border states that supported it. The Union was opposed by 11 southern slave states that formed the Confederate States, or "the Confederacy."

All of the Union's states provided soldiers for the U.S. Army; the border areas also sent large numbers of soldiers to the Confederacy. The Border states played a major role as a supply base for the Union invasion of the Confederacy. The Northeast provided the industrial resources for a mechanized war producing large quantities of munitions and supplies, as well as financing for the war. The Midwest provided soldiers, food, horses, financial support, and training camps. Army hospitals were set up across the Union. Most states had Republican governors who energetically supported the war effort and suppressed anti-war subversion in 1863–64. The Democratic Party strongly supported the war in 1861 but in 1862 was split between the War Democrats and the anti-war element led by the "Copperheads." The Democrats made major electoral gains in 1862 in state elections, most notably in New York. They lost ground in 1863, especially in Ohio. In 1864 the Republicans campaigned under the National Union Party banner, which attracted many War Democrats and soldiers and scored a landslide victory for Lincoln and his entire ticket.

The war years were quite prosperous except where serious fighting and guerrilla warfare took place along the southern border. Prosperity was stimulated by heavy government spending and the creation of an entirely new national banking system. The Union states invested a great deal of money and effort in organizing psychological and social support for soldiers' wives, widows, orphans, and for the soldiers themselves. Most soldiers were volunteers, although after 1862 many volunteered to escape the draft and to take advantage of generous cash bounties on offer from states and localities. Draft resistance was notable in some larger cities, especially New York City with its massive anti-draft riots of 1863 and in some remote districts such as the coal mining areas of Pennsylvania.


Charleston Mercury Secession Broadside, 1860 - "The Union" had been a way to refer to the American Republic

In the context of the American Civil War, the Union is sometimes referred to as "the North," both then and now, as opposed to the Confederacy, which was "the South." The Union never recognized the legitimacy of the Confederacy's secession and maintained at all times that it remained entirely a part of the United States of America. In foreign affairs the Union was the only side recognized by all other nations, none of which officially recognized the Confederate government. The term "Union" occurs in the first governing document of the United States, the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. The subsequent Constitution of 1787 was issued and ratified in the name not of the states, but of "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union ...". Union, for the United States of America, is then repeated in such clauses as the Admission to the Union clause in Article IV, Section 3. Even before the war started, the phrase "preserve the Union" was commonplace, and a "union of states" had been used to refer to the entire United States of America. Using the term "Union" to apply to the non-secessionist side carried a connotation of legitimacy as the continuation of the pre-existing political entity.[1]

Confederates saw the U.S. as being opposed to slavery and occasionally referred to them as abolitionists, as in reference to the U.S. Navy as the "Abolition fleet" and the U.S. Army as the "Abolition forces".[2]

Size and strength

The Union had large advantages in men and resources at the start of the war, and the ratio grew steadily in favor of the Union. In the chart, "cauc men" means white men (Caucasian).

In comparison to the Confederacy, the Union had a large industrialized and urbanized area (the Northeast), and more advanced commercial, transportation and financial systems than the rural South.[3] Additionally, the Union states had a manpower advantage of 5 to 2 at the start of the war.[4]

Year by year, the Confederacy shrank and lost control of increasing quantities of resources and population. Meanwhile, the Union turned its growing potential advantage into a much stronger military force. However, much of the Union strength had to be used to garrison conquered areas, and to protect railroads and other vital points. The Union's great advantages in population and industry would prove to be vital long-term factors in its victory over the Confederacy, but it took the Union a long while to fully mobilize these resources.

Public opinion

The attack on Fort Sumter rallied the North to the defense of American nationalism. Historian, Allan Nevins, says:

The thunderclap of Sumter produced a startling crystallization of Northern sentiment ... Anger swept the land. From every side came news of mass meetings, speeches, resolutions, tenders of business support, the muster of companies and regiments, the determined action of governors and legislatures.[5]

McClintock states:

At the time, Northerners were right to wonder at the near unanimity that so quickly followed long months of bitterness and discord. It would not last throughout the protracted war to come – or even through the year – but in that moment of unity was laid bare the common Northern nationalism usually hidden by the fierce battles more typical of the political arena."[6]

Historian Michael Smith, argues that, as the war ground on year after year, the spirit of American republicanism grew stronger and generated fears of corruption in high places. Voters became afraid of power being centralized in Washington, extravagant spending, and war profiteering. Democratic candidates emphasized these fears. The candidates added that rapid modernization was putting too much political power in the hands of Eastern financiers and industrialists. They warned that the abolition of slavery would bring a flood of freed blacks into the labor market of the North.

Republicans responded with claims of defeatism. They indicted Copperheads for criminal conspiracies to free Confederate prisoners of war, and played on the spirit of nationalism and the growing hatred of the slaveowners, as the guilty party in the war.[7]

President Lincoln

Historians have overwhelmingly praised the "political genius" of Abraham Lincoln's performance as President.[8] His first priority was military victory. This required that he master entirely new skills as a strategist and diplomat. He oversaw supplies, finances, manpower, the selection of generals, and the course of overall strategy. Working closely with state and local politicians, he rallied public opinion and (at Gettysburg) articulated a national mission that has defined America ever since. Lincoln's charm and willingness to cooperate with political and personal enemies made Washington work much more smoothly than Richmond, the Confederate capital, and his wit smoothed many rough edges. Lincoln's cabinet proved much stronger and more efficient than Davis's, as Lincoln channeled personal rivalries into a competition for excellence rather than mutual destruction. With William Seward at State, Salmon P. Chase at the Treasury, and (from 1862) Edwin Stanton at the War Department, Lincoln had a powerful cabinet of determined men. Except for monitoring major appointments and decisions, Lincoln gave them free rein to destroy the Confederacy.[9]


The Republican Congress passed many major laws that reshaped the nation's economy, financial system, tax system, land system, and higher education system. These included: the Morrill tariff, the Homestead Act, the Pacific Railroad Act, and the National Banking Act.[10] Lincoln paid relatively little attention to this legislation as he focused on war issues but he worked smoothly with powerful Congressional leaders such as Thaddeus Stevens (on taxation and spending), Charles Sumner (on foreign affairs), Lyman Trumbull (on legal issues), Justin Smith Morrill (on land grants and tariffs) and William Pitt Fessenden (on finances).[11]

Military and reconstruction issues were another matter. Lincoln, as the leader of the moderate and conservative factions of the Republican Party, often crossed swords with the Radical Republicans, led by Stevens and Sumner. Author, Bruce Tap, shows that Congress challenged Lincoln's role as commander-in-chief through the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War. It was a joint committee of both houses that was dominated by the Radical Republicans, who took a hard line against the Confederacy. During the 37th and 38th Congresses, the committee investigated every aspect of Union military operations, with special attention to finding commanders culpable for military defeats. It assumed an inevitable Union victory. Failure was perceived to indicate evil motivations or personal failures. The committee distrusted graduates of the US Military Academy at West Point, since many of the academy's alumni were leaders of the enemy army. Members of the committee much preferred political generals with a satisfactory political record. Some of the committee suggested that West-Pointers who engaged in strategic maneuver were cowardly or even disloyal. It ended up endorsing incompetent but politically correct generals.[12]


An anti-Lincoln Copperhead pamphlet from 1864

The opposition came from Copperhead Democrats, who were strongest in the Midwest and wanted to allow Confederate secession. In the East, opposition to the war was strongest among Irish Catholics, but also included business interests connected to the South typified by August Belmont. The Democratic Party was deeply split. In 1861 most Democrats supported the war. However, the party increasingly split down the middle between the moderates who supported the war effort, and the peace element, including Copperheads, who did not. It scored major gains in the 1862 elections, and elected the moderate Horatio Seymour as governor of New York. They gained 28 seats in the House of Representatives but Republicans retained control of both the House and the Senate.

Lincoln met with his Cabinet for the first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation draft on July 22, 1862

The 1862 election for the Indiana legislature was especially hard-fought. Though the Democrats gained control of the legislature, they were unable to impede the war effort. Republican Governor Oliver P. Morton was able to maintain control of the states contribution to the war effort despite the Democrat majority.[13] Washington was especially helpful in 1864 in arranging furloughs to allow Hoosier soldiers to return home so they could vote in elections.[14] Across the North in 1864, the great majority of soldiers voted Republican. Men who had been Democrats before the war often abstained or voted Republican.[15]

As the federal draft laws tightened, there was serious unrest among Copperhead strongholds, such as the Irish in the Pennsylvania coal mining districts. The government needed the coal more than the draftees, so it ignored the largely non-violent draft dodging there.[16][17] The violent New York City draft riots of 1863 were suppressed by the U.S. Army firing grape shot down cobblestone city streets.[18][19]

The Democrats nominated George McClellan a War Democrat for the 1864 presidential election but gave him an anti-war platform. In terms of Congress the opposition against the war was nearly powerless – as was the case in most states. In Indiana and Illinois pro-war governors circumvented anti-war legislatures elected in 1862. For 30 years after the war the Democrats carried the burden of having opposed the martyred Lincoln, the salvation of the Union and the destroyer of slavery.[20]


The Copperheads were a large faction of northern Democrats who opposed the war, demanding an immediate peace settlement. They said they wanted to restore "the Union as it was" (that is, with the South and with slavery) but they realized that the Confederacy would never voluntarily rejoin the U.S.[21] The most prominent Copperhead was Ohio's Clement L. Vallandigham, a Congressman and leader of the Democratic Party in Ohio. He was defeated in an intense election for governor in 1863. Republican prosecutors in the Midwest accused some Copperhead activists of treason in a series of trials in 1864.[22]

Copperheadism was a grassroots movement, strongest in the area just north of the Ohio River, as well as some urban ethnic wards. Some historians have argued that it represented a traditionalistic element alarmed at the rapid modernization of society sponsored by the Republican Party. It looked back to Jacksonian Democracy for inspiration – with ideals that promoted an agrarian rather than industrialized concept of society . Weber (2006) argues that the Copperheads damaged the Union war effort by fighting the draft, encouraging desertion and forming conspiracies.[23] However, other historians say the Copperheads were a legitimate opposition force unfairly treated by the government, adding that the draft was in disrepute and that the Republicans greatly exaggerated the conspiracies for partisan reasons.[24] Copperheadism was a major issue in the 1864 presidential election – its strength waxed when Union armies were doing poorly and waned when they won great victories. After the fall of Atlanta in September 1864, military success seemed assured and Copperheadism collapsed.[21]


Recruiting volunteers

Union soldiers on the Mason's Island (Theodore Roosevelt Island) in 1861

Enthusiastic young men clamored to join the Union army in 1861. They came with family support for reasons of patriotism and excitement. Washington decided to keep the small regular army intact; it only had 16,000 men and was needed to guard the frontier. Its officers could, however, join the temporary new volunteer army that was formed, with expectations that their experience would lead to rapid promotions. The problem with volunteering, however, was its serious lack of planning, leadership, and organization at the highest levels. Washington called on the states for troops, and every northern governor set about raising and equipping regiments, and sent the bills to the War Department. The men could elect the junior officers, while the governor appointed the senior officers, and Lincoln appointed the generals. Typically, politicians used their local organizations to raise troops and were in line (if healthy enough) to become colonel. The problem was that the War Department, under the disorganized leadership of Simon Cameron, also authorized local and private groups to raise regiments. The result was widespread confusion and delay.

Pennsylvania, for example, had acute problems. When Washington called for 10 more regiments, enough men volunteered to form 30. However, they were scattered among 70 different new units, none of them a complete regiment. Not until Washington approved gubernatorial control of all new units was the problem resolved. Allan Nevins is particularly scathing of this in his analysis: "A President more exact, systematic and vigilant than Lincoln, a Secretary more alert and clearheaded than Cameron, would have prevented these difficulties."[25]

Union soldiers before Marye's Heights, Fredericksburg in May 1863

By the end of 1861, 700,000 soldiers were drilling in Union camps. The first wave in spring was called up for only 90 days, then the soldiers went home or reenlisted. Later waves enlisted for three years.

The new recruits spent their time drilling in company and regiment formations. The combat in the first year, though strategically important, involved relatively small forces and few casualties. Sickness was a much more serious cause of hospitalization or death.

In the first few months, men wore low quality uniforms made of "shoddy" material, but by fall, sturdy wool uniforms—in blue— were standard. The nation's factories were converted to produce the rifles, cannon, wagons, tents, telegraph sets, and the myriad of other special items the army needed.

While business had been slow or depressed in spring 1861, because of war fears and Southern boycotts, by fall business was hiring again, offering young men jobs that were an alternative way to help win the war. Nonpartisanship was the rule in the first year, but by summer 1862, many Democrats had stopped supporting the war effort, and volunteering fell off sharply in their strongholds.

The calls for more and more soldiers continued, so states and localities responded by offering cash bonuses. By 1863, a draft law was in effect, but few men actually were drafted and served, since the law was designed to get them to volunteer or hire a substitute. Others hid away or left the country. With the Emancipation Proclamation taking effect in January 1863, localities could meet their draft quota by sponsoring regiments of ex-slaves organized in the South.[26]

Soldiers of the Fourth United States Colored Infantry at Fort Lincoln, in 1865

Michigan was especially eager to send thousands of volunteers.[27] A study of the cities of Grand Rapids and Niles shows an overwhelming surge of nationalism in 1861, whipping up enthusiasm for the war in all segments of society, and all political, religious, ethnic, and occupational groups. However, by 1862 the casualties were mounting, and the war was increasingly focused on freeing the slaves in addition to preserving the Union. Copperhead Democrats called the war a failure, and it became an increasingly partisan Republican effort.[28] Michigan voters remained evenly split between the parties in the presidential election of 1864.[29]

Motivations of soldiers

Perman (2010) says historians are of two minds on why millions of men seemed so eager to fight, suffer, and die over four years:

Some historians emphasize that Civil War soldiers were driven by political ideology, holding firm beliefs about the importance of liberty, Union, or state rights, or about the need to protect or to destroy slavery. Others point to less overtly political reasons to fight, such as the defense of one's home and family, or the honor and brotherhood to be preserved when fighting alongside other men. Most historians agree that, no matter what he thought about when he went into the war, the experience of combat affected him profoundly and sometimes affected his reasons for continuing to fight.[30]

The paperwork war

On the whole, the national, state, and local governments handled the avalanche of paperwork effectively. Skills developed in insurance and financial companies formed the basis of systematic forms, copies, summaries, and filing systems used to make sense of masses of human data. The leader in this effort, John Shaw Billings, later developed a system of mechanically storing, sorting, and counting numerical information using punch cards. Nevertheless, old-fashioned methodology had to be recognized and overcome. An illustrative case study came in New Hampshire, where the critical post of state Adjutant General was held in 1861–64 by elderly politician Anthony C. Colby (1792–1873) and his son Daniel E. Colby (1816–1891). They were patriotic, but were overwhelmed with the complexity of their duties. The state lost track of men who enlisted after 1861; it had no personnel records or information on volunteers, substitutes, or draftees, and there was no inventory of weaponry and supplies. Nathaniel Head (1828–1883) took over in 1864, obtained an adequate budget and office staff, and reconstructed the missing paperwork. As result, widows, orphans, and disabled veterans received the postwar payments they had earned.[31]

Medical conditions

Field hospital after the Battle of Savage's Station (1862)

More soldiers died of disease than from battle injuries, and even larger numbers were temporarily incapacitated by wounds, disease, and accidents. The Union responded by building army hospitals in every state.

The hygiene of the camps was poor, especially at the beginning of the war when men who had seldom been far from home were brought together for training with thousands of strangers. First came epidemics of the childhood diseases of chicken pox, mumps, whooping cough, and especially, measles. Operations in the South meant a dangerous and new disease environment, bringing diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid fever, and malaria. There were no antibiotics, so the surgeons prescribed coffee, whiskey, and quinine. Harsh weather, bad water, inadequate shelter in winter quarters, poor policing of camps, and dirty camp hospitals took their toll.[32] This was a common scenario in wars from time immemorial, and conditions faced by the Confederate army were even worse. What was different in the Union was the emergence of skilled, well-funded medical organizers who took proactive action, especially in the much enlarged United States Army Medical Department,[33] and the United States Sanitary Commission, a new private agency.[34] Numerous other new agencies also targeted the medical and morale needs of soldiers, including the United States Christian Commission, as well as smaller private agencies, such as the Women's Central Association of Relief for Sick and Wounded in the Army (WCAR), founded in 1861 by Henry Whitney Bellows, a Unitarian minister, and social reformer Dorothea Dix. Systematic funding appeals raised public consciousness as well as millions of dollars. Many thousands of volunteers worked in the hospitals and rest homes, most famously poet Walt Whitman. Frederick Law Olmsted, a famous landscape architect, was the highly efficient executive director of the Sanitary Commission.[35]

States could use their own tax money to support their troops, as Ohio did. Under the energetic leadership of Governor David Tod, a War Democrat who won office on a coalition "Union Party" ticket with Republicans, Ohio acted vigorously. Following the unexpected carnage at the battle of Shiloh in April 1862, Ohio sent three steamboats to the scene as floating hospitals equipped with doctors, nurses, and medical supplies. The state fleet expanded to 11 hospital ships, and the state set up 12 local offices in main transportation nodes, to help Ohio soldiers moving back and forth.[36]

The Christian Commission comprised 6,000 volunteers who aided chaplains in many ways.[37] For example, its agents distributed Bibles, delivered sermons, helped with sending letters home, taught men to read and write, and set up camp libraries.[38]

The Army learned many lessons and modernized its procedures,[39] and medical science—especially surgery—made many advances.[40] In the long run, the wartime experiences of the numerous Union commissions modernized public welfare, and set the stage for large—scale community philanthropy in America based on fund raising campaigns and private donations.[41]

Additionally, women gained new public roles. For example, Mary Livermore (1820–1905), the manager of the Chicago branch of the US Sanitary Commission, used her newfound organizational skills to mobilize support for women's suffrage after the war. She argued that women needed more education and job opportunities to help them fulfill their role of serving others.[42]

The Sanitary Commission collected enormous amounts of statistical data, and opened up the problems of storing information for fast access and mechanically searching for data patterns.[43] The pioneer was John Shaw Billings (1838–1913). A senior surgeon in the war, Billings built two of the world's most important libraries, Library of the Surgeon General's Office (now the National Library of Medicine) and the New York Public Library; he also figured out how to mechanically analyze data by turning it into numbers and punching onto the computer punch card as developed by his student Herman Hollerith. Hollerith's company became International Business Machines (IBM) in 1911.[44]

Prisoners of war

Both sides operated prison camps; they handled about 400,000 captives, but many other prisoners were quickly released and never sent to camps. The Record and Pension Office in 1901 counted 211,000 Northerners who were captured. In 1861–63 most were immediately paroled; after the parole exchange system broke down in 1863, about 195,000 went to Confederate prison camps. Some tried to escape but few succeeded. By contrast 464,000 Confederates were captured (many in the final days) and 215,000 imprisoned. Over 30,000 Union and nearly 26,000 Confederate prisoners died in captivity. Just over 12% of the captives in Northern prisons died, compared to 15.5% for Southern prisons.[45][46]

Draft riots

New York City draft riots

Discontent with the 1863 draft law led to riots in several cities and in rural areas as well. By far the most important were the New York City draft riots of July 13 to July 16, 1863.[47] Irish Catholic and other workers fought police, militia and regular army units until the Army used artillery to sweep the streets. Initially focused on the draft, the protests quickly expanded into violent attacks on blacks in New York City, with many killed on the streets.[48]

Small-scale riots broke out in ethnic German and Irish districts, and in areas along the Ohio River with many Copperheads. Holmes County, Ohio was an isolated parochial area dominated by Pennsylvania Dutch and some recent German immigrants. It was a Democratic stronghold and few men dared speak out in favor of conscription. Local politicians denounced Lincoln and Congress as despotic, seeing the draft law as a violation of their local autonomy. In June 1863, small-scale disturbances broke out; they ended when the Army sent in armed units.[49][50][51]


The Union economy grew and prospered during the war while fielding a very large army and navy.[52] The Republicans in Washington had a Whiggish vision of an industrial nation, with great cities, efficient factories, productive farms, all national banks, all knit together by a modern railroad system. The South had resisted policies such as tariffs to promote industry and homestead laws to promote farming because slavery would not benefit. With the South gone and Northern Democrats very weak in Congress, the Republicans enacted their legislation. At the same time they passed new taxes to pay for part of the war and issued large amounts of bonds to pay for the most of the rest. Economic historians attribute the remainder of the cost of the war to inflation. Congress wrote an elaborate program of economic modernization that had the dual purpose of winning the war and permanently transforming the economy.[53]

Financing the war

In 1860 the Treasury was a small operation that funded the small-scale operations of the government through land sales and customs based on a low tariff.[54] Peacetime revenues were trivial in comparison with the cost of a full-scale war but the Treasury Department under Secretary Salmon P. Chase showed unusual ingenuity in financing the war without crippling the economy.[55] Many new taxes were imposed and always with a patriotic theme comparing the financial sacrifice to the sacrifices of life and limb. The government paid for supplies in real money, which encouraged people to sell to the government regardless of their politics. By contrast the Confederacy gave paper promissory notes when it seized property, so that even loyal Confederates would hide their horses and mules rather than sell them for dubious paper. Overall the Northern financial system was highly successful in raising money and turning patriotism into profit, while the Confederate system impoverished its patriots.[56]

The United States needed $3.1 billion to pay for the immense armies and fleets raised to fight the Civil War — over $400 million just in 1862 alone.[57] Apart from tariffs, the largest revenue by far came from new excise taxes—a sort of value added tax—that was imposed on every sort of manufactured item. Second came much higher tariffs, through several Morrill tariff laws. Third came the nation's first income tax; only the wealthy paid and it was repealed at war's end.

1862 Greenbacks

Apart from taxes, the second major source of income was government bonds. For the first time bonds in small denominations were sold directly to the people, with publicity and patriotism as key factors, as designed by banker Jay Cooke. State banks lost their power to issue banknotes. Only national banks could do that and Chase made it easy to become a national bank; it involved buying and holding federal bonds and financiers rushed to open these banks. Chase numbered them, so that the first one in each city was the "First National Bank."[58] Third, the government printed paper money called "greenbacks". They led to endless controversy because they caused inflation.[59]

The North's most important war measure was perhaps the creation of a system of national banks that provided a sound currency for the industrial expansion. Even more important, the hundreds of new banks that were allowed to open were required to purchase government bonds. Thereby the nation monetized the potential wealth represented by farms, urban buildings, factories, and businesses, and immediately turned that money over to the Treasury for war needs.[60]


Secretary Chase, though a long-time free-trader, worked with Morrill to pass a second tariff bill in summer 1861, raising rates another 10 points in order to generate more revenues.[61] These subsequent bills were primarily revenue driven to meet the war's needs, though they enjoyed the support of protectionists such as Carey, who again assisted Morrill in the bill's drafting. The Morrill Tariff of 1861 was designed to raise revenue. The tariff act of 1862 served not only to raise revenue but also to encourage the establishment of factories free from British competition by taxing British imports. Furthermore, it protected American factory workers from low paid European workers, and as a major bonus attracted tens of thousands of those Europeans to immigrate to America for high wage factory and craftsman jobs.[62]

Customs revenue from tariffs totaled $345 million from 1861 through 1865 or 43% of all federal tax revenue.

Land grants

The U.S. government owned vast amounts of good land (mostly from the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 and the Oregon Treaty with Britain in 1846). The challenge was to make the land useful to people and to provide the economic basis for the wealth that would pay off the war debt. Land grants went to railroad construction companies to open up the western plains and link up to California. Together with the free lands provided farmers by the Homestead Law the low-cost farm lands provided by the land grants sped up the expansion of commercial agriculture in the West.

The 1862 Homestead Act opened up the public domain lands for free. Land grants to the railroads meant they could sell tracts for family farms (80 to 200 acres) at low prices with extended credit. In addition the government sponsored fresh information, scientific methods and the latest techniques through the newly established Department of Agriculture and the Morrill Land Grant College Act.[63][64]


Agriculture was the largest single industry and it prospered during the war.[65][66] Prices were high, pulled up by a strong demand from the army and from Britain (which depended on American wheat for a fourth of its food imports). The war acted as a catalyst that encouraged the rapid adoption of horse-drawn machinery and other implements. The rapid spread of recent inventions such as the reaper and mower made the work force efficient, even as hundreds of thousands of farmers were in the army. Many wives took their place and often consulted by mail on what to do; increasingly they relied on community and extended kin for advice and help.[67]

The Union used hundreds of thousands of animals. The Army had plenty of cash to purchase them from farmers and breeders but especially in the early months the quality was mixed.[68] Horses were needed for cavalry and artillery.[69] Mules pulled the wagons. The supply held up, despite an unprecedented epidemic of glanders, a fatal disease that baffled veterinarians.[70] In the South, the Union army shot all the horses it did not need to keep them out of Confederate hands.

Cotton trade

The Treasury started buying cotton during the war, for shipment to Europe and northern mills. The sellers were Southern planters who needed the cash, regardless of their patriotism. The Northern buyers could make heavy profits, which annoyed soldiers like Ulysses Grant. He blamed Jewish traders and expelled them from his lines in 1862 but Lincoln quickly overruled this show of anti-semitism. Critics said the cotton trade helped the South, prolonged the war and fostered corruption. Lincoln decided to continue the trade for fear that Britain might intervene if its textile manufacturers were denied raw material. Another goal was to foster latent Unionism in Southern border states. Northern textile manufacturers needed cotton to remain in business and to make uniforms, while cotton exports to Europe provided an important source of gold to finance the war.[71]



The Protestant religion was quite strong in the North in the 1860s. The United States Christian Commission sent agents into the Army camps to provide psychological support as well as books, newspapers, food and clothing. Through prayer, sermons and welfare operations, the agents ministered to soldiers' spiritual as well as temporal needs as they sought to bring the men to a Christian way of life.[72] Most churches made an effort to support their soldiers in the field and especially their families back home. Much of the political rhetoric of the era had a distinct religious tone.[73]

The Protestant clergy in America took a variety of positions. In general, the pietistic denominations such as the Methodists, Northern Baptists and Congregationalists strongly supported the war effort. Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans and conservative Presbyterians generally avoided any discussion of the war, so it would not bitterly divide their membership. The Quakers, while giving strong support to the abolitionist movement on a personal level, refused to take a denominational position. Some clergymen who supported the Confederacy were denounced as Copperheads, especially in the border regions.[74][75]


Many Northerners had only recently become religious (following the Second Great Awakening) and religion was a powerful force in their lives. No denomination was more active in supporting the Union than the Methodist Episcopal Church. Carwardine[76] argues that for many Methodists, the victory of Lincoln in 1860 heralded the arrival of the kingdom of God in America. They were moved into action by a vision of freedom for slaves, freedom from the persecutions of godly abolitionists, release from the Slave Power's evil grip on the American government and the promise of a new direction for the Union.[76] Methodists formed a major element of the popular support for the Radical Republicans with their hard line toward the white South. Dissident Methodists left the church.[77] During Reconstruction the Methodists took the lead in helping form Methodist churches for Freedmen and moving into Southern cities even to the point of taking control, with Army help, of buildings that had belonged to the southern branch of the church.[78][79]

The Methodist family magazine Ladies' Repository promoted Christian family activism. Its articles provided moral uplift to women and children. It portrayed the War as a great moral crusade against a decadent Southern civilization corrupted by slavery. It recommended activities that family members could perform in order to aid the Union cause.[80]


Historian Stephen M. Frank reports that what it meant to be a father varied with status and age. He says most men demonstrated dual commitments as providers and nurturers and believed that husband and wife had mutual obligations toward their children. The war privileged masculinity, dramatizing and exaggerating, father-son bonds. Especially at five critical stages in the soldier's career (enlistment, blooding, mustering out, wounding and death) letters from absent fathers articulated a distinctive set of 19th-century ideals of manliness.[81]


There were numerous children's magazines such as Merry's Museum, The Student and Schoolmate, Our Young Folks, The Little Pilgrim, Forrester's Playmate, and The Little Corporal. They showed a Protestant religious tone and "promoted the principles of hard work, obedience, generosity, humility, and piety; trumpeted the benefits of family cohesion; and furnished mild adventure stories, innocent entertainment, and instruction."[82] Their pages featured factual information and anecdotes about the war along with related quizzes, games, poems, songs, short oratorical pieces for "declamation," short stories and very short plays that children could stage. They promoted patriotism and the Union war aims, fostered kindly attitudes toward freed slaves, blackened the Confederates cause, encouraged readers to raise money for war-related humanitarian funds, and dealt with the death of family members.[83] By 1866, the Milton Bradley Company was selling "The Myriopticon: A Historical Panorama of the Rebellion" that allowed children to stage a neighborhood show that would explain the war. It comprised colorful drawings that were turned on wheels and included pre-printed tickets, poster advertisements, and narration that could be read aloud at the show.[84]

Caring for war orphans was an important function for local organizations as well as state and local government.[85] A typical state was Iowa, where the private "Iowa Soldiers Orphans Home Association" operated with funding from the legislature and public donations. It set up orphanages in Davenport, Glenwood and Cedar Falls. The state government funded pensions for the widows and children of soldiers.[86] Orphan schools like the Pennsylvania Soldiers' Orphan School, also spoke of the broader public welfare experiment that began as part of the aftermath of the Civil War. These orphan schools were created to provide housing, care, and education for orphans of Civil War soldiers. They became a matter of state pride, with orphans were paraded around at rallies to display the power of a patriotic schooling.[87]

All the northern states had free public school systems before the war but not the border states. West Virginia set up its system in 1863. Over bitter opposition it established an almost-equal education for black children, most of whom were ex-slaves.[88] Thousands of black refugees poured into St. Louis, where the Freedmen's Relief Society, the Ladies Union Aid Society, the Western Sanitary Commission and the American Missionary Association (AMA) set up schools for their children.[89]

Unionists in South and Border states

Confederate soldiers hanging pro-Union bridge-burning conspirators

People loyal to the U.S. federal government and opposed to secession living in the border states (where slavery was legal in 1861) were termed Unionists. Confederates sometimes styled them "Homemade Yankees". However, Southern Unionists were not necessarily northern sympathizers and many of them, although opposing secession, supported the Confederacy once it was a fact. East Tennessee never supported the Confederacy, and Unionists there became powerful state leaders, including governors Andrew Johnson and William G. Brownlow. Likewise, large pockets of eastern Kentucky were Unionist and helped keep the state from seceding.[90] Western Virginia, with few slaves and some industry, was so strongly Unionist that it broke away and formed the new state of West Virginia.[91]

Still, nearly 120,000 Unionists from the South served in the Union Army during the Civil War and Unionist regiments were raised from every Confederate state except South Carolina. Among such units was the 1st Alabama Cavalry Regiment, which served as William Shermans personal escort on his march to the sea. Southern Unionists were extensively used as anti-guerrilla paramilitary forces.[92] During Reconstruction many of these Unionists became "Scalawags", a derogatory term for Southern supporters of the Republican Party.[93]

Guerrilla warfare

Besides organized military conflict, the border states were beset by guerrilla warfare. In such a bitterly divided state, neighbors frequently used the excuse of war to settle personal grudges and took up arms against neighbors.


Quantrill's 1863 raid burned the town of Lawrence and killed 164 defenders

Missouri was the scene of over 1000 engagements between Union and Confederate forces, and uncounted numbers of guerrilla attacks and raids by informal pro-Confederate bands.[94] Western Missouri was the scene of brutal guerrilla warfare during the Civil War. Roving insurgent bands such as Quantrill's Raiders and the men of Bloody Bill Anderson terrorized the countryside, striking both military installations and civilian settlements. Because of the widespread attacks and the protection offered by Confederate sympathizers, Federal leaders issued General Order No. 11 in 1863, and evacuated areas of Jackson, Cass, and Bates counties. They forced the residents out to reduce support for the guerrillas. Union cavalry could sweep through and track down Confederate guerrillas, who no longer had places to hide and people and infrastructure to support them. On short notice, the army forced almost 20,000 people, mostly women, children and the elderly, to leave their homes. Many never returned and the affected counties were economically devastated for years after the end of the war.[95] Families passed along stories of their bitter experiences down through several generations – Harry Truman's grandparents were caught up in the raids and he would tell of how they were kept in concentration camps.[96]

Some marauding units became organized criminal gangs after the war. In 1882, the bank robber and ex-Confederate guerrilla Jesse James was killed in Saint Joseph. Vigilante groups appeared in remote areas where law enforcement was weak, to deal with the lawlessness left over from the guerrilla warfare phase. For example, the Bald Knobbers were the term for several law-and-order vigilante groups in the Ozarks. In some cases, they too turned to illegal gang activity.[97]


In response to the growing problem of locally organized guerrilla campaigns throughout 1863 and 1864, in June 1864, Maj. Gen. Stephen G. Burbridge was given command over the state of Kentucky. This began an extended period of military control that would last through early 1865, beginning with martial law authorized by President Abraham Lincoln. To pacify Kentucky, Burbridge rigorously suppressed disloyalty and used economic pressure as coercion. His guerrilla policy, which included public execution of four guerrillas for the death of each unarmed Union citizen, caused the most controversy. After a falling out with Governor Thomas E. Bramlette, Burbridge was dismissed in February 1865. Confederates remembered him as the "Butcher of Kentucky".[98]

Union states

List of Wikipedia articles on Union states and major cities:

* Border states with slavery in 1861

†Had two state governments, one Unionist one Confederate, both claiming to be the legitimate government of their state. Kentucky and Missouri's Confederate governments never had significant control of their state.

West Virginia separated from Virginia and became part of the Union during the war, on June 20, 1863. Nevada also joined the Union during the war, becoming a state on October 31, 1864.

Union Territories

The Union controlled territories in April, 1861 were:[99]

The Indian Territory saw its own civil war, as the major tribes held slaves and endorsed the Confederacy.[100]

See also


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