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In the US Civil War, what factors contributed to the Union having such a numerical advantage over the Confederacy?

In the US Civil War, what factors contributed to the Union having such a numerical advantage over the Confederacy?


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For example, why opposing slavery is more appealing than perpetuating it? I am looking for a historical pragmatic answer rather than a "moral" answer. Or why bother uniting? Why more states and their people (if it's democracy at that time) choose or vote to fight for the union/anti slavery/"north" side.

In the U.S. Civil War, the Union ihitially enjoyed a preponderance of states, 22 to 11, over the Confederacy, with a 5 to 2 manpower advantage, and a 9 to 1 advantage in industrial output.

Some of the "Union" states (Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky, and Missouri) were actually "Southern" slave states mostly south of the Mason-Dixon line. And two more states in similar latitudes, "bleeding Kansas" and West Virginia (which seceded from Confederate Virginia) joined the Union after the beginning of 1861, making the tally 24 (Union) to 11 (Confederate).

Why did the Union enjoy such a preponderance of states incluidng the six "border" states. Is there any informed opinion that suggests that one or more of the border states would have made a diifference if they had gone with the South?


Did the North's population outnumber the South, or merely have more men available to be conscripted into the army to fight?

The answer to this question is less about industrialisation and more about the availability of qualified men able to be conscripted into the army to fight.

The southern states had a totally different economy to the north and was based primarily on slave labour. This slave labour, consisting mostly of African-American (is that the correct term?) descent were not available to join the army and fight. It's true the confederate Army did enlist some slaves towards the end of the war, but at the beginning the Confederate Army consisted mostly of non-slaves.

This is the reason for the larger Union Armies compared to the Confederate ones.


There were more people living in the North mostly due to better climate, migrations, and urbanisation -- see the 1860 census or wikipedia. It was much more industrialised than the South. Bruce Catton and Shelby Foote are good sources if you wanted to learn more about the American civil war.


The preponderance of 22 (later 24) Union states over the 11 Confederate states made things very difficult for the latter. Even so, it was a fairly close issue, and the Union needed every advantage. If a few more states had actually sided with the Confederacy, the outcome might have gone the other way.

President Lincoln famously said, "I hope to have God on my side, but I must have Kentucky… To lose Kentucky is almost to lose the whole game." http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/05/07/bluegrass-blues-and-grays/

Regarding the German-Amerioans who "held the fort" for the Union in Missouri, Grant said, "Recapturing St. Louis would have been a terrible job a most difficult task to give to any military man. Instead of a campaign before Vicksburg, it would have been a campaign before St. Louis." (Joseph Wandels, "The German Dimension in American History.")

As to why the Union enjoyed such a preponderance, one explanation can be found in my answer to this question. What did sectionalism have to do with the American civil war?

Also, I've noticed that "cold" parts of the country (compared to Richmond, Virginia), tended to be pro Union (including mountainous regions in Southern latitudes), while "hot" regions (again compared to Richmond), tended to be pro Confederacy, with the notable exception of California. To test this theory, I asked this question. What are exceptions to the hypothesis that "climate determined "regional" loyalties in the U.S. Civil War"?

Basically, there were a bunch of "mini civil wars in Border States like Kentucky and Missouri, which went in favor of the Union. (And I'd include latecomers Kansas and West Virginia in the mix; the exception was Tennessee, where West and Middle Tennessee "outvoted" East Tennessee and kept that state in the Confederacy.) Then the border states joined the nothern states in crushing the South.


American Civil War

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American Civil War, also called War Between the States, four-year war (1861–65) between the United States and 11 Southern states that seceded from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America.

What caused the American Civil War?

The American Civil War was the culmination of the struggle between the advocates and opponents of slavery that dated from the founding of the United States. This sectional conflict between Northern states and slaveholding Southern states had been tempered by a series of political compromises, but by the late 1850s the issue of the extension of slavery to the western states had reached a boiling point. The election of Abraham Lincoln, a member of the antislavery Republican Party, as president in 1860 precipitated the secession of 11 Southern states, leading to a civil war.

Who won the American Civil War?

The Union won the American Civil War. The war effectively ended in April 1865 when Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his troops to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House in Virginia. The final surrender of Confederate troops on the western periphery came in Galveston, Texas, on June 2.

How many people died during the Civil War?

It is estimated that from 752,000 to 851,000 soldiers died during the American Civil War. This figure represents approximately 2 percent of the American population in 1860. The Battle of Gettysburg, one of the bloodiest engagements during the Civil War, resulted in about 7,000 deaths and 51,000 total casualties.

Who were the most important figures in the American Civil War?

Important people during the American Civil War included Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, whose election prompted the secession of Southern states Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy Ulysses S. Grant, the most successful and prominent general of the Union and Robert E. Lee, Grant’s counterpart in the Confederacy.

Why are Confederate symbols controversial?

The modern usage of Confederate symbols, especially the Confederate Battle Flag and statues of Confederate leaders, is considered controversial because many associate such symbols with racism, slavery, and white supremacy. The flag was revived as a popular symbol in the 1940s and ’50s by the Dixiecrat Democratic splinter group and others who opposed the American civil rights movement.


Confederate Mobilization

The Confederate government in Richmond, Virginia, exercised sweeping powers to ensure victory, in stark contradiction to the states’ rights sentiments held by many Southern leaders. The initial emotional outburst of enthusiasm for war in the Confederacy waned, and the Confederate government instituted a military draft in April 1862. Under the terms of the draft, all men between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five would serve three years. The draft had a different effect on men of different socioeconomic classes. One loophole permitted men to hire substitutes instead of serving in the Confederate army. This provision favored the wealthy over the poor, and led to much resentment and resistance. Exercising its power over the states, the Confederate Congress denied state efforts to circumvent the draft.

In order to fund the war, the Confederate government also took over the South’s economy. The government ran Southern industry and built substantial transportation and industrial infrastructure to make the weapons of war. Over the objections of slaveholders, it impressed slaves, seizing these workers from their owners and forcing them to work on fortifications and rail lines. Concerned about the resistance to and unhappiness with the government measures, in 1862, the Confederate Congress gave President Davis the power to suspend the writ of habeas corpus , the right of those arrested to be brought before a judge or court to determine whether there is cause to hold the prisoner. With a stated goal of bolstering national security in the fledgling republic, this change meant that the Confederacy could arrest and detain indefinitely any suspected enemy without giving a reason. This growth of the Confederate central government stood as a glaring contradiction to the earlier states’ rights argument of pro-Confederate advocates.

The war efforts were costing the new nation dearly. Nevertheless, the Confederate Congress heeded the pleas of wealthy plantation owners and refused to place a tax on slaves or cotton, despite the Confederacy’s desperate need for the revenue that such a tax would have raised. Instead, the Confederacy drafted a taxation plan that kept the Southern elite happy but in no way met the needs of the war. The government also resorted to printing immense amounts of paper money, which quickly led to runaway inflation. Food prices soared, and poor, white Southerners faced starvation. In April 1863, thousands of hungry people rioted in Richmond, Virginia. Many of the rioters were mothers who could not feed their children. The riot ended when President Davis threatened to have Confederate forces open fire on the crowds.

Rampant inflation in the 1860s made food too expensive for many Southerners, leading to widespread starvation.

One of the reasons that the Confederacy was so economically devastated was its ill-advised gamble that cotton sales would continue during the war. The government had high hopes that Great Britain and France, which both used cotton as the raw material in their textile mills, would ensure the South’s economic strength—and therefore victory in the war—by continuing to buy. Furthermore, the Confederate government hoped that Great Britain and France would make loans to their new nation in order to ensure the continued flow of raw materials. These hopes were never realized. Great Britain in particular did not wish to risk war with the United States, which would have meant the invasion of Canada. The United States was also a major source of grain for Britain and an important purchaser of British goods. Furthermore, the blockade made Southern trade with Europe difficult. Instead, Great Britain, the major consumer of American cotton, found alternate sources in India and Egypt, leaving the South without the income or alliance it had anticipated.

Dissent within the Confederacy also affected the South’s ability to fight the war. Confederate politicians disagreed over the amount of power that the central government should be allowed to exercise. Many states’ rights advocates, who favored a weak central government and supported the sovereignty of individual states, resented President Davis’s efforts to conscript troops, impose taxation to pay for the war, and requisition necessary resources. Governors in the Confederate states often proved reluctant to provide supplies or troops for the use of the Confederate government. Even Jefferson Davis’s vice president Alexander Stephens opposed conscription, the seizure of slave property to work for the Confederacy, and suspension of habeas corpus. Class divisions also divided Confederates. Poor whites resented the ability of wealthy slaveholders to excuse themselves from military service. Racial tensions plagued the South as well. On those occasions when free blacks volunteered to serve in the Confederate army, they were turned away, and enslaved African Americans were regarded with fear and suspicion, as whites whispered among themselves about the possibility of slave insurrections.


The American Civil War: Importance & Significance

During both the civil war and civil war reconstruction time periods, there were many changes going on in the Union. The Emancipation Proclamation, as well as legislation such as the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments, was causing a new awakening of democracy while the renouncing of secession by the South marked a definite triumph for Nationalism.

As well, the government was involved in altercations of its own. During reconstruction, the legislative and executive branches eventually came to blows over the use of power. The nation was being altered by forces which caused, and later repaired, a broken Union.

The first of these “forces”, was the expansion of democracy. As early as 1862, Lincoln was taking a major step in that direction. On September 22, Lincoln announced the freeing of all slaves in areas not in Union control. Although the proclamation did not free all slaves everywhere, it was the action that would push Congress to pass the thirteenth amendment in 1865.

The amendment, ratified later in 1865, stated that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude . . . shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” It seemed democracy had triumphed by giving freedom to slaves, but the amendment was not complete. It only stopped slavery, and made no provisions for citizenship therefore, blacks were still not considered United States citizens.

The fourteenth amendment was the democratic expansion that fixed that problem. Originally passed to “put a number of matters beyond the control or discretion of the president,” the amendment also made “All persons born or naturalized in the United States . . . citizens of the United States.” It also provided that, “No State shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.”

This not only gave new meaning to black men’s freedom, but it also gave a new and broader meaning to citizenship. Those drafting the amendment hoped that the broadness would cover “unanticipated abuses”, yet, the general phrasing was only an advantage to abusers. There is no listing of the “privileges or immunities” offered to U.S. citizens.

In fact, there is not even a clarification of what rights a “citizen” has. These generalities, and the abuses that went with them, prompted the adoption of the fifteenth amendment in 1870. The final major step towards democratic expansion during reconstruction, the fifteenth amendment granted ” The right of citizens of the United States to vote,” and that right, “shall not be denied on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

This amendment finally took out loopholes existent in the thirteenth and fourteenth amendments. The government of the United States was coming closer to being a government by all of the people, and not just whites. Civil war reconstruction offered more than just extended democracy, however. It was also a time of national unification.

One of the major boosts to the United States nationalism began with the simple Union victory over the confederacy. Secession was unconstitutional according to those who supported the Union. By defeating the confederacy, the Union had only confirmed that fact. As well, the radical Republican reconstruction plan called for an official renunciation of secession, before states could be readmitted to the Union.

If secession from the Union was now illegal, then Daniel Webster’s theory of the Constitution being a people’s government, and not a compact of states had to be true. “The Constitution . . . [begins] with the words ‘We the people,’ and it was the people, not the states, who . . . created it,” Webster claimed in his nationalist theory of the Constitution.

The Union became more united than ever before because now it truly was a Union, “. . . now and forever, one and inseparable.” There were changes, though, that were occurring in the reconstruction time period that was not as helpful to the Union as democracy and nationalism. While the nation was reveling in these more encouraging developments, the Union government was having internal conflicts.

Congress and the president began dueling over power distribution starting at about the time of Andrew Johnson’s presidency. Johnson became president after Lincoln’s death and immediately set the tone for the rest of his dealings with Congress. His plan for reconstruction was much to relaxed for radical Republicans in Congress, and Johnson lacked the diplomatic abilities of Lincoln.

Johnson did prescribe loyalty oaths for southern whites if they were to receive pardon and amnesty, he did exclude high confederate officials from that allowance, and he did require a state convention of state leaders loyal to the Union to elect new congressional delegates. Johnson did not, however, include some provisions being called for by Congress.

His plan recommended but did not require, the repeal of secession ordinances and repudiation of secession, repudiation of the Confederate debt, and the ratification of the thirteenth amendment. These points absent from the Johnson program were the instigation congress needed to take charge of reconstruction.

The first step by Congress, against Johnson, was taken in December 1865. Under Johnson’s program, southern representatives had been elected to Congress. A majority of Congress voted to refuse to accept the delegates and appointed a committee to begin work on reconstruction. In 1866, Congress overrode a presidential veto for the first time in history, when Johnson vetoed a civil rights bill.

The bill would have given blacks a considerable new amount of freedom from discriminatory southern actions. Johnson took his stand against the radical Republicans in congress when the fourteenth amendment was first passed. While Congress required ratification of the amendment as part of the reconstruction, Johnson denounced the amendment and advised states not to ratify it.

“The battle between the executive and legislative branches settled into a predictable rhythm: Congress would pass a bill, the president would veto it, Congress would override it.” This “rhythm” continued until Johnson violated the Tenure of office act, which required Senate approval to remove presidential cabinet members. Johnson violated the act by removing Secretary of War Edwin Stanton.

The House of Representatives approved articles of impeachment and in May 1868, Johnson was impeached by the House. The senate, by one vote, did not remove him from the office of president. Neither side had won that battle for power Johnson had lost his ability to be an effective president, yet it had been established that impeachment could not be used as a congressional political weapon.

The Civil wartime period, as well as that of reconstruction, was filled with political changes in the United States. The war had aroused the democratic spirit of the nation and had so aroused a good deal of legislation to improve the equality of all people. Post-war times brought forth the nationalistic spirit of the nation, proving once and for all that this Union was indeed, “indivisible under God.”

The lust for power and justice during reconstruction caused the fight between the executive and legislative branches, a fight that was not completely resolved. These changes, both good and bad, made the Union the United States once again. “a . . . nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” It has been the United States ever since.

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In the US Civil War, what factors contributed to the Union having such a numerical advantage over the Confederacy? - History

P. K. Rose. "Black Dispatches" was a common term used among Union military men for intelligence on Confederate forces provided by Negroes. This source of information represented the single most prolific and productive category of intelligence obtained and acted on by Union forces throughout the Civil War. In 1862, Frederick Douglass wrote:

The true history of this war will show that the loyal army found no friends at the South so faithful, active, and daring in their efforts to sustain the government as the Negroes-. Negroes have repeatedly threaded their way through the lines of the rebels exposing themselves to bullets to convey important information to the loyal army of the Potomac. 1

Black Dispatches resulted from frontline tactical debriefings of slaves--either runaways or those having just come under Union control. Black Americans also contributed, however, to tactical and strategic Union intelligence through behind-the-lines missions and agent-in-place operations. Two such Union agents functioned as long-term penetrations of Confederate President Jefferson Davis's "White House" staff in Richmond, Virginia. Even such a prominent woman as Harriet Tubman, best known for her activities involving the "underground railroad," played an important role in Union intelligence activities.

The value of the information that could be obtained, both passively and actively, by black Americans behind Confederate lines was clearly understood by most Union generals early in the war. Popular recognition of this was also apparent through a stream of articles and stories in the Northern press during the war. Gen. Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, was equally aware, and in May 1863 he said, "The chief source of information to the enemy is through our Negroes." 2 Because of the culture of slavery in the South, Negroes involved in menial activities could move about without suspicion. Also, officials and officers tended to ignore their presence as personal servants when discussing war-related matters.

After the war, however, the intelligence contributions of black Americans became obscure. While racial prejudice probably played a part in this, as it did regarding the military contributions of black American Union military units, several other factors added to this lack of recognition. Historically, most successful spies do not want their identities made public. Even individuals who may have provided one-time pieces of useful intelligence usually prefer anonymity. This was particularly true in the emotional period after the Civil War, when many of these black Americans lived near people still loyal to the South.

Simple lack of official records of intelligence activities on both sides was another factor. Many of these records were purposely destroyed to protect those involved and still living. One of the last acts of the Confederate secretary of war before fleeing Richmond in 1865 was to destroy virtually all intelligence files, including counterintelligence records regarding Union spies.

In Washington, the War Department turned over portions of its intelligence files to many of the participants involved. Most of these records were subsequently destroyed or lost. Thus, accounts by individuals of their parts in the war or official papers focusing on larger subjects, such as military official correspondence, have become important sources of information on intelligence activities. Much of this information is difficult to substantiate or place in perspective and context due to the lack of supporting documents.

Twenty-four books were published after the war by self-proclaimed spies or counterspies-19 by men and five by women. Seventeen of these books came from the Union side and seven from the Confederate side. None were written by black Americans. Nevertheless, research of existing records does permit the identification of nine black Americans whose intelligence contributions to the Union cause were significant.

One of the first large-scale Civil War battles was the result of information provided by George Scott, a runaway slave. He furnished intelligence on Confederate fortifications and troop movements to Gen. Benjamin F. Butler, commander of Fort Monroe located at the mouth of the James River on the tip of the Virginia peninsula. Shortly after the start of the war, Butler had issued orders that all "contraband" 3 arriving in Union lines be brought to his headquarters for debriefing.

Scott had escaped from a plantation near Yorktown. While making his way toward Fort Monroe, he observed that Confederate forces had thrown up two fortifications between Yorktown and the fortress. Butler's officers were impressed with Scott's information but wanted to confirm it. Scott agreed to accompany a Union officer on several scouting trips behind Confederate lines to obtain more specific intelligence. On one of these missions, Scott barely missed being wounded by a Confederate picket the bullet went through his jacket.

Based on the intelligence gained from these missions, Butler determined that Confederate forces were planning an attack on Newport News, capture of which would isolate Fort Monroe from Union resupply. He ordered a preemptive attack on the Confederate position, 4 but the military operation was poorly conducted and ended in a Union defeat. Although the intelligence was solid, the military tactics were not.

One of Pinkerton's Operatives

As Union forces grew and better organization was required, Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan was given command of the Army of the Potomac defending Washington. He brought with him as his chief of intelligence Allan Pinkerton, who had gained some fame running a Chicago detective agency. Pinkerton, often using the alias Major Allen or E. J. Allen, had responsibilities for collecting intelligence on the enemy and for counterintelligence activities against enemy agents. Most of the intelligence he collected resulted from an extensive and well-organized debriefing program of people crossing over from Confederate lines. These informants included merchants with business ties on both sides, deserters from the Confederate Army, prisoners of war, civilians traveling to escape the fighting or for other personal business, and former slaves. While each group provided valuable information, Pinkerton soon discovered that the former slaves were the most willing to cooperate and often had the best knowledge of Confederate fortifications, camps, and supply points.

Pinkerton instructed his operatives to focus their efforts on debriefing former slaves. He also directed them to be on the lookout for former slaves who had some education or seemed particularly skilled in observing and remembering military details. Once these individuals were identified, they were sent to Pinkerton for further assessment and evaluation. From these black Americans, Pinkerton recruited a small number for intelligence collection missions behind Confederate lines.

The best known of these Pinkerton agents was John Scobell, recruited in the fall of 1861. Scobell had been a slave in Mississippi but had been well educated by his owner, a Scotsman who subsequently freed him. He was quick-witted and an accomplished role player, which permitted him to function in several different identities on various missions, including food vendor, cook, or laborer. He often worked with other Pinkerton agents, sometimes playing the role of their servant while in the South. He worked with Timothy Webster, perhaps Pinkerton's best agent, on missions into Virginia and also with Mrs. Carrie Lawton, Pinkerton's best female operative.

Scobell is credited with providing valuable intelligence on Confederate order of battle, status of supplies, and troop morale and movements. Frequently, while the white Pinkerton agents elicited information from Confederate officials and officers, Scobell would seek out leaders in the black community and collect their information on local conditions, fortifications, and troop dispositions.

Scobell often used his membership in the "Legal League," a clandestine Negro organization in the South supporting freedom for slaves, to acquire local information. League members sometimes supported Scobell's collection activities by acting as couriers to carry his information to Union lines. On at least one occasion, as described by Pinkerton, Scobell protected the escape of Mrs. Lawton from pursuing Confederate agents. 5 He worked for Pinkerton from late 1861 until the intelligence chief closed down his operations in November 1862, when McClellan was replaced by Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside.

While Scobell was roaming behind enemy lines between Washington and Richmond, another black American, W. H. Ringgold, was working on a riverboat on the York River in Virginia. He had been "impressed" (coerced) into service as a result of having been in Fredericksburg at the time Virginia seceded from the Union. Ringgold spent six months on the river, helping move troops and supplies on the Virginia peninsula. When his ship was damaged by a storm, he and the other crewmen were permitted to travel back North by way of Maryland's Eastern Shore. On reaching Baltimore, he sought out Union officials, who immediately sent him to Pinkerton in Washington.

In December 1861, Ringgold provided Pinkerton with detailed intelligence on Confederate defenses on the peninsula. This included locations of fortifications and artillery batteries, troop concentrations, and defenses on the York River. His information was the best McClellan received before the start of his peninsula campaign in March 1862 it was also the basis for much of his strategic planning for the opening of that campaign. 6

Equally valuable intelligence was provided to the Union navy by black Americans. Two examples of strategic importance occurred during the late 1861-early 1862 period. Mary Touvestre, a freed slave, worked in Norfolk as a housekeeper for an engineer who was involved in the refitting and transformation of the USS Merrimac into the Virginia, the first Confederate ironclad warship. Overhearing the engineer talking about the importance of his project, she recognized the danger this new type of ship represented to the Union navy blockading Norfolk. She stole a set of plans for the ship that the engineer had brought home to work on and fled North. After a dangerous trip, she arrived in Washington and arranged a meeting with officials at the Department of the Navy.

The stolen plans and Touvestre's verbal report of the status of the ship's construction convinced the officials of the need to speed up construction of the Union's own ironclad, the Monitor. The Virginia, however, was able to destroy two Union frigates, the Congress and the Cumberland, and run another, the Minnesota, to ground before the Union ironclad's arrival. If the intelligence from Touvestre had not been obtained, the Virginia could have had several more unchallenged weeks to destroy Union ships blockading Hampton Roads and quite possibly open the port of Norfolk to urgently needed supplies from Europe.

Robert Smalls' Achievements

A second piece of important naval intelligence concerned the strategic Confederate port of Charleston, South Carolina, one of a few ports in the south with railroad lines capable of speedy transportation of supplies to Richmond and other key Confederate manufacturing and supply centers. In March 1862, a free black American, Robert Smalls, rowed out to a Union warship that was part of a large fleet assembled to attack the seacoast town of Fernandina, Florida. He reported that Confederate troops were preparing to evacuate the town as well as Amelia Island, which guarded the approach to Fernandina. Smalls, a harbor pilot, had observed Confederate preparations to destroy the town's harbor facilities during the withdrawal.

Smalls understood the importance of keeping the Fernandina harbor operable as a logistics facility and base for Union operations against Charleston. Based on the intelligence he provided, Union forces attacked Fernandina and routed the enemy's rear guard before the Confederates could sabotage the harbor. The intelligence provided by Smalls was considered so significant that the Secretary of the Department of the Navy described it in detail to President Lincoln in the Secretary's annual report. 7

While this information was Smalls' greatest intelligence contribution to the Union, he subsequently provided another gift to the Navy. On the night of 12 May 1862, he, family members, and other black American crewmen of the Planter, a cargo steamer turned into an armed coastal patrol ship, sailed out of Charleston harbor after the captain and two mates had gone home. In the dark, Smalls pretended to be the captain and, from his previous experiences, was able to provide all the correct countersigns to challenges from the various harbor fortifications. Upon reaching ships forming the Union blockade, he surrendered the Planter to them. Later that month he and his fellow crewmen received payment from the US Government for half the appraised value of the ship as a reward.

When Pinkerton left his position as chief of intelligence for the Army of the Potomac in November 1862, he took all his intelligence files on the Confederacy with him (because he had been a private contractor, the files belonged to him). This left Union forces without centralized Confederate order-of-battle information, and the one remaining intelligence officer in the Army of the Potomac had to travel to the War Department in Washington to re-create this information from records of previous battles.

Bureau of Military Information and Charlie Wright

When Gen. Joseph Hooker took command of the Army of the Potomac on 27 January 1863, he immediately saw the need for an effective centralized intelligence system. On 11 February, Col. George H. Sharpe, an attorney and an officer of New York state volunteers, accepted the post of head of the Army's intelligence service. Under Sharpe, with direction from Hooker, the Bureau of Military Information (BMI) was created. Its sole focus was collection of intelligence on the enemy it had no counterintelligence responsibilities. It soon developed into the first "all-source intelligence" organization in US history. Sharpe obtained, collated, analyzed, and provided reports based on scouting, spying behind enemy lines, interrogations, cavalry reconnaissance, balloon observation, Signal Corps observation, flag signal and telegraph intercepts, captured Confederate documents and mail, southern newspapers, and intelligence reporting from subordinate military units. This structured approach, which ended with the Confederate surrender, was not re-institutionalized until 1947, when the CIA was created.

Sharpe's BMI was well established when Charlie Wright, a young black man, arrived at Union lines from Culpeper, Virginia, in June 1863. While being debriefed, his extensive knowledge of units in Lee's army became apparent. He had an excellent memory for details. On 12 June, Capt. John McEntee, an officer from the BMI who had deployed with Union cavalry forces just after the battle of Brandy Station, telegraphed Sharpe the following:

A contraband captured last Tuesday states that he had been living at Culpeper C. H. for some time past. Saw Ewells Corps passing through that place destined for the Valley and Maryland. That Ewells Corps has passed the day previous to the fight and that Longstreet was them coming up. 8

Shortly thereafter, McEntee also reported that Wright was well acquainted with these two corps and that he believed Wright's information was reliable. Wright identified more than a dozen separate Confederate regiments from both Ewell's Corps and Longstreet's Corps. The key intelligence Wright provided was that these troops had passed through Culpeper bound for Maryland.

Thanks to the Bureau's records and all-source information, Sharpe was able to confirm Wright's descriptions of the various Confederate units. This confirmation convinced General Hooker of Wright's assertion that Lee's army was moving into Maryland. Hooker ordered his army to shadow the Confederate forces' movements while traveling on the eastern side of the Blue Ridge Mountains out of view of Lee's troops.

This movement by the Union Army shielded Washington from Lee's forces and eventually forced the battle at Gettysburg. For several decades after the war, Union cavalry reconnaissance was given credit for identifying Lee's movement in the valley toward Maryland. But historical records now make it clear that Wright's intelligence was the key factor in convincing Hooker to move his forces. 9

While many reasons can be cited for Lee's defeat at Gettysburg, there can be no doubt that the ground held by the Union forces played a significant role in the victory. This was Charlie Wright's contribution. He had provided the intelligence that eventually enabled Union forces to get to Gettysburg first and seize the best ground.

Because both sides were poorly prepared for the war, notwithstanding the many years of political buildup to the actual fighting, there apparently were few intelligence agents who had been specifically placed in the enemy's institutions. In-place agents have the strategic advantage of providing the plans and intentions of an enemy rather than reporting on how and when they are carried out. Although the Confederacy did not create its civilian and military power structure until just before the war began, the Union did have several such agents in the Confederate capital by the first year of the war. Two were black Americans employed by Confederate President Jefferson Davis in his official residence.

William A. Jackson was a slave hired out by the year to President Davis as a coachman. His first documented report was on 3 May 1862, when he crossed into Union lines near Fredericksburg, Virginia. As a servant in the Davis household, he was able to observe and overhear the Confederate President's discussions with his military leadership. While no record remains of the specific intelligence he produced, it apparently was valuable enough to cause General McDowell to telegraph it immediately to the War Department in Washington. 10

The second agent, Mary Elizabeth Bowser, was part of a Union spy ring known as "the Richmond underground," directed by Elizabeth Van Lew, whose family was well respected and well connected socially in Richmond. While not hiding her Union loyalties, Van Lew affected behavior that made her appear harmless and eccentric to Confederate authorities. After the war, she traveled to Washington and obtained all the official records from the War Department related to her activities and destroyed them. Thus, details on Bowser's specific activities are sparse.

Bowser had been a slave of the Van Lew family, but Van Lew freed her and sent her North to be educated. When Van Lew decided to establish a spy ring in Richmond shortly before the fighting began, she asked Bowser to return and work with her for the Union. Van Lew obtained a position for Bowser as a servant in the Confederate "White House" through the recommendation of a "friend" who provided supplies to that household.

Bowser pretended to be uneducated but hardworking and, after working part-time at several functions, was hired as a regular employee. Her access provided her with opportunities to overhear valuable information. As a black servant, Bowser was almost certainly ignored by the President's guests. Her reporting focused on conversations she overheard between Confederate officials at the President's residence and on documents she was able to read while working around the house. She and Van Lew, often dressed as a country farmwife, would meet at isolated locations on the outskirts of Richmond to exchange information.

Another Union spy, Thomas McNiven, noted that Bowser had a photographic memory and could report every word of the documents she saw at the "White House." 11 In recognition of her intelligence contributions, Bowser was inducted into the US Army Intelligence Hall of Fame at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, on 30 June 1995.

Harriet Tubman, another black woman involved in intelligence collection for the Union, is much more famous for her activities with the underground railroad. Her intelligence activities, however, are well documented in many books written about her exploits. Tubman, often referred to by her contemporaries as "Moses," is best known for the numerous trips she made into the south to free relatives and friends and bring them to safety. Her last trip took place in 1860. With the advent of the fighting, she spent the early years of the war assisting with the care and feeding of the massive numbers of slaves who had fled to Union-controlled areas.

By the spring of 1863, Union officials had found a more dramatic and active role for Tubman to play. The Union forces in South Carolina badly needed information about Confederate forces opposing them. Intelligence on the strength of enemy units, location of encampments, and designs of fortifications was almost nil. All these requirements could be met by short-term spying trips behind enemy lines, and it fell to Tubman to organize and lead these expeditions.

Tubman selected a few former slaves knowledgeable about the areas to be visited and established her spy organization. Often disguised as a field hand or poor farm wife, she led several spy missions herself, while directing others from Union lines. She reported her intelligence to Col. James Montgomery, a Union officer commanding the Second South Carolina Volunteers, a black unit involved in guerrilla warfare activities.

The tactical intelligence Tubman provided to Union forces during the war was frequent, abundant, and used effectively in military operations. For example, her part in a June 1863 Union raid up the Combahee River in South Carolina is well documented. Tubman had conducted spy missions into the area, identified enemy supply areas, and reported weaknesses in Confederate troop deployments.

In late May, Gen. David Hunter, commander of all Union forces in the area, asked Tubman to personally guide a raiding party up the river. On the evening of 2 June, Tubman led Montgomery and 150 of his men up the river past Confederate picket lines. In a swift raid, taking the Confederates by surprise, the Union forces destroyed several million dollars worth of Confederate supplies and brought back more than 800 slaves and thousands of dollars in enemy property. 12 By this action alone, Tubman's contribution to the Union cause was significant. When Tubman died in 1913, she was honored with a full military funeral as a mark of respect for her activities during the war.

No discussion of intelligence activities by black Americans during the Civil War would be complete without mention of a popular story about a black couple who provided intelligence on Confederate troop movements to the Union during the fighting around Fredericksburg, Virginia in 1863. The original account evidently appeared in a newspaper or magazine article written by a Union officer who claimed to have been a witness to the events. No official records have documented this story, and the claims about the value of the intelligence produced are questionable. But there is probably some factual basis for the tale.

The story involved a runaway slave named Dabney, who crossed into Union lines with his wife and found employment in General Hooker's headquarters camp. It became apparent that Dabney knew the geography of the area very well, and, though he had little education, was clever. He quickly developed an interest in the Union flag-signal system, and he learned all he could about it.

After several weeks, Dabney's wife asked permission to return to Confederate lines as a personal servant to a Southern woman returning to her home. A few days after his wife's departure, Dabney began reporting Confederate movements to members of Hooker's staff. His reports soon proved accurate, and he was questioned as to the source of his intelligence.

Dabney explained that he and his wife had worked out a signaling system based on the laundry that she hung out to dry at her mistress's house, which was observable from Hooker's headquarters. As the wife observed Confederate troop movements, she would hang the laundry in a particular sequence to signal Dabney of the activity. For example, a white shirt represented Gen. A. P. Hill, a pair of pants hung upside down represented the direction west, and so forth. This system produced useful intelligence on Confederate movements until Hooker moved his headquarters.

While such a signaling system could produce simple messages such as "Hill-north-three regiments," the value of the information would not be great. Union cavalry pickets and Signal Corps observers would have provided similar intelligence. But the fact that this story is repeated in numerous articles and books makes it a part of the legend of intelligence activities during the war.

No one will ever know if the course of the Civil War would have been changed if General Lee had seized the better ground at Gettysburg or if the Virginia had broken the Union blockade at Hampton Roads. And it remains uncertain what information or the plans and intentions of the Confederate leadership Bowser and Jackson passed to the Union. Even so, this does not diminish the courage, dedication, and personal commitment which these individuals demonstrated by their actions. Like successful spies throughout history, they did their jobs quietly and effectively--and then faded away.


One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

Posted On April 29, 2020 16:07:03

Donald Stratton, who served aboard the USS Arizona when it was attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, passed away on Feb. 15, 2020. He was 97 years old.

Stratton was born and raised in Nebraska and joined the Navy in 1940 at the age of 18 right after finishing high school. He heard rumors of war and figured it was best to join sooner rather than later.

When he was asked why he joined the Navy he said, “My theory was you either had a nice place aboard a ship and were high and dry or you didn’t have anything. In the Army, you were crawling around in the mud and everything else, and I didn’t want to do that.”

After finishing training, he was sent to Washington state, where he would be assigned to his first duty station, the USS Arizona. When he saw the ship for the first time, she was in dry dock. He said, “It was quite a sight for an old flatlander like me to see a 35,000-ton battleship out of the water.”

The Arizona was a Pennsylvania-class battleship that was commissioned during the First World War. While she didn’t see action then, the Navy made good use of her first in the Mediterranean and later in the Pacific. She was 908 feet in length and had twelve 45 caliber, 14-inch guns as part of her armament.

When the Arizona made its way down to Pearl Harbor, Stratton went with her. Stratton and the rest of the crew settled into the routine of training and exercises, both in port and out at sea. There was no doubt in his mind that the U.S. was preparing for war. Like most Americans, though, he was still shocked at how the war began.

The “day that would live in infamy” started out pretty routinely for Stratton and the thousands of other Sailors and Marines at Pearl Harbor. He woke up for Reveille and went to get chow. After bringing oranges to a buddy in sick bay, he stopped at his locker and headed up top. He heard screams and shouts and followed everyone’s points to Ford Island. There he saw an aircraft bank in the morning light and the distinctive rising sun emblem on the plane. Stratton quipped, “Well, that’s the Japanese, man – they’re bombing us.”

Stratton ran to his battle station, calling out coordinates for his anti-aircraft gun crew. His crew soon realized that they didn’t have range on the bombers and watched in horror as the Japanese made their bombing runs.

The Japanese had 10 bombers assigned to attack the Arizona. Of the bombs dropped, three were near misses, and four hit their target. It was the last hit that would prove catastrophic for the Sailors and Marines on board. The bomb penetrated the deck and set off a massive explosion in one of the ship’s magazines. The force of the explosion ripped apart the Arizona and tore her in two.

Stratton had the fireball from the explosion go right through him. He suffered burns over 70% of his body and was stuck aboard a ship that was going down rapidly. Through the smoke, he could make out the USS Vestal and a single sailor waving to him. He watched as the Sailor waved off someone on his own ship and tossed a line over to the Arizona. Stratton and five other men used the rope and traversed the 70 foot gap to safety. Stratton never forgot the sailor yelling, “Come on Sailor, you can make it!” as he struggled to pull his badly burned body to safety.

Two of the men who made it across died alone with 1773 other men on the Arizona. Only 334 men on the ship made it out alive. The Arizona burned for two days after the attack.

Stratton was sent to San Francisco where he spent all of 1942 recovering from his wounds. His weight dropped to 92 pounds, and he couldn’t stand up on his own. He almost had an arm amputated too. Shortly thereafter, he was medically discharged from the Navy

Stratton then decided that he wasn’t going to sit out the rest of the war. He appealed to the Navy and was allowed to reenlist, although he had to go through boot camp again. He was offered a chance to stay stateside and train new recruits, but he refused. He served at sea during the battles of the Philippines and Okinawa where he worked to identify potential kamikaze attacks. He called Okinawa 󈭂 days of hell.”

Stratton left the Navy after the war and took up commercial diving until his retirement. He settled in Colorado Springs, and he actively participated in Pearl Harbor reunions and commemorations. Stratton wanted to make sure people didn’t forget about the men who died that day.

It was at one of those reunions in 2001 that Stratton’s life found another mission to complete. He found out the Sailor aboard the USS Vestal was named Joe George. When the attack commenced the Vestal was moored to the Arizona. After the catastrophic explosion, an officer ordered George to cut lines to the Arizona as it was sinking. George frantically motioned to men trapped on the Arizona, burning to death. The officer told them to let them be and cut the lines.

George waved him off and threw a safety line and saved men, including Stratton. Stratton learned that George had passed away in 1996, so he wouldn’t get a chance to thank him. But to his disbelief, George had never been commended for saving his fellow Sailors.

The Navy looked at the incident and decided they couldn’t award a Sailor for saving lives because he disobeyed an order from an officer. (Some things never change.)

Stratton and fellow rescued Sailor, Lauren Bruner, took up the cause to get George awarded. They met nothing but resistance from the Navy. From 2002 to 2017 Stratton repeatedly tried to get George honored but was ignored. It wasn’t until 2017 when he was able to meet with President Donald Trump and then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis that the ball started rolling. Shortly thereafter, George’s family was presented with a Bronze Star with “V” for George’s heroic actions that day.

Stratton wanted to make sure people never forgot that day. He recounted his life’s journey in his memoir, “All the Gallant Men: An American Sailor’s Firsthand Account of Pearl Harbor.“

Stratton had the option to have his remains cremated and scattered at the Arizona memorial. But after a life at sea, he instead chose to go home and will be buried in Nebraska.

Of the men who served on the USS Arizona that day, only two surviving crew members are still alive: Lou Conter, 98, and Ken Potts, 98.


Dependence on Cotton Was a Mixed Blessing

By the time of the Civil War, two-thirds of the cotton produced in the world came from the American South. Textile factories in Britain used enormous quantities of cotton from America.

When the Civil War began, the Union Navy blockaded the ports of the South as part of General Winfield Scott's Anaconda Plan. And cotton exports were effectively stopped. While some cotton was able to get out, carried by ships known as blockade runners, it became impossible to maintain a steady supply of American cotton to British mills.

Cotton growers in other countries, primarily Egypt and India, increased production to satisfy the British market.

And with the cotton economy essentially stalled, the South was at a severe economic disadvantage during the Civil War.

It has been estimated that cotton exports before the Civil War were approximately $192 million. In 1865, following the end of the war, exports amounted to less than $7 million.


More Reading.

The 4-4-0 "Firefly" is seen here crossing a trestle on the Orange & Alexandria Railroad. Photo courtesy National Archives.

The original Pacific Railway Act was not the only important event of 1862 that year also witnessed creation of the United States Military Railroad.

The USMR did not take direct command of the North's rail network (Unlike a half-century later when the United State Railroad Administration operated the nation's railroads during World War I from 1917 to 1920.).  

Instead, it acted as its own enterprise and made use of trackage when needed to offer the best tactical advantage. The North fully understood the railroad's importance and mobility. ਊs Mr. Hankey notes virtually all major conflicts were located either at or near important rail junctions.

The USMR was under the command of General Daniel C. McCallum (former general manager of the Erie Railway) and General Herman Haupt (former chief engineer of the Pennsylvania Railroad).  

These expert railroaders were incredibly effective at putting together a skilled workforce to maintain efficient operation. The two men were also adept at preventing field officers from interrupting everyday affairs through either meddling or special requests.


Protective Tariffs: The Primary Cause of the Civil War

Although they opposed permanent tariffs, political expedience in spite of sound economics prompted the Founding Fathers to pass the first U.S. tariff act. For 72 years, Northern special interest groups used these protective tariffs to exploit the South for their own benefit. Finally in 1861, the oppression of those import duties started the Civil War.

In addition to generating revenue, a tariff hurts the ability of foreigners to sell in domestic markets. An affordable or high-quality foreign good is dangerous competition for an expensive or low-quality domestic one. But when a tariff bumps up the price of the foreign good, it gives the domestic one a price advantage. The rate of the tariff varies by industry.

If the tariff is high enough, even an inefficient domestic company can compete with a vastly superior foreign company. It is the industry’s consumers who ultimately pay this tax and the industry’s producers who benefit in profits.

As early as the Revolutionary War, the South primarily produced cotton, rice, sugar, indigo and tobacco. The North purchased these raw materials and turned them into manufactured goods. By 1828, foreign manufactured goods faced high import taxes. Foreign raw materials, however, were free of tariffs.

Thus the domestic manufacturing industries of the North benefited twice, once as the producers enjoying the protection of high manufacturing tariffs and once as consumers with a free raw materials market. The raw materials industries of the South were left to struggle against foreign competition.

Because manufactured goods were not produced in the South, they had to either be imported or shipped down from the North. Either way, a large expense, be it shipping fees or the federal tariff, was added to the price of manufactured goods only for Southerners. Because importation was often cheaper than shipping from the North, the South paid most of the federal tariffs.

Much of the tariff revenue collected from Southern consumers was used to build railroads and canals in the North. Between 1830 and 1850, 30,000 miles of track was laid. At its best, these tracks benefited the North. Much of it had no economic effect at all. Many of the schemes to lay track were simply a way to get government subsidies. Fraud and corruption were rampant.

With most of the tariff revenue collected in the South and then spent in the North, the South rightly felt exploited. At the time, 90% of the federal government’s annual revenue came from these taxes on imports.

“Cartoon drawn during the nullification controversy showing the Northern domestic manufacturers getting fat at the expense of impoverishing the South under protective tariffs.” – Encyclopedia of Britannica

Historians Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffer found that a few common factors increase the likelihood of secession in a region: lower wages, an economy based on raw materials and external exploitation. Although popular movies emphasize slavery as a cause of the Civil War, the war best fits a psycho-historical model of the South rebelling against Northern exploitation.

Many Americans do not understand this fact. A non-slave-owning Southern merchant angered over yet another proposed tariff act does not make a compelling scene in a movie. However, that would be closer to the original cause of the Civil War than any scene of slaves picking cotton.

Morrill Tariff Cartoon, featured in Harper’s Weekly on April 13, 1861 saying:THE NEW TARIFF ON DRY GOODS.
Unhappy condition of the Optic Nerve of a Custom House Appraiser who has been counting the Threads in a Square Yard of Fabric to ascertain the duty thereon under the New MORRILL Tariff. The Spots and Webs are well-known Opthalmic Symptoms. It is confidently expected that the unfortunate man will go blind.

Slavery was actually on the wane. Slaves visiting England were free according to the courts in 1569. France, Russia, Spain and Portugal had outlawed slavery. Slavery had been abolished everywhere in the British Empire 27 years earlier thanks to William Wilberforce. In the United States, the transport of slaves had been outlawed 53 years earlier by Thomas Jefferson in the Act Prohibiting the Importation of Slaves (1807) and the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act in England (1807). Slavery was a dying and repugnant institution.

The rewritten history of the Civil War began with Lincoln as a brilliant political tactic to rally public opinion. The issue of slavery provided sentimental leverage, whereas oppressing the South with hurtful tariffs did not. Outrage against the greater evil of slavery served to mask the economic harm the North was doing to the South.

The situation in the South could be likened to having a legitimate legal case but losing the support of the jury when testimony concerning the defendant’s moral failings was admitted into the court proceedings.

Toward the end of the war, Lincoln made the conflict primarily about the continuation of slavery. By doing so, he successfully silenced the debate about economic issues and states’ rights. The main grievance of the Southern states was tariffs. Although slavery was a factor at the outset of the Civil War, it was not the sole or even primary cause.

The Tariff of 1828, called the Tariff of Abominations in the South, was the worst exploitation. It passed Congress 105 to 94 but lost among Southern congressmen 50 to 3. The South argued that favoring some industries over others was unconstitutional.

The South Carolina Exposition and Protest written by Vice President John Calhoun warned that if the tariff of 1828 was not repealed, South Carolina would secede. It cited Jefferson and Madison for the precedent that a state had the right to reject or nullify federal law.

In an 1832 state legislature campaign speech, Lincoln defined his position, saying, “My politics are short and sweet, like the old woman’s dance. I am in favor of a national bank . . . in favor of the internal improvements system and a high protective tariff.” He was firmly against free trade and in favor of using the power of the federal government to benefit specific industries like Lincoln’s favorite, Pennsylvania steel.

The country experienced a period of lower tariffs and vibrant economic growth from 1846 to 1857. Then a bank failure caused the Panic of 1857. Congress used this situation to begin discussing a new tariff act, later called the Morrill Tariff of 1861. However, those debates were met with such Southern hostility that the South seceded before the act was passed.

The South did not secede primarily because of slavery. In Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address he promised he had no intention to change slavery in the South. He argued it would be unconstitutional for him to do so. But he promised he would invade any state that failed to collect tariffs in order to enforce them. It was received from Baltimore to Charleston as a declaration of war on the South.

Slavery was an abhorrent practice. It may have been the cause that rallied the North to win. But it was not the primary reason why the South seceded. The Civil War began because of an increasing push to place protective tariffs favoring Northern business interests and every Southern household paid the price.

6/30/2013: We were surprised by some of the reactions to our recent article on protective tariffs as one of the primary causes of the Civil War. We have written a post expanding on our citations and reasoning in Jefferson Davis Posthumously Responds to Our Readers’ Reactions


#10 Secession of the South from the Union

The election of Lincoln caused the state of South Carolina to call a state convention which voted unanimously in favor of secession on 20th December, 1860. The “cotton states” of Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas followed suit, seceding in January and February 1861. These states then agreed to form their own Federal Government calling it the Confederate States of America, on February 4, 1861. After the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter in April, Lincoln called on all the states to send forces to recapture federal properties. Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas and Tennessee ,unwilling to send forces against their neighbors, voted to secede and joined the Confederates. In his inaugural address on March 4, 1861 Lincoln called any secession “legally void”. He had no intent to invade southern states nor did he intend to end slavery where it existed. However, he said that he would use force to maintain possession of Federal property. The battle lines were clearly drawn.


Watch the video: Battle Hymn of the Republic - American Civil War Patriotic Song (May 2022).