The Combatants of the
Charles Henry Wood in 1921
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No map can show the exact dividing line
between the actual combatants of North and South. Eleven States
seceded: Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, Alabama,
Mississippi, Tennessee, Louisiana,
Arkansas. But the mountain folk of western Virginia and eastern
Tennessee were strong Unionists; and West Virginia became a State
while the war was being fought. On the other hand, the four border
States, though officially Federal under stress of circumstances, were
divided against themselves.
In Maryland, Kentucky,
many citizens took the Southern side. Maryland would have gone with
the South if it had not been for the presence of overwhelming Northern
sea-power and the absence of any good land frontier of her own.
Kentucky remained neutral for several months.
was saved for the Union by those two resourceful and determined men,
Lyon and Blair.
though preponderantly Unionist, had many Confederates along its
southern boundary. On the whole the Union gained greatly throughout
the borderlands as the war went on; and the remaining Confederate hold
on the border people was more than counterbalanced by the Federal hold
on those in the western parts of old Virginia and the eastern parts of
Tennessee. Among the small seafaring population along the Southern
coast there were also some strongly Union men.
out Northern Confederates and Southern Federals as canceling each
other, so far as effective fighting was concerned a comparison made
between the North and South along the line of actual secession reveals
the one real advantage the South enjoyed all through--an overwhelming
party in favor of the war. When once the die was cast there was
certainly not a tenth of the Southern whites who did not belong to the
war party; and the peace party always had to hold its tongue. The
Southerners formed simpler and far more homogeneous communities of the
old long-settled stock, and were more inclined to act together when
once their feelings were profoundly stirred.
The Northern communities, on the other
hand, being far more complex and far less homogeneous, were plagued
with peace parties that grew like human weeds, clogging the springs of
action everywhere. There were immigrants new to the country and
therefore not inclined to take risks for a cause they had not learned
to make their own. There were also naturalized, and even
American-born, aliens, aliens in speech, race, thought, and every way
of life. Then there were the oppositionists of different kinds, who
would not support any war government, however like a perfect coalition
it might be. Among these were some Northerners who did business with
the South, especially the men who financed the cotton and tobacco
Others, again, were those loose-tongued folk
who think any vexed question can be settled by unlimited talk. Next came
those "defeatist" cranks who always think their own side must be wrong,
and who are of no more practical use than the out-and-out "pacifists" who
think everybody wrong except themselves. Finally, there were those
slippery folk who try to evade all public duty, especially when it smacks
of danger. These skulkers flourish best in large and complex populations,
where they may even masquerade as patriots of the kind so well described
by Lincoln when he said how often he had noticed that the men who were
loudest in proclaiming their readiness to shed their last drop of blood
were generally the most careful not to shed the first.
Many of these fustian heroes formed the
mushroom secret societies that played their vile extravaganza right under
the shadow of the real tragedy of war. Worse still, not content with the
abracadabra of their silly oaths, the busybody members made all the
mischief they could during Lincoln's last election. Worst of all, they not
only tried their hands at political assassination in the North but they
lured many a gallant Confederate to his death by promising to rise in
their might for a "Free Northwest" the moment the Southern troopers should
appear. Needless to say, not a single one of the whole bombastic band of
cowards stirred a finger to help the Confederate troopers who rode to
their doom on Morgan's Raid through Indiana and Ohio.
party wore a copper as a badge, and so came to be known as "Copperheads,"
much to the disgust of its more inflated members, who called themselves
the Sons of Liberty. The war party, with a better appreciation of how
names and things should be connected, used their own descriptive
"Copperhead" in its appropriate meaning of a poisonous snake in the grass
would have preferred neutrality between the two kinds of inevitably
dispossessing whites. But neutrality was impossible in what was then the
Far West. Not ten thousand
fought for both sides put together. On the whole they fought well as
skirmishers, though they rarely withstood shell fire, even when their
cover was good and their casualties small.
African-American soldier between 1860 and 1870.
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The ten times more numerous
negroes were naturally a much more serious factor. The North encouraged
the employment of colored labor corps and even colored soldiers,
especially after Emancipation. But the vast majority of negroes, whether
slave or free, either preferred or put up with their Southern masters,
whom they generally served faithfully enough either in military labor
corps or on the old plantations. As the colored population of the South
was three and a half millions this general fidelity was of great
importance to the forces in the field.
The total population of the United States in
1861 was about thirty-one and a half millions. Of this total twenty-two
and a half belonged to the North and nine to the South. The grand total
odds were therefore five against two. The odds against the South rise to
four against one if the blacks are left out. There were twenty-two million
whites in the North against five and a half in the South.
But to reach the real fighting odds of three
to one we must also eliminate the peace parties, large in the North, small
in the South. If we take a tenth off the Southern whites and a third off
the Northern grand total we shall get the approximate war-party odds of
three to one; for these subtractions leave fifteen millions in the North
against only five in the South.
This gives the statistical key to the
startling contrasts which were so often noted by foreign correspondents at
the time, and which are still so puzzling in the absence of the key. The
whole normal life of the South was visibly changed by the war. But in the
North the inquiring foreigner could find, on one hand, the most steadfast
loyalty and heroic sacrifice, both in the Northern armies and among their
folks at home, while on the other he could find a wholly different kind of
life flaunting its most shameless features in his face. The theaters were
crowded. Profiteers abounded, taking their pleasures with ravenous greed;
for the best of their blood-money would end with the war.
Everywhere there was the same fundamental
difference between the patriots who carried on the war and the parasites
that hindered them. Of course the two-thirds who made up the war party
were not all saints or even perfect patriots.
Nor was the other third composed
exclusively of wanton sinners. There were, for instance, the genuine
settlers whom the Union Government encouraged to occupy the West,
beyond the actual reach of war. But the distinction still remains.
Though sorely hampered, the Union
Government did, on the whole, succeed in turning the vast and varied
resources of the North against the much smaller and less varied
resources of the South. The North held the machinery of national
government, though with the loss of a good quarter of the engineers.
In agriculture of, all kinds both North and South were very strong for
purposes of peace. Each had food in superabundance. But the trading
strength of the South lay in cotton and tobacco, neither of which
could be turned into money without going north or to sea. In finance
the North was overwhelmingly strong by comparison, more especially
because Northern sea-power shut off the South from all its foreign
markets. In manufactures the South could not compare at all.
The army moving round the circumference is
said to be operating on exterior lines, while the army moving from point
to point of the circumference by the straighter, and therefore shorter,
lines inside is said to be operating on interior lines. In more homely
language the straight road beats the crooked one. In plain slang, it's
best to have the inside track.
Of course there is a reverse to all this. If
the roads, rails, and waterways are better around the circle than inside
it, then the odds may be turned the other way; and this happens most often
when the forces on the exterior lines are the better provided with
the exterior forces are so much stronger than the interior forces that
these latter dare not leave any strategic point open in case the enemy
breaks through, then it is evident that the interior forces will suffer
all the disadvantages of being surrounded, divided, worn out, and
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