Journal of a graduate student in military history and the American Civil War

Epiphany – The Industrial Revolution and the Civil War

with 2 comments

T. Harry Williams’ essay, “The Military Leadership of North and South” in the book Why the North Won the Civil War is outstanding.

His point that the Industrial Revolution had the “immediate consequence of making the Northern generals less inclined to deal out destruction” was an epiphany. So much of what I’ve read until now points to the advantages of the North because of more and better “everything.” That this affluence in war-making capacity contributed to the early lack of engagement of the North’s generals now makes perfect sense.

“They could secure material so easily that they refused to move until they had received more than they needed — after which they were often so heavily laden the could not move.” (Williams, 50 – 51)

Likewise, the “poverty of Southern resources” explains the scrappy nature of the generals of the Confederacy.

The lesson is timeless and as important to business – my field of battle – as the military.



2 Responses

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  1. The North’s material advantages may have made the Northern generals initially timid. However, that ended with the accession of Grant and Sherman. However, the South’s disadvantages made them inventive. You look at the Hunley and the Merrimack. They also used floating torpedoes. They also developed trench warfare to an advanced level. The weaker side in a conflict always has to be more audacious. What is your view? Do you agree?

    Naim Peress

    June 18, 2009 at 10:36 am

    • Completely agree. The South was scrappy, more nimble in many respects, and – yes – audacious.

      Had Lincoln not found a Grant and Sherman, it was entirely possible that war fatigue in the North could have led to a completely different outcome.

      So many potential tipping points….

      Fascinating stuff.


      Rene Tyree

      June 19, 2009 at 7:23 pm

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