Neither the North nor the South was prepared in 1861 to wage a war. With a population of 22 million, the North had a greater military potential. The South had a population of 9 million, but of that number, nearly 4 million were enslaved blacks whose loyalty to the Confederate cause was always in doubt. Although they initially relied on volunteers, necessity eventually forced both sides to resort to a military draft to raise an army. Before the war ended, the South had enlisted about 900,000 white males, and the Union had enrolled about 2 million men (including 186,000 blacks), nearly half of them toward the end of the war.
In addition, the North possessed clear material advantages—in money and credit, factories, food production, mineral resources, and transport—that proved decisive. The South’s ability to fight was hampered by chronic shortages of food, clothing, medicine, and heavy artillery, as well as by war weariness and the unpredictability of its black labor force.
Even with its superior manpower and resources, however, the North did not achieve the quick victory it had expected. To raise, train, and equip a massive fighting force from inexperienced volunteers and to find efficient military leadership proved a formidable and time-consuming task. The South, with its stronger military tradition, had more men experienced in the use of arms and produced an able corps of officers, including Robert E. Lee. Only through trial and error did Lincoln find comparable military leaders, such as Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman.
Excerpted from the History Channel