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?

  • 4
    This question could be answered with trivial research from wikipedia. (Check the table under "results and costs") en.wikipedia.org/wiki/US_Civil_war
    – MCW
    Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 12:38
  • An answer can be found here with the answer to this question:history.stackexchange.com/questions/7715/… In essence, the issue is Why did more states choose to side with the North than with the South?
    – Tom Au
    Commented Apr 7, 2013 at 23:44
  • You know what? I am quite annoyed with this closed as not a real question. What is so not real in this question? At least we need a much more clear close option.
    – user4951
    Commented Apr 8, 2013 at 1:00
  • I have read that wikipedia. It's not clear from there.
    – user4951
    Commented Apr 8, 2013 at 1:14
  • @Tom Au - My concern now is that the change has made the question one that is more likely to be answered subjectively. The only way I can see it being answered is with specualtion, rather than facts. It's almost like saying "If the south had tanks and bazookas, could they have won?" I'm osrry, but I still don't see it as a good fit. Commented Apr 8, 2013 at 23:05

3 Answers 3


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.

  • 2
    Hm, this doesn't sound right, the Union's soldiers represented 10% of its total population in 1860 while the Confederacy soldiers represented 11.7% of its total population in 1860. It seems that the Confederacy managed to conscript relatively more men than the Union, even though in absolute numbers the Union army was double the size.
    – yannis
    Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 12:50
  • 1
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/US_Civil_war#Results_and_costs - and, yes slaves were counted in the figures for total population.
    – yannis
    Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 13:09
  • 1
    References to the masses of literature would be more than helpful ;)
    – yannis
    Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 13:38
  • 1
    Hm, you know you can reference those books right? Also what might be blatantly obvious to you doesn't necessarily have to be blatantly obvious to everyone, by answering a question I'm assuming you want to help people by sharing your knowledge in a way most of them will understand, not just state the bloody obvious.
    – yannis
    Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 13:44
  • 1
    Guys, take a break. Then delete all your comments and write one, and only one, that state your point in an assertive manner with the aim of improving the answer. This is getting a little like a flame war. ^_~ Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 13:58

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.

  • So it's not really north vs south. It's the whole US vs some small number of southern regions.
    – user4951
    Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 10:39
  • 1
    No, it is North vs South states. If you are genuinely interested, pick a book by either Catton or Foote. They have written some good introduction texts detailing the war. Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 10:43
  • Summarizing it as "whole US vs some small number of southern regions" misrepresents the problem. From the foundation of the republic there were serious differences between northern and southern states. (I'm not sure why you use the term "regions".)
    – MCW
    Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 12:35
  • This answer is a really poor one, there's no reasoning at all behind the answer. Yes, the North was more industrialised, but why would this represent a larger number of fighting men than the south? Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 12:37
  • 1
    @Sardathrion - No, Jim Thio's correct. Arkansas had units in both the Union and Confederate armies, Mississippi had an entire county secede to rejoin the Union, Maryland and Kentucky were geographically, culturally and economically southern, and declared for Union, and California is on the same latitude as most of the south. Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 12:59

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.

  • The slaveholding area in Missouri was in the north, a belt East of Kansas City.
    – Oldcat
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 0:51
  • @Oldcat: From what I understand, northern Missouri has more "lowlands," and is therefore the most "temperate" part of the state, especially given the presence of the Missouri River. Meanwhile southern Missouri has more (and colder) "highlands." So the relationship may hold true in a roundabout way. That is, northern Missouri is about as warm as Richmond, VA (on the same latitude), while southern Missouri is "colder."
    – Tom Au
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 14:59
  • The weather is not different along the Missouri River than in other parts of the state. There is just more flatland for intensive farming and easy transportation by river, so it was developed more intensively. The most Union oriented area of Missouri, the St. Louis area, is also in the "lowlands". So is the entire Ohio River valley. I've lived there, the same weather moves from west to east during the year.
    – Oldcat
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 19:07

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