Comparing & Union and Confederacy

After South Carolina seceded from the Union on December 20, 1860, war was inevitable. Eventually 11 southern states seceded to form the Confederacy, all of which permitted slavery. Virginia's northwestern counties broke away from the state to remain in the Union, along with the other border states of Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri. The Union also consisted of 20 free states in America's north and west coast. 

civil war map

The subject of slavery was single biggest difference between the two and the one that sparked the war. The majority of people in the Union states believed that the enslavement of men, women, and children should be outlawed in America. Abolitionists in the Union were working to build support for ending slavery in America.

On the other hand, the Confederacy was founded upon the idea of white supremacy and supported enslavement. While the majority of Southerners did not own slaves, most believed their state had the right to determine if it was legal to own human beings and treat them like property. In March 1861, Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens said that the Confederacy's "foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition."

Economically, people in the Union were more likely to work in cities and industry. Railroads and improvements in mechanics as well as early factories, helped states in the Union to achieve economic success in the mid-1800s. The Confederacy had its economic base in agriculture, but it was not as industrialized as that of the Union. Rather, the Confederacy was known to be more rural and with both small and large farms, with fewer places of industry, less rail lines, and smaller population centers.

A few key people were also important to shaping the differences between the Union and Confederacy. After a string of less successful generals, General Ulysses S. Grant would emerge as a prominent military leader as the commander of the Union Army. His efforts were backed by President Abraham Lincoln, and both men pledged allegiance to the Union capital of Washington, D.C. By contrast, General Robert E. Lee would take fame as the commanding General of the Confederacy’s Army of Northern Virginia. He served under Confederate President Jefferson Davis, both of whom looked to Richmond, Virginia, as their capital.

In terms of military styles, Lee and Grant differed. When Grant took command of the Union army, he capitalized on its superior size to overwhelm the enemy. Lee needed to be more strategic, since he had the smaller force. However, he also needed only to defend his territory, as opposed to Union forces that needed to invade and conquer the Confederacy. Despite the differences in ideology, it cannot be denied that the Civil War saw passion from both sides. It was the bloodiest conflict in American history and saw families divided on either side.