Lecture Notes From Summer Institutes



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Economic Consequences of the Civil War in the South


  • new military history is social history

  • absence of communication was formidable between people in the war

    • fathers left home to get a paucity of information from family

    • guys saw so much violence that they were altered indelibly

      • put enormous stress on the families

      • fought the war, lost the war, got hurt, maybe lost limbs

      • women had to fill the void

      • homefront was the most fascinating

      • people were unprepared for the extreme number of deaths in the Civil War

      • Robert Dabney (Presbyterian minister in Virginia at beginning of the war): don’t worry about anything, if you’re a Christian, then you’ll be protected by God

      • Religion changes the focus from protection of life to preparation for death

        • Huge revivals developed in Southern army

        • Cities of men camping for months without fresh water

          • Many deaths in camp

          • Religion changed focus

        • Rifle transformed killing

          • Made Lee’s aggressive charges of defensive positions murderous

        • Most people died at home in the comfort of loved ones, but the Civil War transformed that too – no good death – dying well was a litmus of faith

        • Animal diseases become severe for 15 years after CW

    • Advent of organization of modern industrial life

        • Clothing went from custom to premade

          • Standardization of the sizes

    • What was it in the Southern psyche that they should continue to fight after July of 1863? See Jason Phillips’ dissertation (Mississippi State)

      • Faith in God’s plan

      • Misunderstanding of the actual status of the war

      • Belief that the war’s loss was Northern

    • Southern economic response to war was not complex because it was a simple agricultural society

      • Get a crop in the ground

      • Average person was not following the course of Reconstruction, they were struggling to grow a crop

      • Whites didn’t want to deal with even more change, so they were reluctant to convert to some other kind of

      • Many blacks were stuck without options so they had to work on these farms

      • Sharecropping developed

        • Whites cooked the books, paid blacks half crops

        • Country stores were to provide blacks whatever they needed to live by on credit until

        • Lien laws meant that blacks had to sell at the country store

        • Compelled not to grow food, only cotton, because maximizing cotton meant more ability to pay off debt but now they had to buy more food at 60% interest at the store

        • Not breaking even meant that they went into perpetual debt

        • Worldwide demand for cotton diminished in the 1860s

        • Suez canal opened and India and Egypt competed and dropped the price

        • 1880 crop was twice that of 1860 but worth half the price

        • country stores went bankrupt too, because they were being gouged by northern wholesalers

        • 80% of blacks were landless

        • most whites owned their own land in 1860

          • aware of market economy but unlikely to take advantage of it – mostly subsistence – cashless and barter

        • market economy was a tough transition

          • white farmers were forced to conform to cash economy by working cotton – lost farms eventually because cotton prices drop

          • by 1890 more whites are sharecroppers than blacks

          • King Cotton was a tyrant for all poor in the South

          • Southern per capita income was half of North’s

          • Deep debts lead to search for scapegoats and rise of lynching and violent racism

          • Joseph Williamson – Victorian image was that man should be provider and protector

          • But white men failed no matter how hard they worked

        • Relationship between economic failure and racism intractably intertwined

          • Blacks were perceived as threats instead of children, scary beasts instead of innocent uncles

          • Control of blacks became paramount

          • Seen in novels of time too

          • Society grinding down

          • 1900: 90% white farmers didn’t have an outdoor toilet

          • bad politics too

          • FDR called the South economic problem number 1 in 1930s

        • WWII transformed the South

          • Airconditioning too

          • Blacks leave and then come back from ‘70s on



AP U.S. History - SEMINAR NOTES

July 1991

Dr. James McPherson—Princeton University


Ph.D. Harvard



LECTURE #1

I. Causes of the Civil War:

A. The most traumatic event the nation’s history.

B. It is the most studied event the history of U.S.

C. 2% of the total population killed in the Civil War (620,000)

D. Most historians born in the North see slavery as the cause of the war. It was in reality a multi-causal event. *** (Notice this comment-McPherson emphasized it emphatically and strongly)

E. Southern reaction: don’t want to acknowledge responsibility for the alternatives (States rights, cultural nationalism etc..) this dates from immediate post-Civil War Years: J. Davis, A. Stephens—states rights, not slavery, caused the war. Stephens invented the term “War Between the States”


  • In 1861 Davis and Stephens spoke differently by defending slavery as a divinely inspired, no talk of states rights. Constitutional issues etc.

  • South had relied on national power to protect slavery, the fugitive slave law. (over rode state & city laws)

  • “Personal liberty laws” in 1858 by a southern dominated Supreme Court. (Booth Case)

  • They only cite states after 1860!

2. The Progressive School (1920’s 1940’s) saw:

A. Interest Groups clashes central in U.S. History

B. Plantation agriculture vs industrial capitalism – thus transfers a political battle to the battlefield.

C. Slavery: was NOT a moral issue (except for abolitionists) this interpretation seized by Southerner.

D. “Nashville Fugitives” Vanderbilt 1920’s R.P. Warren and others

They synthesize progressive interpretation w/Southern apology, the triumph of acquisitive, power-hungry North became popular at the same time as Gone With the Wind.
3. Revisionism: (Unfortunate term) included—Avery Craven, U.B. Phillips. Their differences did NOT have to lead war.

A. They felt it brought by the extremists on both sides and whipped passions, prevented political solutions.

B. Slavery was a minor part of Southern life.

C. They focused most criticism on anti-slavery zealots and they see most southerners as victims. (Few takers on this nowadays).

D. Some echoes of the past…


  • Economic conflicts: banks land grants, tariffs, etc. tended to divide parties, not North and South. These are still bread-and-butter issues—don’t start wars.

E. The Lincoln-Douglas Debates (1858) framed the issues.

  • Sale = slavery, and how deal with its expansion (no discussion of tariff, banks, schools, etc.) 7 separate debates in different towns. Both sides spoke of “Liberty” but it didn’t mean the same thing.

  • Slavery: was the only institution NOT shared by both societies had always been a contentious issue in war with Mexico which adds much new territory. Wilmot Proviso vote goes along sectional lines and would be the case in the next decades in 1840’s. Baptist and Methodist churches split along sectional lines (could a slave-owner be ordained?)

F. Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854): some northern Congressmen give to southern threats.

  • Destroy Whig Party—Southern Whigs became Democrats

  • Republican Party created the first purely sectional party.

  • Why all this hostility toward slavery?

  • It seemed increasingly immoral in evangelical context

  • It seemed backward, ineffectual in industrializing economy.

  • US became the largest slave holding country in the world!

  1. Mudsill thesis” slavery elevates all whites [mudsill=floor)

  • White southerners take up gauntlet.

  • Most non-slave-owners support slavery and reject emancipation.

  1. John Brown’s Raid: southerners equate ALL abolitionists w/Brown. (later, equate Republicans w/Brown, abolitionists.)

  2. Sumner-Brooks episode: conflict was about slavery—southerners had had national power during development of it

  • Kansas Nebraska Act

  • Dred Scot Decision

  • There was fear that national power is slipping away (1860).

4. Succession did not have to mean war! Why didn’t Lincoln let the South go?

A. It might set a precedent for next loser in presidential election.

B. Would prove (to Europe) that republican government was unworkable.


  1. U.B. Phillips: slavery price rising fast; will soon price itself out of existence. Weakness: price of slave rose because slaves were valued.

  2. Economic historians shoot Phillips down in the 1950’s with the natural limits idea; speaks of cotton, not slavery. Would they use slaves in western mining? (Like Brazil did?)

  • Irrigation: a possibility

  • Much land in the deep South not yet cultivated

  1. The free labor argument: the Republicans’ best argument will lower your standard of living (at times racist) 1849 Constitutional Convention in California.

  • Don’t want to compete w/ slaves

  • Make California a free state.

F. If Cuba had come into the union. It would have been the 2nd largest slave state (400,000 behind Virginia.)

  • Democratic party wanted it—Polk, Pierce, & Buchanan

  • Many Cuban Planters wanted it. (Can you imagine the constitutional, social, & political difference there might have been had this become a reality?)

G. Hinton Helper: said, “end of slavery would help poor whites

(he wanted to send the slaves back to Africa) Slave owning farmers (or tradesmen) would rent slaves a flourishing market in hiring slaves.

H. Mary Chestnut: all southern women are secret abolitionists her diary went through several revisions; lived into 1880’s most material in diary is in hindsight much of the wartime material has disappeared.

I. Black slaves owners:



  • Some lived in LA. Very light skinned mulattoes (French descent.

  • Free black males who owned wife and children (otherwise, they would be forced to leave the state.)

  • Only a few hundred out of 370,000 slave-owners

  1. Abolitionists:

  • Generally refused to buy a slave’s freedom

  • Would concede legitimacy of institution

  • Exceptions: Frederick Douglass(1846) Anthony Burns (1859).


LECTURE #2

STRATEGY IN THE CIVIL WAR

  • Much study of Civil War strategy is too narrowly focused—Clauzwitz=war = politics by other means.

  • National strategy=political aims, what is the mission?

  • Military strategy=use of military to achieve aims

  • The American Civil War – was a political war fought in most politicized nation in the world.

  • Fought primarily by volunteer soldiers

  • Fought as the result of an election result

  • Fought by generals often appointed for political reasons (by both Lincoln and Davis)

  • Lincoln tried to create support for war, political patronage was a general’s mission “Schimmelpfennig” “his name will make up for any deficiencies.”

1. The Confederacy:

A. Begins with control of its own territory

B. Goal: to defend, win by not losing

C. “Dispersed defense” to meet enemy invasions


  • Key points: Pensacola, Mobile, Charleston, N. Va. Etc.

  • Violates principle of concentrating one’s forces

  • Political necessity: can’t abandon any states

  • Stretched manpower—allowed breakthroughs

  1. Modifications of Defense:

  • Southern temperament: did not want to sit still over the success of the Mexican War.

  • Offensive defense—counterattack in appropriate places

  • Take war to the enemy—failed!

  1. Campaigns of 1862-63:

  • Invading Union forces broke through in Tenn.

  • Albert S. Johnston concentrates forces in N. Miss.

  • Attacks Grant at Shiloh, almost wins (is killed)

  • First illustration of offensive defensive

  • Robert E. Lee in Virginia:

--drive McClellan away from Richmond (Seven Days)

--shifts from east of Richmond to north of it

--defeats Pope at 2nd Manassas


  • Invasion of Maryland: overrated himself (Antietam)

  • Invasion of Kentucky (Bragg/Smith) forced to withdraw

  • Defensive success at Fredericksburg (Dec. 1862)

  • Lee again over-reaches in Pennsylvania [Gettysburg]

  1. South’s strategy then becomes one of attrition:

  • Inflict casualties, hope for negotiated peace

  • Hoped for Lincoln’s defeat in 1864 election

  • By 1864, North’s will was waning

2. Northern National Strategy:

A. Considerable more complex—required invasion of the South

B. Demands of war forced northern strategy to change

C. Clauzewitz:


  • War of conquest-usually ends in negotiated peace

  • Overthrow of enemy’s political system ends with unconditional surrender

  1. Northern strategy began with the former, ended with the latter

  2. At the beginning

  • Wanted to restore the Union

  • Winfield Scott’s “Anaconda Plan” squeezed the South

  • Premise—residual unionism existed in the South with a silent majority?

  • A show of force was mild but increasing pressure

  • Problem: it would take time (Example: the blockade)

  1. Public opinion doesn’t want to wait: “crush the rebels!”

  2. Untrained force is defeated at Bull Run

  3. Plans are developed for limited territorial goals which gained control of border states. (Missouri, Kentucky, western third of Virginia, and captured much of Tennessee, captured much of the Mississippi River delta.

  4. Strategy looked like it was working

  5. Confederate Counterstrikes:

  • Shocked the North in spring of 1862

  • Convince North that war will be long and costly

  • Faith in residual unionism gone

  • Territorial conquest is diminished

  • North must thoroughly defeat Confederate forces

  • Grant begins to see this (especially after Shiloh!)

  • Goal of the South becomes destruction of enemy armies

  1. Lincoln comes to see it well. He wants to go after rebel armies

He declared get “Lee’s army, not Richmond is your objective” (That comment was Lincoln to Hooker)

  1. Lincoln was angry at Meade for not following up victory over Lee at Gettysburg.

  2. 1863: Lincoln makes Grant overall commander

  • Sherman is the commander of the West

  • Sheridan is the commander of Shenandoah Valley

  • The march through Georgia brings destruction to the South.



LECTURE #3

3. Europe and the Civil War:

A. British foreign policy—(Other countries would follow Britain’s lead)

B. Pragmatic considerations:



  • Would jeopardize relationship with US

  • Must make sure that CSA had won (and could sustain independence)

  • Britain’s need for cotton not desperate early in the war

  • Wanted to maintain precedence of blockade (thus reluctant to condemn another’s blockade. By Feb. 1862 formally recognized blockade.

  • Slavery: not a factor until Emancipation Proclamation. After Jan 1, 1963, recognition less likely.

C. Rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight? The Civil War was a struggle for national survival:

  • On one hand, united classes – a common goal!

  • On the other hand, divided classes—who should bear the burden of fighting the war

D. The draft in the North: there were two exceptions:



  • Send a substitute

  • Pay a commutation fee $300.00 (almost a years pay for common worker.)

  • Most anti-draft feeling focused on commutations fee.

  • Democrats declared: “It’s $300 or your life!”

  • Impression: it was an obvious class based law!

  • Some qualifications:

--hiring a substitute – was a time honored practice in Europe as well as America until 1811. (not abolished in France until 1811)

--wealthy, talented people could be more productive, make a greater contribution in other ways.

--draft seems to suggest an all powerful state (violates republican principles.)


  • July 1864 Union Congress repeals commutations fee; price of a substitute went way up. (30% of Northern military males were foreign born.) and ¾ of Union black soldiers were former slaves.

  • Four union drafts 1863-1865

--21% failed to report for duty

--poorer men were exempt as often as the wealthy



--local property taxes raised $ for political party (Tammany Hall) would pay each Cong. District assigned a quota. The draft was to stimulate volunteers.

  • 50 days to fill quota w/ volunteers (1/2 did it) if quota not filled. Then draft was imposed.

  • Objectively. Union draft did not discriminate on the basis of occupation. (unskilled labor actually under represented.) real Mass 54th was composed of mostly of free blacks including both of Frederick Douglass’ sons.)

E. March 1863:

  • All Republicans in Congress voted for conscription

  • 88% of Democrats voted against it. (just as divisive an issue as emancipation.)

  • the NYC draft riot in 1863 (mid-July) there were only police to keep order. The mob took over the city, and the riot suppressed after 4 days only with the help of troops.

F. Conscription in the South

  • passed in May 1862

  • Some occupational exemptions (teachers, druggists, etc.)

  • Covered young men 18-35 not state quotas. (A later bill extended the age to 45)

  • Draft did not exempt yeoman farmer

  • The “20-Negro Law” pressure had come from planter families, women fear slaves running away (or raping white women)

  • Law is seen by poor as blatantly class-based so the law is modified, but never repealed.

G. Food crisis hits the South—hits the poor women and children the hardest even when food was available.

  • There was a rickety transportation network

  • Food was very expensive

  • Food was chief cause of desertion in Confederate Army.

  • State and country govt’s imposed taxes, to provide food for civilians.

H. Food riots – spring of 1863 – occurred in dozens of cities. (There was a poor harvest the previous fall.)

  • Largest and longest riot was in Richmond. April 1863.

  • Women marched to the governor, got no help became a mob.

  • “We want bread or blood!” They took whatever they could, shoes, food, clothes etc.

  • The mayor told subordinates “to read them riot act.” Then warned the to disperse.

  • Jefferson Davis himself confronts a mob gets up on a cart, makes a speech, gave the mob 5 minutes to disperse (some leaders briefly arrested)

  • There was no mention in Virginia newspapers.

I. The End of the War:

  • No formal treaty: each army surrendered separately.

  • Lee’s army the first to surrender (9 April 1865)

  • Some others did not surrender until late May.

  • Jefferson Davis captured on May 10th

  • CSS Shenandoah still sinking US whaling ships in the North Pacific in August!

  • Prisoner exchanges broke down after fall of 1863: South would NOT recognize blacks as union soldiers.

McPherson’s written books of this period:


Ordeal By Fire

Battle Cry of Freedom

For Cause & Comrades
Good Survey Course Maps in—Surveying the Land. Volume I. Robert B Grant, (D.C

AP U.S. History - SEMINAR NOTES

July 1990

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