Lesson 1: On the Eve of War: North vs. South

In December of 1860, after Lincoln won the presidential election, Southern states began seceding from the United States in an effort to preserve their way of life. What was it exactly about that way of life that southerners were so determined to preserve? For decades prior to the war, tensions between the North and South continued to escalate as both regions traveled down different paths of advancement. The North, fueled by an immigration boom, industrialized, whereas Southern reliance on "King Cotton" kept them agriculturally tied to the land, and dependent on the institution of chattel slavery.

This lesson will examine the strengths and weaknesses of the North and South on the eve of the war. In making this comparison, students will decide which side, if any, had an advantage at the start of the Civil War. During the course of this lesson, students will read original documents to explore Northern and Southern strengths and weaknesses in 1861.

Guiding Questions

Which side possessed the overall advantage at the start of the Civil War?

Learning Objectives

Compare and contrast the strengths and weaknesses of the North and South using various primary source documents.

Analyze the economic advantages possessed by both sides on the eve of the Civil War.

Compare and contrast each side's strategic objectives for the war.

Explain Great Britain's interests in the Civil War, and how they might have affected the balance of forces between the two sides.