Saturday, May 22, 2010


Copyright © 2006 by St. Louis Public Library. All rights reserved.

I. Civil War Era Geography & Population

Number of States:

North: 23, plus seven territories and District of Columbia

South: 11

Total Number Persons:

North: 22,339,989

South: 9,101,090

Total Black Persons:

North: 429,401 (slave); 355,310 (free); 784,711 (total)

South: 3,521,110 (slave); 132,760 (free); 3,653,870 (total)

The pool of persons liable for military service in the North was four times greater than the pool of eligibles in the South, even before free blacks are included in the totals. Also, immigration continued in the North during the war (more than 500,000 persons immigrated during 1861-1864), while the Union naval blockade halted most immigration to Southern states throughout the war.

Of the 25 largest cities in the US in 1860, only three were in seceding states: No. 6, New Orleans, LA; No. 22, Charleston, SC; and No. 25, Richmond, VA.

Because of advances in public schooling, only 6% of free adults in the North were illiterate in 1860. In the South public schooling had not yet made wide inroads, and the failure was reflected in Southern literacy rates- nearly 50% of free Southern adults were illiterate in 1860.

II. Civil War Era Agriculture

Cultivated Land:

North: 105,000,000 acres

South: 57,000,000 acres

Cash Value of Farms, Farm Dwellings, Livestock, & Farm Equipment:

North: $5,056,151,204

South: $1,579,349,508

Cash Value of Farm Implements, Machinery, & Livestock:

North: $930,413,926

South: $397,072,820

Amount of Farm Equipment per Agricultural Worker:

North: $66.00

South: $38.00

Percentage of Labor Force Engaged in Agriculture:

North: 40%

South: 84%

Farm production in the North actually increased during the war, in spite of the loss of thousands of farmers to the Union Army. Bumper crops in 1861 and 1862 actually meant that food was exported by the North in large quantities. The number of hogs butchered yearly in Chicago increased from 270,000 in 1861 to 900,000 in 1865. New farm machinery like mowers, horse rakes, separators, sowers, cultivators, and drills allowed farm wives to manage many of the chores that had recently required the physical strength of one or more men to accomplish. The US Department of Agriculture was formed during the war to help farmers produce larger crops with less labor.

Principal southern crops were cotton, tobacco, rice, and sugar. Continuous planting of cotton and tobacco tended to wear out the soil, leading to nitrogen depletion and lower crop yields. Also, the two major crops, cotton and tobacco, were not edible, and the Union blockade hindered Southern efforts to use exports of those crops to secure funds necessary to purchase war materials. The cotton-producing states kept only 5% of their crops for use by Southern mills- 70% was exported, mostly to England, and 25% was sent to mills in the North. Middlemen skimmed part of the profit right off the top, for insurance, warehousing, and shipping. The role of middlemen didn't stop there, of course- cotton goods being returned from English mills were usually sent to Northern ports, then shipped from there by rail to Southern markets.

[Sources of statistics and bibliography included in last installment of this article.]

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