The Draft and Draft Riots

In 1863, Congress passed a conscription law to draft young men into the Union army. The law demanded that men either join the army or make a $300 contribution to the war effort instead. The “$300 rule” thus effectively condemned the poorer classes to military service while giving wealthier men a way out. Outraged, many Northerners engaged in massive protests, and draft riots broke out in dozens of cities throughout the North. The worst erupted in New York City in mid-1863, when whites from poorer neighborhoods burned and looted parts of the city. By the time federal troops arrived to suppress the rebellion, more than 100 people had been killed.

The Trent Affair

Surprisingly, Lincoln spent a great deal of effort trying to preserve diplomatic ties with Britain during the war. Soon after the war began, Union naval officers boarded the British mail ship Trent in 1861 in order to arrest two Confederate diplomats. The Trent Affair outraged Britain, which threatened Lincoln with war if he failed to release the Southerners. The situation became so serious that thousands of British troops were dispatched to Canada to prepare for a possible invasion. Lincoln eventually apologized and let the Confederates go.

The United States, in turn, later threatened war if Britain refused to stop building warships—such as the CSS Alabama—for the Confederacy. This time, Britain conceded. War between Britain and the U.S. almost broke out a third time in 1864, when Canada harbored Confederate fugitives. Britain sent more troops to Canada to prepare for war, but an agreement was reached before any shots were fired.

The Northern Economy

Ultimately, it was the North’s booming industrial economy—assisted by the Morrill Tariff, the Legal Tender Act, and the National Bank Act—that won the Civil War. When war broke out in 1861, almost all of the nation’s factories were located in the North. Manufacturers also increased production of agricultural equipment to help the farmers in the West produce more wheat and corn to feed the troops. Oil production and coal mining became big industries during these years as well.

Because the Confederacy had virtually no textile factories, Confederate troops often fought in tattered homespun uniforms. The South also had precious few rifle factories, so its troops were forced to fight with pistols, smuggled guns, and even old Revolutionary War muskets instead of the newer and more efficient rifles that Union soldiers used. Furthermore, the South had the misfortune of suffering severe droughts several summers during the war, so its troops were not as well fed as the Northern forces

Popular pages: The Civil War 1850–1865