What Are the Vital Factors That Led to a Union Victory in the Civil War?
Some of the main contributing factors are superior industrial capabilities, more efficient logistical support, greater naval power, and a largely lopsided population in favor of the Union. Also one of the advantages the Union had was that of an experienced government, an advantage that very well might have been one of the greatest contributing factors to their success.
Lincoln’s made extraordinary use of these executive powers and yet was not seduced by them. Thus he had a perhaps unique resistance to the temptations of personal power and this shone out to his soldiers and citizens who viewed him as a noble commander for whom they would willingly fight and die. By this strong and vigorous leadership President Lincoln stood for many people as an emblem of the Union itself. Lincoln also had a genius to peer beyond the implications of the Civil War for the Union alone. He detected in the conflict — as few men could — the larger future issue of democracy in the civilized world. Lincoln understood that the Union represented to many Europeans and others a symbol of democratic expectation and promise: the defeat of the Union in America would threaten the growth of democracy elsewhere in the world. He wrote: ‘This is essentially a people’s contest … to demonstrate to the world that those who can fairly carry out an election can suppress a rebellion; and ballots are the rightful successors to bullets’ and this conviction sustained his leadership through many crises. It is of course a conviction whose widest implications were known only to Lincoln himself.
Strong cases can be made as to why each was important to the Confederacy’s downfall. Yet the key to victory was found in 1864, after President Abraham Lincoln appointed General Ulysses S. Grant the commander of all Union forces (John Lewis Gaddis, 2011). In concert with Lincoln’s other strategic efforts to weaken the Confederate will to resist, Grant devised a military plan that ultimately gave Lee no choice but to surrender. Although there was no written plan, Lincoln and Grant combined the separate elements of Union power in a complementary way to make continuing the war more painful to the Confederate population than rejoining the Union. This comprehensive strategy, which included political, economic, and diplomatic elements as well as military operations, led to victory.
At 8:30 a.m. the morning of April 9, Lee requested a meeting with Grant, and during that meeting he surrendered his troops, leading to a series of surrenders across theaters. On May 10, 1865, Union cavalrymen captured Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and the last land battle of the Civil War took place two days later near Brownsville, Texas. A federal victory was secured and the Union was made whole again.
Andrew Cunningham McLaughlin, A History of the American Nation (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1908), 467.
Samuel Eagle Forman, First Lessons in American History (New York: The Century Co., 1916), 286.
John Lewis Gaddis, George F. Kennan: An American Life (New York: Penguin Books, 2011), 261.