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Open Access Dissertation
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Year Degree Awarded
Heather Cox Richardson
Leonard L. Richards
Merritt Roe Smith
Cultural History | History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Military History | Social History | United States History
My dissertation explores the critical advantage the Union held over the Confederacy in military engineering. The skills Union soldiers displayed during the war at bridge building, railroad repair, and road making demonstrated mechanical ability and often revealed ingenuity and imagination. These skills were developed during the antebellum period when northerners invested in educational systems that served an industrializing economy. Before the war, northern states’ attempt at implementing basic educational reforms, the spread of informal educational practices directed at mechanics and artisans, and the exponential growth in manufacturing all generated a different work related ethos than that of the South. Plantation slavery generated fabulous wealth for a tiny percent of the southern white population. It fostered a particular style of agriculture and scientific farming that limited land use. It curtailed manufacturing opportunities, and it stifled educational opportunities for the middle and lower classes because those in political power feared that an educated yeomanry would be filled with radical ideas such as social equality, and, worst of all, abolition
These differences in the North and South produced unique skill sets in both armies, and consequently, resulted in more successful and resourceful Union engineering operations during the war. Between 1861 and 1865 the North engineered victory.
Army, Thomas F. Jr, "Engineering Victory: The Ingenuity, Proficiency, and Versatility of Union Citizen Soldiers in Determining the Outcome of the Civil War" (2014). Doctoral Dissertations. 50.