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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Heather Cox Richardson

Second Advisor

Leonard L. Richards

Third Advisor

Merritt Roe Smith

Subject Categories

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.