North Vs South Civil War Essay

Grades: Middle and High School

Length of Time:  3-5 class days

Goals: Students will research and write on the North and South, as two distinct regions.


  1. Students will identify the economic, social, and cultural differences between the North and the South during the early 1800’s.
  2. Students will write a comparative essay on the Northern and Southern Regions.

Materials Used:

Download the lesson plan, along with the text-based materials, at the bottom of this page.

  • Student Handout
  • Standing Cube Directions
  • Essay Directions
  • White poster board
  • Colored pencils
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Glue

Anticipatory Set/Hook:

What were the characteristics of the North? What were the characteristics of the South? How can these characteristics be compared and contrasted?


  1. Read the background information for teachers and review suggested resources.
  2. Introduce the lesson by reviewing the goal and objectives with students.
  3. Pass out the North and South information (one per student).
  4. Have students read and highlight information from their handout to put on the standing cube. The information must be based on geography/climate, economy, society, and transportation. (One category for each panel of the cube.)
  5. Have students create their standing cube, which should include written information, along with visual images of each category. Directions to make the standing cube are provided.
  6. Using information from their cube, students will write a comparative essay using the guide provided by the teacher.


How does the climate and geography of the North compare to that of the South? How does the economy compare between the two regions? What was the society like in the North compared to the South? What transportation existed in the two regions and how were they used similarly and differently? Have students use information on their cubes; allow students to share written information, as well visuals on their cubes.


  1. Completed standing cube with accurate information and illustrations.
  2. Comparative essay on differences of the North and South during Antebellum.


  1. Completed standing cube with accurate information and illustrations.
  2. Comparative essay on differences of the North and South during Antebellum.

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Civil War Era Essay: North Vs. South And The Economic Problems

Before the American Civil War, the North and the South were completely different in terms of their economy. In the North, there were factories, and in the South, there were plantations. Although the two economies were vastly different, they depended on each other. The North, for instance, depended on the South for a cheap source of raw materials, such as cotton, while the South depended on the North as one of the biggest markets for those same raw materials.

The fundamental fact about both the Southern plantations and the Northern factories was that they were built on the backs of the poor: the poor slaves in the South, and the poor factory-workers in the North. The economies of both the North and the South needed the poor to work in horrible conditions for little or no pay.

In the North the first factory was built in Lowell, Massachusetts, in the early 1800s. The entire production system, for the first time, was under one roof, which was a quicker and more efficient way of creating goods. However, having lots of workers in one place wasn’t very safe for the workers in the factories, who faced tough conditions, long hours, and six-day weeks.

The machinery in use at the time was also dangerous, and many people died from getting their arm, or hair, or clothes stuck in the moving parts of the machines. This was a major problem because fewer people would want to work in the factories if they knew they wouldn’t get paid much and faced potentially life-threatening danger.

In fact, eventually, the workers at the mills decided they had suffered enough and started organizing labor unions and going on strike to get higher wages or to reduce work hours. They were helped by the fact that in 1842 a Massachusetts court ruled it to be legal to strike. For the economy, however, this initially caused problems: paying better wages meant higher prices.

The main source of money in the South was the cotton crops, not from factories. However, most of the cotton was coming from plantations where large numbers of slaves were forced to work. The slaves were not paid, and were generally treated very badly. They had long hours and were most often not given the opportunity to learn to read or write. On top of that, any member of a slave’s family could be sold at any time, and the family members separated in this way would likely never see each other again.

The South’s economy was so dependent on slave labor that it seemed it would collapse without the slaves. It was felt that if the right to keep slaves was taken away from the plantation owners, the entire economy would be destroyed, because the cotton industry was such a big part of the economy.

Without significant sources of capital investment, the South struggled to develop new businesses. Manufactured goods were also in less demand in the South than in the more prosperous North. The South tended to produce just the raw cotton, rather than finished cloth products, which might have increased the available wealth.

The final thing that the South had problems with was transportation. There were natural waterways, but only a few easily-navigable canals, and roads were in poor condition.

There were several problems, then, affecting both the North’s and the South’s economy. The North had to deal with the problem of discontented workers, while the South was too dependent on slave labor.

Submitted by: Gilburt3

Tagged...Antebellum essay; North Vs. South Essay, Civil War Essay, Essay on Civil War Economy, Civil War Economic Factors

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