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The Economics of War

Northern commanders knew an effective way to cripple the Confederate Army was to cut off necessary supplies. At the beginning of the war, life in Georgia remained the same with most Georgians not directly affected. All that changed after the Union ships enforced a blockade of Southern ports and harbors. Bruce Hetherington at Oglethorpe University reports that at first the effort was not very effective and entrepreneurial ship owners profited greatly from successful blockade runs. In 1862, the capture of Fort Pulaski successfully closed the port of Savannah to shipping, ending the foreign supply of cloth, food, and weapons. What was bad for Savannah was good for Atlanta reports Dr. Frances Harrold at Georgia State University. She describes how Atlanta grew as a result. Four different railroad lines ran through Atlanta making it a hub for transporting troops and supplies for the Confederacy. Providing needed supplies and getting them to soldiers and those who want them is the way money is made in any war. Professor Harrold’s great-grandfather, Uriah Harrold, ran a store and warehouse in Americus and knew people were desperate for salt. He took a wagon to Virginia and brought back a load of the much needed mineral. Even today his descendents remember his effort as a great financial coup and an example of the entrepreneurial spirit the war engendered.

Teacher tip: Look up the words “entrepreneur” and “entrepreneurial,” and then identify people whose actions during the Civil War fit those definitions. Explain what makes their actions qualify as entrepreneurial.