Union Morale Low Point

Emerging Civil War

Gold price fluctuations were an inverse barometer of confidence in the Union greenback dollar and therefore a proxy for war weariness at the North. As the chart below indicates, the low point surprisingly came in July 1864. There was widespread despondency resulting from Grant’s casualties in the overland campaign that apparently resulted in nothing but a stalemate before Petersburg. Simultaneously, there was confusion about what Sherman might be accomplishing – or failing to accomplish – in Georgia. The chart helps explain why Lincoln was discouraged about his re-election prospects 150 years ago. For perspective, imagine looking at the chart from the July 1864 vantage point backward without knowing that it declines thereafter — the situation could look frightfully out-of-control.

More about the innovations – and associated scandals – that enabled the Union to successfully finance the war is available in the post, Genteel Bribery.

Number of Greenbacks Dollars per Gold Dollar Number of Greenbacks Dollars per Gold Dollar

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