The War Years
The War Years
Chapter 2 focuses on the Civil War years. In the early years of the war, a Union blockade brought legal trade to a standstill, and for merchants who relied on trade networks between the North and the South, the blockade was catastrophic. But with soaring demand for cotton around the globe, economic opportunities abounded. Some merchants stockpiled cotton, and some wisely avoided Confederate currency, which would turn out to be worthless after the war. But once Ulysses S. Grant’s troops declared victory after the bloody battle of Vicksburg, which opened the Mississippi River for commerce, the landscape changed, and new opportunities emerged. With New Orleans and the Mississippi River in Union hands, legal cotton trade resumed between the North and South, and merchants flocked to the interior towns that facilitated this commerce. They also established or reestablished trade networks that closely resembled those that had emerged in the antebellum years. While the resumption of trade was slowed by a plethora of factors, by the end of the Civil War, firms that had saved capital, reestablished North-South networks, or both, were on sound footing, prepared to face head on the vicissitudes of the postbellum economy.
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