Abstract: The Business of Civil War: Military Enterprise, the State, and Political Economy in the United States, 1850-1880 [Krooss]

Mark Wilson


My dissertation, which concentrates on the history of military industry and army procurement in the Civil War North, points to the need for new interpretations of American and political and economic development. In the North, the leading managers of the business of war were rough-and-tumble army bureaucrats, who oversaw a vast mixed military economy in which they deliberately used a combination of public and private sources of supply. On the private side of the military economy, the business of prime contracting was dominated by well-established wholesalers and wholesaling manufacturers. After the first few months of the war, Republican party officials and local elites, along with small businessmen, had surprisingly little influence over the shape of the war economy. Public criticism of the business of war tended to focus not so much on patronage practices or corruption, but instead attacked the figure of the middleman, an abstract type who represented profit-taking mercantile intermediaries who came between legitimate producers and the wartime consumer state. All in all, the history of the North's war economy suggests that business and political histories must do more to account for the development and influence of producerist ideologies, distribution and marketing businesses, military institutions, and the consumer state in American history.