The Civil War pitted Americans against each other. The sectional divisions between the North and South caused tensions leading up to the Civil War, but the issue of slavery would ultimately lead to war. Tensions evolved between the North and South before the Civil War due to their difference in economic structure, and political views. Though these tensions caused discomfort between the two sides, the issue of slavery would push both sides to war in 1861. .
The Economic differences between the North and South, caused tensions which had been developing for decades. The Southern economy was agrarian and extremely dependent on slaves and exports. The South was based on a plantation farming system. A very few wealthy plantation owners controlled Southern crops, and used slave labor to maximize their profits. Much of this profit came from exports, most of which was cotton. Because these plantations were so profitable, plantation owners invested in slaves instead of industry. As a result, the South's entire economy was built by, and relied on slavery. Consistently, any protest to slavery coming from the North, seemed as though the Northern states were attacking the Southern economic base. In 1860, the South was still predominantly agricultural, highly dependent of exports to a world market. According to historian, Gene Dattel, Slave-produced cotton brought commercial ascendancy to New York City, cotton was the driving force for territorial expansion in the South and fostered trade between Europe and the United States. In fact, she says, "cotton productivity, no doubt due to the sharecropping system that replaced slavery, remained central to the American economy for a very long time Cotton was the leading American export from 1803 to 1937." 1. This shows that the export of cotton was critical to the Southern economy, and the critical need for cotton came with the urgent dependence on slavery.