Skip to comments.Why the South lost the Civil War
Posted on 10/15/2005 8:38:50 AM PDT by teldon30
SOON AFTER THE end of the Civil War, as the Confederates streamed home after four bitter years of fighting, a Virginia soldier was heard to say, "They never whipped us, Sir, unless they were four to one. If we had anything like a fair chance, or less disparity of numbers, we should have won our Cause and established our independence."
That defiance, along with the question of why they "whipped us," have continued to this day. Two points stand out: The first is that the war lasted as long as it did, and the second is that the South lost.
That long-ago Virginia veteran expressed the feelings of the entire South: With as many assets as the Confederacy possessed, how could the South possibly have lost?
Its advantages were enormous, starting with a gigantic and contiguous land mass that stretched east to west from the Atlantic to the far reaches of Texas; and south to north from the Gulf of Mexico up to the Ohio River. It was all Confederate, the whole 750,000 square miles of it, a land brimming with natural resources.
The South controlled mile after mile of seacoast, perfect as a source of food; as well as dozens of harbors and coves and inlets and bays and riverbanks, ideal for smuggling and evading the Union blockade they knew was coming. The South also had a dedicated and devoted population that believed passionately in the righteousness of their Cause.
They knew they were facing huge odds--but they looked to their own ancestors, their own fathers and grandfathers, who had fought the British, the mightiest power in the world at the time, and had won their freedom. Why not a second time against a similar oppressor? They even thought they could fight the same war--they could fight defensively, as had the Colonists, knowing that the Union, as the British, would have to invade and occupy, and then destroy their will to resist in order to claim victory.
It didn't work out that way--and over the next several columns, we are going to talk about the reasons the South lost the Civil War. Of course, there is a corollary: If we try to find out why the South lost, we can also learn why the North won.
Truth be told, experts seldom agree on a single reason; they generally list about six overall concepts.
1. The fundamental economic superiority of the North.
2. A basic lack of strategy in the way the South fought the war.
3. The inept Southern performance in foreign affairs.
4. The South did not have a dominating civilian leader.
5. The Confederate Constitution put too much emphasis on individual and states rights and did not stress the responsibilities of the individual or the state to the federal government.
6. Abraham Lincoln.
I'll discuss each of these reasons in upcoming columns, but I am interested in what you think. If you have thoughts about why the South did not win its independence, please mail or e-mail your own reasons about why the South lost--or the North won. I'll print as many opinions as I can.
Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Gen. Robert E. Lee should have known how to fight a winning war of independence. Both were West Point graduates, and had studied how Gen. George Washington had won the Revolutionary War simply by not losing it. It was the best example of the strategy a weaker enemy is forced to use when he fights a larger, better-armed enemy with incomparably better resources, better finances and an ability to prolong a war indefinitely.
Gen. Washington's Rule No. 1: Husband your resources and avoid losing the war.
No. 2: Avoid head-to-head battles that use up your manpower, your most precious asset.
No. 3. Prolong the war.
No. 4. Hope that the enemy would grow heartily sick of the casualties in a war that never seems to end.
There were some other Gen. Washington rules:
No. 5. The Revolution would continue as long as he had the Continental Army, which was the only real power he had.
No. 6. Thus, do not risk the army except in the most dire emergency or when the odds are heavily in your favor.
No. 7. Do not risk the army to defend territory because it is the army that the British have to subdue, not geography.
No. 8. Remember that most of the fighting will be in your territory in geography you know best. Frustrate the British by raids, continual skirmishing, and capturing their supplies, always staying just beyond their ability to defeat you.
These were the rules for victory, and yet neither Davis nor Gen. Lee adopted this "fight-the-war-not-to-win-it-but-to-avoid-losing-it" strategy, even though they knew it was a tried and true road to independence.
Why? Their own ancestors had shown that it worked. In modern times, we have seen it work, too: In World War II, the Russians traded space for time until they could build up their own war-making capability and then go on the offensive.
In the Vietnam War, Ho Chi Minh used it all too well. That war lasted from 1954 to 1975. Ho understood that in order to win a war against more powerful enemies (France, the United States), you have to follow certain rules to lead more powerful enemies into giving up the struggle.
The Vietnam War was a conflict that for us seemed to have no end. Ho's delaying tactics eventually worked: America got sick of a never-ending war that appeared to produce nothing but casualties, and so we made peace with an enemy that had but a fraction of our power. We were the more powerful combatant, yet we gave up the struggle.
The Confederacy never even tried to follow Washington's precepts. Part of the reason is the nature of Southern men. It went counter to the Southern psyche, which was the "attack" strategy for winning any battle. The Confederacy's high command followed their West Point training of "charge" to defeat their enemy. They were convinced that "aggressive attack" was the best and really the only way to win a war.
Could the Washington precepts have worked in the Civil War? We will never know how it would have worked out, but it could not have turned out any worse for the Southern Cause.
Lee didn't listen to Longstreet at Gettysburg?
Congressman Billy Bob. At least we know his judicial philosophy.
"Miers has no documented judicial philosophy history of advocating that the constitution be interpreted as written."
You'd love to see this be the requiring precedent for all nominees. You'd love it.
Confess MA. You just a plain vanilla legalist. ALL GOP nominees would be strict legalists, like you, if you had your way. Correct?
Political appointments to the SCOTUS, an established long tradition, by the GOP and Demoncrats, would be forever verboten in accordance with you view, yes?
I noticed as soon as I did, someone did above my post. Another reason why public school is absolute malnourishment of the mind.
Its what they refuse to teach you that causes the most harm.
What other industries were putting millions into the treasury and gold reserves in the 1850's?
Government reveunes during that period came almost exclusively from tariffs. So the import market was putting the millions in.
The history of stealth "trust me" candidates with no documented judicial philosophy, has been really horrific for Republicans.
Whenever another such candidate comes along, it is really predictable and ordinary for conservatives to be very concerned.
Note that one doesn't need to have been a judge, to express a judicial philosophy. A political appointment would be fine, go throw Santorum in there, he doesn't have a prayer of reelection anyway, and he does have a clearly documented judicial philosophy.
I'm sorry, I omitted the metal products from mining of the Comstock Lode which allowed further reserves to be used as collateral for financing of the Civil War.
Bottom line, you'd outlaw 'undocumented' nominess. Noted.
So how were the goods being purchased? With hot air or fiat money?
Any candidate who lacks a documented history of advocating a conservative judicial philosophy, to be specific. It doesn't have to be extreme or strict. Just something. Bush bypassed a very large pool of candidates that have this history, for one particularly lacking in it. Thus setting off alarming visions of Souter in a wide swath of conservatives.
What about the Aliens?
Most import were industrial goods. At the time northern manufacturers were at a significant competitive disadvantage to British and other European manufacturers. They used the power of the Federal Government to levy onerous tarrifs on these imports. This profited merchants and manufacturers in the north at the expense of largely poor farmers in the south (most of whom owned no slaves).
This how bad it is. The schools celebrate Cinco de Mayo to make the illegal aliens happy. But if you mention Jefferson Davis or Robert E. Lee in a government school you are condemned to a re-education class or expelled for insensitivity.
But I see I struck a nerve with the government school crack. So in the spirit of comity that fills us all on this forum (we are all on the same side you know) I apologize and take it back.
Ding! Ding! Ding! Thanks for the research.
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