MORE COMMANDERS LOST TREASURES YOU CAN FIND IN THE STATE OF GEORGIA - FULL COLOR EDITION
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Put that way, the business of fighting and winning wars sounds simple enough. And perhaps it was simple in the mind of the man who so concisely described the complex art: General Ulysses S.
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After assuming command of all Union armies in March , Grant crushed the Confederacy in about one year. But the American Civil War, like any war, was not simple. The North and South engaged each other for four long years. More than half a million people were killed. Families were torn apart, towns destroyed. And in the end, the South lost. Diverse opinions have appeared in hundreds of books, but the numerous possibilities have never adequately been summarized and gathered together in one place. Why did the South lose? When the question is asked that way, it kind of presupposes that the South lost the war all by itself and that it really could have won it.
One answer is that the North won it. The South lost because the North outmanned and outclassed it at almost every point, militarily.
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Despite the long-held notion that the South had all of the better generals, it really had only one good army commander and that was Lee. The rest were second-raters, at best. The North, on the other hand, had the good fortune of bringing along and nurturing people like Grant, William T. Sherman, Philip Sheridan, George H. Thomas, and others.
The South was way outclassed industrially. There was probably never any chance of it winning without European recognition and military aid. And we can now see in retrospect what some, like Jefferson Davis, even saw at the time, which was that there was never any real hope of Europe intervening.
The only way the South could have won would have been for Lincoln to decide to lose. As long as Lincoln was determined to prosecute the war and as long as the North was behind him, inevitably superior manpower and resources just had to win out. The miracle is that the South held out as long as it did.
The South lost because it had inferior resources in every aspect of military personnel and equipment.
Lots of people will be scornful of it. But a ratio of twenty-one million to seven million in population comes out the same any way you look at it. The basic problem was numbers. Twenty-one to seven is a very different thing than seven to twenty-one. The South certainly did not lose for any lack of idealism, or dedication to its cause or beliefs, or bravery and skill on the battlefield.
In time these things would tell on the battlefield, certainly on the broader level. The North was able to bring its industry and its manpower to bear in such a way that eventually, through sheer numerical and material advantage, it gained and maintained the upper hand. Even while it was happening, men like Union officer Joshua Chamberlain—who did all that he could to defeat the Confederacy—could not help but admire the dedication of those soldiers.
One main reason why the South lost and this may seem offbeat because it flies in the face of the common wisdom is that the South lacked the moral center that the North had in this conflict. The North had a fairly simple message that was binding it together, and that message was that the Union, the idea of Union, was important, and probably after you could add the crusade against slavery to that. And what you increasingly find as the war continued is that the dialogue got more and more confused.
And you actually had state governors such as Joe Brown in Georgia identifying the needs of Georgia as being paramount and starting to withhold resources from the Confederacy and just protecting the basic infrastructure of the Georgia state government over the Confederacy. In the North you certainly had dialogue and debate on the war aims, but losing the Union was never really a part of that discussion. Preserving the Union was always the constant. So, one key reason the South lost is that as time went on and the war got serious, Southerners began losing faith in the cause because it really did not speak to them directly.
Historians have offered several explanations for the Confederate defeat in the Civil War. While Northern superiority in numbers and resources was a necessary condition for Union victory, it is not a sufficient explanation for that victory. Neither are the internal divisions within the Confederacy sufficient explanation for its defeat, because the North also suffered sharp internal divisions between those who supported a war for the abolition of slavery and those who resisted it, between Republicans and Democrats, between Unionists and Copperheads.
And, in fact, the North probably suffered from greater internal disunity than the Confederacy. Superior leadership is a possible explanation for Union victory. Abraham Lincoln was probably a better war president than Jefferson Davis and certainly offered a better explanation to his own people of what they were fighting for than Davis was able to offer. And that combination of strategic leadership—both at the political level with Lincoln and the military level with Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan—is what in the end explains Northern victory. Professor of history at Pennsylvania State University and author, coauthor, or editor of eleven books about the war, including the recent Third Day at Gettysburg and Beyond and The Fredericksburg Campaign: Decision on the Rappahannock.
In the end there was a waning of the will to resist on the part of Southern white people, but that was tied directly to the performance of the Confederate armies in the field; more than once they seemed to be on the brink of putting together enough successes to make Northern people behind the lines unwilling to pay the necessary price to subjugate the Confederacy. The primary reason the Confederates did not have more success on the battlefield is that they developed only one really talented army commander, and that, of course, was Robert E.
There never was a commander in the West who was fully competent to command an army—and I include Joseph E. The almost unbroken string of failures in the West depressed Confederate morale. And that bad news, together with Union advances into the South, the destruction of the Confederate infrastructure, and the problems of the Confederate economy that worked hardships on so many people, all came together to bring about Confederate defeat.
Beauregard, Braxton Bragg, John C. Pemberton, Joseph E. Hardee, and Joseph Wheeler. With Beauregard and Johnston you had two generals who were unwilling to work with their government. With Hood and Bragg you had two generals who were basically incompetent as army commanders. And with Albert Sidney Johnston you had a general who underwent some kind of confidence crisis after Fort Donelson. Let me point out that every one of those generals was in the West.
Any explanation that does not account for the West is irrelevant to your question.
The war was lost by the Confederates in the West and won by the Federals in the West. In the crucial theater of the war, the Confederacy did not have a competent commanding general. Professor of history at Ohio State University and author of the upcoming Hard Hand of War , his first book about the war. There are really two interesting questions. One is: Why did the South fail to gain or maintain its independence?